To the grocery store, that is.
Here we are, mid-November. There’s kale and swiss chard going reasonably strong still, and my August planted winter crops–lettuce, beets, spinach, corn salad, gai lan, and carrots–are coming along fine. I’ve got a vigorous-looking brassica patch, but not much of it is really ready to eat. I planted most of these too late, I fear. Everything grows SO much more slowly in the fall. I now see why west coasters are advised to have the fall crops in the ground even in July! In mid-summer it felt impossible that the growing season would be over so shortly, but once the days start getting shorter in August, the window really does close quickly. I get it now.
We’ll have supplements to our meals from our garden for a while yet. I’ve got a cold frame to put over the chard, a row cover over the more delicate greens, and the brassicas will weather most anything.
For our first year of growing, we’ve done pretty well, I think. I’ve got a good stash of canned tomatoes (diced and in sauce, and green tomato relish) put up. We’ve got lots of potatoes to keep us through much of the winter, and a few onions and a bit of garlic. There are lots of berries in the freezer, with enough salmon and crab to keep us going for months yet.
But the 100% eating from the garden is officially over. I’ve had to start supplementing at the grocery store more seriously in the last few weeks: fresh fruit, a full head of lettuce, some brussel sprouts. A bag of carrots when the succession gap in my planting became clear.
It’s not a lot to have to buy, but I haven’t been in the produce section of a grocery store in months, and it’s a bit of a shock, I have to say. The grocery store is a complicated ethical minefield in ways that the garden just eliminates. This seems especially true this time of year, when local produce is scarce, what is local is rarely organic, and what’s organic starts to come in from farther and farther away. It’s a sad, frustrating feeling to stand in the middle of a huge, brightly-coloured fun-fair of abundance and feel like there’s nothing I want to bring home!
There is the farmer’s market, which has wound down considerably, but in theory runs year-round. But I’ve found the farmer’s market a bit frustrating too, this year. Either everyone seems to be growing what I am (and therefore what I already have), or they’re not growing what I would be growing and would like to buy. Brussel sprouts are our favorite winter vegetable, and I’m not sure mine are going to come to much–they haven’t yet. But I can’t seem to buy them from any of our local farmers!
All of this is, of course, highly motivating. The mantra continues: “Next year will be different!” That is, if we ever get through these mounds of winter projects so that next year I can pay a little more focused attention to my planting schedule. 🙂
So beware, any of you who are thinking it might be fun just to grow a little food in the backyard. If you’re anything like us, before you know it you’ll be trying to grow everything you can and then some. Next come the chickens and ducks (I’m anticipating their help with the clean-up next year 🙂 )…I’ve even been reading about pigs and goats! (I’m repeating to myself regularly that we don’t have enough space…yet.) We’re brewing beer, wine, apple cider… How quickly when you opt out of the industrial food system you just can’t bear to step back in!