Starting Lily’s Farm: Summer Redux

Summer is still hanging on these days, but we all know its time is limited. Leaves are changing and falling, there’s not much left to pick in the field, and my thoughts are turning to next season and how to get ready for it. It’s a bittersweet time of year, because as much as I value the time to slow down and take stock, I’ll miss the beauty and bounty of the summer, and the chance to jump in the sea whenever I can.

The high season can be so busy and frantic, that it’s hard to even remember back to spring and all that has happened since then. With the help of my Instagram feed, I’m going to try. After a slow, wet spring, summer came on fast, hot, and heavy in June.  Perennial herbs like mint, lemon balm, sage, savory, anise hyssop, and rosemary thrived, and some like yarrow, chamomile, lavender,oregano, and St. John’s wort even bloomed.  Overwintered kale and volunteer transplants took off with the warmer temperatures. Potatoes and calendula planted in the spring began blooming.

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#nasturtium #summersnotover #farmcamp

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July brought anise hyssop flowers, the last of the strawberries, beautiful golden purslane, and the first of my purely online marketing attempts. Instead of attending a farmer’s market of setting up a farmstand this year, I sent out weekly email, Facebook, and Instagram posts of what was available that week for pickup or delivery. That first week included Swiss chard, lambsquarter, flowering cilantro, dill, parsley, wood sorrel, and mulberries. The first cucumbers and nasturtiums appeared, as well as tiny new potatoes and squash blossoms. I painstakingly harvested wineberries for one of my favorite restaurants. Eggplants and basil appeared, and they were delicious.

August, one of my favorite months, is also time for tomatoes. As my harvests began to exceed my marketing, I started donating the excess to Community Action Southold Town, a local nonprofit that runs a food pantry program. I remember it feeling a bit silly at the time, as I didn’t have much to share and didn’t feel like I was really in a position to give, and maybe what I had was a little too odd (did anyone really want lavender and savory?) But it ended up being one of the most rewarding experiences of my summer. The staff reported that the clients loved the herbs, and when I met one woman in the parking lot on my way in and she snagged all the basil, I was convinced. Volunteer cosmos and sunflowers appeared, gifts from last season’s farmers.  Roses of sharon from my yard (you can stuff them like squash blossoms), sweet peppers, green beans, and blackberries rounded out the bounty of high summer.

Another highlight from the season was “farm camp,” when I watch my friends’ kids and put them to work. They helped transplant lettuce: “This is hard work, it hurts my knees,” said John, age 9 (going on 70). They approved of the flavors of asparagus and okra, but didn’t want to try a nasturtium. They helped rename chickens:  Liam Jr. a.k.a. Mr. Brown. They helped dig potatoes, but deemed the work a bit too dirty, and took excellent photographs.

Summer ended with a delicious open-faced tomato sandwich, saying goodbye to my noisy roosters per my neighbors’ requests at Catapano Farms, a stunning sunset, one last surprise volunteer – cute ornamental squash! – and of course, a dip in the cooling Sound. Now to the work of reflection and planning, transplanting a few more things while the ground still allows, maybe throwing down some seeds for fall sowing and spring blooms, pruning back what is no longer needed, and hunkering down to stay warm for winter. Wish me and the chickens luck.