Winter Week 5—Freezing and Flooding

Tender little savoy cabbages are sweet and delicious shredded and eaten raw, or steamed or lightly sautéed in butter. We'll plant a few weeks earlier next year so they get bigger. Oops.

Tender little savoy cabbages are sweet and delicious shredded and eaten raw, or steamed or lightly sautéed in butter. We’ll plant a few weeks earlier next year so they get bigger. Oops.

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:
• “Peter Wilcox” Potatoes
• Candy Carrots
• Beets
• “Acorn” Winter Squash
• “Treviso” Radicchio
• Baby Turnips with Greens (use raw, or steam or sauté lightly, and use the greens in salad)
• Baby Bok Choy

Click on the links above for information and recipes about these crops.

COMING SOON: Hard to say, it will depend on the weather.

I’m starting this post on Saturday night, as we worry ourselves about what the weather will bring this week. The forecast is for snow, lots of rain, and freezing temperatures. At this point, it’s supposed to drop into the 20′s and not come back above freezing until next weekend. Our farmer friends up north in the Snoqualmie valley are also preparing for flooding—a surprise to everyone. Luckily we don’t have to fret about that, as long as the dam holds. Ever since the broken dam scare a few years back, I always hesitate to make that statement. I don’t want to jinx ourselves.

Brrr. Mud puddles can be pretty.

Brrr. Mud puddles can be pretty.

Most of our winter crops can handle freezing into the 20′s just fine. All the root crops are designed just for that. They store carbohydrates (sugars) in their roots so that when spring’s warmth returns, they are ready to burst into bloom and make seed. Their survival mechanism means deliciousness to animals that eat them. Most of our green can take freezing as well, and will also get sweeter over time. The only year we lost our hardy winter greens was a year in which the temperatures dropped into the teens for nearly two weeks, with no precipitation. Everything freeze-dried and there was nothing we could do.

Cosmo helped me dig up the rest of the potatoes before the deep freeze arrives. Potatoes won't keep in the ground if it's below 26 or 27 degrees. We put around 1800 pounds in the cooler this weekend. He's a hard-working, cheerful helper.

Cosmo helped me dig up the rest of the potatoes before the deep freeze arrives. Potatoes won’t keep in the ground if it’s below 26 or 27 degrees. We put around 1800 pounds in the cooler this weekend. He’s a hard-working, cheerful helper.

Potatoes, however, are tubers, and do not handle freezing well. Potato plants generally make a nest of potatoes up to 12″ deep, with some at all depths, including just under the surface of the soil. If the temperature is below 30° for more than a day or so, the tubers will freeze, and once they thaw, they will disintegrate. Thus, if we know that the weather is going to be exceptionally cold, we have to dig them up and store them in the walk-in cooler. Most years we can get away with storing them where they grew, because most years it doesn’t get very cold until February. But apparently, not this week. Now it’s Monday, and we have dug almost a ton of potatoes. Enough to get us through our winter CSA season. There are more left in the ground, but we have what we were able to recover, and it should be enough. Cosmo was a huge help with this job.

My guess is that if we get rain now, or even snow, and then it freezes hard, everything will be fine. In fact, if it is going to freeze, I would prefer that it snow first. The snow insulates the plants and keeps them moist. Then it’s just a waiting game, because we can’t harvest when things are frozen, even if they may be just fine once they thaw. They need to recover attached to their bodies.

Last check-up of the bee hives before real winter. The goal is to squeeze them into the smallest space possible so they can keep themselves warm, while leaving them plenty of reserves to take care of brood in the early spring. Looks like we have three strong colonies now, but anything can happen through the long winter.

Last check-up of the bee hives before real winter. The goal is to squeeze them into the smallest space possible so they can keep themselves warm, while leaving them plenty of reserves to take care of brood in the early spring. Looks like we have three strong colonies now, but anything can happen through the long winter.

This past weekend, we spent a fair amount of time strategizing. We went to markets last weekend because, in all likelihood, we will not be able to harvest anything after Monday. We are harvesting all of the produce we will need to complete the CSA for this week, through the weekend. That means the baby bok choi, and the last of the Japanese turnips and Treviso radicchio. These things won’t recover after heavy freezing.

We’ve filled the chicken and cow pantry, so we don’t have to venture out if it does snow. And once all of the picking is taken care of, we will know that we have done all we can to prepare, and I will be spending the week knitting and holidaying with the kids.

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2 responses to “Winter Week 5—Freezing and Flooding

  1. I’m new to the CSA and not sure what this post means. Does this mean that this is our last week of the winter CSA?

    • No, it doesn’t mean that we’re through. It means that we’ve picked everything we need for this week, because we won’t be able to harvest anything if it stays frozen. When this frigid snap is over, we should have many crops left alive in the field and even tastier than before. We won’t be able to tell for sure how many weeks are left, until we evaluate the severity of any damage done. It’s supposed to warm up after the weekend, and then we should be set for next week. We have tons of carrots, beets, and potatoes. We have lots of squashes, and plenty of cabbages and hardy greens. We will probably not have much in the way of tender greens. But we WILL have food, no need to worry about that just yet. We are still planning on finishing out the second half of our winter season.

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