For the vast majority – if not all – of us, the end of the outdoor growing season arrived during the last couple weeks of October. For us, it was a light knock on the door, with temperatures taunting the tomatoes for what seemed like weeks. I would have to go back and look at my notes from previous years, but 2022 was one of the longer growing seasons in memory. To put this year into perspective, a typical season here in Southwest Colorado is about 130 to 140 days, give or take 20 days (yes, we have quite the variable climate). At our house, the last frost was May 5 and the first was Oct. 25, which was an outstandingly long 174 days!
That is absurdly long. And in retrospect, I should not have expected anything less given how close to perfect this year was. Halfway decent snowpack resulting in decent spring soil moisture: Check. Late June precipitation: Check. Afternoon rain showers, minimal hail and no flooding: For some of us, check. Marauding gang of town deer eating my tomatoes and peppers in early July: Unfortunately for me, check. I took the risk of not fencing my plants in June and it backfired. Fortunately, it was early in the season so thankfully (and thanks to the long season!) my plants had time to recover and set a decent yield of fruit (minus the early-season late blight fungal attack that hammered a number of plants).
So now, at the start of the “being thankful” month that is November, I can reflect and be thankful that Mother Nature was quite kind and thoughtful to us gardeners and growers. Hopefully, the consistent precipitation will continue throughout the winter and I will have to take many ski (I mean sick) days off when the powder accumulates.
I am also incredibly thankful to all the volunteers who helped at the Rowher’s Farm this year. If you are unaware, the Rohwer farming family – Judy, Angela, Heidi and Zack – were involved in a tragic car accident on their way to the Durango Farmers Market in late May, in which Judy was killed and all other members suffered significant injuries. The result was a decision to keep on farming if possible, but help was required. And help arrived.
It arrived in the form of farmers, neighbors, church members, volunteer fire departments, and loads and load of volunteers, many of whom had not been on a working farm for years. But they took to the fields, and with a bit of direction, they weeded, fixed holes in irrigation tubing, transplanted hundreds of seedlings and harvested thousands of pounds of food. But we also met new friends, laughed, hugged and shared hundreds of stories of Judy and the family under the shade of the trees during lunch. We reminded ourselves that as a community we pick those up who have fallen, we shoulder a load when ours is lighter, and we hold hands a little tighter when the circle looks to be breaking.
Again, during this upcoming season of giving, remind yourselves and those around you that community is so vitally important. Give thanks to those who support you, and give thanks to those who need your support.
Huh, I guess that is why they call it Thanksgiving.
Darrin Parmenter is the director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach him at email@example.com or 382-6464.