Extending the Season

January 11, 2010 at 11:48 pm

Vera Videnovich

I can’t seem to extend my vegetable harvesting season past Thanksgiving. My fingers end up feeling as crunchy as the ice and snow that blanket the ground. There may be a Swiss chard, collards, and other greens under my frost blankets but they’ll have to wait for spring or a few days in the 40s before I’ll harvest them.

Now into the new year and the snow a few feet thick I don’t really want to start thinking about the garden without a little bit of rest. The seed catalogs that come in the mail. . .  daily. . . aren’t helping. I’m already trying to decide how many varieties of peppers and eggplants I can squeeze into the less-than-two-acre market garden.

sheep in winter

Videnovich Farms sheep in snow

While my brother, George, does the outdoor winter chores on the farm I try to finish spinning up the wool that I sheared, by hand, back in April. A freezer full of flowers and leaved gathered in late summer provide some dye but I sometimes sneak in bright acid dyes to relieve my boredom I get from the yellows the plants give me. Other (warmer) regions of the world give you indigo’s blues or cochineal’s pinks and reds. Plants in the Midwest give you yellow and khaki and brown. My time is now spent catching up on last summer’s DVRd TV shows and movies and spinning, spinning, spinning on one of two spinning wheels. Two wheels because, you know, I get bored.

My winter season extension is, of course, hand-spun wool and the knitwear I make from it. I’ve been selling them for years at craft fairs and farmers’ markets, usually two separate entities. One craft fair I regularly sell at is the monthly Handmade Market Chicago at the Empty Bottle. Last month the Bottle’s production manager, Pete Falknor, and bar manager, Bruce Lamont, organized an indoor winter farmers’ market in the bar despite their busy end-of-the year nightclub schedule. The inaugural market ran on December 19 with nearly 15 vendors and a few hundred laid-back customers who enjoyed drinks while shopping. Here’s the write-up from the Chicago Sun-Times.

The next Bottle market is Saturday, January 16 and is scheduled to run from noon-5pm. Those hours are very forgiving to the late-night crowd who may not be able to make it to Lincoln Park by 1pm for the Green City Market. Many of the Bottle’s December farm vendors are returning, including Earth First Farms (apples, pies, and award-winning cider), Hasselman Family Farm (eggs, pork, and beef), Tomato Mountain Farm (soups, sauces, preserves) and AquaRanch (Tilapia, herbs, and vinaigrettes). Local roasters Grinderman Coffee will be back with fair-trade coffee beans. New vendors include Provenance Wine and Cheese (locally-sourced cheese), Celestial Kitchens (savory pies, scones, maybe soups),  Crumb (breads), and Besto Pesto. Rounding out the list are Nice Cream, One Sister, and Dinner’s Ready.