2009 has started as 2008 ended; dry and bitterly cold. Not that we are complaining; it takes a while in the morning to get some of the older vehicles and younger staff going, but most pickers would choose cold and dry over warm and wet, provided the task at hand is fairly vigorous. It is a bonus to be able to walk cultivated ground in January without carrying ten pounds of mud on each boot and without having to be hosed down at the end of the day.
The frosts have got right down to our normally protected coastal fields; even the rock pools were frozen yesterday. Some of our less experienced co-op members are sweating a bit seeing their cabbage, leek, cauli and sprouting broccoli all frozen like iron. The last few nights have been minus six which would have been a disaster had it arrived suddenly on wet ground and soggy leaves. Plants are much better able to deal with a severe frost that builds slowly and arrives on dry ground. Provided the thaw is equally gradual I am confident the only casualties will be the cauliflowers that were starting to open, exposing some curd.
The most immediate problem for us is getting the stuff picked; you would need dynamite or a Kango hammer to extract leeks this morning. Picking frozen leaves is painful for our staff and risky for the veg; sometimes it will thaw out in transit well but sometimes it just slumps into a slime, so we are generally delaying picking until lunchtime. By then most of the frost has left all but the north-facing fields but this doesn’t leave enough daylight to get everything picked.