The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

A warm November

Two December gardens

After a cold first frost, the rest of our autumn turned out to be relatively mild. Comparing photos taken in the garden Monday to those taken a year ago shows a huge difference. For example, we're still eating only slightly damaged mustard in the open garden, while last year's mustard was too frozen to enjoy by this point.

Topped Brussels sprouts

Similarly, our late Brussels sprouts are bulking up dramatically, pushing me toward turning this into a twice-weekly vegetable rather than a once-weekly treat.

"Maybe we should have shared some of those with your family at Thanksgiving after all," Mark conceded during our last sprout dinner. We looked at each other, then chorused, "Or maybe not!" Yes, we're Brussels sprout hoarders.

Lettuce under the quick hoops

Under the quick hoops, the lettuce is growing like crazy. Technically, we've been in what Elliot Coleman calls the Persephone Days for over a week, but I've recently concluded that his analysis of what causes winter greens to stop growing is too simplistic. For us, day length is less important than average daily temperature, meaning that our greens will keep right on growing as long as they get enough warm weather to keep their roots thawed. And, right now, that's still very much the case.

Rye at the end of November

As one more data point in our delightfully mild November, take a look at this rye, planted just before Halloween. That's really too late to be seeding even this most winter-hardy cover crop, but I figured I'd give it a shot anyway. And the top matter is already taller in those late beds than it was in most of our garden after an entire winter of growth last year.

Of course, our weather changes on a dime. So we could have the world's coldest December ahead. But, for now, I'm enjoying a winter in which the lowest low has thus far been a fleeting 17, meaning that we've yet to burn any firewood other than branches from the dead peach trees. Maybe this week we'll finally split some real firewood.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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