One song really sums up my feelings about the seasons in Telluride. “If Ever I Would Leave You” is a love song, yes, but not just to a queen from her lover. It is a love song to the seasons in the mythical kingdom of Camelot.

Which is a lot like Telluride.

I love the sharp, cold bite of a frosty winter morning and the sound of fresh snow under my boots. Beautiful too is the awakening green signaling our short spring. The long days of summer move us to exhaustion as we greedily savor every single warm, musical moment. But fall in our little corner of the world, though fleeting, is undeniably poignant and beautiful and a favorite of mine. Watch for it: the autumnal equinox occurs Saturday, September 22, 8:49 a.m.

At Tomten Farm on Hastings Mesa the bounty of summer is giving way to planned production for the winter greenhouses. There are a few greens, some lettuce, oriental greens and hardy kales hanging on outside. Beets, daikon radishes and potatoes await their digging days and storage in the root cellar.

It’s dry again, and as the season closes the comfrey is ready to cut and lay on the garden beds, to be covered by a layer of alpaca manure and straw to feed the soil microorganisms until spring. Weeds are still there to be pulled and dug. We’re trying to keep the seed bank numbers from skyrocketing as thistle and bindweed really want to reproduce. They’re so darn successful anyway, you’d think the seeds wouldn’t matter. Just one more chore to ready the garden for winter, hot (or cold) on the heels of the brand new season.

As the outside gardens begin to fade, it’s time to plan and plant inside.

Our dome and big greenhouse will soon be planted in lettuces, mustards, beets, chives and more for our WinterGreen salad mix. When we added a huge water catchment tank in the big greenhouse last year and replaced the film plastic with solid polycarbonate we found we didn’t have to add any heat to keep the temperature above freezing. That’s great news when you’re trying to keep your carbon footprint small. And the salad greens can do just fine as long as their roots don’t freeze. The Telluride School dome is getting closer and closer to planting day. We’ll announce a Grand Opening Event in early October.

Moving from Farm and Domes to Farmers’ Market, the Mountain Village Farmers and Artists Market is over for the year, but I have to say we quite enjoyed our vending spot there. We got to watch the kids doing the jumpy trampoline thing – and what fun that was. We developed some regular customers and enjoyed talking to fellow farmers from Moab while offering fresh, locally grown produce to residents and visitor alike. The Telluride Farmers’ Market, however, runs through October 12.

It’s the height of harvest season, so just about everything that’s grown in our region is available right now. The fruits are amazing and the variety of vegetables is stunning. Remember the growers all come from within 100 miles of Telluride and all practice organic or better standards. Our artisans too are local. Variety and quality abound. Remember gift-giving season is right around the corner. Tomten Farm is most likely done for the year at the Telluride Farmers Market, but look for our WinterGreens at special locations such as the Sawpit Mercantile this winter.

Of course no mention of fall would be complete for me without the basic biological explanation for the color change. As a person with a background in forestry and horticulture, I got to take some in-depth botany classes way back in college. So, here goes. Normally chlorophyll is the dominant pigment in leaves. Chlorophyll is the “engine” for photosynthesis and is present in chloroplasts in the leaf cells. As the temperature drops and day lengths decrease a corky layer forms at the base of the leaf stems cutting off the flow of water and minerals to the leaves. The change puts the chlorophyll in decline and allows the carotenoids, which were there all along but masked, to show their yellow and orange raiment. Anthocyanins, which give red and purple  hues, are actually manufactured in the leaf at the end of the season in a complex relationship between sugar, light and phosphates. But simple science can’t capture the magic of the moment as well as a poet like Emily Bronte can:

Every leaf speaks bliss to me, 
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
Get out and enjoy fall colors before they fade to white.

1 Comment
  • John Wontrobski
    Posted at 06:17h, 19 September

    Great column, Kris- nice mixture of news, science and poesy.