In early fall, the Eagle Street Rooftop Farm's vegetables are on cruise control. The blue-green rows of kale stand like palm trees, their leaves picked but for the highest, newest growth. Hot peppers hang off their green parent plants like sunset-colored Christmas ornaments. Every fruit on the farm—eggplants, tomatoes—seems to sense the coming frost and begins to sprint into production. The harvest seems endless. The days pass like waves of fever: cold in the morning, hot in the afternoon, cool again at night.
When I was growing up in Chicago, the transition between August and September marked the end of lifeguarding season on Lake Michigan. It was a glorious month, and I was nostalgic even before it ended. Since I shifted to New York's vegetable-growing calendar six years ago, August has become the month in which (sunburned, exhausted, wasted by the long work days leading into the summer solstice) I snap. For this, I savor September. I begin to talk about the fall with the same glint in my eye that teachers get when they know the winter holidays are coming up.
The changing season shifts our work on the farm into a pattern of storage. Under September's full moon, with the Manhattan skyline glittering across the East River, we stuffed jars with a simple salt-and-vinegar brine, hot peppers, and green tomatoes. Our herbs hang to dry in the second floor of the Rooftop Farm warehouse. The farm's animals notice the shift into fall, too. As their pollen sources change, the bees' honey begins to turn a darker, richer amber. The chickens begin to molt, their feathers scattered around the coop like post-pillow-fight debris.