Monday, June 25, 2012

June 26th and 29th: Disc Harrow

The Disc Harrow 

This is another of my favorite tools.  We use this quite a bit in the early spring to break up the ground after winter and chop up any cover crops (organic matter) that is sitting on the soil.  There are two "gangs" (rows of discs) on this tool which can be moved independently of each other.  Moving them allows more or less soil to be moved around when in use.  If we are trying to aggressively kill a live plant or turn up the soil we move it to have the disc at sharp angles.  If we are are using this to smooth soil out or to gently cover cover crop seed we just planted, we move the discs so they are in line with the tractor.

The bonus about this tool (verses a rototiller) is that it is much more gentle on the soil, worms and microbes.  Of course I still need to be sure the soil is not too wet, otherwise I can get some pretty nasty clumps of soil out there that dry into concrete and never break up.  Another plus is that this implement is ground driven, meaning it moves by running on the ground.  There are no gears to grease or oil to change and its moving parts are minimally the discs--very easy maintenance.  The down side to this tool, is that I still need to use the tiller to prep the beds for seeding or transplanting.  Even though it breaks the soil up nice and I love the way a field looks after we have disced it, the harrow just does not make the beds smooth enough.  I wanted to take a photo of before and after I worked the soil today, or even an action shot, but the lightening stole my thunder and pushed me to get off the tractor....

Storms are moving through this week.  A little rain is welcome.  The bit of warmth really livened up the fields and some things are really starting to look beautiful.  The peas are about ready to harvest and this week you will find some new veggies to choose from...besides lettuce : )  There are still a few strawberries left, although after these days of rain, I don't know how long they will last.  Raspberries are right around the corner though!

This Week's Harvest: lettuce, chinese cabbage, gold ball turnips with greens, arugula, garlic scapes and beet greens

Let us eat LETTUCE!!!  I hope you are not tired of it yet.  I am doing my part--eating a HUGE salad as I type.  Check out this website for some ideas beyond salads:

Gold Ball Turnips: Although these turnips are little more "turnippy" than the Hakuries they are pretty darn good.  Try sauteeing them with their greens and the garlic scapes.  Or roasting them...or making turnip soup with turnip greens:

Chinese Cabbage (aka Napa cabbage):  This cabbage is very light and crispy.  We like to chop it on top of burritos!  You may eat it raw or cooked. 

Beet Greens:  Rinse 'em good and chop 'em up! (the whole thing, ignore when recipes say to remove the stems).  A simple saute with garlic scapes rock or try one of these recipes:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June 18th and 22nd: The Charger

Feeling HOT HOT HOT!
okay so it is Wednesday...a day late again on this blog...I have been running marathon days and every time I think, "oh I should write the blog", it is generally way early in the morning and I am preoccupied with farm chores to want to sit down and write or it is late in the evening and well let's just say my writing would be pretty much incoherent at that hour.  So now it is 3pm on a 90 degree day.  I just came in after a couple of hours on the tractor...a tad sweaty...took a cold rinse in the outdoor shower...put on some shorts (yikes WHITE legs) a tall glass of water and sat down to write....a quick write because now I am anxious to head back out and kill some weeds with my trusty hoe : )  The things we farmers get excited about!

Speaking of HOT, this week I thought I would introduce my electric chargers.  I use one each for my pigs, cows and turkeys.  On the farm I worked at in PA, we had to use a charger to electrify a fence that enclosed the entire farm to keep out the deer.  Luckily (knock on wood) my deer pressure isn't so great here si I don't need to go to that expense. 

The pigs are introduced to the fence about 10 days after we get the pigs in the spring and they quickly learn not to touch it.  It doesn't really hurt the pigs, I mean yes it hurts but kind of like a carpet shock, nothing major, just enough to keep them in.

Now the cows need a "hotter" fence.  Partly because their fence line is much longer and partly because they are a larger animal.  Their charger uses a solar panel to keep the Deep Cycle battery good and charged for about 3 months.  Then I may need to bring it back to the barn and put it on the plug in charger to refuel it. 

The cow fence is also meant to keep the cows IN...and again they usually learn pretty quick, mostly by smarts not necessarily by getting shocked.  Many of you know my little escapade with the cows this spring.  Yes they broke through the fence and ran, I mean bolted, sprinted, lightening fast about 3 miles away.  I can sort of laugh about it now, but not really.  These guys are sort of frisky this year and they seem to like to run, so I hope this fence keeps them in for the rest of the year! 
The turkey charger also has a solar panel on it along with a Deep Cycle battery so I can keep it ULTRA HOT.  This charger is more to keep predators out rather than the turkeys in.  Since the turkeys are mostly keratin and have no moist nose to give them a good shock, the turkeys are pretty much oblivious to the fence.  So generally I have it off during the day to save the battery and turn it on at night to keep away the raccoons, coyotes, fox, fishers...

This is Milo.  He was a super cool cat that loved the turkeys and who also seemed to be immune to the electric fence!

PYO STRAWBERRIES!  OPEN NOW.  (I changed my mind, you don't have to wait til Friday).  The plants are LOADED!!!

This Week's Harvest: Lettuce :), garlic scapes, hakurei turnips, spinach and berries for half shares

Next Week: lettuce, scapes, chinese cabbage, chard...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

June 12th and 15th: Trellis


Tomatoes and sugar snap peas need trellising, a way to keep them growing upright, off the ground.  This makes harvesting easier as well promotes less disease.  First I use a post pounder (photo below) to pound hardwood stakes into the ground.  Then I use twine and wrap it around the post to make a "trellis" for the peas to climb up on or "basket weave" to hold the tomatoes in place.

I put a stake about every 6 feet, so that made about 130 posts this year.  My dear friend Dave volunteered to pound the pea posts so I did the tomatoes.  It's not that hard...the ground has been nice and soft from all the rain...but sometimes I get a few blisters.  Hard to imagine since my hands are tough as leather. 

The twine comes in a neat little box that I strap to my hip with one of my dad's old leather belts.  As I work the twine around the plants, it unreels out of the box.  (For those of you who are really observant, no my tomatoes aren't this tall yet this year--this was a photo from 2011 :)

I like trellising, because I do it as the plant grows.  And sometimes, I think "wow I just did those yesterday, but they already need trellising again". Growth is good.

Speaking if growth...we could use some SUN!!!  Right now it is raining...again.  Sorry to the Tuesday folks that I am not writing this post until Wednesday am.  This year has been full of marathon days between rain events and then a short breather while the ground gets soaked.  I told myself I wasn't going to get all worked up about weather this year, as I cannot control it, so I am not.  Really I am not.  I am fine.  I love weather hot, cold, wet, dry...especially when it is real extreme...I love it.

This week's Harvest:  Is a smattering of tat soi, spinach, radish, turnips, asparagus and head lettuce.  Oh and strawberries!!! Full shares only this week.

Next week...lots of lettuce and maybe some turnips and lettuce and berries for half shares and lettuce.  Did I metion there would be lettuce?

Monday, June 4, 2012

June 5th and 8th: Rain Gauge

The Rain Gauge 

Okay, well, it's a little wet and sloppy out there.  A mere 7 and 3/4 inches of rain thus far and I only lost my boot once!  I thought I would have to cancel pick up this week, but after walking around a bit, things look better than I had anticipated--whew.  I think the worst of it is over and it is quite surprising how quickly it all drains away as the intensity of the storm lessens.  A few little plants are wading in water, but all in all I am hopeful.

The rain gauge is a helpful tool so I can determine if I need to irrigate crops or not.  Sometimes when it rains, it feels like loads has fallen but in truth it will only be a quarter of an inch.  Many crops, trees and fruits prefer to get an inch of rain every with 8 inches I am all set for the next 2 months right : )

Last week was a rush of work.  With the weather being much nicer than this weekend, I was able to get loads done in the fields.  We planted lots of tomatoes, most of the peppers, hand seeded cucumbers, winter squash and even some corn.  I was just about to put the pumpkin seeds in but realized the soil temps were still a little too cool and wet.  (Hopefully the corn doesn't notice.)  Almost everything is covered in blankets of Remy and Simon ran across only one of them so far.  The ducks have taken a liking to them as well since the slugs make it a highway when it gets wet.  They don't make holes in it and I probably wouldn't even notice that they had been there, except their muddy foot prints give them away : )

Most crops won't mind this deluge of water and they are looking green and growing.  This week will be another fine week of mixed greens and some asparagus.  There may be a few stray carrots left in the winter storage but really now we are into seasonal eating and must wait for things to grow.  Lots of greens until July then we will bust into peas, baby carrots and baby beets.  Oh, but this week you get a sweet taste of summer turnips and turnips greens!!!

This week's harvest: lettuce mix, mustard mix, arugula, head lettuce, chives, sorrel, radish, baby turnips and turnip greens, rhubarb and asparagus


Be sure to visit this great site about greens. I don't grow all of them, but many you will see throughout the season:

Mustard mix:  This mix is nice in salads when it is small and tender.  If you find the leaves too spicy or rough, try brazing them.

Hakurei Turnips:  This guys are crisp and sweet just just a hint of spice.  They are super raw or lightly cooked.