Monday, July 30, 2012

July 31st and August 3rd: Irrigation


This is the first year I have had irrigation.  It is very small fact I can only run the water for about an hour before I have to worry about running the well dry.  It certainly won't give an inch to all my plants in a day, or even a week, but it will help tide plants over in dry spells.  The system we are using is "drip irrigation".  This means there are lines of "tape" that hold water which is slowly emitted through holes in the tape.  The benefits to this system are hardly any evaporation loss, water gets laid just where you need it and once it's set up turning it on is easy.  The downsides--pipes and hoses and valves are strung all over the place which have made tractor work and hoeing much more difficult, there are miles of walking involved to lay out all the tape, there potentially will be a lot of plastic to throw away at the end of the season.  Luckily Zach is way into it and he has helped set up most of the lines.  And he loves putting on the headlamp to head out and turn the lines on and off at night...I am often times already asleep!

Another beni to this system is the "Dosatron".  This gadget allows me to intravenously feed my plants through the drip irrigation.  The liquid organic fertilizer is sucked up from the bucket through a hose and is pumped into the lines.  This system is much more efficient than the backpack sprayer that I talked about a few weeks ago!

I don't have drip tape laid out in the new strawberry patch yet and it was getting very dry so I put a sprinkler on it one cloudy day.  I think it benefited the strawberries, but it was really the ducks who loved it the most : ) 

Farm life has been positive lately.  Lots of new veggies coming on and most plants are looking great.  We got an unexpected half inch of soft rain Sunday afternoon that was much needed and I am thankful for.  Harvesting has picked up to a daily task as the cukes, zukes and summer squash have arrived.  Unfortunately the greenbeans have had a rough start this year, but I think we will have plenty, just a little later than usual.  There are still raspberries to pick.  They are fewer but bigger this year and as tasty as ever.  Look under and between the leaves...and down low!

This Week's Harvest: lettuce, cabbage, carrots, turnips with greens, chard, beets with greens, zukes, ss, potatoes?

Last Night's Dinner: Grilled Delmonico steak, Maine shrimp, summer squash and zucchini...yes all on that little grill pit.  Zach is good to me!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

July 24th and 27th: Hoophouse


At the end of last season, I asked shareholders to fill out a survey.  One of the questions asked "if I were to extend the season on a crop, which would you choose?"  The order was: tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans.  In an effort to meet this request, I did a few new things on the farm. 

First off, I planted cucumbers in the big hoophouse by the community barn.  I wasn't sure how they would like it in there as it gets well over a hundred degrees in there on a hot day.  But currently they are thriving.  And even though the cucumbers may not have seemed early to you in this hot summer, they were, by about 2 weeks.  Plus I got to try a couple new varieties.  Since they would be in the hoophouse, and may not get visited by many bees, I had to chose parthenocarpic varities--this means they are self pollinating.  So I tried a dark green skinned American slicing cucumber, Cornito, and a slender, thin-skinned, Japanese cuke called Tasty Jade.  Next year maybe I will take the time to trellis them whic makes them eve nlonger and prettier.

The second thing I did to fill shareholders' request was to erect another, smaller hoophouse.  In there I am experimenting with growing tomatoes and eggplant (yes, eggplant--several of you requested this as a new veg so here we go).  The plants look AWESOME in here and even though you may only get 3 mini tomatoes at pick up, it is 3 more, 4 weeks earlier than you have ever gotten them here before!



The not so Nitty Gritty on GARLIC

I had a discussion with a farmer friend the other day about how much detail we should go into when explaining the farm's ups and downs to shareholders during the season.  Since you are shareholders, this farm is a partly yours and I feel an obligation to keep you up to date on what's happening in the fields.  However, I also don't want to make my stress your stress and/or make you feel like I am struggling so bad I am about to fall apart (although sometimes that may be true!).  So in conclusion, we decide there needs to be a balance, it may be hard to find, which is why I decided I would give y'all the "Gritty" without the "Nitty".  So here goes...

Usually when there is a blight, insect infestation, torrential down pour, hail, etc it effects the summer shares negatively.  Well this year, one microscopic insect has actually made your share better this summer.  Sadly I bought in garlic seed last year with a hitchhiker.  This hitchhiker has made my garlic unstorageable and therefore we need to eat it fresh.  Good for you, bad for the winter shares.  My idea is that I will give some of it out for summer shares (yeah!), hopefully trade some of it for storage garlic so the winter shares get at least one head and then sell the rest so that I can use the money to buy new, hitchhiker-free, (extremely expensive) garlic seed this fall.

I am sad...garlic seed is VERY expensive and I have spent the past 4 years carefully selecting seed to make the biggest most tastiest bulbs while bulking up my planting so that I could give out more garlic throughout the year and alas, I have to start from scratch again.  So farming goes...maybe that was too much nitty....

This week's harvest:
lettuce, hakurei turnips with greens, fresh garlic, dill, a bit o' basil, cucumbers, zucchini!, some summer squash, purple scallions, beets with greens and 3 Juliet tomaotes : )

Monday, July 16, 2012

July 17th and 20th: Tools

Hoe Hoe Hoe!

1.25" of rain Sunday night...nice we needed that!  The soil is a nice chocolate brown again and the plants are just bursting.  Prior to the rain, the soil was a crunchy sandy looking color, dusty when walked on and felt a bit like concrete.  IF I could stand being out in the heat for more than a half an hour, it was great weed killin' weather.  I have to admit, one of my favorite farming tasks is hoeing.  Hoeing when the weeds are tiny (thread stage) and easy to kill.  I use three 3 hoes mostly; wheel hoe, stirrup hoe, colinear hoe.  They are all European, of course, and when sharp, deadly. Weed free beds means less disease and happier plants : ) 

 TURKEYS have arrived and are super cute!!!  A week old this Thursday.  50 of them.  When they are this small, they LOVE this heat. In fact I still have 2 heat lamps on them and they still don't think it is too hot.  Maybe I can train them to do farm work while I stay inside and keep cool...

THIS WEEK'S HARVEST: lettuce, radish, mini purplette onions, chard, chinese cabbage, a few carrots and cukes, mint, tarragon, oregano

SOON TO COME: garlic, new potatoes and more cukes

LAST NIGHT'S DINNER: Grilled Little Ridge Farm Filet Mignon salad with arugula, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes (teasers..there are just enough early ones out there for Zach and I to eat...a treat for us where as we usually eat the leftover "ugly" veg!) and homemade garlic bread...and a little pino grigio of course

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

July 10th and 13th: The Sprayer

The Backpack Sprayer

Sometimes I feel like this tool becomes a permanent attachment to my back during the growing season.  We have 2 have them, both gifted to us actually from friends who no longer needed them, and many times we have used both of them at once.  While the tank holds 4 gallons of mix, many times it takes 2,3 or even 4 refills before we finish spaying what is needed, especially as the plants get bigger.

While most people think "organic" means no spray, there are indeed insecticides labeled for organic use.  We use them as a last resort (next to crop rotation, remay, soil health and hand squishing), but at times we do use them.  I also use the sprayer for liquid fish fertilizer to give the plants a boost.  Or, like in this photo, we sprayed Surround, a kaolin clay, to help "hide" the pumpkins from beetles and the corn from crows.  I have also used this tool to water in plants after transplanting during really hot spells.  I have often dreamed of a sprayer that I wouldn't have to hand pump, or one that would spray further so I didn't have to walk so much, but this one is quiet and versatile and I am thankful we have it...both of them...because then I can put Zach to work too.

Less humidity was welcomed these past few days!  I think the lettuce is breathing a sigh of relief too. With this heat following all the rain we had, most plants are looking robust.  I harvest my first cucumbers from the hoophouse this week...and the first few tomatoes out of the field.  I saw half inch long summer squash in the gardens and carrots were going to be in this week's share, but I ran out of harvest time.  It will still be bit before I gather enough cukes, squashes and tomatoes for everyone, but there is hope in sight!

ICE CREAM ICE CREAM we all scream for ICE CREAM!!!
3rd annual, eat a cone and donate to a good cause!
July 17th and 19th pick ups
The PYO garden is in full swing!  Ther are a few snow peas out there, along with basil, parsley, other herbs and lots of flowers!!! open.  $3/lb.  There aren't tons right now, so please just CSA members only :)
This week's harvest: lettuce, beet greens, gold ball turnips, scallions, garlic scapes, peas for those who missed out last week....and a few other treats here and there...
Next week: lettuce, chard, turnips, carrots!
Scallions:  Use the whole plant.  Mild onion flavor.  Enjoy raw or cooked!

Monday, July 2, 2012

July 3rd and 6th: The Trailer

The Trailer

I bought this 2-work horse trailer about two years ago from a retiring farmer in Danville, Maine. Although financially it was a big purchase, it has been well worth it.  It allows me to pick up all the pigs in the spring and handle them only once (to get them in there), move the pigs from one end of the farm to the other (they don't herd very well) and trailer the pigs and turkeys to their final vacation spot (at separate times of course).
This past weekend we moved the pigs to the strawberry patch.  Yes, sorry the strawberries are done for the season, but the pigs are happily gleaning the patch and rooting up all those dang weeds!  Moving the pigs from consecutive pasture to antoher takes about 35 minutes, but the big move with the trailer involved takes about an hour...and some help from Zach. 

As many of you know, these pigs are pretty gregarious. And generlly pigs are super curious.  So once we open the door to a new spot, they come tunbling out to explore.  The first trip around is to check out the perimeter boundary, then for the best eating spot and finally for the best lounging spot.  We do have one blind pig this year (Blind Melon), and he took a little longer to come out of the trailer.  But he has very good hearing and once I started hosing the others off, he made his way over to the piggy sprinkler too.

The farm is sprinting along.  One task leads to another, and many times multiple tasks need to be accomplished at the same time.  Although there have been some surprise rain storms with quite a bit of rain, nothing is too saturated at the moment.  In fact, I am happy with the soil moisture at this point.  Although it has made killing weeds a bit tricky.  I seem to be able to knock them over, but then they just grow sideways.  Hmpf!  And the veggies?  Well, you know when you are in a warm shower and then someone else decides to run the hot water and you get a shock of cold water?  Well I think that is a bit how the plants have felt this year.  The temps have fluxuated so greatly between night and day, not too mention from 60 to 90, they are a bit shocked!  I find myself waking up at night feeling sorry for the lettuce and spinach in the heat.  They are making it through though.  

This Week's Harvest!  lettuce, arugula, spinach, chard, tat soi, garlic scapes, chinese cabbage, shell peas! sugar snap peas? 

Next Week: lettuce, beet greens, turnips, peas