Thursday, August 25, 2016

Late Summer Farm Update

By Farmer Richard  

     Wow! That was a hot one! July was the hottest month ever worldwide! Aside from a few hot days, it really was not so bad here. We did have two days when we changed our work schedule and started an hour early, but we worked carefully, drank lots of water, and all did fine.  Even Jack, The Dog, survived….and he is one furry creature! He did learn (unintentionally) how to turn the air conditioning on in our new field truck. Easy, push the button! Turning up the fan speed is a little more difficult, but he asks nicely and I oblige!
     The rains and storms have definitely kept us on our toes. We expected drought, at least that was what the prediction was for the summer. Instead, we got rain after rain…and even as I write this article the rain is falling again. Many of our crops get a fertilizer boost of fish/seaweed and other natural minerals through the drip irrigation system when we water them. This year many of these crops have had little need for water, but they still need the nutrients. It takes “discipline” to set-up and pump even minimal water just to deliver the nutrients. Nonetheless, we have persevered, have some nice crops still to come and are thankful for the decided turn to cooler fall weather. The weeds have slowed down, we’ve been able to do timely cultivation and the fall crops look great! Sweet potatoes are looking very nice and the winter squash will be ready to harvest soon. We already have a few specimens setting on the kitchen counter, and we’ll sample them soon! The onion crop was fantastic this year, and we’re thankful we got it all in. The week we harvested onions, we raced against the threat of rain. The crew finished the harvest and had the last few crates tucked away on the wagon just as it started to rain!! They are still curing in the greenhouse, but we take advantage of the wet days to work inside, trimming and cleaning onions.
     We’ll continue to pick peppers, tomatoes and eggplant, but we’re approaching the point in the season where summer and fall collide. It’s nearly time to start making the shift to fall leeks, potatoes, celeriac, turnips, sweet potatoes and winter squash. Some of the fall brassicas (cauliflower, broccoli Romanesco, etc) have succumbed to wet and heat and you likely won’t see much of these in your fall boxes. Thankfully, the broccoli still looks good! We just started planting salad mix again last week and added spinach to our planting plan this week. We’re looking forward to a short run of fall greens in September and October, our favorite time of year to grow these crops. Yes, they grow a little more slowly, but the colors are intense and the cool temperatures lend to a sweet, pleasant taste. Our fall fennel and head lettuce crops look great as do the fall radishes.
     We’re hoping to dig the remainder of our potato crop later this week. Despite the fact that we reduced the acreage we planted, the yield looks to be quite abundant! Our fall carrot field looks great, rows and rows of beautiful green tops. Even our crop insurance adjustor commented on how good they look and snapped a few pictures to show his wife! Needless to say, we love fall!
Sunchokes standing tall & blooming
     Every year of farming holds both triumphs and disappointments. Last week we had a short, yet violent, storm that managed to flatten our last two crops of sweet corn. There aren’t as many ears in your box this week, but the corn has been so good this year we didn’t want to count it as a total loss! It’s a little more challenging to pick, but we managed to salvage the good ears and hope you will enjoy the last few tastes of fresh sweet corn this summer. The edamame field experienced a similar fate, and about 40% of a beautiful sunchoke crop lays with flattened stalks and exposed roots. Neither are a total loss though…there are still 60% of fantastic looking sunchoke plants standing proud and tall in all of their 12 foot glory! The edamame is slow to pick, but the pods have filled out and the beans are sweet and delicious. “Hope springs eternal!”
     We win some; we lose some. That’s just the game of life for farmers. We put forth our best efforts, make the best decisions we can, work diligently and proactively, and try to play the hand Mother Nature deals us as gracefully and successfully as possible. In the end, we always consider ourselves very blessed and always have plenty to keep us busy. When we have done all we can in the fields, we go to the woods to pick hickory nuts, clean up dead trees and turn them into beautiful things such as bowls and furniture we can enjoy. These are the late season projects I look forward to.
     We just started to get our loads of fall compost this week with the first few arriving today. We’ll take advantage of every dry moment to spread compost and plant cover crops. Yes, it’s time to put the fields to bed for the winter. As we wrap up one season, we’re already getting ready for a new year!

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