Thursday, November 5, 2015

Wrapping Up the Harvest

Jack enjoys the parsnip harvest
Hello Everyone!  This is Captain Jack (The Dog) reporting to you from the passenger’s seat of our mobile “Command Central”, aka Farmer Richard’s truck.  Dad and I have been doing a lot of driving over the past few weeks.   We seldom leave the valley, but we visit a lot of fields in the course of the day.  Fall is a very busy time of the year for us.  Many people think we’re winding down, but we actually still have a lot of work to do!  This has been a great fall for us in many ways.  Dad remembers having 3 feet of snow on October 31 back in 1989 or 1990.  Personally, I like snow and wouldn’t mind that, but the rest of the humans on the farm don’t seem as ready for the winter wonderland as I am.   We have harvested our horseradish, selected seed stock for next year and are almost done planting next year’s crop.  We dug and selected seed for next year’s sunchokes which are also all planted.  Of course, we have also planted our garlic and about half of it has already been mulched to keep it safe during the winter!

Jack in the truck
“Global warming” has been a blessing and a challenge this year.  We’ve had a warm fall with temperatures in September (4°F) and October (3°F) and above normal averages.  We all enjoy being able to feel our fingers as we work, and in that way we’re grateful for the warmer temperatures.  The downside of the warmer days is that crops are coming in ahead of schedule.  Turnips, radishes, etc. are sizing up faster than normal resulting in some things getting too big.  We like to “store” crops in the field and harvest as late as possible, but that just isn’t an option with some of the plantings this year.  While larger roots are entirely edible and of good quality, buyers won’t accept them thus they remain in the field and are unsaleable.

We get pretty nervous this time of year.  In addition to the temperatures, Dad’s also keeping his eye on moisture.  Last week we had 2.3 inches of rain which put a stop to our mechanical harvest.  Thankfully the ground was pretty dry and the 2.3 inches of rain soaked easily into very dry soil.  We were back in the field Monday morning, despite the ground still being a little wet.  We couldn’t wait though…we’re in a race against time with rain forecasted for this Thursday!  That means we have 3 days to maximize the harvest before we might be forced out of the field again.  Our goal is 120 more bins of vegetables this week averaging 600# per bin.  That’s 36 tons of vegetables to harvest in 3 days!  Wait…there’s one other challenge that’s part of this picture.  We’re nearly out of cooler space and bins!  We trim & wash vegetables every day to empty bins and send them back to the fields to get reloaded.  Nonetheless, we’re getting pretty slim on storage space and while Dad’s fretting in the fields, Mom (Andrea) is fretting in the packing shed.  Mom is trained as a chef and was taught to face challenges in the kitchen with no option other than to find a solution.  Sometimes I hear her telling herself “Make it happen Chef.”  Somehow it will work out, but in the meantime there’s an intense game of “Cooler Tetris” going on!  Right now we have our fingers crossed that we’ll get as much harvested as we can before the rain starts again and we’re hoping we don’t get as much as last week.

Captain Jack supervises the celeriac harvest
In looking at the long range forecast (several times a day), we know that the temperatures are going to drop eventually.  Next week they’re forecasting temperatures in the twenties.  Temperatures this low could spell the end for many crops unless we have covers in place!  Double covers with hoops to hold the cover above the plants work well to about 20-25°F.  We have already had some touches of frost and have covers in place for our remaining greens, parsley, etc.  Unfortunately they are a management challenge as they need to be removed on warm and wet days or we risk mildew setting in on the plants.

So, as you can see we are doing a bit of a “song & dance” around weather as we race against time to get everything harvested and tucked away safely in storage before winter sets in.  HVF has long been ahead of the times in supporting and encouraging “seasonal eating” throughout the winter.  Root and storage crops are an important part of our winter diet and are intended to last in storage until spring.  This is the way the settlers ate in the 1800’s and for those who are committed to eating a local Midwestern diet year-round, these late season crops are essential.  According to Mom & Dad’s estimates, we have a lot of food available to our members and customers over the next several months.  In fact, we still have Extended Season Vegetable shares available for our January deliveries.  Our sign-ups for this share are the lowest they’ve been in years, which is a bit concerning for us.  We’re hoping you just forgot to sign up for this share and if that’s the case, please send your order in soon!  If we don’t see better participation for January deliveries we’re going to have to consider discontinuing these deliveries as the economics and realities of running a truck in January just don’t balance out with the value of product on the truck.

Well, it’s Wednesday morning and we have to get our crew plans pulled together for the day.  I have another big day of hauling vegetables with my Dad, Farmer Richard.  I better eat my breakfast and brush my hair so I’m ready to go at 8 am when the crew heads to the field.  I hope you enjoy the bounty of this week’s box!  Captain Jack “The Dog” signing off.

1 comment:

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