Root Down Farm Ramblings
**Don't forget to bring your Winter Share payment with you to the farm in order to sign up! We are almost full already.**
Sometimes we joke about farming. It's everywhere. Everybody eats. Yet it seems like the majority of the population doesn't really understand how it works. I mean, I wouldn't really expect anybody to if they weren't farmers. I don't understand exactly how a Title Insurance business works, because I'm not in title insurance. So we try every share pick up to drop some knowledge, if you will, on our members. Sometimes it's about how seasons and adverse weather affects our crops, harvest techniques and harvest windows (yes there is such a thing), gardening tips, cooking tips, you get the idea. The one biggest misconception about a vegetable farm is what we have lovingly termed "The Vat" or "the Backroom". Us vegetable farmers are a different crew than the kind of farmers you see in the country growing row crops (like field corn). Our jobs take an added amount of finesse and some very specific timing. That is to say, there is no 'vat' of vegetables anywhere that we can just go grab any vegetable from. The vegetables that are in each share each week take a vast amount of knowledge, care, and timing and are dependent on the time of year and the weather. So, if there is ever a vegetable "in" or another one "out" for the week, there is a wonderful amount of information about farming wrapped up in that little change in the share. So if you ever are at the farm picking up your vegetables and have an open mind and a question, just ask:)
That being said, this weeks share will include: summer squash, salad radishes and turnips, lettuce, spinach, greens, beets, carrots, broccolini, kohlrabi, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, spaghetti squash, onions and potatoes.
The fruit share will include raspberries for Monday, plums, peaches, pears and apples. Phew.
**Winter Share Sign Ups for current members start this week in the share room**
Bububuuurrrrr! It's so frickin' cold outside I had to wear my puffy vest over top of my sweatshirt over top of my long sleeve shirt yesterday and it's looking like I'm going to do the same today! What the heck, Summer? We still officially have 2 more weeks remaining in what is supposed to be the warmest months and I'd like to be enjoying them still. The warm weather crops like tomatoes and peppers and eggplants are all relying on warmer weather, too. Instead, I'm taking this long stretch of cooler temperatures as a sign that 1) the first frost will most likely come early this season and 2) the tomatoes are quickly going to call it quits. The sudden bursts of rain that seem to come out of nowhere all week are not helping the cause, either (we received 2 inches of rain in total over the course of this past week, yuck). But this happens every year. I start kicking and screaming that the summer is drawing to a close and start refusing to take off my sandles, throw a little tantrum, start yelling at the sky, and then start saying my goodbyes to the tomatoes. I won't enjoying fresh tomatoes until they are in again next year...pouty face.
At least the share this week can put a smile on my face. This week will include: zucchini, summer squash, carrots, beets, onions, eggplant, peppers, hot peppers, broccolini, kohlrabi, celery, bok choy, greens, tomatoes, garlic and the addition of spaghetti squash and salad turnips.
The fruit share will include peaches, plums, nectarines and grapes for Monday and raspberries for Thursday.
**LABOR DAY PICK UP from 1:00 to 4:45, MONDAY SEPTEMBER 4th**
Of course you Thursday pick up people will pick up at your normal time on Thursday the 7th.
HOORAY for September. Seriously, what a wonderful time of year. The temperatures drop a little and magical things start happening. Bugs trail off, weeds grow a little slower, and more and more vegetables start coming in from the fields. The first of the onions are cured. The first of the winter squash is curing in the high tunnels, and the tomatoes are still pumping. Magical.
So here's the share this week. It's chock full: zucchini, yellow squash, onions, beets, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, scallions, broccolini, radishes, kohlrabi, kale, bok choy, chard, celery, melons, lettuce, edamame, tomatoes, and hopefully the return of sweet corn! Monday fruit will get raspberries with peaches, plums, and nectarines while Thursday will get grapes instead of the raspberries.
Every season I talk about how many things I don't get to do because of how crazy things get on the farm during the height of the season. We laugh with farmer friends about it. For basically all of May, June, and July I can count on feeling like there's not enough time, not a day off, and I have to drop most if not all my hobbies for these demanding 3 months. This year I decided I wasn't going to let this happen. I was going to drop all hobbies except for one. I was going to read a book. Granted I gave myself ALL SEASON to finish it, but I was and still am determined it's going to happen.
Now, don't get me wrong I read mostly trade journals and farm magazines and articles during the season, but that is largely work. I originally thought I needed to find some inspirational something or other to keep me going during that point in the season, but I didn't want it to be about farming. Instead I chose a work of ridiculous fiction; book #2 in a 3 part series by J.K. Rowling under her pen name Robert Galbraith called the Silkworm. To achieve success in reaching my goal I set the book in a place I would have to see it to remember to read it...in the bathroom (TMI?). I'm happy to report I am on page 270 of 455 and am still able to find a tidbit of inspiration as it applies to my life even though the story is way out there and entertaining mostly because it's fantastical.
In the story the main character describes his profession as a vocation and goes on to explain why his vocation was a cause for the break up of his last relationship: "She couldn't understand a vocation. Some people can't; at best, work's about status and paychecks for them, it hasn't got value in itself." Thanks J.K. for explaining what farming is to us: a vocation.
And this is a great time of year as summer and fall start merging! This week's share will include: zucchini, summer squash (get these while it's still warm enough for them!), onions, beets, carrots, celery, eggplant, peppers, hot peppers, scallions, kale, bok choy, lettuce, tomatoes, and the retuurn of garlic, broccolini, radishes, and spinach.
The fruit share will include Grapes (Monday only as Thursday got them last week), peaches, plums and nectarines.
Monday is the solar eclipse and for us here in the 43rd parallel it will peak at 2:34 pm with about 70 percent of the sun obscured by the moon. It won't be total darkness (sigh), but it will be awesome. There will be vegetables in the share room at that time, but at that time I will be outside the share room witnessing the event.
Beyond that the farm is ticking right along and we've actually already clipped the first of the winter squash. It of course needs to cure before we distribute it, so we're most likely looking at the first week of September for Spaghetti Squash. We are getting to the end of the weeding season, as well as the end of the majority of the bug season. This means we are turning our focus to harvest season and realizing we are running out of room for both curing and storing vegetables. It is a good problem...it means we have a lot of vegetables for our members! It also means we are again experiencing some growing pains. Nothing that can't be solved with some logic and ingenuity, but time is the actual barrier as always.
So back to those mountains of veggies; this is what is in the share this week:
zucchini, summer squash, onions, carrots, beets, scallions, potatoes, peppers, eggplants, bok choy, celery, chard, kale, greens, head lettuce, and hopefully some cantaloupe. I do have bad news for our beautiful first planting of sweet corn. A flock of black birds started destroying the ears by pecking at the kernels to the point where they have eaten the tops of almost every ear. It's a sad day because it was probably our best planting of sweet corn to date. We had to mow it in hopes of saving the next planting of sweet corn in the adjacent field. It is a good reminder to all of you that despite what the grocery stores want you to think, you are still competing for food (and that new development isn't necessarily helping us win). The plan is to hopefully get them to find food elsewhere so they leave the next planting alone. Cross your fingers.
The fruit share is a celebration of peach season combined with some plums and nectarines.
Well two inches of rain sure helped lessen the load on the irrigation this week but everything has a consequence and this time it is cover cropping the spring fields. Driving tractors on wet ground can have a huge impact on future crops because it causes compaction in the soil. Fortunately we still have plenty of time to get good cover crops established before the Fall. The rain was also a good test for our new barn roof and we're glad to say that everything is still dry.
Honestly this may be the hardest time of year for the farm; it's definitely the most stressful.
When I was a kid I would always get sad when July was coming to an end. I knew that school would be around the corner soon, so I'd mope on August 1st. Now that the farm rules my life I loooovvveee the end of July. July is crazy. Everything loves July: the weeds, the bugs, the heat, the humidity, the sun, the storms, and the crops, not to mention all the kids, too. So now when July starts coming to a close I give Mother Nature a gentle "Thank You" and celebrate a little to myself. We've just have to make it through this week though...gotta make sure I'm not counting my eggs before they hatch kinda thing.
I recently was talking to someone on the phone and apparently sounded preoccupied. When they asked if there was a better time to talk, I responded 'There's no good time, it's July.' We are in the midst of the part of the season that I lovingly refer to as The Grind. The larger harvests have started and the tomatoes are looking like they are on the brink of really lettin' loose. We are fighting the weeds and the pests. On the other hand, the greenhouse is almost empty. Though we continue to seed crop starts in there until the end of August, the volume is insanely reduced (which is a good thing since time is limited to 24 hours per day). But any time I feel like we are 'caught up' is the exact time I find more things to do, or more accurately more crops to weed. To add to the fun, the barn roof is being replaced this week. So please, please, please exercise both caution and patience this week while picking up your share and visiting the UPick Fields. Ahhhh. July.
The last of the big transplanting weeks is (hopefully) taking place this week. About 2/3rds of the plants in the greenhouse will be going in the field and from then on there will be mostly direct seeding and smaller plantings from the greenhouse. We've direct seeded the first of the crops solely for the winter share as well. Now we're waiting for the summer crops to start kicking in. The tomatoes are looking like they are a little behind...potentially there were some problems with pollination. Some vegetables that we eat are not in need of pollination because we eat them before maturity. Some good examples of this are broccoli, leafy greens, celery, onions, amongst other things. Other vegetables that need pollination (mostly done by bees) before we can eat them include zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and beans. It's a complicated mess that most people potentially don't think about when they are trolling the grocery store or searching for a perfect ear of corn at the farmer's market (FYI corn is a special one, maybe we will get to that ridiculous process one of these blogs).
We've made it to the halfway point of the year. Six months down, six to go. The 4th of July is right around the corner and though summer seems like it is in full swing, this is the time of year where we are in a little lull...waiting....waiting...for all the summer crops to start coming in. Of course the squash has already made it's season debut, but there will be more heat loving crops soon (usually by the end of the month).
Hooray for Cherries! We got the green light from Bitner-Singer Orchards and the fruit share will start today for Thursday share pick ups and on Monday July 3rd for all Monday share pick ups. If you've signed up for a fruit share your name will be on the sign in form (it will not appear if you have not signed up). The fruit share sets up in the back of the share room, so don't forget to get your fruit when you get your veggies between 2 and 630!
The first day of Summer was last Wednesday and we celebrated by seeding for the fall and winter months. This time of year marks some of the last days for long season crops to get in the ground if we want to be able to harvest them before it gets too cold! That's right, time to plan for winter now. So we put our first of the fall brassicas into the fall fields while we are still harvesting from our Spring fields. It's kind of the craziest time of year for us, so if I seem frazzled in the share room now you know why. The week of the 4th of July is a mark in the season where larger harvests start coming in, starting with summer squash and zucchini, then cucumbers and followed by tomatoes. We usually have tomatoes by the last week in July. To sum up: we're planning and planting for Fall and Winter, starting to harvest for Summer, and cleaning up for Spring. Good thing there is so much light in a day during this time of year (it kinda all makes sense, doesn't it?:).
I love making salads for myself this time of year. I always eat tons of salads in the beginning of the CSA Share season because, of course, it's in season and it is the time of year when the right vegetables are just singing. This has lead me to become kind of a salad snot. I refuse to ever order them at restaurants because I know that I can easily throw one together that will taste better than anything I could ever order. The butterhead lettuce that we've had the first 2 weeks is my favorite. And I have a go-to salad dressing recipe that I make that uses a lot of ingredients we generally have around. I like to add texture with things like radishes and salad turnips and garlic shoots or scapes or even chopped up broccolini because it is so tender. Then I'll chop up some greens with the lettuce and add Sunflower seeds and blue cheese and a big bowl and I'm set. And now that the temperatures have decided to prematurely take on summer highs (you know summer starts this Wednesday), a salad is all I want to eat for lunch after being out in the sun in 90 degree temperatures for hours.