Sweet Relief

When last we spoke, I wondered if we could get lucky again and get rain just before our beautiful brassica field fully died a withering fate on the vine?  On Sunday, the day smelled like rain. And the sky looked like rain. And it even rained a little in the morning, but nothing else. I tried to keep my cool and expect nothing. "Will it rain today?" "No", I cautioned "That high pressure ridge will most likely just push it north."

That night, I slept on the porch, since my dog Merlin, wasn't very happy. He never liked storms: Always pacing and panting around the house looking unsettled. But he handled the storms better if we were nearby,  I tried to get him to sleep on his bed on the porch. I took the couch (and hoped he was right about the storm coming). Then, the pitter-pat of rain drops. Then the deluge of rain sheets, now coming in through the screens sideways. I dropped the curtain so he wouldn't get wet. I fell asleep like a baby.

In the morning we awoke to a full blown rain deluge, which stopped long enough for the crew to get the soggy harvest done. Then in the afternoon it poured again, and again, leaving me pretty much walking around in circles not knowing what to do with myself. I finished my mid-year report for the Board. The crew washed lugs to get ready for sweet potatoes next week. Delirium

And sure enough, everything after that was changed. The brassica field, now with wet, muddy feet, stopped wilting and started heading up cabbage and broccoli almost immediately. The fall kale doubled in size. And without irrigation to tend to, we made quick work of clipping and binning a big winter squash field. By the time Friday rolled around, with the threat of frost on the radar for Saturday, we closed the greenhouse door on 30,000 lbs of winter squash and head contentedly into the rest of this season.

We hope you enjoy the harvest.

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Zoe, John, Rebecca, and Sunny)

Can Lightening Strike Twice?

A storm rolled through our valley last Sunday morning and dropped a solid 1/3" on our parched ground. We didn't "count" it as rain, but we enjoyed how it sounded, and how the soil felt, even on Monday morning, between our toes, almost like mud. Great memories. Mud. By Tuesday, it was only that, as the temps again soared into the mid-80s and we were left in sand again.

The temps did cool off by mid-week, when a cold front came through (without bothering to spit on us at all this time). So we did what we always do in mid-September; Put on our sweatshirts in the 45F morning fog and eventually got to harvesting winter squash for real. The etherial, yellow skinned, oval-shaped Delicata was the main event of this week, and it was a nice change of pace, as our yield kept getting bigger and bigger, until we finally brought in about 7500 lbs (now curing for 1 week in the greenhouse). Last year we managed about 4000 lbs, so it was a real boost o find such a bumper in the middle of a stretch of downers. We plan to use some of this surplus to make up for some deficits that are looking quite real now.

The most immediate concern now is our fall brassica field, all the way at the back of Small One's Farm. Home to our broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, and Brussels sprouts, it is totally un-irrigatable and on a typical year gives us over 20,000 lbs of fall staples that we have apparently come to take for granted. While somehow looking good all the way through the August, this last stretch of dry weather has taken it's toll. The napa cabbage is wiltinghard every afternoon. The broccoli is not making florettes. The cauliflower is half-size and headless. Still, the plants are so nice, that if we could catch just a rogue inch or two of rain in the next couple of weeks, I think it could bounce back. That's the position our squash field was in at the end of July, when the big plants started wilting and having a hard time setting fruit without rain. One inch on July 31 came just at the right time to give us 4 tons of delicata. Will we get lucky again?  Stay tuned!!

We hope you enjoy the harvest.

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Zoe, John, Rebecca, and Sunny)

Stuggletown Again

With no rain again all week, and the temps eventually soaring towards the mid 90s on Friday, our soil moisture went to almost nothing. The crops looked as dry as at any point during this entire season. The gravity-fed cistern that waters the cows went dry. The weeds continued to grow fast as if it were July. The tomatoes ripened and ripened and ripened.  

And as usual, when the drought deepens, we need to join this struggle if we want to reap anything from our work. We were glad to welcome Zoe back from her summer vacation since the irrigation is back to full-on, all the time. We have fewer crops to water (since some of the crops are either harvested or past the point of help) but the remaining ones (fall roots, greens, eggs, peps, etc) needed to drink nearly constantly.  We also continued a big regular harvest of tomatoes, peppers, and greens.  When we had a moment we continued weeding crops that were still trying to establish - cauliflower, cabbage, and collards looked strong by weeks' end.  We laid a new water hose for the cows to get water from the pond. And since the pastures are running out of grass again,  Karen strung a fence around the spent sweet corn field so the herd can eat the remains of our already picked field next week. On Wednesday, we snuck in our first winter squash bulk harvest, binning up some very nice acorn and carnival squash from a field that looks very promising.

At the end of all of this, we turned around on Friday and realized we had an incredible harvest in the barn waiting for distribution. And there you have it:  we work to meet this field of struggle, ending up tired and a bit worn out.  But usually, eventually satisfied and surrounded by some big fruits of our labor. Not to mention filled with memories of all that could have been, that has simply turned to dust.  

We hope you enjoy the harvest.

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Zoe, John, Rebecca, and Sunny)

Be. Here. Now.

There was a sprinkle on Thursday morning. I admit it. But other than that, it was nothing but dry. After last weeks' 90F heat, the ground was dusty and the plants were thirsty. Despite the calendar turning the September, we were back to July and the irrigation pipes.

After bringing our onions in a week early and with the winter squash harvest a week away, I thought maybe this week we would catch up on some field work, clean up some old messes, handweed some fall crops and regroup for the fall harvest haul. So much for thoughts. We had to drop all of that, and use all of our time to bring in the harvest and keep the water flowing,

The tomatoes continued to pour out of the field and the sweet peppers began really putting on a show with beautiful yellows, oranges, and reds coming from the field next to the Snyder Pond. The eggplant have taken a bit of break, and we are done with our corn, and melons. But the beets keep coming, the toscano kale is huge, and the greens are making a comeback!

At the end of the week, with cool air finally making a big push into the valley in the overnight, we got the potato digger rolling and plunged the digging pan into the un-irrigated East Field at Small Ones. Not a total loss, but definitely in the "short" category.  It was hard to see after last years' record-setting spud haul not to mention all of the work we put into them this season. The drought is challenging our sense of expectation and keeping us well practiced at staying in the moment and accepting what is put in front of us.  There are highs as well as lows but, overall there is not much we can do about it. Except go out there and move pipe. Dig potatoes. Pray for rain. Move onto the next task.

We hope you enjoy the harvest.

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Zoe, John, Rebecca, and Sunny)

Here We Go

With another 1" of rain on Sunday, we put the irrigation pipes down for the week and set our sights on trying to keep up with the harvest and the weeds. Good luck to us!! The weeds have really been on a roll these last few weeks. Once we started getting a little moisture (round early Aug) those little dormant seeds began to germinate. And with the heat continuing on, the newly sprouted carpets quickly became jungles. We have put all remaining resources towards trying to stay ahead of this deluge, but it has been a draw at best. For those who have been in the pick-your-own fields, you know what I mean.  Some winners, some losers. Some messy fields with lots of food in them.

We only have so many remaining resources (human, machine, monetary, time), since we are also at the height of the harvest season. With bumper crops of tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers, we have lots of buckets to fill before we can continue weeding.  On top of that, now it is time to begin the storage crop harvest.  Whenever we had a moment, it was all hands on deck in the onion field: Clean the crates. Load them on the truck. Place crates in the dusty field. Pull the bulbs and fill the crates. Crates to truck, truck to greenhouse, crates to benches. Before we knew it there were over 5000 lbs curing in that dry space. But, we didn't have long to savor the sight. Back to the tomato field!

By the end of the week, the weather had turned hot, and the earth back to dusty. We need to start irrigating again to keep our fall greens in the game. And then keep weeding. And then keep picking. And all the while, believe it or not, planning for winter.

We hope you enjoy the harvest.

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Zoe, John, Rebecca, and Sunny)

Down The River

After a positively sultry weekend, the rain came down in buckets on Saturday night and again on Sunday morning, leaving us with another 1" of rain in the fields and an unfamiliar good feeling in our hearts. With the forecast for more showers and rain at the beginning of the week, we set about putting our final transplants in the ground. Then it sprinkled a little on Tuesday night, and with the forecast for sun on the near and distant horizon, we knew this year was over.

Over in the sense of that important distinction between what we can do, and what we must simply accept. Our season starts with everything laid before us - fields to plow and plant, people to hire, seeds to plant - so many tasks to do to make this food party happen. As the season moves along, the things we do are constantly worked upon by the things that are done to us - rain, wind, sickness, pests, drought - and we work that dance trying to keep the balance in the "doing" column, steering this ship towards where we want it to go. But at some point, this party runs out of time - there's simply no way to sow any more carrots if they don't germinate, or make half the bumper tomatoes disappear. At that point, when the balance shifts we are left in the position of takers (not makers) and hope that we can graciously assume the position of acceptance.

So after the rain, with the calendar moving past nearly all planting dates, we knew where we were. With the start of school on the horizon, we packed up what was left of our crew, got some inner tubes, a few melons, and a stray block of cheese. We head up to the Deerfield River, and instead of working, just floated down, letting the stream take us for a couple of hours. There was a chill wind. First one we felt in a while. And we just enjoyed each others company, as we prepared to reap what we have sowed.

We hope you enjoy the harvest.

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Zoe, John, Rebecca, and Sunny)

A Whole New World?

We figured our vacation was over on Monday morning. After a week without irrigating, we were well rested and ready to get back to this season as we remembered it. We geared up for a huge tomato harvest on Monday, sent someone to Adams Farm to pick up our beef, cultivated all afternoon, and laid pipe in the fall carrots.  On Tuesday morning, the sprinklers were turning again as the sun shone high in the sky and we harvested another beautiful haul of eggplants and green peppers.  

Then the forecast started taking a turn for impending storms, so we switched gears. Karen and Zoe kept the cultivators moving through the fall crops while Sunny and I started scurrying to put the fall spinach, lettuce, and greens in the ground and preparing our last fields for plants to go in the ground.

I didn't cancel the weeder crew for Wednesday (just to make sure it WOULD rain), but by 9am it was raining hard enough that we transformed them into a harvest crew, as we found ourselves in a good-old rain-slog harvest of cucumbers and squash. As the rain kept falling, we took the time to remove the old cukes from the fieldhouse to make way for early-winter kale and spinach. In the afternoon, we planted kale, broccoli, and collards as the spinach seeds in the ground soaked up the free moisture. Wow, that was different!

By Thursday we realized that we had a whole new problem. Only one dry day left before a bunch more stormy weather on the horizon. And nearly all of the melons were ripe. And we needed to move our herd and their 3 new calves to a new field (that actually had grass!!). And the forecast for 95F. So we scrambled:   We cancelled the beef sale (no time to set up or re-stock). We moved the cows into their new pasture (a bit of a rodeo). And then, Karen, John, Zoe, and I piled all the melons and then brought over 5000 lbs home. Not exactly sure where we are, but by Friday all of the melons were in the barn, all of the plants were watered in the ground, all of the cows had grass, all of the tomatoes were sorted in the Farm Shop, and there's more free water in the forecast. Feels a bit like a whole new world out here.

We hope you enjoy the harvest.

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Zoe, John, Rebecca, and Sunny)

Game Changer

On Saturday night it started and quickly it was a full-blown rain storm. When I awoke Sunday to the sound of rain again, it took me a while to register, but when I went to feed the cows, I found myself running to get to the tractor so I wouldn’t get so wet. Weird. The rain gauge (aka a white bucket) seemed to say about 1".  On top of that, the weather had cooled down. And it was cloudy. So the water wasn't running away or burning off.   Yahoo!!  In the cool damp Monday, the harvest crew set about the usual haul, and also found a huge crop of ripe tomatoes. The weeders (I hired a bunch extra for the wet week) started on the big weed pile in the fall beets. In the afternoon,  we head for the North Field at Small One's to plant our last big fall broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower crops.  So far so good. On Tuesday we awoke to a big, unexpected downpour which left us moving cows to pasture, trudging through huge puddles in full rain gear!  What is going on? Now there was over 2” in the buckets at the end of the tomato rows.  In this ridiculous game of chance, we hit the jackpot, with a real, old, honest-to-goodness soak.  

So we took the week of irrigating. And our big, mighty weeder crew freed the beets and carrots from a burgeoning forest of pig weed. And the harvest crew brought in loads of carrots, eggplants, tomatoes, and more. Our crops, one by one showed signs of perking up. The winter squash, no longer wilting starting setting some heavy fruit. The fall brassicas kicked in, with some beautiful toscano kale hinting of late-August harvests. Sunny and I caught up on seeding.  John mowed the old garlic land to prep for fall kale. Karen got the basket weeder rolling through the germinating crops. Zoe even got a chance to cultivate the onions!
 
Of course, it’s still dry out there. And if it doesn’t rain again, we will be irrigating again next week. But for this week at least, everything was just coming up roses. And boy did that smell good!

We hope you enjoy the harvest.

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Zoe, John, Rebecca, and Sunny)

Turn Up The Heat

After yet another swing-and-completely-miss storm on Monday, we settled in for a long-hot week with temps in the mid-90s and the sun, unstoppable. After 8 weeks of this, with our crops already under some stress, this was a week to endure, more than enjoy. So, endure we did.

Our water sources continued to hold steady (somehow?!) and Zoe kept the water flowing. Many crops are holding well, but there are some additional signs of stress out there. The crows came (as usual) to feast on the ripening melons, necessitating covering the vines. The melons are protected, but the excess heat under the row cover makes for some even more stressed out vines. What's a poor farmer to do....have no melons or have no melons?  The first 3 corn crops are now officially a complete loss (see photo below), but the final 3 successions have been irrigated a few times and look pretty good at this point. Beyond that, though, crops are cranking and we spent busy hours in the cukes, the eggplants, carrots, beets, and tomatoes.

When we had a minute, we separated our yearling calves from their moms, who are moving towards the time when they will birth their new calves. Usually our cows eat grass from May - November. Last week, though, we ran out of grass. It's just not growing back without any water. So, we began to feed our winter hay (while we look for more, which will probably start getting expensive soon).

And on Friday, we had a little sprinkle overnight, and then a cloudy morning, so we planted our final two lettuce beds and then our two-week-late cauliflower, broccoli, etc. Now we wait and hope for that 50% chance of a sprinkle on Sunday. At least the forecast is for 75F,  which would be a welcome change.

And finally we have also heard from some of our friends and neighbors this week who have water sources that have completely dried up. Our best thoughts go out to them while we continue to have gratitude for what we do have (which is a lot). For them and for us...here's hoping for rain one day soon!

We hope you enjoy the harvest.

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Zoe, John, Rebecca, and Sunny)

Dry As A Bone

How dry is a bone?  I really have no idea. But it must be pretty dry to have a saying about it. In any case, if a bone is that dry, we are definitely as dry as that. Definitely. With the constant sun and (mostly) heat beating down on our little farm, and then a near-but-total-miss for a thunderstorm on Monday, we are left with plants that are starting to show signs of stress, even soon after they are watered.  The lettuce and summer squash in the sandy Snyder field needs to be watered every 4 days or else they begin to wilt. And the crops that can't be irrigated are starting to be counted as total losses. The first two plantings of sweet corn are only a dream. The russet potatoes are marble-sized.  Even the winter squash, in the typically wet North Field at Small Ones Farm is starting to wilt in the afternoon.

Beyond that, and more ominously for our fall crops, our water sources are showing signs of stress as well. The Snyder pond, only 12' when it was originally dug in 1995, is down about 4'. So low that Zoe needed the whole crew to move the pump so that the inlet hose would reach the receding water.

Still, with all of that, nearly everywhere we turn, towards crops that have been kept alive for these past 7 dry weeks, we find bumper after bumper. First we nearly drowned in cucumbers on Monday. On Wednesday, the beets and carrots really hit their stride. And on Friday the tomatoes and eggplants showed themselves to be possible champions of the summer.

So this, season's story continues as it began: When will it rain? Who knows. When will we be done harvesting?  Never.  

We hope you enjoy the harvest.

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Zoe, John, Rebecca, and Sunny)

And Now Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Program

After a dry spell this long and hard I just stop believeing in the weather forecast. So, only after I had really seen the puddles, seen the buckets, seen the fields, and got the text from Zoe that it was really raining, did I believe that we actually received some free moisture last weekend. While it only amounted to 1/2", that was nearly half of our entire total for June, so we were all grateful and a little relieved. So we did what could be done....we took two days off of irrigating, caught up on planting and seeding, and then got right back at this hot and dry season!

With moisture in the soil for the first time in a while, we set our sights on the fall carrots and beets. We had delayed this by one week hoping for some water to germinate the tiny seeds. Sunny and I seeded an acre into clean beds which hopefully will yield tens of thousands of pounds in October and November. Meanwhile Zoe took a crew to North Field at Small One's Farm, where they had almost-mud between their toes as they put in the first big planting of fall broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, and toscano kale.

By Wednesday, it was time to get back to reality (and 90F). Zoe and Karen moved pipes and watered the onions, while the weeder crew cleaned up the late zucchini and cucumbers, August lettuce, swiss chard, and all of the winter squash (for the last time). Meanwhile John cultivated the corn, Rebecca cultivated the beans, and the Sunny cultivated the winter squash.  I drove around picking up the pieces and keeping it all together.

All the while, we brought in our first really big harvest of the season - the garlic. With a volunteer crew on Saturday, and an all-hands-on-deck Wednesday and Thursday, those stinking rose are now safely hung in the barn to dry. What a week!!

We hope you enjoy the harvest.

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Zoe, John, Rebecca, and Sunny)

More of the Same (Mostly)

One more week, and it's just more of the same for us. Mostly. More sun. More heat. No rain. Irrigating. Cultivating. Handweeding. Tending. Harvesting. Repeat.  Okay, we did have a little rain this week. Very little. On Tuesday morning we awoke to tiny sprinkle sounds on the roof.  Like a sweet memory of forgotten good times. It came out of nowhere, and lasted long enough to change our plan. We planted a bed of parsley bed and then the last Brussels' sprouts crop. It was only about 1/4" but it was enough to change our attitude for a while. It was also enough to keep our first fall cabbage and broccoli alive in the North Field, over at Small One's Farm

Over there, we have no irrigation. There is no established water source for those 9 acres, so we put our least water-sensitive crops there - potatoes, corn, winter squash, fall brassicas - and roll the dice. They usually so just fine. The North Field has a lot of clay, so it stays wet without much water. That's where the squash and the broccoli are and they look good right now. However the East Field is pretty sandy and dries out quick. It is taking this little drought pretty hard. The first sweet corn crop has "pineappled," (turning it's leaves pointy and light green), a sure sign that the ears won't be very good. And while the potatoes are well-cultivated, fertilized, and protected from Colorado potato beetles, they now are looking very drought-stressed. And there's just nothing we can do for these two crops. Except hope.

With everything else, though, it's not just hoping; it's just moving pipe and turning on pumps and cleaning out sprinklers. It's cultivating our summer crops past the point of establishment. It's the weeder crew cleaning up the crops after the tractors come through. It's tying tomatoes to their trellis stakes. Just like last week. No rest for the weary, but plenty of beautiful crops out there for the picking. This week a mountain of cucumbers is falling upon us. The carrots loom large next week. And on the near-distant horizon tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, onions, and melons promise a summer awash in food.  It may rain soon and bring us some blessed relief. Who knows. But until then, head down, moving forward.

We hope you enjoy the harvest.

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Zoe, John, Rebecca, and Sunny)

The Weeder CRew Gets Busy IN The WInter Squash!!

No Rain? No Problem. We Have Zoe.

Keeping the water flowing in the newly-planted lettuce, cukes, zukes, and melons!!

You get to that point where you just don't look at the weather forecast any more.  70% chance of thunderstorms, becomes 0% before you have time to refresh the browser. Storms pass South. Then North. Then West. (And-no-we-don't-count-the-little-sprinkles-Monday-or-Friday-nights). Really, we've had just about zero for more than a while. After so many near-misses, absolute-misses, not-even-swinging-total-misses, there's just no point in thinking about it. Best to deal with what we have. Thankfully, we have Zoe.

Basically, without her, at this point, most of the crops on this farm would be shriveled and near-dead. Here's the way this works in early summer: My job is to harvest and cultivate (weed) the crops. Zoe's job is to keep them watered (and otherwise taken care of). So, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning I load up the truck with barrels and buckets, knives and people, and go out and bring home the harvest. Meanwhile, Zoe checks the fittings, fills the pump with fuel, gets 'er started, and makes sure the sprinklers are doing their thing. When the harvest is over, she takes one person and they move irrigation lines to the next crops. I take the rest of the crew and point the tractors in the right direction to kill weeds. When she has a spare moment, she orchestrates the pounding of 1500 stakes to trellis the tomatoes, plants 1000 heads of lettuce, scouts the onions for thrips. And on and on.

At this point, after an entire June with only 1.5" of rain total, there would be no crops to harvest, or weeds to kill, if we couldn't get the water going. And get it going, she has. This week alone she has successfully watered the greens, kale, cabbage, broccoli, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, pumpkins, beans, scallions, onions, lettuce, melons, celery, beets, and carrots, using two different irrigation systems on over 20 acres. Without this work, we would likely be closing the farm next week with a short sign: "Sorry no more food until further notice." As it is, each crop that she waters, then grows like crazy (heat, sun) and we harvest more and more.  And more and more. She's looks a little tired. We look a little loaded with food.

We hope you enjoy the harvest.

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Zoe, John, Rebecca, and Sunny)

To The Pipes!!

Last week it was a novelty. Enjoyable. Something for which we frequently wish This week, it never changed, but our attitude did. It was dry. And then the dryness started drying out. Our greens were wilting. The clover was wilting. And then we realized there were no strawberries left in the patch - 10 days early!  With no significant rain for almost 3 weeks now, and temps generally above normal, we were only going in one direction: To the pipes!!

The Main Event: The Squash Harvest!!

We have invested in water sources and irrigation equipment. We know what to do. It's just that, on top of everything else, this takes time. A lot of time.  And you can't really just hire more people during a dry year (we still have the same labor budget). So, you start to become a triage nurse. Maybe we won't trellis the cukes in the fieldhouse, or clean up the back of the truck, or rototil the perennial garden. But we will get the water moved to thirsty crops. We will cultivate our winter squash. We will sow our parsnip seeds.

On top of this, all of the crops that are irrigated, generally are much healthier - so we have bigger harvests. The zucchini and summer squash haven't been this good in 4 years. The chi cab is hefty. The greens are booming. The lettuce is never ending. The harvest takes longer and longer each day.

So what's a poor farmer to do!? Well, generally we just need to remember to keep one dusty foot in front of the other. Nothing gets us into our routine so much as a dry year for irrigating;  Harvest in the morning. Move pipes in the afternoon.  Get the water flowing at 6am. Then start harvesting. Move the pipes in the afternoon, etc. etc.  And then, shift the attitude; We won't get it all done, but we will get the important things accomplished. And eventually it will rain, right!? Probably, but until then.....head down, carry water. Repeat.

We hope you enjoy the harvest.

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Zoe, John, Rebecca, and Sunny)

Palindrome Week

palindrome: (noun) a word, line, verse, number, sentence, etc., reading the same backward as forward, as "Madam, I'm Adam" or "Poor Dan is in a droop."

The Weeder Crew Changes It Up And Brings In The SCapes!!

It's started off sunny. And then it got warm.  And then it went towards sunny. And warm. And then sunny again. And then over and over again. Then Rebecca told me it was Palindrome Week (check the dates 6/13/16, etc) and everything seemed to make sense.

Around here, even when something doesn't go weird with the weather, it means something is going weird. All around the valley this week you could see farmers cutting, raking, and baling hay. With the forecast for all sun all the time, it made making-hay-while-the-sun-shines much easier than usual. Tell me how many times you remember 8 days of sun in a row in New England in June? Like I said, weird.

In this case, though, it's an easy weird to live with. After planting and planting and then having moderate moisture for weeks, our crops were just ready for the sun and warmth, and, as expected, they exploded.  The greens are huge. The cabbage headed up big. The radishes are gargantuan. And then we turned around and the-one-week-early summer squash was a bumper. Oh,  and I forgot to mention the little spring broccoli experiment. We got the results this week. Big success.

If I was clever enough (or could sit long enough in front of the computer without falling asleep) I would come up with a final palindromic sentence that wrapped up the whole thing. Oh well, I am, after all, only a farmer, and I'm nearly asleep on my feet trying to keep up with the season. For today, it will be enough to say that this week started as it ended. With gorgeous crops, harvest days for miles, happy shareholders everywhere, and blue skies on the horizon. Wow.

We hope you enjoy the harvest.

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Zoe, John, Rebecca, and Sunny)

Tale of Woah

Every growing season writes it's own story. We know how the general dramatic arc will go: We will wake up from a deep sleep. We will welcome a new crew to the farm. We will till the earth. We will plant the seeds. We will tend the growing plants. We will fret. We will harvest something. We will go back to sleep. But within this general framework, there will be unforseen events, weather trends, personalities, equipment breakdowns, critters who wreak havoc, etc etc which will fill in this narrative and give each year it's own character; it's own name. It's still way to early to tell, but if we had to give this story a name right now, I'd probably go with......"wacky" or "weird" or maybe I'd just shake my head and mumble something, turn around, kick the dirt, and shuffle off to find my wool hat for the June cool-down!! It's not that this has been a tough season, or a particularly tragic or epic one at this point. It's mostly just plain odd.

We've reviewed the past 6 months already......Warm Winter. Early Spring. Big early-April freeze. Hot and dry mid-April. May goes cold, cold, and colder leaving our crops at least a week late. We postpone the first distribution day, then four days in the mid-90's leave us looking a little silly. And then this week, just as we are getting over our first sunburns, the night-time temps go back to the low 40s leaving our hands good and cold for the first harvests. Weird. Disorienting. But this is not a Tale-of-Woe. More like a Tale of Woah!! Through all of this, somehow the crops kept growing and growing, and are now pretty much going gangbusters and looking generally very good. We have beautiful early greens and lettuce. The strawberries are ripening nicely. And the early summer squash, cukes, and tomatoes are looking like some of the best ever on the very near horizon. Awesome. And somewhat disorienting.

On top of all of this, given that this is our 30th CSA season, we wanted it to be special. So we created an ambitious plan. And now, all around the farm, you can find new ideas coming to life. There are new tables in the farm shop to help us display produce with less work re-stocking. Freshly painted chairs in the backyard (thanks Roberta!!) to make you want to stay a while. In the raspberry patch, there are hummingbird feeders to lure natural predators of the spotted wing drosophila. There are beautiful early summer squash plants in the West Field growing on beautiful raised beds created with our beautiful raised bed plastic mulch layer. Our hard-working pigs have "rototilled" the weeds out of half of our perennial garden and are now rooting out poison ivy on North edge of the blueberry field. We have a new website. And on and on and on.

So, while we are generally feeling a bit confused out here, we are mostly just rolling with it, and feeling like, well, things are going generally great so far. As usual, we have oriented our new apprentice crew to the work at the farm and they are now cooking on all burners. John spread over 100 tons of compost on the fields, Rebecca finished plowing the last of the 30 acres of crop land last week, and Sunny made at over 22 miles of planting beds all over S. Amherst. They joined our veteran crew who continue to make this farm tick;  Our mechanic Ken has all 7 tractors, 5 trucks, 1 van, and a rototiller humming smoothly along. Abbe hasour books in order and all of those checks written and bills paid. Zoe has managed our greenhouse and all of our field planting, while plowing through the pile of behind-the-scenes-work to get the Farm Shop open this weekend. Karen has re-designed and constructed all of our cow pasture fencing, cleaned and organized the apprentice house at 20 Hulst Rd, and planned a great season full of events. Our awesome weeder crew helped these last three weeks to keep the veggies ahead of the weeds.  And we were even lucky enough to have our daughter Anna come home for three weeks and pitch in with everything from handweeding to planting to farm shop setup which really put us over the top!!

So now, after months of planning and weeks and weeks of soil prep. After sowing seeds in the greenhouse and planting everything from cabbage to lettuce to tomatoes to onions to peppers. On Tuesday, we settled in a very hopeful field of melons. Then we finished sweeping & mowing up all of our spring messes. And yesterday we pointed the harvest truck to the fields for our first big harvest ofearly greens and roots. So now, we sort of know where we are; Ready to welcome you (back) to the farm and enjoy your companionship for the rest of this journey towards..... the rest of this season's story. Where will we say we have been when it is fully written?  Stay tuned!!

We hope you enjoy the harvest.

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Zoe, John, Rebecca, and Sunny)

 

The Countdown Begins!!

The Countdown Begins!!

We can see it now and we are getting excited for it!  In just one week we will be ready to start distributing some of the fruits of our last two months labor!! We have a few things to do before we will be happy to see you, but we can see the starting line clearly now. We have to clean up the Farm Shop a little more (probably don't want the fork lift in there during distribution days). And we need to plant the melons. And seed another bed of greens. We have to train our Boston driver. And we need to get the parking lot signs straight.

But then we will be ready. The heat last week really helped move everything along and the crops are mostly looking terrific. The greens and radishes are really growing now. And the lettuce is sizing up. And the strawberries look like berries (and not flowers anymore). The spinach (as usual) is not looking so great (it didn't like the 97F heat last weekend) but the early tomatoes and summer squash are booming with hopeful signs of early July harvests.

So, we put some new sides on the harvest truck. And we washed all of the lugs and harvest barrels. Once this final countdown is over, we will train the new crew how to harvest lettuce, and then be so glad to see you next week.

Looking forward to a great season ahead

Your Farmer,

Dan (for Karen, Abbe, Zoe, John, Rebecca, and Sunny)

on the right track, but not quite there yet

We knew it was going to get hot. We just forgot what hot felt like. But now we remember. It feels pretty darn hot! Just when we were lamenting the cold spring, it has now been banished from our memories and we are left with water bottles, sweat, sun hats, and finally......growing plants. With the small rainstorm on Tuesday, we were able to keep planting, getting our leeks, lettuce, scallions, and parsley in the ground. Then the next few days we were able to just listen to our plants grow - greens, chard, lettuce, potatoes, kale, broccoli, cabbage - took off as if they too remembered what is was like to be warm.

Mostly, though, we have spent our time searching for signs of what our crops will look like next week. Despite lots of hopeful signs (lettuce getting to be half-size, greens starting to be visible, kale starting to have a few big leaves), it's clear by today that most of our early crops are still a ways behind (from the generally cold May) and we should push the date back one week. We are definitely on the right track, but not quite there yet.

So, the official announcement is that our first week of distribution will be June 11 - 16. We will be open Saturday June 11 (8am-1pm), Tuesday June 14 (2-7pm), and Thursday June 16 (2-7pm) at the Farm Shop, and deliver to the Boston area for the first time on Thursday June 16 (3 - 8pm). I know it seems like a long time to wait, but I feel confident that we will have a great share for you that week and will be ready to roll into a great season to come.

In the meantime, we will keep planting (peppers and eggplants yesterday, late tomatoes, winter squash, and melons next week) and tending our crops. The weeds (like the crops) are growing strong now, so we were happy to welcome our Weeder Crew back on the scene this week to help keep ahead in the fields. It feels like summer today, but we will be ready for whatever happens tomorrow, and continue to let you know what's happening. We look forward to seeing you all during the week of June 11 - 16.

Looking forward to a great season ahead

Your Farmer,

Dan (for Karen, Abbe, Zoe, John, Rebecca, and Sunny)

It's Cold Out Here!

This season continues it's roller coaster of disorientation leaving us to simply hold on for the ride. First the non-winter, winter. followed by an unseasonably warm March. Then, we had some deep freeze nights (17F) in early April which did some damage to the fruiting perennials (blueberries, strawberries, etc) already sped up by the warm spring. Then a dry dry spell which got most farmers thinking about irrigating before April 15. Then the rains came but the temps have stayed low and then lower for a while now. At this point, we don't know if we are early or late. If we should wear shorts or longs. If we should get the harvest barrels cleaned out or put the long johns back in heavy rotation.

And finally, I look up and realize, like it's revealed truth..... "hey, it's cold out here!". There we are planting onions on Monday with a 40mph wind whipping us on the back, thinking it would be good to go inside and drink hot chocolate to get the fingers moving again. The wind is blowing the row covers off of the early tomatoes and summer squash who are looking back at us in chilly resignation. And, well, the direct-seeded lettuce in the field is about 1/4" tall. "Hey, It's cold out here!"  Ya think!?

Of course, as soon as I finally get my head wrapped around that idea, it starts to get warm. After 3 nights of (actual or near) frost, the temps start hitting the 70s during the day and only the 50s at night. And then the forecast is for 80s during the day by mid-week!  After all that, at least one thing is abundantly clear - in general, we are quite a bit behind now in terms of plant growth, and it's hard to tell if we will catch up quickly or not. So, the moral of the story is, we might need to push back our start date by one week. Since time appears linear, we will assume that next week (on Saturday) we will have a much clearer picture of how our plants will look moving towards June. So look for an email next Saturday (May 28) which will officially declare the start date for the season. And in the meantime, we will continue planting, and cultivating, and even washing the harvest barrels out so that we will be ready no matter what. Eventually we WILL have food from this earth. For now, we are just trying to enjoy the ride.

Looking forward to a great season ahead (whenever it starts!!)

Your Farmer,

Dan (for Karen, Abbe, Zoe, John, Rebecca, and Sunny)

May Showers Bring July Tomatoes

We haven't seen the sun since last Saturday. There are clouds in the sky. Clouds in our hair. Clouds in the trucks. In the greenhouse. And in the pastures. Every once in a while it rains. Then it stops. Then it showers. Then it stops. And, still the clouds linger.

By late March, we were ready to call this perhaps the earliest season ever. By mid April, we were ready to declare this perhaps the driest year on record. But now, in early May, it's cold, its wet and, well things are a bit behind and a bit soggy. Just goes to show you that anyone who says they know what the weather is going to do this year, or this month, or even next week, is just making stuff up. I prefer to just play the hand I'm dealt. And see how that goes.

This week, that hand was wet. But it was pretty much a royal flush. After weeks of field prep - compost spreading, plowing, bed making - we were ready to put some plants in the ground. And when a plant goes from the comfort of the greenhouse to variability of the field what it really wants is a nice cloudy day. Warm is better than cold, but wet is better than dry. Cool and wet will be just fine. So when we saw those cloudy icons on the weather forecast, we just put the field planting wheels in motion. First we planted the cucumbers and basil in the field houses. Then we moved to the lettuce and the swiss chard over at Snyder farm. Then the scallions, fennel, and radicchio in the west field.  When all of those plants were tucked into nice wet beds, we moved to the early tomatoes. These we planted on black plastic (to heat up the soil) and covered them with polyester row covers to tuck them in for the night (and the next two weeks).

We were tired and soggy by the time it was over, but we couldn't have asked for a better week. And now, as usual, since we know for sure that there can be way too much of a good thing, we hope for a change. It's time to stop raining for a few days. Dry up the ground so we can plow some more. And make more beds. So that we can turn the planting wheel around and get going again. Here's hoping!

Looking forward to a great season ahead

Your Farmer,

Dan (for Karen, Abbe, Zoe, John, Rebecca, and Sunny)