The Spring Crescendo

We're doin' the spring swing over here on the farm - the activated, green, growing, tender spring swing. At the beginning of the month, the apprentices started their season and we grew from our core staff singin' through the winter into a little band playing the first few bars of a season-long piece of music. We all began together to go about our business of getting the fields ready for planting and getting the plants ready for the fields. If we're an orchestra, the weather plays the oboe. Orchestras tune to the oboe because it's the hardest instrument to adjust, and so it goes with us: when it rains in the spring we plant seeds in the greenhouse and prep equipment, and when it's sunny we head outside.

The apprentices have learned their new tractors and taken their tools into the field: Rebecca spreads the compost to improve our soil, then Sunny plows and harrows to prepare the fields, and then Ellen follows making beds for the plants and putting seeds in the ground. Ken gives all the instruments their spring tune ups. Abbe keeps up with all the share sign ups. I'm learning how to conduct these musicians and the first bars of this seasons symphony, the ins and outs of how to organize a daily work plan, how to train apprentices in farm management areas, how to keep good notes. Karen's fencing new pastures for the cows to enjoy the fast-growing grass. And Dan's been finding some new farm vehicles and training me in my new role. Dan would use a baseball analogy instead, but in my orchestra analogy he and Karen hold the sheet music, keeping us true to the score we arranged this winter. It's a piece of music originally composed over 30 years ago, a classic that gets some new riffs every year, and that always gets your feet tappin' to a familiar funky beat. Brookfield Farm!

Together we're increasing the pace and the volume in this spring crescendo - onward towards the beginning of June when we harvest vegetables and open the Farm Shop!

You don't have to wait til June - there's lots happening on the farm this spring that we want you to know about. Read on for Spring Events and Announcements, ways to get involved and support your farm.

With spring in our steps,

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

First Comes Greenhouse Season!

There's always a pressure to rush that comes up in the spring - "Start the greenhouse early! Get going!" it says. But starting mid-March has advantages: plants grow more quickly at this time of year, as the days get longer and warmer. We'll get out into the fields whenever the weather lets us, so unless you're a market farm trying to get the special price of having the first onions of the whole year, starting earlier doesn't mean better crops. Earliest onions sound fun, but then we think about all the fuel that goes into heating our greenhouse, about our warming planet and our goal of farming with fewer inputs, we feel good about taking that extra week.  And when we saw the 100% chance of snow last week, we knew we were right on track. "Relax," it said, "no need to rush things along." We'll take our onions at a regular pace, passing on the more affordable costs of growing regular paced onions to our shareholders, and the joy of a regular, earthbound paced life into our bodies. 

This year, Kate, our all-star volunteer from last season, worked with me to fill the greenhouse in just three days. Like everything around here, we didn't do it without help - before John and Sunny left on their vacation they stocked us up with flats filled with soil. And Jake, who apprenticed on the farm with me several years ago, lent a helping hand for a few hours. And of course Dan, who, along with everything else he does, fixed the door for us - it is undeniably important to have doors on your greenhouse in New England! 

It feels almost embarrassingly sweet when we first hold seeds in the spring, so aware of all the potential there. We put the first seeds in the first flats, talk about all the things we have to talk about, meander through the podcasts we've been waiting to listen to as our hands stay busy, one seed at a time. Three days later, there's life on the farm - we've taken our first big step of season. Almost 100,000 seeds are put in dirt and watered in, and growing, still under the soil. Leeks, onions and other types of onions, cabbages, napa, broccoli, fennel, chard, scallions, radicchio, lettuce, herbs, flowers. From this point, there are a few landmarks - the first field we till, the first day we need to weed, but we're mostly blazing on (at a regular, earthbound pace) towards Opening Day 2017, when we'll harvest your food for the first time this season. See you then! 

Your Farmer,
Zoe (for Dan, Karen, Abbe)

Step One: Eat Breakfast

Step One: Eat Breakfast

With the 60 degree weather we've had, it's hard to remember that the week before we were above our knees in snow. The day it first fell Dan and I sat at our computers, periodically jumping up like popcorn kernels to look at the accumulation out the window. A group of us skied before the gale force winds even stopped. Everything was quiet. We'd been waiting for this. After all the snow plowing and shoveling, we did indoor work - Dan compiled and sent out our big end of year re-cap and I got the crop plan made and along to the fine-tuning stage.

We were deep in snow-mode there for awhile, reveling in everything it brings. But soon I was shedding layers all along the ski trail, and the next time I was out skiing in my T-shirt. And now it's that time of year when we look at the calendar and we realize we need to move all the storage out of the greenhouse, because the potting soil will arrive soon. And after the potting soil arrives, we'll be getting ready for that not-so-far-off day when we turn on the heat and seed the onions and leeks for 2017.

Like the woodchucks emerging from their dens and the geese that are already flying north, we farmers too have reached the time when we shift our pace, wiggle our fingers free of our mittens, and ride the snowmelt rushing down stream to the season ahead. "March!" It's the month that's also a call to action.

As we wake up from our long winter's "nap," I'm aware of all the work we've done ahead of time to ease our way: all the crop planning, hiring, management-divvying.  Even back in November, when we wrapped newspaper around the biggest cabbages like gifts, we were preparing for this time when we rely on nourishment from last season to kick-start this new one. As we stretch and get ready to grow fresh, live green food, I'm grateful for the storage crops (look in the share for those biggest cabbages!), and thankful for nutritious food to eat in this season's pre-dawn hours. It feels like starting a big day with a good breakfast.

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

Making Every Day Count

Making Every Day Count

Just like December, January is all about taking advantage of the weather as it comes. Sometimes, when we saw stretches of 40 degree days coming, we took the box of bolts and headed to the Snyder barn. We're working on building a fieldhouse for hay storage. We bought the pieces in 2014. We began construction back then, and realized the siting was wrong. So we took it down and made a new plan. And then it was time to go farming, so the field house waited. And then it was winter and the ground was frozen, and then it was time for farming again. This year, Dan took an opportunity and got the ground posts in before the ground froze, so on warm winter days this past month we were able to construct the ribs. And next time it warms up, we'll be out there again. Once it's done, we won't have to deal with plastic hay covers anymore; we'll have better quality winter feed for the cows, and smooth operating for feeding the cows.

On the cold days, we collect the mail and do animal chores, and then we come inside by the heater and get our screen-time in. It's time to count things, with spreadsheets and tables and totals and percentages and averages. We counted our vegetable production numbers, and the results show in what's in the cellar now: sweet potatoes - great crop! potatoes - 12,000 lbs below target.  The data shows that our farm struggled with the drought in specific crops, but our total production was still 2.1% higher than our 10-year average.  We kept counting: volunteer hours (330), dollars our water bill for our well exceeded budget ($418), and popsicles we sold in the farm shop (1,499). We're compiling all this data into a comprehensive report which we'll send out in February. Counting takes time, but it gives us a clear picture of where we're coming from, which allows us to plan for next year. So now we have a new cold-weather project!




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

Between Last Year and Next Year

December can be a funny transition on the farm. The apprentices' season is over, so we're more often working on our own. Less boisterous, more rested. We're left to our own devices for lunch too, which is admittedly disorienting when we've had the pleasure of eating Karen's lunches all season. We attempt looking back on last year and looking forward to next all mixed in together like trying a new recipe for root vegetable soup.  

We take deep breaths and some days off. We go out for a coffee. We start to button up our loose ends from last year, starting with mulching the strawberries and garlic. The equipment is nestled all snug in the fieldhouses. The cows are in their winter pasture. We mowed the raspberries into their winter buzz cuts. We delight in how neat the farm looks.

And, somehow concurrently, we look forward to next year. "Let's get a a big water reel for irrigation!" Dan did research and then placed the order, continuing to invest in getting water where we need it when we need it. I took my gloves off by the office heater and ordered most of our seeds for next year.

This can feel like spinning, looking forward and backward at once. Luckily, being farmers beholden to weather has its perks, bringing us to the present and structuring our time with degrees and precipitation. We make lists and follow them based on the conditions. Now it's snowing, now it's melting. Now is time to split firewood. Now is time for tea or a nap. Now is time to write my first newsletter. Now is time for a winter share week!

Wishing you a joyful New Year of presence
wherever you are Now,

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

And Finally, Some Rest

After a very memorable growing season, we brought the last of our beets and celeriac out of the field on Friday. We sorted the cabbage in the harvest shed, packed the squash and sweet potatoes into the walk-in warmer (used-to-be-cooler), organized the root cellar and called this outdoor season over. It's almost hard to remember all of the drought struggles of this past growing season, but with over 40,000 lbs of beautiful produce in the safety of our winter storage, we are ready to head for a rest and share the remaining bounty of this season with all of you until March.

The apprentice crew began their hibernation mode, following winter pursuits both near (John & Sunny) and far (Rebecca). Abbe continues to work in the office, making sure that checks are deposited and bills are paid. Karen, Zoe, and I are laying the ground work for next season as we clean up the remains of this one. We still need to mulch our strawberries & garlic (to protect them from the likely frost-heaves of winter), and then store all of our machinery under cover, clean out the barnyard at Snyder Farm, and move the cows into their winter lair. But we will get these jobs done in due course, without nearly the hustle and bustle of June.  

And then, eventually we will start to take a tally of all that happened around the farm these past months. Counting pounds of produce. Counting dollars and cents. Counting cows. Counting tons of compost. But first, we will start by counting sheep. As many as possible. And in between we hope to see you in the root cellar.

We hope you enjoy the winter bounty,

Farmer Dan
(for Karen, Zoe, Abbe, John, Sunny, and Rebecca (in Boston!))

Giving Thanks

Admittedly, I still am confused, almost daily, as to what time of year this is. I keep thinking it's earlier or later than it really is and then wake up startled to realize it's almost Thanksgiving and we have to get the rest of these crops out of the ground!  Maybe it's because it was such a long summer. Or maybe because we didn't start harvesting cauliflower until November. Whatever the reason, I remain disoriented (and even more so this past week).

But despite being so unsure of so many things, one thing I now know, is that indeed this growing season is in fact nearing an end. After countless hours of preparation and planning. After hiring our crew, and then welcoming them, orienting them, training them, and working with them. After plowing, bed making, seeding, planting, cultivating, and harvesting. After waiting for rain, and then making it rain. And after bringing in the fruits of our labors during these past three months of fall harvest. It is now truly coming to an end.

And where does this all leave us? What is the story that we will tell ourselves about this season? What are the lasting images and memories that we will keep once the last bucket is emptied and stacked on the harvest shed wall?  We probably won't know for sure for a while, but here's a first draft.....

Certainly, the main theme will be the extreme drought that we endured during the months of June, July, August, and September. Over those 16 weeks, we received a grand total of about 3" of rain. Our normal rainfall is about 14" during those times. Our ability to make it through this "30-year weather event" was largely enabled by the hard work of our crew as well as the important investment we made (in the name of our supporting community) in water resources over the past 30 years.

We know that no matter how many hopes and dreams we may have for our little farm, none would come true without the help of our three apprentices (John, Rebecca, and Sunny), who came to work each day from 6am - 5pm from April 'til Thanksgiving. These folks formed the backbone of the labor necessary to turn this farm from thoughts to 250,000 lbs of delicious, nutritious vegetables. Beyond that core, our Weeder Crew (see week 11), our Harvest Crew (Sydney, Oli, Sam, Morgan, Lukas), our Fall Harvest Crew (JStubbs and volunteers Kate & Abbe), and our long-term staff (Abbe, Ken) make the magic happen with daily and seasonal contributions. Karen, Zoe, and I figure out how to manage this great cacaphony, hopefully putting the resources in the just the right places for them to do the most good. Mostly, we are happy just trying to stay ahead of the curve.

Standing behind all of this day-to-day labor is you (and the you's that have come before). In this, our 30th anniversary year, we were struck just how important this long-standing commitment has been to our work here. When we dug our pond at Snyder Farm in 1997, we borrowed nearly $10,000 to invest in the pond, pump, and pipes to move water. And in 2001, we borrowed an additional $30,000 to dig our well at Hulst Rd and bury the lines to carry that water around our core 8 acres. We did so on a hope and prayer. The hope and prayers that you would pay it back, slowly-but-surely for the next 30 years as investors in our dream - that's you (and the you's before you). Without that support for our vision. Without that investment of your money. Without that funding of infrastructure, when the drought hit this year, and we went to turn on the spigot, there wouldn't have been any water. Come to think of it, there wouldn't have been a spigot, either.

This year, when we went for the spigot, we felt you all behind us. Like we do every year, but especially when we were faced with a big challenge, with a big chunk of labor that we needed to address this challenge. Our labor was made useful, because we had the tools to do our job. Who would want more than a job to do? And who would want more than to have the tools to to the job that they want to do? And for that, we give the deepest thanks of all. For letting us do this work one more year. To do something for all of us. To grow our food. And take care of our land. Just so that we will perhaps be able to do it all again next year.   We will go to bed now. Take a big nap. And when we awake, we hope to find you here again. Ready to help us write this story, one more time.

We hope you have enjoyed the harvest.

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

Springtime Again

No sooner had we wrapped our heads around the idea that the cold world had finally come, than we were back out there wondering why we had worn long johns (and how could we get them off quickly). Luckily, we are getting used to figuring things out on the fly, so we made hay, again, while the sun shone.

Not literal hay. We are done with that for the season. But this weeks' hay, started by getting the rest of the spuds out of the ground. We can do that in any weather as long as its dry. With 3 big groups helping out (ZooDisc!! HCC Politics of Food!! UMASS Sustainable Ag!!) we brought in over 3000 lbs of spuds into the cellar.

Then Rebecca turned the harrow to the cleared out vegetable fields and prepared the soil so Sunny could bring the grain drill and sow the winter rye on 8 acres of ground ready for a good long rest.  And then we all turned our attention to the lower field. On Monday I finally figured out how to use our new bed former, and where there once were pumpkins, now there were beds for our last crop of the season - next years garlic!  With the temps hovering in the mid 60s, we pretended it was spring again. We got down to our short-sleeves, and dropped and plopped 10,000 garlic cloves into the still-warm earth.

And now, we turn towards home. What's left? Cabbage. Cauliflower. Brussels. Carrots. Beets. Celeriac. Rutabagas. Turnips. Radishes. Kale. Collards. And a few assorted others. 30,000 lbs and we'll be done.  We will be squirreling those away into your homes, and into our cellar, for the next few weeks. And then?  Sleep at last, until we (and the garlic) wake up ready to hit it again next spring.

We hope you enjoy the harvest.

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

October Surprise

The week dawned cold. And then it got colder still. On Tuesday, we were digging potatoes and scurrying around trying to stay warm. Then we needed to cover the lettuce, escarole and celery with the forecast calling for 24F. That left us in need of finding some inside work to do on Wednesday morning - pop some garlic bulbs - while the veggies thawed. We imagined trimming leeks with cold, club hands.

The weekends' rain and wind and stripped most of the leaves from the trees. We were truly deep in a real New England fall. So, we continued digging potatoes. And prepping our fields for the last cover cropping next week. And we made planting beds so that next week, we can put the hopeful, popped garlic bulbs in the ground for next year.

And then, like a little cherry on top, the flakes started falling from the sky. It was just supposed to be a little. But the snow kept falling. And cold down the back of my shirt unless I put my hoodie up. And the cows were wondering where the grass was. And we were wondering how cold the harvest would be on Friday. And it wasn't summer anymore.

We hope you enjoy the harvest.

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

Fall Cleaning

With the sweet potatoes tucked away in the greenhouse, normally we head right for the regular potato field. But, since our harvest was somewhat dampened by the drought, we just don't have as many spuds to dig this year. Last year we had about 26,000 lbs in the ground at this point. This year, just over 5000 lbs. So, we did some digging, but in between beds, we had time on our hands. With it being a little early (and warm) for the storage root harvest to begin, we knew where to turn our attention: Clean up time!!

One of the consequences of a drought year is to put a lot of tasks "in the parking lot." If it's not mission-critical (it doesn't involve watering or harvesting crops), we will leave it for later. So, by mid-October, we had a quite a list - so we hit it with gusto!  First, we headed off with the brush hog to knock down the old corn stalks, the leftover weeds in the winter squash, and the summer growth from the fallow field over at Small One's. Then to the tomato field; With the plants dead from the frost it was time to remove the strings, then the posts, and then stack 'em up neat for next June. Then to the irrigation pipes; Find the pipes in the field, and lift each one, piece by piece, onto the wagons where they will sit until we need them again (hopefully not for a while!!). Then to the melon field and rip up the plastic mulch we used to warm our soil (allowing us to grow delicious cantaloupes).   Then brush hog the cows late summer pasture. And re-stack the hay bales and cover before the rain.

In the midst of that, we managed to pull in big loads of broccoli, cabbage, roots, and plenty of potatoes as well. By weeks' end, we had over 10 acres of land ready ready for the final round of cover cropping (something we like to have done by November 1). After months of barely keeping up, there we were, suddenly ahead of the game. You just never know how this is going to work out.

We hope you enjoy the harvest.

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

Just Go With It

On Monday, the week dawned with a cold chill in the air and a strong wind. I certainly did not need the weatherman to know where this was going, so I sprung into action; Re-set the priorities. Got ready for the beginning of the end.  

Some years I lament the first killing frost. With others it's a blessing. But this year, I am too confused to know what it all means, so I just went with it. I just reacted. It was summer a week ago. And now it appears to be fall. But is it September? October? November?  Who knows!   But, the leaves are turning. And it seems like we've had peppers and eggplants forever. So, let's get to it - here comes the cold!  

We harvested just what was necessary for the regular harvest. Then we moved towards covering the lettuce (which has had so much trouble this fall, that it certainly didn't need a frost on it's head). Then to the peppers and eggplants, where we stripped all of the remaining fruit from the once-productive plants. Then another bed of sweet potatoes out of the ground (leaving us just 2 to go). Then close the fieldhouses. Make sure the harvested sweet potatoes are all tucked into the greenhouse. Check the heater to make sure we have plenty of propane. Close the door. Put a rock in front of it, just to be sure. And go home.

Sure enough, the next day dawned white and frosty, leaving us without tomatoes, galinsoga (tender weeds!), or really any cares in the world.The soup season is upon us and nothing stands between us and a big rest (besides a wide ribbon with many tons of hearty food to harvest over the next 6 weeks). We finished the sweet potatoes on Wednesday with the leaf show peaking, and surveyed they scene; Over 12,000 lbs of delicious future pies in storage and here we are, ready to clean up, and head for home.

We hope you enjoy the harvest.

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

Sweet Spot

We don't worry about water anymore. We don't worry about excessive heat anymore. We don't look for our shorts anymore. We just do one thing. We harvest sweet potatoes.

While we were off fretting about irrigation sprinklers, possibly dwindling water sources, carrot germination, and wilting squash and broccoli, the sweet potatoes were taking care of themselves. Having been planted in one of our siltiest, wettest zones, once they established (late June), they were off to the races. Half were grown on beds using plastic mulch and drip irrigation. These we watered through July. The other half, on bare ground, were never irrigated. And still, the vines kept growing. At some point in early September, (with the 2nd drought wave) the vines started wilting but the spuds looked like they were sizing up, and then it rained.

This particular harvest has a lot of drama to it, because it takes a while to get to it, with all of those vines to get rid of. So after a week of prep, with our schedules cleared, and the weather cooperating, it was finally time for the main event. The digger bar goes under, the spuds come up. Then we scrum through the loose earth, put spuds in buckets, then back to the shed to empty them into bags. It's a bit slow since we don't want to use our potato digger (as it dings up the roots). But it's quiet, enjoyable work in the early October sun, and by weeks end we had over 9000 lbs in the greenhouse where they will cure for 2 weeks and sweeten up. The size is great (not many footballs this year!) and the ones we tested earlier this month were delicious. So, sit tight, root for the Red Sox while they cure, and by the time we get to the ALCS it will be time for afor a sweet fall pie!!

We hope you enjoy the harvest.

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

Transformation

Everything is different. As soon as we tucked those winter squash into the safety of the heated greenhouse, we turned around, and nothing was the same.  On Sunday night the temps plummeted to the low 30s, threatening frost, but not making good on it. The sweet potato vines took it hard, but everything else was fine and dandy. But it didn't matter. The calendar had turned to Fall, and so had everything else. The temps never got much about 70F all week. There was rain on Tuesday night, leaving the soil moist and the plants looking generally happy. We were wearing long pants. And sweatshirts. The cows were eating grass. The thought of 80F, hot, dusty, and chance of dryness was such a distant memory, as to possibly fall into the stuff of myth, legend, or rumor.

Sweet potatoes get our attention next around here, as they aren't affected by frost, but they don't like it when the soil temp goes below 50F. But, before we pull the spuds, it takes a little while to get the field ready. First we have to get rid of the weeds with the big brush hog. Then we need to get rid of the vines, which we do with a crazy, rubber-tined flail mower we call a "vine beater." Then we need to rip the sides of the beds up with the cultivator to get the undercutter bar beneath the bed. So, while all of this was being done, we caught up on about one month of field work, just like that. All of our early fields were mowed to get the lingering summer weeds down. Then the harrow went through to turn the weeds in and bring the soil up. Then the seeder spun oats and clover over the top, so the weekend's rain would pound them in and germinate them up. When it was all over we were left with discreet island of food - leeks, beets, sweet potatoes, cabbages, celery - surrounded by many acres of land that are now put to sleep; Resting from this years' weird, dry, happenings. Hoping it was just a nightmare that won't be repeated. And, wondering just where are we now.

We hope you enjoy the harvest.

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

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)