Making Plans & Turning The Page

February and early March saw the return of some more winter-like weather. We were staring out at some actual piles of snow in the parking lot and the farm was covered in a restful bright blanket. Last weeks' warm weather started to change all that; Now as the light returns more and more each day, so does the hope inside all of us for what the coming growing season might have in store.

After having taken stock and written our yearly newsletter (hopefully you received it in the mail) it felt like the right time to start to turn our attention towards the future. For some seemingly-innate, definitely-unknown reason, that future always appears bright from this vantage point: enough, but not too much rain, plenty of sun, lots of warmth, and food flowing from the earth everywhere we turn. The seed catalogs help with this fantasy-land, but so does the amnesia that seems to be a necessary condition of a farmer's mind;  Always seeming to conveniently forget whatever tribulations we have just passed through to now viewing the possibilities on the road ahead. Of course, the road looks clear from here - nothing has happened yet and, yes, apparently hope springs eternal!!

We have continued out winters work; Ellen feeding the cows hay, distributing the winter share, and figuring out clever ways to attract new shareholders to the CSA. Abbe recording the payments and keeping our database up-to-date. Karen setting up the apprentice lunch program and keeping us stocked on products in the cellar. And me making new field maps, ordering supplies, and hiring next years crew.  And now, we head for the real turning point - the end of the winter distribution season, the beginning of greenhouse seedling production starting today, and welcoming our new apprentice crew on April 1.    Ready, set, here we go!!

We hope you have enjoyed your winter and are ready for the season to come,

Farmer Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, and Ellen)

A Tough Season, But We’re Still Standing.

Here is the electronic version of our annual year-end newsletter  (We also are sending it your way through the mail in case you like to curl up and read it by the fire).  Either way, we hope you check out the sweet pictures of the year that was and start to thinking about fresh greens in the spring and the barefoot days of summer to come!! 

Winter comes and goes these days, but even if it does feel like spring sometimes, there are still a few minutes to take some time for a good look back at last year.  It’s tempting to turn away from the past season; from what ended with one difficulty after another. It might be more fun to forget about all of the rain, all of the mud, all of the rot and set our sights on a mythic future – a hopeful place where all seeds turn into bountiful fruits. That’s how I approached this year-end review, but, as the ray-of-light-curmudgeon that I am (at times), I was pleasantly surprised by the results. The mud was certainly there. And the rutted roads. The rotten broccoli and non-existent Brussels’ sprouts. But so was the bounteous sweet potato crop, and big melon harvest, the new young families making first memories in the sandbox, the unsolicited donations, and acts of kindness.  Eventually after it was all written down, and we began to try and make some sense of it all, a picture of our vibrant little farm, in the midst of a turbulent world, emerged.   

Overall, the growing season was the most challenging in our history as managers here at the farm (24 years). Record rainfall caused widespread crop losses after August. Still, with a great crew and three very big storage crops (squash, sweets, and spuds), we harvested and distributed over 250,000 lbs of fresh produce. We were not able to successfully implement our desired management restructure. However, we learned some very important lessons along the way, and re-committed ourselves to our previous management scheme with enthusiasm. And, largely due to cost control and some timely unsolicited donations, we find ourselves with a larger profit margin than anticipated, a fully-funded capital account, and all loans paid off on time. Our senior share was three times more popular than we expected and our overall retention rate remained steady-and in some categories hit an all-time high. We were able to maintain a full and dynamic slate of outreach activities, which continue to help us to live up to one of our commitments-to make this farm about “more than just vegetables.”

None of this could be possible without the continued contribution and commitment of shareholders, donors, friends, and relatives who support us financially, emotionally, and spiritually. This is brought into focus when we go through such a challenging season. We are more convinced than ever that the most important work we do on this farm is stewarding our relationship with our supporting community of eaters, cooks, nature-lovers, parents, seekers, children, activists, sisters, and our land.  For this we thank you, as always, and hope that through the following pages you can get a glimpse of some of what your contribution has helped to grow and nurture in the past year.  

Your Farmer,

Dan (for Karen, Abbe, and Ellen)

Taking Stock & Hunkering Down

January had some cold days. And some not so cold days. There was a thaw every week which threatened to flood the cellar each time. And then there was some very cold weather which helped us bring the cellar to it's sweet spot - in the 30's with humidity in the 90s. But it didn't really seem like winter until just this past week.

When we weren't keeping an eye on the cellar or feeding hay to the cows in the Snyder Farm barnyard, most of our attention was turned towards looking at what happened last season. Ellen spent some time devising a new survey and then compiling the (many) results into a form that we can use to guide future decision-making. Abbe spent much of her time making sure all of our financial record-keeping was up-to-date and correct from 2018. Karen kept the products stocked in the cellar, and I spent much of my time figuring out membership, production, and equipment stats. We are nearly done with all of this counting and re-counting (keep an eye out for a bright-shiny pictorial wrap-up that we will send you in mid-February) and look forward to turning our attention to in-depth planning for the season to come.

And, just when we thought we might dodge a bullet and never get any snow during any actual winter months, the weather forecast turned exciting; Cold and then snow, then ice, and then much more cold. Since it was a planned vacation weekend for me, I taught Ellen how to plow (with no snow) before I left, handed her the keys, reviewed what to do in an emergency, and high-tailed it up to the Green Mountains. While I was enjoying some r & r, Ellen turned the key, cleared the first snow of the winter, fed the cows, and made sure the cow fence wasn't damaged by the ice. Then, declaring victory, she went home to make a fire and take a nap. Just like a farmer in winter; Counting, re-counting, feeding cows, plowing snow, eating roots, hunkering, and reading by the fire.    

We hope you enjoy the winter bounty,

Farmer Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, and Ellen)

Happy New Year!

December started dry and cold and stayed that way for most of the early part of the month. We took advantage of the lack of rain and snow and continued cleaning up the remaining messes from this epic messy growing season.  I cleaned and stored machinery and supplies in every corner of every barn. Ellen repaired tomato stake carriers and sorted them out so we'd be ready for next July! And Karen cleaned places we didn't even know were messy all around the Farm Shop, the back porch, and farm yard. When it was too cold to go outside, we continued cleaning up inside messes and started to prepare for next season. Ellen tallied the harvest numbers, ordered the first round of seeds, and created some new surveys. Karen set up Brookfield Farm Hoodies to be available on Amazon! Abbe got the donations and share renewals recorded. And I really cleaned out the old email inbox!

We had a big rain storm on December 21st, which broke the dry streak and flooded the basement. We got the sump set up and dried it all out and realized that rain wasn't as big of a deal anymore now that the growing season was over. Then we had another week of dry weather, and cold nights, and no snow. And our loader tractor (broke since November) returned from the repair shop ready for action.  With Ellen on vacation, I pretended it was October, attached the spreader to the John Deere, brought 'em all to the compost pad near the blueberries and made many many (60?) tons of beautiful compost - and with that, 2018 was finished!  So now, we are set (for real) to look back on what happened (January) and then make plans to do it all again even better (February). 

We hope you enjoy the winter bounty,

Farmer Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, and Ellen)

And Finally, Some Rest

After a very memorable growing season, we brought the few surviving cabbages out of the muddy fields at Grays' Farm last Monday, and started cleaning up. We packed the squash and sweet potatoes into the walk-in warmer (used-to-be-cooler), organized the root cellar, and covered the strawberries and garlic. We cleaned out the barnyard at Snyder Farm, moved the cows into their winter lair, packed our machinery into the west field storage shed and called this season over. It was a long, soggy push to get the fall harvest in, but with over 53,000 lbs of beautiful produce in the safety of our winter storage areas, 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 has dispersed, with Jake heading to a new job (starting today!), Ben hibernating in Milwaukee, and Ellen taking a break before returning to work full time as our new Assistant Manager in January. Abbe continues to work in the office, making sure that checks are deposited and bills are paid. And Karen and I are laying the ground work for next season as we clean up the remains of this one. We still have a few outside jobs to do (mow the raspberries, make compost, etc), 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, Abbe, and Ellen)

Giving Thanks

With our ship firmly pointed towards the horizon, we sailed, as we have many times this year, with water all around, finding our spots, taking a few lumps, and making it through. The rain on Monday held off long enough for us to plant the garlic field, dropping clove after clove into cool soft dirt, and getting us closer and closer to next season with every move. When the rain finally poured, we retreated into the world of sweet potato sorting and clean up projects. By Wednesday the skies cleared and we slogged again where we could, sunk the tractor while digging carrots, forked the rest by hand, and sought refuge in the sandier fields where we could bring in the rest of the radishes and some turnips and red potatoes. On Thursday, with another dry day, we readied our fields (if they weren't too muddy) for the last cover crops to be sown. The rain held off again on Friday, allowing Jake put those fields to sleep, while the harvest crew got the last of the turnips and a few survivor rutabagas. Then the rain came again. Right on cue.

And just like that, this season is getting ready for the history books. We just have to harvest a few more (thousand) veggies in the field, remove a few more tomato stakes, cover some strawberries, clean out the cow barn, and we will be done. Surely the finish line is right ahead.

And after a season like this one, it's surely a relief that it's nearly over.  And also, I am feeling so much gratitude for all we have been able to scratch out of our wonderful farm, despite so many challenges along the way. Once we have a bit of a rest, we can get all of the records straight, and find out what really happened; what was the story of this season. But, for now, here's the first draft: A cool spring gave way to a beautiful early summer, and then it started raining. And never really stopped. While we had many crop losses due to excess moisture (brussels' sprouts, rutabagas, cauliflower, broccoli, late summer greens) we also had some of the most bountiful crops in our farms' history: cucumbers,  winter squash, sweet potatoes, and eggplant. The deer pressure was intense and the sun was scarce for the last three months. And the crew kept working hard through it all.

On a season like this, I feel gratitude for all that we have been able to grow. And also for all of the people who have worked so hard to bring forth what we could muster. Our apprentice crew (Ellen, Jake, Ben, and Alex) and our fall harvest crew (Pete, Ally, Rhianna, Lee, Mason, and Becca) have kept their spirits high despite many challenges (rain, deer, clouds) since August.

And on top of all of that, I am thankful for all of you. For the well-wishes you send through the mail. For your understanding you show in the Farm Shop, when the kale bunches are small, or there's no greens at all. For the hundreds and hundreds of renewals we have received on a year where the bounty was not always so easy to come by. That type of long-term commitment to the work that we are doing here is heartening and inspiring to us as we slog through it all. We love this work. And we feel incredibly lucky to be able to do work that we love. And we simply would not be able to do it, if you did not support us to do it. And for that we are most profoundly grateful.

So, in the end, I am sure that the details of this season will fade from memory. The muddy fields and lakes of leeks will become legendary, but not important. And after we take a good long sleep, and wake up to start the whole thing all over again, we will look forward to seeing you all there; Wondering again, where will this highway lead us? Traveling together is always preferable to me.

We hope you have enjoyed the harvest,

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Ellen, Alex, Ben, and Jake)

Curve Ball

With all flags planted firmly in Potatoville, we thought we knew where we were headed when the week started. Then we noticed the deer prints. Then the deer nibbles. Then the full-blown deer-party remnants. Time to change directions.

With the weather giving us very tight windows for bringing in food, we needed to triage the potatoes (no current signs of deer nibbles), the garlic planting (it's been pretty warm this fall, so we probably have  a few more days), and the final cover cropping (same), and headed straight for the biggest value - the winter carrots!

This season has had many challenges (most of them have involving excess water). But, somewhat surprisingly, the deer pressure has also increased to levels I've never seen before on this farm. I figured that with lots of grass, etc (because of so much water) the deer would be content with plenty of food. But, we have seen their impact, first on the lettuce (thousands of heads eaten in July), then beets this fall, then the escarole (completely obliterated on Sunday, including eating holes in the row cover protecting them). So when the carrots seemed vulnerable, we knew we had to move quickly.

So on what felt might be the last warm day of the season, we rounded up the harvest crew, were joined by the Wheelhouse Farm Crew out for a volunteer afternoon, and made quick work the rest of the field. With 4000 lbs safely in storage, we closed the truck windows, and the barn doors, and waited for the next now-inevitable 2" of rain to start on Thursday night. Hopefully when all of this clears, we will get our garlic planted, and rye seeded, and then it's just cabbage, celeriac, and the last potatoes before we can call this season done........Who knows what next week will bring!

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Ellen, Alex, Ben, and Jake)

Between Stories and Dreams

With the sweet potatoes (all 32,250 lbs of them!) safely tucked in the greenhouse the soil cooling down, but the cellar not quite cold enough to bring in the carrots, it was time to turn to the crop of the hour......potatoes! So, whenever our regular harvest activities were done, we brought the new blue dream-digger to the spud field and plunged it deep down to bring this years’ harvest mystery to the surface.

The soil was heavy in the Pump Field on Middle St, as months of rain had pounded the air-holes gone. We had to dig slow, to try to get the clumps to break up and free the tubers from their mud-bound hiding spots. Some of the rows came up big, and others had large stretches where they had just melted away into goo after sitting in too much water too long. Still, we plugged away, the digger digging, bringing up clumps, weeds, and spuds. The harvest crew trailed behind, grubbing through it all, throwing weeds over their shoulders and big beautiful spuds into bucket after bucket. Survivors for sure, these hearty roots had somehow figured out how to hold on, how to make it through this deluge-season. By weeks’ end we had about 4500 lbs of them in the cellar, poised to cool down, as the night air is brought in to set them in the right direction for their long winter storage journey.

Meanwhile, with the Sox in the World Series (again!?!), we knew it was also time to start thinking about next season. Ellen rigged up the harrow and ran it through the old pumpkin patch again. Then Jake marked the field, and Ben pretending it was spring again, made some inviting, chocolate-cakey beds to plant the garlic cloves, before game 7 is over next week. Once again, the end is the beginning, and the beginning is the end; The cellar fills up with stories of the past, and our fields are prepared to be planted with dreams of the future.

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Ellen, Alex, Ben, and Jake)

First Frost, Second Season

It didn't take long to know this one was for real. When the forecast was first announced over the weekend, it seemed like perhaps a few mild frosts for the week. Then our neighbor Gordy Cook stopped by and mentioned we were going to see 24F on Thursday. Suddenly, mild frost became hard freeze, and, well, we knew what to do next.

By historical standards (before 10 years ago) this is very late for a first frost. When we started our growing careers here (in 1994) we would typically get a frost around Sept 20. But these days, it's more common by mid-October. Either way, we know the drill.  First, let's get those last peppers and eggplants harvested. Strip the plants of their last fruits and bring them to the cooler (where they can last for 12 - 14 days). Clip the cayenne peppers plants and bring them to the greenhouse to dry (where they can store for for 6 months). Cover the celery (it doesn't like a freeze). And get all the sweet potatoes out of the ground (not the smallest task this year...).  Then disconnect all of the hoses in the harvest shed and drain the water. Drain the primer on the cow water pump. Button up the greenhouse, check the propane tank, and set the sensor to call me if it gets below 55F. Make a fire, put on pajamas, and fall soundly asleep.

When we awake, it's time to put on long johns (for real), wool hats, sweatshirts, and start our days doing something a little warmer, like sorting squash, before heading to the field to harvest wet cold vegetables. There's still literally tons of food out there (potatoes, carrots, beets, celeriac, cabbage, leeks, etc) but everything has changed. We have 26,000 lbs of sweet potatoes in storage. The leaves color faster and then fall. And we head in one direction; Towards the end of this journey and the beginning of the next.

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Ellen, Alex, Ben, and Jake)

Adventureland

"This growing season is just terrible." (overheard from many farmers many days this week). True. But not quite also as easy as that. It's also just confusing, concerning, an just plain weird. Not only have we never had this much water, but then there's the out of place heat, and on and on. It demands constant adjustment; a new normal every day. Last week left me somewhat hopeful that we were getting ready to leave Adventureland and return back to the reliable province of Harvesting-Sweet-Potatoes-in-the-New-England-Autumn. On Saturday, I mowed the vines and cleared the paths in the North Field at Small One's Farm. As I ended the week, I thought I knew where we were all headed.

When we dug the first bed on Monday, the soil was still muddy. Despite no rain for days, the soil stuck to the tubers or buried them under heavy clods. The yields were about half of last weeks' fields, and it took twice as long, but at least we were getting them out of the saturated ground. We bagged them for curing and brought them to the greenhouse. The next day, the strong smell clued us that they were way too wet in the bags. So, we transferred the 1400 lbs spuds into to black lugs which have more ventilation. Then we made more room in the greenhouse for more sweets to come later in the week. On Wednesday, we tried using our bed lifter so as not to throw heavy mud on the spuds. No mud clods, but also, not very loose, which left us clawing deep to get the spuds out. So, we went back to the new digger, this time at a slower speed to try to get the dirt to sift through the chain. Better. Then, with the Thursday forecast for rain getting stronger, but warm temps holding on, I figured it'd be better to dig now, and pick up the spuds after the rain. So we dug another, and then went to find cover.

The rain poured buckets right on cue (1.5"), but we felt prepared. Out to the field we went, only to find that we were in mud up to our ankles. What to do? With the cold weather coming and the potatoes exposed, nothing besides slog. I went and got my mud boots. Becca, Mason, and Ally, just took their shoes off and off they went, pulling over 2600 lbs of beautiful spuds out of the muck. Through the mud, or the heat, or the rain, still smiling and moving ever forward through Adventureland.

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

Your Farmer,

Dan

(for Karen, Abbe, Ellen, Alex, Ben, and Jake)

Winds of Change?....

Still mainly the same story this week, but (perhaps) with a couple of new twists. Yes we started with a sunny dry weekend (as usual). And a soaker of a rain storm on Tuesday night. Yes the brassica fields remain saturated. And another loss (goodbye arugula) to the muck. But there was a very bright spot this week, and (tentative) positive forecast to come.

Saturday dawned sunny so Karen and I ventured to the sweet potatoes, just to "test-the-waters" in the one field dry (sandy) enough to work. We set up the new digger. Plunged it deep into the earth. Held our breath. The digger worked as advertised (eerily quiet), lifting the whole bed, loosening vines, roots, and all without dinging up the delicate maroon skins. Karen took a bucket and went grubbing. Then Ben joined and grubbing they did!  They merely pulled on the vines, and behold, an absolutely huge "bushel of bananas!"  On and on they went filling bucket after bucket of very appropriately-sized roots. Then into bags. And before we knew it, the direction was clear: Twice the yield as our past average, and 3 times as fast to pick. On Monday, we brought the entire crew to the field and finished up what we had started.  All total, 6500 lbs came from that patch. That's our 10-year average, but that's only about 1/7th of this years crop; Do the math!  It's a bumper!!  

Then we lived through the rain storm. Everything got wet again. we thought the sweet potato story might have been a dream. We saw rotten rutabagas. And rotten cabbages.  And rotten Brussels' sprouts. But then it didn't rain. Even when there was a 30% chance. And then it didn't rain again. And then it was clear. And cooler. And somewhat windy. And the puddles started to recede a little. And my boots dried. And the forecast called for no rain til next Thursday. And.......We'll keep you posted.

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Ellen, Alex, Ben, and Jake)

From Wet To Really Wet

With the forecast set for rain on Tuesday, we used the squash-in-the-greenhouse, some-potatoes-in-the-barn moment, to turn our attention Monday morning to two important season-transition projects...sowing cover crops on all of our early fields and hand-weeding the late-fall broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. It was a race to the finish, but by the end of the day, 8 acres were seeded and ready for the rains to soak the seeds towards germination in the still-warm soil.

The rain fell on cue and we spent the wet Tuesday cleaning our storage onions, laying out our most water-sensitive winter squash (Kabocha) in the greenhouse, and preparing the big fieldhouse for the return of the chickens. Two solid inches of rain fell on the farm, leaving it soaked, but if that was it, we'd be fine. We slid our way through a Wednesday harvest day, and tried to finish the cabbage weeding in the afternoon, almost knee-deep in the mud of the Middle Field. While that was going on, I started prepping sweet potato beds for harvest, by mowing the vines and digging out the pathways for the lifter.

That night, unexpectedly (for me) the lightning went wild, and the rain poured buckets. This soaker (I've lost count), left the farm wetter than I remember all year. Oh well. On a sunny Thursday we packed and delivered the shares for Boston, finished the regular harvest, and prepped more sweet potato beds. Then, overnight, the 30% chance of showers turned to 90% chance of heavy rain, and our plans for the sweet potato harvest would have to be delayed. As would the plans for an easy harvest - instead replaced by a rain slog, complete with mud up to your eyeballs and tractor axles. A little slower, but we lugged in loads of eggplant, carrots, greens, and more. We keep pushing forward, through this season-of-impending-yuk. Hoping for a rainbow and a clearing and a drying out. Not this week. Not yet.

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

Your Farmer,

Dan

(for Karen, Abbe, Ellen, Alex, Ben, and Jake)

A Whole New World


We were poised for a big win. The wagons loaded with bins. The squash mostly clipped and windrowed. The people invited. And as sure as the sun was shining, on Saturday afternoon we just knocked it out of the park. We lined people up two by two; One a thrower. One a catcher. And as the tractor pulled the wagon by, the thrower picked up the squash, and threw squash after squash to the catcher, who dropped the squash safely into the bin. 100 times and half the bin is full. Switch roles. Then 100 more. Then onto the next bin. Do this all afternoon, and by the time you know it, there are 19,000 lbs of squash safely stored in the greenhouse where they will cure and be protected from the cold nights to come.

After that big wave was crested, we made quick work of the remaining 10,000 lbs in the field on Monday. So by the time the next big rain came on Tuesday, we counted a seasonal tally of 35,000 lbs for the season - our best since 2007. It's nice to get a clean win after so many partial losses since early August.

Then as forecast, the next rain came. In buckets, as we expected, it dropped a solid 3" on the farm, ensuring that the brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels') would continue their struggles. But with the squash done, we turned our attention the "next-big-thing" - potato-town.   On Wednesday, we found them as big as we remembered, so dig we did!!  (We also took a sneak-peak at the sweet potatoes (next weeks' big adventure) and the early results were very good).

And just like that, everything seemed to change. The weather cooled off. The days seemed markedly shorter. The weeds were nearly no longer an issue.  The summer crops were ready to til in and the cover crops sown (see below). With the squash tucked-in and a bumper of potatoes on the horizon, we set our sights on the far shores of near-wintertime.  Here we come.

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Ellen, Alex, Ben, and Jake)

All Dressed Up And.....

After a hot week, with the weather poised to change in a seasonal direction, we were laser-focused on just two tasks - bringing in the winter squash and pulling some  late-season weeds. We had all the other, usual jobs to do - regular harvesting, distributing shares, tending our cows & pigs, etc. But, the squash will rot if it stays in the field too long and if it gets below 33F at night. And the last, tender crops will be swallowed by weeds, burgeoning from weeks of heat and moisture. So, let's go!! 

Not so fast!!  The weather had other plans. The forecast went from a few sprinkles, to continued wet weather Monday through at Wednesday. And those jobs can't be done in the rain. Time to adjust!  We spent Monday harvesting and weeding spinach in a light drizzle. When the rain really came down around 3pm, we fled to the fieldhouse and stripped the early tomatoes of their last fruits of the season. Tuesday's soggy start pointed us towards removing tomato plants to prep the soil to sow kale for the winter. Then an unexpected break on Tuesday afternoon, let us re-direct a visiting UMASS sustainable ag class to handweed 3/4 of a mile of cutting lettuce and dig the weeks' potatoes just before more rain came back for real.

The rain poured hard Tuesday night, and into a Wednesday rain slog harvest morning. All the puddles were back. Signs of rot. Oh well. Pay no attention. As soon as the storm clouds began to clear, we went to the squash field to start piling. We lined up a field crew for Saturday. We made plans for a community Squash-a-palooza.  We piled again on Friday.  And now.....we are (hopefully) ready for what could be a big day today. We just might have found the window and can bring in our entire crop (~20,000 lbs) out of the wet fields and into the safety of the warm, dry greenhouse. If you have a minute, come on by.....

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Ellen, Alex, Ben, and Jake)

Tale Of Two Seasons

 

The weather forecast was for hot. Very hot. Sounded like summer. So we got ready to sweat again. Filled the ice cube trays. Put on the sleeveless t-shirt. And hit the fields early like it was August. Greens in the early morning. Check. Then onto the kale. But, where's the cukes and zukes? Oh, that's right, it's not summer at all. Onto the celery and leeks. That doesn't seem right. Oh well, too hot to figure it out; Let's just spend the rest of the afternoon hand-weeding the lettuce before it's swamped by the on-coming deluge of grass. Sweat again. Change your shirt. Repeat.

We headed to the winter squash on Tuesday - signs of fall!  The acorn was ready to be clipped, but the rest of the field seemed to need another week for the vines to die-off. In the blistering heat of Wednesday, we binned up 3000 lbs and then it was off to finish hand-weed the celeriac (one of the few crops the weeders never finished in August). Despite the forecast calling for only two days of heat, by Thursday (day 4!) the heat index was back up to 103F, we were being advised to stay indoors and avoid strenuous activity outside. Oh well, nothing to do but keep on, keeping on, just a little slower.  Everyone was cranky; It just seemed too hot, too late. The pepper plants were wilty. Shareholders in the farm shop, seeing potatoes and leeks, wanted to know where there corn & melons were.

Then a big dark cloud formed overhead. The thundercrack was as loud as I've ever heard. Rain dumped buckets everywhere, cooling the whole thing down. By the morning on Friday we were in what seemed to be a whole new world; harvesting seasonally appropriate leeks and celery.  The pepper plants were all perked up and showing loads of little fruit for a hopeful late September harvest. I only wore one t-shirt the entire day.  And the rest of big squash field loom ahead promising the way ahead for next week. We will keep you posted.

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Ellen, Alex, Ben, and Jake)

The Winds Of Change

Everything is different. All the time.

After a month of rain & humidity, this week we saw no drops from the sky. The temps soared towards 100F on Tuesday and on Friday the high was in the mid 70s. The peppers and eggplants continued to struggle, but the potatoes & squash started to look like bumpers. The weeder crew went back to school. We went back to work. And so it goes.

On Monday, with impending change on the horizon, we seized upon the warming temps and clearing skies, packed the remaining weeders, harvesters, apprentices, and stray puppies into trucks, and headed up the Deerfield River for our annual "Crew Appreciation Day." An afternoon without toiling. Just floating. In the warmth of the remaining summer. A good reminder of the pleasure of simply being.

Newly fortified, we returned to the work of the season:  harvesting and repairing a water-battered farm. Tuesday saw us safely tuck away over 1600 lbs of red onions into the greenhouse to cure in the warm shade. Then we turned towards the big September project - the winter squash - as the spaghetti was looking ready. Sure enough, we filled lug after lug until over 2600 lbs found it's way to a place in the now-burgeoning greenhouse. And after picking the final ear of sweet corn on Wednesday am, (and passing the kids on the corner waiting for the school bus), we knew it was time to dip our big toe into the potato field.  With potatoes, you really never know - but what a splash it was....over 1200 lbs in 350'  (....aka: "a lot").

Meanwhile we spent whatever spare minutes we had cultivating (airing out) the still crusty soil - pancaked flat after a month of torrential rain. We spread fertilizer in hungry corners, and a few last weeders sweated it out to hoe the last acre of overly-damp broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. By the time it was all done on Friday, the barn smelled like a potatoes, we were still a little low on greens and peppers, but continue to be surrounded by tomatoes. Everything is different. All of the time.

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Ellen, Alex, Ben, and Jake)

The First Bulk Harvest

The First Bulk Harvest
Our most important priority this week, besides the must-do's of our daily harvesting, running the farm shop, packing the Boston share, and the other regularly scheduled programming ... was to harvest the yellow storage onions!
This wet weather has made growing storage onions a funny business. Onions love rain; they grew big and beautiful with each downpour. But, especially for these storage onions that we want to last til March, there are some potential pitfalls. In order to store, onions need to develop a dried-up seal between the "green" top and the bulb below. This seal stops pathogens from getting in. Harvest the onions too early, and they haven't had an opportunity to develop the seal. Leave them in the ground with too much water, and the seal stays open, and eventually mush goes the onion. How do you give the onion a real, long, shot to develop for storage, while also recognizing when to harvest and avoid more mush? Balancing practical possibility (can't harvest onions with thousands of cantaloupes all ripe at once), and this seal-development dilemma, this was the week.  

Monday there was no time. Our bumper tomato harvest ate the afternoon whole, yum!  So Tuesday we loaded up our lugs and headed out. And after a few adjustments (turns out it's really important to wear pants for this job), we reached cruising altitude. Bed after bed went into black lugs. We felt, for the first time this season, that sweet "bulk harvest" spaciousness of conversation. All the topics, all the talks. (The best part!) On Wednesday, we squeezed most of a bed in after our Boston harvest, and on Thursday we finished it up. With all the yellow onions in the greenhouse, drying out best they can under our nice new shade-cloth, we breath deep breath (the other bets part!) And then we turned towards the rest of the list: Friday, a harvest and time to get ready to welcome Dan and Karen back from their (rare and well deserved) vacation, glad they'll come home to one bulk project checked off the list, and no rain in the short-term forcast.

Your Farmer,
Zoe
(for Dan, Karen, Abbe, Ellen, Ben, Jake and Alex)

Air Farmers

 

We made it through the weekend, despite the forecast for lots of rain, without getting too much. It was cloudy and cool. But it never really poured. Same with Monday; it was soggy, and we needed to postpone our annual Deerfield River crew-appreciation-day float, but not so much water from the sky. Just when we thought maybe we'd squeak past, the sky opened up two separate times, dropping about 3" of rain on an already-wet farm. Oh well. Since then, we've just been trying to farm some air.

See, that's the thing about water; it takes up all of the air spaces in the soil. And plants need to breath. And if they can't breath, they turn yellow and rot. We've seen a lot of that in the usual very wet spots, like in (what was the) late zucchini planting or in the kohlrabi planting in the middle field. So, we wait 'til it dries out, and then bring some tools into the field, to basically rip channels for air to get into the soil to feed our plants some much needed-air.

We also found a new challenge this week - a new pest (for us) on the peppers. Apparently there's a (yucky) fly. The fly drills into the peppers. Then lays eggs. Then the eggs hatch into maggots. Which are inside the pepper. And then, well, the rest is history. So on Tuesday in the rain, the crew pulled bucket after bucket of rotten peppers from the field.  The good news? There are no more of these nasty flies being born this season. The bad news? We have no idea how many peppers have flies in them. We will continue to monitor and hope for the best.

With all of that going on, we used our two sunny days on Wednesday and Thursday and filled them with melon harvesting and cultivating (air farming). We saw the lettuce and greens make a tentative, sweet comeback. The field tomatoes started ripening nearly a (literal) ton of beautiful fruit. The barn was filled with melons. Then on Friday afternoon it poured again.  Nothing else to do; We keep moving forwards.

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Zoe, Abbe, Ellen, Alex, Ben, and Jake)

On The Edge

Once again the forecast had a boom/bust feel to it; two days of hot sun, two days of rain, two days of sun. Luckily this week we had two big jobs that needed some rain (planting our last big fall crop) and some not rain (harvesting melons). Let's go!

Monday dawned foggy as the thick morning dew gave hints of the big heat to come. We harvested as usual in the morning, then brought in our first big cantaloupe harvest in the afternoon. On Tuesday with one crew heading back to finish the harvest, another crew was setup to plant the last acre of fall kale, collards, escarole, and broccoli. This job requires 5 people, so with a big morning crew, we went for it even though the forecast was for hot and sunny (with a 50% chance of thunderstorms for the afternoon). With the plants in the ground looking a little wilty, we took to the field in the afternoon with all of our cultivation tractors, to not only kill some weeds & add air to our soil, but also provoke some rain (Murphy's Law). No rain at 5pm. All fields cultivated. Plants looking thirsty......Then, at 640......an absolute deluge, ruining most of the weeding, but setting the fall kale on a sturdy path forwards.

From there, it has gone sun/rain/sun/rain all the way until Friday, where we now find ourselves with a barn full of melons, and wet fields and soggy plants everywhere. The plants and farmers are showing signs of too much moisture; The ripening peppers have brown splotches on them. The early summer greens are struggling (see below). The second cucumber patch is waterlogged not producing well. The tomatoes seem balanced precariously on the edge of past disasters. The trucks get stuck at the bottom of the corn field at 6am. It's time for mental toughness - especially with the forecast of rain, clouds, and more drizzle for days. Thing is, with rain, is there's just nothing we can do about it. We can only change our attitude, our thinking; Not get caught in the impending doom lurking in our minds. Stay in the moment; The loads of melons and corn that are keeping us good company. The fall crops growing in the ground.  A community supporting us as we move through all of this not-knowing. We will keep you posted.

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Zoe, Abbe, Ellen, Alex, Ben, and Jake)

Make Dry While The Sun Shines

It rained 'til the end of last Saturday. Then the sun came out on Sunday. And the drying began; The fields, the socks, the ruts, the tomato leaves, and some of the thoughts of doom. The forecast called for a few clear days and then a return to the tropical rain forest we now call home. Our next move was obvious: Cram a week of "dry" farm work into two days. No prob. We got this.

With the ground still a little wet for cultivating, we moved toward some "bulk harvesting" that was calling out for us. The sweet onions were ready (and showing first signs of distress from excess moisture). Sweet onions want to be harvested when its dry and then brought to the cooler (where they can store for up to 3 weeks). Jaden & Sydney cleaned the lugs on Monday morning and in the afternoon we scooped up 1600 lbs of beautiful white bulbs in the sunny Monday afternoon. With that crop safely tucked away, we turned towards putting the last string up on the tomato trellis (remember not to touch the plants when they are wet).

On Tuesday morning we sent one crew to finish yesterdays' daily harvest, and had a second crew get on the tractors to begin cultivating. Karen "basket weeded" the carrots, beets, and greens. And I "Lillistoned" and fertilized the leeks, celery, celeriac, and Brussels' sprouts. In the afternoon, Zoe and Jake "Hakked" all of the fall brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc). Alexandra "cubbed" and fertilized the beans in the upper field, while Ellen "swept" the lettuce and herbs. Then it was all hands on deck to finish the tomato trellising, while I snuck in a seeding of fall spinach and lettuce.  Then, right on cue, it was back to the jungle; Hot and humid, with thunderstorms at various times each day.  The plants are holding up pretty well. And we were happy to take what we could get.

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Zoe, Abbe, Ellen, Alex, Ben, and Jake)