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)

Water

Last weeks' newsletter was a setup. The kind of balance we experienced last week, is rarely maintained for more than a fleeting moment - if at all. I figured it would break one way or the other and the consolation prize would be that this weeks' news would be much easier to write.   Surely as day follows night, and rain follows thunder, the earth moves forward, whichever way she wants, but usually from one extreme to another. And so it was this week; The balance of water/no-water, went unequivocally to water.

The skies cleared briefly over the weekend, and then it was back to rain, followed by showers, chance of thunder, outright downpour, with some intermittent drizzles. We saw the sun peak out at times, usually to spike the humidity enough to trigger another round of thunder and lightening. The socks stayed wet. And were changed. And got wet again. So too the shirts, the hands, the hats, and eventually our minds went soggy as well.

Here's an old farmers saying: "a drought is better than a flood, because at least in a drought you can go out and pretend you are doing something." Or "It's easier to put water on than to take it off." No irrigation pipes necessary. Also no cultivation tractors possible. Nor tomato trellising. Handweeders slogged through mud and pulled a lot of weeds (many of which then re-rooted in the pathways). Harvesters slogged through the rain, getting trucks stuck, then pushing them out to get the buckets of cukes back to the shed.

There were some stresses to the crops; Much of the lettuce we tried to protect from the deer with the row cover, rotted under the weight of wet fabric. But, most of our big crops are currently holding up okay.  Of course, we now need it to stop raining for a while. We need the leaves to dry, so that the diseases don't develop or spread. We need the soil to dry so we can cultivate the late crops. We need the sun to shine so the tomatoes and peppers and melons ripen sweetly. Nothing to do but hope at this point. Our plants and roads and shirts are are somewhat dampened, but not our spirits, yet. We'll keep you posted!

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

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

Water and No-Water


This time of year, we really only need two things. Water and no-water. Ok, maybe a few more things (heat, time, luck....). But really just the first two. If it rains and then it stops raining, we are really happy. And so, it was all smiles this week.  

Monday dawned bright and sunny, giving us a chance to get the harvest done in good time. With the forecast for big rain the next day, we spent the afternoon trellising tomatoes (needs to be dry so we don't spread diseases) and cultivating (needs to be dry to kill some weeds).  The next day, we snuck our last planting of lettuce into the ground just as the sky opened and a veritable deluge ensued. The local weather stations (and our trusty 5 gal buckets) showed about 4 inches (a.k.a -"a lot"). After verifying that all of our newly-germinating carrots and beets did not wash away, we took in the good news that our big crops (sweet potatoes, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, winter squash, etc) soaked it all up and were currently drunk on rapid plant growth.

Then, on cue, the rain stopped. With the weather turned "no-water" for the rest of the week, we returned to the big job of the week - the garlic harvest. After starting on Saturday with a great crew of community volunteers, we continued, whenever our daily harvest was done and we had more than three people available.  The digger bar now sunk easily into the soft soil, and the bulbs could be pulled and brought up to the loft in the barn (needs to be dry for storage). On Friday afternoon we brought the last barrels upstairs. Then cultivated a few more rows of pummeled carrots.  And crawled off to bed knowing that our big smelly beautiful crop was safe from the next water forecast for Saturday night.  It doesn't always go like this, but when it does, when we can calmly live in the razors' edge between water and no-water, we are simply thankful.

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

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

Renovate


renovate: verb: to restore to a former or better state:
to restore to life, vigor, or activity.

It's easy to get excited at the beginning; The thrill of the chase, the energy of starting something new, of learning, of being recognized. Then things happen. Some of them good; The seeds are planted according to the plan. The rains come at opportune times. Some of them not-so-good; The crows eat some of the winter squash seeds as they are germinating. The calf gets into our neighbors yard at 7:08 am during breakfast. Eventually, the novelty of the whole thing wears off. It can feel to me that all that is left is labor. The will to meet the challenges has to come from within as there is little new to inspire.

Just when the harvest picks up in mid-July, the early-season magic tends to wear off. The rows of cukes and zukes stretch on to the horizon as our bodies are tired from an excited spring of promise and opportunity.  So too, it is for the crops; the early spring crops have come and gone. The strawberries are a fading memory.  The early sweet heads of lettuce. The spinach. Gone so soon. This can be the most challenging time of year, especially if we want there to be a big fall harvest. This is when the crew usually begins it's vacation rotation - taking some time off to refresh and renew, while the rest of us hold down the fort until they return.

So too for the plants. In mid-July it's time to renovate the 1st-year strawberries. Ben brings out the flail mower and chops the leaves down to 1" above the crowns. Then Ellen brings the rotovator, which churns the runners up into the soil, leaving the mother plants to gain strength before sending more runners out for next years berries. The 2nd-year strawberries are tilled into the earth, to become fall greens. The last fields are harrowed to become ready for big fall plantings of cabbage and broccoli in late July.  And on and on it goes. Just when the tank starts to feel empty, we start planning for the future, turn the old under, find a little something down deep, and push on.

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

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

Turn Up The Heat

It's raining now. And the feeling of sweet relief is in the air. The moisture, from the sky, is promising to replace the moisture that has blanketed every pore of our beings for the past 7 days. The weather forecast of a low of 50F tonight promises to give us back a few winks of sleep, lost to the tossing and turning of heavy air.

On Saturday, the temps soared (as predicted) to the mid-90s. And that's where they stayed through Thursday, only taking a break to get up towards 100F on Sunday and Tuesday. While we have been changing our shirts as quickly as our minds, pouring water over our heads, and sometimes running through the soil after trellising tomatoes (since we left our shoes at the far end, and it is starting to feel like hot coals), all of the plants around us have been thriving and exploding. We have spent our week keeping from being deluged - by over-producing plants, both the ones we want and the one's we don't.

The week of July 4th brings certain yearly milestones. The first carrots are ready to be dug. The winter squash needs to be hoed. Time to seed the fall carrots.  And so we set to it; The carrots were dug, along with the squash to be picked, the scallions to be bunched, and the cabbage to be womped. The biceps on the weeder crew are sore after 3 acres of hoeing, but our plants returned the favor, by exploding out into the newly freed space. They then turned their attention the nearly-engulfed sweet peppers, which now stand tall with the promise of huge August harvests. Then Jake prepped the beds, and I sowed several miles of fall carrots and beets. And now this rain is settling them in for (hopefully) a quick germination next week.

We are having a little trouble completely enjoying the sweet relief of this thunderstorm because of the weight of the huge Friday harvest and the impending avalanche of cucumbers on the immediate horizon. Alas. Nothing a nap won't cure. And some iced coffee. And the realization that is just where we we hoping to be.

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

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

The Sound of Cells Dividing

 

After two timely rain storms (June 18 & 24) each dropped a solid inch of rain on our thirsty crops, the character of this season completely changed. From near-drought conditions, complete with irrigation pipes being moved daily, we have gone nearly 180* right through a period of "adequate moisture," towards "deluge" after the last storm hit Thursday.

Luckily the forecast is dry the next week. And hot. This can only mean one thing; Happy plants (I will forget about the sweating farmers for a minute). Plants really only need a few things to grow. They need water. They need heat. And they need food - sunlight and soil nutrients.

So, now, our job is completely clear at this point; The water has been provided. The heat is now here in abundance. Sunlight? check. Soil nutrients? Compost spread in April. All we need to do is keep those plants from being out-competed by all of the other plants also enjoying these prime conditions; The dreaded weeds. So, that's what we do now - pull weeds, hack weeds, hoe weeds, bury weeds, cut weeds, weed weeds, and on an on, until these plants are established.

This week, the race is on! We are done planning. We are done preparing the soil. We are mostly done planting. Now it's time to put the nose to the grindstone and keep our plants in front of this impending wave that wants to bury them and all of our dreams with it. When you have over 10 million plants in the ground. And then it rains 3" in 14 days. And then the temps rise to the 90s. Do you know what that sound is? That's the sound of cells dividing!  And also, if you listen closely, the sound of farmers sweating. And then snoring.

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

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