Friday, September 24, 2010

Sugar Babies

We've really been enjoying the watermelons this year. 'Sugar Baby' is the little dark-green-skinned one, but a sweeter surprise was 'New Orchid', a yellow-fleshed variety. We'll grow more of those next year, and maybe try a few different ones too.

And if you haven't noticed, Beth is really pregnant!

December 3rd she will reap the ultimate harvest for what she's been growing all these months. It takes a whole lot of work to be a full-time farmer, but to do it while pregnant on top of it all...! She has been a wonderful apprentice, always going the extra mile to make sure things are done right, and keeping a positive attitude about everything while we're in the field in all weather- heat, rain, cold. Congratulate her next time you see her around pick-up for being the hardest-working pregnant lady around!

Fuzzy Photos from my Cellphone

Beth driving cabbages in from the field this spring...
Sunflower, amaranth, and broom corn bouquets adorn a table at Mark & Courtney's wedding (CSA members)!
A great summer distribution scene with tomatoes, flowers, and Luke scooping out watermelon with a spoon.
An epic melon harvest with Colleen & Christin!
Plowing across the street on Jack's huge tractor...
Glowing beautiful tomatoes. Jewels of summer. Late blight has finally arrived... on time this season! What a real scorcher we had, from April to September. Almost makes up for last year.
Hot pepper harvest... this photo is from Suzy's phone!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cover crops

If you look closely at the open fields of brown mud this week, you'll see tiny little grass stems poking up everywhere-- our winter cover crops. Cover crops do more than just "cover" the bare soil-- they add organic matter, prevent erosion, out-compete weeds, even contribute nitrogen (reducing the amount of fertilizer we need to use). Basically, we grow them & then till them right back into the soil, trying to give back what we have taken. We have, in fact, taken thousands of pounds of produce from the ground this summer & put it on all our tables to be eaten up!

For winter cover crops we use regular grains that you might usually find in bread (but we don't let them make their seedheads): rye and oats. Then we mix in some legumes (bean family) like clover & vetch because this family fixes nitrogen. We have to inoculate the legumes with a bacteria that lives on the roots of the plants & takes some sugars that the plant produces in return for helping the plant pull nitrogen from the air and put it right into the soil so it can be available to the plant roots. It's a wonderful mutually-beneficial relationship. And of course we benefit when we plant our vegetable crops right after this miracle...

I am really excited about learning more about all the possibilities cover crops offer. In the summer we used a lot of buckwheat (like the pancakes) to fight weeds & bring "good bugs" onto the farm. We also tried sorghum-sudangrass (looks like corn) to break up compaction and add lots of mulch to the soil. There are some organic farms that don't have to use any fertilizer at all because they've got their rotation down so well. The farm stays lush and green while it's replenishing the soil, fighting bugs, disease, & weeds.

Sometimes folks ask me "what do I do about pests?" ... the answer, I believe, is prevention. Healthy plants can fight pests themselves. I don't spray a thing, not even "organically certified" pesticides (of which there are a lot), it's just another chore I don't have time for! Last year I tried a few things on the late blight, but the organic sprays are very expensive, and I didn't do nearly enough applications to be effective. So this year the backpack sprayer is getting really dusty, and I plan on letting it stay that way.

Well, back to the farm to seed some more greens before the rain tomorrow. Lots more to talk about though... winter squash harvest coming up soon, garlic planting party in a few weeks, happy Fall Equinox!

Remember when you come to pick up your veggies to bring plastic bags! Big zip-lock bags are great for re-using, as they are sturdy & you can wash them out & dry them & bring them back to the farm next week.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Now it's fall, definitely.

I've been relishing the moments... early evening sunlight peaking underneath clouds to spreads its golden rays through the falling yellow cottonwood leaves... the crisp mornings and putting on the warm hat, the flannel, the fleece... the pumpkins turning oranger every day ... gold finches fluttering away from the sunflowers as I walk close by... V's of geese squawking overhead.

Fall is my favorite season.

For some really great photos of the farm right now, check out this series done by City Newspaper (

Crop reports:

Melons have had a really great season-- the sunshine & heat contributed to their sweetness!

I miss cucumbers too! We got attacked by "downy mildew" early again this year... it pretty much wipes out the plants before they get the strength to make cukes. I don't spray anything, so I'm not sure how to protect them. I'll try a resistant variety next year, or otherwise we'll just plant lots of early cucumbers & make pickles!

Peppers are all turning red! We still harvest some green peppers, and of course hot peppers now too.

Onions are cured, dry, and ready for storing on your counters for quite a while. I have experienced a small amount of rot inside some, I'll have to research some more about what causes that.

Potatoes are popping out of the ground! Actually, we use this really old potato digger. It's fun to watch. If you live close by & have a flexible schedule (we never really know when it will fit into the schedule), you should come by sometime and see us harvest potatoes, it's great.

Eggplants and squash are still going strong. If you're sick of eating them, just stick them on the grill with some olive oil brushed on, and freeze them for later. Peppers are great on the grill too.

Sweet corn is about done. I have one more late planting that might mature next week... we'll see how it goes.

Beets are almost ready! And fennel bulbs!!! These are really great roasted (together or separate) in the oven with lots of olive oil & a bit of salt. Add some carrots & potatoes & onions. Yum.

The mixed greens are back! We will soon be swimming in arugula, mizuna, tat soi, golden frill, & red mustard. An easy delicious salad dressing I've been making is: miso paste, peanut butter, honey, water.

There are STILL pick-your-own green beans if you haven't gotten a chance to put some in the freezer. A new row. Hardly anyone has scratched the surface of it yet, I think folks may be sick of beans. But all you have to do is throw them in boiling water for a few minutes, then into ice water, then into baggies & into the freezer. Nutritious food from the farm in February!

Cherry tomatoes are peaking. 4 quarts a week limit! You could probably freeze these too...

Other things to look forward to soon:
Hakurei Turnips
Red Onions

Friday, September 3, 2010

And summer again!

Now after that really great cool-weather tease, we've had a week straight of 90's heat, with unwavering sunshine & humidity! At the end of the day, I can trace the lines of salt where my sweat has migrated all over my shirt. Tomatoes & eggplants are loving it, all the peppers are turning red at once, and the watermelons & canteloupes are ready to harvest! Summer's finale maybe?

I'm doing my best to keep the fall greens irrigated-- this is not spinach's favorite weather. We may have a delay in some of those crops, as I will have to plant all over again when these greens decide to "bolt"... but cold weather will come!