Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Midsummer crop report!

Thought everyone might want an update about how the crops are doing:

Watermelons look AWESOME - they are huge and beautiful, we just need to be patient for another few weeks until they get super-sweet. It won't be long. Can't wait till the melon-tossing (our most fun harvesting technique) begins.

Onions have been curing in the greenhouse, which hardens their papery skins so that you can keep them on your counter. We're giving out the sweet white onions first, and holding the yellow storage onions for later. Red onions will be handed out next! Overall, not the biggest yield this year, due to the lack of rain, and late planting.

Garlic though, was an awesome crop this year, huge heads. It's hanging in Jack's barn right now, and we'll start giving it out soon. Since garlic keeps well, we might hang on to it for a while (and give you lots of onions in the meantime), and hand out lots of garlic later in the fall, with our potatoes and squash!

Potatoes-- also not the biggest yield this dry year. Next year we'll have to figure out a way to irrigate them (difficult due to our hilling techniques) if it doesn't rain all summer again! The vines on our early plantings are starting to die, which means harvest is imminent-- Maybe next week. Digging potatoes is also a fun kids-helping activity.

We got more leeks! We got lotsa leeks! Get out your leek & potato soup recipes. You can use the whole plant, from just above the roots all the way up to the green leaves-- I like to saute in butter, and add to anything.

Winter Squash look amazing, the field is a sea of green jungle-like vines. I've seen spaghetti squash larger than some of our watermelons. We're keeping them irrigated well, and they look happy. Powdery mildew, the disease that usually means their demise, has just landed on some of their leaves, and now it's a race to the finish: can the squash ripen before the fungus kills the plants? Hope for many days of dry sunny weather, as moisture on the leaves helps the enemy.

Beets and carrots will be plentiful throughout the rest of the season. We really love growing these crops... and eating them!

Celeriac, our delicious fall soup staple, is doing okay, but hasn't gotten as much water as it wanted this summer, so may be smaller, and earlier too.

Fall brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, greens, turnips, radishes, kale) are bursting out from under their row cover. We have had a hard time with the flea beetles this year-- they are hopping tiny black beetles that make all the tiny holes in the leaves. Usually they are just do superficial damage, and our row cover prevents them from munching too much. But this summer they are voracious! Our kale and brussell sprouts are almost toast. I'm hoping that the kale will push through, because it's usually so robust. But I finally broke down, and ordered some expensive certified-organic spray-- Pyganic, it's a pesticide made from chrysanthemums. To save the kale. And to save all the broccoli and cabbage that is about to become flea beetle salad bar. If you see me out in the back field with the sprayer, know that it was my very last choice. I hate spraying. But these tiny little bugs finally got the better of me. Ah well, one of nature's humbling lessons again.

What else... tomatoes! We're in the peak of their production now, and we'll get another good month hopefully. Then we'll harvest green tomatoes before the frost sets in to kill the vines (yes, it's coming--- mid-October usually).

Eggplants will continue to come in, although less production this year than last year for some reason.

Peppers are turning red! Soon we'll stop harvesting them green, and just let them turn red. I love roasting red peppers on the grill, and putting them on sandwiches.

The cucumbers finally are succumbing to downy mildew, the disease which blows in on the wind, and kills them fast. They had a good show, though! What a year for cukes. Summer squash will produce for a few more weeks.

There will be fall fennel in late October. It gets bigger and sweeter in the fall.

Fall parsnips will be big too... but we don't harvest these until November usually. They get sweeter once they're kissed with frost!


Lots of sunflowers! Make sure you find them, they make such nice table decorations!

Ground cherries (look them up on our website)


Hot peppers

More cherry tomatoes... in a few weeks it will be unlimited...

Monday, August 15, 2011


We really are in the thick of it. We've started using bushel baskets to harvest our cucumbers and squash into, because our harvest exceeds the amount of grey bins we own!
Tomatoes are ripening-- including the cherry tomatoes, which will start producing by the thousands really really soon.
The lettuce has been soaking up the rain, and we've enjoyed the break of not irrigating for a while.
The flower garden is OUT OF CONTROL. Pick a bouquet for a friend! Bring some to work! A good chance to spread the word about Mud Creek Farm-- we'll be starting sign-up for 2012 memberships in a month :)
You might notice that Luke and Erin are not around this week-- we're up in Vermont, on Lake Champlain, at Luke's family reunion! This is a rare chance for us to leave the farm, and give the interns a chance at managing harvest. We have complete trust that they will do a great job. Let them know what you think of everything this week, your words of appreciation are sure to go far. We hope they will use this week of managing as a learning experience to help prepare them for their future farms!
On the way to Vermont, we stopped by the NOFA (Northeast Organic Farming Association) Summer Conference, in Amherst, Massachusetts. Instead of attending workshops, I spent the weekend at farm visits, and learning about using draft horses to do fieldwork instead of tractors!
It was a beautiful sight to see. These photos are from Natural Roots CSA Farm -- they have about 300 members, 5 giant Belgians, and no weeds at all.
We were totally impressed by their set-up.
Here, the farmer cultivates a row of tiny spinach seedlings.
Now they are planting broccoli with a horse-drawn transplanter.
We dream of one day having horses on our farm. Eli, our intern who also works at Small World Bakery, has two seasons under his belt apprenticing at horse-powered farms. He knows the basics of harnessing and driving a team, and feels just about ready to take care of his own. We hope he sticks around the area, and helps us bring horses into our operation
While horses might seem less efficient and require more time, land, and patience, in the long run we think they might be a very sustainable solution. With the price of gas and diesel so high, they might actually be cheaper. And then there is the quality of life consideration. Working with animals is highly rewarding-- who doesn't love horses?

And the unpleasantness of working with tractors (the smell of exhaust, the noise, the gas and oil) is out of the picture when you're working with horses. Any task becomes quiet, peaceful work-- no earplugs required. I am smitten.

Taking our farm to the next level (horse power) will take a bit of rearranging. We have lots to think about. First order: finding a land base with enough pasture and hay fields to support animals, and getting a barn. If anyone has thoughts about this, let me know!