Monday, July 11, 2011

July on the Farm

I thought I'd update everyone on what's happening:

It's hot.  The mosquitos aren't bad.  The peas are done.  It's time to plant fall broccoli.

That kind of sums it up.  But if you are interested in more - here it is.

It has been an interesting summer growing season thus far.  Cold and rainy, hot and dry, flooding, dry and now hot and dry again.  Fortunately we had a nice rain today and, even more fortunate is the fact that we have most of the growing area irrigated with drip tape.  This is black tape which is connected to a "header" which carries water under low pressure.  The tape has small holes every 12" from which a drip is released.  The consecutive drips form circles which then expand and finally come into contact with each other and merge out.  It's a pretty good system.  Not as effective at wetting an entire seed bed but for anything within the 12" radius of the hole, there good water available for the plants.  The system requires constant checking because every so often someone punctures the tape while weeding or an end blows off or a leak develops at the connection point.  The rented parcel is not irrigated yet.  To do so, I need to repair the owner's pressure tank which appears to have rusted out in places.  If anyone is good with working with wells or repairing tanks and is willing to give us a hand with this project, please let me know.

We're on target with the succession planting.  Every 10 - 14 days we're planting lettuce and carrots.  We planted various brassicas about a month ago and most are ready to transplant now. Dave and I also planted a back-up seedbed of brassicas 2 weeks ago "just in case".  So we have back-up broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, etc. etc. etc.  Last year I lost most of my fall brassicas to flea beetles so I'm being extra-cautious this year.  Direct seeding of crops such as fall turnips, daikon radishes, spinach, etc. will begin soon.  This requires pulling out the remnants of other crops and preparing the seed beds.

We trellis all tomatoes, peppers (in the hoops), beans, and cukes (in the hoop).  This totals approx. 2000' of trellised crops.  We haven't completed the task yet but we're getting there.  The beans were trellised 2 weeks ago and are fun to check out.  Please don't let the children run through this area - it's tempting but if they accidentally pull on a string, they'll uproot the plants.  It's a hallway of beans.  They're in the east garden, closest to the goats.  The tomatoes in the field are underway and should be done by the end of the week.  Cukes in the hoop will be worked on tomorrow.  It's a very big job.  The tomatoes all require weekly pruning and training.  If anyone wants to learn about this process and volunteer for 2 - 3 hours, I would love the help. 

The harvest has begun.  We harvested about 1/3 of the garlic this morning, before the rain.  We'll need to hang it up in the barn where it will cure.  We'll begin distributing it this week.  It won't be fully-cured which means that it is a bit harder to peel and separate.  But it is very tasty.  Last year I saved the biggest heads for seed garlic and it paid off.  Returning members should notice that this year's heads are quite a bit larger than those from last year.

We walk the potatoes for Colorado Potato beetles almost daily, sometimes twice a day when infestations are large.  We squish the little guys and put the large larvae and adult beetles in water with a little soapy water which keeps them from escaping.  It's kind of gruesome.  But, it's better than spraying the entire patch which would kill all bugs, helpful or not.  I've read that potatoes are one of the most heavily sprayed crops and the beetles have developed resistance to the pesticides, resulting in a cylcle of stronger and stronger pesticides.  We hilled the potatoes a good three weeks ago.  I actually have an attachment this year that goes on our large walk behind tiller but the first time we went to use it, the housing on the tiller broke off.  So, off to the shop it went and we had to hill by hand.  This means that I tilled up the soil between the rows, we weeded between each plant and then mounded up the soil (a good 2 - 4") on each plant.   We then mulched a lot of them and those that weren't mulched will be hilled again.  Big Red (the large walk-behind tiller) is in action again so I hope we can hill mechanically next time.

One of my goals this year was to provide lettuce every week.  So far we've been able to do so.  Some is bolting faster than I had hoped so we'll see whether the supply will hold out.  If not, the summer cabbage is relatively close to harvest time so you might see cabbage in place of lettuce for a few weeks.

Fava Beans and Peas:
They don't like the heat.  The peas are pretty much over.  There are still favas on the plants but they're nearing the end as well.  I hope you've enjoyed them.  It's interesting to experience the favas over their cycle.  We started 2 weeks ago with smallish green favas, then they grew and now they're larger and whiter.  They're nuttier now and crunchier.  I know that some people use dry favas which we have yet to experience.  Don't forget, these contain high amounts of protein for a bean.

We only use sprays that are allowed according to National Organic Standards.  We sprayed some of the eggplant in the large hoop about a week ago with pyrethrin (chrysanthemum extract).  This was to kill the flea beetles which numbered 20+ per leaf.  Then we re-covered the plants.  We also sprayed thuricide today on the cabbage.  This is a bacteria which kills worms (i.e. cabbage worms) and is approved for organic use..   The heads are beginning to form and some are holey and full of poop.  So it was time.  I will probably follow a 10 - 14 day spraying cycle on the cabbage if the poop is still evident.  If I don't spray, we'll have to peel off a good 1/4 - 1/2 of the outer leaves of the heads just to get down to "clean" cabbage.  Of course I could serve it holey and full of poo and let you cut around the bad parts but I don't think most people would be up for that.  We also sprayed a little copper on the potatoes to deal with a small amount of potato leaf blight.  Copper is one of the only fungicides that are approved for organic use but it's use is regulated.  You have to show that you're not increasing the amount of heavy metals in the soil which is done through soil testing.  I will spray some of the tomatoes with Seranade tomorrow which is another bacteria that multiplies on the leaf's surface and is supposed to keep viruses and other bacteria out.  I will try to spray the cucumbers this year with Seranade to see whether it will help keep out Downy Mildew.  Downy Mildew is a virus that is transmitted through the cucurbit family by cucumber beetles.  Once the cukes get it, deformed fruit will occur and death of the plant will follow within 3 weeks.  So, we keep all cucurbits covered with row cover for 42 days (until they begin to bloom) and then remove the covers so the pollinators can do their stuff.

Tomatoes and other Fruits:
It's starting.  The maters in the hoop are beginning to produce along with an early planting of summer squash.  Soon the peppers will be ready to pick.  It's been a bit hot and dry which I think slowed the beans down a bit but they will be coming along soon.  By the end of July, we should turn the corner from a large portion of weekly greens to a larger percentage of fruiting veggies.

We have a few White Holland turkeys that we'll be selling for Thanksgiving this year.  They're still in the big barn but are big enough now to move out to pasture so you should see them around soon.  Chickens are fine - easy peasy.  Our goats are doing pretty well although we did lose a little boy a few weeks ago.  He died of coccidosis which is common.  His mom (Sandy) also got it and stopped eating and drinking for 4 days.  Fortunately we noticed this the first day she stopped eating/drinking and gave her pedialyte (via a syringe) 2 - 3x per day for 7 days and offered her fresh brush.  She is doing better.  The little boy's sister is now showing signs of coccidosis so we began treating her yesterday and hopefully she'll pull through. It's tough on babies and she'll only about 8 weeks old.

We're sold out for the summer CSA - thanks to you all!  Sheryl, Nick and I are working hard to keep up with the weeds.  If you have an hour or more during the day and would like to help out, we'd love to have you.  Other than that, we're have lots of fun with it all.  Already I hear Nick saying - "remember the day when..." and the list will go on.  He's been here about a month. This is Sheryl's second year here and she'd like to start her own business so I will be looking for someone to replace her for next year.  If you know anyone who is serious about farming and wants experience at all levels, please ask him or her to contact me.  I'd also like a pool of people to call for peak periods.  Like now, with the garlic harvest, it would be nice to call in 1 or 2 people for a day or so.  It will be the same with potatoes, beans and tomatoes.  If you know of someone who is interested, please ask them to contact me.

As always, we hope you are enjoying your veggies.  If you have any comments or ideas for us, please feel free to share.