Saturday, October 29, 2011

Garlic Planting Time is Upon Us

We began planting garlic yesterday.  We have planted about 50 pounds of garlic thus far and hope to get in another 20 pounds on Monday.  If you would like to buy seed garlic, please let me know - you need to plant soon.  $8/lb and supplies are limited.  2 years ago we planted the following:  German Red (7.5#), Polish White (8 #), Italian Purple (9.75#), and Metechi (5#). Last year we saved the largest heads.  This year we did the same.  So we now have a mix of the original stock and I cannot tell you which variety is which but they are all tasty. 

If you'd like to purchase garlic in bulk, it is still available at $5/lb.  Seed garlic is larger per head than the general garlic.

Other than that, we're working hard to get all of the fall clean-up tasks done.  We're pulling the drip tape from the field and tilling and sowing winter rye when we can.  Where the potatoes once grew, winter rye is now growing.  The peppers have been picked from the field and the tender crops (dill & tarragon) have been covered with row cover.  We're working on buttoning up the hoop houses for winter.  The tomatoes have now been pulled from the middle hoop and it was planted last Monday with winter greens.  They won't produce much until mid-Feb. but they're in the ground and ready to go.  The newest hoop is now rocking and we're harvesting spinach, baby brassicas, collards, kale and soon, lettuce from there.  Carrots and turnips are not far behind.

The day length is currently at a 10h 38m day with every day 2 min. 33 sec shorter until Dec. 21. The seeds that don't germinate soon will wait for a couple of months or more until they feel like stretching their roots, stems and leaves.  Those that do germinate will huddle together between alternating days of pure sunshine and gray skies and patiently wait until we return to this period of 10 h 38 m of day length.  Then they will once again jump up and shout out -  pick me, pick me!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Wrapping up the Season

The time has come to finally let go of summer.  We are still enjoying this warm spell but I know that winter is coming.  The days are within 75 days of the shortest day of the year.  This is a time when I struggle with pulling the summer crops to make way for the winter ones.  There are still tomatoes, peppers and eggplant in the hoops.  The experimental summer squash is doing well in there as well - it's taking up far too much room and we have to hand-pollinate the fruits because the sides of the hoop have been down which keeps the pollinators out.  No pollination = no squash.  So it's been interesting to get to know the reproductive parts of the squash plant.  How it is evident when the female fruit is ready to accept the pollen from the male blossom or not.

So, very soon we will pass the turning point on planting.  After the end of October, the day length will be too short to stimulate germination.  Once the day length reaches 10 hours or less, growth will all but stop and the plants will go into a holding pattern.  They won't die (as long as you're planting the right crops) but growth will be so slow that they it's difficult to see.  So, if the plants are not at the maturity stage (or close to it) before this point, you have to wait really until early to mid-Feb. before planting begins again.  Anyway - we're getting close to this point.  To maximize profits, all tomatoes should now be out of the hoops.  All peppers should be compost.  All eggplant and basil a memory.  Soon.  It's hard for us and for our members to say goodbye to the fruits of summer.  But soon, very soon, I will have to pull the tomatoes and plant the beds in the hoop house.

We hope you have enjoyed the extended tomato and pepper season.  This is only possible due to season extension through the hoop houses.

A reflection on the season:
This is our third year of CSA.  Every year I learn something new.  What stands out now is that the closer the relationship between farmer/member, the better the relationship.  Of course this is nothing new in any working relationship.  The more we understand of each other, the better.  This relationship takes a huge commitment.  We know that you take a great deal of time picking up and storing your veggies.  And we understand that satisfied members are very patient with us and know that the veggies are not going to be perfectly shaped or sized or clean.  They appreciate small carrots in June or July - because small carrots are better than no carrots.  They understand that we put members before ourselves in serving new crops.  They understand that tomatoes are generally only available at a premium during the months of July, early-Aug. and late Sept./Oct.  They understand that sometimes we intentionally don't wash crops because they can deteriorate faster if sitting wet in a bag than if wilting in a bag, later to be rejuvenated with a cold soaking.  And they appreciate that we grow varieties here that are not readily available in many stores or even at the markets. 
Re. distributions:  This year was an especially-tough year to grow veggies.  The beginning of the season was terrible.  The cold, wet weather really put a hold on working the ground and planting.  Then we had very cold weather which all but halted growth.  So June distributions were light.  Thanks for being patient with us.  We hope that the bounty of beans, tomatoes and greens helped to make up for the early season.  Mid-season brought on floods and tremendous mosquito pressure.  It was VERY difficult to go out on a daily basis and work for 8 - 10+ hours amidst those buggers.  Many of you could hardly even pick up your box.  We pumped out the water but still lost crops.  Thanks for your understanding, again, with  these challenges.

In summary:  Someone asked how I felt the year has gone.  I responded, as I often do, off the cuff.  It's been good.  Really, it's been better than I had expected, given the circumstances.  Of course, if I had provided all of the caveats as herein listed, the person might have understood what I meant.  We have distributed probably tons of veggies.  (we tracked the poundage this year and still need to input it but it was a lot)  Some crops have been bumper crops (beans, tomatoes).  Some have been slim (melons, squash).  Some have been consistent (greens, as they generally do well).  Some have been close-to-hoped (lettuce & carrots).  But overall we're very fortunate to have harvested a good amount this year.

Thank you for your interest in the crops and in how it's going.  I must give a huge thanks to our consistent workers, Sheryl and Nick.  Without their help, we truly would not have been able to serve you weekly.  They showed up on time.  They covered in my absence.  They did a GREAT job.  I hope to have such consistent and fun help next year.

And, as always, we thank you, our members.  You keep local farming possible.  Thanks for your commitment and understanding during the early season and we hope you enjoyed the relative bumper crops of mid and late season.  This is what Community Supported Agriculture is all about.

Jennifer & Crew