Monday, August 31, 2009


It happens every year on the farm.

January: Ask R to tell you about numbers regarding production on the farm. Ask him about varieties and how well they did. Make him think. He can do it! Ask R to walk quickly from one end of the farm and back. hmmm.

April: Ask R to outline the year plan. Yep, can do that - with detail. Watch him struggle to do the deep knee bends as he begins to work in earnest on the farm. Listen to him complain about sore muscles just because he was *on a tractor*. See him be flabby. ugh.

May: Ask R how many muscles are in the human body. He knows because he can feel every one of them about now.

July: Try to keep up with R on the farm. Good luck. Just don't watch too closely, he doesn't want you to seeing him trying to catch his breath or rubbing his shoulder/back/knee/etc.

August: There is a lot less of R than there was in April. It's odd, but that container seemed heavier when it was full the last time he lifted it (April). Ask R to use his brain...uhhhhhhhh.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Dive Bombed!

A friend provided me with a link to an article that provides support for the observation that predator insects do help with pest control. Go here.

An interesting side light to this. ISU has study results showing that the aerial spraying for aphids are not providing a statistically significant benefit in yields vs no aerial spray.
Here is some information and here is more.

What interests me about this the most is that anyone who has studied aphids even a LITTLE knows that they tend to favor the undersides of leaves and/or can often be found in the understory of plants they feed on. Further, anyone who works with soybeans know how strong the canopy can become at the stage aerial spraying is applied. Then, add a little physics/natural science knowledge and a little about the technology used for aerial spraying to put it all together and infer that aerial spraying can't get to the majority of the target population of aphids.

I ALSO know that I know just enough to be dangerous here and could very well be missing several things. All I am saying is that just a little bit of thinking makes me question the economic feasibility of aerial spraying for aphids by my neighbors. It just so happens that their spraying annoys me for other reasons - which motivates me to take this to the conclusions I make...and that's why I always hedge a bit. My bias encourages me to ignore facts that don't fit.

So, why do the farmers still spray? Because they are told to do so by those selling the product. And those people tend to use the scare tactic of lost yields in ways that might make pharmaceutical companies look tame....

I know we are not the only rural residents who are becoming more irritated by crop dusting. I want it to quit. It is a danger to our organic vegetable operation. It is a threat to our health with the drifting chemicals. But, before I make too much noise, I need to understand why it seems so important to conventional farmers to make these aerial applications. It wasn't this way until the last couple of years. In fact, crop dusting was a bit more of an exception rather than the rule.

Now, most of August sounds like there are dogfights going on over our heads all day every day of the week. I wish I could find a way for these people to earn a decent living, enjoy what they are doing - and do all that without driving up my own blood pressure!

Friday, August 28, 2009

From the "that ain't right" files


What's with the lows projected to be around 40 for Saturday (AUGUST 29) and Sunday (August 30)?

We decided some years ago that we did NOT want to stay in Duluth, where such things are not out of the question up over the hill (in Duluth, there are two temp patterns - by the lake and over the hill). But projected lows in Iowa that could have a three in the first digit for August is *not* normal.

Simply put, I don't like it. So there.

I don't think I have the time or energy to try and get things covered either. So, I guess if we get a light frost, some things will deal with getting singed.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Evidently the calendar is mocking us...yet again.

We barely get into feeling that it is summertime then suddenly.....

A school year jumped out and is grabbing everyone's attention. Hm. What to do now?

We are just completing week 11 of the CSA on Tuesday and will begin week 12 on Thursday. We run a 20 week season, so we are officially past the half-way mark. But, there is still a long way to go.

Perhaps the most difficult thing that happens this time of year is the transition T has to execute as she goes from veg farmer to college prof. There is still plenty to do on the farm, of course. And, she still wants to do work on the farm and enjoy being outside. But, the teaching gig calls - and it does (and rightfully so) take the majority of her time and attention.

Two of our seasonal helpers have already stopped coming to the farm since school activities (and school) has started for each of them. And, Dr. D will also go back to his mild-mannered self as a prof as well. Or, is the farm worker Dr. D the mild-mannered one? Perhaps we should audit one of his classes and find out?

So, this is the annual reminder to CSA members that there are so many hours in the day and there is only so much of R to go around. Things always seem to work out fine - but the first week or so in transition can be mildly stressful.

And, now that I've posted it here, all will be well and there will be no stress. Therapeutic...nice.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Charity for Free

You know, I've been thinking.

A dangerous pastime... (been a while for this one)

We just received in the mail an envelope full of 'gifts' and an offer for more 'free' stuff if we would consider supporting this particular charity. In fact, the personal/form letter included in the document spent more time talking about the neat 'free' things we could receive if we would only send them a check to support their cause. Oddly enough, very little of the letter focused on what the charity does/has done other than the generic introductory level drivel.

Basically, they are using the guilt approach.

See how nice we are? We have given you nice things in the mail. We will give you more nice things for 'free.' We are an organization that does good things for X. Obviously, you do not want to see X in danger, harmed, sick or some other various nasty issue. You would be a bad, nasty, evil person if you wanted that. So, while we are at it, it would be rude of you to ignore us because we are good, we do good things and we sent you 'gifts.' So, if you want to improve your karma/go to heaven/name the thing that is good to you - you'd better reply with a check in the amount of $25, $50, $100, other. Otherwise, we will assume that you are a nasty, no good, evil person who wants bad things to happen to X.

Since we are good, we will continue to send you 'gifts' in hopes of converting you to a 'good' person. If you do respond and send us money for our organization, we will continue to send you 'gifts' and remind you that you need to keep sending us money - because the world is full of people who were good once and have gone bad since.


I understand that charitable organizations have to use marketing efforts in order to keep their names and missions in front of those who would support them. And, there are numerous such agents to whom we send support. But, it is the gift we are giving, not the one we are promised to receive that interests us. And, I expect to see evidence that the gift given is being used wisely to do tasks that are part of the stated purpose of the agency.

To make matters worse, these gifts help fill our landfills, use up resources that can be used for better things and are often provided by companies that treat workers poorly and/or provide inferior product. All in the interest of giving potential donors a 'free' item that must be cheap in order for the organization to have any money left over for...

It may not be as blatant as elephant tusks from a 'save the animals' foundation, a club from the 'prevent the abuse of X' group or some such thing. But, are we asking too much for charitable (and other) organizations to make sure any promotional item stays consistent with the states ideals of that agency?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Farm Report

Farm Report as of August 19, 2009 for those who have interest...

The weather has continued to be cooler than normal with only a short period of warm, humid weather. In our mind, this bodes well for a longer fall period with a later frost. But, nature has its own ideas and we'll just have to deal with it. Recent rains have been welcomed by the plants, but have slowed certain efforts on the farm significantly. The weeds have taken off with the rain, as have some of the crops.

Potatoes - this is going to be a great potato year if the 2+ rows that are harvested are any indication. We have pulled in Yukon Gold (the shortest season) and potatoes have been, on average, larger and more plentiful. We set a goal of a five to one return (5 lbs for every 1 lb of seed) and hope to do much better. We have five rows of Yukons, picked two and we're already at the 5 to 1 return. A good sign for us - but it's going to take time to pull all of the taters in.

Beans - It's been a wonderful year for beans. Unfortunately, most of the plants are slowing down and the quality will become a little less consistent from her for the Providers, but should be fine - if lessened - for the Jades. We don't anticipate much for beans in the next week, but they can surprise. the hardest part is getting them picked when it is wet - picking wet beans spreads disease and mildews that shorten the productivity span - but so does letting beans get overly large. ah well. It's still been a good year - we're just under the quarter ton mark for beans picked this season.

Peas - Stick a fork in them, the spring crop is done. We're going to try and prep for a late fall crop, but it will be close.

Cukes - These are also on a downward trend. the dry patch stressed them out enough that we're not sure we'll get too much from here on out. So, expect a trickle from these for the rest of the season.

Eggplant - we're climbing the curve for the eggplant production peak. Oddly, the usually higher production levels of the standard purple eggplants have not occurred, whereas the other heirloom varieties are doing reasonably well. NOTE: if you aren't taking your eggplant in your share, you are missing out! Eggplant are excellent substitutes for mushrooms and grill up well. We added grilled eggplant rings to hamburgers the other night - with a slice of tomato, some cheese, a bit of lettuce - it became one of the best burgers either of us has had. Hoping to find some Ailsa Craig onions ready for the next burger.

Tomatoes - The production period may be short and frantic. Usually, we run tomatoes well into September. We're not sure how long this one will last since the plants dropped their flowers early because of cool nights and dry weather. The taste is definitely there and there will be plenty of them for a while! The Italian Heirlooms are especially plentiful right now.

Winter Squash - appear to be on target for normal harvest starting in September and going to mid-October. The Boston Marrow variety is going to wow us with some incredibly large fruit. I expected a 15 pound fruit as the max. There are candidates for much more than that right now.

Kohlrabi - the next planting is getting ready to be picked! We'll try to sandwich one more in for a late fall harvest.

Garlic - was not a bright spot this year. We should be able to salvage enough for seed, but there won't be much to distribute - we hope to give everyone one or two heads - but we can't tell just yet. Can't win them all.

Melon/Watermelon - speaking of not winning them all. Weather has stayed too cool, too long. We're not optimistic. But, next year always brings a new hope.

Peppers - taste and quality has been through the roof for the heirloom varieties. They are really just now getting going. We've been able to hold down the fort with the Ace variety (early hybrid bell pepper), but everyone should be excited to see the Jimmy Nardello's, Tolli Sweet and heirloom bell peppers starting to appear. These all taste much better (in our opinion). We will normally put the Aces in one distribution basket and the other sweet peppers in a separate basket. NOTE: we will never entice anyone to eat a hot pepper by claiming it is sweet. You're just going to have to trust us that some of these peppers, despite their looks, are not hot. If you don't, you'll really miss out.

Turkeys - both older and younger groups continue to grow and get more interested in exploring. A good sign for their health. A bad sign for our keeping them where we want them to be. Happens every year.

Eggs - we're still trying to get the ladies to go back to their production levels of just a month (or so) ago. The younger hens will supposedly enter their active laying period starting in September. So, we will either be swamped with eggs or really frustrated. We're hoping for the former.

Summer Squash/Zucchini - the rains keep the older plants going, but the cooler weather has prevented them from going crazy like they have in prior years. Clearly, there has been plenty (as can be attested to by CSA members). However, we have tried to market excess in the past for a little additional income. Haven't had as much for that as we are accustumed. That may actually be a good thing because we haven't had the time to pick more and find buyers. Expect levels of these in shares to slowly taper off.

Lettuce - the next batch is now being picked, with another due to be ready about the time these are finished. We've picked over 2000 heads of lettuce this season. Approximately 3 times as many as we've ever harvested. Current varieties are Rouge d'Hiver, Australian Yellow Leaf, Grandpa Admires and Pablo. All seem to handle warmer weather reasonbly well.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Why'd you call me a drip?

Was it because I left a pool of rainwater by the back door today? That might have to be it.

Happily, Wednesday is not a CSA distribution day. However, the forecast still gives a decent chance of rain tomorrow. And...tomorrow IS a CSA distribution day.

We've done this before and we'll do it again. A distribution day doesn't get moved. Even if it is raining - or pouring - we still need to get things picked, packed and ... uh... delivered (so much for the alliteration).

So, there are times that we're out in the fields in a steady rain, doing what work we can. Early afternoon today was one of those times. R was trying to get a few things in before the rain came. But, the rain came a little quicker than he would have liked. As a result, he got to experience all of the things that come with this territory.

A small notepad is typically in R's possession throughout the work day. There is a problem with paper and rain sometimes.... Didn't get that bad today. But, it is something to consider for future rain pickings as that notepad often has a number of important items in it that need attention.

Another thing we notice is that the first bit of rain makes the surface of the soil a little slick, so a person has to be a bit more careful moving around. As it rains more, we go to the 'stick to the sole' stage where it is possible to 'grow' three inches in a short period of time. It's not too bad until part of the mud caked on a shoe breaks off, leaving you with an uneven surface with every step on that foot.

A third item that makes things a bit more interesting during a rain pick - the produce is often harder to handle as it can be slick with rain - or mud. Not sure how many times I grumped at the zucchini as it slipped out of my hands, falling back to the ground - only to be in contact with - more mud.

Then there is the issue of wiping hands clean. Usually, the jeans are the defacto 'rag' in the field. What happens when there are no more clean or dry spots left?

Today's rain was accompanied by a cool southeast wind. So, the rain was just cold enough to cause me to cringe a bit whenever rainwater found a new place to go. The first few drops down to the small of one's back can be a little shocking. Of course, once your back is soaked it doesn't matter. But, stand up (out of the 'harvesting position') and you'll find that you DID (past tense) have dry spots on your person.

There are stages of acceptance that one goes through during a rainy day in the field:

Stage the First - you see it coming and you rush to complete whatever you are doing in hopes of getting it done AND getting in before the rain hits. Adreneline rush time.
Second Stage - the rain starts and you rush to get anything undercover that really must not get wet. You feel every drop of rain.
Third Stage - you are damp, but there really is 'just a bit' more to do and you really don't want to leave it (or can't leave it). So, you keep rushing in hopes of getting done before you get too wet/dirty/both. You begin to get annoyed with some of the things listed above.
Stage Four - You can still get a little bit wetter, but there really is no more hope of getting done and in before you have to change to new clothing, etc. The pace slows down, it really doesn't matter how fast it gets done anymore. Part of you accepts that being in the rain can be somewhat pleasant - except if it is a downpour - or lightning.
Stage the Fifth - There is no way you can be wetter - even if you submerged yourself in a pool. You could wring a few gallons out of your underpants if you had to. At this point, you only keep picking because you have to - and it still doesn't matter if you go in. The only thing that stops you is if you will be doing more damage to the crop and field than you should. Even then, you keep picking if there is a deadline to meet. The rain is no longer annoying. The issues listed above no longer bother you. This is likely because you have reached a stage of numbness that is known by CSA growers, truck/market farmers and other folks who have to perform tasks in this sort of weather once in a while.

Today R reached Stage Four. Happily, he got the rows done he felt needed to be done before reaching the next level.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Let the Games Begin... (update)

Ok, this is a different kind of post!

T & I have been pretty tired in the evenings lately. So much so that we have a tendency to just grab a book and stare at it for a while. The phrase "too tired to sleep" was one we didn't use to believe could be true. But, there have actually been times where we won't go to bed, even though we've read the same page fifteen times - and we know we need the sleep.

In any event, we're trying to get ourselves back into playing games in the evening. It's a good way to move our minds away from the cares of the farm. It is also a symbolic way to proclaim to ourselves that the work day is done. We have put birds and tools away. Buildings are 'locked down.' The boots or shoes can finally come off.

We came up with the idea that we would run a tournament of a sort by accumulating points over a number of different games. Since we both like Ticket to Ride, we'll do several different runs of that game. If we're feeling ambitious, we may add a few other games once we decide how to award points.

Thus far, the scores are as follows:

Lost Cities
T 198 R 160
Ticket To Ride US Mega
T 145 R 193

So, out of the gate it is a close 343 to 353.

Next up - Ticket to Ride Nordic and Cribbage

T 188 R 170

T takes the lead 531 to 523

Next - cribbage, then some form of TTR

Sunday, August 16, 2009

SHELVES! (updated)

The truck barn got a completed roof this year, which means the building is capable of keeping things dry (for the most part). That means we can consider making it more useful for our veg farming efforts.

Many thanks to Dad for his efforts in moving everything around in order to build shelves on the south wall. The building is fairly tall, so there is plenty of space to utilize in the vertical direction. These shelves do that! The web flats, transplant pots and lighter things of that nature are on the top shelves. We only need them in the early Spring - and they come down once and go up once in a season (yes, that is a simplification - but it is close enough). There will be some of that sort of thing that we will need access to throughout the year, but we don't need 500 trays at eye level most of the time.

There are shelves to put our picking crates, coolers and other items we use multiple times every week for CSA distributions. These shelves provide us with a consistent and easy to access spot for their storage. What a relief! It will not take long before we wonder how we managed without these shelves.

Now to find time to get things organized on those shelves...

We'll try to add a pic later.

Monday, August 10, 2009

CSA Observations

We're approaching the midway point for the CSA distribution season. So, we thought we'd throw out some observations or feelings about how we see this year going.

  • The new approach for signs at pickup (vs the chalkboard or paper menus) seems to be working far better than the old approach. Now all we need to do is come up with a waterproof/erasable set of signs. We can do it, just need to set the time aside.
  • We have been pleased with the variety and amount of produce made available to our CSA members. Of course, there are always improvements to be made - but we're feeling pretty good about the way this year has gone thus far. This is saying something since we tend to be among our harshest critics.
  • The truck is very full on Tuesday (Waverly) and Thursday (Cedar Falls). Last Thursday's pack was a bit of a challenge, but there were many tweaks we could have done to fit more in. However, we're wondering how long it will be until we reach a point where it won't fit. And when that happens, we wonder what we will do? Tune in and find out at a later date.
  • With the CSA model, one of the difficulties is the budgeting of income from the beginning of the season for expenses throughout the year. For those who don't understand, subscribers pay at the beginning of the season unless they have a pre-arranged payment plan. This results in one big payday for the year, from which farm expenses must be paid throughout the remainder. We are hopeful that we will have a nice pepper/eggplant/ tomato season that exceeds CSA needs. Each of these crops are a reasonably good cash crop that can bring in extra $ in late summer and through the fall.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Tom Sawyer & Summer Fest

We only had one inquiry about the scheduled August Tom Sawyer Day, so we decided not to run it. However, if we get significant requests for one yet in August before school starts, we will consider running one. If we do run one, we'd like to have a good turnout for it. So, voice an opinion if you have one on this matter.

However, our Summer Harvest Festival is scheduled for August 29! We run this as a potluck style event. All CSA members and 'honorary' CSA members (you know who you are) are encouraged to attend. We usually start around 4pm and run until interest in bonfires, or other such things wanes (or midnight - whichever comes first). This is celebration time only - no work involved (unless you want to help with grilling, etc - if you can call that work). Bring fun games to play and a celebratory mood.

Our gatherings are family friendly - we encourage attendees to limit alcahol and we have some nice lawn space for playing!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Farm Report

We're working on the newsletter, but thought we'd copy the farm report here since it may be a day or two before we are done with the newsletter and publish.

We tend to think of the newsletter as our 'polished' writing and the blog as, well, a blog. What we write here is still carefully considered, but we don't edit as closely.

As of August 6:

Rain is needed (got it AM of August 7 - but tad more would be just fine). Vine crops such as the cucumbers, summer squash and zucchini are showing stress and need rain to continue the pace of production. Speaking of which, the pace of production for these is lower than a typical year, but quite sufficient for what we need in the CSA (plus a bit more). We have found in the past that a nice soaking rain will result in a second peak in production for these plants. The first peak was a little off, so the second peak has the potential to exceed the first.

In comparison to 2008 - we are already at the halfway mark to last year's TOTAL production of cucumber. Put this in perspective - 2008 covers 11 weeks of production. We're halfway with only TWO weeks of production in 2009.

Peas and beans have been very happy with us this season. These are time intensive veg to pick and prepare for delivery. But, they are one of our favorites to eat (and we suspect this is true of many of our members). Part of the success with both of these has been better weather. A larger part has been our ability to get grass mulch down between many of the rows. Another factor is the strength of the potato crop. After 2007, we know better than to count the crop until it is out of the ground. However, I don't know if we've seen potato plants look this good since we started the CSA. The Yukon Golds are the earliest season and will come out of the ground first.

Melons and watermelons are looking like a loss this year. I don't think there is time for the problem to correct itself at this point. And, if we don't get the ability to run a good weeding crew out to them, we won't have much for carrots either, though we're trying to get a fall planting to go. We'll do what we can. But, we've learned that sometimes you give up a crop and maintain those that are doing well. If you try to save a crop that is too far gone, you waste time that would be better for the farm and the CSA members on some other task.

We've been pleased thus far with the kale and chard rotation in our share distributions. Both provide excellent nutritional value and interest in the greens category. We especially like the idea that we can allow one crop to regenerate while we pick the other. And, even better, we believe share recipients might appreciate seeing them in rotation rather than every week.

Some crops, however, do not give you a choice as to how you distribute. When they are ready, you pick them. Tomatoes are getting themselves going and we need to use some worker time to get that area weeded to make picking easier again. Peppers are another matter. The fruit have been large and very tasty thus far. The rain followed by heat may help them pick up production as long as night time temps don't stay too high for too long. If it goes back to the cool pattern, we may find a lull before a second batch comes on. Colored sweet peppers are always later in the season, but the Tolli Sweet peppers are starting to turn red. These are excellent peppers and we're happy to see the plants looking good.

On the slightly confused list reside the eggplant. Many plants set one fruit and grew it out just fine. But, the cooler weather is preventing a the normal heavy flush that begins after the first fruit grows through. Plants still look far better than last year, but are more compact than prior years. I would not be surprised to find a large fruit set beginning next week due to the rain and warmth (predicted to arrive Saturday).

The jury is still out on the onions. The white onions have been fine so far with a good taste. They are a nice early crop, but they often have a wide variety in size. The other onions run a very wide range of quality/growth at this point. We'll just pick them as they get ready, but we're thinking we may have a lot of smaller onions this year than we want. Broccoli main heads were smaller this year, but we're expecting good side shoot production. Cauliflower just put on a big growth spurt and will only do more after this rain. Garlic is due to come out of the ground. Lettuce continues to please and the beet crop has been good. We're surprised how good the smaller beets can taste! And, the winter squash field is looking excellent at this point. We are hopeful for an average sized harvest. Not looking for any records, but records are not needed here.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Weather Watch

For those who want a quick follow up.

It rained this morning! Don't know how much as of yet, but looks like at least 1/2 inch and maybe as much as 3/4 inch according the puddles in the drive (our informal method for measuring). We'll check the rain gauge later.

Looks like we will get treated to some of the standard August heat and humidity for the weekend. I wonder how well T & I will stand up to that as we work in the fields tomorrow?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

There's a Flaw Here Somewhere...

The rainy day plan...

In our case, it is not the same as the proverbial rainy day. We have day plans for literal rainy days.

Why am I thinking on this just before 11pm on Thursday? Because I see rain heading our way on the radar.

First - we NEED that rain. Fall on our gardens please. Thank you.

Second - I am realizing how many tasks around here are delayed until we have a rainy day where field work is not possible. And, when you have as long a dry spell as we've just had - the list gets very long in a hurry. Suddenly, you realize you need a week of rainy days to catch up on them (no, we don't need that either...did that in 2007 in August...did not like it).

However, it is more complicated than that. If we have a distribution on the day that we have a rainy day, the rainy day rule (and list) does not apply. The CSA distribution work list ALWAYS wins. Have you ever picked cucumbers in the pouring rain? It's worth a story or two.

If all goes well, tomorrow will be a rainy day. Let's hope for a nice, non-violent rain. Let's also hope that R has motivation to do all the things he needs to do on his rainy day list.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Spied A Spider

Just a quick post to relate a quick baseball story.

Ok - first step. R plays baseball on Sundays. Now you know.

Second step - you have to wear helmets when you bat.

Third step - you need to take off your cap to put on the helmet. Ok, I do because my head is too big to fit in the helmet otherwise (insert remark about that comment here...)

I was the starting pitcher in game 1 - so I tend to leave the dugout thinking about what I need to throw, etc. I picked my glove and cap off the of the shelf in the dugout, pulled the cap on and put on the glove.

Out of the corner of my right eye, I saw what I assume to be some stray hairs sticking out on the bill of the cap. I attempted to brush them away and they seemed to go away.

As I approached the pitching mound, I saw those hairs again and was a bit more annoyed and brushed at them a bit more aggressively. Again -they appeared to go away.

It got a bit more freaky when I noticed them again as I climbed the mound to take a warm up toss or two. These hairs were on the tip of the bill, not near my head. And, they moved *against* the wind. Hmmmmm.

I took the hat off and found a "Daddy Long Legs" spider haplessly climbing around on it. My catcher wondered why I was laughing - I'm not sure if I told him or not. The spider was released harmlessly to the grass behind the mound.

In other baseball news. T attempted to take a picture of the nice round bruise on my right leg. Evidently, the opposing pitcher felt that I needed extra ornamentation and plunked me there. It does make squatting/kneeling to pick a bit more of a challenge right now.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Farm Report

This report is as of July 27. We don't know when next we'll have a moment to do this - so here it is:

The fields are on the dry side. Our heavier soil retains moisture better than most, so we're not horribly worried. But, we're beginning to see some stress on some plants. A small cloudburst was welcome this afternoon, but it probably will do little to ease the problem. The good news is that the cooler weather reduces the stress this dry spell puts on the plants.

Lettuce! Cooler weather makes it that much easier to grow good lettuce and for it to hold longer in the field. Cripsmint and Bronze Arrowhead have acquitted themselves well with nearly the same number of heads harvested. However, the Bronze Arrowhead is showing a desire to resprout after cutting. We'll let some go and see how they taste. Amish Deer Tongue might be a better fall crop for various reasons, but it did well enough. Coming up next are Australian Yellow Leaf, Red Salad Bowl, Forellenschus and Grandpa Admires. All of these look great! Our goal for the year is to pick a ton of lettuce. We're just under 700 lbs right now.

Tomatoes! Several varieties are ripening their scouts. This puts us on target for beginning of peak around August 18 if R's calculations are correct. It looks like an average year for production so far - but the taste has been exceptional for those picked!

Peppers! Plants are a little on the small side, but healthy. There is much more size to the fruit than we have seem for some of our varieties in the past. We know better than to judge this crop until we hit the end of August. But, unlike last year, it looks like they will help us by spreading out the harvest instead of giving us a concentrated pick.

Peas! These have had excellent taste this year. The dry weather is starting to show wear on the plants. But, the cool weather encourages us to keep picking them.

Cucumbers? We'll see. The germination was moderate to poor. Vines have been healthy with minimal fruit set. We're just seeing fruit now and we'll reserve judgement until we start lifting full tubs of cukes for your enjoyment.

Winter squash! The vines are crawling and looking good. We never count our winter squash until they ..uh..hatch. So, we'll just tell you about the vines for now.

Melons and watermelons? The cool weather and weeds are making these crops look doubtful in 2009. We take the good with the bad. But, we're hoping for a surprise in early September from them.