Thursday, October 29, 2009

Farm Research Ideas for 2010

We are already considering what kinds of trials we will be running in 2010.

In 2009, most of our trials had to do with cultivars (vegetable varieties). For example, Jaune Flamme tomatoes were a success. And, we performed some trials on lettuce transplants that were clearly successful. There were also trials involving broadforking areas for potatoes that yielded interesting results. We're always trying new things and always learning things as we perform these trials. Sometimes what we learn is that we can't manage to complete many of these trials!

One result of 2008 & 2009 trials is that we have concluded that we will not adopt the cattle panel trellising technique for a number of our tomato plants for varieties with larger tomatoes. We will stick with our cages for varieties. However, we are sold on cattle panels for our snack tomatoes. Part of this has to do with labor management. We know how to optimize caging to what we have for labor resources. It works well enough for what we do and we don't currently see opportunity to take advantage of other methods.

Trials in 2010 will focus on vine crops.
  1. Young transplants vs direct seeding. With two cool years in a row that push longer season vine crops to mature in time, we're looking for something to get things going a bit faster. But, more than that, we're trying to get the plants past the two/three-leaf stage before the cucumber beetles get there to girdle the plants. So, this is one of our trials.
  2. Remay covers vs no cover. This material can be used to keep the heat in and to keep the pests out. Studies have shown that this may be the only non-spray approach that shows promise for controlling vine crop pests. But, studies have been far from conclusive. So, we'll try it ourselves to see if we can manage using the covers AND if we can, we will see if they work enough to be worth the effort.
  3. Undersown cover crops versus cultivation versus mulch. We can only weed so much. So, options are using wheel hoes & tillers to cultivate the soil periodically, planting a low growing cover in between rows that out competes the weeds - but coexists with vine crops, or putting some sort of mulch over the bare soil.
  4. Compost application versus no compost application. Ideally, we might like to put compost in all fields that are going to grow vine crops. But, we don't have the compost to reach the ideal at this time. So, we will look to see how we can use this resource most efficiently with the best results - all the while making sure we follow organic standards for application.
  5. Flower companions. We like to include flowers intermixed with our vine plantings to attract pollinators and to attract predator insects that might reduce the pests. In particular, we are looking at studying nasturtium, marigold, borage and zinnia as companions.
  6. Irrigation trials. Over the last couple of years, there has been little need to irrigate. And, we tend to limit irrigation out of principle. However, we believe that some controlled moisture at certain points of development might significantly increase production of certain vine crops. So, we intend to find out if this is worth the effort to do from our perspectives - and from a sustainability standpoint.
This is our summary for this type of crop. Want to know more? Ask us and we'll happily flood you with details!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Jeff Vader Pyre

Not everyone knows of Jeff Vader. Jeff was the cottonwood that resided on the northwest corner of the farm when we first moved here. In fact, here is a picture.

This shows the tree after it was struck by lightning. Two-thirds of the tree is down at this point. Well, that two-thirds has been sitting in a pile out in the northwest pasture for a few years. Well, the grass around it can't be wetted down any more than it is! So, we lit the pile on fire this weekend. While it never really leapt into flame, it has smoldered for a few days and there is much less of Jeff than there was. When the tree was still standing, a bald eagle would periodically visit. Alas for Jeff, we hardly knew ye.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Farm Report - End of October

It might seem a bit strange to put a farm report out here for this time of year. But, it is no less valid now than it is in August. Here are some things that are going on at the farm at this time:

All of our turkeys are spoken for at this time. They will be processed on November 13 and delivery will be arranged as we approach that date.
Of our 194 chickens, 175 have been spoken for. So, there are a few left! We were happy with the way this batch dressed out. Much better than the Spring group.
There are two ducks still available at this time. One is 6.5 lbs and one is 7 lbs.
Some of the young laying hens are beginning to provide us with a few eggs. We're hopeful that we will have more eggs than we know what to do with at some point in the not too distant future.

Fall Planting:
Yes, you read that correctly. There are things we need to plant in the Fall. The problem? It's been way too wet to do any such thing. Typically, we try to put in our garlic for next year prior to November 1st. That will be a challenge this year. Actually, we should just make the call and say that it won't happen. Not with the rain forecast for the second part of the week. Also, we typically are looking to put in cover crops. Well, we've been looking to do that now for several weeks. Same problem. We were also thinking about doing a pre-freeze planting of some short season crops (like spinach) to give them an early start next Spring. We'll see.

Fall Harvest:
The earlier cold weather forced the harvest of all of our winter squash and (as reported before) we have had to move them around from building to building. All of the potatoes are now in - and we can report that we picked a ton of potatoes. Literally. Well, more like 2300 pounds.

The intervals of rain and wind have made it impossible to put covers over our lettuce/pok choi. As a result, the plants continue to live - but not really grow. You may see a theme starting to take hold here.

Motivational Issues:
As our CSA customers (especially our Thus group) can attest. It has been cold, rainy and windy during distributions the last several weeks. Extrapolate that a bit and you might realize that this means R (and helpers) have done numerous bits of work on the farm while it was, well, cold, rainy and windy. Unfortunately, this led to a session with antiobiotics for a sinus infection.

Put difficult conditions together with not feeling one's best and you have motivational issues! But, some things are still getting done around the farm.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Our Raingauge Runneth Over...

Everywhere we walk is a puddle. That usually means we've gotten ALOT of rain over a fairly short period of time. My curiosity got the better of me, so I waded out to the raingauge. The gauge that measures up to 5 inches of rain.

It was a quarter inch away from full. hmmmm.

Granted, I think I forgot to empty it after the last rain. But, remember, the last rain was just last week. But, I think that much rain might explain the number of clothing changes required the last couple/few weeks.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lost My Groove

Beware the grooooooove! (reference "Emperor's New Groove" - appropriately silly animated movie)

I always forget the power of the groove that I get into during the harvesting season. From August until the first hard frost, my job consists of picking one crop or another in an effort to keep up with them AND get them distributed properly. I also get used to having people on the farm on certain days and there is usually a great deal of activity.

Clearly, we have had a hard frost. Ok, we had a deep freeze. Things look tremendously different on the farm now. The green that was the pepper/eggplant plot is now brown dotted with spots of red and yellow. Clearly nothing more to pick there.

The green beans are now brown and gelatinous. Ok, no picking that either.

Where are the summer squash? The zucchini? Weren't they right here? Yep. Operative on the past tense.

There is still plenty to do around here. So, that isn't the problem. The problem is that I've been doing things at a high rate of speed for several weeks. And the need to rush to bring in the harvest is no longer there.

So, as I was trying to prepare for the CSA distribution today, I felt a little bit lost. I caught myself walking out to one plot at my normal fast walk - until I saw the peppers. Then, I caught myself meandering and looking at the 'carnage.' Talk about gawker slowdowns!

A little bit later, I had this strange feeling. I couldn't put a finger on it. Then I had it! I was not walking quickly. My pace was more evocative of a .... stroll(?), mosey(?!) or some other such thing a fair bit less than a speed walk... as I headed out to pick the kale. After a moment of guilt, I kicked it back into gear again.

Better get back into a groove of a different kind! While I might be allowed to slow the walking pace a little bit, there is still much to do. Maybe I'll just hop to it? That would be a sight.

Monday, October 12, 2009

What Does Cold Weather Mean on the Farm?

The sudden change to colder weather even surprised the trees. Have you noticed that a number of trees that were covered with leaves just a few days ago are bare? Without even changing from green to another color first!

The change in the weather alters our working order on the farm dramatically. For example, R begins to pick pepper rows completely rather than figuring out what is needed for a distribution and selecting for that need.

Another thing that requires adjustment is how CSA distribution days are handled. If you add a cold rain and wind to the mix, it gets even more interesting. First, the cooler weather means picked items (such as peppers) will keep nicely in the outbuildings and be quite fresh even if picked the previous day. So, if Monday is relatively nice and predictions for Tuesday show wet weather, R will pick as much as can be picked on Monday.

We try to work around the rain a bit more when temps are lower. It is one thing to get drenched in August and quite another to be soaked with temps in the 40's. It can still happen, but we try to keep workers out of it until it is absolutely necessary. There are many other things that can be done under some shelter - cleaning onions, loading containers with squash or potatoes, trimming the (not so) greens off of turnips, etc. And, if people must get wet, we try to have that happen as close to the point they can get inside and dried off as we can.

The recent dip into the low 20's required even more work that we usually anticipate for early to mid October. We don't always have all of the squash pulled in by now. Most of our potatoes are in the truck barn, the harvested squash are usually just outside that building. Onions are still in the truck barn, as is garlic. The truck barn does not hold alot of heat - especially with the wide open east door.

I expect you might see where all of this is going?

Ya, we had to pull in all of the winter squash to avoid them freezing in the field. We did that Friday night. We also pulled in the squash to the truck barn for Friday night. We tried to pull in other things that needed bringing in, but felt pretty good about how we would handle a low of 28... even though it hit 26 that night.

Maybe you see the next thing?

Yeah. Saturday night's prediction for a low around 20. That means the truck barn is no longer sufficient shelter for all of the squash, potatoes, etc etc. So we moved all of that bulk into our garage. If you don't quite appreciate this. Consider the fact that our harvest of squash was in the neighborhood of 1000 squash. Yes, some have been distributed. But, not that many. We also had in the neighborhood of 500 lbs of potatoes to move (probably a bit more).

Oh - and then there was the matter of crops we felt were ok with Friday's low - but we were nervous about Saturday's low. So, we pulled in more onions, some turnips, rutabegas, etc. They had to go somewhere too... How about the garage? Right.

Never a dull moment on the farm!


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ou est Octobre?

Have any of you seen October out there recently? We haven't.

"normal" temps for October 11 are 65 degrees Fahrenheit for a high and 40 for a low.

We might have hit 40 for a high today - and likely didn't get there yesterday.

It turned out that R's prediction of October 4 for the first frost was fairly accurate with a very light frost on the farm that night that did little damage. Of course, the okra might beg to differ on that one. Usually, there is some nice weather after a first frost. Not this time.

Friday night got down to 26 on the farm. Saturday night down to 21.

For the uninitiated - most lettuce can handle temps to 24 degrees F. So, last night's low was a definite push. The plants look a little ragged, but have survived so far. We're waiting for the "normal" fall weather to return so we can get this last batch of lettuce matured....

Actually, it would be nice to stand outside for a CSA distribution and not feel quite so chilly one more time. Guess we're paying for all of that nice August-Sept weather!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fall without GF7?

The annual fall festival - GF7 is canceled for this Saturday. We will let you know if we will be able to reschedule this event.

A combination of events, including a very low number of positive RSVPs and weather that will likely be wetter, cooler and windier than most people would enjoy for an event such as this, has led us to this decision. We will take a look at extended forecasts and review available dates for a possible 'redeux.'

R & T
Genuine Faux Farm

For more information about GF7 - go here.