Monday, July 9, 2018

What We Ignore

You do this, I do this, we ALL do this.  Or should I say, we DON'T do this.  In general, we do NOT read labels.

Ok, we may be exceptions to the rule because we've put ourselves in a position where reading labels has a bit more consequence than it might have been if our lives had gone another direction.  But, here we are, reading herbicide labels yet again.  No, we have not decided to use herbicides on our farm - but that would have been the RIGHT reason for us to spend time reading an herbicide label.  That would have meant that we were researching a tool that we thought we might use on our farm.

These chemicals are poisons and are potentially dangerous if not managed correctly.

Warnings on the Atristar/Battlestar herbicide
Shown above is one of the chemicals that were recently used on a field near our farm.  It was applied with other chemicals on a day when the wind was strong and coming our direction.  You can read about those details here.

I will grant you that most every household is likely to have containers with warning labels that show at least as strong a warning as this label does.  I will ALSO grant you that there are numerous things that occur in nature that are every bit as (and more) dangerous than this particular herbicide.  But, in turn, you must grant me the good grace to admit that we do not want to see anyone coated with this product.  Fair enough?  That gives us a place to start.

Environmental Hazards from the Battlestar label
One responsibility that comes with using a tool is to use it in a way that it does its job without collateral damage.  Many agricultural chemicals are known to cause problems if they enter the water system.  If you don't think this matters to you, consider this: 20% of Iowa's drinking water comes from surface water.  While much of the rest comes from various aquifers, they too can be impacted by chemical run-off.  If it is not enough for you that allowing run-off harms other living (but non-human) beings, then maybe knowing it can get into our drinking water would be enough to encourage a person to be careful with the application of this item.  If it truly has to be all about you, then you are impacted if you like to boat, fish, swim and/or hike around Iowa's rivers and lakes.  But, it really should be enough to know that someone or something could be hurt to make you want to manage use of this chemical carefully.  I refuse to believe that many people willfully want to hurt others - though I know some people of that sort do exist.


Supposedly, it is against federal law to apply chemicals, such as Battlestar, in ways that go against the label requirements (see the first sentence under Directions for Use).  But, a law is nothing if there is no enforcement.  And, enforcement doesn't happen if people don't stand up and report when there are problems.  Frankly, I would rather not need to use enforcement because I'd like all applicators to take their job seriously and use these tools cautiously and well.  But, our experience tells us this isn't happening.

The other thing that everyone should notice is the 24 hour "do not enter" period for workers/humans.  This is called the Restricted Entry Interval (REI) on agricultural chemical labels.  If the chemical goes 'off-target' that increases the "Do Not Enter" zone to the drift area.  Applicators should be aware of who may be in the drift zone and they need to
  1. Cease application if they witness people in the spray zone
  2. Inform anyone who might enter the spray zone that they need to stay out and give them information about the chemicals used.
If it is hard to figure out whether or not there is a problem we want people to think of the "Loved Small Child Test."  If you are certain that little one you care for so much could be harmed if they are standing in a neighboring field, then all is well.  If you aren't so sure, don't risk it. 



The label says what should be common sense.  If the spray might go where it shouldn't, don't spray.  What else can I say about this?



Once again, the label is fairly clear.  Please note that the reference to wind speed in this is non-directional.  In other words, you just do NOT apply when the wind reaches these levels.  Prior to this, the labels indicate that if the wind is going in the DIRECTION of something that is sensitive, you should not spray.  But, once we get to 15 mph, you should NOT spray, period.  Why is this, do you think?  Could it be the chemical producers are aware that some of the chemical could go a LONG way in winds 15 mph and higher?  Now it may not be about the neighbor - it's the neighbors next to those neighbors (and so on).





There is more to this puzzle than just the current crops in the ground.  Chemicals that are applied can impact future crops.  After all, Battlestar IS an herbicide.  It's purpose is to kill or prevent the germination of anything except the cash crop currently in the field.

So, what happens when the chemical goes where it isn't supposed to be?  Take a look at the numbers at the right.  These are the number of months before you plant a new crop of certain types.

We lost our peas to a chemical application that included this chemical.  What options do we have to try to make something out of that space this year?  It looks like dry bean and snap bean are our choices.  Too late for potato (and they won't work in our rotation in that spot).  But, since the application occurred on June 29, we actually have to consider what we will plant next Spring.  It is possible there will be enough carryover residue that some seedings will have trouble germinating.

The labels include all sorts of nitty gritty, but not always details that will help if a crop that the produce was never intended for is drifted on.  In this case, we can see that Battlestar could potentially be used in snap and dry beans.  Apparently, this can be applied as pre-planting/pre-emergent or after the beans reach a certain size.  The beans could display some damage that they should 'grow out of' according to the label.


But, you still have to consider the set back periods for every crop.  Snap beans can not be harvested until 30 days after application and dry beans are 45 days.  These numbers are extremely important to people such as ourselves when drift occurs.  They are also one of the reasons drift can be painful.

If my snap beans are only 15 days away from harvest and there is chemical drift from Battlestar on them, that means that 15 days of what should be the production period of my plants are now not safe to eat.  I cannot harvest these and sell them.  Sure, I could sell them and pretend I didn't know.  But, if anyone gets sick, their insurance company will come to us for the money.  First, I don't want to make anyone ill.  Second, our farm certainly couldn't afford the results of illness due to sharing chemically fouled produce.

So, what do we do for 15 days of bean harvest?  Well, if we hope to harvest AFTER those 15 days, we have to keep the plants picked during those 15 days so they are encouraged to produce more beans.  And, of course, we would destroy the beans by composting.  We can't feed them to the chickens or other animals (note the additional information that you shouldn't let livestock forage on the plants).

Is that worth it?  Or should we plant new beans?  From a labor perspective, that's probably what we should do.  But, what do you do if you were counting on those beans in two weeks?


Why Did We Do This Post?
We believe part of the problem is that others do not understand exactly WHY chemical drift is a problem for us.  First and foremost, it is a FOOD SAFETY ISSUE.

Some might say, "hey, the leaves on your cucumbers had spots on them, but they look fine otherwise."  The implication is that we are over-reacting and that we should just continue as if nothing happened.  That's all fine until someone gets ill, I suppose.  But, you tell me, should we ignore it and give everyone cucumbers?

How would that be any more responsible than ignoring the label and spraying when drift is likely?

Second, and at least as important is that it is a PERSONAL SAFETY ISSUE.
These chemicals were not created with the intent that workers meander around in the fog of the spray without protective equipment on .  That should be doubly true for the family living on the edge of town in Janesville next to a soybean field.

Third, it is an ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUE.
That environment includes any surrounding crops, such as our peas and cucumbers.  It includes the waterways and natural areas (such as they are in this state).  It includes your garden and that beautiful "Love Lies Bleeding" plant that looked so good until...

While I still believe that we over-use chemicals in this world, I do tend to agree that the bigger issue is that we use them nonchalantly.  We didn't see anyone get violently ill immediately during/after the point of spray, so it must all be ok?

Let's get this fixed.  It is time.  Read these posts.  Do some learning.  Act on what is learned.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Remembering Half of It

One of the best things about our farm during the month of July is the farm crew (most years).  By the time we get to July everyone is starting to get a bit more comfortable with each other and the various senses of humor begin to show themselves. 

This year, we have the distinct advantage that both Caleb and Emma have been on the farm for three years and Sophie is no stranger to the farm either.  Then there are the two farmers, Rob and Tammy, who seem to be around all of the time as well.  As a result, we may have had a head start on the silliness that can happen despite bugs, heat, rain or silly people who spray in the wrong places at the wrong times.

We still make references to "Horned-fanged bats" and "Fat Bottomed Rats" and we will occasionally trot out Bohemian Rhapsody in honor of Jocelyn.  But, there are a number of 'new' entries for inside-joke of the year on the farm.  The problem?  I can't remember HALF of the things that seemed terribly funny at that particular moment.  C'mon Rob!  What's that little notebook in your pocket for anyway?

The Grudge Book
We don't always all break for lunch at the same time, but when we do - watch out!  This year Caleb mentioned the idea of a 'Grudge Book' that people should keep so that they don't 'forgive someone by accident.'  We're not entirely sure that Caleb is prone to holding a grudge - but we like him and don't really want to test the theory.  Besides, I don't really want to be in anyone's 'Grudge Book.'

Caleb, Emma and Jocelyn - we need to get a picture of Sophie!
What would the sales pitch for this be like anyway?

Avoid accidental forgiveness!  Use our NEW Grudge Book App!  Just download for $4.99 initial fee plus $9.99 per month for this personalized service.  Get automatic alerts on a schedule you choose to remind you that you should be grumpy AND to help you be sure that you are grumpy at the right person!  For an additional fee of $7.99 per month you can get an add-on service that will alert you when the phone GPS of any person in your Grudge Book is within shouting distance.  An additional $2.99 will prompt you with appropriate insults and creative derogatory comments! 

But wait!  There's more...

No, there isn't more.  But, it could be interesting to see what else I could think of if I felt like it, wouldn't it?

The Hazards of Thistle Butt
We spend a fair amount of time crawling at our farm - especially when we need to weed in row.  Sometimes, certain people (who shall remain nameless - right Emma?) decide that it is more comfortable to sit and skootch as they weed a row. 
Ah, there's Sophie.  We think.
We are all aware that dried Canadian Thistle hurts ALOT if you put your hand in it.  That's why we try to pull those weeds out of the row and take them to the compost pile.  None of us wants to get stuck by those things if we can help it.  But, what happens if you are doing the butt skootch?

For those of you who don't know this technique, you use your arms and legs to help move yourself forward or backward while you are in the sitting position.  Of course, as the day goes on, the rear end does not always clear the ground - making it more of a skootch than a reverse crawl.  If you do the forward skootch, you can see what you are getting into.  But, the reverse crawl is fraught with the possibility that the single dried thistle in the entire row will park itself in a spot where you get the unpleasant sensation of sitting on it.

Good Group of People
We know we're incredibly lucky to have wonderful people working with us on the farm.  We all work hard and do our best and it never hurts to have a little fun as we work our way through it all.

Now, I've got to have that notebook out so I can catch more of the wonderful nuggets that get tossed my way every week.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Off Target

I am not prone to making strong statements without doing something to balance it out.  I realize those who read what I write do not have to agree with me.  I am fully aware that there are other opinions and feelings that are valid and worthy of consideration.  I get that.

But, I have no tolerance for people who use dangerous tools in ways that may hurt others.

Once again, our farm has been subjected to chemical drift from a neighboring farm.  Once again, we are stunned by the lack of consideration and we are (once again) preparing to be made out to be unreasonable, alarmist neighbors who attack everyone else who doesn't "see things the way we do."

The truth of the matter is we likely have dealt with some sort of drift damage every single season we have worked our farm.  We just aren't always in a position to verify the situation.  If we can't verify, we try not to accuse and we try not put anyone on the carpet for what is likely a chemical misapplication situation.  And, we really do not enjoy the process of trying to track down the source, assessing damage and going through all of the turmoil that follows.  It's so much easier to just gripe about it and watch while the crop does poorly or fails or we decide it isn't safe to give to others to eat.  Seriously.  That IS the easier approach.

note the spotting on the cucumbers - that were just starting to set fruit
This time Tammy caught the applicator entering the field and stopped him.  The wind was coming our direction at an average of 15mph, which is normally a higher amount than herbicide labels allow for (in fact, Buccaneer is rated at 10 mph and Battlestar at 15mph).  To make a long story shorter, the applicator called his 'boss' who told him to spray anyway.  Tammy called the 'boss' and was told that they were aware we were an organic farm and they were aware that it was a bit windy.  But, 'they were pressed for time because it was going to rain soon and they were going to spray anyway.'

Yes, these are weeds, but note the same spotting
In short, what this person said was: "Our need is greater than yours and we don't really care what other damage we might cause."  They did try to say that they had a 'drift retardant' in the mix and they claimed it would NOT drift at all.  But, their statement that it was a bit windy and that they had to spray anyway because they really NEEDED to was enough to show use that they didn't quite believe what they were saying and they needed to justify their actions.

Conditions were hot and windy.  The heat was only going to increase potential damage to our crops if there was any drift.  Once again, most chemicals recommend that temps be below 85 degrees Fahrenheit for application.  Guess what the temperature was at that moment?  Needless to say, we saw herbicide spotting the very next day on plants that had been just fine the day before.

There are numerous stories out there of representatives for applicators coming to places like ours and proclaiming the damage to be a 'disease' problem or a 'pest' problem rather than a drift issue.  But, generally speaking, diseases will impact plants of the same type and pests will have favored plants.  Neither is as indiscriminate as an herbicide.  If you simply look at the pictures, you'll see that this 'illness' was, in fact, indiscriminate.  And, it is NOT coincidence that it appeared the day after application on a windy day of an herbicide cocktail.

Note the spotting on grasses and plantain.
 It's Not Just the "Organic Thing"
The applicator company seemed to think it was only about the fact that we were 'organic.'  To get the feel for this, you need to say the word 'organic' as if you have something really bad tasting in your mouth.  But, our organic certification status is actually the smallest part of our concern.

1. It's about people working outside

There was no checking to see if there was anyone working outside in the potential spray drift zone.  There wasn't even a question about it.  There were four of us working outside at the time they pulled up.  They should inform us (without our asking) what is to be sprayed and they should inform us as to the period of time the application area is 'off-limits' to humans.  But, more importantly, they should cease and desist as soon as they find out there might be people working in what could become a spray drift zone.

2. It's about the kinds of crops we grow
Whether we grow them with organic certification or not, our cucumbers, peas, carrots, pole beans, etc etc are NOT Roundup ready.  They are actually more, not less, susceptible to the chemicals than the weeds the applicator is supposedly targeting.  Is it possible these plants will grow through it?  Certainly.  It depends on a number of factors.  But, you can bet that they were set back.  And, in a year where we had an enforced late start due to the weather, we can not afford to have someone's poor choices set us back even more.

3. It's about food safety.
who can tell me if the peas on this vine will be safe to eat?  And when?
So, who can tell me what's safe to eat from these plants - and by whom?  This assumes, of course, that we will get more harvest from this area.  If you grow corn or soybeans, you don't even think about consumer food safety because these crops are NOT grown for human consumption.  That means they use many chemicals that are not rated as safe to be a residue on an edible crop.

I'll give you a hint, there isn't sufficient research funded for this kind of knowledge because supposedly, these chemicals are not applied when they could drift.

What is the result now that we have spend time we should/could have been doing productive work on the farm?  The short answers?  The peas are not safe for human consumption.  That crop is lost.  The earlier cucumbers could be harvested beginning July 29.  That means we have to keep harvesting and destroying the fruit until July 29.  Then, we can harvest for consumption.  The other crops in the field that have later harvest dates should be safe for consumption once they are ready, but they will not be certified organic.

4. It's about animals on the farm
If we can't be bothered to study drift in real world application and the possible impact on humans, why would we possibly bother with its effect on farm animals?  It's not a simple situation where you can 'lock the animals up' while the spraying is going on.  There were heat indices around 116 degrees Fahrenheit.  Lock the birds up in a hot building?  Really?

5. It's about a failure to plan and a failure to care about your neighbor.
This is not the first time we've had the 'we have no choice, we HAVE to spray now' used on us.  It's an accusation.  It's a plea for us (our farm) take the blame because we exist and we are inconvenient.  It's just one way to use guilt in an effort to bully someone else to get your way.  It's a way to avoid taking responsibility for watching the weather more carefully and managing resources correctly.    It's a way to pretend that your failure to read and adhere to the use labels provided for each and every ag chemical is not your problem.

  • Everyone does it - is not an excuse.
  • Our farm is bigger and more important than your farm - is not an excuse.
  • You don't do things the way we do things - is not an excuse.
  • You should make BIGGER buffers on your farm - is only a way to try to shift blame - especially when you maintain no buffers.
  • Telling us we are responsible for responding to your whims and your schedule for spray is rude, absurd and not the way my parents taught me to deal with my neighbors.  I am guessing your parents taught you better as well.
  • Telling us we have to 'find a way to work together' does not mean we are the only ones who should make concessions.
Explain to me why YOUR worry about YOUR crops (or your client's crops) is valid and my worry for my crops, my health, my worker's health, my spouse's health, our animals health, our customer's health is unreasonable and easy to ignore.
Explain to me why we have to spend time tracking down use label information, find ways to get testing done and go through the processes with the Pesticide Bureau and my organic certifying agency because you cannot be bothered to use a tool correctly.

There is no sufficient excuse.

Herbicides, Pesticides and Fungicides are a Tool that is Abused and Misused Too Often
You heard it from me.  I recognize that these chemicals ARE tools.  They are dangerous tools that deserve respect with careful and appropriate use.  Personally, I choose not to use them and wish more people would also make that choice.  But, I am willing to accept that these tools could be used responsibly and well - using a long view to keep the tools effective and to avoid long-term environmental effects that we have yet to fully grasp.

Apparently, the day to day use of these chemicals is not worthy of our attention - whether it is an agricultural situation, such as the one I discuss here or if it is the neighbors lawn that must have no dandelions, no clover and no spiders (dreadful nasty things that they are - despite all the good that they do).

Ways We Could Fix This

Once again, I will call for change in hopes that maybe we will have the energy to make it happen.
  • Any application of chemicals on a field must require that the neighbors be contacted with a complete list of chemicals to be applied.  Direct contact information of the applicator, their company and the requesting farm should be made available to all potentially impacted individuals.
  • Any application MUST follow all label use recommendations.
  • Any application that has conditions that could potentially drift off-target to any sensitive site such as a school, waterway, residence, livestock operation, apiary, orchard, vinyard and vegetable operation must be halted until conditions are sufficient to avoid drift of any sort.
  • Fines and punishments for misapplication must be increased to align punitive damages with actual deterrent.
  • All fields must have a buffer zone.
  • Testing facilities for drift must be set up so the turn around time is quick enough that an operation with time sensitive crops (such as ours) can get results for food safety purposes before the crop spoils.
  • the Pesticide Bureau must receive sufficient funding and staff in order to process complaints efficiently.
  • funding for research to collect real-world data on drift in agricultural states is needed and should be procured.  There need to be drift catching devices throughout rural areas to determine actual chemical drift amounts in our air, soil and water.
  • All ag fields should have a proper buffer zone along all of its edges.
  • Provide services for farms impacted by drift to guide them through the processes of collecting information and seeking reparation.  Provide services that can give guidance as to food safety, worker safety and animal safety.
If you think this is too much and it is an infringement of rights or it is too much oversight and it will get in the way of efficient farm operations in the state of Iowa, then you can do something about it.

Use these tools properly.  Treat your neighbors well and with respect.

I challenge everyone to try that out.  But, I have no confidence in that approach - despite my wish that we could make it so.  That leaves legislation and enforcement.  I would be happy to be proven wrong on that point.


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Big Deal

We have been writing this blog, writing email newsletters and creating other social media posts for our farm for some time now and we are fully aware that some themes keep showing up.  Things like the weather, pictures of flowers, farm struggles and the wisdom of our farm supervisors (cats).  We like to be creative when we can - but that takes time and energy.  We do not always have that. 

The net result is that those who read our blog get little nuggets of creative hidden amidst a whole lot of weather, flowers, farm struggles and farm cat wisdom.  We have found that some level of consistency in publishing posts is the best thing if we want to be able to be able to capture a truly creative moment.  So, here we go - a truly inspiring and creative post!

Weather is a Big Deal
Did I say creative?  Um.  Well, we have to get the creative juices flowing somehow.  What better way than to mention the weather?  Isn't that how we try to get conversations going with people we aren't entirely comfortable with?

Rob: Well, that rain sure is wet today.
Other person: Yep, pretty darned wet, if you ask me.
Rob: Yeah, and I've noticed that it gets even wetter when it rains harder.
Other person:  Yep, noticed that too.
Rob: But, the sun came out.  Got kinda hot when that happened.
Other person: Yep, the sun makes things kinda hot.
Rob:  Ummmm.   Have you seen Paint Your Wagon?

At that point, most people leave the conversation.  Rob is left to ponder exactly how BAD Paint Your Wagon must be to cause conversations to end so abruptly.

To be serious - if only for a moment in time - most people can relate to the weather.  It's a common experience to be impacted by the weather - even if you spend most of your time indoors.  However, we are also aware that there is a significant divide between us and most other people with respect to their observance of the weather.  The recent 2.5 inches of rain might postpone a Little League game or cause a person to walk around a puddle or two (or just JUMP RIGHT INTO IT if you are feeling like a kid).  But, unless your basement flooded or you are in some of the flash flood areas of Des Moines (we hope things dry up for you quickly) the rain has done little to impact your life.  On the other hand, people who work outside may have to make adjustments for days.

In other words, weather IS a big deal to us.  It can color each and every day a different shade than we anticipated it would be and one event can alter more than one week of plans.

Farm Struggles are a Big Deal

Ok.  Maybe they aren't such a big deal.  Everyone has their struggles.  So do we.  We just happen to share some of them via our blog in an effort to keep others informed about our efforts. 

Actually, neither of us tend to seek out public affirmation all that much.  So, sharing struggles isn't so much about getting sympathy or empathy or any other "pathy" you might like to consider.  It's about communicating what it takes to run a small diversified farm and the choices and efforts we make to do it.

We think there is value in this sort of work and we think there needs to be more support for those who do their best to raise produce and meat for local consumption.  The support does not come if people are not exposed to the efforts and the goals of local food production.  Failure to be informed simply makes it easier to take things for granted.  Therefore, we think farm struggles are a big deal too.

Sometimes, we find our own struggles to be amusing - especially after the fact.  When the mower deck on our lawn tractor abruptly ceased working, we were pretty irritated.  We already had a nice long list of things to do and, of course, the lawn tractor was supposed to be working to accomplish a couple of those tasks.  Not only that, but the list was plenty full.  We didn't need "take the deck off the lawn tractor, clean it off, get a new belt, take the old one off and put the new one on and while you are at it lube the spindles, sharpen the blades and tell your Mother you love her!"

Ok, "tell your Mother you love her" should always be on the list.  Hi Mom! 

Flowers are a Big Deal

Our attitude on the farm can often be changed by the simple appearance of a good bloom or by the LACK of appearance of an anticipated bloom. 

This year, the iris bloom was very disappointing.  In fact, we have noticed that a significant number of plants fared very poorly.  Apparently, this past Winter was very rough on them.  Hopefully, many of them will rebound, but one never knows until the next bloom season.  Our cranesbill usually provide us with some fabulous flowers in June and they barely gave us anything to enjoy.  Some other flowers have been a bit wimpy as well.

On the other hand, the flowering fruit trees were wonderful earlier in the Spring and the Husker Red Penstamons that have volunteered all over the place are having a very good year.  Thank goodness for some diversity on our farm.  If it weren't for that diversity, we would be very sad.

Why?  Because flowers are a big deal because they can help you manage farm struggles that feel like a big deal.  But the weather can change how your flowers grow because weather is a big deal.

And that, my friends, is how to make it seem like you've made a "big deal" out of nothing!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

July Newsletter

 June - Month of Big Changes and Big Challenges


I recently joked with someone who asked me if I was happy doing what I was doing that, as a farmer, I was not ALLOWED to be happy in the month of June.  I also like to use my Dad's line that I am 'even-tempered, always mad.'  But, after thinking about it a bit, I realized that June IS a difficult month to be "happy" on the farm because it is just darned difficult!  I actually find this a bit funny because if you READ most of my monthly newsletters, I mention something about the difficulty of the month in question.  However, those that do read these will also recognize that the writing gets more positive as you go.   So, you can come to one of a few conclusions:

  1. Rob REALLY is even-tempered
  2. Rob is REALLY UNeven-tempered
  3. Rob has no clue what difficult means

or, you can choose the less-fun, but likely more accurate
4. The level of difficulty increases on the farm until you get to the Summer Solstice - then you just plod along until you realize you've survived the growing season (some time in October).

 We've shared this picture of Emma and Sophie a couple of times and NO, it was not "Dress Like a Bandit Day" on the farm.  This is the clothing these two have been forced to use for most of the days they have worked here during the month of June.  This has been true even for very hot days.  For those who can't see, they are wearing long sleeved shirts, three bandanas and protective goggles to keep the blackflies/buffalo gnats off of them.  Only some good wind will keep those things down.  Thus far, no repellent has done anything to provide relief.  Don't even bother sending us other recipes.  If you want to prove something, come out to the farm wearing short sleeves, shorts and no head gear and then SHOW us your formula works.  We guarantee you'll run away screaming in a fairly short period of time.


We have had some sunny, windy and warm days as well, so we have had some respite from the buggies.  We were actually (foolishly) becoming optimistic that the blackflies were winding down when the picture at the right was taken (June 15).  Rob should have looked at his farm history because mid-June is the normal appearance time slot for these little beasties.  Oh well.

With wet fields, we were able to get the big 'thoroughly clean the harvest containers day' out of the way.  Well done to Emma, Sophie and Caleb!

We were able to get some fairly major accomplishments done in recent weeks.  Among them was moving Valhalla, the larger of our two high tunnels, from its East position to the West position.  Per the norm, it moved later than we wanted.  But, you have to have little to no wind.  While we have had plenty of that, it always came at times when we couldn't do it.  Figures.  Happily, Caleb was able to adjust his schedule and the three of us managed to move the building in a little over three hours.  Everything that is supposed to be planted in Valhalla is now planted, which is a major accomplishment.

 We continue to plant in the fields when we are able, weed when we are able and harvest when there is something to be harvested.  The hard part is that the weather has been very good at timing rains so that we get very small windows of opportunity to work the soil.  As a result, there has been a weed explosion.  We were pretty excited to use some of our cultivation equipment this year to stay ahead of the weeds.  But, when it is too wet to use said equipment, you can get a bit grumpy about the situation. 

The picture at right is in very early June, just after we planted the melons.  We managed a very early cultivation of this field, but have been able to do very little of that until the last couple days of June.  Of course, that means we've had to fight weeds that are MUCH bigger than we want them to be.  But, the hardest part has been trying to make the choices as to HOW we will use the small windows of workable field time.  If you don't opt to cultivate, then you have weed issues with crops already in the fields.  But, if you don't plant, you won't have crops in the fields to get weedy.   And, oh, yes - you do have to harvest and deliver that which is ripe and ready.

Speaking of ripe and ready - we've had berries on the farm this year.  With other crops not doing what they normally do, we have had the ability to  look to our berry producing canes, bushes and trees.  It just so happens this has been a great year for those fruits and our crew likes to pick them.  The advantage for us is that with the clothing they have to wear to keep the bugs off, we lose fewer berries to "hand-to-mouth disease."  As a result, our CSA members got a rare pint of berries/cherries in their shares at the end of the month.

It is hard to believe that we have already taken our first batch of broilers "to the park" and the second batch is already "in-residence."  The turkeys are starting to look a bit like pterodactyls already and the hens and henlets provide us with rest of our poultry entertainment.

Mr. and Mrs. Bunting moved away from the clothesline area (apparently they don't like stinky shirts that we hung on the line to dry)  to the northwest section of the farm.  It is possible they have made friends with Crazy 'Ol Maurice, our Weeping Willow, or maybe Minnie the Mighty Oak?  We'll keep you posted as we observe what they do this summer.

And, for those who are curious, we think we set a farm record on June 30 when both Rob and Tammy had an EIGHT!?! T-shirt day.  The really scary part?  We both had to change jeans... more than once.  We call that our PRE-Soak cycle for our laundry.

Picture of the Month
It wasn't the best iris bloom we've ever had.  In fact, it was pretty disappointing by our standards.  But, we still had some nice blooms - and here is one.


Weather Wythards

Believe it or not, May's high temperature of 97 degrees Fahrenheit was NOT exceeded during the month of June, despite many ridiculously warm days.  In fact, the high temp on the farm was "only 93," though it got there many times and for long periods of time (including the last two days).  On the other hand, the heat index high for the year was broken, broken again... and again as the humidity came into play.

There is a very interesting set of graphical representations on this site that can give you an idea as to what weather is like in June for the Waterloo, Iowa area.  If you look at the temperature graphs, you'll find that our warmer temps have been fairly abnormal - remembering that Tripoli IS a 45 minute drive North of Waterloo, so we are normally cooler.  If you are interested in such things you'll also find that our rainfall for this 30 day period is a good bit more than the average.

June's Report
High Temp: 93
Low Temp: 49
Heat Index: 116
Highest wind gust: 35 mph out of the NW
Rain: 8.51" (and counting as of 9:43 PM June 30)
Humidity Range: 27% to 99%

edit - we received another 3/4 inch overnight after our last observation.  About 4 tenths belongs to the month of June.


Year Through June
High Temp: 97
Low Temp: -20
Lowest Windchill: -34
Highest Heat Index: 116
Highest Wind gust: 46 mph
Rainfall: 18.28"
Barometer Range: 29.39 to 30.89

It's hard to believe that we were talking about things getting pretty dry on the farm that we featured our irrigation cart on a Facebook post.  That post showed up (of course) on a day where it was raining pretty seriously.  Mother Nature was watching us and seems to enjoy making us look a bit foolish.

Song of the Month
A beautiful rendition of this song by Evanescence.  

Ask the Farmers a Question
 Have you got a question you want to ask the farmers?  Send us a note or make a comment in our blog and ask away!

This months question: "How do you keep rabbits and other varmints from eating your crops?"



 First, please note that the person asking this didn't use the word "varmints."  Second, we want to make it clear that we do NOT always succeed in this and we are afraid to say too much for fear that some of said varmints can read!

One of our tricks is this shorter type of electrical netting.  We use a taller variety to protect our poultry.  The fence is powered by solar chargers and usually discourages the varmints until the plants get a bit bigger and we decide they don't need as much protection.  Obviously, deer will step right over this if they wish, but the do find it to be odd and will often go around if there are easy routes around it.  At least that's what they do now.  Deer are notorious at figuring ways to get in when they really want to.

We have also noticed that rabbits jump pretty high when they get shocked.  But, they sometimes LAND IN the fenced in area.  And, that's really NOT what we were going for there.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Soup of the Jungle

We aren't able to treat the yard areas of our farm like others who live in town might.  Sometimes there are places that don't get trimmed up.  The reasons can be diverse.  Perhaps we just haven't gotten to it.  Or maybe we have another reason for leaving it the way it is.

Huh, that area has gotten a bit wild.  What to do?
We've had a couple of stretches of warmer than usual weather along with a bothersome infestation of buffalo gnats.  Unlike the humans, that just keep plugging away at farm work, the farm supervisors look for ways to stay cooler and get away from the blackflies.

There appears to be something in this grassy patch.  But what?
Soup apparently decided this particular patch was IDEAL.  She could keep an eye on all that was going on at the farm's center.  She could stay cool and apparently not be as bothered by bugs there.  Plus, she made it look awfully comfortable.

See!  Cats DO build nests.
 Needless to say, we left that patch alone.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Man with the Plan?

Every so often, we get asked a question about what we do on our farm that makes me think a little harder after the conversation is over.  The question that got me going this time was presented by an individual that may have only been trying to encourage conversation rather than a deep philosophical exploration.  In any event, what this person got was probably what was wanted; a short, pleasant conversation that may have only scratched the surface of what could have been said.  What I got was a headache afterwards as I tried to figure it out for myself...


The Question:

What would you say is the most important task for you on the farm?

Whoa!  Are you sure the farmer is up for this one?
Whether I was right to do so or not, I immediately discarded a whole host of tasks on the farm that are critical items.  These are the daily farm chores that really need to be done.  Inspector (shown above when he was a kitten) might argue that feeding the cats should be at the top of my list.  And, in reality, it is at the top of our list every day along with feed the chickens and turkeys, water plants, get water to birds, open and close high tunnels, etc etc.  But, in the grand scheme of the farm, none of these is inherently more important than any other.

I suppose I could say planting, harvesting, weeding or any other crop specific task, but while they are all also critical, they aren't the most important by themselves.  Equipment maintenance?  Record keeping?  Habitat management for beneficials?   Weather monitoring?  Sales?  Building repairs?  Mental health?  Creating really good playlists to work by?  Being able to NOT scratch where it itches? 

Planning Wins the Day?

It actually didn't take me long to conclude during the conversation that planning was actually the most important task I perform on the farm.  Every day on the form has a VAP (Very Ambitious Plan) in some form or another.  I do not always write one out formally, especially when there is a large and very specific project that will dominate the day.  For example, I do not think I wrote anything specific out when we built a high tunnel.  But, anytime there are more workers on the farm than myself, there needs to be a plan that I can convey.

The Chalk Door - just one way to tell everyone what's up at the farm.
There is so much going on at the farm during a typical June day that the process of planning can be a project all by itself.  For example, our June 19 VAP had over 50 items on it.  Item one was "morning chores."  I only say this to point out that the list did not include a separate item for each daily task (such as scoop the litter box...).  With some of Tammy's family visiting (and wanting to be involved) the plan involved eight different people in some way, shape or form.  A good plan is one that keeps everyone as busy as the want to be (if they are visiting) or need to be (if they are part of the crew).  The plan also needs to consider resource availability.  After all, the lawn tractor can't be two places at once.  Or, at least, that seems to be the case on our farm - even if we try REALLY hard to put it two places at once.

The Plan Within the Plan

Planning for a single day usually has a basis within the plan for the week (or for some series of days).  I can tell you that we have a plan every week, and that would be true.  But, it is more likely that our plan covers three to five days with any accuracy.  It seems that I cannot predict how things will go well enough for any of our weekly plans to be terribly accurate towards the end of that week.  Essentially, the weekly plan occurs whenever the prior weekly plan is completely unhelpful for the upcoming daily plans. 

You might ask why we can't adhere to our weekly plans better (or why Rob can't manage to plan better so the weekly plan works).  Go ahead.  You can ask.  But, you know I'm going to answer even if you don't!

I'll give one example and that should be sufficient to explain how this can happen. The forecast called for a very low chance of less than a half inch of rain on Monday.  The rest of the week was supposed to be dry with seasonal temperatures.  Instead, we get three to four inches of rain over a couple of days.  Suddenly, the plan that called for prepping seed beds and numerous other things that need somewhat drier soil was entirely out of the question.

In short, things happen.  Weather can alter what you can do.  Equipment breaks.  We will discover tasks that must be done NOW even if we didn't plan to do them "now."  Blackflies can get so thick that we have to run screaming into shelter every hour or so to stay sane (I wish I were joking about this one).  Some items take longer than anticipated.  Others don't work out the way we planned and they have to be deferred until we solve another problem.  It's just the way it works.

So, just imagine how the entire season's growing plan must look when we compare to what actually happened at the end of the year?
 

Failure of Plans and the Need for Contingency Plans

You've got to figure that we probably spend some time with contingency plans since there are so many uncertainties in the first place.  And, you would be correct.  We do create contingency plans.  Most of our 'formal' contingency plans are created as a part of our season plan.  On the other hand, our daily VAP usually includes contingency items on it should conditions prevent something else from being done.  In other words, each VAP has more on it than we can hope to complete simply because we need items on our radar should we need to make a change.

Surprise Lilies are actually pretty predictable, as far as surprises go
If there are even chances of rain or dry weather, we often create separate plans for the actual weather conditions.  For that matter, if there is some sort of variable that could influence what we do, we'll try to account for it.  But, no matter how hard we try - we can still find ourselves in 'unplanned territory.'


When Contingency Plans Fail

After letting myself think about the original question as I wrote this post, I have to amend my answer to say that adapting is actually the most important task I perform on the farm

There is a practical limit to how much time one can plan without actually performing the tasks in those plans.  There is also no such thing as a perfect plan.  It's a matter of coming up with a set of plans that will be good enough most of the time. Then, WHEN (not if) they fail, you simply do your best to adjust and make the best of it.  After all, when plans A, B and C are off the table:

Rob: "It's time for plan D."
Crew Member: "What's plan D?"
Rob: "There is no plan D.  So, let's do this..."

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Mr. Bunting's Domain

We apparently have a pair of Indigo Buntings that are nesting not far from the center of our farm.  We have had Indigo Buntings that have traveled through our farm every Spring, but we have never observed a pair nesting on the farm.  If you don't enjoy birds all that much, then it may not make much sense to you that we find this to be a big deal.  If you do, then you might understand why we are enjoying this situation.

Click on the picture to see a larger version.  Mr. Bunting is on the clothes line.
Mr. Bunting introduced himself to Rob very early in the morning when Rob was sitting at the picnic table and trying to plan out the day for the crew.  Mr. Bunting hopped on to the clothesline and then to a pole by the corner of the garage.  He flew over to the potted hibiscus and back to the clothesline.  Eventually, he headed to the cherry tree, where we think they are nesting. 

 Mr Bunting was only "chipping" at me and not singing.  But, we have heard his song at the farm.  The following is a YouTube video from the American Bird Conservancy.

 Rob wondered if he could manage to get a picture later in the day and he DID manage to do just that.  The three pictures in this post are from those attempts.  Mr. Bunting is not willing to let me get too close, nor have I been willing to sit still long enough to try and wait for him to come to me (farmer... I DO have to do some work).  However, he has been getting bolder since we first noticed him.  He forgot himself once and landed on the clothes line as I was hanging something up.  Once he figured out that I was there, he returned quickly to the cherry tree.
Can you find Mr. Bunting?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Lettuce Enjoy

Every year we make adjustments in an effort to get better at everything we do on the farm. Sometimes, we change varieties we grow. Often, we make small adjustments in how grow to adjust to the weather and circumstances on the farm. We may grow more or less of something based on the anticipated demand. Of all of the crops we grow, lettuce (and greens) have the most flexibility within our growing systems.

The truly wonderful thing about lettuce is its relatively short period of time from seeding to maturity. We can grow many successions of lettuce in one season, which means we might be able to adjust to late requests for certain varieties. If one succession fails, there is almost always another one in the pipeline. Our best season in recent years saw us being able to harvest fresh lettuce for 16 of the 20 CSA weeks in our farm share program.

A few terms or notes for the interested:


Heads of lettuce: When we refer to 'heads' of lettuce, we are referring to ONE plant. We are not claiming that the variety is a head lettuce. Most of our varieties are looseleaf, butterhead, crisphead, batavian or romaine. Do not confuse this term with the heads of lettuce that are in the iceberg family (something we do not typically grow).

Holding qualities in the field: When we make a note that a variety holds well in the field, we are indicating that plants will be of harvestable quality over a longer period of time without bolting or getting bitter. Some types, such as Gold Rush, tend to need picking over a short period of time once they reach mature size. Others, such as Crispmint, can easily maintain quality for periods up to three weeks. Many lettuces will hold in the Fall during the shorter days and cooler weather. Holding quality is much shorter in the Summer months.

Bolting: Lettuce is said to 'bolt' when the plant begins to tower (or get tall with a heavy stem) in an effort to produce seed. For many varieties, bolting occurs when the weather is too warm for the cultivar. In some cases bolting will be promoted when plants are too close or weed pressure is high. Competition can force bolting. Lettuce that 'bolts' typically has a taste that is more bitter than lettuce that has not bolted. This does not mean the lettuce is not edible, it just means that taste is not at a peak and may not be tolerable for many persons. Some lettuces, such as Grandpa Admires and Australian Yellow Leaf, tend to have thicker stalks and may give the appearance of bolting before the quality is greatly changed. We often will taste a variety in the field prior to picking it to make sure it does not have a bitter aftertaste. If it does, we will use that as a benchmark to determine which others of that type are no longer marketable. The good news is that turkeys and chickens like lettuce even after it has bolted or gotten bitter.

Ice Queen (Reine des Glaces)

Ice Queen is an heirloom variety that we have grown since at least 2010.  Some folks refer to this sort of lettuce as a crisphead, but I refer to it as a Batavian type.  They do form a loose head in the center and they do have a crunchy/crisp texture for persons who like that sort of thing in their lettuce (people like Tammy!).  The color is almost a blue-green in some light conditions.
Reine des Glaces
This lettuce tends to have a 'clean' flavor that matches up with the 'crisp' texture nicely.  In our opinion, the flavor is not strong.  Ice Queen is rated as being able to handle warmer temperatures (as with most Batavians) fairly well, but we normally don't like to grow it beyond June and won't start new until mid-August.

Bronze Arrowhead

This has been one of our favorite lettuces on the farm since the beginning.  This oak-leaf variety handles all sorts of weather and can hold well in the field.  It has a distinct taste and slightly softer texture for persons like Rob who prefer that sort of thing.
Bronze Arrowhead
One of the things we like about Bronze Arrowhead is that, while it has a stronger lettuce taste, it stays on the right side of bitter far longer than most lettuces.  If you think the standard iceberg lettuce is the way lettuce should taste (as in - it has NO taste), then you might be overwhelmed by Bronze Arrowhead at first.  But, then, you'll recognize that it is ok for lettuce to have a taste and may find it difficult to ever go back.

Bronze Arrowhead is greener during warmer weather and redder during colder weather.  While we don't grow it as a cut and come again harvest, a person could start a few plants and harvest leaves for an extended period of time.

Bunte Forellenschus/ Bunte Forellenschluss

This variety has crawled up the charts of our favorite lettuce varieties over the past five years.  Part of that has to do with finding the right time slots and situations to successfully grow this lettuce.  With more growing success comes more opportunities to assess the taste and qualities of the lettuce.  Apparently, it has not disappointed since we keep adding it to our grow list every season.

Bunte Forellenschluss
Some people might notice the two spellings and wonder about it.  Our seed comes from Seed Savers and the name spelling change merely comes from them.  While we have not spent time figuring out why this change occurred, we can guess that it had to do with some verification research on their part for the origins of this heirloom lettuce.

Bunte qualifies as a butterhead type with softer leaves and beautiful red/brown speckling on the leaves.  While we think it is a beautiful lettuce, we have had trouble with people misinterpreting the speckling as problems with the lettuce leaves.  Honest, they are supposed to look like this!

This lettuce falls into Rob's top two for favorite lettuce taste/texture combinations.  Rob prefers smoother leaves that don't tend to 'crunch' when you eat them.  Maybe a better way to put it is that Rob prefers spinach to lettuce if he can get it.  Lettuces such as Grandpa Admires and Bunte Forellenschus cater to that preference by having textures that are closer to spinach and tastes that are sweeter, for lack of a better description.

Grandpa Admires

One of our favorites to grow, harvest and eat.  Grandpa Admires would be classified as a looseleaf or buttercrunch type of lettuce. This variety is more heat tolerant than most, so it usually appears in our CSA shares in July and even August. It also grows just fine in the fall, but it tends to have much more red in it at that time and is much more compact. The taste is likely a bit sweeter in the Fall as well. Large leaves with a softer texture. Excellent for sandwiches. If it gets a little 'wilty' in the fridge after a week, revive it with a quick soak in cold water. If you don't like softer lettuces, you won't like Grandpa Admires. If you don't like 'harder' lettuce textures, you'll love this one. We were surprised how well this variety did in the high tunnel, with decent heads holding until December. We have not tried to overwinter this variety. Grandpa Admires will sometimes 'tower' without resulting in bitter leaves. If flower heads start, that is usually the point that the taste rapidly declines. We will plant Grandpa Admires for five successions most growing seasons.

Crispmint



Crispmint is an all season romaine. It holds up pretty well in the summer months, though the edges might brown (this is known as tip burn). We've overwintered these under a low-tunnel (plastic) and they take off once the weather warms in March. These can produce big (1/2 to 1 lb) heads that are very crisp, but in some conditions it will produce a looser head with less weight. In that case, the taste and leaf quality is still fine - even if it is not the size and shapre you hope for. CSA members have given a strong 'thumbs up' on taste for this variety since it was introduced. There are claims that the leaves get sweeter the closer to the center you get - and like most romaines, that can be ALOT of leaves. A reliable crop, enjoyable to pick, impressive to put on the market/CSA table and they hold in the field well. This is one we used to highly recommend for all purposes. Sadly, it seems that higher demand has led to poorer quality in the seed stock. We are considering selecting for some of our own seed in the future. We have noticed that romaines at full size do not hold as well in a high tunnel, with outer leaves breaking and dying and inner leaves freezing and staying frozen. It's in the nature of the plant. But, small plants will overwinter just fine. Crispmint will show up in five or six successions every season. We are exploring other romaine options to alternate with it.


Australian Yellow Leaf


This is one of our summer lettuces that is very slow to bolt and produces very impressive "heads" with very large leaves. In this case, a head is more of a stalk with nice big lightly savoyed leaves. Soft leaves, generally mild flavor. This, and Grandpa Admires are two lettuces that are fun to grow, beautiful to look at, can get some good size (so make sure you transplant with a little extra space - or thin - to prevent bolting), and if you put transplants in rather than direct seeding, you can get very nice reliable crops. We have noticed that heavy rains or winds tend to make these plants look "sad" with the large outer leaves laying down (on the ground or drooping). At this point, you need to pick this crop before the leaves lose their quality. They will look fine (and taste great) once picked, soaked and given a quick shake to get the leaves to realign (one of the things you can do with a soft leaf). If left too long, you can still pick the smaller leaves off the top. The lower leaves will lose their marketability (but will taste good enough in your own salad) since the light green color can go from interesting to sickly looking when damaged. We grow this lettuce one to two times per season.

Amish Deer Tongue


This lettuce is a little harder to describe because it is very different than many we grow. The leaves have a spinach-like texture, and that texture suggests spinach enough that some people might detect a hint of spinach taste. We're not sure if that's inferred or actual. The taste and texture are just different enough that they add interest to a salad with more commonly known lettuces. Plants are compact and tough. Probably a better cool season lettuce as they don't hold long in warmer weather. Note: don't plant too close or you'll get tall/thin plants that aren't as full as they can or should be. Crowding due to overplanting or weeds will encourage bolting. And, unlike other lettuce, storm damaged leaves don't just 'melt' away as the plant grows through the damage. As a result, storm damaged plants are often difficult to market because of their looks. We expected these to do well in the high tunnel and they did do well enough. But, like a romaine, they don't unfreeze like looseleaf lettuces might. So, target them for November to early December (at the latest) in Iowa, but don't try to push it too far or you lose quality. A good variety to add for different texture and taste in the salad. We are growing this variety less often because conditions have to be perfect to get the best looking heads. We won't mind growing it if asked, but it doesn't make the rotation often otherwise.

Forellenschus


A beautiful spotted leaf romaine that does a great job in the early summer months. Hitting the timing for a fall planting is a bit trickier than some. These produce full and often heavy (1/2 to 1#) heads of lettuce, though we will often harvest smaller as the heat increases. They grow well during the summer - but you do have to watch to make sure they don't show signs of bolting - once they show any sign of it - they're going to go through the bolting process within 24-36 hours. Excellent all-around romaine. We have found that this lettuce may need an education component for sales. The brownish/purple spots are often misconstrued as 'bad spots' on the lettuce - much to the detriment of the seller (and the buyer who doesn't bother to ask, taste, or otherwise check out this variety). Once tried, people will ask specifically for this one. We did notice that this romaine handled life in the high tunnel better in December than the other varieties. It also overwintered well (get them to about 2-3 inches tall around Nov 5 and they'll hold there). We try to get two good successions in the Spring to Summer slot and will try to strike lightning in a bottle with a succession or two in the Fall. We don't usually try it during summer months.


Pablo


Pablo has rapidly become a favorite of ours. This variety forms loose heads as they approach maturity, but can be harvested younger as a leaf lettuce. They are longer season (60 to 70 days) and hold very well in the field. The biggest thing this variety has going for it is the taste. Many people reported taking tastes of the lettuce head as they prepared a salad, only to find that the entire head was eaten before the salad was fully prepared. Beautiful plants with big outer 'loose' leaves and a moderate sized 'head.' You can plant these relatively close and not have to worry about bolting. The only 'knock' on these plants is the relative fragility of the stems on the transplants. As a result, you will benefit from avoiding overcrowding each tray cell (so you don't have to tease seedlings apart and risk breaking them). If you direct seed, then you have to be careful about accidently breaking plants you want to keep when you thin. Good response to high tunnel growing in the fall. Not necessarily the best candidate to overwinter. These can also be a little harder to clean and prepare since they hold alot of water in the center. We still love this lettuce, but they don't seem to be growing as well as they used to and we wonder if there is an issue with the seed strain purity? We still try to put Pablo in the ground at least four times a season.

Gold Rush


This one is definitely a colder season lettuce. Once the daylight hours get longer and the weather gets warmer, it tends to bolt quicker than many of our varieties. On the plus side, it is very cold tolerant and doesn't show much damage after overnight freezes. It can be overwintered if covered and is a good candidate for late fall planting for early spring emergence. Very ruffled, light green leaves. Very attractive on sandwiches or salads. Tends to have a 'firmer' texture. Heads don't hold together as well as some varieties, but that means you won't get as much stalk as you will with others. Reasonably good high tunnel production in the fall. It is possible that they will hold longer than others, but they were all picked before we could test that theory. We did find that they host aphids better than most lettuces - even though it takes a while before the leaves are damaged. We have also noted that seed does not keep very well. So, don't buy too much extra and expect to use it the next season. This one is grown only at the very edges of the season in the coolest weather.

Magenta
Magenta lower part of photo

We grew this as part of a Summer lettuce trial in 2017 and we liked the results, so it returns in 2018. These are a very dense leaf lettuce that is reddish in coloration. This one fits the standard taste often found for large leaf lettuce put on burgers and other sandwiches in restaurants. It's not exotic, but it sure is a work horse. It will start showing up in late July and should run late into the season.

Winter Density

Don't let the picture at the left influence you too much.  We don't always get the camera out when plants are at their peak.  In this case, we pulled it out after a harvest/delivery and these were the ones that were left in for too long.  They exhibit some tip burn on the edges of the leaves.  However, I can tell you that they tasted very good at the moment the picture was taken because I sampled them after the photo op!

We've grown this one now for two years and we like the heavy green heads with heavy leaves. The texture is literally 'dense' and it reminds us a little of spinach texture. They hold well in the field and the taste remains mild even after they begin to bolt. They do have some issues with tip burn in warmer weather, but this variety also shows potential for being nearly as flexible as Bronze Arrowhead.

Other Lettuces We Grow

The following are lettuces we are trying out and have more limited experience with them. We will do our best to describe them here:


Nevada - 2018 is a first time trial for Summer lettuce. It is likely to be another heavy lettuce, like Magenta, but it will be a solid green. We will try to give more information as we gather it.

Bergam's Green - also part of the 2018 trial. The description sounds like it would be Nevada if you add savoying and wavy borders to the leaves.

Concept - a summer crisp type that is also in the 2018 trial. It is said to have some romaine characteristics.

Parris Island Cos - Here is one of our attempts to find a companion romaine for Crispmint. These should be very large green romaine heads. Early returns look very promising.

Red Romaine - We are trying to find a Red Romaine that produces better than Rouge d'Hiver. We are targetting later in the year for this variety.