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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Week 2 April 9-15


Asparagus Growing
This week we harvested more Asparagus, Strawberries, Kale, Golden Beets, Arugula, Easter Radishes, Hakurei Turnips, Red Turnips, Red Cabbage, Green Cabbage, Green Strawberries, Spring Onions, Leeks, Green Garlic, and New Potatoes.

The Asparagus has not been fond of the cool nights. We have had 3 nights in the mid forties down to the mid 30s. The Asparagus seems to have slowed down quite a bit on those days. We are hoping to still have a few more weeks of harvest before they are done for the year. You can only harvest Asparagus for 5-8 weeks. That number is affected by how much of a winter there was to put them into a state of dormancy. The longer they are able to stay dormant the longer you can harvest from them. You know that harvest season is over when they start to grow much slower and the spears become smaller in size. We didn't have much of a winter this year so we are about to see how much that affected our plants. 
A Perfect Strawberry

Russian Kale 

Kale and Strawberries are still going strong here. Both are really delicious and I eat them every chance I get. Check out the recipes for Kale Salad an Strawberry Pasta in Recipes From The Farm.

Production and Distribution

I'm adding a new section this week to tell about where the produce goes once we harvest it from the field. Burge has developed a relationship with several local chefs. Each week we let them know what we are harvesting and they put in an order for produce they want to have delivered. On Tuesdays we harvest for the chefs and on Wednesday we deliver to their restaurants. 

Jason, Kathy and I. 2012 Burge Organic Farm Apprentices

This week was the first week of the Peachtree Road Farmers' Market. Burge sold there last year and built up quite a customer base. Today was opening day and a lot of customers came over and said how glad they were to see us back at the market and that they had missed us during the off season. We had a great day and sold out of everything except for one bunch of Arugula and one bunch of Turnip Greens. 

Easter Radishes

In order to have enough produce for the market we spend all of Friday harvesting, cleaning, bunching and packaging everything that is good to eat. This week the Strawberries and Asparagus were the biggest hits, followed by the Easter Radishes and Golden Beets. 

My First Farmers Market on the other side of the produce!

It felt really good to be at the market supplying a community with quality, fresh, local food. It really is like a dream come true to be a part of this. One highlight from the market was a kid who couldn't have been more than 10 who bought some turnip greens from us. Cory gave him some ideas and a recipe and the kid was eager to go home and cook them himself. We also had 2 little girls from 2 different families who each said that Kale was their favorite food (after my own heart). Their parents bought it for them as a treat! These kids are on the right path to a healthy and happy future and I am helping!


We are always planting the next thing it seems. This week was no exception. We planted Brassicas in  Jeff Cook Field.  Brassicas are an important genus because they contains more important agricultural and horticultural crops than any other including: rutabaga, turnips, kohlrabi, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, mustard and rapeseed. Broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts are actually the flower of the plant. We are late with our broccoli this year because the early seedlings were wiped out by a late freeze while they were still in the greenhouse. We have lots growing in the field now and hopefully they will grow up and be ready for harvest before too long.
Long furrows of seed potatoes

Sprouted potatoes ready to plant.
The view from the transplanter.

We also planted more potatoes this week in Jeff Cook Field. For this we used the transplanter again and again got a little soaked in fish guts and sea weed fertilizer.

Starting Seeds in the big Greenhouse

Kathy, Jason and Daniel also planted corn transplants in Jeff Cook Field using the tractor and transplanter. Then we started even more corn in the greenhouse. 2,048 Sweet Corn seeds to be exact, as well as 456 lettuce (2 varieties), and 768 Burgundy Okra.


This week we completed the trellis for the peas, weeded the strawberries and asparagus, weeded the blueberries and blackberries in the orchard using weed eaters, cleaned out 2 more hoop houses for new plantings and weeded and broke up the clay crust between the garlic and onions. Weeding is a constant battle in organics. Sometimes we use plastic mulch (the white stuff in the tomato pictures below) which helps a lot with weed suppression but is not reusable or biodegradable. The makes it cost prohibitive and adds environmental impact so it is only used as needed.

Our tomato plants in the hoop house are coming along nicely and it was time to remove their suckers. These are branches that grow in the arm pit of the main stem and an existing branch. If left they try to become another main stem and compete with the rest of the plant. By removing them you promote a strong main stem and good structure for bearing fruit. You also allow the energy of the plant to be focused on one main stem instead of several. This job was really fun because you feel like the plant is saying "Thank you" for removing the extra load. They also secrete a delicious smelling goo at the break so all during the task and after you smell like a fresh tomato plant. We did learn however that this is a job for gloves because that goo turns your fingers yellow at first and then black for a few days. Here is a before and after picture.
Now you see it
Now you don't. So long Sucker!

We did lots of irrigation this week because we had no rain.  For our onions and garlic we had to set up temporary irrigation, which we had to move every few hours. All of our water comes from wells on property except for 3 fields. These are the lower fields and are situated downhill from a lake. They get their water from the lake via a gravity driven system of pipes and filters. Well water is preferable because it has better pressure and doesn’t have to be filtered. 
Orchard Irrigation faucet inside an ant hill

Our orchard irrigation is run in a series of lines. Each line has a faucet at the top end. We had to turn on 4 lines for 24 hours each then switch to the next 4 for the next 24 hours. The faucets are about a foot underground inside of a large PVC pipe that sticks up out of the ground. Most of these have turned into huge ant piles. In order to get to the faucet we have to dig out all the dirt that the ants have hauled in for their construction project first. Mind you, all this dirt is crawling with ants, hundreds of them. This is a job for gloves, long tools and quick hands. One of the few holes that wasn’t an ant hill was in fact a black widow nest. I’m sorry to say I squished her but I felt that I had to since my fellow apprentices and I would have to keep sticking our hands down that hole until we get some good rains.

Mr Larson Grafting one pear
variety onto an older, different pear
Speaking of the Orchard, we had a really great visit on Friday from Jerald Larson of Fort Valley State University, a leader in organic agricultural research in the state. Mr Larson is an expert in organic management of orchards. He walked through our orchard with us giving us tips on pruning and spreading branches for optimal shape to help the trees bear and support fruit and also make them easy to harvest from. He gave us advice on dealing with pests including scale and blight and how to manage weeds in the orchard.

Tree Graft Illustration
What was really incredible was he showed us how to graft trees. This is a process where you take a small branch from a tree and insert it under the bark of another established tree creating a new tree that has the established root system of one but the fruit production of the other. It's like alchemy, turning one thing into something other. It really did feel like magic. The few short hours we got to spend with Mr Larson were just enough to get all of us apprentices' interest piqued. I'm looking forward to watching these grafts develop. We have to check and water them every 3 days at first and growth is supposed to happen quickly. I'll definitely be adding updates as those trees develop. 

Farm Life
I must be getting used to getting up early. On Thursday my alarm was not on but I woke up at 7:00 on the dot with out it. Friday we woke up early to get a head start on harvesting for Market. Saturday we were up at 5 to meet at 6, leave a t 6:30 and be at Market by 7:30 for an 8:30 start. The only reason we are able to get up so early is that once we are done working each day we are so tired that we are usually asleep by 10pm, if we make it that long. 

Good morning, I'm here for the mouse problem

I mentioned briefly last week that we had mice in our house. Well, we put out some poison and they indulged in it every night for 5 nights. We believe it has worked and that the mice have been driven out of the house. On Monday morning when I took Puddy outside she found this at the bottom of our back steps. We haven't seen the actual snake yet but I suspect he is getting fat on mice and outgrowing his skin.

Puddy meets horse

Puddy got to interact a lot with our large 4-legged neighbors this week.  She has been meeting them one or two at a time through the fence behind our house. So far they have all been a little bit curious about her so they reach their big heads down for a sniff. She thinks they are just great and keeps trying to sneak through the fence to go play with them.

Puddy meets donkey

There are two donkeys in the pasture with the horses. They seem to be particularly excited when they see Puddy whereas the horses are curious at first but quickly get bored. I think these donkeys and Puddy will end up being friends.

Ant bites have become a regular part of life along with sore knees and the desire to spend lots of time stretching my back. This work is not for sissies. Still, it feels good to be using my body to produce real food. Another nice benefit of all the hard work is that I get to eat lots more calories while still getting leaner and stronger. Farm to Eat. Eat to Farm!

Blood and Sweat but no tears yet.
I cut my finger in a minor strawberry grading accident.

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