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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Week 3- April 16-21


This week we harvested: Asparagus, Strawberries, Kale, Turnips (Scarlet Queen and Hakurei), Arugula, Lettuce, Spinach, Golden Beets, Easter Radishes, Zucchini Flowers, Collard Shoots, Bulbing Spring Onions (transient Vidalias), Sun Flowers, Mint, Sage, Catmint, Wild Flowers, and Red Cabage
Our Golden Beets, Spring Onions, Turnips, Radishes, Cabbage
Asparagus and Easter Radishes at the Peachtree Road Farmers' Market

Asparagus Update: The tips are opening up faster and faster. Once they open more than just a little bit we do not sell them because they are on their way to looking like this:

Asparagus Phase 2
Once the shoots open up the stems become woody and more bitter. There are male plants and female plants and they will continue growing this way for a while, soak up energy from the sun and pollinate. When winter comes all of the growth above ground dies off and the plant underneath goes dormant. Here is where we are running into trouble this year. Because we had such a mild winter our plants did not get enough time in dormancy. They need this yearly nap to store up enough energy to produce in the spring. It's kind of like getting fat and hibernating. So our asparagus have been woken up by the warm weather a little too early and are still feeling groggy. Cory looked at our asparagus production last year and we are way under the mark. It's a bummer because it's such a delicious veggie and we wait for it all year. You'll           
                                                                    see more affects of the mild winter later on in this entry. 

Production and Distribution
We did a large restaurant delivery on Wednesday. It's time for us interns to start taking over some of these tasks so Kathy did it this week. I'm up in a few weeks. She enjoyed meeting the chefs who appreciate and seek out local organic food and I'm looking forward to the same.

One thing you have to keep in mind as a farmer is where your market it and continually work to build it. There is a pesto maker at the Peachtree Road Farmers' Market who is interested in buying a lot of basil from us this season so we are planting a bunch just for him.

Once you know where your produce is going you have to make sure you have enough for everyone. Perhaps most importantly for your CSA members since they are putting their money in your hands in advance and trusting you will return the favor with a bountiful harvest.  Our CSA deliveries start this coming week so we had that in mind as we harvested for restaurants and market this week.We are on the very of a produce explosion but this week and next are seeing the end of a few key crops. Because of this we held back some of the best stuff to make sure it gets into those CSA boxes.

Pretty little Sunflower
Up until now Fridays have been our longest days. We start a little earlier and end about an hour later in order to harvest, clean, pack and prep for market. Starting next week we will be just as busy, if not more so, mid-week prepping CSA boxes. I expect this was our last "easy" week for while. This Friday was pretty sweet though because we made bouquets out of our first sunflowers of the year and an assortment of wild flowers and herbs. The smell of herbs and flowers mixed with sweet onions and green garlic was intoxicating and made prep time fly by.

We are now on a market rotation. In general one or two apprentices will go with Cory to market each Saturday. One will stay and work with Daniel on the farm and the one may have a day off. This week I got to go to market which really is a pleasure. There wasn't the hype of the first day but still a lot of people who were really grateful to be getting such good food. I also got to spend a little more time looking around and meeting the other vendors. I got some handmade lava mint soap and organic home made energy bars. I tried to get raw milk but all of their supply had been pre-ordered. Next time I have a market day I'm going to order my milk a week in advance!


This one's got a runner!
Another symptom of the mild winter, and a pleasant one, is that our strawberries are early and extra sweet. We can't keep them stocked at the market and the restaurants love to buy them too. We even have a market for our seconds which get turned into delicious popsicles at King of Pops and cocktails at H&F Bottle Shop.

However, they are getting kind of antsy and in their safe plastic mulch and sending out runners. These are long vine type branches that are looking for new soil. Once they find a suitable spot they will clone themselves and start a new strawberry plant. While this is flipping awesome, we don't want to encourage it just yet. The energy they use doing this work is energy we would rather see going into making more of those red beauties. So, as we harvest we are pinching off every runner we find. This should prolong production a little bit but it also means the end is in sight. Once we stop harvesting we will let these runners go and do their work. Once they start that new plant we will harvest it and pot it up to be next year's strawberry plant. Pretty cool.

Because we constantly need to be planting to keep up with demand we did a lot of field and bed prep this week. One task was laying plastic in the lower fields. This is done with a tractor implement called a plastic layer. It makes an easy job of stretching out one long piece of plastic over a 600' field, laying the irrigation tape underneath and burying the sides. Here is Daniel demonstrating the technique:
Daniel shows us how it's done.

That spool in the upper right is irrigation tape. It is fed under the plastic. You'll notice he has it wrapped around his right leg while he holds the plastic in place. In reality Kathy and I did this part and Daniel drove the tractor. You just have to be carful to keep your hands clear of those wheels and dirt pushers in the back as they are lowered down. You also have to keep that drip tape wrapped tight or else it will pull through as the tractor moves forward.

Here is one row in progress. 

We got some much needed rain this week which gave us a good chance to work in the Hoop Houses. There we pulled out some winter crops, prepped beds and planted new crops. Prepping those beds is all done by hand and involves many steps. All the while you are working on a bed you must be careful not to step on it because you will compact the soil.
Wheel Hoe with blade. Cuts weeds off just under the soil. 
First step is to wheel hoe the bed to kill any old plants including weeds.
Now you rake to remove all of the tops and some of the root of the plants who's heads you just severed. Get as much debris out as possible, raking the whole bed a few times.
Grab some compost and spread it over the whole bed with a shovel. The technique is kind of like sprinkling cinnamon sugar on toast with a spoon, only much bigger.
Now work the compost into the soil using the wheel hoe only this time with the fork attachment.
Same tool but the blade is switched out for forks.

Next you rake, rake, rake to remove any remaining debris, break up clods and level the bed. When you think you are done, go ahead and rake some more and then a little bit more for good measure. At some point Daniel will tell you "It's okay". That means you should probably rake it a few more times.
After that you can spread the fertilizer which is chicken poop. Do this by hand while carrying the 50lb bag. If you're luck enough to have another apprentice near by, one of you can carry the bag and one can grab the poop.
Now you're ready to plant.

Other important maintenance work this week was trellising the tomatoes in the hoop house, weeding, weeding and weeding the asparagus.

We learned a cool trick about getting your carrots to germinate. Plant them on the same day as you plant beets. Cover them with a row cloth to keep them extra warm and moist. Check these two plantings every day. As soon as you see the beets come up, pull the row cloth and lightly week just the top of the soil where you planted your carrot seeds. This kills all the weeds that have sprouted which will save you lots of weeding later and it gives the carrots room. We did this and the very next day the carrots popped up like magic. Cory said this is the first time he has tried this trick and it's the most successful his carrots have every germinated.
Lady Bug Larvae, for real

This week we learned what a Lady Bug Larvae looks like. Nothing like a lady bug, right? But these guys are awesome. They can eat up to 50 aphids a day. They are even better than adult lady bugs because they are much hungrier. We are constantly surrounded by bugs out in the fields so expect to see a lot more where this came from.

Tree Grafts Week 1

Remember the trees we grafted last week? We checked on them twice this week, removed their bags and sprayed them with water and fish guts. Here is one. It's hard to see but the buds are opening and have new green growth.

We started a ton more seeds in the greenhouse this week while it was raining outside. More Corn, Lettuce, Zinnia, Cucumbers and Melons.
Seeds and trays in progress
Transplants hardening off, squash and pepper
The trays on the right have grown as big as they can in their trays and are ready to be transplanted into the fields. We moved them outside to harden off. This is where they get used to real world weather before the culture shock of being ripped from their plastic trays and shoved into the soil. It's kind of like middle school. 

The crops that we transplanted out this week were Squash, Zucchini, and Cucumbers in the lower fields, asian greens (Joi Choi, Pak Choi, Choi Sum), Basil and Lettuce in the hoop houses.
Hoop House with some older crops on the outside edges, choi sum in the middle and new seeds started.

Crops we direct seeded in the hoop houses were Turnips, Beets, and Arugula.

Farm Life
The week started out a little shaky as a stomach bug made it's way around the crew. Jason got it first and was out sick on Monday. Cory was next on Tuesday. Kathy, Daniel and I escaped but it worked its way through Cory's family too.
There were a lot of wildlife encounters this week. First thing Monday morning we found this guy in the Main House Field: (and the turtle too)

Daniel teaches Kathy how to pick up a turtle, then takes him to the lake

Right before lunch we found this guy hanging out in Daniel's jacket on the tractor seat. Here he is making his escape:
Black Rat Snake
We're pretty sure we have one of these living under our back porch at the house, which is fine by us if he would just eat the mice before they move in. Kathy trapped a mouse under her dresser this week. We haven't seen signs of any more and are working to plug up all the holes around the house to keep them out.
Wednesday I discovered a tick on my right shoulder blade and about had a fit. Of all the bugs in all the world these freak me out the most. He was in pretty deep and Kathy was no where to be found. I had to calm myself down long enough to get him out. I started by putting a tissue soaked in vinegar over his whole body. I'm not sure if it did any good, it certainly didn't make him give up. I couldn't find any tweezers and the CDC website said to get it out as quickly so as possible so I grabbed him and pulled. Luckily he came out all in one piece (but not without a fight). I threw him in the sink and he started crawling out! I still had my harvest knife on me so I cut him in half. There wasn't any blood so I don't think he could have been on me too long. GROSS!
Thursday I swallowed a bug while harvesting Kale. Cory saw me gagging and spitting and was sure I had caught the stomach flu everyone had. I said "No, I'm fine, I just swallowed a bug" "Good" said Cory.
Determined to eat more meals from the farm I spent the week collecting seconds and eating them. Here is a meal in progress of discarded turnips (skin was scarred with bug damage), too far along asparagus (remove the bottom few inches which are too tough even to cook and the rest is delicious), and left behind potatoes and carrots which I found while cleaning the bed they were in over the winter (nothing wrong with these guys but some of them got sliced up with the wheel hoe). Upper right is some home made bread rising.
Not fit for sale but I ate like a queen

I also got to try my hand at making Zucchini flowers. See the recipe in Recipes From The Farm
Foraging Poke Salad with Ricky

Our Friday Fiesta this week was amazing! Our local foraging expert, Ricky, took us on a short walk about and pointed out edibles all along the way. It was so cool it's going to get it's own blog entry but here's a sneak peak.

Some parts of the Burge Plantation are just beautiful!
A rare carnivorous tree in a secret grove that Ricky is protecting.
Laundry. These pants have just been washed. 

Sunny Day Still Life
Puddy Time!

Puddy goes to town with us to get mouse wars supplies
Riding in Style in Kathy's Beetle named Cherry Bomb. 
Checking on the tomato transplants.

With her new best friends.

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