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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Week 8 May 21-27

It's getting hotter out there. This week we moved our start time from 8 to 7am. The idea is to start earlier and end later but take a longer break during the hottest part of the day. That didn't really happen this week. Mostly we just started earlier and worked longer. Everything is taking off and there is so much work to be done. 


Harvest Bins drying after Tuesday's CSA Harvest and wash.
This week we harvested Zephyr Squash, 2 types of Zucchini (almost 200lbs of Squash in one day!!!), 2 types of Cucumbers, Sunflowers, Beets, Carrots, Asian Salad mix, Radishes, Turnips, Kale, Chard, Basil, white and purple Potatoes, a small amount of Strawberries, the first for the Blackberries (only 2 pints but they are coming on strong), a small handful of Blueberries (most of them still need a few weeks), a few Plums (but the trees are still too young to produce a real harvest), and a small handful of raspberries (only enough for those who can grab them).

We did not harvest any Asparagus this week.

Strawberries are on their way out but here are the earliest fruits of what's next.
3 Kinds of Basil.

Our first new potato harvest in Newborn Field
We harvested potatoes from the Newborn field for the first time. They are not completely mature but Cory couldn't resist bringing some new potatoes to market. New potatoes are the same as potatoes, they are just immature. They have a thin skin and if left alone would get bigger and their skins would thicken. New potatoes are valued for having more flavor and a smoother texture. They are delicious.
Because we were only harvesting a small amount we did it by hand. Two people went through with pitch forks and broke out the plants that were starting to yellow (a sign that production has moved from green leaves down to underground storage). The rest of us followed behind and dug the potatoes out by hand. We filled 4 boxes at about 30lbs each, some white and some purple.
The first watermelons are forming in the lower field.

Coming Soon: Watermelon!!!!
Production and Distribution

CSA Week 6

In the Box
-1 Bunch Spring Onions
-1 Bunch Mixed Beets
-1 Bad Salad Mix
-1 Bunch Kale
-1.5lb Summer Squash/Zucchini
-1 Bunch Radishes or Turnips
-1 Bunch Chard
-1lb Cucumbers or 1 Bunch Carrots
-1 Sunflower
-1 Basil Bouquet 
CSA Delivery. 70 boxes headed for Atlanta.

It was my week to make deliveries. On Tuesday I delivered 6 CSA boxes to Covington and Conyers. Wednesday I took 70 boxes to 5 different drop offs in Atlanta. I saw my friend Kate at one location. It still feels awesome to feed people, especially when they are your friends.
Basil Bouquets wrapped in wet towels. 

All that pinting and bunching has to be done by someone. To keep the herbs fresh we pick them last and wrap the stems in wet paper towels. They don't go into the cooler until this happens and they go into the wax boxes (which help contain moisture). This particular job is probably the most pleasant one on the farm. The aroma of the fresh basil, the soft texture of the leaves, along with the attention to the aesthetics of the bunch and comfortable repetition make it almost zen like. 
The first Harvest of Potatoes at Market
Japanese Cucumbers- These are AMAZING.

I got to go to market again this week. Take a look at the beautiful new potatoes and 2 types of Zucchini. The gorgeous stripped one is an Italian Heirloom Variety called San Pasquale.

These funky curly cucumbers are a Japanese variety and are incredible crisp and refreshing.

The radishes were looking particularly sexy this week.
This week was abundant and we also sold to Noring Farms on Floyd, Farmer's Fresh, a Chef at a Hyatt Hotel and a few restaurants.


Kale gone to Seed
The fields are constantly changing as crops grow, mature and finish their productive lives. This week we retired the Kale and Cabbage from Gus' field. We stopped harvesting this Kale weeks ago and let it go to seed. On Wednesday we cut the tops off the plants and brought them back to the barn to dry out the seed pods and save seeds for next year.
Once the pods are dry they can be opened easily. Seeds are encased in a chaff, a dry protective casing. When storing seeds you want to separate the chaff from the seed and save only the seed itself. The process of separating the two is called winnowing. This can be done by dropping the seeds in front a fan into a bucket. The chaff is very light and flaky and will blow away, while the seeds are solid and heavier and should fall straight into the bucket. 
Drying Kale Seeds
Once we collected all the Kale seeds Daniel mowed them down with the bush hog. Then we pulled up the plastic mulch. Next he turned the kale and cabbage back into the soil, adding back in all of that organic material. 
Tobacco Hornworm-Crazy looking bug!

More new bugs this week. Meet the Tobacco Hornworm. He is, by far, the weirdest looking bug yet. Manduca Sexta is a moth of the Sphingidae family. The caterpillar of this moth is what we have found crawling on our tomatoes. They can be found on either tomatoes or tobacco. There is a separate bug called the tomato hornworm which is very similar looking but has a different colored horn and different markings. Because these caterpillars are so big they can eat a lot of foliage causing lots of damage. Luckily, because they are so big they are easy to find and pick off. The don't like direct sunlight so are easier to find at dawn and dusk when they venture out from the center of the plant.

Roll Up Side on HH1
We got the last of our Hoop Houses up and running this week. When I arrived 2 of them were just metal skeletons. At the beginning of this week the last one, number 7, had plastic on it but still needed the roll up sides. This is actually a photo of Hoop House 1 but it shows the roll up sides well. The idea behind a Hoop House is that it is warmed by the sun and cooled by the wind. So, using the roll up sides and doors you can control the temperature inside. Because it's so hot out now we keep the sides and doors rolled up all the time. However, when it's cool out you can close these and effectively warm the soil inside to one agricultural zone south, thereby extending the season in either direction.
Wednesday after making deliveries I helped Daniel get the roll up sides on number 7 started until we ran out of hardware. Thursday he prepped the beds with the tractor and we all laid plastic for tomato transplants. (Yes, more tomatoes. That makes 2 Hoop Houses and one huge field FULL of tomatoes :)

We transplanted more tomatoes into the lower field which also involved adding T-Posts and trellising. While we were there we weeded between all the rows. While in writing this looks like only 3 tasks it took ALL day on Monday. And it was hot. I emptied my water bottle 3 times, earned calluses and blisters on both hands and the next day the muscles in my hands were so sore it was hard to hold on to anything.
We also did a lot of planting in Hoop House beds this week including: Tomato and Cucumber transplants, Arugula and Beans were direct seeded.
I got to plant a bed all by myself with no supervision for the first time using the multi-row seeder. Arugula seeds are very small so I adjusted the openings down to their smallest setting. As you push the seeder along the ground the back wheel drives the piston which spins and distributes the seeds that you load into those 6 compartments. I can't wait to see this bed come up to know if I did it right!

Multi-Row Seeder

Planting Arugula
Kathy and Cory planted Sweet Potatoes in Lower Field 2 this week. Unlike Irish Potatoes where you plant the sprouted potato, with Sweet Potatoes you plant the sprout itself (called a slip). One Sweet Potato can produce upto 50 slips. We ordered some from a supplier but we also found several amongst the Strawberries. Both Strawberry fields were planted in Sweet Potatoes last year and the potatoes that were missed at harvest had sprouted. Here's one:

Sweet Potato Slips

Farm Life

Tuesday of this week we actually quit at 5pm. It was a hot day and Kathy and I knew just what to do. We picked up Puddy and went to the pool! This was the first day we'd had a chance to go since it opened. It's not a big pool but it's wet and cold and that's about all you need after working in the Georgia heat. The pool is also right next to the Main House of the Plantation. Neither one of us had been inside so we checked it out. 

Main House, a dining room

This is the smaller of the dining rooms. They were set up for a dinner and scotch tasting that night. Chef Andrew was gracious enough to show us around. We also noticed this Renoir in the sitting room.

Renoir in the Main House
For Real

In the Attic is a Museum of old artifacts from the plantation and family. It looked like a perfect location for a ghost hunters episode.  There were old clothes, dishes, books, furniture, dolls, you name it. 

Main House Attic Museum

Museum Clothing

Shoes, hat, gloves

Vintage Nurse uniforms

Kathy couldn't resist

Fred is the former owner of the house that Kathy and I live in now. He died shortly after he carried the 1996 Olympic torch in his 90s.

Fred carrying the 1996 Olympic Torch
We also had some more tiny carrot parties this week with the neighboring horses. 
Horses Lined up waiting for carrots


This hot weather is perfect for cold salad. This is what my lunch looked like most of the week. All the produce is from the farm. The bread is home made and the strawberry jam is last year's strawberries preserved.

Dead Snake at our house

I found this guy by our mail box. The only skin that's left is on his head. He looks non-venemous to me so I was a little sad to see him in this condition.

As you can imagine, farming is hard work. After 6 weeks of thinking it would get easier as I got stronger I was still groaning every morning the first few times I had to bend down or squat. I was always surprised by this involuntary, pathetic sound when it came up from my knees and out of my mouth. I realized it was time to stop thinking about Yoga and start doing it. For the past 2 weeks I have set out each night to do 20 minutes of gentle, stretching Yoga. I listen to my body. It tells me where it's stiff and sore and I do whatever it wants me to do to make it feel better. I've only missed one night and each time I go beyond 40 minutes. I quit when I'm done and sleep like a rock. It paid off almost immediately and keeps on getting better. Sometimes you just have to trust your instincts and listen to your body. This time it has worked out quite well. Namaste indeed.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Week 7 May 14-19

This week I helped take care of business in the office by going through Cory's "filing" system. We back-filed old papers and organized and filed papers from this year. Most of it is expense tracking. There are so many tools, supplies, infrastructure and inputs. It's good to get an idea of what it really costs to run a farm. There are also other little details to keep up with like, oh, vehicle registrations. I found a past due notice on one of the vans and showed it to Cory. It had expired in January and slipped through the cracks. This was Monday. Wednesday Cory got pulled over and got a ticket for driving an unregistered vehicle. Add another expense to the column!
Kathy and I also got to help Cory fill out some of the Organic Certification forms. Apparently you can start farming on a field and then apply. If the field passes before harvest then those veggies are certified organic. We had to describe the field in detail, it's physical attributes, all bordering land and it's uses, 3 years of history for the field, what is planted there now and what inputs you have used or plan to use. Then it will have to pass an on sight inspection. This field will bring us from 16 up to 19 acres certified organic. 3 years ago it was pasture and Cory has had it in cover crop for 2 years. Now we have over an acre of potatoes planted on it.
I also got the chance this week to follow Cory around on a Farm Tour. Eventually we will all need to be able to lead one of these. This group won a chef demo with Burge's Chef Andrew and a short farm tour was part of the package. They were 8 older ladies who were more interested in socializing and cooking than farming so the tour was brief and did not go into much depth.
This week we harvested a tiny bit of Asparagus, Strawberries (which seem to be rebounding once again, not in quantity, but they are firming up. The mystery bug was identified as a false chinch and true to the extension agent's word it didn't stick around long), Onions, Solo Garlic, lots of Summer Squash (Zephyr and Zucchini), Arugula, Peas (English [last harvest] and Sugar Snaps), Red Romaine Lettuce, Turnips, Sunflowers, Zinnias,  Pac Choi, Broccolini, Cucumbers, Radishes, Asian Salad Mix, Kale, Chard, Carrots, and Beets.

Our Sunflowers are really stunning, aren't they?

Solo Garlic- a variety of Elephant Garlic

Solo Garlic. These were mixed in amongst the Elephant Garlic. They look like and onion but are actually one solid round Garlic clove. Supposedly they are really good roasted. I can't wait to try.

Asparagus Forest

This is what our Asparagus looks like these days. We got one bin twice this week. That's not a lot. At peak we were harvesting 5 bins a day. They are also really hard to find. It's a case of not seeing the trees for the forrest.

Production and Distribution
CSA box Week 4
In the CSA Box this week:
-Pac Choi
-Red and Green Lettuce
-Straberries (or Sugar Snap Peas)
-Sunflower or Garlic Flowers

Now that's a salad spinner!

This is a 5 gallon salad spinner. I used it this week to wash and dry our Asian Salad mix for market.

Squash Bugs are a big problem here. We haven't seen any in the Hoop House yet but the 2nd planting of squash in Jeff Cook Field is CRAWLING with them. While harvesting this week Kathy and I killed dozens of them. It's amazing how in 7 weeks I've gone from slightly bug squeemish to being able to squish them between my fingers (with gloves on). We also collected all of the leaves on which they had laid their eggs. We sealed them up in a bag and took them back to the barn to burn them.
Apparently, the reason we plant squash every 2 weeks is because the plants can produce well under high bug pressure for about 2 weeks. Then once the plants succumb to the pressure a new planting is ready.
Squash Me!

Squash Bug Eggs
Infanticide- Burning Squash Bug Eggs

Imported Cabbage Worm Adult=White Butterfly

Squash Bugs weren't the only things we killed this week. We also have a lot of imported cabbage worms in Jeff Cook Field. They really like the Broccolini. We had to submerge it in water for a while after harvesting and then pick off the little green caterpillars. And squish them. Ew. 
Imported Cabbage Worm

Indigo Cherry Tomatoes

The tomatoes are growing tall and strong and fast after the rains. We headed down to the lower field Monday and added another row of trellising. Check out these beauties! Indigo Cherry Tomatoes. They are supposed to have some super cancer fighting goodness. I can't wait to try them!
The more mature the tomato plants get the itchier they make your arms. We learned that from now on they will be better handled with long sleeves.

Blackberries, pre-weeding
3 hours later (it's a long row)

Weeds, weeds, weeds. With all that rain last week the weeds have taken off. The Blackberries are turning from green to red but they were hard to find amongst all the Johnson Grass. We all spent a few hours before lunch one day, and then an hour after, weeding them.
Other weeding this week: All new plantings in Main House field, Carrots, Strawberries, Tomatoes.

Loofah, Luffa, Lufah

Loofah Seeds

We save lots of seeds at the farm. This week we got the seeds out of last year's Loofah. Each Loofah had dozens of seeds. We have some started in the greenhouse. When we plant them we have to find something that they can climb. They are a tall vine and can grow 30-40 feet up! I can't wait to see these in action. 

Pear Tree Graft

Only one of the 4 grafts has survived but it's looking healthy and strong. It's not a huge surprise that we had such low success. We were on the late side of grafting season and everything is earlier this year because of the mild winter. It's probably a little bit amazing that this one made it. 

Lots of Compost

Compost. This is how much compost we generated on CSA Harvest day. It's mostly the outer leaves of greens and Broccolini. 
It actually is pleasant to use

The deer are out in force and have started nibbling on our veggies. We have electric fences and are about to hook them up. We also have this product which we spray directly on the crops they like the best. Check out the first active ingredient:
First active ingredient: Putrescent Egg Solids. Yum.

Trellis for Cucumbers

Cucumbers are coming up strong. We harvested some this week and should have enough for the CSA next week. These babies are AMAZING. They are so crisp and refreshing. If you have only ever had supermarket cucumbers then you don't know what you're missing. Go get some real cucumbers this summer. Go! Now!
They grow on a vine and when left on the ground grow in crazy curly shapes. When allowed to climb they hang down and grow straight and long.

We transplanted winter squash and melons with the transplanter. While we were in the lower fields we ran out of water/fertilizer. I got to run back to the barn and get 2 gallons of fish guts/fertilizer. It comes in a 50 gallon barrel. Ideally we would have a pump to get the liquid out. However, what we have instead is 2 hoses. One points down to the bucket an the other points up. We blow into one to build up pressure so that the liquid comes out the other. That means you get to put your mouth over a hose with 50 gallons of fish guts at the other end. Yes, it is pretty gross and a good workout for your lungs. Somehow I pushed through and brought the liquid gold back to the lower field for the winter squash.
On Saturday I spent 4 hours hand transplanting over 400 lettuce plants while listening to Radio Lab and This American Life podcasts. It was actually kind of a nice day.
I started a few seeds in the greenhouse for my garden at home in Decatur. I'm going to do a 3 sisters garden with Corn, Beans and Squash. I started them on Monday and by Saturday afternoon they started to emerge! So exciting! I chose this garden because it should be relatively low maintenance and I will only be able to see it once a week.

Farm Life
Red Fox. Not my picture, these guys move fast. 
We saw one of these this week. It's a red fox and we're pretty sure he's eating our Strawberries. Cory was kind enough to identify his poo for us and dig through it with a stick. We saw lots of nuts and seeds along with some small bones. Puddy has also found some fox scat and it's her new favorite thing to roll in. Oh yeah, that happened again this week. Puddy is getting a lot of baths on the farm.

Zinnias and a Teddy Bear Sunflower
Not sure who this belongs to....

I found this egg under the back steps at our house. I'm not sure who it belongs to but it's pretty big.

Horse snacks

We spent some time weeding and thinning carrots this week. That means we ended up with a huge bag of tiny carrots. Kathy and I brought them home where we sorted them. The bigger ones we kept to eat and the tiny ones we are sharing with our 4 legged neighbors.

White Beauty at Pasture Field

Carrot Party!
Fatty Fatty McCarrot Stealer!

Puddy Time with Special Guests
Puddy guards the greenhouse while I work inside

Checking up on the grafts

Is it time to eat yet? (Sprocket has lost 2 pounds!!!!)

Finding his favorite spots
Surprise! Visitor.

This little guys nearly scared the daylights out of me. We were harvesting onions in Jeff Cook Field on our hands and knees. I didn't see or hear him coming and he snuck up behind me and stuck his head up under my arm nuzzling into my ribs. Sweetest sneak cuddle attack ever! He really slowed down progress with his lovable disposition.

On a final note, thank you for reading! I continue to get some really great feedback and I love it. I'm writing this blog for many reasons but perhaps the most important is to share with people the benefits of eating local, sustainable food. Feel free to email any time, or leave a comment. Some of you have asked how. Just below this post is a link for comments. Click on it, type in your comment and your name. Then select anonymous so that you don't have to sign into anything in order to leave your comment. Thanks again and I'll see you here next week!