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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Week 9 May 28-June 2

What a week! The absolute highlight this week was working with the bees. We have two beehives at Burge. On Monday we suited up and went into the hives to check on their health and harvest some honey. I've created a section on it under Production and Distribution this week.
We got a little rain this week which was great except for the fact that I spent most of Monday in wet clothes. Still, it's something to be grateful for.


This week we harvested our first Tomatoes, Honey, lots more Zephyr Squash, Zucchini, Cucumbers, Kohlrabi, Komatsuna, Broccoli, Broccolini, Cauliflower, Blackberries (!!!), New Potatoes (Pink and Purple), Kale, Choi, Chard, Carrots, Radishes, Green Beans, Spring Onions, Strawberries (still hangin in there), and Asian Salad  Mix (Mibuna, Mizuna, and one other)

Sungold Tomatoes, the first of the year.

Pile O Kohlrabi
Kohlrabi- Weird lookin' vegetable
Blackberries ripening
Blackberry Harvest

Big, Beautiful Berries
These leaves wrap around the cauliflower
while it grows

And open when it ripens

Tower of Flower
That Sunflower is about 12' Tall

We harvested all of the Elephant Garlic this week. Very little, if any of this will be sold this year. The goal is to keep most of it for seed. Here it is sitting on pallets under the barn carport to cure.

Production and Distribution

Local Organic Flowers saving the world
This week we delivered to a new restaurant in Midtown and a new Florist. The Florist came to us last Saturday at market and asked about our Sunflowers. She was doing a wedding and the bride and groom requested local, organic flowers. We brought her a variety of Sunflowers, Blue Hydrangeas, and Garlic Flowers. I think it's pretty awesome that the local movement is going beyond food. Commercial cut flowers are a pretty nasty business. Most of them are grown south of the border and because they are not eaten there are little to no regulations on pesticides. Subsequently, they are huge contributors to water pollution and the workers are frequently seriously ill from exposure to toxic chemicals. There's a little food for thought next time you want to show someone how much you love them. Maybe instead of going to the florist you could pick some wild flowers or pick up a bouquet from your local organic farmer. Better yet, grow your own and you can enjoy them much longer.

In The CSA Box this Week
-2# mixed Summer Squash and Zucchini
-1# Cucumber
-1 head Komatsuna
-1# Broccoli OR Broccolini
-1 bunch Swiss Chard
-1 bunch Carrots OR 1 pint Blackberries (but probably carrots...)
-2 heads Kohlrabi
1.5# New Potatoes- purple and white
-1 head Garlic

Market was a little bit different this week. Because the church that hosts the market had an event over the weekend market was pushed to Friday night. There was a big Top Chef Competition and apparently it was a very festive atmosphere. However, it was a different crowd than Saturday mornings and not much of a produce buying crowd. Not the best market for us. I wasn't there though, it was my weekend to work on the farm.


Two days this week I got to work with the bees and the honey. On Monday Cory, Daniel, Jason, and I suited up and inspected both of our beehives. They look basically like this:

What you see here are the levels of the hive, called Supers, which each have 8 frames in our case. The frames slide in and out and are what the bees "draw" their comb on.

These are the frames. The top one is empty and the bottom one has comb which is made from bees wax. When we inspected the hives we were looking to see what was in the comb. It could be eggs, larvae, pollen or honey. This just depends on what stage and where in the hive the frame is located.
The process involved dressing up in tyvek painters suits, mesh hoods, and two pairs of gloves. I don't have any pictures of us in suits because my phone/camera was in my pocket, under the suit. Here's a picture I stole from Kathy when she did this before I arrived:
Once we suited up we smoked the hive. The metal thing in Cory's hand (below) is a bee smoker. It consists of a fire pot, bellows and a nozzle to direct the smoke. You light compressed paper in the pot and that creates a cool, white smoke which you blow on the hive. The smoke makes the bees think there is a forrest fire and that they need to retreat into the hive for safety. It sort of lulls them into a calm because it puts them off the defensive. The first place you smoke is the entrance to the hive because there are bees whose sole job it is to defend the front door. Once they are subdued you remove the lid and smoke the top super. Then you can gently pull each frame out and inspect it (there are dozens of bees on each frame). We were looking to see if there were eggs and larvae to determine if the queen was healthy and active. While we were in there we found 5 frames between the two hives that were full of honey. We took those five and replaced them with empties. The five full frames sat in our cooler until Saturday when we borrowed a honey extractor from a neighboring farm.
Cory suited up with the bee smoker. Those 2 hives are bigger now.

Looking into a Super

Inspecting a Frame

These two pictures are borrowed but they give you an idea of what we were looking at.
On Saturday Cory, Daniel and I extracted the honey from the 5 frames we harvested on Monday. We set up in one of our walk-in coolers (though the cooling unit was turned off). It was important to be in an enclosed space because if one bee finds this much honey they will go back and tell their hive and before you know it you will be under attack. Our barn is an open space so the cooler is the only safe place. (It also has low lighting, sorry for the poor picture quality.)

Here you see Cory opening the capped off cells with a heated blade. It melts the wax so that the honey can come out. You do this on both sides of the frame.
Hot Metal Knife
Cutting open the cells

Full Frame in the cage inside the extractor

Next the frame goes into the big metal cylinder which is the honey extractor. Inside the cylinder is a metal cage that holds two frames. You put them in on opposite sides, close the lid and crank the handle. This spins the cage and pulls the honey out using centrifugal force. So basically, it is a centrifuge. Once one side of the frame is empty you turn each frame around and spin again. The honey is puled out to the wall of the cylinder and drips down to the bottom.

This frame has been spun out. The orange stuff remaining in the cells is pollen, which stays put. We then cut all the remaining wax off the frame. We save the wax and will use the clean frame in the hive again.

None of Yo' Bees Wax

So, now we have a metal cylinder full of honey. We drain it from the extractor, through a double filter into a bucket with a spout on the bottom of it. The filtering takes time because the honey is thick and the holes are very small on the 2nd filter to keep out any impurities. 

From the 2nd bucket we fill the bottles. 5 frames of honey and 5 hours of work from frame to bottle yielded 27 bottles. We will probably save most of this and after the next big harvest it will go in the CSA boxes. 


Of course there was weeding this week. The biggest weeding project was Lower Field 3 between the LONG rows of Squash and Melons. Three of us worked on this for over 4 hours on Monday and then again for about 4 hours on Friday. We did finish the field, which feels pretty good. My shoulders and arms are getting pretty strong with all the wheel hoeing going on around here.
Saturday morning I weeded the onions in Jeff Cook Field. I was able to use the wheel hoe between beds and the scuffle hoe between rows but the weeds were wrapping themselves around the onions so hand weeding was required between plants. Each row took over an hour. I finished 3 rows listening to This American Life, Radio Lab, and The Splendid table. That would have felt good if there weren't 7 rows left to do.
Squash Vine Borer

The Squash Vine Borer is a wasp looking moth that lays it's eggs in the soil. The larvae hatch and bore into the vine which they eat from the inside. This prevents water and nutrients from flowing to the rest of the plant and it wilts and dies. They are difficult to treat once present. The best thing is to remove and destroy the plant before the larvae mature and lay new eggs. Floating row covers help keep the moths out but they also exclude bees which you need to pollinate the flowers so they have to be removed when the plant blooms.
We turned in our first planting of Squash this week as it was overcome by bug pressure. 

Tomatoes- SO CLOSE you can almost taste them

One very important job on the farm is observation. The simple act of walking around and looking at things is so important. Once you learn the signs the plants will tell you what they need. For that matter, so will the fields and the soil. Now, I'm not quite there yet and I imagine it takes years to be able to read all those subtle signals but it sure is fun to walk around and try to pick up on them. One of the coolest things to see is those plants that are stepping up to the plate, ripening and promising to be delicious if we just keep them safe for a little while longer.

Watermelons, if we can just keep the deer and raccoons off

Kudzu Bugs
More bugs, of course. Any time you see this many bugs in one place it's bad. This is the Kudzu Bug. It is from India and China and was first introduced into the Southeastern US in 2009. Since then it's population has skyrocketed. It likes legumes and we found it on our soybeans in Jeff Cook field in swarms. It sucks the moisture from the plant and reduces yield. This would be okay if it stuck to Kudzu but it is an agricultural pest. Because it is so new we're still not sure of the best way to deal with it. We tried one of our organic pesticides on it this week but it had no immediate affect. Cory considered a shop vac but the field is remote and we're not sure how to get enough power out there.

Kudzu Bug up close


We start most of our plants in the Greenhouse. Some of them we start in trays with lots of small cells and as they grow we move them into trays with fewer, larger cells. This week moved Tomatoes, Peppers, and Eggplant from 200 cell trays to 50 cell trays. In the 50s they will have more room to grow bigger root balls before we transplant them out in the field.
We received more Sweet Potato Slips this week and transplanted them into Lower Field 2 with the ones from last week. I think we now have 5 or 6 varieties. Melons, Cucumbers, and more Squash went from the Greenhouse into the field. We plant a succession of Squash about every two weeks. The first Squash of the year succumbed to Squash Bugs and Squash Vine Bores and was turned back in this week.
Summer Crisp in the Greenhouse, ready to go out. 
600 Summer Crisp lettuce plants that I started in the Greenhouse on May 7 were ready to go out this week. Here they are in the Greenhouse.  Lettuce is usually a cooler weather crop but these varieties are bred to handle more heat and we planted them under a shade cloth. We have heard of other local farmers having great success with this so we're giving it a shot. 

Summer Crisp Lettuce under Shade Cloth

The beans I direct seeded last week. 

The arugula I direct seeded last week. 

So many projects on the farm are group projects so it's fun when you do something on your own to watch it grow and know that it's "yours". Above is a picture of the Beans and to the right the Arugula that I direct seeded last week. It's fun to watch them emerge and think about how many people will get to enjoy them because of the care and attention I paid while planting them. I also find myself walking past them whenever possible and pulling weeds on my way to other task. The farm is so vast that it's nice to be able to take ownership of little parts of it because most of the time it feels out of your control.

Farm Life

This week brought a little bit of heart break on the farm. I share these things with you because they are part of life on the farm or anywhere that you can be in touch with nature and the circle of life.  Monday there was a dead fox in front of the Hoop Houses. He had no obvious injury. I would have guessed that he had been shot (this is a hunt club) but that did not seem to be the case. They are such beautiful creatures but they also eat our strawberries and who knows what else. By Tuesday the smell was pretty bad and it had been drug across the street, possibly by buzzards. By Thursday he was little more than a skeleton. 
3 Little Birds
Sadder still was that a nest with 3 tiny eggs in the small Greenhouse was robbed. We had been observing the nest for weeks. In the morning we would see the mother fly out and in the evening she would return and sit. This week they hatched and we checked on the little babies every day. We never touched the nest, just observed. Each morning the mom would be there and she would return at night. Occasionally we heard their little contented chirps. Until Thursday when I looked in the nest and it was empty. These fledglings were too young to have left the nest of their own free will. We can only assume they were taken as a meal for some other animal who lives to fight another day. It's part of life and only fair in the grand scheme, but still it's sad to see.


During a long lunch I set up my hammock in the back yard for a quick siesta only to open my eyes and see 5 horses lined up along the fence. Apparently I'm the carrot lady now. I didn't get much of a nap as I had to go inside and get them some carrots, then make them take turns and snack politely. You try saying no to 7,000 lb. of hungry horses.

They just love me for my carrots

Hey, lady, you got some carrots?

Let's not forget the donkeys. 


Sometimes I just get caught up in the beauty of it.

Puddy Time
Back by Popular Demand. Namely, because my Dad complained last week.

Side Note: Blogspot is giving me a formatting headache this week. I'm sorry if it looks sloppy but it won't let me fix it. :(
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