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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mid April. Spring is here.... right?

Since the last time I wrote we have had 80 degree weather as well as frost. In fact, we had frost 3 nights in a row on April 15, 16, and 17. You'll notice that my calendar said "Last Frost" April 15th. :( 

Bees active on a warm day

We have had some gorgeous skies lately!


Asparagus is trying. It gets going and then the nights get cold and it slows down again. Hopefully the 30 and 40 degree nights are almost over and it can really pick up. 

Asparagus and Shiitake Harvest

Our first flush of Shiitakes this year yielded about 5 lbs. We need a lot more logs but this harvest was better than last year. We can force the logs twice more this year.

Production and Distribution

Last week The Pig hosted a luncheon with a farm to table theme. The lunch featured pig of course, almost every part of it, and goat cheese from Pipe Dreams Fromage in Greencastle, PA. There was supposed to be a full complement of veggies from our farm but with the late, wet spring I didn't have much to offer. Brad Parker, the cheese maker and I each gave a little talk about our specialties and the advantages of the farm to table model. 
Asparagus, Rhubarb, and Herbs from the farm

Pig-licious buffet by Chef Bonk

This cheese cake was really light and fluffy and the pistachios
were so good with the creamy sweetness

Cultivation and Maintenance

Busy, busy time... everything is starting to grow and the bugs are coming out.
The rhubarb is sizing up
This is the Rhubarb Flower which has to be removed
to keep the energy going into the stems

Rolled Up


We finally got the roll up sides done on the High Tunnel. It wasn't actually as difficult as I thought it was going to be. There was one bolt that was a pain to get lined up and through the pipe and the crank. After that it was a piece of cake. 


My sugar snap peas were sprouting and then falling over dead. At first I was worried they were getting too hot or not enough water. However, upon closer inspection I discovered that the seeds were being eaten by tiny little worms which were cutting the plant off from its roots. I collected a sample in a ziplock bag and headed to the extension office. 
Healthy pea shoot on the left with a dead one on the right
sample bagged up. You can see the hollow pea seed and the worms

The extension agent put it under his microscope. After conferring with other local agents they decided the problem was wire worms. They are the larva of the click beetle and are often a problem in fields that were formerly in grass or hay. That is just the case. This trouble is happening in our new field which was in hay until the fall when we plowed it in. 

Examining the sample
Our little wire worm problem

Now what? Well, wire worms are hard to control and once they have attacked a crop there isn't much to do to save the crop. Hopefully the pea plants that have made it this far are out of danger but the only thing to do is re-plant. The worms will become less of a problem as the soil heats up and they head deeper in the ground. Still, they stay in the ground for a few years before becoming click beetles so we want to get them out. I baited them in the high tunnel with cut up pieces of potato. We put the potato chunks on skewers and buried them about 4 inches down. A few days later we dug them up.

Potato traps in the peas
Here is what we found when we pulled them up. (Not for the bug-phobic). We actually found thousands of wire worms but also some thicker, white worms, possibly seed corn maggots?

Two kinds of worms and some rotten potato. Yuck. 

The next things the peas needed was to be trellised. We did this with T-Posts and some old deer fencing. 

In preparation for the tomato transplants going into the high tunnel soon, we laid irrigation and landscape fabric in their rows. This will help warm the soil and make it more hospitable for the summer plants. The warm soil will also help with the wire worm problem as it drives them deeper into the earth where they should not bother our transplants.

Asparagus Beetle

The next bug challenge this spring has been the Asparagus beetle. It is a small bug that is red, black and white and over winters in Asparagus berries. The first sign was these eggs that stick out perpendicular to the Asparagus stalks. They are gray/blue in color. The eggs hatch and the larvae eat the Asparagus from the inside. The adult beetles love to hang out on the top of the spears when it is sunny which makes them easy to pick off. In one day Gayle picked off (and squished) 96 of them. Once the eggs are laid you have to harvest the spear even if it is too small to stop them from hatching and disrupt their life cycle. 

Asparagus Beetle Eggs

Asparagus Beetle
When they see you coming they jump to the ground and
are harder to find

Deer Fence

It was time to move the deer fence down to enclose our new field. We had a gorgeous Saturday and help from Josh and Mara. This involved taking down the old netting which was full of holes. We are not re-using this in the new fence run but we are keeping it for things like trellising and patching holes. Everything on the farm should have at least 2 lives. Next we pulled, wiggled, dug, and otherwise yanked the fence poles and ground posts out of the ground and drove them into their new positions with a sledge hammer. 

Josh holds as Mara drives a ground post in

New placement of the fence encloses the new field as well

Mara, volunteer extraordinaire and future farmer!
You could have a picture in the blog too, come volunteer!


Heirloom Tomatoes potted up
Summer plants are coming along and the last of the spring plants are going in the ground. Our first round of tomatoes had to be potted up into larger pots so that they can get a bit bigger and ready to go out into the world. We also started cucumber, zucchini and squash which were fast and furious to germinate and fill our their trays. They are ready to go in the ground after only 2 weeks. 

Last round of Broccoli Raab being planted out

Gayle transplanting tiny leeks

Eating Well

Chef Bonk got all of Shiitakes at The Pig and featured them in a special with a fancy barbecue sauce. He said that they were so rich and meaty they needed their own plate. I wish I had been able to sample it but they didn't last long. 

Puddy Time

She loves laying on bare soil

With her dearest farm friend Maddie

Near the tools, pretending to help

She is so very lady like...

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