Blog/Farm Newsletters

Posted 12/13/2011 10:57am by Dave Ruggiero .

Actually, it has been here for a week or two, but such is the nature of this blog (especially without Brosi around).

The farm has been a fairly quiet place since the Thanksgiving rush has passed.  Many of the inhabitants have left - Brosi is back home, the summer workers no longer come around, the turkeys and broilers are gone, many of the pigs have disappeared.  Even the ever-present insects are largely gone, aside from a few half-frozen grasshoppers we occasionally find in the greenhouse.  Not until noon do they come groggily to life and half-heartedly hop away from you.  The plants, too, are largely gone or dormant - long past are the days when I could walk around the farm and wonder at all the veggies growing, way too many for the boxes to come.  Now I am  happy for the few crops still at it out there - kales, mostly, and a few Asian greens and leeks.

On the other hand, deep winter has not yet settled upon us, so we can be thankful for the chance to walk around the farm at all. Once the snows really come we rarely even venture so far as the creek, instead living out our lives in the acre or two of land that comprises the greenhouses, packing shed, wash station, and barn.  If you don't mind the crisp mornings, or the frost not burning off until lunchtime, now is a fine time for a farm walk.

I have been busy of late preparing the seed order and planting schedule for next year.  I'm trying to pay particular attention to it since I'm supposed to be presenting on that very subject at this year's PASA conference in February!  Keeping the CSA supplied year-round with vegetables is a tricky task and one that I like to think we get better at every year.  There are inevitably going to be weeks where you don't get much - and other weeks where you get too much - but we really do try to balance that out.  Factor in planting times, different varieties, expected yields, and the occasional insect outbreak or freak weather event, and the planning can get a little complicated!

Folks always ask me what we do to keep busy in the winter time- you all know we harvest salad mix for the CSA, but what else goes on here?  Well Adam has to make all those crates you all love, especially when you forget to return them.  Steve is busy fixing up and/or winterizing animal housing; as our resident mechanic he also spends a lot of time each winter doing maintenance our our tractors, ATVs, trucks, and farm implements.  When most of your tractors are older than most of your farmers, there is a good bit of maintenance to do!  The greenhouses require attention on more than just CSA harvest day - keeping weeds and pests to a minimum is a busy job.  We're also spending time right now pruning the blueberries, mulching strawberries, garlic, and overwintering carrots, chopping and splitting firewood, fixing our walk-in coolers, cleaning our irrigation supply room and barn, taking all our used plastic mulch to get recycled, and testing out recipes for Food Shed products!  And of course the farm is transitioning to an LLC business structure, while Marsha is busy with year-end accounting and bookkeeping.  It's also about time to start looking for new summer members, so if you've gotten this far be sure to tell your friends how busy we are all the time!

I hope your holidays are approaching with lots of joy and very little stress. We'll see you all soon! - Dave

Posted 11/2/2011 8:38pm by Brosi.

As I realized I started the previous posts with "where did (insert month) go?" I also found the last post was about August flying by and now it is November.  I'm guessing not much happened on the farm in September and October.  Truthfully, it rained. After writing about rain in most of the newsletters, I think we all just didn't feel the need to also blog about it.  However, last weekend we got snow, so we are back to blogging.  It all makes perfect sense right? 

The rain, particularly in September, wasn't exactly the weather we were looking for. Although we were very fortunate not to loose any crops flooded out by the rising creek as many other farmers had to deal with, the inundated fields made many plants quite unhappy.  The last plantings of beans, tomatoes, cantaloupes seemed to give up after that and while the turnips, carrots, broccoli, kale and other fall crops hung on, it definitely seemed to set them back. Due to the wet ground, we also missed a window to plant some additional fall season crops such as more lettuce and mesclun mix. Perhaps the biggest impact might be how the wet grounds delayed or eliminated the chance to seed fall cover crops in many of the fields.  Not only do they provide erosion control over the winter, but some such as hairy vetch also serve as a nitrogen source for next years crops.  These last few sunny, gorgeous fall days are  helping the sprouting rye and wheat, which grows at a suprisingly rapid rate for so late in the season.

Also growing at full speed are the winter greens in the greenhouses: spinach, lettuce mix, baby kale, tatsoi, baby chard, beets, mesclun mix and more are filling up the beds, building up reserves for the winter.  We are also busy harvesting the remaining fall crops: carrots, turnips, rutabagas, cabbages, etc before the snow flies again and this time doesn't melt the next day.  Although without snow, we resort to throwing the crops at each other so perhaps it is better to have a snowball fight than battle with precious turnips.

We will be having the FoodShed Grand Opening and Havest Fest this Sat. Nov 5th at the farm, which we hope everyone can stop by to check out the completed FoodShed building, tour the farm, have questions answered, and enjoy the music, art, as well as tasty food available for sale.  Helping with the csa share distribution and seeing all the members picking up their shares always serves to remind me of the bigger picture of where all the work at the farm is going. In the same way, We hope visiting the farm gives the members a chance to see not only where their food comes from, but the farm they sustain and make possible.

Happy November!

Posted 8/31/2011 8:13pm by Brosi.

When did August sneak upon us?  And completely fly by? 

I'm truly not sure, but just as those weeds have grown up in that leek field that had none as of early July, the blog has also grown neglected.  Neither thing is surprising, Dave predicted that the blog would be a bit more sparse during the summer months.  Which is a pity because there are so many exciting things going on.  But when trying to decide whether to eat another bowl of ice cream, write a blog post, or weed the leeks, typically the ice cream wins.  Despite claiming an affinity for both blogging and hand weeding, it feels I've spent only a pittance of time on either this summer.

As we are rounding that corner to fall, appreciating the beautiful days and cooler nights, we also begin to worry about the fall harvests.  Have we planted enough and early enough to size up before the killing frosts?  It is also a tricky balance to not seed things too early so they won't keep through the winter.  We seem to have some early fall harvests, particularly our first winter squash planting, which benefited greatly from mulching, both plastic and hay in the aisles.  The farm becomes a difficult juggling act it seems to me.  Trying to determine whether to work on harvesting those boutiful crops that were cultivated through the summer (raspberries, beans, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers), versus ensuring there will be a similar bounty in the fall and through the winter CSA. 

Also after the long days of summer, and the later sunrise, it feels a bit harder to spring out of bed.  However, Dave and I were discussing how the weekly CSA distribution, while a bit hectic packing boxes, is energizing.  All the encouragement we recieve from members, and seeing everyone come together to pick up their boxes definitely provides an energy boost and inspiration.  We'd just like to thank everyone for such support and encouragement!

Tags: august
Posted 7/10/2011 2:49pm by Brosi .

July.... when did that sneak up on us.  Probably while transplanting at 0.8 mph placing leeks that have waited their turn...and waited some more.  They  waited until some even achieved the desirable pencil size diameter that Roy said was optimal but we all thought impossible.  Then some became marker size and things got serious.  So they sun came out, the thunderstorms missed us, and they got planted.  I'm thankful for fewer seedlings to water, but i'll miss my daily companions that I, or someone else on the farm, or the rain, has watered for the past 2 months.  I'm hoping now they have more soil they will grow a little faster in their second half of their life despite a bit of a delayed graduation. 

Leek seedlings in plastic tray

 

Newly transplanted leeks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other farm vegetables have far less restraint.  A month ago the daily harvest switched from asparagus to zucchini and cucumbers.  There is something quite amazing in the rate those vegetables can grow.  We try to keep the zucchinis on the smaller side, sometimes a little too much. However, by hiding for one day they can become the large club easily seen protruding from the plant.

 

  

The first watermelon and cantaloupe plantings, photo below, are coming along nicely, particularly the ones that got hay mulch between the plastic beds.  A weed free sight for sore eyes. Some of the cantaloupes are showing signs of bacterial wilt transmitted by cucumber beetles, but we are hopeful most plants will make it until we can harvest them.

 

First cantaloupe planting

 

The mulched beds of winter squash, below, seem quite happy, with some baby squash even starting to develop in the first planting.

 

Winter squash beginning to vine out

Onions are growing, as we start to harvest the larger of the fresh white onions.  Peppers are slow....or maybe i'm just overly eager for them.  They seem to flower so early then the waiting begins, even longer for them to turn colors.  But they say patience is a virtue, and we all certainly appreciate our members patience and support through this years rainy slow spring.  

 

 

Tags: July
Posted 6/21/2011 6:38am by Roy Brubaker .

I want you all to know that our farm crew has been working very hard, and happily, as well, in spite of our most unusual wet, muddy growing season.  Fields have been accessible for tractor and equipment only for short windows of time, and then rain comes again. This means much more hoeing and weed pulling.  Plantings have gone in late, plantings—especially peas and beans, have been stressed and terminated by all the excess moisture.  This season has for sure been our wettest in my memory!  And for years I have been saying the dryer the season the better our production!  So will we ever get your CSA boxes filled to capacity?  I’m hopeful.  Our guys are so determined to ensure our later crops will come through.  A lot of straw mulch is being spread around our melons, squash and cukes to stop the weeds.  Weeds pulled from around every pepper, onion, sweet potato plant. Plants taken to the fields and planted by hand (since it’s too wet to use the tractor and planting equipment).  So you, too, can be hopeful that good things are coming.  But we acknowledge that the boxes currently are not what we had hoped.   And we appreciate so much your understanding and patience.  That’s part of what the CSA model espouses – keeping community in the lean times and the abundant.  Thank you!

      To update you on the Food Shed, we had a group of educators to the farm this week and served our first meal from the new kitchen.  It’s almost finished, though we still need to have final inspections and approval.  We also have a fair amount of landscape work to do.  We are so eager to have it all completed over a year after we broke ground. Plans for open house will been made after final approval, and we hope you will be able to enjoy the benefits of this facility in the years to come.  We will also still be having our annual June festival – normally a Strawberry Fest, now just a Summer Fest, this Saturday and invite you all to visit. 

Posted 6/14/2011 11:53am by Dave.

After last week’s water problems the farm crew was finally forced to muster our resources and attack the irrigation problem from every angle.  One person setting up the system just wasn’t cutting it anymore, even if there were plenty of other tasks at hand.  Finally we had to send everyone out – running drip tapes, moving overhead sprinklers, fixing leaks and pumps, networking all the miles of tubing together and trying to keep track of how it lays in a way that makes sense later.  Finally, by late Thursday evening, the thirsty crops all had a direct line to the cold water in Lost Creek.  Thunderheads moved in as if on cue and dark rumblings sounded off in the distance, but aside from a few sprinkles the rains never came – so all the work seemed worthwhile.  We did get a good soaking over the weekend, but the crops under plastic mulch are much happier for the water and having the system set up is a great weight off our shoulders.

      Otherwise the farm crew is settling into summer.  We found ourselves slowly adapting to last week’s heat, so that the cool mornings this week have taken us by surprise. The weeds are as dense as ever, but the strawberries are (sadly) diminishing already, and the constant rush of transplanting occasionally abates.  Before long blueberries will be ripening, and then tomatoes, and summer will be over before we know it – so I hope you all can take some time to enjoy June while it’s here!  

Tags: summer, water
Posted 6/6/2011 9:24pm by Brosi Bradley.

Not sure what a June bug is exactly or what makes it so busy, but that is how it feels at the farm.  It is a satisfying level of busy along with a thankfulness that it stopped raining long enough to get transplanting.

The farms transformation seems as sudden and rapid as the trees getting leaves this spring.  I know its going to happen but still shocks me everytime with how rapid the spring melts into summer.  The early taste of August weather around Memorial Day has been a boon for drying out fields, but a stress for keeping those plants already in the ground happy.  We have  an irrigation system, but the man hours required to get it set up are currently primarily devoted to the 3 person beast known as the transplantor.  We've all spent many a fine hour in the comfy seats.  

You start by squeezing little plants out of their plastic trays, hoping the roots hang together, planting them into the opening left by the metal water wheel along with a nice puddle of water that will tide it over until rains or irrigation.  Adam has spent enough hours in the drivers seat during the end of last week that he should have been able to reach California, unfortunately due to only reaching max speeds of around 0.4 mph, he instead only would have barely made it out of town.  Instead of the miles of black tarmac stretched ahead he sees raised black plastic beds or freshly prepared soil.  While the speeds are slower and noticeably less exciting than Nascar, it requires the same level of professional driving to keep the wheel centered on the plastic bed, while avoiding the drip tapes hidden below.

Today the strawberry plants Roy ordered finally made it out from the cooler and into raised beds courtesy of Dan, Deb, and Adam.  Last week it was a mix of transplanting from corn and soybeans (yes most other farmers find this insane but it gives us a good stand establishment and a jump of those weeds), cantaloupe, sweet potato slips, cucumbers, zuchinni, eggplant, and winter squash.  Most of these seedlings seemed to have a peculiar propensity to grow rather tall and leggy, which is not desireable in a transplant as you'd prefer short and sturdy stem rather than one more liable to snap.  I'm not positive what's been causing this, most likely leaving them inside the protected greenhouse for longer than I should.  However, I prefer to think its like the way pets begin to resemble their owners or vis-versa, hence plants seeing my height as a guide.

As we have more and more plants in the ground more time is devoted to taking care of those plants, weeding, watering, harvesting, putting on row covers, taking off row covers, and so forth.  Its definitely been a slow start to the spring, but things definitely seem to be taking off for the most part with these last couple of sunnier weeks.

Hope everyone has had a chance to get out and enjoy this beautfiul spring weather.

Posted 5/23/2011 9:00pm by Brosi .

 

I have a tendency to overreact regarding weather trends.  A few days of clouds and rain is a never-ending flood.  Similarly a week without rain is the drought of all droughts.  So obviously I've felt like this spring has been extremely rainy.  However to hear Roy say this is the wettest April and spring he has ever seen adds some weight. The past day of sun may not have even begun to dry out the inches of rain we received last week, but I think it did a world of good for our collective mood.  We went around digging out those sunglasses and hats that were buried under raincoats and trying to mow grass that very easily could be raked and baled over what was once a lawn.  
Walking around the fields you see some unhappy tomato and pepper plants asking why they were sent out to this wet cool place where the sun rarely shines. Meanwhile, the onions seem quite okay and just thankful to no longer be captive in 3/4 inch blocks.  The tomatoes and cucumbers in the greenhouses, however, are gloating to their unlucky and uncovered neighbors on the hill.  Intent on transforming the tame lush carpet of salad mix into the jungle walls of summer, they seem quite happy with the added compost.  The greenhouse plants also seem to think that perhaps if they grow even taller they might reach the sun that they still believe is out there somewhere.
While the weather hasn't been the best for the early crops, we keep working away. The rainy days mean the greenhouses have never looked better, the thistles practically leap out of the ground when weeding, and we have spent very little time on irrigation.  Also with some bed space made during the week  of sun earlier, we have quite a bit of hand transplanting that can be done.  While it is difficult and a bit stressful to plan things to fill the box this rainy spring, we are so thankful for the support of our CSA members throughout the seasons including those such as this one with a bit of a rain delay.  By the time of summer tomatoes, hopefully this crazy rainy spring will be a distant memory.

 

Tags: rain, spring
Posted 5/12/2011 8:14pm by Brosi.

I'm sure if we end up in a drought, I'll be complaining about the sunny days, but for now we are all just so grateful the soil eventually has become dry enough to prepare and seed and transplant into.  So we've been rather busy this week, but in a very good way.  Rather than blogging about rainy days, we've been more apt to be found sitting behind a tractor going at a speed somewhere between snail and turtle, leaving a trail of green behind us.  Although we have transplanted some things by hand (first tomato planting, spinach, some chard etc,) we were finally able to use the new transplanter Roy aquired over the winter.  While it took a bit of adjusting, it was able to seat 4 people which made the onion tranplanting twice as nice. As has the wonderful timing for Deb to join full time and jump right in at full speed. Before we can transplant though, it takes a lot of work to transform the fields into either smooth seeding beds  or raised plastic beds for those that need the extra warmth or weed control.  Staying late on Saturday, after the crew worked on field prep, Adam and Dan made enough beds for us to plant to our hearts content Monday and Tuesday with plenty of vacancies for all those trays of onions, peppers, eggplants, zucchini, and cucumbers.  Another wave of seedlings will be ready to go out shortly but it feels good to be moving them out to the field not just rearranging trays.

Onion Transplanting 

more onion transplanting with the tractor

Transplanting onions (Adam driving, Dan, Brosi, Deb and Fabian transplanting in the back)

 

 

 Below is a photo from a few rainy weeks back of Dan and Dave transplanting early potatoes by hand as tractor transplanting was ruled out by the wet ground.  It is a bit easier to have the tractor carry your plants, dig your holes, add water, and give you a ride versus planting by hand. However, the potato plants now poking out and growing well makes the early extra effort seem worth it.  

 

Dan making holes with the kentifer for early potatoesDave transplanting early potatoes by hand

 

The first planting of tomatoes (those early jungle ones) were also transplanted by hand up on the hill above the road.   The plastic beds, which were made late last fall, provided the earliest chance to get things in the field. 

 

Dan and Dave back to business transplanting roma tomatoes by hand

Transplanting tomatoes by hand up on the hill

 

 The forecast doesn't call for sunshine forever and there is more to finish up before the next rain.  However, I am so grateful that instead of walking by the greenhouse and feeling guilty at the sight of onions imprisioned in their tiny trays, I can walk to the field and look at the new rows of tidy greens, with plenty of space to grow finally.  The same holds true for the corn, beans, peppers, eggplants, sprouting potatoes, zucchini monsters, and tomatillos.  A few giant tomato plants waiting to go out here and there is something I can handle.  Although most things won't be producing for quite some time, it is a wonderful feeling as we start the first summer distribution this week to know such progress is being made!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted 4/28/2011 8:04pm by Dave Ruggiero.

I woke up at 3:30 this morning to a terrible cacophony outside.  High-pitched, howling winds, buckets of rain hitting the side of the window, and thunder and lightning - strangely, very little thunder, but lightning pulsing and flaring every fifteen or thirty seconds, as if some enormous strobe light was parked over my head.  The wind and rain blasted the house for at least a half hour as I tried to go back to sleep, but it was no use - the constantly blinking blaze of light in my room, bright enough to read by when it hit, would not allow me to fall asleep. 

When I finally did, I slept fitfully, full of strange dreams, and awoke to a calm morning and a blinking, useless alarm clock.  Dan, Brosi, and I made our way downstairs and discovered that we had not overslept - it was about a quarter to seven - and that we'd all watched and listened, fascinated and a little horrified, to the fantastic weather three hours earlier.  We ate breakfast and nervously ventured outside, curious to see whether the plastic had been ripped off the greenhouses, the chicken coops (and their inhabitants) had been blown across the fields, or maybe the Rapture had happened overnight.

Miraculously, none of these things seemed to have come to pass.  The greenhouses were intact, the chickens were safe, and the farm crew, with their widely varying degrees of faith, all showed up for work.  It did make a farm full of worry about the wet spring start to wonder just how much we were going to have to put up with before we could get farming this year.  Rain is one thing, but weather that the National Weather Service described as "tornadic" is another (there's your word of the day!).  Raining frogs or lava floods seemed within the realm of possibility. 

But, weather-related chatter can only last so long, and getting to work there were plenty of signs of hope for the year.  We've already harvested about three hundred pounds of asparagus this week - a hundredfold increase over last week - and the rhubarb is sizing up nicely too.  We've been getting plants into the ground every way we can lately - making beds by hand, reusing greenhouse space, tilling up dry corners of well-drained fields - and the strawberries are starting to flower.  We farmers always say we like working outside and being out in the weather, so I guess we can't complain when it puts on a show.

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