Most of the work on the farm these days is happening in our greenhouse. We started seeding mid February and each week since, we’ve seeded a new round of veggies and flowers. We’ve used a lot of propane to heat the greenhouse because of the incredibly cold weather we’ve had. Added to the increased usage, the cost of propane is double what it was last year! Fortunately we have CSA payments streaming in which helps with all of our early season costs.
We had a chance to plant several crops this week, including spinach, Swiss chard, bok choi, broccoli raab and some cold hardy flowers. The planting conditions weren’t ideal. For one it was a super windy day–not the nicest conditions for tender plants to get their start. But rain was forecasted for the following day (the following 3 days actually) so we new this was going to be our only chance for quite some time. It is important that seedlings not get root bound from staying in the trays too long. We also had to plant in the driest part of the farm, which was not the field we planned to have these crops in. Spring planting is very rarely ideal, and we know by now we take what we can get.
We had a couple balmy 50 degree days this week and were able to clean up the fields once and for all. We had some tomato posts remaining in the fields and lots of drip irrigation tape and irrigation main lines to gather up and store for the winter. Various harvest containers scattered throughout the barns got stacked in their final resting spot for the winter. It was nice to be able to do all these tedious clean up tasks in comfortable weather! A welcome and noticeable difference to this years cleanup was not having to pull out the black plastic that usually gets used in tomatoes, squash, peppers, ect. That is because this year we switched to biodegradable paper as our weed suppressant. Once we tweaked the equipment to lay the paper with out it ripping, we were pleased with effectiveness of the paper. And how nice not to have trash bag after trash bag of plastic leave the farm. Plus, it really does biodegrade! We planted our garlic this fall in beds that had the paper this summer, with no hint of any remaining paper. Speaking of garlic, it is starting to sprout! The first sign of life for the 2014 season!
In the fall, much of the work on the farm is preparing the fields for the winter. This means planting cover crop where ever possible. This practice replenishes the soil with nutrients from the green matter that will be mowed back under in the spring, helps cut down soil erosion, aids in weed control, increases earth worm population and microbial activity in the soil, and much more! The relatively wet fall we have had was very good for our cover crop germination. Pictured are a field of winter peas and a field of hairy vetch.We have yet to complete the task of getting nutrients out to the fields. We do soil testing regularly and find out what the soils’ needs are and amend the soil as necessary. We have to apply rock phosphate and gypsum on all 8 acres in production. These soil amendments approved for organic production are a healthy and natural way to provide next years’ crops with essential nutrients.
While we have prep for next season on our mind, we are still harvesting for this year and continue to go to market. Here are pictures of freshly harvested turnips and our market stand last Saturday. Most of the crops we are taking to market are either storage crops, like sweet potatoes and winter squash, or are cold hardy and coming from the field, like this beautiful bok choi and mustard green planting. And we also have lettuce growing in the protection of the hoophouse. We have moved indoors to the west end of the market and will continue to go through November. That means you can get your Thanksgiving vegetables from us!
We grow a variety of pumpkin called New England Pie pumpkin. While it lends itself well to the obvious pie, it is also wonderful in other sweet baked goods from pumpkin chocolate chip muffins to pumpkin bread. We cut the pumpkins in half, scoop out the seeds(reserve and roast the seeds separately!), and then roast until a fork easily pierces the skin. Then we scoop out the flesh and blend it into a smooth purée. This purée can then be thrown into any batter you choose. Pie pumpkin also works really well in savory dishes. You can use the same purée method and turn that into a delicious fall soup.
Apples from Downing Fruit Farm in Darke County
Downing Land (smaller, pink)
Fuji (smaller, red and green)
Winesap (larger, darker red and green)
The brilliant weather this past weekend is making it hard to believe this is the last CSA harvest of the season! We have been really pleased with the quality and variety of produce we provided this year and truly hope everyone had a good experience with our CSA. Of course the season was not without some disappointments (the eggplant, okra and bell pepper planting never amounted to much and the leeks and celery got a bit too weedy), but because we are a diversified vegetable farm, the boxes were always incredibly full! But despite being happy with each box that left the farm, we are never completely satisfied and are constantly striving to do better.
We will spend the off season evaluating each crop we grow and brainstorming ways we can improve what we do. Most improvements on the farm come with some sort of machinery purchase. A front end loader has been on our wish-list since Mile Creek Farm’s beginning, with Ben cruising for-sale postings since 2007! This summer the price was right on a craigslist posted front end loader for the ford tractor so we bought it. This winter, Ben will tackle the job of getting the loader attached to the tractor! A front end loader will allow us to delve into areas we have not yet been able to like making our own compost here on the farm.
In addition to the plethura of maintenance that needs done, this off season will also be spent reading and learning. Ben will read books with titles like “Industrial Fluid Power: Basic Text on Hydraulics, Air, and Vacuum for Industrial and Mobile Applications” and I will read books with titles like Woody Cut Stems for Growers and Florists: Production and Post-Harvest Handling of Branches for Flowers, Fruit, and Foliage (I see wreath making in my future!)
But we are actually far from it being our “off season”. Even though the CSA is over, we are still going to market with the first week end in December as our projected final date. Please visit us as we move inside to the west end of the market. We will still be harvesting lettuce, Swiss chard, kale, other greens, salad, radishes, turnips, broccoli, beets and cauliflower well into November in addition to having storage crops like potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, cabbage and butternut squash.
We will be in touch with our CSA members once we are ready to sign folks up for 2014 season and will regularly keep customers informed of Mile Creek Farm’s happenings through our blog and Facebook page. We hope you have a wonderful fall and winter and hope to see you and serve you soon! Thank you for your support!
Easter egg radishes
Sweet onions, not grown by us (As mentioned in last week’s post these come from our neighbor and friend Stephen Cook)
French Filet beans or Dragon Tongue beans
Apples from Downing Fruit Farm in Darke County
Melrose (darker red/green apples)
Jonagold (lighter red/green apples)
Golden Delicious (green apples)
Since last Thursday we have gotten 5 inches of rain. That’s more rain than we got during all of August and September! We had planned to finish up digging sweet potatoes, but that plan went out the window when the first thunderstorm rolled through on Thursday. Sweet potatoes don’t like cold weather so we were looking to get them out before the temperatures got down into the 30s. Fortunately even though it got cold on Monday and Tuesday, the sweet potatoes seem fine and it will just be a little muddy digging them out of the ground!
Elsewhere on the farm we had hoped to harvest salad mix with arugula for the boxes this week, but it turned out that the arugula was in a low spot in the field and on Monday morning the area was really an arugula pond instead of an arugula patch. Furthermore harvesting salad mix when the field are as muddy as they were on Monday is extremely time consuming and since muddy field conditions make harvesting everything less efficient we were barely able to get everything else harvested and washed.
In reality though the change in weather was welcome. We were scrambling to try to find warm clothes instead of filling out water bottles with ice. And when we harvest for next week’s box the fields will have dried up nicely.
Roasted Butternut Squash, Fennel and Beets (Chiogga Beets would work just fine)
Broccoli and Radish Salad (add apple!)
The sweet onions this week come from our neighbor, friend, and veteran farmer, Stephen Cook. He had a bumper crop of sweet onions and didn’t want them to go to waste. Unlike the onions you have been getting from us for several weeks now, sweet onions are not storage onions, so refrigerate and use soon. Stephen grows using organic methods.
This week Ben started the process of harvesting all our sweet potatoes. While this photo is from last year, the crop this year is looking similarly good.
In fact it is looking even better then last year because we haven’t come across near as much mouse damage as there was last year! It seems our cats are earning their keep. Or perhaps it is the other neighborhood cats that often appear on our property. Or maybe it was the screech owl we heard last night. Whatever the reason, we are glad to not have so many culls. You’ll get to eat these wonderful sweet potatoes in the final 2 weeks of the CSA season. But for now there are several other veggies to enjoy!