The weather finally broke enough for us to plant today! Ben spent all day yesterday on the tractor, or more accurately, tractors. (ALL day, as in 7am to 10pm. As I tucked our 3 yr old in to bed she sleepily said “I hear daddy on the tractor. Working hard.” I like the thought of the tractor’s low rumble lulling her to sleep) Throughout the day, as I harvested the CSA vegetables with the crew, I saw Ben on a different tractor. He hilled beds with one tractor, switched to another to get some desperate cultivating in, then switched to another to till the hilled beds, and then switched back to the original until he could no longer see to hill as many beds as possible for future plantings. Then today, with weather threatening all day we planted. We got our first major planting of fall brassicas in as well as another round of beets and beans.
To provide our customers with food all season long we have to plant each crop multiple times throughout the season. We did miss several plantings: sweet corn, salad mix, lettuce, basil, parsley, scallions, summer squash, melons, cucumbers, tomatoes, and probably more that I’m not remembering. You’ll get/have gotten these in your boxes, thanks to first plantings actually getting planted and growing strong, but there will be gaps coming up.
That said, we are very happy that the rain held off for us and today was a success! It lifts a weight off of our shoulders and makes us smile!
Hakurei salad turnips
Red or green kale
Red leaf lettuce
Summer squash (last of the season)
Jalapeño and Hungarian hot wax peppers
Kossak giant kohlrabi
(We updated our web program and I can’t figure out how to make a link anymore, so for any vegetables you are unfamiliar with, just type into the search bar at the right and if there is an info page it will pop up for you)
This week marked our final field planting. We had a few flats of head lettuce and salad mix to plant and enlisted the help of our flower harvester and bouquet maker, Brooke, to get the job done. The greenhouse is now empty, circulating and vent fans turned off. It is hard to believe that the greenhouse will remain empty until the end of February when we will start next year’s onion seedlings. It is also hard to believe there was once a time when the greenhouse was so full of flats, we were strapped for space. But the brisk air, shorter days, cool nights and changing landscape are all daily reminders that the summer season, the season of a packed greenhouse, marathon planting days, and endless weeding jobs is coming to a close. At the same time, the vegetable harvest is still going strong. We love fall for this reason: a slightly decreased work load with an abundance of vegetables still coming out of the land. We hope you will enjoy all the unique varieties of turnips, kohlrabi, greens and radishes we grow as much as we do!
Notes from the farm
Over the weekend Ben and I had a chance to leave the farm– only to discuss the farm over breakfast and coffee. This was the first of several discussions we will have as we gear up for next season. When we order next year’s seeds, we will first go through the list of veggies one by one and talk about how they faired: Did fennel sell well at market? Did we have enough early season cabbage for CSA? Was there too much bug pressure on zucchini? Etc, etc. When the season comes to a close and we make our final sale, we will have a financial discussion. Hopefully we will see that the farm didn’t spend more then it made!
The purpose of the talk we had this weekend was just a general discussion of how the season went/is going. We want to discuss things while we are still busy, while things are still fresh in our mind, and before we relax and forget issues we had earlier! We wanted to see if there are major changes we need to think about for next season. One thing we discussed was increasing our mid week flower sales and increasing our storage crop (potatoes, winter squash, onions, etc) production. In order for this to happen we need a new walk in cooler! As our Friday crew can attest, when we have buckets of flowers, freshly harvested market vegetables, and towers of onions and potatoes in the same cooler, we are constantly looking for an inch of free space! I spend too much time on Fridays reorganizing the cooler! So, it is becoming apparent that we need a separate flower cooler. Add “construct another cooler” to the winter work list! I imagine it will be like all improvements we make on the farm: “how did we do this before??”
Instead of leaving you with a picture of me and Ben talking about the farm, I’ll just include some shots from the week– cabbage looking real good, pumpkins harvested and starting their curing process, and some sort of contraption Ben had to rig up in the machine shed while performing regular tractor maintenance!
Recipes Kale and potato gratin (I used cheddar cheese because that is what I had on hand and whole milk. Also to increase amount of greens to equal 3 bunches of kale, use your turnip greens and add in final minutes of sauté OR the beet greens and add along with the kale)
With the appearance of winter squash and the disappearance of tomatoes in this week’s box, this week really signals a shift in seasons. While this current heat wave would seem to suggest differently, summer crops are on their way out while the number of fall crops ready to harvest increases every day. We’ve harvested the acorn squash already while the rest of the winter squash harvesting is just around the corner. Unlike some winter squash, acorn squash doesn’t need to cure to develop its sweetness. Once the butternut squashes are harvested, they will sit in our barn for a couple weeks to cure. During this time, the starches will turn to sugars, making a sweeter squash. This is also what happens to sweet potatoes, which won’t be in your boxes until the final weeks of the CSA. The potato harvest is nearly complete with just a few more beds yet to harvest. Pumpkins are turning from green to orange. Pretty soon our barn is going to be full of these storage crops! Also in the category of fall crops are some of the cooler weather loving crops we had earlier in the season. Back are the nice large heads of lettuce, arugula, kohlrabi and radishes. The brassicas that take a little longer to mature (broccoli, cabbage and the like) are looking really good despite this hot and dry weather.
Being part of a CSA is not just giving you a direct connection to the people who grow your food, it is also giving you the culinary experience of eating seasonally. We hope you are enjoying this way of eating and preparing food! While there is heat advisory out today and most likely tomorrow as well, cooler weather is on its way. With a high of 67 and a low of 42, this Friday is looking like a good day to turn the oven on and cook up this week’s acorn squash!
Fruit Share: Asian pears, European plums and magnolia gold apples all from Downing Fruit Farm
Our eggplant crop is not producing well this year but we were able to get some from our friend and fellow grower Michael Malone of Hungry Toad Farm for this week’s box. Please note that the eggplant is not certified organic, but Michael does grow through organic methods. Some eggplant are traditional globe eggplant while others are long slender Japanese eggplant.
Watch out for corn ear worms in this week’s crop. It is best to shuck the corn now, get rid of the worms and then store the corn in plastic in the fridge until you are ready to use it.
PLEASE JOIN US!!
We have set the date for our CSA member potluck! On Sunday September 22 from 5 to 8 we will open up the farm to our CSA members for a potluck. Please join us as we celebrate the season with wonderful food and great conversation. We will also give tours of the farm during the event. We will provide tableware, apple cider and vegetable chili and ask our members to bring a covered dish to share. We hope that you and your family (friends are invited too!) will be able to join us!
We recommend that you store all of these tomatoes you are getting on your kitchen counter. Refrigerating tomatoes compromises the flavor and they should still have a long shelf life if left out. All other vegetables should be stored in the fridge in plastic bags. They won’t last as long if left uncovered. Basil is a confusing one as sometimes it lasts awhile and other times it only lasts a day. We are not sure what exactly can be done to increase storage, so we just recommend you use this week’s basil soon. Our eggplant and tomatillo planting are not producing as vigorously as we had hoped so we will have to rotate what pick up sites they go to. This is also the case with okra, whose production is really low and has only been to one pick up site so far. We will try to get all these summer crops to you soon!
While we are in the thick of summer with bucket-loads of sunflowers harvested everyday and hundreds of pounds of tomatoes coming through the barn, these days we have fall on our minds. We have been busy taking down the pea fences, pulling out old drip tape, and mowing in finished crops. The birds are having a blast in the old fields. Mowed down sunflower heads that never got cut are now providing food a plenty. We have never noticed so many Goldfinches before. Next up for these finished beds is seeding a cover crop, which will build the soil by adding nutrients and preventing erosion.
Also on the agenda for this week is direct seeding several fall crops including arugula, turnips, cilantro, and radishes. We used to direct seed beets but, because of weed pressure, are trying something new this year. We started the seed in flats in the greenhouse, several seeds per cell, and then transplanted out a few weeks later. The first planting we did this way is almost ready. The greens look amazing and the beets are just starting to size up. We are so pleased with the way the first planning looks that we just transplanted out Swiss chard the same way this week. Eventhough we are in our seventh season farming, we are always learning new ways to do things and trying out different techniques. It keeps the job interesting! And keeps us striving to be the best we can be!
Peaches and blackberries from Downing Fruit Farm in New Madison
Somehow we were able to plant those thousands of brassicas I spoke about last week. Because we had gotten 2 inches of rain over the weekend the fields were not dry enough until Friday. Of course Friday is typically our harvest day and bouquet making day for market. We tweaked the schedule a little and harvested some on Thursday, making it possible to have a planting crew on Friday. We are so glad we were able to squeeze the planting in, because, as you know, we got another 2 inches this past weekend! (right after we ran irrigation all night long to water the seedlings in!)
During a typical week not dictated by weather, Wednesday is our planting day. Since the fields were still too wet last Wednesday, we had to come up with another job for our crew. Of course there are no shortages of things to do, it’s just a matter of prioritizing. We decided to pull the onion crop. This was perfect timing as the fields were just moist enough to make the onions pull out very easily, but not too wet to have the onions come up coated in wet mud. We transferred the onions to tables and had them dry in the sun for a couple days.
And now the onions are living in the barn where they will finish drying, develop their skins, and then eventually make it into your boxes. We still have a few more weeks of sweet onions before you will get these storage onions.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about harvesting the onions was that Ben was then able to mow the field. Seriously. By this time, the field was just covered in weeds and being able to mow weeds in before they go to seed is an absolutely crucial step in organic farming. Speaking of organic farming, we had a surprise visit from an OEFFA employee. OEFFA is our certifying agent and they came to sample our fields and crops for pesticide residue. They have to test 5% of the farms they certify. So off to a lab our tomato field soil and fruits will go to be tested for 300 pesticides and herbicides! We had no idea this was something organic certifying agents have to do! We also had no idea there are 300 hundred kinds of pesticides/ herbicides! We hope you enjoy the bountiful, pesticide free, tomato harvest this week! Here are some tomato filled recipes to get you started.