Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Great weather--finally!

Well, at long last, we finally got some cool, sunny weather.  By cool I mean mid-70s, which is still warm, but much more tolerable than the weather of late.  Not only is it more pleasurable to work in, but we can finally do some of those jobs that require dry conditions, like seeding, tilling the soil, trellising tomatoes, transplanting, and some types of weeding.

On Field Tour this Monday, I noted some changes the farm had been through in two weeks.  The peas were all producing abundantly, while the broccoli has started to bolt.  The flowers have started to bloom, the clover, oats, and peas have been mowed down, the tomatoes already look bushy.  The tomatillos look poised to burst, and the basil is thriving.  The weeds are in flux as usual; some areas were clean, others contain sprouting weeds, while others haven't been weeded and are in danger of becoming the primary crop.

Monday we came up with the CSA Delivery, which includes lettuce, chard, basil or mint, snow peas, sugar snap peas, and shell peas, kohlrabi, summer squash, scallions, and possibly broccoli.  This takes up much of our time now.  We only have a few hours in the afternoon to do any maintenance work on the farm.

Picking peas has become the bane of our existence.  We spend four hours of each day, with at least 8 people, picking peas.  Other CSA farms do You-Pick Peas, so the customers can do all of the labor.  The drawback of that is that they only get picked once, so the peas won't produce as much.  Also, I doubt all the members of any given CSA get trained well on what is and isn't a ripe pea.  We get trained every time we go out there to pick, which is Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays.  So our peas are the best, ripest, fullest, sweetest peas you can find.  But they do take time!  We sell them for $4/lb, which is roughly twice what you'd pay for them elsewhere, but they are worth it, and more!

Other notable tasks we are doing this week (other than the obvious, weeding) are seeding clover between the winter squash for next year's cover crop, and trellising tomatoes.  We need to get those done soon, because they love the rain just as much as the next plant and are not waiting around for us to finish the trellis before they start fruiting.  Let's hope the weather keeps cooperating with us until we get it done.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Switch to Summer

Today I came back to the farm after a week absence.  In that time, the Solstice came and went, and it's summer in a big way.   Usually, I feel chilled working in the early morning hours, but not this morning.  The jacket came off at 7:01.  Another change was the mosquitos waiting for me in the pea patch.  Last year, I don't remember being bothered by them, but with all the rain, it looks like I'm going to have to invest in some bug repellant this year.

This weekend we'll be operating a farm stand at the North Side Farmer's Market, so we harvested some veggies to sell there:  snow peas, sugar snap peas, summer squash, broccoli, kale, chard, and herbs.  The peas are really producing abundantly now.  Their tall vines, heavy with pods, are falling over the trellis, making them difficult to harvest.

We also spent some time weeding the CSA garden.  Many of the flowers we planted there are just beginning to produce, so we thought we'd get them ready for CSA members to start harvesting next week. While I didn't go on Field Tour this week, I can imagine that the weeds haven't really started flagging just yet, and I'm anticipating more weeding jobs next week.  I was also a bit surprised to find out that the tomatoes haven't been trellised yet.  I know that was a pretty high priority last week, so I'm sure it's one of the first things we're going to do Monday.  Some of the tomatoes have already started fruiting!

I would have liked to stay and work with the bees today.  Apparently two of them are going to be double-queened to up their production, and this is not something you get to see every day.  However, I'm still trying to get my life back in order after my trip, so I came home.  Next Monday, I'll be able to really see what I missed last week.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Muddy Monday

Well, the rain continues!  It rained on and off ALL DAY Monday.  I don't think I remember a time when I was covered in more mud.  Here is a nice group photo of all of us, looking like a bunch of drowned rats.  Actually, in the photo you can't really see the mud.  In fact, the only reason I'm doing bunny ears in the photo is so you can see my muddy gloves.  To really get the best idea, we should have taken photos of our boots.  The accumulating mud and straw on our boots was nearly enough to build a small house.
Front row, L-R: Laura, Meghan, Maria, Claire, Megan.  Back row: me, Rosemary, Austin, Andy, Jake, Jenna, Liz, Stephanie, Michelle.

The rain has that nasty habit of curtailing some of our activities on the farm, but we made the best of it and weeded as much as we could.  We got into the peas, tomatillos, brassicas, winter squash, and tomatoes.  Then we spent the rest of the day mulching the tomatoes.  Most of them were flowering already, and I even saw some fruits!  So we are doing it just in time.  Now we have to trellis!

Today was CSA harvest day.  We have quite a bountiful share this week!  Spinach, lettuce mix, lettuce heads, radishes, turnips, peas, garlic scapes, and broccoli.  We have a great crew, so we got it all done, with time to spare in the afternoon (for more weeding, no doubt).   The peas are the new item this week. We didn't get as many as I would like, but the ones we did get were tender and sweet and delicious.  Green candy!  While picking them, it seemed as if the rain helped make the plants bigger, but didn't necessarily help produce more peas.  This was a bit frustrating, as several plants were higher than the trellis and falling over, making them difficult to assess.  And then most of them had few peas, which I was surprised at.  Hopefully the peas will start producing like gangbusters next week.

Well, I'm off to my 15th Carleton Reunion this weekend, and to visit some friends in Minneapolis the following week.  So I won't be back until next Friday, June 25th.  I wonder how much the farm will change in the week that I'm gone?

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Rock gets the boot

Today was a busy albeit short day.  We got a lot done, which is pretty usual for a Friday since we have several great worker shares who come to lend a hand.

One of our many odd jobs today was removing a rock from the drive road that has been damaging cars lately.  Many an oil pan (and one muffler) have been punctured from this rock.  Luckily, it wasn't as big as all the damage would have you believe and was easy to remove.

We harvested a measly 1.5 pounds of sugar snap peas, but many more were on the way and will undoubtedly be ready to harvest by Monday.  We also harvested some more broccoli.

Preparations continue in the building of the hoop house.  One day it will be up!

Nate did the much-needed chore of filling in the puddles and mud-holes in the drive road with wood chips. It already seems like a much more pleasant place to walk.

Maria and I picked up several pieces of remay off the brassicas today: broccoli and brussels sprouts.  The good news is that these plants are now large enough to defend themselves from any flea beetle damage.  The bad news is that weeds LOVE being under remay just as much as plants do, and in fact it seemed at times that perhaps the broccoli was the 'invasive species' under there, as the weeds outnumbered them 10:1 at the very least.  We got to work on it and made quite a bit of headway, but there is still more to be done, there and in carrots and peas, which seem to be a great habitat for thistles this year.

More rain in the forecast for this weekend!  Well, at least we won't be working in it.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tour of Troy and Intern Classes

Yesterday was the first in a series of intern classes at Troy.  It was about using your body effectively to minimize injury while doing quite arduous work day in and day out, at the farm.  The key (of course) is to strengthen your core muscles and let your hips and legs do most of the work, not your back.  While many of us know this, it's one thing to talk about it and quite another to do it effectively every time you bend over.  But just being aware is a good start, and I definitely will use the tips and tricks we learned to give my body a break while working, especially transplanting.  My hamstrings haven't stretched this far in a while!

We also met with all the interns from each of the various programs at Troy (farm, kids garden, and natural areas) and took a tour of the entire grounds.  In the photo, Christie Ralston discusses the Natural Areas with all the interns while we sit in one of the circles in the tallgrass prairie.

Here we can see a bean trellis put up by an enterprising community gardener (one of 350 at Troy):

Here, Nathan Larson shows us many features of the Kids Garden, including the chicken coop.

Wednesday, it was back to business and usual and the CSA harvest.  Tuesday, they picked more salad mix, spinach, and garlic scapes.  Today, we got cilantro and dill, lettuce, radishes, sugar snap peas, kale, and broccoli.  The lettuce heads in particular were just beautiful, gigantic, and glistening in the sun after being drenched by yesterday's rain and today's sunshine.

After the harvest, we continued weeding (surprise, surprise).  We pulled out big handfuls from the chard and beet beds.  The only major weeding job to be done is the peas, which seem to have sprouted lots of thistle.

I wonder what we're in store for on Friday?  Tomato trellising perhaps?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Rain, Rain

When people ask me how the farm is different this year (compared to last) about the only thing I can definitively say is that we didn't have nearly this much rain last year.  Just to prove my point, it's been raining all last night and into today and isn't showing much sign of stopping.  While on one hand it's great that the plants are getting so much water, the fact is that it's difficult for us humans to get in there and work with those plants to get them other things that they need when it is so wet.

On field tour yesterday, the dark side of so much rain reared its ugly head: huge weeds!  Because if the plants are getting that water, so are weeds.  They are everywhere.  We managed to knock out most of the more pressing weed patches: carrots, cucumbers, basil.  But they still remain in large numbers in the peas, which have started to flower and even in one case, produce pods already!  Yes, the rain has accelerated their growth, and we haven't even had a chance to weed them before they are producing.

Another problem child is going to be the tomatoes.  We just put them in 10 days ago and already they are getting big and strong.  You may think this is good news, but we haven't trellised or mulched them yet.  These are both activities that take many hours, and can't really be done in the rain.  They aren't going to wait for us, so I hope we can get in there and help them out before they start producing, or we are going to have a hot tomato mess on our hands.

It didn't rain yesterday, but the ground was still quite wet from the rain this weekend.  We managed to get in more broccoli and lettuces yesterday.  The farm is really filling up!  Most sections are full or nearly full.  Today we are going to meet all the interns from all the other programs at Troy, and learn some exercises for the strenuous tasks we impose on our bodies.  I can't wait, because my body seems to be slowly falling apart between this job and my kitchen job.

It sounds as if the rain has stopped!  For now...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

First CSA Harvest

Today was our first CSA harvest.  This means that we take a look at what is ready in the field and harvest enough of them to give to our CSA members.  I know that they picked salad mix yesterday.  Today, we harvested pea shoots, green garlic, butter lettuce heads, radishes, and cilantro.  We also packed a variety of sprouts for them.

While the first CSA delivery is typically the smallest, I believe that it is one of the best, because it is the first taste of the season.  Each crop is at their sweetest and most flavorful.  The cilantro is particular was lush, and it smelled amazing.  The lettuce heads looked tender and crisp, the radishes big and juicy, the pea shoots sweet and crunchy, the garlic spicy and pungent.  The other good thing about having a small share is that you'll most likely finish eating all of it.  By the end of the season, sometimes the amount of food can be overwhelming.

I had a lot of fun harvesting with my fellow interns.  Wednesday's crew is myself, Jenna, Laura, Liz, Megan, and Meghan, and several worker share employees.  It was really satisfying to do what we came here to do--feed people.

In the afternoon we also got some much-needed weeding done in the mulched broccoli.  The jury is still out on whether or not this was a good idea.  We won't know for sure until it's ready and we can test it against the un-mulched broccoli.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Memorial Day

No rest for farmers--today we worked, though it was a short day.  We put in about 1000 basil plants, maybe 800 winter squash, and 500 sweet potatoes.  We also seeded an additional few hundred winter squash and even got around to mulching the sweet potatoes and weeding some of the more pressing beds, namely the lettuce heads and tomatillos.  All it all, it was a productive day.  The weather was perfect, which is always nice.  It really makes it seem as if we aren't doing work at all.  The fact that there were about 15 people there helped too.  Claire's friend Lisa came to help for a few hours, and my boyfriend Bret came too, since he had the day off at his job.  I took lots of photographs, but need to go through them to pick out the best ones.  I will post as soon as I choose a few.