Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New Crops!

It's been a whirlwind of activity on the farm as some new crops are now being harvested, much to the delight of our CSA members.  Cabbage, eggplant, cauliflower, beets, salsa baskets (tomatillos), and even tomatoes have all made their debut in the last week or so.  As a result of all this harvesting, we barely have any time left over for other projects.  The tomatoes need to be trellised again, and weeds are becoming a larger problem than we'd like.  Larger meaning that they are so big they are about to seed themselves and become an even greater nuisance for us later in the season and even next year.

I'll take more pics of the newer crops next week, but here is one of some of the interns trellising tomatoes:
Here is some of the last lettuce of the hot season.  More in the fall!

Field Trip to Tipi Produce

On Tuesday, July 20th, we took a field trip to Tipi Produce in Evansville, WI.  There, Beth Kazmar and Steve Pincus gave us a tour and filled us in on the evolution of their organic CSA and wholesale produce business.  They have 45 acres of land in production, where we at Troy have only 3.5.  This difference in land use, as well as Tipi's extensive wholesale operations, means that they use a variety of different methods and equipment that we are used to.  It was interesting to see how another farm works successfully.  

Here we can see new pepper transplants across from established plants which are starting to bear fruit.  Note the use of black plastic mulch.  At Troy, we do not use this as it is not re-usable and not recyclable.  However, as I noted before, Tipi is working with a lot more land and therefore uses resources differently.  
One of Tipi's signature crops is melons.  Here is a watermelon, ready to be harvested.  Note the black plastic.  Melons are a highly valued crop and therefore their appearance in the CSA share is very welcome.  Not many CSAs can say they give as many melons as Tipi.  
Steve, Claire, and some of the interns step into the field to get a closer look.
Here is an example of drip tape used for irrigation.  
Here, we see leaves composted from the city of Evansville and used as mulch with squash plants. 
Steve explains how the irrigation gun works.  If you look closely, you can see it far in the distance to the right of Jake's shoulder.  It can shoot 200 feet in all directions and can crawl along the length of the field by itself.  It can be adjusted for pressure and distance.  
Steve shows off the Perfecta II to Jake while an army truck converted for water distribution lies waiting in the background.  Just two of the many pieces of equipment in operation at Tipi.  

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tomato Talk, Part 1

This is a video of a discussion we had during field tour on Monday, July 19th.  We're talking about late blight in tomatoes that has been discovered already here in Wisconsin.  Copper is the approved organic application.  It doesn't prevent the fungus, it acts as a physical barrier.  Rosemary, who works in the Plant Pathology lab at the UW, explains what she knows about the blight, while Farm Manager Claire reveals her decision concerning whether or not to spray the plants.

Click on Tomato Talk, Part 2 for the rest of the video.  Each one is approximately 10 minutes long.  
Sorry about the poor lighting.  

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Signs it's Summer: Cherry Tomatoes and Conversations about Beer

Ah yes, today was One of Those Days.  Hot, hot, hot!  It was warm and sunny this morning, so much so that a group of us decided to go get either ice cream or beer after it was all over.  Pretty soon, we decided on beer.  It just seemed so refreshing an idea at the time.  After lunch, however, it was another story.  Now the sun was high, and weeding was our task.  We chose to hand pull weeds out of the mulch in the leeks, while Andy and Meghan used the wheel hoe to clear the paths in the beans and basil.  We all drank as much water as we could, but were decidedly zombie-like most of the afternoon from the hot sun, the sporadic breezes, and the swarm of mosquitoes that surrounded us in a humming fog.  Not to mention that the weeds we were pulling were quite large and difficult to pull from the dry, hard ground.  When 3 o'clock rolled around, we went to Ale Asylum for that beer.  And water.  We still needed to hydrate.

This morning, CSA harvest was a breeze, due to the fact that so many beans were picked yesterday.  All the workers (maybe 10?) spent all their time (four hours) picking 12 beds of beans!  They got over 300 pounds!  So there wasn't much left to harvest; some cucumbers, squash, and a choice of herb (basil, thyme, chives, or mint).  The rest of the time, we spent trellising the last 2 rows of tomatoes, one of which is cherry tomatoes and actually needed to be harvested already!  These last rows were so overgrown, it was difficult to decipher which suckers needed to be pruned and which should remain on the plant.  Also, it was nearly impossible to do this without doing some damage to them, since they were so entangled with one another and growing in all kinds of crazy directions.

Monday, as always, seems so long ago already.  On field tour, weeds were everywhere as usual, tomatoes needed to be finished, and several things need to be destroyed (pea trellis, just as soon as we get our pea seed out for next year) or tilled under (goodbye fennel, radishes, lettuce).  New clover is popping up in the winter squash, the old clover is re-growing due to a fresh mowing, and all the remay on the brassicas is coming off, flea beetles be damned.

Next week, we continue harvesting beans and cherry tomatoes, and start harvesting tomatillos and hot peppers!  Summer's bounty is here at last!

Friday, July 9, 2010

At last, potatoes

Today, the weather was sunny and warm, with occasional light breezes.  So after we harvested beans, kale, summer squash, and herbs, we got to work putting seed potatoes into the ground.  Why so late?  you ask.  Well, Claire and Jake say they've had more success delaying the potato planting and missing the ravaging effects of the Colorado potato beetle than planting when everyone else does in May.  I remember thinking last year that our potatoes would probably be pretty small compared to everyone else's.  Not true!  Ours sized up nicely.

We cut our Red Norland and Carola potatoes into evenly sized chunks, each with an eye, and laid them out in 100 foot beds at a foot apart.  Today we got them into the ground, but we still need to hill them up and mulch them.   I think we planted 14 or 15 beds, so roughly 1400 potatoes were planted.

The beautiful weather is supposed to continue... until Monday... of course (grumble, grumble).

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Guess what?  It rained again! Surprise, surprise.  Wednesday morning, we got a downpour for about 30 minutes right at the beginning of the day, during the CSA harvest.  Some of us were in the peas, some in the lettuce, but all of us got solidly drenched.  I don't believe I've ever worked in such a steady rain.  My otherwise waterproof boots were squishy within 5 minutes.  But we pressed on, and got a good harvest this week.

The CSA share this week included snap peas, beans, shell peas, sprouts, lettuce, fennel, summer squash, kohlrabi, radishes, and a big bunch of basil.  The fennel was the best we've ever grown, according to Claire and Jake, and I have to agree based on what I saw last year.  See, the rain is good for something!  The basil bunches were lush, begging to be made into pesto.  And each member got a nice pound bag of shell peas to take home, the last peas of the season.  It's beans from here on.  

I left after the harvest, so I'm not sure how the rest of the crew spent the afternoon.  The hard rain would have made it difficult to do much.  The ground was instantly soft and muddy, and trellising tomatoes after rain is just a bad idea if you want to prevent disease.  I guess I'll find out on Friday.

Here are some more pictures from field tour this week.  Some crops we've harvested, some aren't ready.


Hungarian Wax Peppers: 

Sweet Potatoes: 



Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Dog Days of Summer

The rain is back, sort of, which just makes life humid and hot.  When it's this hot out, you must ask yourself: what's the benefit of rain gear if you're just going to sweat to death underneath it?  My rain gear is PVC coated and thus not breathable in the least.  I ended up wearing the bibs most of the day, but the jacket was just too much.

On field tour this Monday, we noted that the beans are doing great, minus the weeds that need to be hand pulled before we start harvesting.  We did finish this task and should be harvesting beans today, so look for them in your share this week.  While weeding, it seemed that the rain really helped the plants become huge this year, much bigger than I remember them from last year.  

The brassica section is doing well.  Green cabbage heads are nearly sized up, with purple following closely behind.  The kale is just tremendous.  The broccoli, on the other hand, is just finishing up.  We'll have to wait a bit before we see it again.  

Tomatoes are getting out of control!   At least one, sometimes 2 fruit clusters have formed on every plant, so we are working hard to get them pruned and trellised before they get any bigger.  Unfortunately, the rain is not helping with this, as water will spread disease in the plants, which is always a concern, but even more so this year as we are waiting to see if the blight returns.  

The corn is definitely knee-high, but before it gets any bigger, we need to get in there and weed.  Grasses are forming next to the plants, which makes it difficult.  A high priority task!  

As usual, we started the day by picking peas.  Snow peas are done.  This is most likely the last week for snap peas.  Shell peas are also slowing down.  Thank goodness, because not only does this take a lot of time, but the toll it takes on your back is great.  Of course, as soon as peas stop, beans start.  My hamstrings are starting to hurt already!  

These days are a cycle of harvesting and weeding.  It looks like the flush of tall weeds is, thankfully, over.  Purslane is king now, which is a relatively nice weed as it spreads along the ground, therefore not blocking sunlight.  It comes out pretty easily too, and is even edible.  I like its slightly sour flavor and mild crunch.  

CSA Harvest time tomorrow!  And the CSA garden is now open.  Check out the flowers and herbs: