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Friday, June 02, 2006

Rainy Harvest

It's raining, it's pouring

The old man is snoring

He bumped his head and went to bed

And didn't get up 'til the morning.

a rhyme my father used to tell me on rainy days

It started raining about 4pm yesterday and so far we have gotten just over 2". It's showing no signs of stopping anytime soon. We have had minor flooding and the pond is as high as I have ever seen it (but than I have been here under a year). My rubber boots are no longer water proof which will make today's harvesting a wet footed affair.

At the Tuesday farmers' market we pretty much sold out of everything (The Tuesday market has been getting much better the past couple of weeks and has been getting good press-I was well interviewed and photographed this past Tuesday for the Hamilton Journal News. Someone(s) has gotten on the ball with the OFMU, and I thank you). This means I need to do a big harvest today for tomorrow's Saturday Market and the weather is not cooperating at the moment. Fortunately most of the things I need to harvest are in the leafy greens category and they do not mind being wet when harvested. If we were harvesting things like green beans or tomatoes I would be leery as such crops do not like being touched when wet and diseases tend to spread pretty rapidly when you do work with them when wet.

One problem I will have is finding a place to set up my wash stand. The place I normally do this is under 4" of muddy, unclean water. I will have to move to higher ground, probably the shed behind the barn where the grackles were nesting and pooping on the fly. Now that the baby grackles have left the nest the flying poop problem is vastly diminished.

At the old farm this kind of day was a disaster since we had no indoor facilities to clean and pack up the produce. What we used as a packing shed was an awning over a table. If it was raining and no wind things were okay but any wind would blow rain in on you and often blow things off the table. In those condition I would have to retreat to the kitchen. But now we have sheds and barns to work in so weather is not the factor it once was...

But I still wash the veggies outside as we do not have any place inside with both good drainage and close enough to the current water supply (water is something we are going to have to change big time on this farm. Most the outside taps are not hooked up to the water system which leaves us with using hoses hooked up to the tap outside the kitchen door).

Washing the veggies is a wet job. First I have to fill up a plastic tub with water mixed with vinegar and salt (the vinegar and salt hydrate the veggies, kill off pathogens such as e-coli, not that I think we have such pathogens on our food since we do not use raw manure to fertilize our crops. This also kills any slugs hanging onto the leaves, and no one likes a slug in their salad). The next step is to immerse the produce in the cold salt and vinegar water. If it is heads of lettuce than I cut off any bad leaves and a bit of the stem and plunge into the water. If it is arugula, kale or spring mix I dump the greens straight into the water and gently swish them around to get the field heat and dirt off of them. After the bath the produce is than transferred to the big orange salad spinner. The lettuce has to be carefully placed head by head into the spinner basket so the leaves are not bruised or ripped. Loose greens like arugula I scoop up with my hands and place in the spinner basket. Once the basket is full it is put into the spinner, the lid goes on and I start turning the crank which causes the basket to spin at a high rate of speed thus removing the water from the produce. After the greens are dried I put them into towel lined crates and than put the full crates into the fridge for a couple of hours so they an chill. The next step is to weight out and pack the greens into labeled bags and put them back into the fridge, ready to sell.

The process from washing to packing takes about 3 to 4 hours for say 10 to 15 bushels of food. It takes another 2 to 3 hours to harvest everything this time of year. Later on when we have things like tomatoes, peppers, squash, etc. I will spend a lot less time washing and packing but a lot more time harvesting.

Basically for every hour we sell at a farmers' market we have put in about 8 hours of work planting, weeding, harvesting and post harvest handling.


Peter comly said...

We had the same rhyme growing up, except with a darker ending of "He didn't get up in the morning" which of course we assumed was because he was dead.

Gina said...

I was going to say the same thing in that we learned the darker version: "he went to bed and bumped his head, and couldn't get up in the morning"!