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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Feb. Winter Market Prep.

We have a farmers market this morning and that meant a 7 hour day harvesting and cleaning produce yesterday. I was surprised how much time it took the two of us to get things together considering all we harvested was leeks, mizuna, red mustard tat soi and spring mix.

The harvesting of greens was nice. It got sunny so the hoop houses warmed up to around 70F quickly. It got so warm I was working in a T-shirt and still pouring sweat. Kind of like working on a hot summer day (okay, a very warm spring day). We did the last major cutting of the spring mix. Eugene felt slow and puny because he is slow at greens harvesting and I am very fast. This is one of the farm, tasks where I am a lot better at it that he is and I think this bruises his ego a bit (but it strokes mine so we are all good and even.). So I ended up with two full plastic grocery bags of spring mix and he had 1/2 a bag. Together we got 15 bags of cleaned spring mix.

We also got 15 leeks from another hoop house. I believe I have mentioned how well leeks do in unheated hoop houses before. They are still doing fantastic and it was a joy to pull and clean them. They also have been very very tasty, perhaps the best leeks I have ever eaten (and I have been eating a lot the past month because we have them and they are sooo damn good). Pulling leeks is a muddy endeavour. You have to get over top of the leek in order to get a clean pull out of the ground. Otherwise, the greens want to beak off and if that happens the leek is ruined for market (but can be dug out of the ground for home use). For me to do this means having to put one foot in the bed (which is a big no no on our farm because walking in beds causes compaction, but sometimes you have to break a rule or two) so I pull straight up. Once the leek is out of the ground the dirt has to be shaken off the root ball and than the roots cut off. This means whomever is pulling leeks will get a lot of dirt on their body and I did. Normally I would not mind the dirt but I did not want to go back to the house, take off my mud covered boots and wash my hands and knife in order to go cut spring mix and not get the salad greens all muddy. But since we got such a haul from the leek hoop house (we also harvested kale, mizuna, tat soi and red mustard) we decided to take all that to the store before harvesting spring mix and that got me close enough to the house to go in and get somewhat cleaned up.

Once the greens and leeks were harvested we turned our attention to cleaning everything we had just picked plus several items that have been put up for winter such as potatoes. We store potatoes with their dirt on and clean as needed as they do not store nearly as well cleaned up. Washing the potatoes was interesting. They are stored in a couple of dead fridges in the barn and are kept naturally, almost at freezing in those fridges. So when we poured the dirty spuds into the wash water it was like pouring several pounds of ice into the water. It was stinging, numbing cold washing the spuds. Not at all fun. But soon enough the potatoes were washed and bagged and put into coolers (or should I say warmers) to keep them from freezing at market

Than there were the rutabagas we harvested a month ago into a couple of buckets and than put the 'bagas dirt, leaves in buckets into the fridge. The fridge has been smelling like rotting cabbage/rutabaga for a while so it was high time to take a good look at the rutabagas and see what's what. And what I found was a whole lot of beautiful 'bagas and few that had been damaged by cold in the field and were slowly rotting away (I believe the stinking culprits). I helped their cause by depositing them into the compost bucket so they can continue to rot and eventually help enrich the soil in which they were grown. For the rest I trimmed the roots and cleaned dirt and got them ready for today.

The final step last night was going through all the onions, garlic and winter squash and tossing out the bad ones. We lost a lot of butternut squash (we will cut them open, remove the seeds for roasting and cook up all good squash parts and freeze the puree for spring summer use) but the delicata squash seemed in excellent shape. The red onions are in sprouting mode. We are saving most to use as onions sets and for seed production (we grow several heirloom onion vareties). But we still have quite a few left. the yellow onions will be in major sprouting mode in 2 to 3 weeks it looks like. the garlic is still doing fine.

After going through everything we than started in on the second to last step before we will be ready to go. putting everything in coolers so they will not freeze at market this morning. In summer we use coolers to keep things cold and in winter we use them to keep things warm. Without them we would lose a lot of produce. So yesterday evening we filled coolers with winter squashes, onions, garlic and potatoes. this morning the carrots, radishes, turnips, chicken and greens will go into coolers. Than everything will be loaded onto the van and we will be off to market by 8:30am this morning so we can be all set up by 9:30am.

Hopefully the locavores will be out enforce and we will sell out.

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