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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Autumn Update

Fall has finally arrived and with it a lessening in the work load and nicer weather in which to work. the market garden is pretty much done with tomatoes, we have planted a fall crop and they have tomatoes on them but there are only 30 or so plants vs the 450+ tomatoes planted for the main crop.

The peppers in the hoop house are about over for the year. Heat or blight or bacterial wilt or arm worms or something did a real number on them. We got one good one for every 5 to 10 on the plants that rotted in some way (and this is why green peppers are generally 50% to 75% cheaper than ripe peppers-it's easy to grow a green pepper but quite hard to get a pepper from green to ripe without problems). the 200+ pepper plants planted after the hoop house pepper have not done much at all. I am getting some beautiful green fruit from one bed and the jalapenos are doing okay but there are very few peppers ripening and those that are are very under sized. These plants should have had ripe peppers at least 4 weeks ago and they don't. Most barely have 1/2 grown peppers on them. Bad pepper year. But if it stays mild for another 6 to 8 weeks we should get some ripe peppers out of the main crop. There is always next year.

As we get away from the summer crops the fall things are coming in. We harvested the first spring mix (yes I realize it is autumn so the stuff should be called fall mix or something but changing names on a product don't work good for no one) this week. It looks wonderful but since it is selling well we have not had any yet. We also dug the first parsnips and they look fabulous! I don't believe we have ever grown such nice parsnips.

We have been pulling leeks for about 3 weeks and will continue to do so until we run out (sometime in March or April). I have been using a lot of leeks and they are yummy, much better than what you can buy at the grocery in both taste and the fact we take great pains to get long white shanks on the leeks and that means extra work hilling them numerous times during their long growing season.

The winter squash was a disappointment this year. Last year we had a bumper crop of butternut but not this year. this year the plants went in a bit too late (actually the went in about the same time as last year but the rains had stopped and it got hot) and they were not able to thrive and produce a lot of high quality squash for winter storage. Instead, we got rather small fruits and many had to be harvested too early before they matured because they were being badly attacked by squash bugs (like the bugs were swarming over the squash so you could not even see them under the insects). We did get a decent crop of delicata and sweet dumpling squash but everything else was just so so at best.

The pear tree was loaded with pears until Ike's winds came and knocked down 8 bushels of pears. We did go out and pick up all the drops (which is why we know that 8 bushels came down). We will sell and use the pears but will not be able to get top dollar for them because they are damaged. I supoose in about 5 weeks we will be making gallons of pear wine and pear jelly among other things out of the dropped pears. Despite the wind there is still about 5 bushels of pears still up in the tree. That tree must have had well over a 1000 pounds of pears hanging off it. That's a lot of pears for a single tree. I am very surprised that the tree did not lose several major limbs in the wind storm. It did lose 2 minor limbs. It is in a very protected spot and that is likely why it did not get more damage.

The barn roof has been fixed and it stronger than it was before along with far fewer holes in the roof thanks to a lot of silicone caulk being applied over the whole roof (not that the roof is covered with caulk).

The remainder of fall will be taken up with several fall tasks including the unexpected hand watering. We are starting water certain things daily by hand because the drip irrigation just ain't doing the job, especially for seeds and seedlings that have just emerged. Than there is planting crops for winter and early spring, putting up hoop houses for the late fall and over wintering crops, hoeing and harvesting and putting the beds to sleep for the winter. Which means taking up any mulch (we use landscape fabric which has to be cleaned of roots/weeds and than rolled up for winter storage), drip tapes (these we roll up onto garden hose caddies), planting cover crops in beds that won't be used until mid May and removing all debris such as tall weeds and the dead crops. We have found over the years that getting the garden cleaned up in fall is very important. If you don't do this you will have a bug and disease problem the following year. The plant corpses go on the compost piles and thus feed the soil next year.

The season officially ends with the garlic planting in late October/Early November. In reality, the work never ends it just ebbs and flows.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Storm Damage Pix

The storm damaged the roof of the barn. This is the Southwest corner of the barn and Eugene has had to fix it before when we had a wind storm last year that nearly took off this section in 40mph winds. His fix held in high winds but could not deal with 4 hours of 50 mph+ winds with 70 mph+ gusts. Looks like today Eugene will fix the roof instead of going to market. I believe we have everything needed to put it back together and make it stronger than before. yesterday we bought metal at Carter's Lumber in Eaton, which was open despite having no electric (cash or checks only)

The storm pushed over both of our portable signs. I put the other one back together before thinking of taking pictures but since this one is at the bottom of the hill it did not get immediate attention so I could photograph a bit of the minor sign damage (we lost two "K"'s on the sign up top and this sign was slightly bent). Note the corn lying beside the sign. That is our "lodged" popcorn crop which is not quite ready to harvest. the term "lodged" means corn that has been pushed down by wind, making it quite hard to harvest by hand and pretty much impossible to harvest with machines. There is a lot of lodged corn in western and central Ohio from the storm. By a lot I would estimate at least 60% of the corn is pretty much unharvestable. What started out as a pretty good corn crop in Ohio is quickly becoming a disaster for the corn farmers.

This is one of my favorite trees. It's an old locust tree that was living on our fence/property line. it looked from a distance like some sort of tree you would see on the African Savanna (maybe an accacia). Last spring a big part of it was blown down in a lesser storm and now this storm too the rest. Since it blew down on our neighbor's side of the fence they get the wood

Eugene looking at the downed locust tree.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Selling to Miami University

Yesterday sold 120 pounds of sweet heirloom onions to Miami University. MU is doing a huge local food dinner on Thursday Sept 18th and Boulder Belt onions will be a part of that dinner. This is about the 5th time we have sold food to Miami since David Lodge became university president and enacted a local food initiative with the Miami's food service.

I think it is way cool to sell food that I grow to my Alma mater. I am still under Mother Miami's wing it would seem.


12 years ago today Eugene and I were married by Doug Ross in front of friends and family.

I can honestly say after 12 years marriage rocks.

Karmic Meat

Yesterday being Saturday meant we packed up our stuff and went to Oxford bright and early in the morning to do the Uptown farmers market. the market went well. The forecasted rain did not happen, though by 11am a stiff breeze had come up and was messing with everyone's umbrellas and shelters (we tie ours to the van so it won't go anywhere) and was blowing light weight stuff off of our tables.

At noon the market ended and we packed up all the items that had not sold and we got into the van and headed home. got about 4 miles outside of Oxford when we saw a grey van with a flat Tire. Eugene and I did not recognize the van at first but he still asked as we passed by, "should we stop and help" and Than we both saw Seth Filbrun crawling under the van in the rear view mirrors and immediately stopped and backed up.

Seth Filbrun is the youngest son of Dale and Evelyn Filbrun, German baptists folks that got into organics the same year we did. They have a medium sized certified organic grain and livestock farm and when we have chickens we buy our feed from them as well as hay, straw and organic inputs such as green sand, rock phosphate, etc.. We have known Seth nearly his entire life-he was still in diapers and not yet walking when we first met him and we have watched him grow up into a fine young man (he's about 15 now)

So here's Seth under the van trying to get his jack to lift up the vehicle so he can get the blown tire off and the spare on. He had a bad jack and things were not working for him. So Eugene gets out and asked if he needed any help and Seth gratefully said yes. So for 10 minutes the two of them fool around with jacks, boards and eventually get the van jacked up enough to get one tire off and the spare on. Seth tells Eugene that he and his sister Stacy (who is driving) has to be home no later than 1pm and that we have saved him at least a half hour. Than he turns to me and says go in the back of the van and take what you want out of the cooler closest to the door. he says he's not asking me but telling me to go get some meat. So I take some bulk sausage and Italian sausages. He tells me that is not enough and to grab some bacon as well so I do. Soon all of us are on the road going home to our farms.

I don't know if the kids got home by 1pm but at least they have a good excuse for being a bit late. I do know we did a good deed and did it cheerfully and got Karmic meat in the process

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Canning Jar Ordeal

I want to make and can some rhubarb/raspberry jam today. I have the fruit, sugar, pectin, lids. But what I do not have in abundance is 1/2 pint and pint jars. I have a lot of quart jars from an auction I went to about 10 years ago where Eugene and I bought something like 35 cases of canning jars in various sizes, brands and ages for $5 (and made $10 on the deal selling the zinc lids to people who wanted the lids only and not all the jars that filled the bed of the pick-up truck we had at the time). At the time, I thought I had a life time supply of jars. I was wrong. Over the years I have broken some, free-cycled some and sold a lot of them full of things like tomato juice, apple sauce and jams and jellies.

So now I am really really short on 1/2 pint and pint jars. You are probably saying Lucy, go out and buy a couple of cases of small jars and be done with it. I wish I could. Last night after the Tuesday farmers market in Oxford we went searching for such jars at Wal-Mart, K-Mart and Kroger's. Not one of these places had small jars. They all have wide mouth quarts and Wal-mart also had small mouth quarts but that is not what I need. This really bummed me out.

Went home and looked around the kitchen to see if I had any small jars and did find 4 pint jars not being used and a couple of 1/2 pint jars with old food in them that are now empty. Later this morning I will go out to the barn and look through the wall of jars and see if there are any 1/2 pint jars out there that I missed. I also will make popovers for breakfast in order to use up the last of some raspberry jam in a pint jar. Hopefully I will find 14 or so small jars and will be able to do this jam project this morning.

Incidentally, if you are a local reader of this blog and have any canning jars you do not want i will gladly take them off you hands. I can use any size, any make.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

It Rained!!

We got 2.5 inches/5.5cm of rain overnight. The weather prophets predicted a scant .1" for the total rainfall. Boy, were they wrong and I am glad we really needed the rain.

it all started at 10:15 last night when Nate got all antsy and than we heard thunder in the distance. Soon we saw flashes of lightning and the thunder got louder and louder. Nate was eager to get out and chase the barking rain away (he has not had a storm to deal with for about 2 months) and did so all night (he is one sore boy today and is taking it easy in the living room under a blanket to keep him warm). What had happened was an unexpected outflow boundary quickly formed over top of us and stretched back to the southwest. The storm was heading northeast so we stayed under this heavy rain for hours and hours before the cold front finally pushed it out of here.
Now we have a well hydrated farm and muddy conditions for harvest today.

Forecast for the next week is cool temps and more rain. That is good news for us.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Growing in Climate Change

It's been a hot most of August/beginning of September here in SW Ohio. Dry too, we have not had much rain in about 5 weeks now. We got a down pour that gave us .5 inches August 24th which was the first rain we had had in 2 weeks up to that time and we have none since.

This is making it very hard to establish fall/winter crops. Eugene has resorted to hand watering the seeds because the drip irrigation does not put out enough water to get seeds to germinate. Drip irrigation is okay once the seed are transformed into become tiny plants with a root system But until than they need more water and hand watering with watering cans is the best way to do this. No it is the second best way, rain is the best.

The hot dry weather makes me think of climate change. Is this a symptom of climate change? Or is this simply the age old pattern of dry hot periods at the end of summer? Right now I am thinking it is simply the age old pattern, but if this dryness persists for another 3 to 4 weeks, into October I will be changing my mind as October should be coolish with some precipitation. Actually September should be coolish with some precipitation, especially the last half of the month. Time will tell. For now, though we are dry, bone dry. Anything that does not have a deep root system is stressing. the trees seem okay for now and our hops, which have long tap roots, don't seem to mind the lack of moisture all that much. But our peppers are bummed out without irrigation supplying water to them daily (and they do not get water daily because there are many other parts of the market garden than need water and we can only run so much per 24 hour period).

An email friend who is politically conservative and does not believe in man made climate change wrote me yesterday that because of the lack of sunspots for the past few months (actually for the past 11+ months, if one is visiting NASA's Space site) the earth should be plunged into a mini ice age. he believes since we are dependant on agriculture this would be far worse than global warming. He is wrong. Global warming of just 2c would mean temps would rise to over 100˚F around here in the summer and that would be far too hot for most crops to thrive. Warming would also mean huge swings in the flood/drought cycle. we would either be flooding or in drought which makes planting very very hard to do-just ask the growers in the US Plain states that have had this exact scenario this year. Floods that wiped out early crops and now they have heat and no rain for months making it difficult to grow any thing. At least with cool one can grow under cover in greenhouses, high tunnels and hoop houses.

This morning I was reading an article about climate change and how we have just 100 months to change our ways globally and stop spewing carbon, methane, etc into the atmosphere before we reach the tipping point of no return. I think we have already reached the tipping point but even if we have not I do not see a global political movement happening to stop it. Our governments all seem to be influence heavily by corporate leaders who simply do not seem to care about the planet if there is money to be made. They can see no further than their greed and it is because of their greed they will take us all to Hell in a hand basket.

So we keep doing what we do. In the grand scheme of things what we do to stave off man made climate change is minuscule but as Margaret Meade once said "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has"

Monday, September 01, 2008

New Books to Peruse and Buy

It's late summer and high time we all start to do something about putting food up for winter and saving our seeds for next season. This warm weather will give way to cold frosty conditions in the next few months.

I could and have written page upon page on the subjects of putting up food, seed saving and how to eat local in the off season but instead I invite you to check out the new titles I have selected. If you think they would be of use to you than order what you saw on this blog and I get a percentage of the sale. It's that easy to support this small contrary farmer and her blog.

Labor Day

Happy Labor Day. I wish farming allowed us to take this holiday off, but sadly, there is harvesting to do, food to put up and other late summer activities to do. Farming means rarely having a day off during the season (for us that is April through November). We are slaves to the farm but that is what pays the bills, allows us to put new windows in the house and eat like royalty

If it would rain we could kick back (and we could really use a day or two of rain). But unless Hurricane Gustav comes up this way as a heavy rain event towards this weekend I don't see us getting rain for at least another 10 days. So we work; harvesting, putting food by, marketing, tilling, planting, seed saving and all the other fun and glamorous things we small farmers do.

The good news for us is the store is NOT open today so we actually can kick back more than normal. Mondays, after all, are our (ahem) day off, meaning we don't do any marketing and sometimes we go away from the farm to shop for necessary items, often in Richmond, IN (our version of "the big city").

Days off do not often mean no farm work. I know apples, pears and leeks need to be picked/pulled. There are also greens such as chard, parsley and basil that will need to be brought in this morning for market tomorrow. We would harvest these thing tomorrow morning but tomorrow morning we have to go to the bank, post office and run other errands before going to the farmers market because many of these places are closed today for the holiday. So we are switching up the harvest schedule a bit so we can get everything done.

Maybe we will go fishing this afternoon evening, we have not made time to fish the pond in months. We have not had time, it seems, to do anything but deal with farming and its' myriad of aspects since May. I will be glad when fall arrives and the work load goes way down for a couple of months.