Archive for October, 2007

At the wheel

Tilling in oats green manure

Tilling in the monster oats green manure/cover crop is a task where the Kubota compact tractor sure comes in handy. The oats is tall, dense and seemingly unstoppable by cold. It took a double mowing to get it down to a manageable state, and even then, it’s a slow till. The walking rototiller could’ve gotten the job done as well, but it would’ve taken several passes and a couple of tanks of gas, so I was happy to be at the wheel for this one. Originally, the plan was to let the oats winter kill, and work it in in the spring, but there’s just so much of it, I decided to take it out now rather than lose an extra week or two next year, waiting for it to break down. Decisions!

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Zinnia vs calendula

Zinnia and calendula

A vibrant slash of orange and yellow—the half-row of calendula seemed to be fairly unfazed by the recent blast of sub-zero cold, where the zinnias didn’t do so well. Another bit of first-hand frost experience to file away. Elsewhere in the flower test plot, the very few centaurea and asters seem to be kinda OK, still holding color. Otherwise, it’s all terminal shades of brown.

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Killing frost, kinda

Killed by cold

Yes, the weather’s crazy. According to the min/max thermometer outside the greenhouse, last night’s low was a chilly 18°F (-8°C), cold enough to kill off all but the hardiest. Finally, and only six weeks or so late—the endless autumn harvest is interesting, great for personal use veggies, but otherwise, it mainly throws off the fall clean-up schedule (I haven’t changed zones, have I?!). Here, the eggplant is clearly toasted, while the peppers, which had been under fairly light row cover (I pulled it back today to harvest some), came through in relatively fine shape . And the oats, well, it’s a monster, lush and green and if not exactly growing anymore, it seems to be getting thicker. It’s fascinating the way cold works in the field. Wind, cloud cover, mini-windbreaks, slight elevation, all kinds of factors add up differently in spots only a few feet apart to determine life or death by cold. Anyhow, can’t wait around forever. I’m soon going to roll up the row cover and till it all down!

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Putting food by

Veggies for storage

With the farmers’ market over, time to turn to fall-and-winter things. This year, I’m for the first time organizing a proper veggie selection for storage (it’s about time I started…training for that future CSA root cellar!). Instead of the usual bushel baskets of this and that, casually left around the barn to take their chances with temperature and location, now, there’s a bit of plan. For a root cellar, the basement of the farmhouse, the side with a dirt floor that used to be filled with potatoes when this was a fully working, big family farm. For the veggies, today’s haul has a mix of potatoes, assorted winter squash and pumpkins, various carrots, onions, garlic, plus apples picked up at the market. It’s a first step, there’s still lots more in the field: beets, spinach, collards and kale, herbs, and more carrots to go… Harvesting isn’t history just yet!

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Au revoir to the farmers’ market!

Last day at the farmers’ market

A great last day at the market! We were packing in the rain at 6am, drove in through a drizzle, and by the time I was set up just after 7, the rain had stopped! Despite the dreariness, it was quite warm. So far, so good. I didn’t particularly expect a big turnout, and was happy to find two and three people waiting at a time for a good deal of the peak fall hours, from 9:30-11:30. In the pic, it’s around 8:30, few people around as the weather sorts itself out, time to drink coffee and wander around a bit to chat. Soon, a steady stream of mostly regulars. It’s hard to explain the pleasure I get from this part of the people equation, so at this point I won’t even try. Growing food for people and delivering it directly is simply…great! The stand set-up didn’t change over the season as intended, it’s pretty barebones as it’s been from the start. I’m already renewing plans for a new and improved version for next year. On we go!

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Choose your fork wisely

Final farmers’ market harvest for 2007

Today’s harvest was the last scheduled one of the season—tomorrow is the final farmers’ market day. Heading out alone felt a little strange, after all the help this summer, but certainly familiar. It’s a completely different…mindset when it’s all entirely up to you! Carrots were featured. There’s lots still in the ground, and some customers at the market will want to double up on the last day. I pulled about 200 lbs (91 kg), not exactly a bulk, root cellaring quantity, but that’s 100 x 2 lb bunches, quite a lot for one market day. That took a little over an hour of digging and pulling, and it’s amazing what a difference the right tool can make. Here, it was a choice between two seemingly similar digging forks. Most of the season, I like the Blue One, with flatter, wider tines that make lifting the soil easy when the ground is fairly dry and loose. BUT, when the ground is cold and wet and dense as it was today—our clay-loam is good at getting that way—the slick stainless steel option, with narrower, pointier tines, simply slides in, where it takes twice the effort to drive down the blue one. No comparison! If the difference sounds slight as described, a few minutes of actual digging and you’d be convinced. It’s the not-so-little things!! It’s in the details… So, lots of carrots, lots of beets, a good haul of cauliflower, bok choi, spinach, kale, plus garlic and onions from storage. A nice cool season selection. Not bad!

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