Tossing onions

Libby tosses

Well, Friday harvest is over…what to do? A few onions and a little winter squash you’re  set for ALL-TERRAIN ONION BOCCE. Libby used yellow cooking onions (Stuttgarter), Grant took a mild white (Superstar), I went red (Red Wing), four onions each. A stunted orange acorn squash (Table Gold) served as the target ball. Toss away!

Grant tosses

The rules are simple: the player with the closest one or more onions to the squash scores a point apiece. The all-terrain part means the winner of a turn gets to toss the squash anywhere. We played up and down the gangway to the barn, through gravel, long grass, chicken hazards (roosters peck onions)… Good thing no-one got really competitive, ’cause onion bocce is pretty imprecise, what with eventually exploding onions (largest piece counts), and ragged edges that make down-to-the-millimeter measuring kinda futile. Still, we did get out the tape measure… Wholesome outdoor fun on the farm. With veggies. Must be a new age of innocence! :) (Guest measurement photo by Libby)

Measuring for points

Bringing in the pump

Irrigation pump at the pond

The trusty 6hp irrigation pump was dutifully hauled out to the pond in May, and never seen and barely thought of since. Besides priming it when it was first set out, it had zero use this year. That’s what happens when you get many inches of rain a month, every month, for an entire season. I could’ve brought it in a lot earlier to save it from some weather beating, but today was the day (and it’s a pretty rugged, all-weather pump). So, into the Kubota compact tractor’s loader bucket, and back to the drive shed. Test run for a while, drain the water, and it’s away for the winter!

Irrigation pump

Big egg

Big egg

Every few days, at two dozen a day, along comes one very big egg. It’s hard to see with the chipped paint on the old egg scale, but these big guys take it right off the chart. Beyond measurement by this technology. Poor girls (I think, or maybe not). They’re too big to fit into extra-large egg cartons, they won’t let the cartons close, so I put ’em aside and eat them. They’re pretty big, fat eggs!

New farm

Fresh field

A cool road trip today, to visit Tara & Michael’s farm, about 40 minutes from here. They moved onto the farm in the middle of last winter, and spent the summer gazing at their fields of hay while dreaming about…gardens of veggies! We had an energetic, intense conversation about ways to start a small-scale, hand-tended market garden from scratch. Cool! (If you look REAAAALLLY closely, you can maybe just make out Raechelle, way in the distance, taking a walk with T&M’s youngest son…) And what about Friday harvest, for the last farmers’ market of the season? Well, we did some root crops yesterday, and Libby and Lynn finished things off today, on their own—a first, me not actually being there for a harvest! The Tiny Farm Experience…expands!!! :)

Root love

Parsnip root

About the last thing anyone is likely ever to see first-hand is the amazing root structure of plants! I’ve been fascinated by the massive size and complexity of ROOTS since I first saw a sketch of a full root system, and way more so after browsing the wealth of technical drawings of garden veggie roots in the fantastic and fully-online Root Development of Vegetable Crops. Root systems can be VAST, but they’re incredibly difficult to actually see since the mostly fine filaments that tunnel everywhere simply break off when you dig up a plant. Today’s parsnip harvest yielded a couple of unusual, still very partial root specimens that only begin to illustrate what’s going on down there. Who knows how just a few managed to come up with so much intact… For parsnips, according to RDoVC, after a season’s growth, “at the 8-foot level roots were common and a maximum penetration of 9 feet was determined.” In the top 10″ (25cm) of the soil, lateral roots extended up to 3′ (90cm). Pretty cool, huh?! (Thanks to hand-and-arm model Lynn.)

Parsnip root 2

The snow-on-veggies effect…

Snow on parsnips

The sun was out today, and although it wasn’t too warm (about 5°C/40°F), most of yesterday’s snow melted off pretty quickly. On the remaining crops—brassicas, carrots, some herbs, and parsnips (above)—the brief overnight blanketing of snow did what several nights of sub-zero weather hadn’t managed, wilting them down without killing them off. It’s interesting to watch the accumulating effects of cold on hardy crops. Tastes and textures change, different veggies behave…differently. I don’t imagine this is somethig that veggie growers and gardeners generally explore as the season ends: crops are harvested or tilled under, and that’s that. Here, though, there is no giant cooler for long-term cold storage, and I try not to waste, so the field is the best place to hold crops as people continue to drop by for the last of the season’s fresh veg! Meanwhile, it’s cool to watch the cold effects and learn…