It’s the last of the beets, a mix of varieties – Red Ace, Bulls Blood, Chioggia – from different beds, golf ball-sized, cold-sweetened, nice! Leaves, not in the greatest shape, were trimmed, leaving enough stem to avoid bleeding. Around 50 lbs, and that’s it for this year’s beets.
Third week of our first winter farmers’ market and it’s going great. So far, the weather hasn’t been bad, so it doesn’t seem entirely radical to have freshly harvested greens and carrots this late in the season, but it’s still quite a novelty at our market. One other small farm is doing the same season extension stuff for the first time this year, which is cool, it makes the idea of fresh, local food well past the usual outdoor season seem…doable. Which it obviously is. After the last few years of ending the market, outdoors, on the last Saturday of October, being up and running this late in the year feels excellent, and going till Christmas will be fun. Only downside of being indoors here is the rather ghastly lighting, but like most things, you get used to it, and warm is good. On the stand today (and almost sold out by mid-morning): carrots (Nelson), spinach (Bloomsdale), mizuna, mustard, arugula, everything harvested yesterday.
Yep, like just about every year, the new growing season starts here with fall garlic planting. Miserable, damp day, though not so cold. Andrea M (close) and Rochelle (far) are working on different sections to hedge bets on which areas of the field dry out first in case of a disastrously wet spring. Crafty! The little metal pails, paint pails that happen to be from…Home Depot, turn out to be perfect for this job (they’re useful all over the place). Handy!
Brassica greens in perfect, flea beetle hole-free shape, thanks to good weather and…floating row cover. Rochelle is cutting mizuna—in the pic, there’s green and purple mustards, mizuna and tatsoi. Our extra focus on salad mixes this season continues to go over well, with a Mild Mix, Zesty Mix, and Mix of the Week, plus everything bagged individually. To fill the line-up, we have our own lettuce blend, the brassicas just mentioned plus arugula, all grown separately and as a mustards-mizuna-tatsoi mix (the tatsoi tends to be too small to easily cut in, so that’ll be out next round), spinach, and chard and beet greens (both grown tightly spaced). The greens harvest bin of choice this season is bushel baskets lined with a new clear bag each time (easy to toss into, hold a lot, the bags stay put even in wind and can be easily lifted out). Will be fun to expand the greens line-up and tweak the planting and harvest next year!
It came with the greens. A praying mantis perched on the edge of a lettuce mix harvest basket and took the ride in. Kool kat, with a wraparound look. Friendly, too, if insects can be, calm at least, let it walk on my hand to transfer it to a fence post. Don’t see them often, so I looked ‘em up and…yikes! “Sexual cannibalism is common among mantises in captivity, and under some circumstances may also be observed in the field. The female may begin feeding by biting off the male’s head (as they do with regular prey), and if mating has begun, the male’s movements may become even more vigorous in its delivery of sperm.” Kinky and kinda brutal. But reading on, it seems this behavior may be induced by the distractions of being constantly observed in the lab, and not a normal practice. There we go again, messin’ with stuff. Well, this one got away. In the wild, it’s considered a beneficial insect for the veg patch, a massive hunter that eats “most pest insects, mites, eggs, or any insect in reach.” Nice. And it’s apparently the only insect to hunt moths at night, and the only one fast enough to catch flies and mosquitoes. Go, mantis!
No luck with the dug well—at this point, the standing level has dropped around 10 ft. since spring, and the replenish rate is barely a foot in 24 hours—so it’s on to other water sources and delivery methods. As with most things on this tiny farm, the ultimate fallback tends to be something really labor-intensive. (Hahahahaha. I have to laugh.) In this case: WATER BARRELS. In a thankfully typical seek-and-ye-shall-find situation, there is a supplier of used barrels just down the road. Who’d have thought! These are standard 55 gallon, available in steel or plastic, and only about $10 a pop, with optional lids for a couple bucks more. Of course, they’re food-grade, which means, coated on the inside and used only for food, with those weathered white labels telling the story: pickles, perhaps. Strategically located around newly seeded beds, the barrels are filled from the house well (via the former dead well pipe) and then, 2-gallon watering cans do the final job. We still need rain as things grow, but this will work for germination and seedlings. Whatever it takes!