Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What's New at the Farm - 08/27/2008

New Water Line, Anthracnose on Melons and Fall Weather

First I would like to say that this is Susie Anderson writing this week's column, not Brian. I am not near as eloquent as Brian so bear with me while I give the low down from the farm. Next I'll say that I'm flattered that he asked me to write the column. I have looked forward to reading this column every week during my first season here and I am proud to be able to contribute. Thank you, Brian.

A new well was dug near the back of the barn and Rob and Janica's house. This line will feed greenhouses #1 and #2, as well as Rob and Janica's house. The spigot between the shade house and the gourd house will stay in use for those houses as well as the inflation buster and act as back up for #1 and #2 greenhouses should anything happen with that well.

Kelly Martin, our Assistant Farm Manager, received results from Bruce Watt at the Pest Management Office that we indeed have anthracnose on the melon trial again this year. She is thinking about next season's crop and what actions to take to quell this disease.

Anthracnose is caused by the fungus Glomerella lagenarium (Colletotrichum orbiculare). The lesions begin as water-soaked areas becoming brown, roughly circular, about ¼ to a ½ inch. The disease has distinct pinkish spore clusters in moist weather. It depends upon wet, humid weather to spread. The recent stagnant weather pattern that has given us many inches of rain and many, many days of humid weather has not helped our melon trial. Anthracnose can be seed-borne so it is imperative to have clean seed. Getting seed that has been produced in an arid region will help keep diseased-infected seed to a minimum. Crop rotation and minimizing overhead irrigation is very important, as well.

The chilly nights have begun. But will they stick around? I think we'll have a few more scorchers before all is said and done but I plan to enjoy these colder nighttime temperatures for now. With this change in weather the farm is preparing for harvest time. Lisa Robbins is readying the breeding tomatoes. Potatoes and onions are being weeded and lots of cover crops going in the ground. Jeff Young is busy finishing the last elements of the water line installation and fixing/maintaining machinery left and right! Tizian, Elisa, and Mike B. are ridding the farm of more weeds by spraying Matratec AG. Clove oil is in the air! Hoop house cucumber harvest is finished and vines are being removed. A fall determinate tomato trial is in the inflation buster, battened down from these cooler temps.

The farm here at Johnny's is beautiful this late August, 2008, with the flowers and herbs looking lovely, the tomatoes ripening, and fresh soil turned for burgeoning cover crops to sprout. Thanks to all and we'll talk next week!

Monday, August 25, 2008

What's New At The Farm 8/20/2008

Last week I talked about earwigs; today I'll go back to what happening out here on the farm.

The weeds are under control as the growing season winds down and the harvest season gears up. Most crops have spread their leaves out covering the open spaces between the rows so the weeds won't grow there. There are of course a few weeds out there but we'll get most of them before they go to seed. I have a pet peeve for Galinsoga at home as I have very little of it and hope to keep it that way. As far as the fields at Johnny's the weed seed bank is very high in many fields, so we are more apt to kill the small weeds in hope that eventually the bank will be reduced in size. A weed seed bank is the term used for the number of viable weed seed in the soil. The higher the number of weed seeds the harder it is to achieve control of them. A key component of total weed control is preventing weeds from setting their seeds. It's easy to spot the weeds in the trails that are going to seed, and it's easy to remove them but weeds often grow in places you'd think they would not. I was walking through a field of Sudan grass last week and was mildly surprised to see the amount of purslane growing in the understory. I guess we'll mow and till that field this week, we'll plant something else like oats and peas, or oats and clover there.

We have one tomato to harvest this fall for seed. We processed on Tuesday, sluiced on Wednesday and when you read this it will be on the dryer. Mike Brown raised Washington Cherry this year and delivered it to Johnny’s on Monday this week. We presented the processing on Tuesday's crop walk. Our next harvesting and processing will be the squash and pumpkin line and stockseed increases. Those will start late next month. All we have other than those above to harvest is Jerusalem Artichokes, a decent job on a warm fall afternoon. We'll dig enough for sales, some to replant and take the rest down to Highmore Farm for winter storage. Hopefully we'll have some decent tubers to send out to the customers whom need a spring shipping date.

We haven't seen any deer tracks on the farm since the deer fence crew got done; that's a good thing. I have seed a couple of turkeys wandering around. I don't see them as much of a problem anymore; I don't foresee the large flocks we once had. I really haven't seen much wildlife out my window this summer anyways. It could have something to do with moving my office and the corn trials grown higher than my window, blocking my view.

This is a slower time on the farm than usual because of the lack of seed productions this year. Normally we would be harvesting tomatoes for the whole month of September, but without them we have managed to catch up on a lot of projects and have accomplished a few we didn't plan on doing. The fields have been trimmed around, we pulled some stumps out and, if it ever stops raining, we'll get our open ground seeded down. There's still time to plant oats and red clover, at least for a week or two.

Next week I'm on vacation so Susie's doing a guest column.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Garden slowdown

The Webmaster's Garden, morning of 8/5/08

The webmaster’s garden has been a pretty quiet place, lately. Sure, some of my veggies have been growing and maturing – I have pulled my shallots and most of my garlic, and I am starting to pull onions. We’ve had a side dish of green beans for dinner once, and there are a few more beans waiting to be picked. Unfortunately, my late start planting combined with the cool weather and torrential rains we’ve been having for the past month or so has not been conducive to plant growth. My tomato plants are smaller than normal and the splash back from the rain has done a number on their bottom leaves; my squash is coming along, but not quite as fast as I’d like it to grow; and, well, I just don’t want to talk about my puny cucumber plants.

Puny cucumber plants under the trellises. (Next year: hills!)

Amazingly, my peppers and eggplant are blooming and looking fairly lush. I think there’s a sweet spot in the garden where I planted most of those – the tomato plant nearest them is also quite vigorous. (So I’ll end up with an abundance of Schemmeig Striped tomatoes – which are hollow like peppers. Maybe I should fill them with bacon, shredded lettuce, croutons, mixed with a little mayo, and enjoy fresh BLTs that way.) I planted a few peppers on the other side of the garden and they just aren’t as big – it’s very odd. Next year: more compost, and somewhat fewer thunderstorms (please). It has been a great year for rainbows.

Busy bee pollinating a squash blossom

Thankfully this week some warm, sunny weather is forecasted – just in time for my vacation. I really hope it gives my tomato plants the jumpstart they need – I usually harvest the bulk of them from September into October anyway (for the past three years, my yard has not received a hard frost until mid-October, and last year it was on Halloween!). So, ever the optimist, I am still hoping for enough heirloom tomatoes so that I can make a big batch of canned salsa. Sure, they take a month to ripen, and right now I probably have enough greenies to make a few capresce salads when they ripen, but my plants will set more fruit.

Leeks, swiss chard, and peppers

OK, so maybe I’m being too optimistic. But that’s why I’m very lucky to work here at Johnny’s, where we have a farm and do product testing that often results in plenty of extra produce. Even though my home cucumber crop will probably be a bust (whatever my internal optimist says), I have been able to bring home enough cukes to fulfill my pickling obsession and fill my cupboard with enough homemade canned goods to last until next summer (even when I give some away as gifts).

Eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes, oh my!

I made 19.5 pints of bread and butter pickles last weekend, and have received even more cukes to make dill pickles and probably another batch of B&Bs. Homemade sweet pickles are the way to go – bread and butter pickles aren’t as sugary as the store bought type, and have a wonderful flavor that always makes me think of summer. They’re sweet and sour, with sugar, vinegar, turmeric, mustard seed, onions and peppers melding with the cucumbers to create a sublime delicousness. Opening a jar of those in the winter and using them to liven up hot dogs and beans, or adding them to tuna salad (I know, it sounds crazy, but it is really yummy), or just nibbling a few out of the jar is one of life’s little pleasures. My family’s (secret) recipe is very similar to the Ball Blue Book of Canning recipe. I also use a couple of different dill pickle recipes from the BBB – it’s tough to go wrong there. Having a book on home canning is very handy, and having an up-to-date one is important, as canning techniques have changed over the years.

Bread and butter pickles, yum yum.

Well, another bright side of having vacation next week is that the garden is growing slowly, and I shouldn't have to deal with any pesky harvesting. Once I can the rest of my cucumbers, I can spend the week at the beach. I sure hope the rain stays away!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What's New At The Farm 8/13/08

Today I’m going to talk about earwigs and bean hole beans. First the earwigs:
Most everyone knows earwigs. They like cool, damp and moist areas and have pinchers, called forceps, on their posterior end. Now a few things you probably might not know. The common earwig is the European earwig, accidently introduced in the early 1900’s from Europe. To start the life cycle the female lays around 30 eggs two to three inches below the soil surface. After the eggs hatch the mother takes care of the young until they have their first molt; molting like a lobster where the old exoskeleton is shed and a new larger and soft shell covers them. Once the molt has taken place they leave the nest in search of food and a place to reside.
They feed primarily on dead organic matter, mites, small insects, plant shoots, corn silks and aphids. While they may do some damage to growing plants, we’ve all seen them on Marigolds, they’re an important predator of many small garden insects. They variously feed on aphids so killing them is often not needed.
Control is mainly through physical controls. ‘Physical controls’ means controlling their environment so they are not attracted to the garden. Removal of weeds, vines, leaves and anything else that creates a damp and dark environment will often reduce their numbers considerably. Don’t let vining perennials grow near the vegetable garden and keep the leaves in the compost pile a few feet away from the garden.
Toads, birds and other predators like them so they play an important role in biological pest management. Chickens and Guineas also will devour them so, again, control is often not needed.
Last weekend I decided to replace the weed whacker guards on my plum trees. I made some new guards out of black drainage pipe. I removed the old guards, those plastic spiral ones, and found the mother lode of earwigs. They had moved in because the guards held moisture and provide darkness. There were large ones and midsized ones. I left the guards off and pulled the grass back away from the trunks so I imagine they will find other homes.
And finally, no they don’t bite humans. They look like they could and would. Their forceps are used primarily for defense and in courtship. Their appearance certainly startles most people. We’ve found them in the barbeque grill and in the mailbox recently; it’s about the last thing on your mind when you’re going to use the grill or get the mail. This weather recently has been ideal for them so plan on seeing a few. If they get in your house, don’t become too alarmed. They will die shortly from lack of food.

And now for bean hole beans:
I used to eat a lot of canned beans; I never understood the deal with home baked beans until later in life. There’s nothing better than beans I grew myself, slow cooked all day in the ground, for supper on a cool and damp day. We are on our second pit which we dug a couple of weeks ago. We dug a hole about 28 inches wide and 36 inches deep. The digging was really nice as we are blessed with blue clay for our subsoil. The hole needed to be 28 inches wide to accommodate our 55 gallon drum, cut in half, for the pit and to have some room around it for the sand we put in. We placed rocks and sand in the hole to a depth of six inches. We then lowered the barrel into the hole and filled between the soil and the barrel with rocks and sand. I added another eight inches of rocks and sand to the inside of the barrel giving us around 16 inches of depth in the barrel.
I built a fire in the pit Sunday morning. I used hardwood slabwood and some soft (read rotten) hardwood I had kicking around. After 4 hours we had about sixteen inches of coals. Once we had plenty of coals I dug about a foot of coals out and went in search of the beans. Peggy parboiled a pound of beans and placed them in a Dutch oven with all her secret ingredients. On top of the beans she placed a nice piece of steak, and then covered in it tin foil and put the cover on. More tin foil and some wire to hold the lid on and into the bean pit it went. I covered the pot with coals and then 3 or 4 inches of soil and left it alone for six hours.
Just before supper time we dug up the pot and brought it into the kitchen. The reason we use two layers of foil and wire the cover shut is to keep out any coals or ashes from inside our bean pot. The beans were great and the steak was tender and delicious. While it takes four hours or so to get everything ready I’m usually around the yard or garden anyways so it’s not a nuisance at all. Peg loves it as supper is ready six hours after we bury the pot and it’s done, period. We’ll try corned beef next week and do more beans the week after so you know where I’ll be.
It’s a real easy process and pretty darn good too. I like my home raised beans the best but also use local beans once mine run out. I think there are many different dishes we could and will try with our new bean pit; chili comes to mind.
Until next week, Brian.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Succession Planting Reminder

From an earlier article by Ben Wilcox...

Late Summer to Early Fall Plantings
Aug - Sept
Late July and early August are the time to begin plantings that will mature during the cooler fall months. Light frost sweetens the flavor of many greens, and cool temperatures enable some to re grow after cutting the first harvest.

Arugula 21 days baby, 40 days mature
Broccoli Raab 40 days, may be cut again
Broccoli transplants 60 days from trans.
Cabbage transplants 60 days from trans.
Cauliflower transplants 60 days from trans. frost will damage heads if not protected
Cilantro 50 days, will survive light frost
Collards 30 days baby, 60 days mature
Daikon Radish 60 days
Greens Mix 21 days baby, may be cut again
Kale 30 days baby, 60 days mature
Lettuce Mix 30 days, may by cut again
Napa Cabbage 70 days, or 50 days from trans
Mustard Greens 21 days baby, or 45 days mature
Snap Beans 60 days, must be protected against frost
Spinach 30 days baby, 45 days mature, may be cut again
Turnips 40-50 days

Friday, August 8, 2008

What's New At The Farm 8/06/2008

Unlike most articles I have written over the past few years, I’ll not mention a lack of water. We’ve had plenty this summer and irrigation is but a distant memory. The crops are thriving so all we need now is some sunshine and heat.

We’re picking cucumbers three times a week and summer squash twice a week. I think we’re done picking green beans, at least I hope so. There are many crops that have gone by and have been tilled or are waiting to be mowed. Field work has slowed considerably as it’s too wet to get in most fields. Hopefully it will dry out soon so we can get some cover crops seeded before long.

The garden at home has grown to almost giant proportions since we’ve received all this rain. We’ve managed to freeze peas, snap peas, green beans, Swiss chard and beet greens. I think we’re about done freezing for a while although I may do some more Swiss chard; kind of festive in the middle of the winter.

I had some extra poly leftover in my garden so I planted it all in zucchini and summer squash. We’ve got plenty now for us and the chickens. I’ve got more weeds than usual in the garden and have been concentrating on getting them before they go to seed. The goat likes weeds so he gets most of them. The galinsoga goes on the stone wall or into the burn pile and the chickens get the purslane. Everyone’s happy.

August is typically the calm before the storm type month. The planting and crop maintenance has been done and we’re awaiting harvest. We’re getting the harvesters ready and all things associated with seed harvesting. This year we only have squash and pumpkins so that will be relatively easy. Relatively is the word to look out for. We hope, if the weather cooperates, the fall will go smoothly and we can get all our field work done before the weather turns too cold. That’s the plan anyways.

Until next week, Brian.