Friday, September 25, 2009

What's New At The Farm? 9/23/09

What's new: the "F" word.

F is for Frost; among other things but I'm thinking about frost. We had a close call last weekend; Saturday night to be specific. All week and all weekend I tracked the weather trying to get an exact temperature for Saturday night. I got temps between 35 and 42 according to whom I listened to. There are several sources I rely on, most of the time being the National Weather Service out of Gray, Maine. Intellicast ( and the Weather Underground ( are also good bets.

There are a few guidelines I use when determining whether or not they'll be a frost or not. If the wind is blowing we won't have a frost, if the temperature at ten o'clock the night before is 40 degrees or above, we won't have a frost, or if it's raining we won't have a frost (of course not). The temperature at the house was 47 at ten o'clock Saturday night but had dropped fast to 34 degrees at 3:00 AM. And every hour when I checked the temp it was 34 degrees until it warmed up as the sun came up.

Monday morning I went for my usual tour of our fields and crops. Of the five different locations I checked, there was frost damage at only one. That field always gets frosted early; this year is no exception. We have winter squash at that field; it's a lot easier to see the fruits now. Not enough damage to be concerned about; the fruits will continue to ripen as the vines will continue to feed them. The fruits will be fine as long as they don't get a killing frost or freeze. Only after a killing frost will damage be more severe; a hard frost and the fruits won't keep.

There are some good things about a hard frost; for example a hard frost will kill Galinsoga. Galinsoga is extremely susceptible to cold temperatures so any temp below 32 will kill it; doesn't hurt my feelings. Other indicators of frost temps are basil, squash and pumpkins, millet, and Sudan grass; all easily damaged by cold temps.

Preventing frost damage at the farm is reserved for the peppers and tomatoes. We use overhead irrigation to prevent frost damage. I'm sure there's a scientific explanation for how it works but basically the energy released from the water freezing on the plants keeps the plants at 32 degrees and no colder. This works down to around 28 degrees or so. The biggest problem with this form of frost control, besides the labor to set it up, is putting a tremendous amount of water on the field. Several nights of frosts will saturate the field with water making field work all but impossible.

The leaves are turning quickly. It's easy to miss them as farming is usually confined to working beneath your feet so gawking around and looking off into space isn't something we do a lot of. I noticed the red maples in their full fall glory this morning whilst taking my dogs for their morning jaunt. I believe the correct name is red maple because their leaves turn red in the fall. The local name is white maple because their wood is white. Either way they are the first leaves to turn in the late summer. Stressful conditions, like drought and beaver damage, will make their leaves turn red pre-fall; sometimes in the summer even.

The fall migration continues; the swallows and hummingbirds are gone, the geese are flocking up; feeding heavily before their long trip. I haven't seen a lot of ducks this year; they'll probably be later in the season. Went to Jackman and Greenville two weeks ago Saturday and didn't see any partridge but did see some turkeys and a flock of guinea hens. Yes, guinea hens. Beside route 201 on the way to Jackman, just out and about, not seeming to know where they were going or where they'd been or where they belonged.

I assume all the rain we had this summer took its toll on the partridge population. Rainy, cool weather will take a heavy toll on the chicks. Speaking of hatching issues, our setting hens did poorly this year, with only two chicks that survived until adult hood; well, at least they're both hens. Fortunately the incubator I ordered worked out well and we've plenty of replacement laying hens and some roosters for soup to eat this winter. A couple of years ago Peggy wanted to make a chicken soup and was going to use breast meat. A 20 minute trip to the henhouse gave her lots of fresh chicken to make her soup. She hasn't mentioned making soup since; works for me.

Until next week, enjoy the fall, Brian

1 comment:

Heidi said...

It sure looks and feels like Fall today that's for sure. The wind is chilly and the leaves are blowing around. I guess there's nothing we can do about it.

Here's hoping for a nice Indian Summer in October!