Friday, October 2, 2009

What's New At The Farm? 9/30/09

The first frost of the season happened Saturday morning - early. I had 27 degrees at home but only briefly; a light frost on galinsoga and not much else. Here at work we ran irrigation from early Saturday morning to about ten AM on that day. Everything was working fine when I left around 2:30 in the morning, but by seven, when I came back, something wasn't right with the pump and we weren't getting much water out in the field. The hot peppers got some frost damage on their tops but the sweet peppers and the tomato trial look OK.

Running irrigation water to prevent frost damage has its drawbacks. If anything is going to go wrong it will be at 2:30 in the morning; not the day you set it up. We set up the system on Thursday, blew out the lines and pressure tested it and everything was fine. Saturday morning sometime between when I left and when I returned is when something went wrong. The pump is now in the shop, completely disassembled, while we're waiting on information from the dealer. There's no frost in sight, at least for a week, so we should be all set; of course that's subject to change according to the local weathermen.

The galinsoga is dead, and I mean dead. It has absolutely no frost tolerance so, except for where we irrigated, it's dead in every field I toured this week. Speaking of touring the fields, I did my usual field visits this week, Monday, and all the fields except Jack's had been frosted. Jack's escaped frost by being near the pond and being on a hill. All the squash and pumpkins got heavily frosted so they're easy to see and will be easier to pick than if the leaves were still up. For long term storage you'd not want them to get frosted, but for seed it's fine.

We're still picking tomatoes; we've got two or three to pick this week and we'll be done with the tomatoes for seed production. We've got lots of seed from the tomato breeding workshop to seed out so that will keep us busy for quite some time. We've got squash and pumpkins to harvest for seed as well as a cucumber. We've got peppers, squash and pumpkins to harvest from the breeding workshops and we've got the usual plastic removal, miles of tomato trellises to take down, chisel plowing and equipment cleaning and repair to do in the next couple of months. Guess we'll keep busy.

Even though we don't harvest crops like a regular vegetable farm, we are more than busy saving seed for use in future years. I think growing for seed is much more interesting than growing for fruit. If you grow a tomato plant to eat, once you're done eating them, well you're done. But seed on the other hand is more of a whole circle type of experience. You grow the plants, harvest some for eating and harvest some more for seed. Next year you plant the seed that you grew and start the process all over again. This is where a lot of heirlooms come from; people saving their own seeds from their own climates with their own likenesses for generations.

Saving seeds from cucumbers, melons, tomatoes and peppers is relatively easy. Once you become proficient at saving these, moving on to biennials brings more of a challenge. Carrots, beets, turnips, Swiss chard and parsnips to name a few, all need two growing seasons to complete their life cycle. Each of these needs to be stored through the winter, replanted in the spring and harvested in mid-summer.

Until next week, savor the harvest. Brian

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