Monday, November 19, 2012

What's New at the Farm — Before the Ground Freezes Up

Pumpkin and Squash Seed Harvesting

The week before Thanksgiving finds the farm still buzzing with activity. Trying to get everything wrapped up before the ground freezes keeps us busy in the not-so-pleasant weather of November. Much of our time this week has also been directed toward the cucurbit (pumpkins and squash) seed-harvest.

A local farmer here in mid-Maine grows several squash and pumpkin varieties for us; here’s a shot of bins full of fruit being delivered to us prior to processing.
The fruits are loaded onto a hay elevator and dumped into our vine crop harvester. where they are crushed to release their seeds. Here’s a shot of the end of the vine harvester where the pulp comes out.
 At this point the seed has been extracted from the fruits and is being deposited underneath the rotating drum. What comes out the back are the fruit rinds. These are collected and made into compost, to be reapplied to feed another crop.
Once the seed depth has built up, we take the seed out of the collector on the vine seed harvester, for processing it in the coner.
This machine has rubber paddles inside, which, when injected with large amounts of water, gently wash the pulp from the seeds.
As you can see, it’s a wet job, with water going in every direction!
Here’s the business end of the coner and the washed seeds coming out.
The seed mixture is comprised of seeds, pulp, and a few rind pieces. All the seed is collected, whether it be good, plump seed or flat seed that isn’t good. It is all placed on our paddle dryer and dried down to where it can safely be stored whilst waiting for seed cleaning to begin.
Here’s the seed being agitated and dried. 
Once the seed is dried it goes into our controlled atmosphere storage.
After being cleaned on one or more of our seed cleaning machines, it gets a final inspection on a “Bean Table.” A bean table is a small table fitted out with a belt that carries seeds (originally beans; hence the name) along in front of a person, to be visually inspected. The small boxes on either side are for holding broken, dirty, or otherwise subprime seeds that are being taken out. The good seeds drop into a bucket and, when the batch is done, are sewn up and put back into seed storage.

And that wraps that up — well, 20-something varieties — and we’re done harvesting.
Aside from that, we’re trying to pull all the plastic from the fields that we can, before freeze-up. There may be warmer weather for pulling it in the spring, but that would be leaving one more job undone for the spring, and we’ve got enough to do that time of year. It’s nice to get it all pulled up before we’re done for the season — sort of a closing task to the season.
There are a lot of other projects we can do around the farm before winter, but I’m sure we won’t get to them all. There are a few trees that need to be taken down, and some limbs to be trimmed off. Getting as much equipment gone through and stored under cover is always a challenge. And we’re getting our hoophouses planted for our overwintering crops — we’ll have fresh succulent greens in March.
Spring is closer than we think!

Until next time,

11/16/2012 — Albion, Maine

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