A bit of red, a bit of looking ahead.

It’s hard to see, but hidden at the bottom of most of the early, Northwest tomato varieties and the  smaller cherry tomato varieties is about 1-2 mostly red fruits, close to being enjoyed.  The only question will be by whom…it seems like a CSA or market harvest still might take some time.  Nevertheless, this is progress.  Even though it is quite clear that this year’s icky late spring/early summer weather has delayed the amount of fruit that is on the plants so far, seeing some red in the tomato patch already is more than on time for us, it is even a bit early.  The weather, now that it has turned summery, has held consistently, and most crops have more or less caught up with the season.  The real question the tomato patch keeps nagging me with is what our heirloom tomato harvest will look like this year.  These big beauties always take a long time to ripen even after they set fruit, and they are just now setting fruit.

The other nightshades, although small in size, are super healthy and full of peppers and eggplants and will finish ripening in good time.  It has certainly helped that these crops were planted in our lower field.  This space has the best soil on our property, even though it is also under water or too wet to work from December through May (or in a year like this, June).  Even with planting dates being so late for some of these crops, the fertility and tilth of this soil has helped everything down there grow faster than it would in our other fields.

Besides watching for red in the tomato patch, most of the farm energy right now is directed towards the fall and winter garden.  The growing spots are being worked up.  Most of the brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower) are already in the field.  New chards and kales sown.  Soon, we will do winter greens, and before we know it, it will be time to plant the last round of our succession crops like carrots and beets and salad mix, as well as the fall root crops.  I can’t even believe it!  It is always so surprising when we get to our last planting date in August and the end of another season of putting seeds into the ground has passed.

We really hope for an extended warm season to help balance the late start summer had.  Even though the day length will shorten on schedule, the more warmth we get into September and October, the more ripe nightshades we will get, and the less we will have to worry about crops like the winter squash getting fully mature.  For now, we are enjoying the season for as long as we have it.  The baby is expected around the first day of fall, and that is just a bit over seven weeks away!  I’ve never know a summer to go by faster, nor felt such unkind feelings for gray skies.  I don’t want to see them back for quite a while longer; the sun feels too good!  And there was never a season we needed a big fall harvest more than we do this year to make up for the small harvests we had this spring.  Either way, we have our best crop of the year to look forward too come fall.  Even the return of cool weather could not put a damper on that.

Spring awakening

Now that we are almost a full month into spring, a good four months into the new year, and well, a few months more than that since the last blog post,  it seems well past time to begin filling these pages again with some farm news.  A farm is quiet in the winter, but our lives are not; so to say that this quiet is an excuse for such a quiet blog doesn’t really cut it.  The truth is I lost a lot of steam for sharing our lives here on the farm last summer when I was wading through the grief that came with losing my parents both expectedly and just as surprisingly, unexpectedly.

Time was all I needed;  but having a community supported farm such as ours requires us to keep up with the giving of the fair share of our personal self that is part of the package, the part that continues to foster a connection between land, farmer, and eater and makes what we offer that much more meaningful and sustaining.   It was hard, but thankfully it meant that at least almost every week of the season I had a CSA newsletter to upload to the blog, to keep things from completely coming to a halt here.

The beauty of the rising sun is the promise of a new day.  It often feels like anything can happen when the earth sings itself awake each day.  And no matter if the day proves a wash or we stumbled and tripped on our path halfway through, come night, we sleep, and wake each day to that promise.  This is the same feeling that spring brings, only magnified by the presence of not just the promise of good things to come for us, but the bursting forth of new life from the ground, in hatching eggs, and baby goats and lambs.  There is so much solace in this, and so much energy.

So here on the farm, our family has moved right along with the seasons and jumped fully into spring, letting the sun fall on our skin again here and there in between the rain.  We are outside and in the dirt often; some of us to dance, others to get dirty, and the farmer and I, to work.  And as the body remembers the feeling of hard work again and we slowly harvest what is left of the dying winter garden while at the same time bringing it all back to life for another season, it all feelslike the beginning of the day.  Brand new, exciting and exhilirating, full of hope and the unshakable sense that anything can happen and it is all going to be good.

Busy, Busy, Busy!

growingwildfarm

Busy, busy, busy! We are busy planning and planting for the fall, winter, and early spring, keeping starts and new plantings wet in the heat. We have a lot of decisions to make in the next week or so as we plan our second season of growing year round. We learned a lot throughout last year, and we are happy to be able to apply first hand knowledge to the plans we are making this year. We are excited to plant some of the things we didn’t get to last year, things like chicories and parsley root. We are taking extra care with our parsnip planting, using soaker hoses to keep them nice and wet, and
while we do this really trying to keep the bed clear of weeds to facilitate a good start on these, they take almost three weeks to germinate! We are so happy with the increased amount of potatoes and onions already growing for winter harvest, and we are discussing and evaluating storage options for the winter.

We have decided not to plant in the new field we planned to use for fall/winter. This field needs more work to be a good growing space, and in the end, it will be better to do that work before trying to use it. Things will grow better in the old field, and although we had hoped to switch to rotating back and forth seasonally, the truth is that our main field’s soil is continually improving, rather than degenerating, so we have relaxed about using it this intensively. On the other hand, our lower field is looking great, and although our plans for growing pumpkins/tomatoes there weren’t realized this year (mostly because of how behind in time we got with that week in June that took me to Nebraska), we are going to get to use this for fall planting, and the soil is lovely. The water rises here right around the first of the new year, so this space will be filled with roots, roots, and more roots that we will harvest for cold storage both for the CSA and restaurants, but also for fall feed for the pigs and winter treats for the goats. Next year, we will likely do pumpkins and tomatoes there as we planned to this year. That looks especially promising after how well our tomatoes did in a similarly wet spot in the main field this year!

We are also beginning to make plans on the new greenhouse for next winter. After going back and forth between putting up a more permanent plastic hoophouse or a glass greenhouse with a foundation, we finally decided on building the glass house with a modified passive solar design. We are so blessed to have help with the designing of this from a fellow farm member and Monday farm helper. Andre continues to learn more and more and building as time passes on the farm, but it is always so reassuring to have a helping hand, especially a very smart and hard working one.

This week has also so quickly brought us into summer squash craziness, and for the first time ever, we have harvested these both today and on Sunday in order to keep up. We will check out the quality of those picked on Sunday, and will not give them out if they do not still seem super fresh, but we are committed to nice, mid-sized zucchinis and summer squash this year, aiming for consistent sizes for the CSA and market. With warm weather and the nature of these plants, sometimes overnight and especially a day or two can result in a mammoth squash. And although these are great for the little
piggies, there will be plenty of those by the end of summer squash season!

And as I mentioned last week, it is time for a farm open house and CSA potluck! We are busy with various summer plans just like the rest of you, so we ended up deciding on AUGUST 8th as the date for our first get together of the season. Mark your calenders, and don’t worry if you already have plans, we will definitely host another get together in October as well! And as it is the time for summer activities, we encourage you to check out the upcoming fundraising concert event on August 1st to benefit the efforts of Waste Not of Yamhill County, a group working against the landfill expansion as well as for alternative methods of waste disposal that could be employed at the existing dump. For details about this upcoming event, visit http://www.wastenotofyamhillcounty.org/.

This is an issue that is of vital importance to our community, so whether or not you can attend the concert, do take some time to become familiar with the efforts of this great
group.

Spring love matures (and so do the weeds)

As much as I knew it would come, being here at the end of the giddy stage of spring, when our farm (where landscaping has taken a second seat to things growing for the business) abruptly turns green after that splash of color, is still something like walking on uneven ground, that bumpy step a little jolting. Everywhere I look it is green, the green of grasses, mostly, and other weeds loving the warming up of the weather just as much as the rest of us. The fruit trees are done blooming, the spring bulbs and flowering trees too, even the early weeds have already blossomed and set seed (shudder). Thankfully we are able to leave the beautiful white and pink blooms of our winter arugula and black spanish radsishes along with the unmistakable yellow flowers of the mustards and turnips for a bit longer…the bees and my eyes need something colorful to feast on. But these blossoms too, begin to feel like weeds as they get in the way of working around new growing things.

As ambitious as early spring is with its newfound energy, the rising from winter’s slumber and slow going, the inevitable next step comes and its reality is not as flippant and full on as the sowing of a new year’s seeds. The season gets warmer, and the watering and weeding begin. That is what we did this weekend,; recovered beets and kohlrabi and carrots from the mat of other growth thinking it had found a nice place to grow too, freed some broccoli from the start of a dangerous relationship with the nasty bindweed, gave our bunching onions access to more light, and started on getting the grass out of the fava beans although their growth is vigorous enough to withstand sharing–we just don’t want the slugs having ladders to the pods which are now setting.

And this kind of work is more sobering than planting even when the sense of accomplishment is almost more fulfilling when you finish. Now our early spring love affair with a new season is tempered by what time brings. Just like any love affair, your vision at first is beautifully rose colored. Now that the first flush of petals have fallen, some of those irksome growing challenges are up for evaluation. There are still spots in the field where the difference in soil quality is fairly dramatic. There are still some broccolis buttoning (producing a small head before the plant matures because of stress from soil or heat?), still poor germination on our first planting of carrots, still flea beetles on the pac chois, and spotted cucumber beetles on the chard. Things are not picture perfect, for sure.

Still, the upshot is that we are seeing all of these things on a much smaller scale than ever before, and we can see that at least from the pest perspective, the plants are stronger than the damage they can do this year. Soon they will have outgrown the worst of it. Carrots are in the queue for succession plantings into July, and in truth the germination percentage on that first planting is close to 50% where we had 0% on our first planting last year (I suppose we are just pushing the envelope for carrots with that first planting anyways). We way, way, way overplanted broccolis because they are so fickle anyways. And at least after the main growing season comes to a close, we can clear this space and really work with it for soil improvement since we have a separate space for fall/winter plantings. That will make a world of difference.

So the season matures, we settle into its routines. We have the bulk of our spring planting done (which is why we took the last few days to weed, weed, weed). Most of the tomatoes, the eggplant, some more corn, and more basil…that is what is left besides things that are continually planted in succession. We won’t have another big planting push until July, so weeding and watering do become our main occupations, along with the all important harvesting! And even though all the early spring colors have turned to blankets of green over here, when we weeded the raspberries yesterday, our first year’s planting was vibrating with a steady bzzzzz! Many of those early flowers are working there way towards summer fruit, a feast of colors for the plate. And we planted all those annual flowers, a quick fix for more lavish blooms for us and cut flowers for all of you. And even the humble vegetable blooms that proceed the harvest are beautiful in their own right. It may be green right now, but just around the corner will be summer’s color show, one that holds steady and true into winter even though it doesn’t take our breath away quite like the first of spring.