Huge thanks to all our Summer CSA members! We've had such a good year - we sure hope you've had a good one as well. Folks who are staying on or joining us for the Winter CSA, please note that it starts the first week of November - there is no CSA pick-up next week.
Although it's looking to be mighty hot this week, we're glad for the sun and heat and lack of rain. It'll give us a chance to catch up on weeding, which had been a real challenge in the wet weather. Fewer weeds and more sunshine should give the plants a big boost this week, and the dry weather will hopefully push back against some disease and pest problems that crop up when it's moist for too long.
One potential issue we're keeping an eye on is a disease called late blight. You might remember it from 2009, when it wiped out tomatoes and potatoes across most of New England. Late blight can't overwinter here, but the spores get blown up on storms from the south, where it is present year-round. Usually it doesn't get here until late summer (thus the name), but it has been confirmed already in Massachusets and New York. Under organic management, there aren't a whole lot of options beyond pruning tomatoes well to encourage air flow and hoping for a good stretch of dry weather to slow down or stop the spread of the disease. Conventional growers can use several powerful anti-fungal sprays, but the only one available to organic farmers is copper, and it only really works if you use it before there are any symptoms. So we're pruning, and hoping, and keeping a close eye on the maps.
With luck, we'll have tomatoes for CSA pretty soon, and for a while!
Click the images to view larger and see the date each was taken.
Yup, they're here! CSA got the first tomatoes on Tuesday, and we're bringing several flats to market tomorrow. We've got both red and golden slicers - try them both and see which you like best. The heirlooms and cherry tomatoes are on their way, and should be ready in the next week or two.
We'll also have eggplants - both the big purple ones and the little green Thai ones - and cucumbers, as well as lettuce, kale, green beans, peas, and more! The weather looks perfect for tomorrow, so we hope to see you there.
The summer seems to be pretty thoroughly over, though the Eye in the Sky claims that there's some more warm weather coming. We've gotten about to the end of the summer foods - we gave pretty much the last of the tomatoes and definitely the last of the cukes to the CSA this week - and the fall goodies are coming in. The cherry tomatoes are the only thing still going in the greenhouse, which has been mostly taken over by drying onions and curing winter squash, but even they are starting to look tired.
We're getting ready to start on our new greenhouses - just got the building permits last week. Soon we'll rip all the tomato plants out of this house and plant some spinach and carrots, probably; the big new one will be our tomato house next year and this one will probably be our plant house, where we'll start all our seedlings. The third one will be much smaller, and probably an experimental house, a place to play with new ideas. It's pretty exciting to contemplate the possibilities of all this new greenhouse space - even though we don't heat our greenhouses, they provide enough protection to really change the scope of what it's possible to grow up here, and we're really looking forward to exploring that a lot more in the coming seasons.
July is plowing right along. We've had a pretty good mix of sun and rain and most things are growing like crazy. We ought to be picking cukes, zukes and green beans every day, but three times a week is about all we can manage. We haven't had enough sunny, dry days to get ahead of the weeds, and they've been growing just as fast as everything else, so every sunny, dry day is spent weeding. Harvest and wash for CSA and market takes most of the day on Friday now. This week we added potatoes to the mix.
New potatoes are one of the reasons I love farming. They were really a revelation for me. I think that everyone knows - at least theoretically - that a fresh, sun-warmed, garden tomato is fundamentally different from the tomatoes you get at the grocery store. What most people don't know - what I didn't know until only a few years ago - is that a fresh, just-dug baby potato is a fundamentally different vegetable than the big old russets (or even the pretty-good red-skinned ones) you get at the store. They're so creamy and soft and tender and full of good flavor. Potatoes are one of my favorite things to eat and one of my favorite things to grow. They don't take much care, just basic weeding and a hilling once or twice, and they grow all big and bushy, then you dig them up and surprise! There's potatoes in there! It's like magic every time.
Besides, potatoes, what else is new? The younger chickens have just started laying, so we get a little blue pullet egg every other day or so (a pullet is a young hen). When chickens first start laying, it takes them a few tries to get it right, so the first eggs tend to be a bit funny - often they're very small, grape-sized or even smaller, sometimes without yolks. Sometimes they don't get their hard shell on and are just enclosed in the inner membrane. Sometimes they have two yolks, or only yolk and no white. They're an adventure. After another few weeks the pullets should have it all worked out and we ought to be getting four or five good blue eggs in addition to the 8-10 that the other fourteen hens lay each day. Which will be good, because our household eats 6-8 eggs a day, and we haven't had as many to sell as we'd like.
The new chickens also seem to have integrated into the flock better now that they're full-sized and laying. They mostly roost all together now, although one still insists on roosting on the coop's hipboard rather than on the roost. I suspect that when winter comes she'll join the flock.
Also, the cherry tomato plants in the greenhouse have reached the top of their trellis (which is about 7 feet high), and Jeremy has doubled them over and trained them back down, and they have now reached my waist on their way down to the ground.
Wow, it's hard to find the time to blog!
Things are going well on the farm. The Japanese beetles have made their first appearance, right in sync with the black raspberries ripening. (Our black raspberry bush is very small and provides us with one tiny handful of raspberries every few days during the season... but it's a delicious tiny handful!) Pests haven't been that bad this year, so far (knock on wood) but it's early yet.
The magic December-planted carrots from the greenhouse are all done now, and the greenhouse is firmly in the grip of summer plants: eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes which are growing several inches a day. The cherry tomato plants are taller than I am! We've got a few just starting to turn color, so hopefully the rest will follow suit and soon we'll have tomatoes for the CSA and market.
We're starting to plan for this winter now, making sure we've got all the fall crops planted and figuring out what will go in the greenhouse when the tomatoes are done. We're planning to build a second greenhouse this fall, so we have to figure out the timing of that and what to plant when to fill it up. There's garlic now where that greenhouse is going, but that will be coming out fairly soon. Probably we'll plant some late brassicas and spinach there, then build the greenhouse over it, like we did with the first greenhouse last year. Maybe we'll plant more winter carrots! With two greenhouses, we should have the same problem of needing to plant the summer crops in before the winter crops are finished. Eventually, we'd love to have movable greenhouses... but that's for the future. Right now, we need to decide how much rutabaga seed to order!