May 2013

Cultivating Patience

. . . May 22, 2013 | posted by Josephine
Hens eating some greens

This is the LAST WEEK of the Spring Share.   A big thank you to all our Spring members!  We love being a CSA farm.  Sure, there are downsides – it is stressful to have vegetables sold before they are even in the ground, what with the zillions of things that could go wrong.  And we have to deliver our produce every Wednesday and Saturday even if we are having a lousy week or horrible weather and we’d really rather just skip it and sleep in for once.  But for us, the benefits of the CSA are much greater than the challenges.  We love feeling connected to and supported by the people eating our food, and getting paid in advance takes a lot of financial stress off of our shoulders.  So thank you for making it possible!  We hope you think that sacrificing an element of choice and eating your less-favorite vegetables along with your favorites is worth the benefits of being part of a CSA as well!

Our farm stand at the Cooper Young Community Farmers MarketNow that the weather is warm, people have started asking for tomatoes at the farmers market.  A farmer friend was even asked if she had watermelons!  I would guess that watermelons are a good two months away.  Of course there are tomatoes and melons in our local grocery story this week (and every week), so I shouldn’t be too hard on shoppers for not stopping to think about how a watermelon seed turns into a watermelon fruit.  Not everyone has grown a garden, but everyone can dip their toes into eating with the seasons.

Two weeks ago I was driving home from the farmers market and impulsively stopped at a roadside stand to buy a whole flat of strawberries.  I was going to make jam but in the end we just went on a strawberry binge and ate 12 pints in one week.  This is what eating with the seasons is all about: going to excess.  If you aren’t sick of lettuce by the time lettuce season is over at the end of June then you didn’t eat enough.  It will help you get through the long, hot, lettuce-less months when you just really want a green leafy salad.  Anticipation is a wonderful thing.  Research has shown the boost in happiness from planning a vacation lasts longer than the happiness from the actual vacation.  So start thinking about that killer tomato dish now!  My mouth is literally watering just thinking about tomato sandwiches.

I don’t have the science to back it up, but my intuition tells me that having to wait Potatoes flowers, looking goodis good for you.  Patience is a virtue after all.  For a control freak like me, waiting for things that are beyond my control (like tomato growth rates) is a healing activity.  Cultivating patience reduces stress.  This spring we planted fruit and asparagus – which means we will be waiting years to reap the benefits.  The benefits to my emotional and psychological health are no doubt saving us hundreds of dollars in therapy.

I hope you find eating with the seasons to be a rewarding experience that heightens your enjoyment, cultivates your patience, and prolongs your happiness.  For now, I suggest you get a flat of strawberries. 

The Wild Weather of Spring

. . . May 15, 2013 | posted by Josephine
The Wild Weather of Spring

Last fall a wise farmer warned me that the steep learning curve of our first year wasn’t going to level out any time soon.  I didn’t believe him.  It had been less of a curve and more of a vertical face as we learned about our soil, our equipment, our pests.  This spring we jumped into the ring with all of our lessons from last year and promptly had the crap beaten out of us again.  How do I feel about that?  I feel great.
I realize that wise farmer (Frank Hart of True Vine Farm) was right about how much we have left to learn.  This year is full of new and unanticipated challenges.  The buzzword now is resiliency.  We need to be ready for torrents of rain or no rain, record highs or record lows, and each and every pest and disease that might show up and we have to be ready for these things all at the same time.  I am working on my personal resiliency, too.  How do I feel about the fact that the cold wet weather paved the way for a fungus to eat away the roots of the melons?  Disappointed, but not devastated.  We can plant more.   There is plenty of summer ahead.
Sunset over the fieldThe fact is, as wild as the weather has been this spring, I’m taking my victories where I can.  After all, what we CSA farmers are trying to do is crazy.  We are growing about 35 different crops complete with different planting schedules, different nutrient needs, and different pest problems.  As soon as I think I am getting a handle on spinach, the peas throw a curve ball.  And we are growing them in such a way that we have a continuous supply of produce from April through November.  
Zucchinis coming soonWe have been busy bees in our finally-dry fields finishing up the big planting rush of spring.  All the tomatoes, peppers and eggplant are in.  The sweet corn has been (re)seeded.  Most of the cucurbits have been replanted.  [It’s attempt #3 on the cucumbers, but the way.  The first round got zapped by the frost.  The second round fell to fungus.  Third time’s a charm!]  Now that it is drier Randy has been hoeing up a storm keeping weeds at bay in the just sprouted okra, the ripening strawberries, and the many, many, beds of carrots.  New veggies are appearing in the boxes soon, including kohlrabi and strawberries in some shares this week, and beets and zucchini likely next week.
Some old friends and some new friends joined us Saturday for our Open House and we had a great time.  The kids enjoyed feeding the chickens and collecting eggs, and finding the first ripe strawberries of the year.  We enjoyed walking people around the farm and watching some hard work clearing brush go up in smoke when we lit the bonfire.  Don’t worry if you missed it – we welcome our members to visit the farm anytime, just give us a call and let us know when you would like to come.  We are also planning the BIG DIG Potato Party in late June when the potatoes are ready.

Nematodes to the Rescue?

. . . May 10, 2013 | posted by Josephine
Carrots Growing in the Field

A week ago today the UPS man came with a small 8-inch Styrofoam cube.  Inside was $60 worth of predatory nematodes, shipped overnight from California.  Randy has not disclosed the cost of the shipping and I think perhaps I had better not ask.  Nematodes are microscopic worms that live in the soil (other species of nematodes live in water).  Some types of nematodes are garden pests, feeding on plant roots, but other kinds are beneficial and feed on insects.
How many nematodes do you get for sixty bucks? Twenty million.  What does 20 million nematodes look like?  A couple tablespoons of damp breadcrumbs in little plastic trays.  They are mixed with cool water and sprayed onto damp soil while being careful not to expose them to direct sunlight.  If we have a pest problem that is bad enough that we need to spray something on the crop, this is the best scenario: a targeted biological control.  Targeted because it affects the pest without having a negative effect on any other species biological because it is a living organism.
The need for the nematodes will be apparent when you see your turnips.  The larva of a fly species munches on the roots, which causes scaring as the turnip grows.  We had them last year, too, but at the end of turnip season.  Seems the weird weather has shepherded them earlier this year – or is it that our turnips are maturing later?  This is our first time using nematodes, and I am pretty excited to see how successful they are.
I am sure this is not the first time you have noticed the evidence of pest damage in your CSA box.  The yellow-margined leaf beetles have been munching the bok choi and mustard greens.  As with the turnips, this is cosmetic damage.  It makes the produce imperfect, but it does not affect the eating quality.  The turnips too ugly to even put in the shares are the ones that Randy and I get to enjoy, and they are just as sweet and crunchy.  So please don’t despair when you see that you have been sharing your produce with the creatures at Tubby Creek Farm.  We know not everything looks perfect, and we are trying to get one step ahead of the pests.
Our goal is not to completely erase pests from the farm.  We actually need the pests, in low levels, to keep our beneficial insects around.  The good bugs have to have something to eat.  Our goal is to keep pest populations below the level where they cause significant economic damage, and to do so in a way that increases biological diversity.  I would be happier if all the turnips were perfectly round and white.  Maybe in the fall we’ll be a step ahead and have the nematodes waiting in the refrigerator when the turnips seeds go into the ground.  If you want to learn more about how we manage pests (or fail to manage pests) on the farm, come join us Saturday for our Open House and Bonfire Party for a farm tour!

Frost Bite

. . . May 01, 2013 | posted by Josephine
Cucurbits planted in the field

The universe might be telling us not to grow tomatoes, but we are not listening.
Frost bitten tomatoes making a come back. I was so convinced that the frost on the morning of April 20th would be our last that I wasn’t paying any attention last week and was completely blind-sided by another frost early last Thursday morning.  Everything in the greenhouse was fine, and aside from some dead leaves, Frost bit tomatoeseverything out in the field pulled through.  Unfortunately we had all the tomatoes, melons, squash and cucumber starts on tables outside the greenhouse where they were being hardened off in preparation for planting.  The tomato death toll was around 400.
I had what might be considered a moderate melt-down.  About an hour of crying and screaming followed by 24 hours of emotional coma.  It was a tough day.  Randy stoically skipped the crying and screaming part but was equally distraught.  Some of you will remember the aminopyralid disaster of 2012.  What is it with us and tomatoes?
Enough bad news, time for the good news.  About half the cucurbits had already been planted, and the ones we lost can be reseeded.  We still had about 300 tomato plants in the greenhouse.  Luckily the farm store had some of our varieties, so I bought another 100 there.  Back in the greenhouse, some of the frozen tomatoes are coming back to life.  Thank goodness, vegetable plants are tougher than you might think.  All together, we will have enough.  The balance may not be what we wanted.  We completely lost the Zarnitsas and the Reisentraubes, and we don’t have as many Green Zebras and Cherokee Purples as we would like.  But we will have tomatoes.  Scratch that, we will plant tomatoes.  There are still an infinite number of things that could go wrong, and I wouldn’t want to issue a challenge to the universe.