Although the days are shorter and the remaining crew starts later in the morning, (it’s getting tough to ignore how cool it is in the morning) we are still very busy, mostly buttoning up for the winter and trying to get a few things done that we won’t have time for once we start greenhouse season in mid-February. We have re-covered five greenhouses with new poly skins and finished replacing our old 28 X 96 greenhouse. Mike has electrical work to do in it yet, as well as reconfiguring the bench layout within. Anne, Jenny and Sarah have been dividing, weeding and getting the perennials ready to cover outdoors in the field with insulation and a sheet of old greenhouse poly to keep them from getting any more wet than they are (it’s been a very wet fall up here, so far.) I have been occupying myself with smaller clean-up projects and trying to get the machinery repaired and serviced and ready to go for spring ’09. Most of the field work is done and we took down a great many trees that were overhanging the lower-level greenhouses and along the river’s edge in the lower meadow. Our first tractor-trailer load of straw will arrive tomorrow, and we will probably start mulching the strawberries and rhubarb next week, weather permitting. Then we hope to try to prune some blueberries before winter really sets in. That should take us into December, so if we get anything major done outside after that, it will be gravy. Of course, there is tax preparation for Anne to contend with as our fiscal year ends December 31. She has already been ordering flower and perennial materials but we will have to do the vegetable seed orders. When those tasks are completed, we can officially declare it to be the Holiday Season!
Today the Route 12A farm stand closes, (although if any of you still want root crops for winter storage, please feel free to contact me through the e-mail). It has been a difficult and challenging growing year for all the area growers, and the weather and economic situations still govern how successful we ultimately are as farmers. But here at Edgewater we had an enjoyable work environment with a great crew of folks this summer, and that – more than the oftentimes disagreeable weather – is what I will take away from this year. Many of them will drift off to other jobs or travel in the next couple of weeks, making late fall a bittersweet time for us.
So with the closing of the doors of our retail arena we begin anew the work toward the 2009 year. Although we will still be packing out root crops for wholesale, we are well along in our fall field work, with cover crops in and fall clean-up well underway. We have already begun inventorying pots and plastic for the greenhouses and fertilizer for 2009. We are in the midst of replacing an older greenhouse and I have started to do the annual pressure-washing and maintenance on the the tractors, machinery and tools in hopes of getting them all put away and ready for spring before the snow flies. We have a lot of tree take-downs to deal with in the hedgerows around the fields, and in particular near the greenhouses, where the trees have grown to a height where they are cutting down on the sunlight. We are moving plants into the stock-plant house to winter over and propagate. Garlic will be planted tomorrow. So although many people believe that we have acquired a lot of spare time on our hands, we actually hit the ground running with a full slate of things to do as the days become ever cooler and shorter.
We are grateful for your patronage and support. The kind words are a great boost in validating our work, and we want to thank those of you who left a plate of cookies or pan of brownies as an expression of your appreciation. (Editor’s note: in the future, please drop all food down at the barn wash area as the girls at the farm stand sometimes don’t share well with the field crew.) To those of you in the CSAs,-both the Eastman Box drop and the debit shareholders – we will be meeting this week to evaluate what we have done this year and what we will do in 2009. You will be contacted with a proposal, or the proposal will be posted on the farm home webpage.
Have a great fall and we hope to see you out and about.
No frost down on the river yet, but can it be very far away? Our last planting of corn actually ripened up a lot the last four days with the murky damp tropical depression. The tomatoes have held up well to this point but I suspect that the warm damp nights have unleashed a Pandora’s box of disease and they will start to go down quickly. Nonetheless, the stand looks nice with colorful ripe peppers and tomatoes, corn, different colored potatoes, flowers and fall apples, squash and pumpkins. As Yogi said: ” It ain’t over ’til it’s over” so we muddle on, with no frost yet and the stand closing dates set at Columbus Day weekend.
The field crew has been busy with wholesale: potatoes, tomatoes, peppers to the Co-ops, sweet corn to a few farm stands and pumpkins, raspberries (when weather permits) and mums to area stores and farm stands. I have been getting some of the fields cleaned up and seeded down to various winter cover crops. The irrigation pipe is all picked up and out of the fields. Soon I will be putting up deer fence around the small fruit crops so they don’t chew the leaves and branches. All with an eye towards winter, but we are not worried. There is lots of nice fall weather to be enjoyed yet…
Seems to me that the biggest event of the past week was the gathering up and harvest of the pumpkin and squash crops. It is great fun for the first few days….lots of thrashing around the field with the crew filling 15- and 22-bushel bins, and the coming and going of tractors and trucks in the field and back and forth to the farm. Again, this project has to be accomplished in between the daily harvest of vegetables for the accounts and farm stand. Days still are long, 12 hours at least….but the problem is that the diminishing daylight in the evening and lack of sunlight early in the AM have made everyone realize that frost could be right around the corner. Still, it’s great that we can look back at the day’s end and actually see what has been accomplished.
This week we will definitely finish up digging potatoes. I have been seeding down winter cover crops as land becomes available, although there is still much weeding and cultivating of small fruit and fall vegetable crops like turnips, cabbage and broccoli, lettuce and greens, which I am not sure we are going to be able to get to. Meanwhile, the harvest of fall raspberries is in full swing (great time to u-pick if you want-call the stand @ 298-5764) as well as we are picking tomatoes, green beans and corn as well as the greens. People this year seem to be processing for the winter more than we have seen in recent years.
For the box CSA membership, we want to alert you that in your final three deliveries you will see potatoes,winter squash, some cabbage and the root vegetables-turnips, celeriac, carrots, beets, and rutabagas. These are all vegetables that can be used immediately if you so choose, but if stored in a cool dry place they should last until after Thanksgiving. Khally will enclose directions for use and for storage in your boxes when you get them.
SEPTEMBER 1, 2008
This will be the last call for this coming Saturday’s CSA Membership Farm Day from 4 pm to approximately 7 pm. There will be a short meeting and introduction of the field employees followed by a quick wagon tour of the farm, followed by snacks and beverages at the packing shed. Although originally designed for the debit card CSA members and the Eastman box CSA members, we welcome family members and any prospective members who may be interested in joining. It should be a fun and informative time.
These days at the farm there is a tinge in the morning air that gets your attention. Fall is definitely working its way here, and there is much yet to do. We will start digging potatoes later this week, and we will cut and windrow the pumpkins. The hard winter squash vines still look pretty green and healthy indicating that they are not ready to be cut. Field tomatoes are pouring in and we are busy trying to fill orders for canning tomatoes, cukes for pickling and freezer corn. Fall raspberries are coming in, and this sunny weather is really sweetening them up. As the crops get harvested we quickly chop the plants and weeds back into the soil and plant cover crops, some already up and doing well. But it has turned so dry that we will be irrigating again this week, trying to encourage the last vegetable plantings to keep plodding along and the cover crops to germinate. If you are up this way you should stop by the stand as it is as colorful as the greenhouses are in May.
We look to see you Saturday afternoon.
We want you all to take note of the date which we have set aside for the CSA Farm Membership day: September 6th from 4-7 pm. This event is for the Eastman CSA group as well as all our debit card CSA members. We would love to have as many of you attend as possible, as well as any friends who might be interested in the farm as well. We will have a quick meeting to introduce the people who work in the field and make the CSA possible. Then we will do a short tour of the main farm and some of the fields and lastly repair to some snacks and refreshments in the packing barn where you can talk to any or all of us about anything on the farm of interest to you. Please take a minute and either e-mail me or let Kally know at the drop site if you are coming and the number of folks you will be bringing so we can proceed with the planning on our end.
This is great weather and everybody’s disposition improves, especially the field crew’s, all of whom have spent the greater part of the summer in rain gear and rubber boots. And it is much easier to weed and cultivate in this weather: the weeds actually dry up and die, where as in rainy weather you uproot them only to have them roll over and re-root themselves in the rainy damp weather. So this is like a walk in the park.
We are knee-deep in the “second season.” We have one more planting of lettuce and cole crops (broccoli and cabbage) to go in the ground, and there is a pretty good chance the coles will get nailed by a hard frost before we are able to harvest them. But then, you have to be optimistic to be in this business. We have now finished with the blueberries and will have to go in there and weed and clean them up for fall and take down the netting. The strawberry beds are renovated and trying to put on some growth before they start initiating flower buds for next year. Both the blues and strawberries will then have to be fenced with electrical fencing to keep the deer from damaging them. We have a week more of good cantaloupes instead of having them well into the fall, because downy mildew has shown up on the second planting. It is a particularly virulent foliar disease of vine crops and we do not run an aggressive enough spray program to really combat it. But all in all, despite the diseases I am grateful for what we are pulling out of the melons and tomatoes; many farmers have had it a lot worse with the violent storms and wet weather. The plus side though has definitely been the excellent dispositions and work ethic of the field crew that has persevered through this less than optimum growing season. I am sure that when you meet them at membership day you will be impressed with their commitment and good humor.
All right, enough with the rain already. This is way too much of a good thing, at this point is actually a bad thing. So far it has ruined most of the summer raspberries, spread diseases in the tomato greenhouses and melons and a host of other troubling encumbrances, not the least of which is my athlete’s foot that is thriving as a result of spending days on end in rubber boots. But as bad as it gets, it could be worse. There have been some very high winds and hail in some of these localized storms and a few of my fellow farmers have been hit. We have been very fortunate to have dodged that bullet, but the weather pattern looks as though we are not out of the woods this week.
We are still planting certain vegetables on a weekly basis. This week, for example, I will plant beet greens, radishes, arugula and spinach. We have one more planting of broccoli to put out and I will also plant the very last planting of string beans. This final planting is called a “Hail-Mary” planting, in that conventional wisdom dictates that it is too late in the season to to plant them, but you do anyway and hope that everyone else is wrong and you get to pick some beans before the planting freezes. Farming is somewhat of a gamble, but sometimes we just can’t help ourselves.
The problem of the week(s) is red-winged blackbirds. Having just completed their reproductive cycles, both the young and adults are flocking up in preparation for their fall migration. They do tremendous damage to the ears of the sweet corn, and we are lucky if we only sustain a 30-40% damage in our fields. I have seen it 70% and better on occasion. We throw everything we have into the fray to combat them. We use balloons,helium predatory kites, propane cannons and, yes , the old farmer patrolling the corn with a loaded shotgun.The bird sare persistent, aggressive and smart. And they can come in large numbers, as they call in other small flocks to the corn. 15-20 can do a lot of damage, but when 100 or so fly out of the field you know that you have suffered a lot of damage.
Well, at least we dont have to irrigate this week….
Been a couple of weeks since last I wrote. We have had some extreme weather since then, but I expect that we are luckier than some as we have avoided hail and tornadoes. This excessive moisture is a double-edged sword, as vegetables like the tropical conditions but it brings on leaf and fruit rots (pretty well wrecked the summer raspberries) and the heavy rains will also leach nutrients out of the soil, so that has to be compensated for. The corn has come on and you can expect to see some in the boxes this Tuesday if we can keep the red-winged blackbirds out of it. They can come in by flocks of the hundreds and peck up the ears rendering them unmarketable. To combat them we use balloons, helium kites, propane cannons and good old-fashioned shotguns. All this takes additional time out of a productive work day, but seems as though it is part of the problem of trying to raise sweet corn near water and on a migratory flyway. One plant that loves this weather are the blueberries; the new plant growth is great as is the berry size.
As mentioned in an earlier blog,we do not have a way of legally dividing up the melons amongst members through cutting them and putting them in boxes. If any of you have suggestions please let us know as we are starting to pick some ripe ones for the farmstand.
We are now officially in strawberry harvest season, as the flocks of cedar waxwings and robins have descended upon us like a plague of locusts. Right now we are picking primarily for our stand and the Hanover/Lebanon Consumer Coop as well as Rum Brook Market and a few other small accounts. Most of the berries are coming off plants that were planted last fall on black plastic mulch. Within a few days the strawberries planted on bare ground will be ready, and we will have to open the fields for Pick Your Own. This is the busiest time of the year for us as we are in the midst of heavy planting and weeding as well as embarking upon our harvest season. The weather has moderated with showers and cooler temperatures, which both plants and employees have responded well to. Additionally, it has given us a break from irrigating and given us more time for weeding and other chores that have piled up. We are currently pulling row covers off the first plantings of peppers and tomatoes and so far they look good.
It seems as though the Grantham Box delivery went off without any major problems, and we wish to thank Charlie, Sue and Leslie for their invaluable help in making all of this fall together. We hope you were satisfied with the first delivery. I suspect that the contents of the box next week will be very similar. We got one unpleasant e-mail from a dissatisfied member, so I do feel that we should clarify again at this time that the box share model is not about choice. It is, in the simplest of terms, a box of produce delivered weekly, the contents of which are what is available grown on the farm and harvestable on the week of delivery. Also, because this CSA was formed so late in the spring, you may well see our tomatoes at Rum Brook Market before you see them in your boxes. This is because they and the Coop are old customers of ours and we made commitments to one another and planned in the early winter to supply them. What we planned back in December affects how much seed, fertilizer and space we commit to any crop. We are all working very hard to make this thing work. I hope that you will reserve judgment until the end of the 12-week delivery period as this is just the beginning.
A note for you members with farm accounts: the kind souls working the registers request that you announce that you are a CSA member when you approach the check-out. This is to help ensure registers are correct or at least closer to correct at the end of the day… Thanks!
Some much-needed rain and a cold front blew here on Tuesday night, much to everyone’s relief. The heat was brutal to work in, and many plants don’t much like that kind of heat intensity, especially the strawberries. The ripening fruit will actually heat up and sunburn, thus injuring the berries and making them rot. Our first defense is to turn on the overhead irrigation and evaporatively cool the fruit down. So we were doing that a lot between Saturday afternoon and Tuesday.
Transplanting continues as the second planting of crops like peppers and cherry tomatoes, melons etc. is about to begin. There is a fair amount of field prep that must be done for this: soil moisture levels must be up and the soil must also be weed free before we lay down mulch and transplants. And there is a lot of weeding to be done as these showers and irrigations are just as beneficial to the weeds as they are to the veggies. Plus we are on the cusp of strawberry season and there is a lot of preparation for that as well.
We started picking a few quarts of berries last Saturday off our strawberries grown on black plastic. We have been selling the few of them at the greenhouses, but we will officially open the Route 12A farm stand on Saturday, as sort of a prelude to strawberry season. Those of you who are in the Grantham CSA will receive your first box on Tuesday, June 17. Ray and Kalila will be down there by 5 PM and remain until 7 PM, as many of you requested the later hours for pickup. The box won’t be overflowing with stuff this trip as there are not a lot of field vegetables ready yet, due to the lousy early growing season, but we thought you might like some early season strawberries and lettuce to get going. Like the farmstand, we all need the practice to make the system work seamlessly, and you will get a chance to meet a couple of the principals involved and have a chat with them. See you then.
Some much needed rain (.5″) came last Saturday night in the form of a gullywasher, but brought some temporary relief. We likely will have to go back to full-tilt irrigating by Friday or Saturday, especially if it turns hot, but it has allowed us to do some maintenance, mowing, weeding and to continue our transplanting. This week we got out more lettuce and cole crops, all of our hard squash and pumpkins. Geordie, Roy and Willie will finish transplanting next year’s strawberries by early Friday if all goes well. Mike and Ray have fixed the drip irrigation on the blueberries and peaches (looks like we are going to have some this year…2 out of 6 years. It might make a respectable batting average but it’s pretty pathetic for cropping). They are also tied up moving perennials out of the greenhouses and onto benches, a seasonal ritual that takes a lot of bodies. We hope to do the final weed cleanup in the strawberries next week, there are a few berries with color on the black plastic berries, so we may have a few trickle into the greenhouses by mid week, but the main crop, which is grown on bare ground, is about 10 days behind this year and actually struggling a bit from being under snow for so long; the fields never lost their snow until April this year,and ideally they should see daylight by mid-March. Oh well…hopefully frost season is behind us. Hopefully.
A few have asked about when the stand will open, and I would have to say that unless the weather turns “cooperative” it will be a couple of weeks. But maybe by this time next week I will be singing a different tune. Still a lot of planting and weeding to do, bird netting to go up in the blueberries, cut flowers to go out etc. What’s the old saying – “It’s hard to see the swamp when you are up to your arse in alligators?”
Having missed all the rain promised us last weekend, we dutifully have been pulling the irrigation pipe and pumps around trying to provide enough soil moisture to transplant our vegetables into the field. We have had no measurable rain this month and it will have been a month this weekend (April 29 being the last one) since we have had any. It’s a real concern because the general lack of rain in the northeast will adversely affect us due to the lowering amounts of water flowing in the Connecticut River, a major source of irrigation water for us. So far there has been enough water in the river (the Wilder Dam and its generating schedule affects the levels of the river) for us to keep the frost off the berries, – it looks like we are due to get one tonight. So at least the strawberries are getting enough moisture. We continue to keep our fingers crossed for some warm weather with much needed moisture. And in the interim we will be trying to irrigate ’round the clock all that we do have planted to keep them alive.
To date we have our first tomatoes, peppers, and vine crops out in the field, courtesy of our returning summer laborers Geordie, Willie and Roy. These delicate transplants we put on plastic mulch and under rowcovers, which are those white snakey-looking things you see in the field. The plastic warms the soil and the row covers keep the air temps around the plant a bit warmer than they would experience without the covers this time of year. And of course this spring has not been without the constant buffeting of cool drying winds and the row-covers keep the winds from beating up the transplants.
The cool dry and sunny weather has been good, I believe, for greenhouse sales. Despite the fact that transplanting any plant in the rain is the best time to do so, we always see sales flag in damp weather. So the up side is that greenhouse sales were good over Memorial Day, but there are still a lot of plants to get rid of, ’cause those houses still look pretty full to me!
Dry conditions and lack of help have hindered us from getting our field transplants out in a timely fashion. All the rain promised last weekend by the NOAA weather experts ended up on the streets of Boston and left us high and very dry. A light frost event early(very early) Tuesday morning saw us firing up three tractors and pumps to protect the strawberry blooms. The upside of that was that they needed the water anyway, but we still prefer not starting our farm workday at 2:30 AM. We have been irrigating fields to get enough moisture in the soil so that we can lay down plastic mulch for our field tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and summer vine crops. You can monitor this ongoing process during the next week as you drive by the farm stand on Route 12A, as we transplant and put row covers over the transplanted crops. The row covers are the white tunnels that look like snakes in the field that modify the environment for the transplants and give some early season insect protection as well. We now are about a week behind on getting our field work done, but our H2A workers Roy and Willie are returning today and Geordie will be returning from college so we hope to start getting caught up. This weekend is the official Memorial Day Weekend as officially declared by some governmental bureaucracy that decides these things, like which day we would like to celebrate Lincoln’s Birthday on this year etc, etc. This means that the greenhouses should be busy, which is a good thing. Sarah, Anne and the crew have done a great job with displays and layout and all the colorful plants are looking their finest.
Welcome to the blog. The main focus is to up date all the CSA members as to what is going on at the farm. With a small CSA membership such as we had last year we were able to pretty much send e-mails with info as attachments, but I think this format serves a better purpose in that I dont have to spend any time trying to be an IT person sorting out PDF, DOC files etc to send to you all. It will be right here in the blog, if and when you want to read it. As always, don’t be afraid to contact us with questions or comments.
We are in the middle of planting season, and as of today (5/15) we are having to irrigate everything we either seed or transplant. The lack of rain complicates how we manage planting. We have to be extra vigilant in conserving soil moisture as we prepare for planting on our very light and sandy soils. Our labor force for the field crew is not up to size yet and our tractor tillage guy suffered some rotator cuff injury, so Ray, Mike and I have been trying to get the field prep done in between our other activities. The strawberries are just starting to show signs of buds and a few blossoms, but they seem to be sitting there sulking in the ground so we will provide a little bit of fertilizer this next week and turn on the irrigation in hopes of breaking them out of their doldrums. The raspberries wintered well with very little injury and the blueberries are starting to bloom as well. Even the peach blossoms didn’t get clipped this winter, but a lot can still go wrong with them before we harvest any. Keep your fingers crossed.
Plant sales in the greenhouses are brisk as gardeners have been taking advantage of the sunny dry weather to work in their gardens. Our greenhouse hours are 10-5:30 seven days a week except Sunday when we close at 4:30. The greenhouse crew has the houses spit polish clean and approaching full, and they are beautiful, so even if you are not an avid gardener you should come by and take in the different colors. It’s quite a sight.