Oh those apples

It’s 9:15 Wed. eve. and I just got in from spraying the apple orchard. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow and because of all this wind it’s been hard to find to find a non- windy morning to spray. I wanted to get a protective spray on before the impending rain [which will create another fungal infection period]. I’d much prefer to spray in the morning. My energy is better and I like to have daylight to see what I’m doing.It’s good to be alert because there are plenty of things that take careful attention. The tractor used for this activity is about 35 years old and has more than just a few issues. So, I had to jump the battery to get it started.It’s not the first time that this has been needed but then I don’t normally spray at night. Now it’s dawning on me that we must have a charging issue. On my second trip to the orchard I discovered that the lights were just barely working and it’s getting dark! When you’re outside for any length of time your eyes adjust to the light [or lack of it] it but it certainly helps to have a little help from the moon. No such luck-1/4 moon tonight. The rows are mighty close and long and I’m sure hoping I didn’t wipe out any branches with the tractor tires. I’m thankful that I have such an intimate relationship with the apple orchard. I’ve spent a lot of hours and years pruning these trees, driving the rows and picking the fruit. Thank goodness-because there is no stopping once you’ve commited to filling the spray tank. The few flowers still on the trees helped to guide the way. It’s amazing how even dandelion flowers seem to almost glow in the dark.Well I made it! Getting the tractor parked in the shed without lights was a lot of fun too. Even with functional lights you have to watch what you’re doing so as not to hit all the other stuff parked in there.
I’m hoping all this effort results in wonderful fruit! It’s been such a topsy turvy growing year so far that its hard to judge what to do based on former years. We rely heavily on our IPM traps to help indicate when we might have a pest population that needs to be dealt with.The tufted apple bud moths[TABM] were what had my attention tonight. By using these traps and pharamone mating distruptants we can minimize the amount of chemicals in the environment. I’ve discovered that nobody likes wormy apples. If everyone could tolerate a little less beauty in the fruit we eat there could be dramatically less pesticides in the environment.
Anyway, I’m happy to move on to a shower and some diner. Tomorrow is another day. Perhaps it will have a tad less adventure. I’m sure we’ll be spending a bit of time under the hood of our old David Brown tractor. We call it/him “David” for short.
Farmer Karen

April Rainfall

I checked the rain gauge at 7pm. It read 1and 1/3 inch and I think it’s just gearing up. Finally a measurable quantity of rainfall in the month of April!  Three weeks into the month of April and we had less than an inch of rain. So far it’s been great for working the fields without the normal Spring worry of having soil turning work to do but really having too wet conditions to deal with.
We hustled unbelievably this past week rototilling in anticipation of planting potatoes and laying plastic for the soon to be planted summer squash and cucumbers. With the help of some wonderful volunteers from the Chester County Food Bank and our own workshare members we cut up more than 600 lbs of seed potatoes and between Friday and Sat. got them all planted! Thursday we layed a number of rows of plastic. Amidst potato planting we then managed to haul and spread about ten loads of the semi-decomposed leaf mulch that we use to keep weeds down between the rows of plastic. These were all essential tasks to do before the rain. Everyone is pretty tired but satisfied to get the job done! Now it can rain and get those potatoes [and other plantings] off to a good start. Hopefully it won’t rain so hard that it washes any of the plantings out and the sun comes out tomorrow. Isn’t there  a song  that goes something like that?
Farmer Karen

What an odd Spring it’s been!

Everything is rather flip flopped this year. Eighty degree days in March got us primed for thinking Spring and Summer. What happened to “April showers bring May flowers”? The May flowers have bloomed already in early April. The March winds have been blowing all April. And the showers? As to date, we have less than 1/3 of an inch of rainfall for the month of April.

I would much prefer a dry Spring to a wet one. We have been unimpeded by rainfall when it comes to the preparing of the vegetable fields this year. I can’t ever remember when we needed to set up irrigation this early. We have more plantings to irrigate too since we’ve had such great weather. It requires quite a few hours to set up the irrigation system and of course the added expense of fuel and time to monitor everything. It is far easier to have a timely shower from the heavens to keep all the plants and soil biology happy.

The constant winds we have experienced this month have not been helpful when it comes to spraying and maintaining the orchards. It doesn’t matter whether you’re growing with organic or conventional means- the orchards require a number of spray applications primarily at bloom time. Miss the timing [because it’s too windy to spray] and the likely hood of bug be-riddled fruit is a distinct possibility. Every disease and insect species has its own life cycle and in some cases multiple life cycles. We monitor with special traps baited with a pharomone distinct to each key insect pest. Our “trap count” gives us needed input to target spray applications at just the right time to be most effective as well as minimize our impact on the environment. The better job we can do now means the less needed later. Timing can be everything- so knock it off wind!

Much to our relief, the mob of geese that were frequenting our farm for the last several months has eased up. Only a few pairs remain to raise up the new generation. Now that there are fewer birds, Izzy the dog likes to halfheartedly chase them. She must have been intimidated by the shear numbers earlier in the Spring and really was innefective in detering them from hanging out. I’d like it if we could add “goose chaser” to her job description but sadly it just isn’t so.

For the most part the soil enriching cover crops have recuperated from all the geese feeding on them. I was worried that the geese were destroying the plants faster than the plants could grow. We have protected the lettuce/spinach field [what goose wouldn’t enjoying eating that!] by adding an additional line to the deer fencing. It’s a regular nylon string placed at about 18 inches from the ground level. We figured that this might be enough of an obstacle to send them in another direction. So far it seems to be working! Not much in farming is inexpensive and effective too so hip hip hooray on this one!

The greenhouses are filling up with young plants awaiting their time to head to the fields. The apple orchard is gorgeous and in full bloom now. Lots and lots happening!

Farmer Karen

It’s Greening Up!

Wow! Twenty degrees warmer than normal temperatures leads to a quick green up! Now that we got a bit of rain the flowers, grass and everything else are really growing rapidly. The peach orchard is in full bloom and is absolutely stunning.

Our small greenhouse is at capacity with young seedlings getting off to a fine start. We needed to move the many lettuces,spinach, onions, boc chois, cabbages and kales out to the big plastic greenhouse in order to make more room for the next go round of seeds to sow.. Already some of these same young seedlings have made the additional step out to the transplant wagon so they can harden off a bit before being planted to the field. We expect to transplant them to the field this week if the conditions are suitable.
It’s good to have some rain. We just don’t want a whole lot at one time. The forecast is for hit and miss showers and maybe a thunderstorm this weekend. It’s a bit odd to think of the possibility of thunderstorms in March. In anticipation we rehooked the big water tanks up that are at the side of the barn so as to capture the rain water. We can capture and retain about 1,500 gallons in these two tanks and another 600gals in some smaller barrels under a bench in the greenhouse. This is a beautiful sustainable design. The barrels under the greenhouse bench act like a big heat sink that slowly can release heat throughout the evening helping to warm the plant roots and minimize the need for supplemental heat. This water can be used in watering the seedlings and also the red raspberries in our red raspberry high tunnel. Once the tanks are near full I’m ready for sunshine to dry everything off ! I would also prefer seasonable temperatures so I don’t have to worry that everything has to happen at exactly the same time. Lots and lots to do down on the farm.
Farmer Karen

Spring?

Is it Spring already? It couldn’t be more beautiful for mid March! Not at all like the last couple of years at this time.I sure didn’t miss hauling water to our free ranging chickens this winter! That was enormous chore the last couple of winters due to all the freezing temps. Come to mention it I also thoroughly enjoyed the break from snow too!

We have started many seedlings in the greenhouse a bit early this year and have gotten a head start in turning some of the growing fields as well. Usually in the Spring  we have to wait for the soil to dry out enough to do the initial plowing and even then might have only a short window of time before the next rain. This year we are holding off on preping fields not because of the weather but because we are waiting for some of the fields that were planted to cover crops last Fall to make additional growth.The many geese that call this farm home have almost demolished a few of the late sown [to cover crops] fields so it is good to see the rye grass greening up and speeding up growth to out compete the geese. The cover crops are a big part of our fertility program and though I would rather not have all these geese I realize that they are making their own contributions to crop fertility. We’ll need to discourage them before the food crops get going or I’m sure they’ll eat them too.

We have quite a few rows of onions planted and the garlic that was planted last Fall is looking great and making some speedy growth. We might even have to water them soon if it doesn’t rain in the near future.

As beautiful as the warm temps are it will make it challenging to prune the peaches in the allotted time. This is a big job and now there are many additional tasks to do because of the accelerated season. That’s farming for you-every year is a different story! Thankfully we have enough years experience by now to be pretty good at the bob and weave that keeps us all on our toes.
Farmer Karen

Join our Waiting List!

Interested in becoming a member this year?
Sign up now to get on our waiting list. Understandably,our former members have first dibs at rejoining again. After mid March we will open any available membership positions to those people who are on the waiting list. There is no commitment to being on the list and we do not sell or share our membership or waiting list with anyone. Since we have a limited number of membership positions to offer each year this seems to be the most equatable system we’ve come up with. Simply email us at farm@csachestercounty.com to get your name on the list. You can also let us know which pick up sites you’d like to be a part of. We’d love to have you as a participant in this wonderful good food based community!
Farmer Karen