Falll is here!

The apples are all picked and in cold storage. We’ve had our first killing frost back on Oct.12th. The frost killed the last of the peppers, eggplant and tomatillos but we anticipated this so we hustled like crazy to pull the remaining fruits so they wouldn’t be lost to the cold. As a result we have these items that we can continue to offer in the csa shares although they are smaller in size than we put in the summer share boxes.
Many of the Fall leafy greens are ready now and there will continue to be new and different things in the shares each week.
The frequent rains and wet soil conditions have proven troublesome. Wet conditions hamper harvest and cultivation activities. We’ve learned to accept that Mother Nature is not always predictable or on the same schedule that we would like. We’re the ones that need to adapt and work around the weather conditions. This is also a big part of eating locally and seasonally. The carrots and other root crops are dirtier than they might be in a drier year. We hate to see our fine farm soil leaving along with the bags of carrots and other root vegetables but hope everyone understands that a bit of extra washing is needed as a result of the wet weather conditions.
We’re busy preparing for the end of one season and are well in to preparations for next year. As the weather permits we spread our wonderful compost on the fields and till it in. This is followed by various covercrops that are planted to hold the soil from eroding and enhance the soils nutrients and general health. It’s all about the health of the soil around here! We hope that everyone is the healthier for eating our produce. Fresh, local, lovingly grown and packed with nutrition-what can be better?
Thanks for caring where your food comes from!
Farmer Karen

The Season Keeps Moving On

Peach and melon harvest have come to a conclusion. Tomatoes are now past peak production. Lots of peppers[including some wonderful sweet red and yellow ones], eggplant, okra, tomatillos and beans yet to come. Lots of root vegetables will be ready shortly or in weeks to come. The winter squash vines are beginning to die back revealing the fruits that up until now have been hiding under dense foliage.

We’ve been waiting for the temperatures to cool off a tad in order to sow some of the Fall greens. A lot of these crops will not germinate[or worse yet- will germinate poorly] if the soil temperatures are too warm. There are year’s when we have these crops sown by mid August but this year due to the hot weather it is the tail end of August and the beginning of Sept. In addition to the direct sown crops we have also sown many crops such as head lettuce and some boc chois  in the greenhouse. These have the potential of growing into wonderful full size heads but the down side is we will need to spend the time[ at a very busy time of the year]to transplant them to the field.

The apples are ripening up and look pretty good although the harvest is about two weeks early as have been the other tree crops this year. We’re scrambling to clear the zone around the apple sorter so we can get started washing apples. Our barn is so small for all the actions going on at any given time! We’ve taken some time to put wheels on a few more of the pieces of packing equipment. This will give the ability to roll some pieces to the side temporarily allowing us to maximize the space task by task. Sometimes you rejoice in the simple things in life -like wheels on equipment and cooler weather to work in!

So, we realize this is a time of transition for many family’s as they send the kids off to school. For the farm it is a transition from Summer to early Fall. For all of us seasonal eaters it’s the beginning of a food  transition too!

Farmer Karen

Tuck some of summer’s abundance away for the winter!

So many fruits and vegetables! The weather is beginning to shift to cooler nights and who isn’t happy about the return to mid eighty degrees for the high temps. Daylight is arriving quite noticeably later now. The plants also respond to cooler temps and the shorter days. We’re past the peak of melons, watermelons, tomatoes,sweet corn and peaches. We’ve been eagerly awaiting the maturation of some really great sweet red peppers and apple harvest. Now’s the time to “put up” a few things for those winter months when all this great produce is just a warm memory. It’s easy enough to freeze some pesto, tomatoes and peppers for some great winter soups. Freeze a quantity of peaches now for delicious smoothies later. Now is the time! If anyone would like to tap into our #2 [less then perfect] produce give us an email or call.You can get a great deal and have all this goodness through out the winter months! Farmer Karen

mmm- The fruits of summer!

So much- so good!  It’s hard to know where to start eating!  My Sunday morning was spent out in the orchard followed by a respite on the front porch with something to read, a cup of coffee and some great fruits for breakfast. The cantaloupes and watermelon are fantastic and so are the peaches and apples that I brought back from the orchard to trial for ripeness. This is truly the sweet taste of summer!  Our motto is “taste the difference!” – and I believe it.
One of our workshare members just texted me ” I just ate the best peach I’ve ever eaten in my life”. I think it’s all the love that goes into everything we do here[not to mention the sunshine, rain and our great compost]. It all translates to great flavor. We really are what we eat!
Here’s a photo of some of the wonderful people who are behind the scenes producing all this good food. Everyone is sampling and comparing various watermelon varieties. Tough job huh?  Actually we just picked a whole truck load of melons in the rain. The forecast was for a substantial rainfall. Too much rain all at once could swell the fruit up so much that they could crack and spoil. So it rained while we harvested. It ended up being a nice welcome rain but not excessive. Wouldn’t you know it, it stopped raining and the sun came out when we completed the harvest. Not what we expected at all. Good reason to celebrate with a watermelon snack!
Farmer Karen

Hot Summer Days

We continue to have temperatures 8 to 10 degrees above normal. This prompts us to start our work day as early as we can. Some folks come to help as early as 6 am and others come at 8 or 9am. It doesn’t take long before everyone starts thinking of some activity that can be done in the shade. Izzy, the mostly black Australian cattle dog is particularly talented at this.
There isn’t much shade in the middle of the growing fields so we always start with harvesting those things that can’t take the heat such as Swiss Chard or crops that require that we wear long sleeves and gloves such as the summer squash and okra [spiny plants scratch the arms]. After that it’s good to get out of the long sleeves where possible and change from bending over activities to doing something that can be done standing upright. Picking red raspberries in the raspberry hightunnel or  picking peaches means standing up-though long sleeves are still desired so as not to get the peach picker itch. All that peach fuzz can get to a person after a while. Best be carefull not to wipe the sweat from around your eyes!
It takes many hours to sort and pack the produce once it has been harvested. This is the preferred job on a blistering hot day. This can be done in the shade in the barn. A nice breeze blows usually year round here on the farm. This is quit nice in the Summer- really cold in the Winter.
I’m very thankful for some timely rains!I know that there are many farmers looking at huge crop losses elsewhere in the country. Here everything is growing like crazy due to the warmth, rain and humidity. As a result we are looking at prime conditions for fungal diseases. The dreaded late blight has been spotted in Chester and Lancaster counties so we are on the look out for this horrible scurge[caused the Irish potato famine]. That’s farming for you- always seeking balance but all too often rolling with the punches!
Farmer Karen

Let us eat watermelon

The melon plants have made rapid growth and now when you look at the fields you no longer see individual plants but rather two big melon patches. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we started the plants in the greenhouse and then transplanted out the many young seedlings. They are now blooming like crazy and growing practically as we watch.

The crows have kept a keen eye on the melon patch also. They like melons! Several years ago the local crows ate every melon in a 1/4 acre patch. What to do? If we only had a few  plants we could toss a net over top. A net would not be practical in our 2 fields totaling about a half an acre.There is always the option of putting out a bird scaring cannon that would fire off periodically frightening the birds and neighbors alike. We figure this wouldn’t endear us to our neighbors. After discussing our options a couple of years ago we came up with this plan of staking and stringing the patch. We observed that the crows tend not to land in the dense foliage but rather fly in and land along the drive lanes and where there is a gap in the planting. By staking and stringing a network/maze of strings around and over the fields we can deter the pesky vandals.
This year the crows have started snacking prior to us being prepared but we are getting to work now. Each day the field is not protected can be the loss of several dozen melons.
We have lots of creative and energetic workshare members who often come up with and implement great ideas such as this.

Check out the picture. You can imagine us farmer/picker folk have to be fairly acrobatic to lightly and carefully make our way through the patch checking for ripe melons. But it should be so worth it!
It won’t be long and hopefully we’ll be eating yummy sweet cantaloupes, specialty melons and watermelon. All this hot, sunny weather [and our irrigating] can make for some really sweet melons. Can’t wait!
Farmer Karen