July 2012


Sweet corn season has arrived with a bang.  As you know, we have moved up the Corn Boil because of how fast the sweet corn is maturing.  Like many of the vegetables, we succession plant, meaning we plant many times over the course of the growing season so that the crop matures over several weeks, and not all at once.  We do this every year with sweet corn so that you can enjoy the sweet crunch of juicy corn for as many weeks as possible.

But the weather always has its way and messes with our plans.  Corn matures not based on days in the ground, but instead based on heat; yes heat, that thing we are all getting plenty of this summer.  Even though we have spaced out our plantings, the extreme heat we have been having has accelerated the maturity of the corn so the weekly plantings of corn in May and June are ripening less than a week apart.  Over the course of 10 days we will be harvesting corn that was supposed to mature over 21 to 28 days.

For the Corn Boil, we always plant a portion of the first three plantings by the house; so that one of them will mature at our preset Corn Boil date.   This year, all three are ripening almost together, right now; hence the Corn Boil this coming weekend.  The corn is delicious and there will be all you can eat, so come hungry.

Another weather impact on the corn this year is the drought.  We irrigate all our crops, however combined with the extreme heat, there are some ears or portions of ears that have not pollinated completely.  This means the kernels do not grow.  So a few ears may look a little empty, but with our irrigation that is not a big problem.  Unlike our neighbors growing conventional corn, most of those corn fields you drive by will have very poor pollination; meaning those farmers will have a very bad corn harvest.

You’ve likely already seen sweet corn at the roadside stands.  Conventional growers have pesticide based growing methods that always allow them to harvest corn earlier than your organic CSA farmer.  We transplant our corn (a ton of work) to bring you organic sweet corn as early as possible; however we don’t plant earlier maturing corn because it just does not taste as good.  Hope you enjoy the harvest.

Corn transplants in the greenhouse in May.

Jesse (second from left) and the Cambodian crew harvesting sweet corn using a Veg-Veyor, our vegetable conveyor. The crew walks behind this tractor-pulled conveyor and places the harvested ears of corn on the conveyor.   The conveyor brings the corn up to a wagon where two people are waiting to catch it, count it and crate it.   It’s hot, scratchy work.

Harvested corn traveling up the belt and into the wagon where it is being counted into crates.  The wagon is then driven back to our packing shed, the crates are unloaded and carted into a walk-in cooler.

David

We drink lots and lots and lots of water.  We start our day early (sun rise is at 5:35 these days) and we are in the packing shed and out of the sun by 11:00am.  We are slowly getting used to this heat.   Amazing how the body can adapt.  We still have not had rain and are still irrigating around the clock.  And then, just for amusement sake, we got to harvest lettuce heads in the mud on Tuesday.  Many of us took off our shoes.  It kind of took our minds off the sweltering temperatures.

When we arrived in the field to harvest lettuce heads we were greeted by very muddy conditions. Pretty funny in these times of drought. The lettuce had just received three inches of irrigation “rain”.

Elizabeth’s feet are slowly sinking. We had fun pretending it had just rained!

Eggplant harvest Tuesday morning. I think the sweat dripping off our faces was giving the plants some added moisture.

The full time crew comes to join the eggplant harvest. They had just finished harvesting zucchini.

Baby Paavo Perkins new favorite teething vegetable. There are a lot of uses for eggplant!

Teaser Rain-Our Draught is not over !

I had written all of the above Wednesday evening.  Then we got some rain, but only 1/2 inch.  The sky got dark, we closed our greenhouses and packing shed walls.  The winds blew hard, limbs fell, trees fell, a limb fell on a power line and ignited, emergency vehicles with lights and screaming sirens streamed by.  But we only got a half inch of rain.  We appreciate it, in fact we love it, but we have to continue irrigating. 

Barb

Although we took last week off from delivering shares, we did not take last week off from work.  And as you all know, it wasn’t very pleasant weather.  The big job we accomplished was harvesting all of the farm’s garlic.  Garlic is planted in October and harvested in July.  It was ready last week!  We began each day at 5:30 am, already too hot to be working, and finished between 11:00 and noon when the temperatures were well above 100.  Thank you to our incredible workers!

The garlic field before harvest began. We grew over an acre of garlic. 60,000 bulbs.

Harvesting garlic in a haze of heat

This is how it happens: David mows the tops off the garlic plants with a tractor-pulled mower. Then he undercuts the garlic (pictured). The undercutter is a blade pulled by a tractor that loosens the earth, making it easier to pull each bulb of garlic.

After the garlic is undercut all of the workers get down on their hands and knees and pull out each bulb, one at a time and place them into black crates.

Freshly harvested garlic.

One of the Cambodian men who has been working with us for 9 years. He is amazing.

Eric and Chad loaded each crate onto the pick up truck and then unloaded each crate into the barn, sweating out gallons of water in the process.

Towers of garlic stacked in the upper part of the barn. Big fans blow air onto the garlic to help it dry down.

Here is the machine we use to harvest beans, it is a green bean combine. This picture was taken from the cab of the tractor (David’s view), looking back at the machine. A person sits on a platform (see Chad with flannel shirt) and keeps watch on the beans as they fall out of the chute. The tan crates are full of beans. To the left are unharvested beans, to the right is the stubble after the harvest.

When the beans come into the packing shed we need to pick through them to remove any stems, leaves or broken beans.

The sorted beans roll into a waiting crate.

Our daughter Becky who lives on the west coast, is studying to be a health coach and will periodically be submitting nutritional information on vegetables.  Her first article is on green beans:

One of my first memories of the farm back when I was 11 years old was picking beans. I remember how long it took to fill the seeming endless bucket. And how I felt I would never reach the end of the row. And how much hotter the sun felt when I was picking beans. Although picking beans was clearly not my favorite farm job as a kid, green beans were one of my favorite farm vegetables to eat. My father now has a fancy farm implement that can mass harvest the beans. So today I am not here to harvest the beans for your CSA share, but to share with you the nutritional value of this vegetable that is so easy to love.

Green beans are a good source of many vitamins, minerals, and plant derived micronutrients. They are also rich in dietary fiber. Green beans are high in vitamin K which is responsible for helping your blood clot properly and plays a role in the health of your bones. Green beans are also a great source of the antioxidant vitamins A and C.  Antioxidants work to reduce the amount of harmful free radicals in the body. Having too many free radicals can cause premature aging, cancer, and heart disease. Vitamin A is also vital for vision and needed for repair of tissue and bones, while vitamin C is need to heal wounds and form scar tissue. In addition, green beans are a source of several carotenoids, which are a form of vitamin A that act as antioxidants. Carotenoids in green beans include beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Green beans contain a good amount of the B vitamin folate, which contributes to the growth and health of your cells and is crucial during pregnancy. In addition beans contain healthy amount of the minerals iron, calcium, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium.

 

To your health,

Becky Perkins

Holistic Health Coach

www.yourtruebalance.com

CSA means a lot of things, and one of them is going with the flow of the seasons.  When Mother Nature gave us hot weather in March and May we watched the vegetables grow in unseasonable ways.  We were forced by her (Mother Nature) to begin our CSA deliveries early.  And we all asked, “What will this mean for the rest of the season?”  We have a very carefully laid out schedule for planting vegetables into the fields.  When Mother Nature messes with us we roll with it, but we don’t let her convince us to mess with our schedule.  The early season crops all came in earlier than we had planned and since we kept with our planting schedules the rest of the season’s crops should be coming in as close to planned as possible, but not this week.

It is at this point that we had to make that hard decision.  Should we meagerly fill the box this week?   We don’t want to do that.  We would rather let everything continue to grow and look forward to a more bountiful delivery in two weeks.  Believe me, it was a hard decision, but it was clear to us we needed to do it.  We want every share box to be full.  There is always a thin week or two when early crops are ending and summer crops are beginning.  And this week would have been too thin.  So if we skip it then you win by getting the same number of deliveries extending one more week into October when the bounty is guaranteed.

Crops like beans, beets, chard, cucumbers, zucchini, potatoes, garlic and the next broccoli planting didn’t get the same boost as the early greens.  Those are a few of the next vegetables to be harvested.

We thought perhaps all of this extreme heat would create speed-up of everything, but it hasn’t.  We can’t know exactly why and how the heat combined with the drought effects each crop, but we know it does.  Is one and a half inches of irrigation well water the same as one and a half inches of rain?  Just how quickly are the plants respirating and releasing moisture into the air?  Are the plants stressed because of the heat and drought?  Which plants will flourish?  Which ones will be unhappy?

Those are hard questions to answer but we can tell you that you will receive the planned number of CSA share deliveries.  All of the vegetables we planted into the ground and planned to deliver will be delivered.  The summer crops are looking fabulous (see last week’s post for pictures of some of those up and coming crops).  The fall crops are looking good as well, some of them are still getting planted, and some of them are happily growing in the fields.

This is our 18th season as CSA farmers and this ‘skip week’ is a first.  Who knows what else we will get to experience over the next 18 years!

Barb and David