Fields


Yes, it has been a very rainy season. And vegetables are happy and thriving! The rain pattern has been a bit unusual. Small isolated storms have been passing through and popping up. Where they hit and how much rain they drop is extremely variable in a relatively small area. We did not get the 4+ inches of rain Sunday night, as the west side of Madison did. We got less than 2 inches. For that we were thankful. We did get more rain Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

Vegetables love water. They need water to grow and thrive. We have deep, rich soils on this farm that can absorb lots of water. We have a lovely wetland and stream where excess water finds it way. It is very, very unusual to have standing water in our fields. While the vegetables and weeds are happily growing, the people and mostly the vehicles have a difficult time getting into the fields to work. We do more walking and use vehicles that hopefully won’t get stuck, like tractors. When we aren’t harvesting vegetables we are pulling weeds! Rubber boots and rain pants get lots of use.

Barb

Looking down at my boots as my feet slowly sink into the wet soil; harvesting salad mix.

Salad mix harvest. We waited until Tuesday morning so the ground could firm up a bit. Not only is it hard to walk in such muddy conditions, it is not good for the beds of vegetables.

After lettuce head harvest we turned to next week’s bed to rid it of weeds. Weeds will out-compete the lettuce heads and cause the lettuce to stretch towards the light. Weeds also inhibit air flow, causing rotting leaves at the bottom of the plant. And weeding is so satisfying!

Cabbage harvest. We were able to use the tractor to transport the bins of cabbage. The tractor could easily get through the field after the rains.

I’m talking about rainfall and irrigation time. One nice rainfall eliminates about forty hours of labor irrigating the crops. It was getting really dry in the fields. David and Jesse were working from dawn to dusk, seven days a week, moving irrigation guns (a traveling gun is a big real with a water spray that moves up the field) from crop to crop, letting them run their course and then moving them to the next area of the field. This can mean the difference between keeping a crop alive or watching it suffer in the heat and dry conditions, but it is hard to keep up.  Our fields are geographically spread out. The irrigation is moved with a tractor. Each run can take up to 8 hours. The settings are coordinated with how much water needs to be distributed. When it is 90 degrees and windy and it hasn’t rained in many days and everything is looking parched, this is a huge task. Mother Nature can deliver this to all of the vegetables at once in one rainfall. So when the sky opened up and gave us about an inch of rain on Monday night, we could give a sigh of relief. The thirsty crops were very happy and Jesse and David could focus their attention on other tasks in need of their time.

Harvesting salad mix on Tuesday morning after the glorious rain!

Eric (standing) needed to remove his shoes because they were sinking in the mud. Behind Eric is some irrigation equipment. On Tuesday afternoon, before it rained, we were irrigating this field because we had just transplanted new salad mix and it needed water. We turned off the irrigation when it started to rain.

Green garlic harvest. After we pull the garlic from the earth, we trim the leaves. Then the big task of spraying off the dirt.

Jesse pulling the irrigation gun out from the reel

Irrigating cabbage

As I drove around the farm today, I was completely taken by its beauty. The air is heavy, waiting for rain to fall. The spring green on the hillside is soft and gentle. And the fields are full of promise. The peas were standing in beautiful rows of bright green. The potatoes are under the ground, covered by hills. The plastic mulch has been laid, waiting for squash to be planted. The greenhouse is bursting with transplants; each week thousands of plants are transplanted outside and thousands more are started. So much new life, so much promise. I feel fortunate to be able to immerse myself in such a cycle of life.

Barb

The farm road into one of our fields. Ahead are peas and to the right under the hills of soil are potatoes.

The peas. These peas were started in the greenhouse and transplanted into the field. We do this to guarantee a solid stand of peas. If we plant the peas directly into the ground and then there is a lot of cold, wet conditions, many of the seeds will rot. (We are certified organic; we don’t use fungicide treated seeds as the chemical agriculture farms do).

Plastic mulch, just laid. We use plastic mulch for many heat loving crops. The plants get planted directly into the plastic. We mulch the bare dirt heavily with alfalfa hay. Irrigation hose runs under the plastic. The plastic acts as a weed barrier and holds the moisture in.

Rhubarb harvest for the Spring Share.

It was in August of 1994 that David and I started this farm. Jesse, our oldest, was 13, now he has two kids. The passage of time is interesting. But right now I am looking back on this season and all that it brought us. It was in general a challenging growing season. Not that every season doesn’t come with challenges, they do. We accept what comes our way and do the best we can with it. This season was rainy. Rain is good, don’t get me wrong. We need it. We love it and too much of it can cause problems. One good rain will irrigate the whole farm and no rain means up to 40 hours of work for one person running irrigation. This year we got rain and humidity and hot weather all bundled up. Microorganisms love it and it is the perfect host for disease and fungus. We deal with plant disease every year. Mostly it is minor and has very little effect on the final product. When something shows up that we have never seen before we take our plant matter to the UW Plant Diagnostic Lab to find out what it is. We had a new one this year that infected our melons, squashes, cucumbers and pumpkins. Yikes! That’s acres of food. David was able to spray an organically approved material to stop the spread of this disease, although it had done a bit too much damage in a few crops already. We had a very small melon crop and lost our zucchini earlier than usual, thankfully our other summer squash did quite well.  The other effected crops fared well.

Then there are the animals that live all around the farm and love that we plant vegetables for them. Turkeys, Sandhill cranes and deer are a particular nuisance. Deer eat lettuce heads and beans so we put up 8 foot fencing around these crops. It kept the deer out of the lettuce but there were some high jumpers in our bean field. When we realized they were still getting in, we re-worked the fence. They still got in and ate beans. The turkeys pulled up oodles of small beet plants and were responsible for the lack of corn stalks at the pumpkin pick. Pulled up all of the young corn plants two times! And the Sandhill cranes love sweet corn. Their tall height is perfect for walking through sweet corn and pecking the tops of the ears of corn. I think there were three cranes living in our sweet corn this year, because they were always there!

The excess of rain was spectacular. We had a flood like none I or the neighbors had ever seen. It subsided quickly and our wetland did its job by holding water and raising up to look like a lake. Many of the fields were left saturated. The carrots had some tip rot because they didn’t like all of the water. There were times we couldn’t get into the fields with any vehicle but a tractor. This put an interesting twist to harvest since we usually use our 16 foot box trucks and one of our pickup trucks for harvest.  Again, we had to get creative.

The hot days and extended season allowed us to harvest some crops longer than usual. Our first frost didn’t come until last night, weeks later than usual. Tomatoes, peppers and eggplant just kept coming and we harvested nearly every fruit from these plants. The winter squash was possibly our best crop ever. Broccoli had some disease but just kept coming. The sweet potatoes were definitely our best ever.

Each season has its highs and lows, fantastic crop yields and some disappointments. That’s why we grow 50 different vegetables; if one isn’t as great as hoped another is. Thank you to all of you for supporting our farm and eating with the seasons. It’s a fun adventure and we all look forward to whatever next season brings.

Barb

The summer flood that brought a lot of rain to our valley.

The summer flood that brought a lot of rain to our valley.

The tractor in the broccoli field ready for harvest. We couldn’t drive the trucks into the field since they were too wet. Note the dark sky, looks like more rain on it’s way.

The tractor in the broccoli field ready for harvest. We couldn’t drive the trucks into the field since they were too wet. Note the dark sky, looks like more rain on it’s way.

Amazing eggplant!

Amazing eggplant!

Bountiful squash!

Bountiful squash!

Incredible sweet potatoes.

Incredible sweet potatoes.

 

With the arrival of cool weather this week, there is a new energy on the farm. The crew heads out for harvest wearing a few more layers in the morning, which is an ebullient reminder that the growing season will be winding down in a few weeks. This time of year we are not only harvesting for the Main Season CSA shares, but we are also beginning to bring storage crops in from the fields. Our CSA members will see these late season vegetables in their shares throughout October and have the opportunity to keep their local, seasonal eating experience going strong through the winter months with the Storage Share.

The Storage Share is consists of two deliveries, November 10 and December 8. Most of the produce will store well into the winter months in a cool garage, basement, or cupboard. Storage vegetables are heavy and don’t take up much room. A few items will need space in your refrigerator. We provide detailed storage instructions, cooking ideas, and recipes for your late season bounty.

When the subject of seasonal eating comes up with my non-farmer friends, I am usually asked if I buy vegetables from the grocery store in the winter, and my answer is no. But don’t you ever just want to eat a salad? they ask. Well, we do eat salads – shredded celeriac, carrots, and winter radish with a vinaigrette is a refreshing way feed fresh produce to my family all winter long. Storage vegetables are just as versatile as summer favorites, it just takes a seasonal state of mind.

Jonnah

STORAGE SHARE Potatoes, carrot, onions, winter squash, garlic, cabbage, kale, leeks, daikon radish, beets, sweet potatoes, celeriac, rutabaga, turnips, Brussels sprouts, winter radish, pie pumpkin.

See our website for Storage Share details and purchasing options

Sophal showing off the his beautiful sweet potatoes.

Sophal showing off the his beautiful sweet potatoes.

Abigail and J-Mo (Eric) harvesting pie pumkins

Abigail and J-Mo (Eric) harvesting pie pumpkins

All three Perkins kids working together to harvest carrots: Eric, Becky, and Jesse.

All three Perkins siblings working together to harvest carrots: Eric, Becky, and Jesse.

This is the last potato harvest of the year!

This is the last potato harvest of the year!

Yes, it’s true. We know it’s coming, but why does it catch us by surprise every year? Summer vegetables are on their way out and fall crops have arrived. Gone are summer squash and cucumbers and soon tomatoes and peppers. Eggplant seems to be hanging in there longer than most years. Welcome winter squash, fall greens (collards and kale) and the return of lettuce heads, to name a few. The pumpkins are orange, the hills are getting ready to burst into color and the sun is rising later. Each fall we adjust our work hours so we can work in the daylight. A 6:00 start time would mean headlamps; starting a bit later seems easier. Our daily routine has changed a lot. Change is good. Gone is the Monday, Wednesday, Friday harvest schedule of tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, repeat. We spent last Friday clipping delicate squash and pie pumpkins. The unique aspect of this fall is rain, rain, rain. As I wrote last week, we do what we need to do to get the jobs done. Never two days the same, never two seasons the same. That’s what keeps it fun.

Barb

The crew headed out after lunch to harvest broccoli. The rain had stopped and the storm was just north of us. The sky was black and thunder was rumbling. Really beautiful.

The crew headed out after lunch to harvest broccoli. The rain had stopped and the storm was just north of us. The sky was black and thunder was rumbling. Really beautiful.

Heading out to harvest the broccoli.

Heading out to harvest the broccoli.

Eggplant harvest. Yes, everyone is standing. This is some tall and healthy eggplant.

Eggplant harvest. Yes, everyone is standing. This is some tall and healthy eggplant.

Potato harvest. As eggplant was being harvested, another crew was harvesting the Australian Crescent fingerling potatoes.

Potato harvest. As eggplant was being harvested, another crew was harvesting the Australian Crescent fingerling potatoes.

Delicata squash harvest. These squash were clipped last Friday and picked up and placed into bulk bins on Tuesday. We then spent Tuesday afternoon running them through a brush washer to take off the dirt.

Delicata squash harvest. These squash were clipped last Friday and picked up and placed into bulk bins on Tuesday. We then spent Tuesday afternoon running them through a brush washer to take off the dirt.

It only takes a little rain this time of year to have a big impact. We can have 2-3 inches in the summer and watch it soak into the fields and still be able to drive our vehicles wherever we need to go. But not this week and not in the fall. We headed out to harvest leeks on Tuesday morning and it started to rain while we were harvesting. We all hung in there and harvested leeks for four hours in the rain. It wasn’t a cold rain, so we weren’t chilled to the bone, but wow did it get muddy! We had our trusty 16’ Isuzu box truck out with us to hold all of the leeks. She’s pretty good in wet conditions. But try as I may, I just couldn’t get her out of the field. We were at the far end and had to choose one of two routes out. Almost made it, but not quite. Jesse had to come to the rescue with a tractor.

We headed back out after lunch to harvest acorn squash, this time with a tractor and bulk bin.

Now comes Wednesday harvest. We need to get back into that field and absolutely can’t drive anything but a tractor. This put added complication into our day. As dawn is breaking, David goes and hooks up one of our box trailers to the tractor so we use that to harvest kale. We also use it to harvest broccoli. We couldn’t even drive our super duty, duel wheeled, 4 wheel drive pickup truck out into that field without getting stuck. And all of this with less than an inch of rain. It’s a fall phenomenon, our soils hold water so well and don’t want to give it up in fall.

Oh, and you should have seen us. We looked like mud creatures from another planet. And when Jesse had to come rescue the stuck box trailer, the crew walked on the road back to the farm. What a sight.

~Barb

Georgia and Abigail covered in mud after leek harvest.

Georgia and Abigail covered in mud after leek harvest.

Worker Share Becky and Crew Member Georgia walking back from the field covered in mud.

Worker Share Becky and Crew Member Georgia walking back from the field covered in mud.

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