Harvesting


This is getting a bit old; all this talk of rain, rain, rain. We knew it was going to rain all day Monday, and we simply can’t take a day off from harvest, or it won’t all get done so we came up with a plan. The leek beds were right next to one of our hoophouses. If we could harvest the leeks, we could bring them into the hoophouse and clean them. If… David wasn’t sure if he could get the undercutter, which is pulled behind the tractor, through the mud to lift the leeks but he did! For the harvesters it meant dodging the torrential downpours and avoiding being out in thunder and lightening, which seemed to go on for 24 hours with minuscule breaks. The sound of the rain beating on the plastic structure blocked out all other sound, so we worked in silence. We spent all morning and half of the afternoon at this daunting task, but finished. Then, as we were cleaning up, someone looked out the door and said, “A river!” The water was cascading over the driveway and rushing the entire length of our field. Whoa! But the path of the water did not run through any crops. There’s always a silver lining.

Barb

Leek harvest in the rain.

Ryna hauling leeks to the hoophouse.

A river formed while we were cleaning leeks.

Cleaning leeks in the ‘dry’ hoophouse. Notice none of us took our rain gear off all day.

View from the door of the hoophouse. We are looking towards the crops we will be harvesting the next day, no matter what! And we did.

Wednesday morning collard harvest. No rain, just mud to walk through.

A pallet on the tractor was loaded with crates of leeks. The tractor is the only vehicle that will be able to make it through the fields for the rest of the season. If any other vehicles tries, it will get stuck (I know!).

We did it on Tuesday! The prediction was for rain in the afternoon, at about 3:00 pm, and we put a lot of faith in the 100% prediction. The fields are getting quite saturated and not drying off between rains. David had to finish the potato harvest. There were potatoes in two fields. Monday was a failed attempt with both fields, just too darn wet, the machine that digs the potatoes is not meant to deal with heavy, wet soil. Tuesday morning was going to have to be it. David in one tractor pulling the potato harvest machine, Jesse in another tractor pulling the wagon and four people riding the harvest machine to pull those clumps of dirt and grass out of the rollers so only the potatoes would be conveyed up into the wagon. As they were harvesting the potatoes, five of us were in the same field bringing in the kale. Both jobs done before lunch!

Now let’s head across the valley and bring in the winter squash and pie pumpkins, and get it done before the rain. Several bins filled before lunch. A much needed one hour break then all hands on to clip, pick up and count them into bulk bins before that 3:00 rain deadline. We were working in the valley with an amazing view to the west where the storm clouds were mounting and moving our way. As a bin filled Eric hauled it by tractor to the shed. At 2:30 it began to rain, a nice gentle rain which felt good to our warm bodies. Almost done, and at 3:00 the sky opened and began to pour! The last bin was filled, we all ran and climbed into the back of the pickup truck for a wet ride back. Soaked to the skin and happy to return to the packing shed, we spent the next two hours washing squash. Eric, in full rain gear, drove back and forth with heaping bins.

This afternoon everyone is out harvesting sweet potatoes to get ahead of the next rain.

~Barb

Watching the potato harvest go by as we harvest kale.

Bins of Carnival squash. Jesse uses the skid steer to move bins around the field .

Here come the storm clouds as we harvest winter squash.

Kale harvest, notice the mosquito net Sophon is wearing!

Why does it always come down to weather when I sit down to write? I guess if we worked inside it wouldn’t be such a big deal, but we all work outside all the time. It rained on Tuesday and believe it or not, it was a welcome event. The 1 inch we received was perfect for the plants, the ground was beginning to get dry. Remember a couple of weeks ago I said if we didn’t get more rain this fall we would have to irrigate, well we were getting close to that point. The rain came down gently all morning and we worked in it all morning! Although most of us had on rain gear, we all felt and looked like soaked little puppies after four and a half hours. We surprised ourselves and harvested lettuce, kohlrabi, celery and kale in that time. Rather an ambitious haul for one morning. I think all just hunkered down and got it done.

And then there’s the mosquitoes! On this farm we have never in 24 years even come close to experiencing such an invasion. They hang over us in clouds. They are relentless and their bite is nasty. We all cover up completely, keeping only our faces exposed, but somehow, on two occasions, a mosquito made its way under my glasses and stung me on the eyelid. First my left eye then the next day my right. Both of my eyes are all swelled up. When Jesse saw me yesterday morning he said, “What happened to you? Looks like you lost!”

The vegetables in the fields are all fine and happy although we need to wait until the ground dries to finish potato harvest. The ground needs to be dry for that activity so we have very small windows between rains and the time it takes the ground to dry.

I guess I know why I talk about weather so much!

Barb

Kale harvest on Tuesday morning. We had already been working in the rain for four hours by this time. We were getting cold and bitten up by mosquitoes, even kept going into our lunch hour so we could finish!

We grow a lot of potatoes. We dedicated nine acres to potatoes this year, more than any other vegetable we grow on the farm. In addition to growing spuds for our CSA shares, we also produce potato seed for other farmers. Our seed is double certified – certified organic and certified disease free by the Wisconsin Seed Potato Certification Program. During this busy week of CSA harvest, David, Jesse and Eric spent a great deal of each work day harvesting potatoes from our land in Arena, near the Wisconsin River. We’ve been waiting for this dry weather to be able to access the fields with our tractors. There was still a fair amount of mud and Jesse managed to get a tractor stuck. Luckily we use two tractors in the harvest process so David was able to tow him out with the other tractor. The guys brought in French Fingerling, Carola, Peter Wilcox, Goldrush Russet, and Magic Molly varieties this week and the potato cooler is getting pretty full. When the entire harvest is done we will be storing over 200,000 pounds of potatoes on this farm through winter and spring. If you ask any of us what our favorite vegetables are, potato is pretty high on the list, usually number one.

~Jonnah

David and Jesse drive tractors side by side and Eric pulls debris off of the potato digger.

A dewy morning in the potato field.

Jesse hauls crates of dropped potatoes out of the field.

The potato digger drops potatoes into the potato wagon.

Potatoes get dug then ride up a belt. Dirt and stems get separated from the potatoes.

Eric, Jesse, and Yun empty the potato wagon into bulk bins to be trucked back to the farm.

Dream Lens Media photography

I really can’t remember weather like this. Not only the rains, but the fog and humidity for such an extended period of time. Many of the vegetables are responding positively to so much water and others are not so happy. The fall crops like cabbage, kale, collards, lettuce heads, radishes, carrots are all happy enough with the water. Then there are the crops it has posed a challenge with. The beans were all knocked over and suffered in quality, although the taste is still great. The corn was knocked down and had to be harvested from the ground. The salad mix had a good many leaves effected with black spotting, we did our best to pick them all out of the mix. The tomatoes, which always get hit with multiple diseases, got an excessive dose of diseases that brought the outside tomato season to a halt several weeks sooner than usual. But, the hoophouse tomatoes are beautiful and will be harvested for many weeks to come. The peppers are happy and thriving, turning big and red.

We do our best with the weather we get. We haven’t had to irrigate for some time now, saving us a lot of time, but we have not put the irrigation equipment away, there are still seven weeks to go and believe it or not if it stops raining we may need to irrigate.

And then there’s the mud! As long as we wear rubber boots and keep the trucks on the gravel drives, all is OK.

But it’s sure good to see the sun today!

~Barb

Monday morning fog and pepper harvest.

Abby and Eric slogging through the mud as they harvest mix.

Then the crates of salad mix need to be carried to the truck.

I wonder how long Jesse’s green rain pants are going to survive. Last week they were duct taped together, now they are looking rather skirt like. Farm fashion is definitely like no other.

The crew spent a bit of time cutting the tips off of the corn to get rid of corn ear worm damage. Although the worm is perfectly safe (a family member said: it just eats corn, so probably tastes like corn), no one really wants one. But if you do find one, cut it off and enjoy the rest of your corn.

 

Unprecedented rains fell in northwest Dane County. Our neighbors in Black Earth, Mazomanie and Cross Plains were hit hard and many had to evacuate as flood waters came into their homes. The flooding in those areas was caused by the rising waters in the Black Earth Creek. This farm escaped the tremendous flooding! Yes, we did get many, many inches of rain, but no standing water in any of our fields. Water rushed through in areas, mainly in grassy waterways. The fields are very muddy, making access to them by foot or vehicle difficult. The driving rains did knock over a sweet corn field and shredded the red lettuce for our salad mix. But we do what we can and only harvested the green lettuce for the salad mix this week.

As many of you may know, we also have a large field in Arena where we grow most of our potatoes. That field goes under water frequently. As David and I drove to Arena Monday night to check out the field, we first drove into Mazomanie to witness the roads in the village flowing like a river. We got stopped at Hwy 14 because of water over the road and then wound around through high back roads to get to our field. Wow, no standing water. The potato field was spared!

Employees had a hard time figuring out how to get here on Tuesday morning, their routes disrupted by water over roads. Everyone eventually made it!

My heart goes out to all of you who were impacted by the flooding in Madison, Middleton and beyond. Mother Nature throws some pretty crazy stuff at us sometimes and then we pull together and do what we need to do to get through it.

There will be a bountiful array of food delivered this week!

Barb

Tuesday morning, 6:45. Jesse and Eric look at the peppers that were pushed over by the driving rains. Eric, Jesse and Barb were the only three in the fields. All other employees were struggling to get to the farm over flooded roads.

Sweet corn harvest Tuesday afternoon. We could get tractors into the fields.

The wagon carrying the corn was sinking as it was pulled along. At one point the tractor was almost stuck. Yikes!

Salad mix harvest in the mud Wednesday morning.

Jesse slogging through the mud and carrying full crates of salad mix to the truck

Going to get that salad mix to the truck!

This is the intersection of two roads that we came to as we were driving to our field in Arena.

Every morning at 6:30 a crew of about 10 people heads into the fields to begin harvest. We harvest vegetables 4 days a week and spend one day packing the boxes and delivering them to you. We try to spend the afternoons in the packing shed, out of the hot sun, washing and bagging. In between harvest we squeeze in weeding, greenhouse work, planting, trellising and much more. It’s a balancing act dictated by the Thursday deadline and the weather. We don’t leave the packing shed on Wednesday until it’s all done. We work well together and enjoy what we do. Enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of our labor!

Misty morning zucchini harvest. Many of our mornings are very foggy in our valley. Foreground: Abby and Jesse

Cutting the tops off the newly harvested fresh onions. Jon and Matt are Monday morning worker shares. Jesse and Abby are always here.

Washing those onions in the packing shed at the brush washer. Neing, Phalla, Abby, Yun, Ryna.

Swiss Chard harvest on a beautiful morning.

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