The season is indeed starting out with bounty. Much thanks to all of the rain and hot weather; plants do respond positively to both of these things. Everything looks great in the fields. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons and all of the summer crops are flourishing. Although we did have a dry period last week and needed to irrigate. Crazy how that works, so much rain then none, the plants need consistent water.

Green beans were one of the bounty crops this week. They are as beautiful as can be. We harvest green beans with a mechanical harvester, then bring them into the packing shed and run them over a bean cleaning machine. Many people stand in front of a conveyor to take out any debris (stems, leaves) that may have come in with the beans.  This cleaning process takes about 3 hours. The mechanical harvesting takes about 2 hours. This process allows everyone to work standing up and eliminates crouching over bean plants for an entire day.

We acquired this bean machines about 15 years ago, bought it from a farm near Green Bay. It was winter and I took our old Jeep pickup truck and trailer to get the machine. I had stayed in a hotel the night before and woke to a blizzard, loads of snow had fallen during the night and was still falling heavily. I headed to the farm on a completely snow covered country road. The farmer successfully loaded me up, strapped down the machine and off I went. The interstate was no better.

Now this old pickup truck was a piece of work. The gas gauge didn’t work, the head lights were mediocre at best. I kept track of mileage to estimate when to fill up, but pulling a trailer with a heavy piece of equipment of course uses more gas. The snow covered interstate was as horrible as conditions get (blowing snow, semi trucks, low visibility). I knew I was getting close to needing gas so exited on Hwy 151 and ran out on the off ramp. Was able to coast to the side of the road. Now these were the days before cell phones. I ran up to a car on the off ramp and hitched a ride to a gas station; a mom, two girls and a fresh box of pizza.  I filled a container with gas and started to walk the mile or so back to my truck, not seeing anyone at the gas station I felt comfortable asking for a ride. As I walked in blinding snow and below zero wind chill back to the truck, a man and his son pulled over and gave me a ride. I did what I needed to do and got home pretty late and in the total dark. When I asked David if he was worried, he said ‘No, should I have been?’ I guess not.

Barb

David drives the tractor and skillfully operates the harvest machine while Jesse monitors the beans dropping from the chute. The machine harvests the entire plant. All of the plant matter gets blown out of a chute (between the tractor and the stack of crates) and the beans drop through another chute.

 

Many hands picking through the beans to eliminate leaves, stem and such. The machine sits in the packing shed addition where we get nice air flow and sunlight under the shade of a roof.

Many hands picking through the beans to eliminate leaves, stem and such. The machine sits in the packing shed addition where we get nice air flow and sunlight under the shade of a roof.

 

 

The spring has run its course, and now it is time for the sun and heat of the long summer days to bring us Wisconsin’s bounty season.   The summer and fall (yes fall) crops are growing wonderfully. I cultivate every crop every week, eliminating the weeds we don’t like. This is my time to see up close the development of everything.

  • The winter squash is already flowering with tiny fruit visible.
  • Several of the potato varieties put on a beautiful flower display, which has just begun. This coincides with the first baby potatoes underground.
  • The earliest planted sweet corn is almost too tall to cultivate, meaning it is on schedule for early August harvest and the Corn Boil event.
  • The sweet potato slips, which look like a green stick when planted, have come to life and begun to put on leaves and shoot out roots.
  • The first green bean plantings are looking great; unlike last year when we had lots of germination problems; so lots more beans this year, one of my favorites. Even the edamame germinated perfectly, breaking our 2-year run of crop failure. Deer have been nibbling at the edamame, but not too much damage yet.
  • The pumpkins and gourds have sprouted in uniform rows, meaning another great Pumpkin Pick event is in store for October.
  • Several broccoli plantings are in the ground and have a good start; the evil flee beetle has had little impact this year on all the brassicas.
  • All the crops under row cover are lifting the cover towards the sky, meaning they are doing great and are asking to be uncovered soon; bring on the melons, cucumbers and summer squash.
  • We had a successful hand pick of Colorado Potato Beetles off the eggplant, their favorite target.
  • This is also the time to catch up on the always needed hand weeding; a slow tedious process, but that’s part of organic farming. The first planting of carrots got their final hand weeding today; they are already beginning to size up. Garlic, onions and leeks are looking great, but need hand weeding attention also.
  • There is a lot of work to do with the tomatoes, putting in stakes, getting the plants trellised, and some hand weeding.
  • The rains have been a bit much, but on the bright side, the irrigation chores have been negligible. However, a droughty period always shows up, so there will be lots of work to do to keep the plants watered.
  • The bulk of the greenhouse work and transplanting is over, but some work lingers into August.

There is much yet to do to prepare your first bounty season box of produce in July.  We hope you’ve enjoyed the early spring season delights, and do look forward to more great food from your Farm.

David

Barb planting sweet potatoes

Dandelion harvest for the final Spring Season delivery

Yun tucking in the lettuce before the rain comes

After a week of intense heat, humidity, and mosquitoes, we were all very happy to work these past few days. We had a busy schedule of harvest for the Spring Season shares and early summer planting continues. In weather like this, everyone is eager to be outside and work seems to get done faster. Yesterday morning we had a short thunderstorm that sent us running for the packing shed only to get back out into the field 20 minutes later. It’s hard not to love your work during weeks like this.

Jonnah

Morning spinach harvest before the sun gets high in the sky.

Barb walking crates of spinach out of the field.

A beautiful stand of scallions. Pulling these out of the ground is one of my favorite jobs on the farm!

Jesse counting as Jon harvests.

Jesse and Barb, son and mother, figuring out the best way to remove the row cover.

Fresh garlic harvest. The smell of garlic was so amazing while we were pulling it up!

We, and the plants, all made it through this record breaking May heat wave! We worked outside Monday and Tuesday, sweating like crazy and drinking lots of water. The end of May is the busiest time on the farm so no matter that the temperatures are soaring into the 90’s, there is tons of work to do. We harvested outside and in the hoophouses. We transplanted zucchini, sweet corn, melons and David spent a lot of time on the tractor planting many seeds. We wished we could have spent more time in the packing shed, but this week’s work kept us outside for most of the days. Wednesday was a gift, with cooler temps and rain! We worked outside until the rains came and then harvested in the hoophouse. We knew everything outside was getting well watered. Oh yes, the mosquito population is a bit crazy this year, adding to the fun!

Barb

Monday Morning salad mix harvest.

Followed by spinach harvest. You can almost see the heat hanging in the air.

Tuesday afternoon we headed into the rhubarb jungle.

Wednesday morning was spend in the hoophouse in the fennel jungle. Notice Sophon is wearing mosquito netting. It is pouring rain outside and we are happy inside, although I think all of the mosquitoes decided to get out of the rain, too.

Ryna planting tomatoes in the hoophouse. After a crop is harvested we replace it with tomatoes. Lettuce heads were in this spot on Monday.

Summer really feels like it has started for me once we start putting tomatoes in the ground outside. Yesterday we planted 3024 tomatoes along with 7496 peppers, melons, and cucumber plants! All of those thousands of seeds that were sown on chilly spring days in the potting shed are finally strong enough to grow independently out in the real world. With the massive amounts of rain that southern Wisconsin has seen the past few weeks, our field planting got behind and now we we’re playing catch up. No one is leaving on Friday until everything is in the ground! – those were the words of the big boss, David.

May is an exhilarating month on the farm. We are in full swing with the Spring Season CSA harvest while managing the frenzy of transplants that need to be put in the ground for summer deliveries. Both are equally important and need our full attention. Thursdays are devoted to the CSA delivery but guess what we’re doing tomorrow? Transplanting. We will finish out the week with sweet corn, eggplant, broccoli, Brussel’s sprouts, and popcorn for a total of 25,354 plants in the ground over three days. I hope you’re hungry for summer vegetables – if you aren’t signed up for the Bounty Season Share they’re still available!

Bounty Season July 19 – October 18 – send us an email to join! farm@vermontvalley.com

~Jonnah

Jonnah pauses to capture a picture of what is behind her as she works on the waterwheel transplanter. She sits on a black plastic seat and has all of the tomato plants in front of her. The water wheel pokes holes into the plastic at a determined distance and water flows into the wheel and then into the hole for the plant. 

David adjusting the seat on the transplanter before we lay out a couple thousand plants.

Locked and loaded for high speed transplanting.

Raised beds with plastic mulch covering drip tape irrigation. We use straw mulch in between rows to control weeds in the entire garden.

Spring is such a beautiful and magical time on the farm. Different hues of green everywhere are soft and varied and brilliant. Rains come hard and the wetland turns into a pond, only to recede the next day. Sandhill cranes are vying for nesting territory. Fog rolls through the valley in the early mornings, muting the colors and bringing with it a mystique. Dew hangs so heavily on the tall grass that you feel as if you are swimming when walking into the fields. Planted crops are thriving, despite all of the crazy weather.

Through it all we work hard. Bodies ache and grow weary. But then we look up at the beauty all around us and are reminded how lucky we are to work in such a magical place. At times we work silently and at other times we chatter and laugh. The days pass and we accomplish much.

Enjoy the spring magic in your box this week!

~Barb

Rhubarb harvest Tuesday morning. If you have never used a rhubarb leaf as a hat, give it a try. It cools your head an looks quite fashionable!

Heavy rains caused our wetland to turn into a pond. Our stream is that straight line of water in the middle. The spring vegetables are planted in far the field. The following day the waters receded and the vegetable fields are in great condition!

Last Friday we were working in the hoophouse during a downpour. The water decided to come under the edge and start flowing like a river. David is doing some water re-directing. All is well with the plants!

Harvesting salad mix Monday morning. Heavy fog and mist outside.

I stepped out through the open side wall of the hoophouse to capture this picture of our leeks, onions and garlic in the mist. They are enjoying the spring and growing well.

The sun sets on the stream behind our big field.

Yea, spring finally came, and along with it the needed warmth for vegetables to grow. We’ve had a lot of fun harvesting greens from the hoophouses. This year we are growing more than twice as much food in those hoophouses and needed to be creative about how to squeeze it all in. We decided to make the paths between the beds of greens a bit narrower. Weeding and harvesting and maneuvering in a 12 inch row is not the easiest thing to do, and all without stepping on the crop that’s flowing into the row. For the past three days, with sore backs and lots of laughs, we harvested our way through beds and beds of greens. The sunshine makes the houses warm and when it’s raining outside somehow the rain manages to leak in, creating a slick muddy walkway. A balancing act all around.

Welcome to the Spring Season!

Barb

Sauté Mix harvest in those 12 inch rows! Note how we need to balance the crates on a bucket since there is not enough room in the row to place the crate. Casey and Yun harvesting arugula. Sophon, Ryna and Neing harvesting different beds of kale and mustard greens.

Ryna, Yun, Casey harvesting spinach. We pinch off one leaf at a time. This way we can leave the smaller leaves on the plant to grow bigger for next week.

The hoophouse a couple of weeks ago. The red lettuce in the foreground is what was delivered this week. It even looked like this when there were piles of snow outside. A lovely place to be.

Wednesday night after all of the employees had gone home Eric, Barb, Jonnah, Jesse and David (all with the last name Perkins) rallied for another hour to get every little bit done. We were all on our 11th hour, ready to be done yet still having fun! Balancing a phone on a sawhorse was the only way to capture the moment. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to grow your food.