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.

The 24th annual Corn Boil was fantastic! Thank you to all who came out to harvest corn, eat raw corn in the fields and enjoy a beautiful Wisconsin day on the farm. The pot luck dishes were amazing! I had lots of comments about the delicious and creative dishes. One person told me this was the healthiest pot luck she has been to! The Vermont Valley farm Community is the best!

Harvesting and eating corn in the field.

Yum! Raw corn!

Abby, our amazing full time employee, spent her time at the Corn Boil boiling up the corn for everyone. Thanks Abby.

And then there was the incredible pot luck. No one left hungry.

This week brought a bounty of broccoli, the first green peppers and enough tomatoes to do the first tomato bagging. This only means more tomatoes to come.

Harvesting green peppers. The mornings have been very humid and hazy. Quite beautiful in our valley.

Bagging tomatoes. A very fun activity, our own tomato assembly line.

Broccoli galore. When we bring the broccoli in from the fields it is submerged in tubs of ice cold water to cool it down quickly and then counted into crates. Yun and Jon have counted much broccoli. Thanks guys.

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.

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!