The thermometer reads 70 degrees Tuesday and there are still a few piles of snow strategically distributed around the farm, lest we forget we had a blizzard only a few days ago.

The crew is planting onions this week; the onions that were diligently cared for as they patiently waited to be planted. For the past 2 weeks, on each day that was above freezing, we would carry them into an unheated plastic structure to get hardened off (toughened up) and then carry them back into the heated greenhouse each night. This went on until last Friday when we decided they could stay out all night, along with their friends spinach, lettuce, dandelion greens, sauté mix and scallions: 36,800 cells total. That night the temperature dropped lower than expected. At 10 pm it was 32 degrees and I knew I wouldn’t sleep until we somehow protected those plants. David and I decided to double row cover them and put a space heater below the draped row cover. It looked so cozy when we were finished I thought I could just crawl under and fall asleep. I resisted and slept well in my own bed, knowing the plants were going to make it through the low evening temperatures. They did.

The other vegetables that made it through less than ideal conditions were the lettuce heads and spinach transplants which were planted into the field just days before the first snow fall. We studied the weather predictions and figured they would be protected under a blanket of snow until it melted. We also knew if we didn’t plant them before the snow came, it would be way too many days before we could get them out into the fields. We weren’t too crazy about the ice that accumulated prior to the snow storm, but plants are tough. The snow from the first storm hadn’t even melted off before the next storm hit. Now they were really covered, and hopefully as cozy as a lettuce plant under a blanket of snow can be. The snow has melted and the plants look fine! They didn’t do too much growing under the snow, but now they can get serious about that. Happy Spring!

Barb

Planting onions on Tuesday, that gorgeous 70 degree day. Sophon and Ryna in foreground.

Walking down to the greenhouse on April 19. Yes, the greenhouse is bursting with life inside.

Here we are inside the greenhouse. Quite a contrast from the snowy day outside.

All of the plants that were moved into an unheated structure to ‘harden off’ or get tough and strong before being transplanted into the field.

At 11pm last Friday night David and I were out in that hardening off area double row covering the plants and placing a space heater beneath the covered plants. The temperatures were dipping more quickly than expected.

The survivors. Here are the lettuce and spinach plants that weathered 2 snow storms! We knew they could do it!

Here comes the garlic! Planted last October. So much to look forward to!

Spring Season plants growing happily in the hoophouse. If you haven’t signed up for the Spring Season yet, you still have time.

Each week Mother Nature throws us a new curve ball and we’ve gotten pretty good at keeping our cool when things get wild on the farm. South Central Wisconsin has had it’s share of severe storms and large volumes of rain this summer but last night’s event set itself apart from the rest. At 9:30pm last night the power on the farm went out which was only a minor inconvenience as long as the vegetable coolers stayed shut, which we made sure they did. The grand challenge came when the crew arrived this morning at 6:30am to pack over 800 CSA shares and the box packing room and walk-in coolers were as dark as caves. Out came headlamps and flashlights and luckily the power flickered back on by 7:30 and do we were could now move through the morning at our electricity-supported pace. When the aftermath of the storm settled down we were all able share our stories of downed trees, flooded roads, flooded basements and our exciting nights at home without power. The only frustrating carryover from the eventful storm was the technology fallout. I spent the majority of my morning trying to restore service to our internet and email server. But that is all part of the monumental undertaking of running a business in a rural area. We didn’t become vegetable farmers to seek out a simple way of life, and we sure do take humor in making the most of the endless challenges that the farm life sends our way.

On a lighter note, we got off to a great start with the garlic harvest on Tuesday and Wednesday! Over the coming week we will fit in the rest of the job whenever we can, harvesting a total of about a half acre of garlic. The garlic will be cured and stored in the upstairs of the barn and we will deliver it throughout the rest of the delivery season, saving about 20% back to plant for next year.

~Jonnah

Garlic growing out of straw mulch. The garlic looks beautiful this year!

Jesse and Casey pull garlic out and shake off the dirt from the roots.

Ryna with her garlic. She has been one of the crew members who has spent a lot of time out in the hot sun harvesting!

Garlic is unique in that we plant it in the fall for harvest the following year. We form raised beds which are covered with a very thin layer of plastic mulch. Holes are punched into the plastic and each garlic clove is planted by hand. The best garlic bulbs from the prior year are saved for planting. The bulb is broken apart into its individual cloves. Each clove is planted separately, which becomes next year’s garlic plant. The whole field is then covered with a protective layer of straw mulch for the winter.

Planting garlic last October. Each clove is a seed.

Planting garlic last October. Each clove is a seed.

In the spring, garlic is the very first plant out of the ground, poking thru the straw mulch.  Garlic has shallow roots so it needs lots of water; which we provide with a drip irrigation system that is installed in each raised bed. Any extra needed fertility is added in the fall when the beds are made. A few weeds make their way thru the mulch systems which we then pull by hand.  In early June the garlic sends up its seed heads, called garlic scapes. The scapes are harvested and delivered to you. If the scapes are left on the plant, the garlic bulb will be much smaller because the plant is putting its energy into producing the seed head, which it sees as its way of reproducing itself. It has no idea we are going to do that for the garlic, as described above. So why not plant the seeds from the seed head you may ask. You can, but the result will be very small garlic bulbs.

Tonny in the garlic during the scape harvest.

Tonny in the garlic during the scape harvest.

Mid July is garlic harvest season. Garlic is harvested all at once, making the job a big deal on the farm.  The garlic bulbs mature to a certain point, after which they will begin to lose all their protective layers of “skin” and become undeliverable to you. So all the garlic comes out of the ground; it is placed in a dry place with fans blowing air over the moist bulbs, thereby curing the garlic for long-term storage.

All hands on deck for garlic harvest.

All hands on deck for garlic harvest.

Garlic harvest, like many tasks on the farm, is tedious and slow. Each garlic bulb is hand harvested, the dirt must be removed from the roots, and the outer skin is removed to make the garlic pretty and clean.  Sometimes the soil is a bit too wet and sometimes a bit too dry, each condition giving the harvest crew extra work; but occasionally the soil is just right making the job a little easier. The garlic first has its tops  mowed off to make harvest and curing easier. The garlic beds are then undercut with a tractor operated lifter which loosens the garlic for pulling. Then the hand harvest begins.

David undercutting the garlic to make it easier to harvest.

David undercutting the garlic to make it easier to harvest.

Garlic, like our potatoes, is a seed crop for us. In addition to delivering garlic to you, we sell garlic to other organic farmers for them to plant. So we grow lots of garlic and several varieties. We have experimented over the years with many varieties. We start with a small amount of garlic, and if we like it, we “grow it out”; meaning we keep all the garlic to replant over several years until we have enough to deliver to you and sell to other farms. This year we will be delivering four varieties, Musik, German, Italian Red and Chesnok Red. Each garlic variety has subtle differences in flavor and cooking qualities; all of them are great. We will be including garlic in your share thru the end of the season. Enjoy.

David