Monthly Archives: September 2011

Wanted : Senior farmhands

We said goodbye to my parents on Saturday as they headed back home to Calgary.  Like last summer, they cooked our meals, did our shopping, drove our kids around, shared meals with us and did all sorts of farm things like weeding, planting, harvesting and building (or demolishing, as appropriate) all manner of structure big and small.  (In their last week, I got this idear that Dad and I should build shelving into the crappy garage-in-a-box I bought last winter that almost collapsed under its first dump of snow. The shelving not only holds tons of stuff, it act as structural reinforcement to the garage’s rafters. And it was built on a patch of ground that slopes diagonally towards the creek. But it turned out perfect…ish) All that and more, without ever complaining or asking anything in return.  How great is that?  Thank you Mom and Dad.  We couldn’t have done it without you both.

We have continued to get typical summer weather, on some days actually exceeding normal high temperatures.  Our small test plot of corn that people suggested we yank out looks like it may throw off an ear or two if we get another 10 days of sunny weather.

Our green and purple beans, both bush and climbing, that we planted in the high tunnel for lack of something better to plant there, are producing nicely.  Not enough to sell but plenty to eat.  We have edamame that should be ready shortly.  Again, not enough to sell but lots to lightly steam before slathering with a butter.

The peppers are coming along well now, all things considered.  Some of the Carmens (those longish bull’s horn peppers) are nearly ripe.  I’ve harvested a couple of poblano’s but haven’t yet eaten any.  And some of our jalapeno’s at our farm away from farm are just starting to complete.

Cucumbers are probably my biggest nice surprise.  They are as plentiful as they are easy to sell.  Our waiting list for pickling cukes is starting to dwindle now but chances seem good that we can rustle up more orders from the same or other people.  Bruce and Steve, two chefs that really put their money where their mouths are when it comes to buying local, have even been pickling our Diva cucumbers which are really more a salad cucumber.  Any leftover Diva’s are easy to sell at the farm stand so we have few for the Tuesday market.

I go through a see saw battle between disappointment and satisfaction with the tomato crop.  The Sungold cherry tomatoes win the prize for the most bucks per plant and I could (and plan to) sell 10 times more next season.  Most have now reached the top of the greenhouse (10′)  and I’ve been having to lower their trellis strings.  The OSU Blue tomatoes grow decently and look attractive but they’re not that yummy.  The Brandywines are delicious but they suffer from green shoulders (non-ripening part near the stem) and often split before they’re ripe enough to sell.  The Defiant tomatoes also have green shoulders.  Had I not pruned them off their suckers, thinking they were climbers instead of the bush variety that they are, I’d have even more of them now.  I don’t know where I got the idea that they were determinants.  They’re at most 2 feet high in the same row as the 10′ Sungolds.  I’m really on the fence with the Granadero’s (like Roma’s).  Their fruit is abundant and ripe-looking but still too firm and a little green at the stem end although not as bad as the other green-shouldered varieties.  They’re basically all pre-sold though so, when they do ripen, we’ll get them out the door with no loss.  The Green Zebra’s are also great and a close competitor to my favorite tomato this year.  Excellent green and amber striping with beautiful flavor and texture.  And, ironically, no green shoulders.

Our summer squashes are doing fine with the recent heat but they’re a tough sell.  I think next year we’ll grow just green and yellow zucchini’s, not all the green and yellow spheres and starships that people are seemingly afraid to buy.  We grew perhaps 30 plants this year.  I can see paring that down to about half next year but growing those in a greenhouse so that we can sell a bunch before every other farm and home gardener harvests theirs.

The winter squash which are down really low into the wettest ground are the happiest, throwing off lots of large fruit.  Meanwhile, the ones further up the hill, which have less water and more shade, showed so many signs of struggle so early that I abandoned them shortly after setting up irrigation for them.  Unfortunately, these were mainly the Delicata’s, the only variety that I really wanted to produce in abundance (these are the only winter squash I know of whose peel you can eat).  In hindsight, we should have started planting squash at the top of the hill when there was more water in the soil for the roots to follow down as the water table fell.  Ah well, I’ll keep that in mind for next year when we use that area for something else.

Our strawberries were a bit of a disappointment this year but, again, it was self-inflicted.  Apparently you’re supposed to pinch off early flowers of new plants so that their roots can develop better before they set fruit.  I was probably too cheap with the watering, too.  Anyway, they’re producing much better now.  Not enough to sell but enough to eat fresh or freeze for later.  And OMG, are they ever sweet and juicy now.  One of those things that stands in stark comparison to their Californian brethren.  We’ll be doing lots more next year although not too many as I see some vendors already struggling to sell theirs.

Well, I could go on but it seems like I have blathered on for far too long already.  Suffice it to say that each day is a learning experience and, hopefully, lessons learned this year will pay dividends next season.