Boy,sure feels like summer now. We have dodged some nasty thunderstorms and we have gone from cold and dry to hot and muggy. The plants and veggies love it …..but so do the weeds. Suffice to say we are hustling to keep up with everything. Both our farm stand and the strawberry u-pick are now open and that stretches the workforce. This is the biggest and most difficult hurdle of the season to get over. The farm stand and u-pick workers are gearing up for the holiday which, oddly enough, is our busiest time of the year. The guys in the field have been putting in 13-hour days this week. They are picking strawberries first thing in the morning and planting and weeding the balance of the day. A major undertaking this week was trying to get bird netting on the blueberry field, which is now completed. It’s a big pain but should drastically reduce the amount of damage we experienced last year from the robins, jays and cedar waxwings by keeping them out of the blueberry planting. But weeding the vegetables and next year’s strawberry planting will certainly preoccupy us this upcoming week, if all goes well and there are no unexpected crises.
We are now officially in strawberry harvest season, as the flocks of cedar waxwings and robins have descended upon us like a plague of locusts. Right now we are picking primarily for our stand and the Hanover/Lebanon Consumer Coop as well as Rum Brook Market and a few other small accounts. Most of the berries are coming off plants that were planted last fall on black plastic mulch. Within a few days the strawberries planted on bare ground will be ready, and we will have to open the fields for Pick Your Own. This is the busiest time of the year for us as we are in the midst of heavy planting and weeding as well as embarking upon our harvest season. The weather has moderated with showers and cooler temperatures, which both plants and employees have responded well to. Additionally, it has given us a break from irrigating and given us more time for weeding and other chores that have piled up. We are currently pulling row covers off the first plantings of peppers and tomatoes and so far they look good.
It seems as though the Grantham Box delivery went off without any major problems, and we wish to thank Charlie, Sue and Leslie for their invaluable help in making all of this fall together. We hope you were satisfied with the first delivery. I suspect that the contents of the box next week will be very similar. We got one unpleasant e-mail from a dissatisfied member, so I do feel that we should clarify again at this time that the box share model is not about choice. It is, in the simplest of terms, a box of produce delivered weekly, the contents of which are what is available grown on the farm and harvestable on the week of delivery. Also, because this CSA was formed so late in the spring, you may well see our tomatoes at Rum Brook Market before you see them in your boxes. This is because they and the Coop are old customers of ours and we made commitments to one another and planned in the early winter to supply them. What we planned back in December affects how much seed, fertilizer and space we commit to any crop. We are all working very hard to make this thing work. I hope that you will reserve judgment until the end of the 12-week delivery period as this is just the beginning.
A note for you members with farm accounts: the kind souls working the registers request that you announce that you are a CSA member when you approach the check-out. This is to help ensure registers are correct or at least closer to correct at the end of the day… Thanks!
Some much-needed rain and a cold front blew here on Tuesday night, much to everyone’s relief. The heat was brutal to work in, and many plants don’t much like that kind of heat intensity, especially the strawberries. The ripening fruit will actually heat up and sunburn, thus injuring the berries and making them rot. Our first defense is to turn on the overhead irrigation and evaporatively cool the fruit down. So we were doing that a lot between Saturday afternoon and Tuesday.
Transplanting continues as the second planting of crops like peppers and cherry tomatoes, melons etc. is about to begin. There is a fair amount of field prep that must be done for this: soil moisture levels must be up and the soil must also be weed free before we lay down mulch and transplants. And there is a lot of weeding to be done as these showers and irrigations are just as beneficial to the weeds as they are to the veggies. Plus we are on the cusp of strawberry season and there is a lot of preparation for that as well.
We started picking a few quarts of berries last Saturday off our strawberries grown on black plastic. We have been selling the few of them at the greenhouses, but we will officially open the Route 12A farm stand on Saturday, as sort of a prelude to strawberry season. Those of you who are in the Grantham CSA will receive your first box on Tuesday, June 17. Ray and Kalila will be down there by 5 PM and remain until 7 PM, as many of you requested the later hours for pickup. The box won’t be overflowing with stuff this trip as there are not a lot of field vegetables ready yet, due to the lousy early growing season, but we thought you might like some early season strawberries and lettuce to get going. Like the farmstand, we all need the practice to make the system work seamlessly, and you will get a chance to meet a couple of the principals involved and have a chat with them. See you then.
Some much needed rain (.5″) came last Saturday night in the form of a gullywasher, but brought some temporary relief. We likely will have to go back to full-tilt irrigating by Friday or Saturday, especially if it turns hot, but it has allowed us to do some maintenance, mowing, weeding and to continue our transplanting. This week we got out more lettuce and cole crops, all of our hard squash and pumpkins. Geordie, Roy and Willie will finish transplanting next year’s strawberries by early Friday if all goes well. Mike and Ray have fixed the drip irrigation on the blueberries and peaches (looks like we are going to have some this year…2 out of 6 years. It might make a respectable batting average but it’s pretty pathetic for cropping). They are also tied up moving perennials out of the greenhouses and onto benches, a seasonal ritual that takes a lot of bodies. We hope to do the final weed cleanup in the strawberries next week, there are a few berries with color on the black plastic berries, so we may have a few trickle into the greenhouses by mid week, but the main crop, which is grown on bare ground, is about 10 days behind this year and actually struggling a bit from being under snow for so long; the fields never lost their snow until April this year,and ideally they should see daylight by mid-March. Oh well…hopefully frost season is behind us. Hopefully.
A few have asked about when the stand will open, and I would have to say that unless the weather turns “cooperative” it will be a couple of weeks. But maybe by this time next week I will be singing a different tune. Still a lot of planting and weeding to do, bird netting to go up in the blueberries, cut flowers to go out etc. What’s the old saying – “It’s hard to see the swamp when you are up to your arse in alligators?”