August 24

We want you all to take note of the date which we have set aside for the CSA Farm Membership day: September 6th from 4-7 pm.  This event is for the Eastman CSA group as well as all our debit card  CSA members. We  would love to have as many of you attend as possible, as well as any friends who might be interested in the farm as well. We will have a quick meeting to introduce the people who work in the field and make the CSA possible. Then we will do a short tour of the main farm and some  of the fields and lastly repair to some snacks and refreshments in the packing barn where you can talk to any or all of us about anything on the farm of interest to you. Please take a minute and either e-mail me or let Kally know at the drop site if you are coming and the number of folks you will be bringing so we can proceed with the planning on our end.

This is great weather and everybody’s disposition improves, especially the field crew’s, all of whom have spent the greater part of the summer in rain gear and rubber boots. And it is much easier to weed and cultivate in this weather: the weeds actually dry up and die, where as in rainy weather you uproot them only to have them roll over and re-root themselves in the rainy damp weather. So this is like a walk in the park.

We are knee-deep in the “second season.” We have one more planting of lettuce and cole crops (broccoli and cabbage) to go in the ground, and there is a pretty good chance the coles will get nailed by a hard frost before we are able to harvest them. But then, you have to be optimistic to be in this business. We have now finished with the blueberries and will have to go in there and weed and clean them up for fall and take down the netting.  The strawberry beds are renovated and trying to put on some growth before they start initiating flower buds for next year. Both the blues and strawberries will then have to be fenced with electrical fencing to keep the deer from damaging them. We have a week more of good cantaloupes instead of having them well into the fall, because downy mildew has shown up on the second planting. It is a particularly virulent foliar disease of vine crops and we do not run an aggressive enough spray program to really combat it. But all in all, despite the diseases I am grateful for what we are pulling out of the melons and tomatoes; many farmers have had it a lot worse with the violent storms and wet weather. The plus side though has definitely been the excellent dispositions and work ethic of the field crew that has persevered through this less than optimum growing season. I am sure that when you meet them at membership day you will be impressed with their commitment and good humor.

August 10

All right, enough with the rain already. This is way too much of a good thing, at this point is actually a bad thing. So far it has ruined most of the summer raspberries, spread diseases in the tomato greenhouses and melons and a host of other troubling encumbrances, not the least of which is my athlete’s foot that is thriving as a result of spending days on end in rubber boots. But as bad as it gets, it could be worse. There have been some very high winds and hail in some of these localized storms and a few of my fellow farmers have been hit. We have been very fortunate to have dodged that bullet, but the weather pattern looks as though we are not out of the woods this week.

We are still planting certain vegetables on a weekly basis. This week, for example, I will plant beet greens, radishes, arugula and spinach. We have one more planting of broccoli to put out and I will also plant the very last planting of string beans. This final planting is called a “Hail-Mary” planting, in that conventional wisdom dictates that it is too late in the season to to plant them, but you do anyway and hope that everyone else is wrong and you get to pick some beans before the planting freezes. Farming is somewhat of a gamble, but sometimes we just can’t help ourselves.

The problem of the week(s) is red-winged blackbirds. Having just completed their reproductive cycles, both the young and adults are flocking up in preparation for their fall migration. They do tremendous damage to the ears of the sweet corn, and we are lucky if we only sustain a 30-40% damage in our fields. I have seen it 70% and better on occasion. We throw everything we have into the fray to combat them. We use balloons,helium predatory kites, propane cannons and, yes , the old farmer patrolling the corn with a loaded shotgun.The bird sare persistent, aggressive and smart. And they can come in large numbers, as they call in other small flocks to the corn. 15-20 can do a lot of damage, but when 100 or so fly out of the field you know that you have suffered a lot of damage.

Well, at least we dont have to irrigate this week….

August 1

Been a couple of weeks since last I wrote. We have had some extreme weather since then, but I expect that we are luckier than some as we have avoided hail and tornadoes. This excessive moisture is a double-edged sword, as vegetables like the tropical conditions but it brings on leaf and fruit rots  (pretty well wrecked the summer raspberries) and the heavy rains will also leach nutrients out of the soil, so that has to be compensated for. The corn has come on and you can expect to see some in the boxes this Tuesday if we can keep the red-winged blackbirds out of it. They can come in by flocks of the hundreds and peck up the ears rendering them unmarketable. To combat them we use balloons, helium kites, propane cannons and good old-fashioned shotguns. All this takes additional time out of a productive work day, but seems as though it is part of the problem of trying to raise sweet corn near water and on a migratory flyway. One plant that loves this weather are the blueberries; the new plant growth is great as is the  berry size.

As mentioned in an earlier blog,we do not have a way of legally dividing up the melons  amongst members through cutting them and  putting them in boxes. If any of you have suggestions please let us know as we are starting to pick some ripe ones for the farmstand.