6/21/06 Vol. 3 #15

The first day of summer and now the days begin to get shorter.  While we have been fortunate to have cool weather last far into June the days getting shorter are still a sign that it is all down hill to fall now.  I know we still have lots of summer season to go but in our minds we are always anticipating the next season, seeding crops for it, making plans around it. etc.   This long term view of the world is important for a farmer to have, partly to be prepared for what is to come so we are ready to take advantage of it (“have to make hay while the sun shines”) and partly to see past what might not be going well this season (“there’s always next year”).  I find that having an understanding of the long cycle of the seasons allows us to better plan our crops and how they best fit into the agro-ecosystem.  What summer cover crop works best before a fall planted flower crop that if planted at the right time and temperature will not have horrible weed problems next spring to fight.  Those flowers need to come out in time for another summer cover crop (different this time) that will be mature enough in time to run the turkeys through and will build organic matter and nutrients for the following springs lettuce crop which needs lots of nutrients but never uses them all.  When the lettuce is done we can plant late summer zinnias and sunflowers that can soak up all that excess nitrogen but will be done in time to plant a winter cover crop that will feed the next years early summer flowers and on and on.  A farmer friend of ours says “I only have about twenty more times to try and get this right”.  In some jobs you can try and get it right instantly, or the next day or the next week.  In farming we only get one chance a year and we better see it coming!

It is summer cover crop time and as the spring crops come out we are preparing to turn the residue under and seed those soil improving crops.  I wish I could have gotten it done before the big rains of last week but will all work out.  We were lucky again to get good rains but not as heavy or as much as some our friends.  Two inches on Sunday last and a steady 1.6″ from Alberto.  Some of our fellow market farmers had as much as fourteen inches from the various storms last week!  Blueberries are finished and because it was such a light crop we are not in too bad a shape coming out of the season on the rest of the farm.  This weeks big job is the red onion harvest.  We have to wait until the tops start to fall over which is the signal that they are finished growing.  It is best to harvest when it is dry and warm so that he necks of the onions dry out well.  If it is too wet then the chances are high of some kind of disease infecting the freshly cut off neck and causing the onion to rot.  Perfect weather this week, but the staff always feel like I have staked them out on and ant hill when I say its time to harvest onions.  We carefully pull each one of the 5000 plus plants, cut off the top leaving a inch of neck, cut off the roots, wipe off any excess dirt and place them in ventilated trays.  The trays are then put into our passive solar greenhouse to cure and dry.  Then over the next few months we will clean a few boxes each week and bring them to market.  It is a lot of work but the quality and health benefits of these red onions are worth it.

Picture of the Week
Fabulous Annabelle Hydrageas at their peak
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