5/11/05 Vol. 2 #10

The first warmish morning when you can see the air outside.  We are torn.  On one hand we would really like to see some warmer weather so that the newly planted warm season crops would not sit there and stare at us with those how-about-another-blanket eyes.  These crops like tomatoes and peppers and zinnias get established best and in the long run produce better if they go into warming soil and grow fast.  They end up producing earlier and have less stress so they can fight off insects and diseases better.  You set their roots down into cool soil and they just sulk.  It is kind of like putting your toe into really cold water and recoiling, you could go for a swim but won’t enjoy if much and might die of hypothermia later!  On the other hand we don’t want to see it run up to the nineties either.  All of these beautiful cool season crops that we have been coaxing along because of the extremely cool conditions the last month or so will look at us with those someone-turn-on-the-air eyes.  One of the reasons that California is the salad bowl of the nation is because they grow in the cooler coastal valleys where the conditions are ideal (except for this year with the rains, good for us in the east coast lettuce business) it rarely gets above ninety and the nights are cool.  Remember Mark Twain’s quote that goes something like “the coldest summer I ever spent was a week in San Francisco”.  We have those kinds of conditions here for about 15 minutes in late April or early May the rest of the time we are just hoping for the best.

Wholesale lettuce deliveries kicked in this week.  If you came out on the Farm Tour you saw the 10,000 heads of lettuce just about ready to begin harvest.  We have done all of the spring lettuce for Weaver Street Market for fourteen years now.  In a perfect season it comes down to five weeks worth of supply for them from late April through the end of May.  Any earlier it is too cold to put plants out and any later it is too hot and they get bitter.  We seed different varieties of lettuce in the greenhouse every week for twelve weeks beginning in December and then transplant those plants to the field every week for about ten weeks beginning in early February.  Different varieties mature at different rates, Boston is faster to grow than Romaine.  In the end if we have staggered them correctly they come off in an orderly fashion.  I tell folks that growing lettuce for the stores is like running towards a cliff as fast as you can, if you stop short the heads are not big enough, if you go too far you go over the cliff edge and the heads are past their prime maybe bitter and beginning to go to seed.  This window for prime lettuce is only usually four or five days.  So we are cutting fast these days.  Monday and Thursday mornings we cut for delivery to the stores those afternoons and Wednesday and Friday mornings we cut for the markets and the restaurants.  In total we will cut 50-60 twenty four head cases a week.  When it is all over I am ready to stand upright and pick blueberries and tomatoes!

As usual more planting, weeding, trellising, irrigating, and finally more picking.  Need to get that lettuce out of the way because Betsy needs to get more flowers planted there.  The peas are blooming up a storm and the flowers are responding to the warmer temperatures.  The Turkeys seem to have finally settled in.  The first few days can be a little rocky until they all get the hang of eating and drinking.  We lost seven Bourbon Reds the first five days but have had no losses since Sunday.  This is one of the difficult realities of raising animals, sometimes they get sick and die no matter what you do.  At $7.00 a bird it can add up quickly.  Now that we are over that hump they usually are extremely hardy, last year we only lost two out of sixty heritage turkeys and none after the first three weeks.  Cross your fingers!

Picture of the Week
Look at those peas!  Can’t wait until we can eat all we want.
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