7/30/09 Vol. 6 #19

A late newsletter this week, too many extra curricular things going on and yesterday it was just too much more to pile onto the mornings agenda.  The Farm Dinner at Panzanella was very pleasant and well attended on Monday night and Jim Nixon and his crew turned our produce into some really great dishes.  We hope that everyone who came had a good time and it was great to see all of you.  Equally I had a good time working with Marilyn Markel at a lunch time cooking class at A Southern Season on Tuesday, good food and great questions from the participants, many now new to the newsletter.  I will be doing another class with Ricky Moore from GlassHalfFull in a week, on Thursday evening the 6th of August.

We have almost made it to another summer break.  Twenty weeks ago the market season began for us.  Twenty straight weeks without a day off and while it has been the most pleasant of springs and summers weather wise there is still a fatigue that settles into the brain whether the body is completely worn out or not.  To that end, after market this Saturday the break begins and we will not be at market next week (the 5th and the 8th) while we and the staff do nonfarm related activities.  We give the staff a week off with pay so they can feel comfortable in taking sometime off and usually they do some traveling but this year they seem to be just staying close to home.  For us we usually just hide out and try to not answer the phone but this year Betsy is headed to Colombia (South America) to visit cut flower farms and a friend of ours who is down there on sabbatical.  I will get a day or two of hiking in and then be here keeping things growing.  So no newsletter next week as I will rest that part of the brain too.

In the last days running up to “The Break” we have been busy getting started on the falls crops and even some for next year.  More lettuce has been planted (under shade cloth to keep it cool) for late August and September harvest.  Turnips and Radish were seeded yesterday for early fall too.  Celery is in the ground for Thanksgiving and soon will be joined in the shade house by Brussels Sprouts and Collards.  Cov and Glenn started the seeds for the first of next years flowers Sweet William, Gloriosa Daisy and the small yellow flowered Triloba that Betsy just started cutting last week from last years seeding at this time!
Picture of the Week
Nothing like the colors of Zinnias
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8/12/09 Vol. 6 #20

We’re back!  Almost all of us anyway, Betsy is still in Colombia (South America, everyone looks at me and says “South Carolina?”) until tomorrow and hopefully will be rested as she will have to hit the ground running on Friday to prepare for Saturday market.  A fairly typical break for the rest of us think.  I did get in a few days of hiking and camping up in the mountains before Betsy flew away.  Since then I have been puttering around the farm doing some small projects, reading, sleeping, eating and trying to keep things watered.

This drought is getting serious now.  The forecast for the end of the week is for several days with a chance of rain above 50 percent but I am not holding out much hope.  In the last two months we have had a scant two inches of rain.  All of the rains have gone either north or south of us.  The big creek is dry and we have been pulling water out of the upper, back up, pond for some weeks now.  The last few days of near 100 degree temperatures have applied a brush stroke across the farm of brown crinkly grass and weeds, the true colors of a drought that has been masked until now by the cooler temperatures of this unusual summer.

Fortunately we do have enough water to get us through the end of this season, mostly because we only have about seven weeks left and there are only so many crops left to water.  The little bit of fall planting we do has been going in on schedule, has been watered up with irrigation, and generally looks good.  More radishes seeded yesterday and some Swiss chard too.  The biggest potential loss is our summer cover crops, seeded six weeks ago they should be waist high by now but are at best ankle high, as our main source of organic matter to improve our soils this is never a good situation.  Hey it could rain a lot this week and things will take off, lets hope!

Picture of the Week
Cowpea and Sudangrass cover crop, looks good where there is small irrigation leak

8/19/09 Vol. 6 #21

Betsy says that Colombia is not ready for tourism yet.  A beautiful place with beautiful, friendly people but it was hard to get around in.  She took every kind of transport around the country (they don’t have rental cars and she wouldn’t want to drive there anyway) short of a horse drawn cart even though there were plenty of them even in the big cities.  She declared that many of the roads were worse than any in Kenya, even when the Kenyans just took off and drove cross country, so travel was difficult.  Like her trip to Ecuador, the cut flower industry is a dichotomy between huge operations (like a 2200 acre mum farm) to small family places (like the two brothers who had 4 acres and grew many different crops) but all of it for export to the US and Europe.  She came back glad we grow and sell the way we do, with more pictures for our “carts of the world” collection and happy we don’t have to grow mums!
This must be a record fig year for everyone, even with minimal attention, our bushes have been loaded up with fruit.  We planted our ten bushes really just to have some for us and if there was an excess we would take them to market, which we do.  One of the reasons we got out of the blackberry business was they are the most perishable thing we could possibly grow, if they didn’t have a place to be sold when we picked them it was a loss.  At least with the blackberries we could hold them in the cooler for a day or two and they would be fine.  With the figs we have tried many ways to hold them and they just don’t like it.  So they may be the new “most perishable” champion.  Our current method is to pick them ripe, Wednesday morning just before market and Friday before the Saturday market.  Seems to be working but the soft, sugary fruit are noticeably different on Saturdays when they have been off the bush just three quarters of a day longer than Wednesdays figs.  Enjoy them while they are available.
Leeks for Thanksgiving went in the ground yesterday, another sign that fall really is coming.  Next week we will seed carrots, beets and more for Thanksgiving and later fall and over winter eating.  The first tomatoes in the little sliding tunnels were taken out this week, clearing the way for even later planted spinach, beets and carrots for early next spring.  We have rounded the corner and can see the end of the summer season, now we just need some more cool weather to show up.

Picture of the Week

My father told stories of sitting under the fig bushes and eating until you couldn’t, the perfect ripe figs