The CSA has begun! Last week we started off with a harvest of scallions, radishes, bok choy, Happy Rich asian greens, broccoli raab, kale, chard, head lettuce, mesclun mix, spinach, arugula, and cilantro. This week, we added to that dill, garlic scapes, and U-pick sugar snap peas! At Natural Roots, everyone comes out to harvest, kids included, and we finish the whole harvest before taking the wagon full of produce across the river ford with horses and bringing it to the washroom. At many other farms we have worked at, produce comes back to the washroom in waves; we usually have picked several crops and then one or two people stay at the wash station and washes things as they come in.
Natural Roots is somewhat rare in that we only have an on-farm CSA pickup, so no produce is packed into boxes. This obviously reduces the time and labor spent on packing and travel, as well as owning a delivery vehicle. We display all of the produce on shelves in the share room, which is open for pickup from 3pm-6:30pm on harvest days. It was so much fun watching the members coming to get their share; many families came with kids in bathing suits ready to swim in the river, and it was clear that this is not only a source of food but a community center. This past Friday, I subbed for Anna in the share room, which means I restocked veggies from the cooler all afternoon and was able to get a sense of how popular certain items are.
Last Monday (the 12th) was Owen’s birthday, and we had not only rhubarb pie once when his mom brought it, but rhubarb pie twice when David and the kids made it! Maggie (Gaelen’s mom) also made chocolate chip blondies with vanilla ice cream, which made for a double dessert, perfect for Owen’s famous sweet tooth.
Last week we picked up more hay on a day with temperatures in the mid-90s. After picking up straw from a mown-down cover crop of rye in the field, we picked up four and a half loads of hay. A load, in our case, is when the 8’x12′ bed of the wagon is stacked about 8 feet high with loose hay. It feels like a miracle to me, still, that all of that loose hay stays together in a pile. It was so hot out that Owen and I both got cold sweats and felt pretty dizzy from a lack of electrolytes. Even so, it was a fun and exciting day, and we’re looking ahead to a lot more hay making in the coming weeks!
Brian has been mowing quite a bit with the sickle bar mower, not only cover crops but also clipping pastures. The pasture edges are mown before setting up fence so that the fence line is clear of tall grass, and then the entire pasture is clipped post-grazing to bring it down to a uniform height. This is not necessary following ruminants, but horses do a rather poor job of uniformly grazing, instead they leave random patches of uneaten grass. Brian has also been working on our second cultivator and developing a flame weeder that will hopefully be up and running by our next writing.
This week I got to spread fertilizer with the drop spreader on our next two crop fields, ensuring that they have enough nitrogen going into the season. The drop spreader is basically a big, wide box with holes at the bottom that let the fertilizer fall down onto the field as the horses pull it. The task is to keep the horses walking at a steady pace up and down the field so that the material is distributed evenly.
In the livestock department, we have successfully put our boar and sow back together following weaning, and given all of the hogs a preventative wormer. Reuniting Red and Fred was quite a dramatic process, because she was in heat the first few times we tried to put them together. Fred was so aggressive at first that she jumped the fence, and then finally the fourth time we put them together, they were both calm and civil. This week, I did a bunch of math on wormer rations, and then fed wormer mixed with food for 3 days to Red, Fred and the piglets. The piglets, by the way, are not yet 3 months old and nearing 100 pounds!
Owen continues to fit in milling lumber every week, amidst the dozens of other things we have going on. He is also regularly scouting all of the fields for flea beetles, Colorado potato beetles, and other pests and spraying them as needed.
We are doing less and less seeding in the greenhouse, and so there are fewer and fewer seedlings to transplant. In fact, of the 9 fields we are growing in this year, we have planted in 7 of them already and the 8th is disced, plowed, and fertilized. Transplanting these last 2 weeks has been mostly fall broccoli, storage cabbage, and tomatoes.
Last week, our friends from Vermont, Claire and Emily, came to the farm for a visit. Over the weekend was a big celebration marking the 250th anniversary of the founding of the town of Conway. It’s very interesting to be in a place with such deep roots; I learned from a plaque in the Historical Society that one of our neighbors is a 5th generation Conway farmer.
Last Monday, David cultivated all of the crop fields as usual (every two weeks), but this time in quite a downpour! We were racing the rain at first, but after a certain point it was clear we would all be soaked. Then we were in and out of the field several times as the danger of lightning waxed and waned. Before the heavy rain, though, we managed to thin all of the winter squash, parsnips, sunflowers, and cucumbers. As the icing on the cake, Gaelen and I got something done that I never thought we would: weeding and mulching the raspberries! We even managed to weed blueberries while we were at it. Bees are buzzing in the bramble patch, and I am hoping for a bountiful berry harvest this year.