It’s hot out! We are really feeling the midsummer heat here in Mass, and it comes with an equal dose of humidity. Gone are the dry summers of our childhoods in California, and come to replace them is the thick, wet heat of New England thunderstorm season. The last two weeks, the fields have really been filling up as squash vine out, tomatoes grow up and out, and peppers begin to flower. Many crops have come into harvest, including carrots, zucchini, summer squash, black raspberries, chinese cabbage, broccoli, basil, eggplant, okra, cucumbers, green beans, and blueberries! When zucchini and summer squash start fruiting they don’t brake for anything, so those crops are now harvested every day. A zucchini fruit that looked a little bit too small yesterday will be way too big tomorrow. The harvesting is taking up so much of our time that there is scarcely time for anything else.
We are wrapping up with seeding and transplanting, with only a few things here and there still going in the ground- lettuce, fall chard, and fall broccoli, as well as a few direct-seeded crops. As before, Owen continues to mill lumber and keeps up a regular schedule of spraying organic pest and disease products; Brian maintains and tinkers with equipment, and I handle livestock health problems and manage the berry patch. Owen has been spraying quite a lot lately; he is doing his best to keep the pressure from Colorado potato beetles, leaf hoppers, and thripps at bay. Luckily, flea beetles have subsided for the time being. Brian has a constant list of equipment fixes to work on, including, most recently, our root washer.
I have dealt with some piggy health issues in the last two weeks: one piglet with a hernia and another with pneumonia. Anna and I wrapped up the hernia piggy with a bandage to try to hold it in, but it isn’t really working, so either that pig will be able to handle a hernia for the duration of the summer and fall or she will go to the butcher early. The pig with pneumonia was first noticed as a cough that developed into frighteningly loud wheezing and difficulty breathing. I gave him a shot of antibiotics, and then another 4 days later, and he is all better! In Berry Land, I have been erecting shiny flash tape and scare-eyes to deter birds whilst a longer-term solution is researched, such as hawk kites or a distress call machine. Obviously, we don’t have much time to do extensive research on birds, so this might wait until next year. We also have a member of the UMass Extension team looking at our pest pressure in the raspberries (specifically Spotted Wing Drosophila), and it appears to be relatively low. We are enjoying a bountiful berry harvest!
We have had loads of visitors these last two weeks. I had an afternoon off and my friends Kiah and Mary Kate came to have lunch with the crew. With help from Gaelen, we found a beautiful local swimming spot further down on the South River. Last weekend, Brian’s parents visited for a few days from Vermont. We went swimming, hung out at the farm, and ate lots of great food. That same weekend, our friend Sophie surprised us and came out to see the farm! These past two weeks, we have had an amazing volunteer helping out, Briana, who was up from PA visiting extended family in Shelburne. She really accelerated our productivity for the entirety of her visit. I have always loved that farms are such a welcome venue for volunteering! Just yesterday, my cousins Rachel and Dave and their son Ely came by from Brattleboro, VT, on their way to a wedding. Yay visitors!
On Monday, we had another CRAFT visit. This time we toured Red Shirt Farm in Northern Berkshire County. We learned a lot from their operation raising heritage chickens and about the complex breeding selection process of raising a heritage breed. Brian was inspired by Red Shirt Farm’s work of perpetuating several important, heritage breeds. While we were looking at their flock of Australorp cockerels (immature roosters), Brian actually picked out a suitable chicken to become a breeding rooster! Maybe heritage breeding is in our future….Meanwhile, I was much more interested in their relatively high-tech (for small scale) poultry processing setup and nifty rolling pasture houses.
This week, we hit a brief dry spell and decided to irrigate. So a large part of our labor this week has been carrying irrigation pipes from field to field to make sure all of the crops are adequately watered. Another huge accomplishment from this week was pulling and bringing in all of our garlic. The standard practice is to dry garlic with the tops and all, and then clip the bulbs off when they are fully dried down. Inspired by another local farm, we are experimenting with trimming the bulbs green and then drying them. The greenhouse, now nearly void of plant starts, has a shade tarp over it and serves as a drying space for garlic.
In the CSA pickup room, Gaelen’s mom, Maggie, normally tends the desk, making change and answering questions. While Maggie is on vacation in California and Montana, I am filling in for her in the CSA room. It is a fast-paced job, and a lot of fun. I love seeing all of the families meeting up as they fill their bags with veggies. The lawn and river outside turn into a playground, and everyone is filled with summer joy. In addition to our veggies and all of the meat, eggs, ice cream, and other products we normally sell, we have had fresh mushrooms and flower bouquets this week.
We all continue to advance our teamster skills, bit by bit. Owen continued on the plough, and got quite good at it. Brian has now been initiated to plowing, which he took up quickly. He also learned how to use the manure spreader while spreading chicken manure from the mobile coop. I learned to use the sickle-bar mower, which is such an intense and fun machine.
We are looking forward to melons, which are coming soon, and even further forward to winter squash, which are growing beautifully on the vine.