Weeks 27&28: September 4-15

Hello all! We are feeling much more sane and rested these days as the heat of summer is behind us and things are slowing down. There is even some fall color showing up on the trees! The rapidly shifting seasons of New England are one of my favorite things about living here.


the boys won’t smile for a photo, what else is new

Among the reasons for a turndown in harriedness around here is the completion of fallow field work. As of late last week, I finished spreading compost and our custom mineral blend on all of the fallow fields and then David disced them and sowed fall cover crops. For most of the fields, that was oats and peas, which are now about knee-height, and for a few others it was rye and sweet clover, which are just beginning to germinate. The oat/pea mix will winterkill, leaving a bare seedbed in the spring for early cropping, while the rye/sweet clover mix will survive the winter and continue growing in the spring for later season cropping. We have also sowed oats throughout most of the remaining crop fields in areas that are done growing. Things like lettuce, cucumbers, melons, beans, and other crops that we’re through with were disced down and then seeded to oats. This is especially important here because the crop fields are immediately adjacent to a river, and the early Fall is flood season. Every inch of land that has roots in it is less likely to wash away in a flood.


Red & Fred

In preparation for the big harvest of fall & winter storage crops like cabbage, brussel sprouts, winter squash, carrots, beets, and other roots, Brian has been working on updating a neighbor’s walk-in cooler. A farmer down the road has a much larger cooler than we do, and lets us use it for the winter, but it needs rodent-proofing, mold cleaning, insulation work, and cooling unit fixes. Brian is chipping away at that list as Natural Roots advertises its very first year of a Fall CSA share! The details are up on the website.


Freedom Ranger broiler chick, new life on the farm

In the last blog entry, Brian reported that we had finished haying for the season–but wait! there’s more! We actually brought in one load of 3rd cut hay this week. David saw a stretch of nice weather coming up and jumped at the opportunity to put a little more in the barn. 3rd cut is dense stuff, very dark green and a lot more aromatic and heavy than 2nd. It is volume-poor but nitrogen-rich and will provide some good calories for those horsies.


Georgina the pig exploring some new territory

New in the CSA this week, we had leeks, onions, cauliflower, pie pumpkins, buttercup squash, and (finally!) ripe bell peppers. Most of the ripe ones so far are Carmen and Escamillo, both long and pointed like a poblano, and both some of the sweetest, most flavorful peppers I’ve ever had. David called Carmen “the queen of peppers” — it’s definitely a favorite variety among farmers, and, in fact, award-winning.

This week we went to Brookfield Farm in Amherst for a CRAFT visit. In my sophomore year of college, I spent one day a week volunteering there and I learned so much from the farmers and the crew, and have such wonderful memories of fleeing campus every Thursday to immerse myself in farm life. The theme of this visit was Business Management. Farmer Dan gave a brief tour and then talked us through his spreadsheets, philosophy, and approach to budgeting, investment, and business sustainability. Brian, Owen, and I all learned a lot and oohed and aahed at many exciting things around the farm.

Last weekend, Brian and Owen helped our landlord Christian harvest all of the rice from his paddy, totaling about 150 sq. ft. He has been growing this variety of rice and saving seed for 35 years, and he normally harvests enough for him and his wife to eat all year!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On Thursday, Brian and I took the day off to go to an A’s game at Fenway! The Athletics lost 6-2, but no matter! It was such a fun day and we both think Fenway is a terrific ballpark. It’s small, charming, full of history, and right in town. Afterwards, we went our for Ethiopian food, one of our favorites from Oakland. Last weekend, friends Kiah and Aly came over and made a peach pie from all of the no-good ones in the farm shop. We also got a visit from our dear friend Claire this week, and Owen got a surprise visit from his friend Jo.


Kiah with her peach pie


We are looking forward to those big fall harvests coming up!



Weeks 25 & 26: August 19 – September 1


Sidney driving a loaded wagon of beets, carrots, peppers, eggplants, and potatoes

The month of August is finally behind us, and our twenty-sixth week marks half a year since we have been working and living at Natural Roots! The last few weeks have brought the beginnings of seasonal change. Last week was very hot and fairly humid, while this week has turned much drier, and quite a bit cooler. We are getting nighttime lows in the forties, and although it may yet warm up again, we can really feel fall coming. After the hectic energy of the last month, it feels as though we are turning a corner and heading in a good direction.



Although the cooler weather is just beginning to slow down the summer squash and eggplants, we are finally beginning to ripen plenty of tomatoes, and the peppers are also showing some blush. After I spent last Sunday fixing the digging blade on the potato digger, we have been mechanically digging potatoes, which is much faster and more thorough. The potatoes (and the tomatoes too) are showing signs of late blight, a disease that can destroy potato vines as well as tubers in storage. However, the disease can only infect live tissue, so to try to prevent transmission from the leaves to the tubers, David and I brought out Puff the Magic Cultivator (a flame weeder). I put together our fire-breathing chariot this spring to fry potato beetles, but we never quite got it working properly, and it spent most of the summer in the shed. With a few adjustments, we brought it out to the potato patch to try to burn the leaves off of the tops of the potato plants. I am sorry to report that I didn’t have a camera with me, but the clouds of smoke, and the roar of the propane burners were quite impressive. The destruction was less impressive, but we managed to burn some of the leaves and hopefully kill the tops a bit faster than they would have otherwise. Regardless, the potato harvest has been impressive so far, with lots of large, clean tubers. We dug some really interesting colored varieties as well that were very popular in the CSA.

The other major project this week has been harvesting the last hay of the season. David mowed on Monday, and although we had a ton of harvesting to work around, we managed to tedd Tuesday and Wednesday and pick up nine(!) loads between Thursday and Friday. We filled up the entire fifth bay of the barn, all the way to the rafters and then some. We also put some second cut on top of the first cut, and David said this is the fullest that the barn has ever been!


Owen driving a loaded hay wagon


Owen has been very busy over the last few weeks spraying for a multitude of pests and diseases. This is the farm’s first year offering a winter CSA share, and there are lots of storage crops in need of protection. Owen has been spraying the tomatoes for late blight and hornworms, the cucumbers for downy mildew, the beets for cercospora leaf spot, the brussel sprouts, cabbages, and cauliflower for cabbage moth and aphids.


Cantelopes and Watermelons

In another exciting sign of the season, we harvested the first winter squash, a variety called kabocha. The leeks are also sizing up soon, and we will probably begin harvesting them soon. We also transplanted the last bed of lettuce, and next week we will transplant and direct-seed the last two beds on the whole farm! We of course have also been chipping away at the berry pruning, and we trellised the peppers because they are falling over with so many fruits. A few more fields were seeded to oats and peas, and the fallow fields seeded a few weeks back are lush and green. With Gaelen off to college, we have been joined by an awesome new worker Sarah, who lives in Conway and who has worked on farms in Maine and Texas.



Beautiful savoy cabbages


A lush carpet of oats and peas