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 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.
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.