March 4th, 2017

Wow, got behind on this…this is a blog, which takes time to do…last year was VERY TOUGH…but we survived, thanks to the hay financially, and our perseverance mentally…and the love and grace of our members.  Heard no complaints as we dealt with the hottest summer in our existence.  We weathered ‘the drought’ the first two years–but it was nothing to what we experienced in 2017.  2017 was not considered a drought because we had plenty of water, just unseasonably hot for extended periods…those earlier years Boysen Dam served this Basin well, water had never been a big issue…but in 2017 it was hot DAY and NIGHT for weeks at a time.

We set the plants out and the heat made it hard to push the water far enough over the garden or fast enough.  My recollection is the night temps never cooled until the fall, so the poor plants were living in perpetual stress, sucking nutrients out of the ground and showing their deficiencies.

We have a great drip irrigation system and a viable settling pond, though the mice have made sure it waters in places we did not intend…like down the road and in front of the high tunnel…but the delivery of water is constant. We buried the line deeper this year because the mice (our enemy it seems) kept chewing holes in the lines.  Probably a blessing, though we did not know what the future would hold when we laid the plastic beds.

The heat impacted the Brassica’s the most:  Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbages …broccoli tasted nasty and couldn’t keep its nice tight heads, side production was no better…the colored cauliflower each acted differently to the heat:  purple did not form the bud until it cooled–what should have matured in 74 days took 90 in some instances or not at all, the white cauliflower actually tasted like hot RADISHES, the green cauliflower grew leaves in places it shouldn’t have and was too bitter to eat.  The Cheddar cauliflower did the best but it did not have the nice crisp color, it was a little grayed.  Early cabbage fared no better–teeny-tiniest heads I’ve ever seen, and just couldn’t grow!  Peppers and tomatoes yielded poorly–

But with every curse is a blessing!  Besides having plenty of veggies for the CSA…corn only once, but at least we kept the deer out of it, and plenty of Brassica’s in the fall…the fall was long and productive for the later crops.  We had enough time to get all the crops in and harvested the garden pretty well…with the exception of most of the potatoes which had to be abandoned. (It was a choice between the hay and the potatoes–fall was finally running out–and the hay won:  it was already sold, and the root cellar had collapse meaning no storage for the potatoes.)

Bottom line was a loss on the garden, but a wonderful income on the hay!  Commercial sales income matched last year’s, but expenses were higher as we had anticipated some growth that didn’t materialize and had embarked on a shelter project…which proved a much needed expansion of our work place with concrete floors, and a better water source.  It turned out this was a good move:  we were able to work into the winter months under shelter– YAY!!!  Our little truck made its last trip North with the final sales on the winter squash on February 14th–hallelujah!!

So…now we lay plans for 2017…adding a few different varieties that are supposed to handle heat better…less early cabbage just in case and more of a late variety that we can harvest as early as 65 days…less cauliflower in the spring with most shifting to the fall.  Time now to open the CSA!

May 22nd, 2016

Today is almost the first day of the 4th week in May–It is safe to say that some day in May was the last frost of the Spring.  That may have been a couple of weeks ago, but the problem has been rain. Rain is good–but too much rain is not good…it’s all in the timing and what is in the ground when the rain comes.  So far we feel that we have worked with the rhythm of the Spring…seed potatoes, and carrot, beets, and turnip seeds were the only things in the ground when the heavy rains hit, and they benefited and are looking great!…..

The baby onion plants are now in, as well as most of the seed crops:  cucumbers, beans, zucchini and yellow squash, most of the winter squash, and several plantings of the melons.  We transplanted the broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbages a couple of weeks ago–they look a little yellow (rain) but should snap out of it…just need to watch for the onslaught of the flea beetles.  They can devour those little babies in no time at all in the spring!  Some of the new things for this year are in the ground, too, but too soon to know how they are doing:  Tetragonia, more commonly known as New Zealand Spinach, Guardsman Scallions, and the Orion Fennel seeds.

This week we will be setting out the tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, garlic, and some experimental sunchokes.  We have held the Nightshade family back to see if we can protect them from the stress of extreme day and night-time temperatures…and gusty winds–but time for them to get their ‘feet in the ground’!  

I was not expecting the garlic until the fall and low and behold…UPS dropped a box with two varieties…some of them sprouting and ready to go!  German Red is the hardneck, and Extra Select is a California softneck.  The hardneck’s are supposed to weather our climate better, but the softneck is the clove clusters held together with the paper-thin skin that we are used to.  

If any of you tried the Purple Garlic that I had for sale May 4th at Buyer’s Group–that is a hardneck. It was my first experience–hard to break the cloves from the bulb as the skin is thicker and tough–and the ‘stem’ in the center is impossible to cut.  The flavor is more developed and the texture stickier–I actually think I like it better, but it is a lot more work!

Well, back to getting ready for tomorrow–an order of 10 cases of lettuce, kohlrabi, and mache goes north to Montana on Tuesday.  In the afternoon, weather permitting, the nightshades will go into the garden.  The Farmer is still hooking up all the water, and is hoping to get some bentonite to dump into the settling pond to plug the holes that the mice whittled in it over the winter. He has given some of the plants a drink but didn’t want to raise the water level too high just yet.  Enough flooding in other parts of the state–don’t need it here on The Farm!


November 29th, 2015

I’m still awaiting the time for rest…just returned from a great time of Thanksgiving with my son and his wife, and our daughters in Colorado…and the FOUR grand-kids!  The Farmer was not able to make the trip with me–someone had to stay here to monitor the coolers and sweep the snow off the partially finished roof.

The fall was amazingly LONG–We were able to harvest just about everything from the garden.  We found the Brussels sprouts were best left until the day of sale, which carried the harvest well into the third week in November.  They have an uncanny ability to recover multiple times from frosts and light freezes.  (We’ve noted similar with brassicas and others in the cabbage family.)  It seemed with each frost the sprouts got sweeter and took on more flavor!

The sense of the 2015 season is that it was a good one–Market-wise especially though it had some serious short-comings with the production:  onion failure on more than 50% of those planted, cabbage transplants that were too small when set out and didn’t form their head before the night-time temps cooled, deer damage to the purple sweet potatoes we were growing for sales up north to chefs, total loss of all the sweet corn to the same deer, potato blight that affected the yield and their storagability, and some varieties of cantaloupe that we lost in the field when the heat pushed the stagger plantings and they all ripened so quickly we could not get them harvested or sold before the Ripe Beetles found them.  The wet spring seemed to have caused the peppers to rot on the plant, so we lost about half of the bells as well. And some of the varieties of broccoli bolted in the heat that hit about a month early.

The bright and shining moments were the success we had in curing the sweet potatoes this year–due in large part to the multi-use of the new cooler The Farmer built this summer–and the increased demand for local, fresh, organically raised produce!

Financially, I figure we have almost broke even–considered a good thing in agriculture for start-ups (which we still are), with upgrade and repair bills for the truck and the new cooler expenses spread over time.  For the first time in four years the garden paid our monthly living expenses…along with help from my insurance commissions.  But we were farmers not relying on the bank for that monthly draw, and no bank money in the form of a line of credit was used to pay any part of the garden operation!  That in large part is because of the CSA members that help to fund the garden input costs in the spring, and the outside produce sales that pay everything else:  labor expenses (including half our cost of living), utilities, monthly supplies, harvest expenses, truck fuel and routine transportation costs, etc.

Market-wise our produce traveled to Sheridan where we now have four new business customers.  Twenty CSA Half Shares were sold to an individual who assumed the responsibility of payment and transportation to Casper from the first week in August until the end in October.  The Casper crew also sold our melons at the Casper Farmer’s Market for three weeks during the season.  We picked up a few customers in Red Lodge where our truck was making the drop for our distributor.  But the most exciting thing was working with two other ‘producers’ in Wyoming who are doing what we are doing: raising fresh and local food in the most organic way possible and getting it into as many people’s hands in our communities that we can!

Well, time to turn in…looking for that rest still.  I don’t expect it too soon yet–we are entering the month of December with Holidays and company and year-end…and we are still selling fall stored crops and getting ready for the start of the Buyer’s Group again this year.  Gotta keep the organics running all year…especially in the Rocky Mountain region which is far from the winter growing belts in California and Mexico.

To your good health!

October 30th, 2015

The Final CSA season has come to a close–Last Pick Up was October 22nd, and last of the out-of-town deliveries was made October 23rd.  The last Casper CSA Pick Up was October 22nd with our friend Jesse making the last trek across “the longest road in Wyoming”–Hwy 20 from Casper to Shoshoni.  (It’s not REALLY the longest road…it just feels like it–)  The last Fruit Share, the last Lettuce Option, the last Kalispell Kreamery order of whole milk and whole milk yogurt.

But, though the CSA season has come to a close, we still are harvesting and storing, and gearing up for Fall and Winter sales.  The truck is still running north to Red Lodge to meet the Distributor, and our friend Brad is still coming from Sheridan to transport goods back to customers in Sheridan, and the pumpkins are still for sale at Reese and Ray’s IGA.

What an incredibly long season this year!  No complaints here–

September 11th, 2015

We just finished the 10th week of the CSA and the garden has been producing since the middle of June…zucchini and summer squash were the heralds of the season. The hoophouse was pretty much finished with the crops we started shipping in May by the time we began shipping the summer squash, but enough remained to fill a load to make the trip ‘worth it’…beets, bok choi, broccoli, Cheddar cauliflower, purple and white Daikon radishes,radishes,and kohlrabi.

I can only say I am tired, The Farmer is tired, The Farmer’s Son is tired, The Farmer’s daughter is tired, and The Farmer’s Nephew is tired. We have been four weeks without the help of the two workers that headed off to school. The harvests are harder with less people, but we have adapted to morning harvests and afternoon preparation and boxing or storage in the cooler for the CSA… long days Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Because the weather is cooler, we are starting an hour later…that means an hour less for harvests, but the extra hour of sleep has been much needed.

Last week was surreal: The Farmer’s Daughter took the truck to Casper loaded with melons and the 20 Half Shares for the Casper Community Greenhouse Project–new members that came into the CSA August 1st. Besides the fact that she sat around for 2 hours before she could be unloaded, Liz was not feeling good at all: shaky and somewhat nauseous and a knife-sharp pain in her gut! After a couple of phone conversations, and her nearly passing out when she fueled the truck, she checked herself into the hospital emergency room. She had her appendix out at 2:00 a.m.–we got there at 4:00 a.m. The Farmer gave his love and regards…to The Farmer’s Wife to pass on to his daughter…and he disappeared into the truck cab and shepherded it the 180 miles back home to load for the trip North the same morning. The farm crew worked diligently, with very little sleep for The Farmer, and the others starting at 6:00 in the morning when the air is still crisp and not much light is filtering through. They finished the harvest of the winter squash, and boxed the remaining 500 pounds of melons. This was added to the harvest of the previous four days with the truck loaded–little room to spare, and at 9:30 they sent it down the road to Red Lodge to meet the QFD truck–

An hour later, the Son is broken down 6 miles outside of Cody. The Farmer makes the frantic trip to the truck with a suspected replacement part only to find it is ‘real bad’– the fuel injection pump is hanging by broken fuel lines…no quick fit in sight! No mechanic, no coolers to store the load if a mechanic could be located, no trucks to transfer the load to, and the QFD truck has already headed back to Bozeman…no solution except to tow the truck with its perishable $4,200 cargo home.

It made it home at 7:30 that evening; The Farmer’s Wife and Daughter arrive 30 minutes later. I’m happy to report the refrigeration box is well insulated and the temp held; we were able to transfer the load into the coolers to inspect, rebox, and send the next week. Tow bill: $800. Also happy to report: The Daughter’s appendix had not ruptured; she was able to have it removed arthroscopic-ally. Medical bill unknown, but no insurance to cover it…government was working on it–

The ending is good–we get the parts ordered and they all arrive Tuesday. The mechanics give us priority and have it back together in one day! The Daughter is recovering well, too!

We tried to sell as much of the load as we could at Saturday Market, but only made $287. It was Labor Day weekend and most people were in the mountains or at the lake or visiting Aunt Martha…not those tied to the land…we labor on until the season ends abruptly. That end is around the corner. Finality has its peace–an end to the labor and a time to catch up with sleep and restoration…Bring it ON!

August 1st, 2015

The harvest started July 15th…which actually is closer to the start of 2014…and I thought we were late!  We have completed three weeks of harvest and three weeks of deliveries. We are at 87 members and I have two more on the North Route that are coming on in August.  (We left the membership open on any of the out-of-town routes to make them better pay the cost of running the truck.) We are still working on a deal with a Casper non-profit that would involve 20 Half Shares–should know this week whether it is a ‘go’ or a ‘no’.  If a ‘go’ it will pay the outstanding debt on the poultry manure fertilizer we applied this Spring and the cost of the drip-line for the garden.  If a ‘no’ that portion of the garden will be open for sales over the mountain to our fellow farmer friend in the Sheridan area.  We feel either option will work–it has been laid at God’s feet.

The wholesale operation is picking up as more people from other parts of the region are looking for fresh, locally grown produce.  Presently our produce is sold to chefs and health food stores in Red Lodge and Sheridan, and our distributor in Bozeman.  That is in addition to limited amounts of herbs and cucumbers to Firenze, and a wide range of vegetables to Dirty Sally’s in Ten Sleep.  Our CSA members hail from Worland, Ten Sleep, Thermopolis, Manderson, Hyattville, and Basin.

So…that’s an update on the business-end of the farm.  But the garden is what it is all about!  The soil additive this Spring was well worth the cost–the soil was becoming nitrogen starved and we saw the effects in the greenery and the reduced yields.  It is a known fact that healthy soil builds healthy plants.  This year the greenery is more abundant, fruit setting on is stronger, and the larger plants are requiring more water–didn’t expect that outcome!

In the Spring we struggled with the usual Flea Beetles that attack the seedlings–losing a dozen broccoli plants, and fighting the beetles until the plants were big enough to hold their own.  There was some thrip damage on some of the cabbage, but nothing extensive.  The green worms that love all kinds of brassicas and cabbages, have been there but easily controlled with a shot of BT, a bacteria that effects the intestinal track of the worms. The Farmer has been spraying Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) and AgPro (a mineral supplement) on the garden on a weekly basis–this has helped the cucumbers and summer squash which started producing three weeks earlier than anything else this year.  It seems to have stopped the powdery mildew that was settling on the zucchini.  The biggest concern at the present is the early and late blight that we are seeing in the potatoes.  The Farmer has an OMRI approved fungicide that he will apply this week to the potatoes–we’ll see what happens–

We have lost the first planting of corn to deer, and they have grazed the tops off the purple sweet potato plants–The Farmer thinks he has fixed the issue with the electric fence. The pumpkins, Hubbards, and Hidatsa squash all seem to be fine, and the deer don’t eat the tops of potatoes…probably because they are a member of the nightshade family and are toxic.  This is in the newly developed acre at MKL’s place.

I took a ride around the farm this morning–we are being invaded by puncture vine!  I HATE that stuff!!  It is hard to control organically and The Farmer has not had time to walk the garden with his sharpened shovel and scrape them up–I wonder if we can find an organic weed control??–most of what we have read about has to be applied when the plants are young…so, too late for that!

Other than rampant puncture vine I saw exploded Alcosa cabbages and Farao that are ripe and ready for harvest…also found the last Gonzales cabbages and one lone Caraflex that evaded the mass harvest this week!  We saw side production of broccoli that needs to be harvested–maybe tomorrow…and zucchini and summer squash that was ready AGAIN!  But the biggest thrill was the melons that will be ready in a week to ten days–and no refrigeration in place just yet for them…Farmer has not made it to Casper yet to pick up the supplies.

The cooler we used last year ran on diesel and it was so noisy in our work space.  (I converted it to storage space with shelves and a door to close to keep the dust and wind out!)  We made plans to build a new cooler space and ordered the doors from Menard’s month’s ago…but now we have to decide whether to insulate and convert the old cooler to electricitry OR to build the new construction  (which BTW already has its main posts and roof in place.)  The Farmer’s time is precious and we are behind in getting some of the other late fall/winter crops in the ground…and where will I store our supplies??

On a personal note, our family has grown with the addition of two new grandsons:  Oliver Finn Raftery-Decker in March and Jonah Craft Link last week.  We now count three grandsons and a granddaughter–Ayla is our oldest at nearly nine.  My mother has moved into Senior apartments in Grand Junction, Colorado, and I am taking care of her finances and preparing her house for sale. Elizabeth and Kaleb continue to live at home and help with the farm–Kaleb is our driver to Red Lodge every Wednesday, besides helping each morning with harvests, and Elizabeth is be-bopping around but has settled into the Delivery/Route Driver on Thursday and Friday mornings.  Our main helpers this year are Kali, Zeb, and Chelsea.  The girls will head to school in August.  And we will need to find some additional help–

So, this is a little update on the peripheral issues of The Farm– God is good and growing things is a wonderful gift…we love what we do–but I’d like a little more sleep and someone to clean my house, and wash our clothes.  🙂  AND while I’m asking someone to cook up the wonderful vegetables I keep stuffing in our fridge!

June 20th, 2015

2 weeks until Harvest?  We sincerely hope so, but no guarantee with the crazy Spring that we’ve had with rain, rain, and more rain.  The upcoming week is supposed to be sunny with high’s in the 90’s…that will be good for the garden and the plants, but a little harder for us as we go bed to bed and row to row hoeing and pulling weeds.  With the rain the weeds have severely overgrown at the start of the row near the main line, and at the end of the bed where the drip lines sometimes seep.  The Farmer has been very successful with his ‘tool bar’ cultivator he rigged up and taken between each bed.  It has stirred up the tall weeds and they are much easier to pull!  I prefer pulling the loosened weeds, than chopping with the hoes…so jarring on the  shoulders and back!

I saw yellow blossoms on the zucchini!  And small green tomatoes…and some blossoms on the peppers…but not much more.  But today I went to the new garden spot above the canal on Michel’s place and was amazed at the size of the pumpkin plants and how well the purple sweet potatoes that we set out June 10th have grown.  I also heard gushing water and upon reporting it to The Farmer found this is the third line that the mice have chewed…not a good omen.  Two years ago we couldn’t patch the pieces in the pumpkin patch fast enough and lost some of the pumpkins for the season.  We found this year that it is most likely mice that have eaten so many of the pumpkin seeds we first planted–The Farmer and Zebediah had to replant over 20 hills.  We were blaming it on crickets until we noticed how thick the field mice are…we are also seeing more pack-rats…they can be destructive, too!

The hoophouse will give up its last shipment this week–There are 8 heads of broccoli left, the last of the green kohlrabi, half a dozen bunches of Scarlet Turnips, and all the Red Beets and Baby Bok Choi.  We have shipped produce weekly to Montana since the first week in May–Total revenue will be just under $1,800.  The Spring Share in 2014 brought in more revenue, and we shipped extras to Montana, too.  That will be a better plan for 2016–

The Farmer will go to Casper this week to pick up the supplies for the new cooler.  We are going to enclose part of the area we sheltered last year as a work space, insulate, and install a cool-bot.  This should increase the cooler space from what we had last year.  I’m excited about using Cooler #1 (our first one) for organized storage space–out of the wind and better protected from the elements.  The new cooler space should be better insulated and cost us less to cool.  This will give us the 24′ cooler that we can set at close to 32 degrees for the brassicas and onions, and the other that we can set higher for the peppers, cantaloupe, and other items that do better at 43 degrees.

A busy week!  But, which one isn’t??

April 14th, 2015

Every year we try to improve our garden experience and add new items.  So, what do we have planned for 2015? 

**Improve the curing of the Sweet Potatoes!  Hoping to sell enough extra shares (30 on top of 30) to build a large root cellar and add a sea container that is temperature controlled to get the Sweet Potatoes cured RIGHT!  Fall 2013 was perfect and the potatoes cured in the hoophouse with no problem, but not so last year.  2014 Fall was much warmer and the sweet potatoes got too hot and started to grow again.  We are also trying new varieties to see if some may be better than others for our region.

**Tendersweet and Alcosa cabbage–the Tendersweet has…a thinner leaf and is an early cabbage along with the sweet Farao, our first of the season.  Tendersweet leaves can be used as wraps, the substitute for bread or tortilla.  Alcosa is a savoyed lettuce with the crinkly textured leaves.  We are planting a larger variety of small market day cabbages.  We overplanted cabbage last year, but in a normal year you should have cabbage no more than 3 times during the season and a chance to buy fall cabbage for making Kraut.

**Tomatoes–New this year Indigo Cherry and Artisan Cherries…we grew the Artisan’s on an experimental basis last year and are excited to offer them in the Shares this year.  We will be harvesting them in clusters–should cut down our harvest time and give you the added aroma of the greens!  Other new tomatoes are two new paste varieties, San Marizan type that are preferred by Chefs, and an early tomato called Polbig that is 2 weeks earlier than most.  The Heirloom tomato this year is German Johnson, a smaller tomato than the 1# Brandywine’s.

**Adding Fennel bulbs to the venue.  Fennel fronds are strong flavored and can be over-bearing when added to your recipe, but not so with Fennel bulbs.  They are smooth textured with a slightly licorice flavor–love them in stews and casserole dishes…and my solution for every thing:  added to fried potatoes…along with kale and onions!

**Cantaloupe will be more of the Athena, and new mini called Sugar Cube, and two varieties of the French melons.  We’ll continue with the Galia and Honeydews, and are adding an Heirloom cantaloupe called Eden’s Gem.

**We are planting more Mini-Seedless Watermelons…a couple new varieties, and more of the Orange Crisp and yellow-meated Amarillo.  During the melon season every share will have a melon for the full 7-9 weeks they are available.

**We are planting Cosmic carrots for fall harvest–purple outside, orange inside…great storage variety!  Will have more of the early nantes Mokums, and the Sugarsnax 54.  We had germination and weed problems last year, but by eliminating lettuce and spinach we hope to spend the needed time on carrots.

**Adding a new variety of Orange sweet peppers–thicker-meated and larger.  Will have the Yum Yum snack peppers and hope to get them in to the shares more–they take a lot of time to pick!  (Volunteers??)  And the green bells, all kinds of hot peppers including a new Sante Fe variety, Islander with all the multiple colors, and the early European Fryers– Antohi Romania’s.  Also adding Pepperoncini for those that like to pickle!

**We are planting new varieties of Potatoes that will deal with the scab and cultivation issues:  Huckleberry Gold (a Yukon with purple skin), Mozart Red, Burbank Russets, Purple Viking (the earliest and first), and a newby called Charlotte.  We are expanding the Fingerlings potatoes we sampled last year with the ones that did the best for this region–Tom Thumb, Amarosa, LaRatte, and for the fall Rose Apple Finn.

**And SURPRISE!  Pueblo Roasting Peppers, hot variety from Pueblo, Colorado!

More of the Brussels sprouts, zucchini, cucumbers, celery, kohlrabi in the spring and fall, Scarlet Kale with the Green Kale and Red Russian, Rainbow Swiss chard, Hakurei and Scarlet Queen salad turnips,  Vision Corn, Eggplant (Italian this year), and lots of broccoli and Cauliflower in the spring and fall.  Early in the season, more bok choi and radishes.  We will still have the winter squash for the end of the season and into the winter, cabbages, storage potatoes, carrots, and lots of onions!

So there you have it!  Our vision for 2015– AND now to implement!

March 23rd, 2015

We can not start contemplating 2015 without reflecting on the previous season.  2014 was an amazing year–we sold the last of our carrots March 14th, and the last of the cabbage and onions in February.  We started the Buyer’s Group to keep reasonably priced, organic produce coming all year round…supplementing our onions, cabbage, winter squash, and carrots with organic produce from Spokane Produce.  24 members signed up and we sold twice a month out of the back of Bee Healthy Health Food Store.  We saw the growth of walk-ins grow as the months progressed.

Now we are getting geared up for the garden season.  The Farmer is getting the mulch pulled from last fall—there was a disaster in the conventional beans that set us back and we missed the two week window for putting the garden to rest for the spring.  Also, time spent in getting the Add4Weeks share together and delivered cost us some precious days of clean-up and ground preparation for the winter months.

We are ordering our poultry by-product fertilizer today (certified OMRI for organics–excited about that!) and all the sweet potato shoots, seed potatoes, and onion plants have been ordered.  Enchanted Gardens has already started the majority of the plants to set out starting in May…so the show is getting on the road!

Remainder of the seed…cucumbers, pumpkins, squashes, and green beans…will be ordered next week, as well as the mulch and drip lines.

Hoophouse has a new sheathing and is fully operational again–poor guy has trouble keeping his cover on in the WY winds…this year we replaced the zippered ends with plywood…Not as pretty but hopefully more practical–

All of this takes money–Agriculture is front-end loaded with expenses!  Membership will be opening up Wednesday, March 25th.  We are thankful for a community that supports our food endeavors!

OCTOBER 22nd, 2014

It is the early morning of the day before the final Pick Up of the 2014 season.  I am the one to take the wholesale produce north–The Farmer’s son is needed to help with some heavy lifting and to work beside The Farmer untangling the cut and drying Northern bean plants that got wind-whipped last week.  In five hours we will be scrambling to finish bagging the last of 24 pounds of Brussels sprouts, and The Farmer will be harvesting 60 heads of celery to fill the Montana order.  I’ve also offered 20 heads of cauliflower, but the response to the text has been silent–they are as busy as we are trying to get ‘one last thing done’!

We will load up the car–no need for the cost of the refrigerated truck this trip–and I will be on the road again, making that northward journey to the market beyond leaving behind a skeleton crew to make the final prep for The Last Pick Up!…’skeleton’…that word is more telling than one can imagine:  It is a small group compared to what was needed when the garden was in full bloom, but it is a bare-bones group, too.  WE ARE TIRED…tired to the bone!

We have been blessed with an Indian summer–the waves of September low temps thinned out the crops and forced us to focus on the root crops and brassicas, and the warm October days accommodated the work still needed to harvest onions and squash.  This is the best we have been able to glean the peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant.  This is the first year we weren’t racing around the garden, sliding through mud as a blanket of snow was piling on the pumpkins and squash we were attempting to get under cover!  Maybe that will be next week’s story when we dig the final potatoes and carrots–But for now…we prepare for the final Share Pick Up of the season…and I tootle down the road getting the sprouts and sweet potatoes to market.  My competent crew of two will sort through the veggies to be put out, boxing them up for easy handling and setting up the tables that will tomorrow make up the delivery line of the last of our goods–scabby sweet potatoes, new red onions freshly dried, dependable broccoli better than the first, lots of squashes, and the prize of the Fall:  Deadon cabbage!

OCTOBER 5th, 2014

Before I head back to bed I want to share the excitement of the changing season.  Yesterday morning I woke up to the loudest cackling of birds I’ve ever heard!  I sat up on my elbows and looked out the window.  There on the lawn and in the huge trees that run the perimeter of the front yard were thousands of birds!  Literally THOUSANDS–the noise was deafening–  They were gathering for the flight south–migration to the warmer places.  As quickly as they appeared, they were gone–but not without rousing everyone in the house first–

Friday morning we hit the garden at 9:00 a.m.  I had some parsley to cut and bag.  As I walked the herb bed I was awed by the thick white frost on the sage and oregano and the drooping fronds of the fennel.  The parsley I needed was laying flat, but still a healthy green.  Thyme and cilantro looked as they had the day before–no frost or indication of the 30 degree temperature several hours earlier.  Two hours later the parsly was perky and ready to go– Amazing how some plants snap back from a cold snap!

This is the second morning of the low temps…and the pepper plants are showing it.  They are limp, dark green, slimy leaved with drooping translucent peppers that resemble something from that art piece Time by Salvador Dali with the drooping clocks–I’m sure you’ve seen it.

We will spend the next few days walking the garden and rescuing any peppers, tomatoes, or even eggplant that were protected by the dead plant’s foliage or the heat trapped in the soil and under the black plastic.  The second frost was worse than the first–winds of 20-30 mph with 45 mile gusts make it impossible to cover the rows with Agro-bon.  When The Farmer went out at 5:00 a.m. the winds were flat but the temps were already 27 degrees.  He did get the new planting of Tom Cat green bell peppers covered and they look better than the rest, but the season is coming to an end and the next season is not far off.

We now feel an urgency to get the garden picked clean and put to bed.  What effort we can put into Fall prep will make the Spring planting easier and more successful.  With this urgency is also a peace that our long awaited rest will soon come.  We will be able to sit by the fire and warm our bones with that cup of hot tea cupped in our hands.  We don’t have to go out in the cold mornings…we don’t have to work the long hours…

And what will we do during the winter months? Catch up on all the neglected things, enjoy Christmas and the end of the year…and then in January we’ll start flipping the pages of the seed catalogues and scanning the internet, laying out the plans for the new season.  I’m sure we will forget the cold mornings and frigid fingers…the rains that delayed the harvest, and the mud that made walking a chore and falling flat on you butt a reality.  We will think only of the garden renewal and the people that will share in the new garden.  I am at peace–  🙂

SEPTEMBER 28th, 2014

We are entering the last quarter of the 16 week Summer Season.  The first frost of the season was a couple of weeks early this year.  Most people thought this was IT–we were DONE.  I would have thought that myself a few years ago, but we have learned there are lots of plants that are not affected by the frost…and in fact, they are enhanced in flavor and taste…Brussels sprouts and broccoli.  And we have taken steps to row cover eight beds this year to help extend their season.

Here’s some interesting information:

Light Frost – Temperatures 28-32 degrees F
Hard Frost – Temperatures below 28 degrees F.

Likely damaged by light frost: Beans, cucumbers, eggplants, muskmelon, New Zealand spinach, okra, peppers, pumpkins, summer squash, sweet corn, tomatoes, watermelon, amaranth, and winter squash (plants).

Can withstand light frost: Artichokes, beets, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chinese cabbage, endive, lettuce, parsnips, peas, swiss chard, escarole, arugula, bok choy, mache, and radicchio.

Can withstand hard frost: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, onions, parsley, peas, radishes, spinach, turnips, leeks, and sorrel.

It is important to understand that temperature is not the only factor affecting survivorship of plants during a frost event. The further a plant or its parts are from the ground, the more likely it is to be damaged by frost. The ground is usually still warm in early fall and will radiate some warmth to plants that are close to the ground. Humidity can also help protect plants from frost. Humid air holds more heat and reduces the drying effects of frost. Air movement also has an influence on frost damage. When wind blows during cold nights, it sweeps away any warm air trapped near stuctures or the ground, eliminating their insulating capabilities.

Tender plants can be protected from a few light frosts with row covers or blankets. Mulched beets, carrots, leeks, onions, radishes, and parsnips can be harvested later in fall before the ground freezes. Light frost makes leafy greens and root vegetables sweeter, so it’s worth leaving some of your kale and carrots in the ground until you’re ready to use them. Regardless of the protection from frost, natural or man-made, any temperature below 25 degrees F is dangerous territory for vegetable plants.

Early fall is a great time to sow salad crops in a cold frame for harvest in late fall and early winter. Bok choy, lettuce, mesclun, kale, mustard, and spinach are a few good varieties to try.

For us, we covered eight beds with row cover–tomatoes, some of the peppers, and half a bed of cucumbers.  The frost was light and we feel the rain that preceded it provided moisture in the air that minimized the damage.  Because we didn’t have strong winds, the row cover stayed in place.

The crops that were damaged were the eggplant–though we’ve harvested 120 pounds the past two weeks because the fruit was not damaged and the frost only affected the tops of the plants, green beans and tops of the Anasazi beans, corn, all the melons, the pumpkin and winter squash plants, summer squashes, and the cucumbers.  (The half of a bed that we covered only produced twelve pounds, but the stress was too much and the leaves are dying back.)

This last week we harvested all the remaining bell peppers and some frosted Antohi pepper plants, getting seven 18-gallon tubs full.  We tried to pick all the Snack Peppers-one of the beds we protected from the frost–but had to stop after 200#…I didn’t want to fill the cooler up with Snack Peppers (no more than broccoli, which we also had to cut short the harvest).  We harvested grape tomatoes and Artisan Cherry tomatoes, and sixty pounds of paste tomatoes.  We pulled all but the red onions–which needed a little more growth–and dried them before we bagged and moved them out of the rain today.  We were not able to get them all trimmed and bagged, but will have to let the remaining bed of pulled onions dry out after the rain and then get them next week.  We dug all the sweet potatoes and they are in the greenhouse curing–they will go out in the 14th week share.  Rain is now predicted for Monday morning (and occurring Sunday…right now).  We hope to get out in the garden Monday some time–we need two days to harvest for the Tuesday shares and the sales up North.

Our plan for this week, besides the usual shares and sales, are to get the Russet potatoes dug for shares, and bagged and stored for the ADD 4 WEEK option which will be delivered the last week of October.  In fact we should dig any and all remaining potatoes.  We also need to get the shed extended for storage of the pumpkins and winter squash.  They all need to be harvested and cured for better flavor and handling.  This will be THE LAST week of harvest on all tomatoes–our choice as we need to move on to other crops of more importance.  Special crops to ship North this week are celery and Brussels sprouts and some more of the Daikon radishes.  These items will go into the shares one of the remaining four weeks.  I’m hoping we will have some time to row cover some of the broccoli and cauliflower transplants we set out right after the frost to help them grow when the days and nights turn cooler.

In addition to the continual harvesting and preparation of the fall crops we have some weeding to do in the large hoophouse where The Farmer has planted spinach and bok choi–which are doing wonderful and may get into the last shares!  We now have a bean trellis to take down, numerous beds to clean out, lift the mulch, and till them up in preparation for next spring.  We know the hard frost will come soon–we need to be ready…or as ready as possible.

One last thing to share:  We have been blessed with a potato digger…a brand new potato digger.  I mean a really brand new one–in fact, a prototype.  Eric Anderson and his wife Cheri live here in Worland.  Eric is a machinist/welder and his family has a business called US Small Farm.  They design and manufacture farm equipment for small farms, just like us.  Cheri and her four kids were at our farm for a Field Trip with the homeschoolers.  I was showing them The Farmer’s potatoes, which he digs by hand.  There are four beds, nearly 400 feet long, plastic mulch, and two rows to a bed.  After the tour–well while still in the garden–Cheri came up to me and said, “Do you know what we build?”  I had to admit I didn’t, and then she told me they build potato diggers!  From that contact came the visit from Eric, and then the digger, and the rest is history.  For the first time ever there is now a potato digger that digs two beds and lifts the black plastic mulch in the process.  The digger can be adjusted to dig the sweet potatoes too, which grow in an entirely different manner than real potatoes.  What has taken The Farmer a week to dig, and two weeks to recover from, can now be done in one morning!  Thank you US Small Farm, and the Anderson’s– We appreciate you!

AUGUST 20th, 2014

Time to post an Update on the Farm.  It is 2:20 in the morning.  I usually sleep quite well–more like fall into bed exhausted at close to midnight.  This night was a little different:  it was an early 11:00 p.m. when the head hit the sheets.  But here I am– brain racing and so…a quick post.  Ho-ho-ho…nothing quick about me!

As I’ve stated before:  Every year is different.  This year is no exception.  As we transition into the second phase of production we are confronted with new problems.  Rodents and possible ground fertility issues.

First–let me address the rodents.  From teeny tiny mice–well field mice are not really on the teeny tiny size–to the masked invaders who wreck havoc in the corn, we suffer extreme damage from critters.  The greatest loss is of water.  All of our garden is watered with drip lines–under the plastic and slightly buried.  Mice and gophers can easily burrow into the ground and live under the plastic–plenty of food and water for their needs.  We don’t mind sharing some of the veggies with them, as long as they don’t get greedy, but they love to chew the plastic lines.  If they chew it in half, we find the damage–a pool of water gathers in the row or it develops a GUSHER…it first has to soak the ground under the plastic.  But if they chew it a little, the water is oh so slowly diverted and we can’t find it.  The result is insufficient water at a critical time of development in the life of the veggie–deformities, hollow cucumbers, or total crop loss.

Right now we suspect such is happening in a bed of watermelons, and possibly the Armenian cucumbers where we believe a gopher lives nearby.  Yesterday The Farmer found a full grown mouse, which he stomped.  And then with further search uncovered a bed of babies, now with no momma.  🙁    There is little we can do short of tearing up the plastic (not an easy feat with a full mature vine growing over it) and attempting to lay a new line.  The Farmer has already gone through his supply of repair couplers…me hitting the lines during cabbage and cauliflower harvests has not helped the matter!

At this point it is kudos to the cat!  Ty is a hunter–but I think he is even a little exhausted and maybe sick of the hunt.  Poor kitty–the other day in the morning he padded through the processing area with a mouse in mouth (dead), letting out a series of muffled meows as he passed by.  Later that day, he did the same thing–this time with a small gopher and the same sad meows.  We would need ten Ty’s to get the rodent population under control.  He caught a packrat last week and they are HUGE!  Most cats are intimidated by packrats–but not Ty.  The birds hate him, the great hunter that he is–when they were nest building and raising their young earlier in the year, he was mocked, hawked, and harassed by the fowl folks as he padded across the lawn.  They even swooped and dive-bombed him!

Second–Fertility issues.  Healthy soil makes healthy plants–healthy plants can hold their own against disease and insect attacks.  No different than our own bodies.

We are in our third year of organic gardening–minus a good and affordable nitrogen source.  We have been coasting on the alfalfa we plowed up to put the garden in–a soil laden with nitrogen stored in the root nodules of the alfalfa plant.  The plant does not produce the nitrogen, but a friendly bacteria that lives with the alfalfa.  It is nitrogen that helps the plant in its early formation and with the setting of the fruit.  Low levels result in smaller sizes and maybe lower yields.  I’ m not well versed in this, but The Farmer is and he tried to explain it to me (in too much detail) the other day.  At this point in the season we are doing the best we can do–using natural and organic supplements to at least supply some of the mineral and vitamin needs of the plants.  We have made attempts to find other sources, but cost and logistics are not in our favor.  The Farmer just tilled some alfalfa pellets into the ground in the hoophouse that we are getting ready to plant for the fall.  He’s watered them and we should be ready to plant the bok choi and spinach tomorrow, and then work on the transplants this weekend.

Let me share the cucumber story:

Every year our cucumbers die off before the season ends.  I just thought that was the natural course in the life of the cucumber plant…grow, bear fruit, and then die off.  But this year they started to die off way too early in the season.  The Harmonies–our European picklers–were brown and the leaves crispy only after a couple of weeks of harvest.  I got on the Internet (thank you Lord) and perused and found a great video!  He explained that cukes are heavy bottom feeders and require high levels of magnesium, among other things.  We applied an Epsom salts liquid foliarly–they’ve had two applications and it looks like the Harmonie is back in production.

When The Farmer ‘fed the cukes’, he also hit the zukes and other summer squash.  All of them are in the same area of the garden–soil is cloddy and rough.  It doesn’t hold moisture well and does not form a good seed bed in the spring.  We usually plant the hardiest veggies in that part of the garden, but even the Yellow Summer Squash needs the simple building blocks to create its fruit and hold it.  The foliar feedings have helped with the blossom end rot, and the creation of firmer fruit.

Other crops that we are having severe problems with are the eggplant and tomatoes.  The eggplant harvests have proved sad–for every good eggplant we get at least the same amount of rotted ones.  And I mean rotted–liquid mush that looks like the melting witch from The Wizard of Oz!  A closer look at the eggplant shows small rough bumps that grow and develop into larger boils growing under the surface which ultimately consume the entire eggplant fruit.  At their worse stage they are a little saggy sack ‘melted’ into a pool of slop–YUCK!  The good news is the plants are loaded with small eggplant and blooms.  The fruit doesn’t seem to be affected until it gets larger.  Get set for smaller eggplant this year.  BTW–we noted more lady bugs appearing in the eggplants.  Spider mites are a problem for eggplants–not that the rotting fruit is related to that–but I’m going to add some more lady bugs.  I purchased some last week and have been scattering them in places where aphids have been seen.  I think they can be beneficial in controlling the mites.  We’ll see if we can hold and feed the ladies for the remainder of the season.

We have five varieties of tomatoes this year.  Celebrity has been our mainstay for years.  It is a good strong hybrid perfect for canning because of uniform size and its simplicity in popping off the stem.  They also have developed strong resistances to common virus and bacteria problems.  They look great–no problems there.  But, my new variety of heirloom, Moskovich, is rotting from the blossom end up, and decomposing on the vine–much like the eggplant.  Also affected is one of the Romas, but not all of the plants.  Its not uncommon to see the blossom end rot in the first harvests, but once they are removed from the plant the following crops are healthy.  We’ll see if that is the case.  The Brandywine seems to be okay, and the grape and Artisan Cherries are in full bloom and full fruited.  First harvest of the grape tomatoes yielded over 90 pounds!  What a treat finding those clamshells in your share–

Rodents, disease, and lack of soil fertility aside, the garden is in full swing.  We have harvested the first of the firsts:  zukes, cukes, carrots, beets, cabbage, onions, chard, and lettuce; and are now into the second phase of crops:  peppers, tomatoes, corn, and potatoes…and cantaloupe and watermelons!  We are nearly half-way through the season, and the weather is starting to change a bit as the kids head back to school.  We will be losing some of our help as they head off to college, but will look to some of the parent volunteers to step in a couple of mornings a week.  We keep working on getting the new processing area finished–a slow process with all the other demands of farming and the garden.  This week we moved all the supplies out of Cooler #1 so we could assemble and install the shelves for the melons.  They are now neatly stacked on a metal shelf in the processing area.  I will be happy to get some gravel to fill in the holes I keep stumbling through and cover up the dust that gets in the sandals I like to ware during Pick Ups.  The diesel clunker, more commonly known as Cooler #1, is fired up and going 24/7 holding the cantaloupe and watermelons that we just harvested yesterday.  Tomorrow we get the truck headed north to drop a shipment of produce, we pick green beans and harvest more tomatoes and broccoli, and I meet the truck from Spokane with the fruit for the Fruit Share in the evening.  The Farmer is getting ready to replant the hoophouse with bok choi and spinach.  We will probably set out our next crop of Salanova in there, too.  And some pepper plants to see how they do in the hoop in the fall–Can we extend them into November?  I don’t think so, but we will find out. .  We are looking to transplant the broccoli and cauliflower in a place to row cover for the fall–probably behind the house where the wind is not as bad as in the Far North garden.   We need to figure out how to fund the repair on the hoophouse…it needs a new covering…and how to buy better end panels…the zippers don’t cut it in our part of the country–too much wind!  I think this venture will cost us about $6,000 to do it right.  This is a critical move to extend the growing season in Wyoming–

JULY 27th, 2014

I see I am behind on my efforts to post an update every 30 days–But that is the way of the world on The Farm.  The 16 weeks of harvest are the VERY BUSIEST–not only do the garden and weeds and unfriendly guests (insect pests) continue to need attention, but now the beautiful (and not so beautiful) produce needs attention.

Here’s how our week goes:

Monday and Tuesday–intense harvesting in preparation for the 109 shares and the produce that heads North for the wholesaler.  Tuesday at 4:30 delivery for 1/3 of the Shareholders, including the Farm Fresh eggs that have been brought in that day.  Monday is the day I also make the Fruit Order for delivery on Wednesday. Cucumbers and summer squashes have to be picked Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday evening for Farmer’s Market.  This helps to keep them picked clean to try to keep the plants producing and the cukes and zukes smaller in size– “Boats” get through every once in a while.

Wednesday–Get the Reefer truck on the road to Billings for the wholesale drop…affix the labels, check the invoice and count, count, count boxes and items.  After 10:00 a.m. more harvesting.  We try to take this day to give the garden some attention–weeding…thinning…giving The Farmer some assistance…but mostly a time to organize the cooler and check the inventory.

With the canner’s season approaching this will be the day to harvest and deliver for the canner’s shares.

Wednesday evening we meet the truck from Spokane and get the fruit for the Fruit Shares–Some shares are put into crates for delivery on The Farm, and others are bagged for delivery to the Routes and at Farmer’s Market.  This past week the cooler was TOO FULL of broccoli and cauliflower and we had no room to set up the Fruit Shares–they were left in the boxes except for the peaches which were weighed out and bagged.  We ‘lost’ three shares somewhere along the line–  🙁   Part of the problem was I didn’t order enough grapes, the other problem was 2 shares were given to people who hadn’t purchased Fruit Shares…with friends picking up for members and people on vacation this was not an intentional theft but an oversight on our part.  We’ve now got the second cooler going…need to order more coolant…but cool enough for the time being.  We have to set the Fruit Shares up ahead of time to assure that every one gets what they have purchased.

Thursday–harvesting of the greens and perishables for the Thursday Pick Up.  Drop for Shares that go to Thermopolis for delivery on Friday morning.  Cleaning up the work areas and preparation for the Thursday Pick Up day.  This Pick Up includes the Fruit Shares, as well as the eggs, and delivery of any purchased case goods (fruit).

Friday–Route delivery North or to Thermopolis if case goods are ordered or the temp is HOT–things may travel better in a reefer truck than in coolers with freeze-paks.  Afternoon, bookwork and preparation for Farmer’s Market–inventory, signs, labels, change for money box, any last minute share preparation.

Saturday Morning–Up early to do final prep for Farmer’s Market…those things I’ve remembered during the wee hours of the night in my half-sleep…and load up and on the road by 7:10.  Set up and ready to go at 8:00 a.m. Sell and distribute shares until 11:30, then break-down and load up cartons, crates, coolers, tables, and the sandwich board sign.  Home to unload and get a bite to eat.  This Saturday I fell asleep eating my sandwich; when I awoke the bread was curled on the outer edges and dried out, and the dog was snoring next to me on the couch.  She was tired, too! 

None of this would be possible without the great work crew we have!  Let me tell you about them:

Daniel—Our own High School graduate, he’s always punctual…he’s Mr. Dependable and handles the deliveries to Ten Sleep.  Daniel never complains and is always polite—good worker and does his best!  Has an honest laugh and is learning all about plant husbandry and how to make the garden grow.  Daniel harvests, hoes, and pulls weeds…he washes carrots and beets and bundles them, too.  He works well with everyone!  Daniel will be headed off to college this year—we feel blessed to have had him for the summer!

Diana the Wise, the Voice of Reason.  Diana is our harvest manager, our greenhouse manager, and last week our broccoli and cauliflower manager…and what a task that was!  She keeps track of ‘the brains’—my clipboard with the daily To-Do lists and harvest and share information.  We could not function without my brains, no more than we could function without Diana.  Not a day goes by that she doesn’t break out into song—whatever ditty pops into her head triggered by something we are doing!—We love having her around.

Kaleb–more than just The Farmer’s Son, but the one that lightens the load and lightens our spirits.  He’s our Truck Driver on Wednesday’s–a trip that starts at 7 in the morning getting the produce finished and the truck loaded, and ends at about the same time in the evening! Loves to play practical jokes on Daniel–like sneaking a bottle of Phyto-estrogen pills into his lunch bag, and swapping out his Toaster Pop-Ups for a flavor he didn’t buy or pack in his lunch that morning.  He’s our music man–bringing the tunes to the garden to help us work.

Brittany (not a morning person she tells us, but as the day warms up so does her smile)–she takes responsibility for getting the veggie shares ready for the routes and Saturday Pick Up at Farmer’s Market.  She helps to set up and run the Pick Up’s on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s–and helps to move them to cover in the rainstorm, or when the wind is blowing 20 mph and it’s 104 degrees outside.  She makes the Friday deliveries on the North Route, and works the Saturday Farmer’s Market.  She works 40 hours a week, and its all split up in chunks!  She is priceless–as a helper and as our daughter-in-law!

Janet and Susan–our part-timers!  Both have been with us for two years and we love and appreciate all the help they give and the great spirit they bring to The Farm–

Susan meets us every Wednesday to set up the Fruit Shares, helping to unload the car and fill up the crates.  She is very flexible, which is a blessing!  We never know when that truck is going to hit town–

Janet helps with the harvest work on Monday’s and Tuesday’s.  She’s our egg lady, too–her girls work hard to get us at least 7 dozen eggs a week…and this year she has 4 turkeys too!  Janet is a Fruit helper–a harvest helper–a labeling expert–and knows how to count and weigh melons!

Gotta go!  Just looked at the clock…need to get a new battery in that thing–it is getting slower and slower…now I’m behind for church! This is my day of rest–ho, ho, ho…. The Farmer’s Wife

JUNE 7th, 2014

All of the ‘starts’ are out of the livingroom into the small hoophouse AND we are finding we have not enough room in the small hoophouse (henceforth called the ‘greenhouse’ because that is how we are using it: a greenhouse instead of a hoop house). The first set of broccoli plants should be transplanted tomorrow into the North garden. That will free up a spot for 120 more broccoli plants to be seeded again, as well as 360 more cauliflower for the fall. The broccoli is a crop we hope to keep in succession for sale up north to help supplement the sales and stabilize the revenue flow. The CSA members will have as much broccoli as they can eat, too! (Business lingo for make more money to offset expenses–but take care of family--)

I am sad to report that the covering on the large hoophouse has an irreparable rip that is now a gaping hole. Fortunately, the weather is warm enough now and it is an expense that can be deferred to the fall. Replacement cost on the covering is $2,000, with freight. We need to consider two layers and a blower to help extend the season into November, and for an early start in February. There is no benefit in trying to heat the hoophouse in the spring at $600 a month for propane. Lucky people in Thermopolis who benefit from greenhouses heated with natural thermal water!

As to the garden, things are growing and growing. I think red cabbage is one of the most beautiful plants. Contrasted next to the green cabbage it sparkles. Last year we raised a red cabbage called Integro which was iridescent—with the morning dew on the leaves it literally did sparkle! This year we switched to an earlier variety with a smaller head and tighter leaves. It is still a stand-out with its deep red leaves, but not as iridescent as Integro. I still have a head of Integro in the fridge—full of flavor and moisture still—after nine months!

We got the Sweet Potatoes into the ground. I have trouble imagining that they will amount to much—but that is how they looked last year, too: a puny long root with maybe a couple of leaves on top. As you may recall from the blog last year, The Farmer planted them and then the wind HOWLED for three days whipping them around and abusing them so that we thought they were goners. Then a week or two later some new plants grew from the ground and by the end of the season we had a healthy covering of large vines with yams incubating in the warm earth below. Though the harvested yams had a great flavor they were down-right ugly and some of them were monsters! We learned they scar easily and you don’t leave them in the ground until the frost. This year we think we can do better!

With the passing of the first month, we are seeing the new plants emerging from the ground where we so carefully placed the seeds a week or two earlier. We have replanted the green beans that didn’t make it, and yesterday I assessed the Anasazi beans. We had to replant easily 50% of them. I think it was planter error—seeds not covered or not covered enough, and a small amount of heat stroke from plastic mulch. I think beans do better without the plastic, but the prospect of weeding without the mulch is daunting!–An impossibility for us with a six acre garden. We have beans planted in three spots in the garden—all three have needed more help! The beds in the East garden will have to be completely replanted—too much moisture in the ground, either from the rain draining into the holes in the plastic or the canal leaching.

The Perennial Herb bed is in its second year. The fennel did not survive, but its seed did and we have about a dozen new plants coming up helter-skelter. The sage was the big winner, with the thyme close behind. And then of course the mint is a weed! I think two bitsy parsley plants came up from seed, but we hoed them to make room for the dozen new parsley plants. And, oh yeah, hyssop—which is a medicinal plant from what I can gather—It came back in two spots. We have basil and oregano to add new this year. We planted the dill last week at the end of the row with some green kale.

The large hoophouse which is housing the Spring Shares is about 50% harvested with more than half the Spring Season done–We have three more weeks left. The last share had broccoli—spring heads are smaller, and if you crowd them into a row three deep they are smaller still. Besides the lettuce and other greens, the remaining weeks will see the baby carrots, green and purple kohlrabi, medium sized bok choi, and cauliflower…maybe a second batch of crunchy radishes! The broccoli and cauliflower are exceptional in the spring—the flavor is so mild and the ‘flowers’ melt in your mouth. The varieties we raise in the summer handle the heat better, but in the process lose some of their tenderness and the taste is more pronounced—Still better than store bought because it is FRESHER. I think our first year with Spring Shares can be considered a success!

Starting next week we enter PHASE two in the big garden—WEEDS. Now that the plants are seeded or transplanted and growing well with plenty of water, we start in earnest knocking down the weeds. We pulled all the weeds in the beds of the East garden on Friday. Next week it will be pulling weeds from the base of the new plants poking through the mulch, and tilling between the rows, in the tramways, and around the fence line. Hoe, till, and pull—that’s our strategy. In the evenings we nurse sore and achy muscles with the laser and menthol rubs…where is that hot tub with Epsom salts??

That’s the Update on The Farm for June—The Farmer’s Wife

MAY 4th, 2014
This weekend we laid beds–55 three foot wide plastic mulch beds in the ‘Back 40’garden–varying in lengths from 36 feet to 393 feet–and 43 beds averaging 180 feet in the North Garden. Tomorrow morning we should finish the remaining 28 beds, and plant potatoes (now that their beds are ready). The lettuce starts in the livingroom are ready to be moved to the small hoophouse, and then planted outside in the new bed next week.

Right now all the baby plants are nestled in the small hoophouse together. The nightshade family made their trip home from Enchanted Gardens and now have joined the cole (kohl) crops. The cole crops–cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts–will finally get moved to their new beds this week. Included with the Nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant) is the celery. These will wait their turn to be put in the beds when the ground is warmer and the chance of frost has passed–most likely within the next ten to twenty days.

Rain and cold nights are predicted for later this week–

That’s the Garden news! THE FARMER”S WIFE

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