Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Great Flood of 2009

The Ockawamack Creek flowed over it's banks and through the fields in ways that it has never flowed before.
The wheat is just barely above water here...some of it is now covered in silt and laying down flat...we have never combined compromised wheat like this...if we can get some dry days we will have to see what we can get off these seedings.

As the town of Claverack declared a state of emergency, our fields were filling and draining having soil removed and also deposited...while the rain continued.
The aftermath of flooding is not only soil erosion, but soil/silt deposits. Sometimes not a bad thing ...unless it is on top of a crop you are hoping to harvest.

Below you can see some very unhappy rows of soybeans, mesclun and arugula, swiss chard and beets...they are now known as the lost plantings....

Our five acre field has been fallow this summer being harrowed to kill weeds. It is always risky to leave a field open to the elements and it is the exception rather than the rule for us to not seed down open ground fairly quickly to protect it from erosion....hopefully we did not lose too much soil to the stream

Standing water has now been in the celery and celeriac for a few days...we will see how they survive.
Deep mud at the ends of the winter squash rows.

We have never seen water up this the left is one of two entrances into our lower field, this bridge/water had to be crossed to harvest the potatoes for our end of the week deliveries.

Fortunately our new greenhouse did not float down stream.....there is normally about 50 feet between the stream and our greenhouse.
Fortunately less than 1/3 of our vegetable ground is in these lower fields. Only the fields pictured had standing and running water, all of our other fields are well drained and we are thankful for the diversity of terrain here on our farm. Though everything is water logged, the other crops are hanging in there and waiting for the summer sun and warmth to come.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Video Footage from our flooded Fields

Chris took a drive out to the fields this morning, he starts out driving over the bridge...all that water is over the bridge...Then you can see the wheat and rye , or rather you can see water...the wheat and rye are under it...Fortunately most of our vegetable ground is not under water. A few crops we are worried about are the celery, celeriac and leeks. They are still under water as of this evening and we are expecting another inch of rain it does not look like they will be getting dry any time soon. Our experience is that after 24 hours of submersion most vegetables suffocate and start to rot...we will see.

You can see in another view of the lower fields how hairy it was getting out to the potatoes to dig...after an entire night of steady rain (about 6 inches). Please disregard the amateur filming...It is hard to drive and keep on the road with a camera in your hand.

More photos to come...hopefully the rain will stop.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Garlic is in!!!

Tha garlic was harvested a week ago. We have three trailer loads in our pole barn curing. After the tops dry down we will trim it and then once the wrappers are thouroughly dry we will trim the roots and grade it. We save the largest for replanting in the fall and sell and distribute the other sizes.
Though we harvest the garlic scapes for early season eating...a few slip through cracks. The kids and I thought that it was interesting to see the various stages of garlic scape we lined them up for all to see. The scape which is the seed head, gets larger as the bulbils (seeds) swell. Eventually the outer casing of the garlic scape "flowers" releasing the bulbils. We do not plant the bulbils as they would take a full year and a half to become a head of garlic...we plant cloves in November and harvest full heads in July. Less weeding!!!!
One benefit of all this rain is that instead of having to hook up our bed lifter to harvest the garlic, or use a garden forks, we were able to pull it instead. Faster and easier.
Thankfully there is something good about all this rain.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mourning tomatoes

Last Friday we started picking cherry tomatoes. They are always the earliest, and always provide a glimpse of what is to come.
On Sunday night Chris and I pulled out the Compendium on tomato diseases, we were concerned about some yellowing on the lower leaves, we figured early blight...but wanted to be sure.
On Monday morning I went for early morning walk with my sister-in-law......I wanted to inspect the tomatoes more closely, there it was, as sure as could be the tell tale signs of late blight.
Yes, the blackened lesions around the stem, the gray spots on the leaves. Monday afternoon Chuck Bornt our extension agent confirmed it as late blight. We spoke with him yesterday and he has confirmed seven more cases in our area. Two days later some plants were pretty devastated, while others were still green.
In this picture below you can see the area/variety that was the most affected, brown amidst some green. We are in the process of pulling all of the heavily affected plants, saving the green ones. A chemical salesman came to the farm today, the first we have ever met. He came to bring us the Certified Organic Copper that we will be spraying on the still green plants and on our second planting which is still looking green.
We have very mixed feelings about copper, about spraying in general, we tend to be Luddites in this area, we don't tend to even spray the organic sprays. But the dilemma is that we have put a lot of work into these plants, they are among the earliest seeded in the green house, they are then transplanted into larger cell trays, they are then transplanted onto black plastic outside, they are then trellised each week to keep them from falling over. Hours and hours of labor. And trying to save them will be hours and hours more, is it worth it??? Of course it is if we get tomatoes.
There is no guarantee that pulling and spraying will even work, late blight is a persistent disease under the right conditions. It destroyed the Irish Potato Crop in the mid 1800's causing the Potato Famine.
This has been the perfect season for late blight. Wet and cold. And even now though the sun is shining, the nights were cold leaving a heavy dew...more moisture providing perfect breeding grounds for the late blight spores to spread.
Forward we move, we spent the first hours of realization feeling sick to our stomachs, the next morning we accepted complete loss, by the next afternoon we felt we should be proactive and try to at least save the second planting. So in some sick way things are looking up. Other crops look superb, the garlic is large and white and abundant, the purple carrots we will be harvesting in the next months are gorgeous and beans are sweet and crisp...time will tell for the tomatoes...we will keep you updated.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Purchasing Grass Fed Organic Beef

We are excited to be able to offer beef to our members in the city and offer everyone the convenience of paying by credit card online. The wonders of technology.... Truly transforming our communication every day.

We have an updated availability list on our Blog, check it out to see what we have for the week.

E-mail us an order, remembering to tell us when and where you would like to pick it up.

We will put the order together and e-mail you back an invoice. Pay through paypal and the beef will arrive as specified...or come to the farm for pick up.

Be sure to read The Importance of Grass Fed Beef, it will give you an understanding of the scale and values behind our beef sales. It also offers some cooking advice.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Crop Update

Yes they are here...our second planting of squash is now coming in and we have seeded our third planting...despite the rain and the rain and the rain...the squash still produce.

We are harvesting this amount of squash and zucchini every other day ...that is about 700 lbs every other day...Yikes!!!!

It seems that almost every day a new crop is ready...Friday the cucumbers hit there stride and today it was the green beans. Today Chris did a scouting harvest checking in on the onions and the garlic and the...yes, the potatoes.

The garlic is looking good, we will be able to offer fresh garlic soon, quite different from their drier later selves, the green beans are looking great, the onions need a little more time. They do the bulk of their top formation before the solstice and now will put their energy into bulb development.
Our first potatoes will be red skinned and as always extremely delicate. New potatoes must be handled with extreme care because of their super thin skin. In a few weeks the tops will die down, and then they are left in the ground for a bit for the skins to set. No longer so delicate we can harvest them with a machine and wash them in our barrel washer. But in the up and coming weeks, we will begin the potato harvesting.
Oh and we even have a first crop of baby carrots this week, sooooo tender and sweet!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Keeping out the deer

Here are some pictures of the double lines of electric fence that we have throughout the farm to keep the deer out of some of their favorite foods. In a year like this, lush and wet, it is very upsetting to us that they choose lettuce and strawberries over all the tender alfalfa and grasses out in the fields
Deer are persistent. But this year we are attempting to use temporary fences surrounding close to maturity crops in order to break their routines. So far so good. The strawberries have a more permanent set up as the deer destroyed last years plants by eating every last green until they could no longer photosynthesize. Sad!!! Maybe will will bite the bullet and put up a permanent super high fence around the farm....we don't love that idea, it will feel a bit like a compound, time will tell.
Of course we also have a few nuisance hunters patrolling the property at dusk. The neighbors all know to expect shots this time of year. Jose, Carmello, Eduardo and Efrain will be eating well this summer, they enjoy the venison and hopefully the hunters will keep it coming.
Regardless of these attempts at deterring the deer, we try to plant enough with them in mind...
but they often take more than their share.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Here they come!!!!

Over the years we have grown many different types of squash and zucchini. We seem to have honed in on straight neck squash, green zucchini and a yellow patty pan called sunburst. We have tried the light green Lebanese, the round shaped zucchini, even the green patty pan which are flatter than the Sunburst. It is not to say that we won't do some of them again, but the fact of the matter is, we grow twice as much zucchini as
yellow and patty pan...people like green, and the darker the better.
Our first harvest was yesterday, the zucchini came in first...500 pounds of it, very exciting!!!! Funny how the vegetable that is the most plain and probably the most given away come July is so very exciting in early June. To us it represents the first "hard" vegetable of summer.
Don't get me wrong, we have been harvesting beets and peas and delicious spring turnips for a few weeks, and lettuces and greens for months now. Squash and zucchini open the door to so so much more to come. They clearly state that summer has arrived....cucumbers and tomatoes will not be far behind!!!
So here they come...get out the us any good ones that you love, I am particularly looking for some dessert uses. I am thinking about organizing a pot luck surrounding this over productive vegetable, we will see how that develops

The cucumbers are not too far behind. Here is one just waiting to mature to adorn you salad or hold center stage on it's children just love cucumber salads!!!!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Oats and Peas

The oats are just heading up this week. Chris decided to turn in some oats and peas this week in order to prepare the ground for summer vegetables. We plant the oats and peas into ground that we plan on using late summer to early fall. Cover cropping is a practice which not only prevents water and wind erosion, it feeds the soil as well. There are many different types of cover crops, but oats and peas are nice in the spring because they are quick growing and can handle the early season cold snaps. The peas are a legume, which means that they fix nitrogen.

Here are some pictures of the nodules created by the rhizobia (nitrogen fixing bacteria)that are growing on the roots of the peas plants. They are the slightly pink small round things attached to the roots. The soil is teeming with many different types of rhizobia and when the peas roots begin to grow, they attract the particular rhizobia that will work with the pea plant, in a process called symbiosis, to fix nitrogen. Each legume has a compatible rhizobia and if your soil does not have the correct match, nitrogen fixation can not happen. Our soil has the right rhizobia judging by the pictures. It is possible to purchase rhizobia called inoculants which you mix with the seed to insure symbiosis.
The nitrogen is already present in the air spaces of the soil. The gas moves through the nodule at the root and then is converted by the rhizobia into amonia which the plant uses. The plant in return provides energy to the much as 30% of the plants captured energy goes to feed the rhizobia.

When the plant flowers it release the rhizobia back into the soil and focuses it's energy on seed formation. The rhizobia can live in the soil for up to three years if soil conditions are right.

We turned in this small section of oats and peas before the flowering time because we needed the space. The rest of the oats and peas we hope to let mature and combine so that we have seed for next years cover cropping.
Chris is using the Soil Saver to turn in the oats and peas. It will take two passes over the course of a few weeks to kill this crop. It will take another few weeks for the organic matter to break down into fine enough pieces for the vegetable seeder to not get clogged up.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Playing in the Fields

Fun in the fields
We went for a big bike ride, up fields and down
We walked through the crops and checked them all out!

There was even time for playing with the rocks ....who needs building blocks when the rock rake leaves this behind!

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Bees are Busy

The locust trees are in full bloom right now and I wish that I could capture the sound while standing under the tree taking this picture. It was the sound of busy bees....Look hard enough and you can see one in this picture hard at work. We have thirteen hives on the farm managed by a local beekeeper and his son. They sell there honey at the Hudson farmer's market come mid-summer or so.
Bees are very important to us as they pollinate our squash and cucumber crops. Without pollination there is no fruit, so all the crops that are not self pollinating need bees to do the necessary work. Bees are very sensitive and have not fared well in the modern world of broad spectrum insecticides. We are happy to have these on the farm and be sure that there will be more pictures of these important unpaid workers on the farm.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Crop Update

The view of the upper fields from the high spot behind the strawberries

We planted day neutral strawberries this year and look forward to picking them all season long. We hope to be able to give strawberries one or two times to our CSA groups as well as offer them to our Farmer's Market customers. Notice the black plastic and the white plastic....the black will bring the plants planted on it in earlier while the white plastic will reflect the hot summer sun keeping those berries producing better in the height of the summer.

Garlic...Planted in the Fall it is the first to jump up in the spring and it will stay there until harvested mid summer. We offer the bulbs freshly pulled for the first week or so before we put them in our barn to cure. It is amazing how much more water is in the garlic before they are cured. Though it makes perfect sense, it never ceases to surprise people.

Here are the onions...they are looking great this year. They quickly rooted after transplanting and seem to be growing quickly...we do have a mild thrips population in our fields that often slows the growth of our onions come mid June...we will keep you updated!!!!
Mesclun waiting to be harvested. This picture was taken last week which means that these greens are being enjoyed by folks from Western Massachusetts to NYC across the Hudson in Woodstock and as far North as Glens Falls. Many a Memorial Day picnic will include these humble lettuces.
More greens; arugula, tatsoi and rapini to the rear. We grow all of these crops under floating row covers to keep the flea beetles off.

Peas, the most anticipated of the spring vegetables. Sweet and crisp they are welcome on many tables cooked or raw.

Here is our first planting of Kale. We have already planted our second planting while our third was just seeded in the greenhouse.
So there you have it, a quick update of where some of the crops are. Other than a few woodchucks nibbling here and there as well as some deer damage in the first planting of swiss chard and beets, things are off to a good start.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rock Raking

This week we were able to get our friend Matt to come and operate our rock rake on a few fields that we wanted to get ready to plant. This field was potatoes last year and we will be planting it with sorghum sudan grass some time in June. As a cover crop sorghum sudan adds large amounts of carbon the the soil, also known as organic matter, it provides the nitrogen producing soil organisms with food to keep them busy all next year when we will plant this field to vegetables again.
Ahhhhhh!!!!! This makes us happy, rows of rocks ready to be lifted by our rock picker. Though these rocks will be gone from the field forever tomorrow afternoon, there will be plenty more coming to the surface over the year. It is the nature of rocky soil to stay that way despite all our human efforts to change it. It will however make life easier for machine and man in the short term and in a few years we will pick this field again.

Tomorrow this will be in action...the rock picker, you can see the rakes that lift the rocks and deposit them into the rear box. Once full you drive to the ends of the fields and unload the rocks. Much smaller than those rocks used to make the famous stone wall all around New England, there must be something we can do with millions of fist sized rocks...ideas anyone????

Monday, May 25, 2009

The First Mowing

We are not baling hay yet...but today we got the mower out and started mowing for straw.
The Rye & Vetch last week The Rye & Vetch & Chris & Lael Today

We mowed all of our rye and Hairy Vetch today, it has been grown to enrich the soil with organic matter and to fix nitrogen. We grow many cover crops here on our farm, but the only ones that over winter (meaning they do not die with the frost) are Winter Rye and Hairy Vetch.
We will bale it up and use it as straw for our strawberries and garlic.