Tuesday, August 2, 2011

First CSA Pick-Up and Some Summertime Thoughts

It's August! 

These last couple of weeks have been so fun! Watching the plants we've been laboring over since early Spring finally begin to ripen into beautiful red tomatoes, yellow peppers and purple eggplants, or curl up into little cabbage heads, or lengthen into zucchinis, has been incredibly satisfying. 

Our first CSA pick-up is tomorrow. Yesterday we cleaned up our work area to create a nice space for our members to come get their shares and today we will begin to collect vegetables. And we have much to offer!
      The farm share this week will have:

      Mixed lettuce greens
      Eggplant (large share only)
      Red and White Russian Kale
      Cherry tomatoes
      Baby summer squash
      Fresh basil
      Super red cabbage

Inside a sunburst patty pan squash plant

Sungold cherry tomatoes 

Our basil patch

With August has also arrived a host of new considerations and problems to solve. These last couple of weeks I have started seeding the fall crops: storage cabbages, hearty winterbor kale, onions, lots of beets, asian greens and lettuces. Despite our irrigation system, we were having a hard time getting enough water on our seeds in the field, so I seeded a lot of our new crops in flats. Soon we'll have a bunch of transplanting to do. 

Our lettuces have been bolting quickly in the heat, and some of the heads have become so bitter I've had a hard time even getting the chickens to eat them! It's maddening to see crops get wasted in the field due to poor planning and timing. Next year, I have vowed to been more diligent about planting succession crops consistently, and in smaller batches. I'm pretty sure a lot of my February and March 2012 will be spent designing spreadsheets. 

Our personal lists of equipment we want for next season grow steadily longer, and a seeder is definitely at the top of mine. There's a lot to be said for doing things by hand, experiences like kneeling among the beds placing beet seeds one by one in rows has forced me to really understand and appreciate every part of the growing process. I can, for example, immediately identify a beet seed vs a kale seed vs a lettuce seed (frustratingly tiny!). At the same time, if small scale organic gardeners had any time to write songs, I'm pretty sure most of them would be odes to well designed tools. 

We also are thinking about constructing a hoop house this fall, to help us extend our season and give us more space to start seedlings. This decision in turn begets new decisions: How should we build it? Where should we build it? How big should it be? Where to get the money? We've been considering different grant and fund-raising options but each comes with it's own set of problems (and paperwork). 

Our egg production has slowly been dwindling, as many of our layer hens grow too old to produce consistently. Tomorrow morning we are planning on culling our flock, aka killing the hens that are no longer producing enough to justify feeding them. Instead, they will feed us now (everything feeds something around here). As our old flock decreases, however, our thoughts turn to next year. Laying hens can take between 4 to 6 months to start producing eggs, and we want to make sure that we have lots of eggs for the beginning of next season in order to supply the increasing demand. We need to figure out how many we should get, and where we are going to raise them and keep them over the winter. The hoop house would also be a good place to keep chickens after it gets to cold outside to house them in tractors. 

So as our hands do Summer's work, thinning, seeding, weeding and harvesting, our minds are two or three or five months in the future, building hoop houses and designing succession planting spreadsheets.

Popping a warm just-picked sungold cherry tomato into my mouth, however, there's no denying it's definitely August. And we're doing our best to enjoy every minute of it.

Black Brook Farm Growers lunch


  1. G - how do you determine which hens are laying and which aren't? - and your lunch looks delicious!

  2. We flipped them over and measured the distance between their pelvic bones (near their vents). If you can fit three fingers between the pelvic bones on the hen's behind she is probably laying. If you can't, then she probably isn't.