This week’s storm delivered a full inch of precipitation to the farm along with some fierce wind. It’s the first rainfall we’ve had since July 14th and it was enough to allow us to turn off all our irrigation for the week (a lovely reprieve from the usual schedule). The wind snapped branches, knocked over dahlia plants, and sent our floating row cover flying – but it was worth it: the sun rose over a sparkly-clean farm this morning. It was high time for a good, soaking rain.
We paid a small price in the form of some ruined berries and split cherry tomatoes, but the damage wasn’t terrible. If you come to u-pick at the farm this week, you’ll want to be selective in your raspberry harvest; there is still lots of good fruit, but the ripest berries got a beating in the storm. Same goes for the strawberries: beware of water damage, especially where the berries are in contact with the ground. The strawberries and cherry tomatoes in your share this week were picked carefully, but nonetheless you may want to eat them quickly – or sort through them - in case they have a shorter shelf life.
We are grateful for a little rain, but of course are now hoping that it stays sunny for a spell – at least long enough that we can get our winter squash harvested and cured in the field! Ideally we need about a week of dry, 70 degree weather to pull it off perfectly.
This was a sad week of reckoning in the carrot field. We encountered our first damaged carrots of the season, due to a difficult pest called carrot rust fly. We’ve battled carrot rust fly in years past, mostly in the fall. The damage looks like little rust-colored tunnels just under the surface of the carrot skin. The tunnels are caused by the larvae of the carrot rust fly, which feede on the carrot taproot before pupating and hatching into a fly. Usually the larva do only localized damage to a carrot, so it’s easy enough to cut around the imperfections. But the cosmetic blemish they leave makes it difficult to commercially market the carrots. That means that when we bunch carrots for the farmstand or local stores we have to painstakingly pull all the carrots, lug them to the farm road, rinse them off with the hose, check each and every one for damage, and then make our bunches (versus simply pulling carrots and bunching them on the spot in the field). At least half of our harvest finds its way into a “cull” bucket, destined either for the horses’ trough or the compost.
There are ways to prevent carrot rust fly infestations, and in fact, last year we did. We carefully covered every single carrot bed with floating row cover. It prevented the flies from laying their eggs in the soil near the carrots, and as a result we had mostly clean carrots all fall. So why didn’t we do it again this year? The primary reason was weed control. Unfortunately, the row cover has a certain psychological effect on a farmer: if you can’t see what’s under it, then everything must be fine! The reality, however, is that the weeds grow like crazy under the row cover. Which means that to grow a weed-free bed of carrots under row cover, we have to take the row cover off of each bed every week, hand and tractor cultivate it, and then put the row cover back on, adding hours of extra work to what is otherwise a relatively quick weekly zip-zip with the tractor and a hoe.
So, we hoped that maybe the flies wouldn’t find us this summer – since we didn’t have any last summer - and we left the carrots uncovered. In July it seemed like the only way to keep our crop weed-free. Of course now that it’s nearly October and our carrots are coming up ugly, I wish we had covered them. Next year I’m sure we will. I’m always learning. Always.
The long and short of it is that there are some not-so-perfect carrots in your totes this week. I am grateful that the bulk of our farming efforts are on behalf of you, our Harvest Basketeers, because I can explain issues like carrot rust fly damage and hope that you won’t mind cutting around those ugly tunnels in your carrots. I also did a quick assay of all the upcoming carrot beds still to be harvested and didn’t find much damage – yet. There are multiple hatches of larva throughout the summer, so we most likely will see more rust fly damage even if it’s not apparent right now. That said, I haven’t given up on this year’s crop; I’m doing a little detective work today to figure out if it’s still worth covering our youngest beds of carrots. The carrots represent a huge investment of time and money, so if we still have a chance we’ll try to outsmart the rust fly yet.
Bulk Sweet Peppers Available!
They just keep coming!
Roasters (the kind you've been getting in your tote the past few weeks):
· 5 pound minimum order (that's about 20 peppers)
· Cost is $20
· Primarily red in color
OR, get a color mix - red, yellow, orange, purple, white, green:
· 5 pound minimum order
· Cost is $20
Reply to this email with your name, phone number and pickup location if you'd like to order. We'll deliver to your pick-up site.
In your share this week:
- Head Lettuce
- Red Onions
- Yellow Finn Potatoes
- Sweet Peppers
- Cherry Tomatoes
Please note: all of our produce is field-rinsed, not washed. We recommend you wash all of your produce before eating it.
Last year we asked all of you this simple question: would you rather receive a big head of celery once in the season, or a handful of celery stalks multiple times throughout the Fall? The response was overwhelmingly in favor of stalks. So stalks it is, just in time for the onset of Soup Season!
Our celery this year seems to be especially pumped up: it’s big, juicy, sweet and tender - worthy of a snack of “ants on a log” or a slather of cream cheese, if you opt to eat it fresh instead of as a seasoning for soups or sautees. You might get a stalk or two that have some scars on the rib. It appears that the celery has been playing host to some resident garden slugs who have done some opportunistic nibbling in a few places. Just cut around the defects if you encounter any.
Storage: in a plastic bag in the fridge. Will hold for a week or two.
Farm Fact of the Week:
In our little world, food preservation madness has begun. We don’t do a lot of canning in the summer (aka “swimming season”), but once the weather turns towards autumn and the creek is chilly we start to spend a lot of Sundays in the kitchen shoving food into jars. Dilly beans, tomatoes, salsa, applesauce, canned pears, dried plums, frozen berries, jam, hot sauce, pickles. We use up all the culls and seconds – the split tomatoes and deformed peppers and blemished berries – in what is an ongoing, breathless obsession to make all the food disappear. This past Sunday was a marathon of salsa-making at my house. Twenty-four pints and 10 hours later, there is a part of me that asks, “is it really worth it?” My mom spent her entire Sunday picking, packing and pickling to make a case of dilly beans. She emerged from the kitchen with this to say: “Damn country living!!”
It’s a lot to be the farmer and the food preserver (and it’s why my mom, sister and I all wish we had wives). But come January when the nights are long and the woodstove is warm we’ll crack into a jar of homegrown tomatoes and be assured that yes, without a doubt, it was worth it.