Saturday, June 18, 2011

Week of June 20 2011 : No Vacancy

Here is a photo of the nest boxes, two rows of winter squash, and the edge of the sweet corn field.

The nest boxes have been busy all spring. The Peterson box in the foreground has already fledged 5 Eastern blue birds. While the parents raise the young in the refuge of the apple trees another pair is building a second nest.

The NABS box is the background contains a tree swallow nest with 7 hatchlings. Blue birds are very charming but tree swallows have personality too. They are such acrobatic flyers. They really put on an air show as they pluck bugs from mid air to feed 7 hungry beaks.

Obviously the winter squash still have some growing to do. Now that all the seeds are sown all we need to do is give them plenty of space and time to do their thing. As the summer grows on we will show you just how exciting winter squash really are.

The sweet corn is all planted too. Since the first stand was delayed a few weeks we had to rapidly adjust our production schedule. Usually we plant eight stands and harvest late July through mid September. This year we consolidated three stands; two early stands and one late stand were rolled into mid season stands. As a result we will have only five stands but each harvest will be larger.

The added bonus is we wont have to fight late season earworm pressure. Organic control techniques just cant quite keep up with the intense pressure of the last few seasons.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Week of June 13 2011 :

After the main season transplants were set in the field, we focused on direct seeding the cucumbers, summer and winter squash, and sweet corn.

The cucumbers and summer squash were planted nearly two weeks later than scheduled. Although the warmer days of June and July will help compensate for some of the cooler days of May, the delayed planting means the initial harvest will still be delayed at least one week.

The winter squash was planted nearly on schedule. Since these are late season, storage type vegetables there is less of an emphasis on early harvest. The concern is these squash typically have such long maturities (110 days is common) and these maturities have to be reached before the first hard frost. If the first hard frost occurs prior to full maturity then the long term storage qualities are compromised.

Over the past few years I have developed a huge interest in winter squash. It is such the uncool, nerdy vegetable on the farm. But during those cold winter months, long after all the flashy summer vegetables have disappeared, there is always a hip-to-be-square squash ready to provide you with a warm and hearty meal.

This year we boosted our winter squash production for the Geauga Fresh Farmer's Market. And recently we received a call from the market manager asking if we would provide blue hubbards for a sustainability initiative dinner that will be hosted at Lakeland College this fall. We are so excited someone shares our interest in winter squash!

We are growing three varieties of hubbards. Of course, we grow the classic New England strain which weighs in at 20+ lbs. Too often we sell these as alternatives to Halloween pumpkins rather than as food.

We also grow more marketable baby strains which weigh in around 4 - 6 lbs. We have always had positive reviews of the Blue Ballet variety. It is unusually sweet for a squash. Now we are trialing the Blue Magic variety too.

And we grow Honey Bear acorn, Metro butternut and Vegetable spaghetti squash to round out the classical offerings.

Trust me, I am not eager for the arrival of fall. But I was thinking of recipes as I planted these seeds!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Week of June 6 2011 : Empty

(Here is a photo of the portable greenhouse. Most people will see Nathaniel attempting pullups in an otherwise empty greenhouse, but my mind's eye still sees the 512 transplants waiting desperately for satisfactory field conditions.)

The greenhouse truly saved the season this year. Earlier this spring my off-farm employer sent me to Atlanta for a week. This was great professional opportunity except the cold, wet and windy conditions were less than ideal for starting seeds.

An extra layer of plastic was placed over the greenhouse and weighted down with cinder blocks. I left for the the airport and hoped the seedlings would survive 5 unattended days despite the 40 per hour wind gusts.

Thanks to the greenhouse all seedlings survived. Yeah! Some plants were a bit spindly but very much alive and healthy.

The peppers, eggplants and tomatoes were the first wave to be transplanted. The cantaloupes and watermelons part of the second wave. Transplanting was successful and vigorous new growth is already evident.