Thursday, September 29, 2011

Week of August 29 2011 : Scare Eyes

Here is a photo of Nathaniel helping rotate the scare eyes out in the sweet corn fields. He is carrying the new yellow eye out to the field. Soon he will carry the black eye in from the field. Notice the purposeful stride and intense stare. This job was getting done right!

Late in the season, flocking birds congregate around corn fields and scavenge the field for bugs and worms. Unfortunately they also quickly learn that, with just a few pecks, they can shred open the corn husks and eat the kernels.

Damage is worse during hot, dry seasons as birds aggressively search for sources of water. Once the birds establish an eating pattern, it is very hard to break that habit. So it is a wise investment to spend a little time now to prevent this bad habit from forming later.

Various scare tactics are available and each offer varying degrees of success. My favorite, of course, are the propane cannons which are very inappropriate for our farm. The only appropriate tactic are the scare eyes. This tactic is effective ... the trick is to rotate colors and positions every few days.

Nathaniel likes to ride on my shoulders as we walk through the rows. The neighbors cannot see me; what they can see is a 3 foot short toddler with shaggy red hair carrying giant eye balls floating above the 7 foot tall stalks. Kinda scary!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Week of August 22 2011 : Shoes or Canoes?

Here is a photo of a Vegetable Spaghetti Squash. Also in the photo is my Grand Mother's cleaver which is very useful to cut the squash and also useful for perspective. It is a large knife and the squash is even larger!

One of the side effects of having quality produce growing in the back yard is determining what to do with the harvest. When the harvest is large and exceeds our family's needs, the excess unquestionably goes to market. But what about the earliest of the early, the over achievers, that one fruit or vegetable that miraculously ripens before the rest of its kind? Eating the first of the season is a special thrill. But selling the first of the season is our goal, too.

Sometimes those are the beginnings of interesting household conversations which is to say tense negotiations.

After bringing this squash in from the fields, I headed towards the scale to measure it's weight and assess it's quality. Laura turned on the oven and reached for the cutting board and cleaver.

These negotiations were not tense. She had the cleaver so she won.

Actually the whole family won. She turned the squash into focal point of the most amazing dinner. It's one of the many reasons winter squash is really exciting (even if this is still summer).

Friday, September 2, 2011

Week of August 15 2011 : Skunk Works

Here is a photo of our elusive skunk. It's all grainy and inconclusive just like an "authentic" Sasquatch or Loch Ness Monster photo. I know I am not alone when I work the farm after dark. As I pan my headlamp across the orchard I always see eyes glaring back at me. But our skunk is different. When I am out snapping ears, he is working the fields with to me.

Unlike raccoons, skunks cannot climb corn stalks very well and are not smart enough to bend the stalks until they can reach the ear. Our skunk sometimes works an older stand to scavenge ears as stalks break naturally. Other times he is much bolder as he will work the same stand I am working.

He follows my movements and waits for me to drop an ear. The first time I went back to retrieve a dropped ear and it was not there, I called it a mental mistake and attributed it to fatigue. The second time it happened, though, I stopped and listened. Just a few rows away, masked by night and fog, our skunk was shucking husks and nibbling kernels.

Thankfully our skunk is well mannered and observes proper sweet corn stand etiquette. There have been no spray downs.

So far the only evidence the skunk exists are nibbled ears and a grainy photo.