Tuesday, October 16, 2007

those hot crops that never quite heated up, cover-cropping et al.

Hey there,

It's Tuesday afternoon and I just got done with delivering, picked up produce boxes from The Village Pub, had a little lunch there and now I'm on the way home, stopping briefly at the Woodside Library for a little blogging.

I delivered "Blacktail Mountain" watermelons today, and watched as the chefs at the Pub opened one up. It was mealy and over-ripe. This is the first time I've brought melons in, and the cooks were surprised that the melons came so late. Fact is, I've been waiting and waiting, watching them, testing them to see if they come off the vine easily, or have that sweet smell, and neither has happened. Finally on Sunday Mark Sullivan, the executive chef at Spruce restaurant in S.F., was over at the farm and tried one of them out. He thought they were OK. So I decided to harvest and deliver them today.

I'm a little out of my depth with melons at this point. I was told last year to wait until those telltale signs, mentioned above, were apparent. but apparently, I was wrong, at least on the subject of watermelons. I must find out some more info on how to tell when to pick 'em.

The tomatoes have been a semi-disappointment so far too. I planted a bunch in early may, and those have been good so far -- mostly sungold cherry tomatoes, which are fabulous. there was a second batch, planted almost a month later, that are just chock-full of fruits but never got ripe -- the hot weather just never came this summer, and now it's mid-October and raining. We never got an Indian Summer either. Last October, my mentor and ex-SMIP farmer Martin Bournonhesque called the weather we were having "Indian Bummer," because it was so much less warm than usual; but this year is ridiculous; we're getting into the forties in the evening now, and it's rained almost an inch and a half in the last week. He discouraged me from trying to ripen the tomatoes inside, saying that my focus should really be on weeding the fall/winter acre I am behind on, and that I'm not gonna get enough yield from the ones I bring inside to really make a difference anyway.

Now the subject of cover-cropping is up. I should get a tractor to disc in the summer field, about 2/3 of the acreage I have, soon, then spreading cover crop -- beans, vetch, etc. -- plus any amendments, and then get the tractor to return to disc in those seeds, which will then be watered by the rain and need no further management till next spring, when they'll get turned in, in preparation for planting the summer field for next year. But there is a much narrower window in which to do this cover-cropping, because of the rain situation. Right now, the field is wet but still workable. If it continues to rain though, it will be too muddy for any machinery. According to Martin, it will be dumping rain by the end of November. So I have this window of a few weeks in which to find out the costs of cover-cropping, hire a tractor driver, order seeds, pull up all the summer crops I can salvage and remove all the drip irrigation, before the work can be done. It's daunting, because there's so much OTHER work to be done -- namely harvesting and weeding/thinning, in the fall/winter field that's inundated with weeds. I'm organizing a work party at the end of the month, which should help speed some of the prep for the cover-cropping along.

On a different note, I'm still trying to manage the onslaught of produce that's coming out of the field. Winter squash, beans, tomatoes, cooking and salad greens, roots, herbs, etc. -- so much! And the field is soaking wet, which makes harvesting, or any kind of work, much slower, as the mud cakes to the boots, making walking difficult. thankfully, I believe I am done with the bush beans as of today, and probably the zukes/cukes as well. No more squash blossoms or basil either. On the other hand, I have sunchokes, pumpkins, delicata squash, some shell beans and the requisite staples like beets, turnips, dandelion greens, lettuce, etc. Radishes should be done in a week or two.

And that's it for today. Thanks again for listening.


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