Thursday, April 19, 2012

Come take a ride with me.

Hop on the cart! We are going to check out what is going on at the farm today.

First stop, CSA field.  The Swiss Chard is coming along nicely!

G. is sweeping out the building for the farm tour and meeting we have later today.

Pop-Pop is cut-harrowing more ground for corn. 

It is so dry, which makes it extra dusty. I'm glad i didn't just clean my windows.  This field is right across from my house.
There goes Farmer A on a dirt bike, zooming past our pokey cart.  He is going to adjust the cut-harrow.
CORN!  It's really enjoying the sun today. Most rows are covered with plastic for typical April weather, but the plastic on this row was removed by the wind.
The pickle, cantaloupes, and watermelons all covered with tunnels.
A peek inside one of the tunnels lets you see the plants, enjoying the sun shine and the protection from the harsh winds.
Across the hedgerow I hear the pipe wagon coming to the field. These guys are laying out sprinkler pipe.  Farmer A, planted corn late last night and it needs some water to germinate the seed. The ground is soooo dry.  So R., Q. and D. will spend most of the morning moving pipe around so this corn can get the water it needs. Then Farmer E will be spending some quality time with the irrigation pump tonight.
Can you see the rows from the corn planter?
Then we swing around to the greenhouses. I don't mention the hydroponic tomatoes much on the blog or facebook, because we don't include them in the CSA, but if you shop at our farmers markets in May and June you will see these available.  Come check us out at the Collingswood Farmers Market every Saturday starting in May and Headhouse Farmers' Market every Sunday starting in May.
These tomatoes are grown completely in water.  We start the seed January 1st, so we can harvest about the same time as strawberries. 

The first tomato field.  The same tomatoes mentioned in this post.

Next we stopped by the strawberry field.  The fruit is sizing.  My mouth is watering! Can't wait!
Finally, we find Farmer E, and D. working on the irrigation for the CSA field.  Did I mention it is sooo DRY!
Farmer E gets a call from the guys with sprinkler pipe, they need another piece of pipe and some connectors.  No problem. Farmer E will throw it on his shoulder, hop on the speedy dirt bike, and be there in no time.
I come in from my adventure and find Gram baking.  Making cookies and goodies for coffee break. Yum!  Everyday around 9:15 all work stops for a brief coffee break. These workers need their coffee break! It was good to see that everyone is busy out there. The workers are working and the plants are growing. It's the most wonderful time of the year. Thanks for coming along for the ride.  See ya next time!         

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tomato Testing Days

The saga continues for these precious tomato plants. 

Yes, those are icicles hanging from the tomato plants.  This picture was taken at sunrise Saturday morning.

They were planted out in the field on Friday.  
Then the came the FROST warning Saturday morning.  I don't need to tell you how devastating a frost can be on an early spring crop.

There are a couple different things we can do to combat frost:

1. The old school way was to burn tires in the field at various locations.  The idea with that was the rising heat would create air circulation and prevent the coldest air from settling at ground level (which contributes to frost).   It is questionable whether this helps at all.  And we didn't have any scrap tires handy.
2. The fancy way to prevent frost is to use a row cover, which is basically a blanket that covers the crop and intercepts the frost.  This is expensive and time consuming and we weren't prepared to do this for the tomatoes.

Behind door #3---Is our contestant of choice.  Sprinklers.  We have them handy and they were set up in a couple of hours.

 Sprinklers work because the water temperature is above freezing and as long as you can keep the tomato plants wet, they won't freeze.  Sometimes the water freezes on the plants!  This can even happen when temperatures are above freezing, due to evaporative cooling.

 This was the case Saturday morning.
 Air temperature 39F + Humidity 40% + Dew point 25F = water freezes.
The tomato plants are still okay, because they are not damaged unless the temperature drops below 30F and you'll remember from IPS that whenever water and ice exist as a mixture the temperature is always 32F (at sea level).
This is the wireless thermometer that let us know at 3am that the dew point was below freezing.

The tomatoes made it through the freeze, but they weren't out of the woods yet.  Monday the sun is shining and the wind is BLOWING.  40 MPH gusts.  Almost all of the stems held strong.

 Some did not. This guy was too soft.  He didn't make it.

Overall the tomato field is still looking great, and the dream of 4th of July tomatoes is still alive!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Little Tomato Story

 You ever have those moments in your childhood that stand as a marker or turning point?  When you are really affected and the memory lasts and your heart still feels funny when you think back.  This is one of those times.

4th grade.  Recess.  Basketball Court. Anyway I rode the bus home and walked into the shop where my dad was servicing a tractor.  I stood by the wood stove to warm my hands.  My dad asked me how my day was.  I didn't know that I wanted to talk about it.  As I stood there in front of the wood stove I explained my sorrows.  I told him how the other kids didn't think I was any good at basketball and always put me on a team with the other "losers" so they could easily beat us.  They had been doing this everyday for weeks.  I had been practicing, but I just never seemed to get any better.  I felt like I didn't have a friend in the world.  It felt hopeless.

Then he explained to me what would become known as "The Little Tomato Story".

You see when a little tomato plant is in the greenhouse if it gets all the water it needs it will grow fast and tall and be lush and green.  If you take a tomato plant like that and put it outside in the field, it will stand no chance.  It is too soft.  It will fall over in the wind and die.

But if you take that little tomato plant while it is still in the greenhouse and hold back on the water, it is going to wilt.  It looks bad at the time, but what is going on is important.  When that tomato plant wilts it makes the stem tougher and the roots grow deep as they search for water.  When you put this tomato plant out in the field the stem will be strong enough to stand against the wind.

I knew what he meant. It helped.

---Farmer Eric

James 1:2-4 "Consider it pure joy, my brothers , whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Corn Planting Day!

All this effort to get Buzby Corn 7-10 days earlier. . .


 We use this tunnel layer to make mini greenhouses over each row of corn.
My Farm Guy shovels down the plastic at the beginning and end of each row.  He is a pro at the shovel.
 Farmer A. is the wire flicker.  He puts a wire in at just the right time. The tunnel layer has clippers that grab the wire, bend it, and shove it into the ground.  The wires form the tunnel.
 The rig is well known for being fussy and trouble-ridden.  Notice above Farmer A. doing a side plank, trying to fix a wire that got out of place. Honestly, the machine has a reputation for making good men curse.
 But it is pretty cool when it works. Cute little tunnels all in a row.
 Happy corn plants safe from the harsh spring winds.
 These plants were started in the greenhouse, just a couple weeks ago.
Here the clippers have grabbed the wire and are beginning to bend the wire.

 The little wheels in the back put tension on the plastic and hold in on the ground while the discs throw dirt on to hold it in place.
 It really is amazing to watch.
Lily the dedicated farm dog.  She is haulin' to keep up with the dirt bike. Eric racing back from the shop with a tool to tweak the tunnel layer.
 Just on the other side of the roadway the planter is trudging along.  This carousel-like wheel has pockets to place the plants in. The pockets dig a whole and drop the plant, then the tubes in back gives each plant a shot of water.
 One row at a time, up and back, all day long. (But really fun, I LOVE riding the planter!)
Waiting for the next crew to come and get covered with a tunnel.
 Reload the planter at the end of each row.
 And give the packer wheels a kick to get the mud off, just for good measure.
And what is a little guy supposed to do while mama is taking forever to take some pics?. . . play in the sand!