Distribution #7 – Week of July 19, 2021

The News from Windflower Farm

Hello from Windflower Farm, where we have spent recent evenings binge watching Downton Abbey. My favorite lines so far have come from the dowager countess, Maggie Smith’s character: “’Weekend,’ what’s a weekend?” But another line also resonates: According to Daisy, the kitchen maid, “No farmer is his own boss. He takes his orders from the sun and the snow and the wind and the rain.”

What’s in your share?

  • White cipollini onions
  • Hakurei turnips
  • Fordhook Swiss chard
  • Squash or cukes
  • Tendersweet cabbage
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Genovese basil

Your fruit shares will be blueberries from us or Yonder Farm. 

What’s new on the farm?

A Great Blue Heron flies low overhead on its way from one pond in the neighborhood to another. I am returning from the back fields with an empty sprayer. Leaf hoppers and Colorado potato beetles have moved into our potatoes and will ruin the crop if given enough time. In a brief window between rains, I have sprayed a brew of beneficial fungi, root extracts and soaps to slow the progress of the little bugs. Beetle larvae are straightforward in their attack: they eat leaves, and in their many thousands can eventually defoliate a crop. A good rotation is usually adequate to prevent infestation, but not this year. Leafhoppers are a little more complicated: they pierce and suck, using their proboscis like a straw, slurping the potato sap. They exude a toxin in the course of their feeding, and it is the “hopper burn” it produces that is most damaging to the plant. At this point, a spray is the only thing between a poor crop and a good one. 

The materials I’ve chosen to protect our crops are supposed to have minimal impact on non pest insects, but it is not zero impact. Bird chatter and distant tractors are the only sounds I hear as I write this, but I know that throughout the Americas and Europe songbirds are disappearing at an alarming rate, as are the insect populations upon which they depend. The heron, especially – perhaps because of its great size or its graceful flight – reminds me of what might be lost in the wake of climate change and habitat destruction. These encounters with our wild neighbors help me to take seriously my stewardship of this small farm and improve my decision making regarding our farming practices.

Have a great week, Ted

Distribution #6 – Week of July 12, 2021

The News from Windflower Farm

Hello from a wet Windflower Farm!

What’s in your share?

  • Yellow bulb onions
  • Ruby Red Swiss chard
  • Squashes or broccoli or beets
  • Cukes
  • Our last garlic scapes
  • Kohlrabi (perhaps our last)
  • Red Romaine lettuce
  • Red Russian kale
  • Our first tomatoes (just a few)
  • Genovese basil

Your fruit shares will consist of fresh blueberries from Yonder Farm. I asked Pete to set aside cherries for us, but the rain might have split them and he may have to send blueberries instead. Our own blueberries will come along soon and Pete’s peaches and plums will follow in the next few weeks. Cabbages, beets and more tomatoes will be in next week’s vegetable shares along with the usual salad crops.     

What’s new on the farm?

We have yet to put our rain gear away. Another 1¼” fell last week, it’s raining now, 2” are expected overnight and the forecast calls for a rainy week. Wet stretches are not uncommon in summer but organic vegetable farmers fear them because of the diseases they bring. We have effective tools against insect pests, and better and better equipment to deal with weeds, but we are poorly equipped when it comes to diseases. When downy mildew strikes cucumbers or basil, when powdery mildew infects zucchini, or when late blight attacks tomatoes, we are essentially helpless. Sprays only briefly postpone the inevitable. Our techniques are almost exclusively preventative: we select disease-resistant varieties when available, we plant in a way that encourages good air flow, we grow especially sensitive crops in greenhouses, and, as a last resort, we spray a material like copper or sulfur – both of which are approved for organic production. And when it appears that there is nothing else to do, we harvest early. Last weekend, weeks ahead of normal, we began harvesting garlic and onions. So far, so good. I’d like to tuck the whole farm indoors until all this blows over.

Have a great week, Ted

This just in!

The fruit share will be Yonder Farm peaches instead of blueberries tomorrow. Most likely, we’ll send our own organic blueberries next week. Let’s hope the birds stay away from them!
We hope you enjoy your shares this week!

Distribution #5 – Week of July 5, 2021

The News from Windflower Farm

Happy Independence Day from Windflower Farm!

What’s in your share?

  • Ruby Red Swiss chard
  • Scallions
  • Red beets
  • Toscano kale
  • Purple kohlrabi
  • New Red Fire lettuce
  • Squash and/or cukes
  • Garlic scapes

Sweet cherries from Yonder Farm will be in your shares this week.

Beets and Swiss chard are new to the lineup beginning this week. Cabbage, collard greens and fennel will be ready perhaps as early as next week, and our tomatoes are beginning to break orange and red and yellow, which means they might be read next week, too. Our first planting of sweet corn is in the whorl stage, so harvest is still three weeks away, putting it near the end of July. Last week, I called Martin Stosiek, a Columbia County farmer and friend who will be growing some of your beans. He says to expect them to be ready toward the end of July, too.

What’s new on the farm?

The rain gear came out this week. The gauge totaled 1 ½ inches after three rainy days, not nearly as much as what fell to the south and north of us, but enough to make my week. Ponds are full, the soil is at field capacity and irrigation can be scratched from the to-do list. Happy news. Tomorrow, after a day of sunshine, we’ll be back to planting. We have a round of cabbages and collards to transplant in the Cemetery Field and all kinds of salad greens slated for our biggest field. Field conditions are nearly perfect and I can’t wait for my planting team to arrive!   

A glimpse at this week’s weeding to-do list: Hand weed the last five beds of leeks and four of cabbage. Use the small four-row discs on the G tractor in beds of newly emerging carrots and beets. Set the flex-tine weeder on the back of the tractor to a light degree of pressure. Use the four-row Steketees on the steerable cultivator in the lettuces and radicchio. Use the large two-row hilling discs on the John Deere for the last corn cultivation in succession #1 and the small discs for successions #2 and #3. And pull the weeds emerging from the holes the sweet potatoes are planted into. It’s all hands on deck.

And so goes another week. I hope you have a great one, Ted

Distribution #4 – Week of June 28, 2021

The News from Windflower Farm

Greetings from Windflower Farm!

What’s in your share?

  • Arugula
  • Magenta lettuce
  • Russian kale
  • Bunched onions
  • Turnips or radishes
  • Cucumbers and/or squashes
  • Garlic scapes
  • Potted herbs

Fruit shares will consist of Yonder Farm’s cherries or, possibly, their strawberries. He says that it’s hard to predict – “the birds are getting one and the heat is getting the other.” All I know is that they’ll be good and freshly harvested.

A word on the list: The vegetable list I include in the newsletter is an approximation. A good deal can happen between the Sunday when I compose the list and harvest day. Lettuces can bolt in the heat, hard rains and birds can each ruin fruits, insects can devour leaves and cool or cloudy weather can delay squash and cucumber maturation, to name just a few things that can go wrong. Mother Nature is a full partner in the farm business.

What’s new on the farm?

Intense heat has returned to the farm this week. Although we haven’t turned to the nighttime harvesting schedule the Californians have, field work here starts very early. The harvest is completed by midmorning. By midday, the best work is in the cooler or under greenhouse shade cloth. But most of our day entails weeding in the field, and pacing ourselves in this heat is crucial. Pacing and water, lots of water.

Nate and Kristoffer are working on irrigation today, which entails trips from the field where they have set out sprinklers to the pond where our pump sits. Water is everywhere and opportunities to cool down are numerous. The long walk to the pond is through the woods, and the break from the sun is welcome, even if the humidity can be cut with a knife.

Once the harvest is done, the Medinas will head to the smaller of our two leek plantings to wrap up weeding there. Then they’ll pull weeds in a newly cultivated block of onions. Our tractor mounted equipment, if used in a timely fashion, can take care of 80 to 90% of the weeds. But hand weeding is always needed for the final clean-up.

Bonnie and Anthony, two teachers who are with us through the summer, are starting their day in the strawberries, from which they are harvesting fruit shares for our locals. Afterwards, they’ll ball up pieces of row cover, each 350’ long, which had formerly covered various Brassicas, protecting them from flea beetles. The balls will be nearly as tall as Bonnie by the end of the row, but she has learned that gravity can be helpful on a hill farm like ours, and the rolling is mostly downhill. Once done, they’ll join Angela in the shade (at last!) near the greenhouse, where they will pot up basil.

I’ll be in the field preparing beds for the next round of planting today. Tractor work. Successions of lettuces, kales, collards, cabbages, and broccoli must be continually sown, and spreading compost and shaping beds is ongoing. These are the crops of late summer and early fall.

Have a great week, Ted

Distribution #3 – Week of June 21, 2021

The News from Windflower Farm

Happy summer from Windflower Farm!

What’s in your share?

  • Dinosaur kale
  • Magenta Lettuce
  • Garlic scapes
  • Zucchini or summer squash
  • Purple kohlrabi
  • Bunched green onions
  • Boc Choy OR Arugula
  • Potted Rosemary

Fruit shares will consist of sweet cherries from Yonder Farm. Next week, we’ll be heading down to Yonder Farm in Columbia County for more strawberries and perhaps some rhubarb. Then, we’ll either be back here for our blueberries or stay with Yonder for their delicious sweet cherries.

Our cucumbers will be starting next week, and should begin to yield significant fruit in the week after. In the meantime, zucchinis and squashes are starting and will be in many shares this week and most next week. Japanese turnips, red beets and purple and green kohlrabi are all on the cusp of ready and will begin showing up shortly.

Last Monday’s rain totaled 8/10ths, but it’s been dry since, with little chance of rain in the forecast, and so we are back at our irrigation routine. With some new equipment, and water in abundant supply, it is not bad work. Today, it was cucumbers, squashes, melons and tomatoes, tomorrow it will be peppers, teenage salad greens and new seedings of beets, carrots and arugula.

What’s new on the farm?

Although we won’t be shipping tomatoes to you for another three or four weeks, we’ve been spending quite a bit of time with our tomato crop lately. Tomatoes are vining plants, and if allowed to grow without intervention a single plant will produce dozens of vines. Each tomato plant is trained to two leaders by pinching out all of the new vines or suckers that come along over the course of the season. Each leader is trained to climb a string that is suspended from one of the trusses that form the greenhouse roof. The plants are four to five feet tall at present, but by season’s end, they will be eight or ten feet high. This year, we’ve filled three high tunnels and a dozen smaller tunnels with tomatoes, so keeping on top of tomato pruning takes a lot of time. A look at our tomato greenhouses is to know that the Medinas are caring and skilled craftsmen. Salvador and Candelaria have taught the rest of their family well, and together they make order out of our tomato jungle. They haul out crates and crates of newly pinched suckers each time they prune, tossing them onto the compost pile, and carefully wrap the tomato leaders around the strings they climb on. By the end, a tomato vine will have been wrapped twenty times or more around its string. It’s pleasant work, and the Medina’s conversation and laughter is unceasing. To watch them work is a joy.

Best wishes, Ted