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 

Distribution #2 – Week of June 14, 2021

The News from Windflower Farm

Hello from Windflower Farm!

What’s in your share?

  • Purple ruffled kale
  • Magenta Lettuce
  • Garlic scapes
  • Arugula
  • White salad turnips
  • Bunched green onions
  • Bok Choy
  • Potted herb

Fruit shares will consist of our own organically grown strawberries.

What’s new on the farm?

A quick check of the rain gauge this morning left me with the contented feeling that comes with knowing a half week’s hard slog dragging irrigation pipe all over the farm can be put off for a few days. The ground had become parched, but the gauge showed a ½ inch and it’s raining still.

Nate and I were bicycling around the neighborhood yesterday and were reminded of how widespread the practice of conservation tillage has become among the county’s corn farmers. The equipment and herbicide programs needed to make no-till corn planting work are well established. Rows of young corn plants were emerging from the stubble of last year’s crop.

Organic no-till farming, on the other hand, has been a long time in development. Weeds are the main problem. How does one manage weeds without tillage (or herbicides)? But with each of us needing to do our part to reduce our carbon footprint, we thought we’d give it a try.

For years, we’ve grown cover crops on the farm to maintain healthy soil organic matter levels and to reduce erosion. This year, we’ve let a dense rye crop grow on two fields of about an acre and a half each, and this week, we’ll roll the rye and plant winter squashes into those beds.

We will use a crimper to roll the rye, which currently stands about 5’ high, to form a dense, weed suppressive mat. We’ll be using a technique called zone-tillage. Instead of plowing or disking to make a weed-free, bare ground bed in which to plant our vegetable seedlings, we’ll cut narrow slots into the rye mulch using large fluted coulters and a narrow shank. Making this tool is my work for today. We’ll then plant squashes that have been growing in our greenhouse since late May into the slots.

With any luck, the squash plants will have vined out and taken over the field before any weeds have the chance to poke through the rye mulch and become a problem. What could go wrong?

Have a great week, Ted

Distribution #1 – Week of June 7, 2021

The News from Windflower Farm

Greetings from Windflower Farm! I hope that you and yours are healthy. Thank you on behalf of everyone here at the farm for purchasing a share in our 2021 season. We hope you enjoy the experience.

What’s in your share?

  • Romaine lettuce (‘Coastal Star’)
  • Red Russian kale
  • Arugula
  • Red radishes
  • Bunched green onions
  • Potted green or Thai basil

During the first few weeks, shares are always light – spring is often slow in coming to the upper Hudson Valley and, this year, it’s been a roller coaster ride. For now, it’s salad season! Next week, you’ll get Dinosaur kale, garlic scapes, bok choy, kohlrabi and more lettuce and arugula. Sweet spring turnips and our first squashes and zucchinis will come along soon. Strawberries are getting underway and will be in all fruit shares on Tuesday and an indefinite number of shares on Thursday.

Keeping your share longer than just a day or two takes a few simple steps. First, remove your share from the bag it came in. Please try to reuse the bag if you can. It will make for a good trash bag liner if nothing else (we cannot take it back, but we’d be happy to take your boxes back). Second, rinse everything, particularly the greens, in cold water. Third, spin or gently shake the greens to remove excess water. Finally, place the contents of your share in a perforated bag in the refrigerator. The crisper drawer is made for this, but the bottom shelf will do. 

What’s new on the farm?

Today’s field work was focused on roots and tubers. Much of the staff were engaged in planting sweet potatoes. The slips arrive from North Carolina bare rooted, jammed 1000 to a box. We plant them out one at a time into mulched beds and, in weather like this, they wilt instantly. We irrigate them as soon as we can after setting them out and usually find them standing up straight soon afterwards. We should have them all planted by Tuesday. The cold sweet potato soup I had for lunch today reminds me of why we grow this crop. My day was spent hilling potatoes. It’s gratifying work if you’re a vegetable farmer. A couple of years ago, I purchased an Italian machine that perfectly envelopes the emerging tubers in a hill of newly composted soil, dislodging and burying any weeds in the same step. This week, we’ll finish planting the year’s sweet potatoes and eggplants and plant second and third successions of sweet corn, red and green cabbages, collards, kales and a variety of lettuces.

I hope you have a great week, Ted