Archive for July, 2015

Mid Summer on the Farm

July 20, 2015

This is pretty good for me, adding more than one blog posting per summer! I find that I often look back on previous year’s postings to see where we were at on this date last year. It is helpful to gauge how good a year we’re having and, if it’s not that great, what to prepare for in months to come. I have a feeling that this will not be a great year for the heat loving crops especially corn and sweet potatoes. We planted lots of squash so even if they don’t produce hugely, we’ll have enough. Cucumbers and eggplant are growing inside the coldframe so they’ll be okay in a cool season, and tomatoes will probably be a bit happier in these low 20 degree Celcius temperatures. Potatoes, brassicas and lettuce are loving the cool, wet weather of recent days and beets and carrots are really growing, too. So if the cool weather continues and we have an early frost, we’ll probably only suffer reduced yields in a few areas.

We are having an amazing growing year, despite the slow start and crazy weather. I think our soil has reached a point where the nutrient balance, pH and level of biological activity are perfectly suited to vegetable growth. I think we have also come a long way in our vegetable-growing knowledge and that makes all the difference, too. We have a lot of help on the farm this season so are a bit more on top of weeds, though they are still growing like mad. July is weed month and all we can do is keep on weeding and try to keep them under control.

Sasso chicks are almost two months old and have grown a lot

Sasso chicks are almost two months old and have grown a lot

Mobile chicken pen with Sassos works its way through next year's vegetable field

Mobile chicken pen with Sassos works its way through next year’s vegetable field

The Sasso chicks are doing really well and, other than one fatality during an early attempt at moving the pen, we haven’t lost one. The mobile pen works beautifully, too. It has wheels at the far end that can be lowered into place to make moving the pen a job easily done by a 100 lb woman. Now this is appropriate technology on the farm! We move the pen twice a day to give them lots of grass and a clean place to live, as well as to give us a good, even spread of manure over the field. The chickens are all pretty much sold at this point and I’m sure they’ll be tasty.

Cucumbers in the coldframe are doing well

Cucumbers in the coldframe are doing well

We are still finding cucumber beetles in our carefully screened coldframe, but there are much fewer of them and the damage is a lot less. By this time last year we’d lost more than half of the first planting to bacterial wilt whereas this year we’ve only lost 2 of the 65 plants. They are producing well and we had our first pick last Friday. We also have yellow sticky traps placed among the plants and they help catch the beetles as well. The unpleasant job of cleaning and re-stickying them is coming up and I guess we’ll draw straws to see who gets to do it!

Tomatoes and peppers in the high tunnels

Tomatoes and peppers in the high tunnels

We are starting to see our first ripe cherry tomatoes, which seems earlier than usual to me. Perhaps the cold stress during June triggered an early ripening? We aren’t complaining at all! The plants are doing well though the job of pruning and training has become quite onerous with the higher density of plants.

The fields in mid July

The fields in mid July

I took a picture of the least weedy area, just so everything looks good! We seem to have fewer of many different pests this year. We had no root maggot in the radishes and very little in the salad turnips. We are seeing very few cabbage worm moths and the potato beetles arrived very late, though they are here in full force now! Though we have cucumber beetle in the coldframe, we are seeing next to none in the fields on the zucchini, melons and squash. The long cold winter and late spring may have brought some blessings as well as problems!

One of this year's jobs, re-siding the barn, turned up some structural issues that must be dealt with

One of this year’s jobs, re-siding the barn, turned up some structural issues that must be dealt with

Unfortunately an already big and expensive job has gotten even bigger and more expensive: the corner post helpng support the barn is completely rotten and must be replaced. It is a big job because many things are connected to this post and everything must be held in place while the post is removed and replaced. As well, the original structure was built using wooden pegs to hold large posts and beams together and we’ll have to saw through those to remove the rotten bits. We can’t put in new pegs so will need to reattach things a bit differently. We’ve been referred to a local “barn doctor” who is hopefully coming out to see it tonight and may be able to do the work for us. We love our old barn and want to do everything we can to preserve it and keep it functional!

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And of course there are the goats! They are all doing well and producing lots of milk and I’m still making lots of cheese. My last brie was amazing and I plan to try some more soon. Right now we have lots of feta, chevre, gouda aging in the cheese fridge and some crottins. I have a lead on a buck, a nubian x boer that looks pretty nice, so it will be great to have something lined up for this breeding season.