Farmer John Writes about the Daunting Dance of Diversity
Welcome to our Third Harvest Week
Weeds Want to Live; So Does Cabbage.
We have 4 fields of fall cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower (brassicas) scheduled for your fall feasts. These fields were seeded to peas for extra fertility in early spring. Normally, we work up this ground 10 days to two weeks ahead of transplanting, so the peas and the weeds can decompose before planting the crops. We have not been able to prepare the soil in a timely way due to so much rain for the past 10 days. The brassica seedlings are overgrown, so we need to get them into the ground. We finally had a break from the rains and got the fields worked up this past Thursday. But the fields are clearly not ready for transplanting; many of the weeds that we just tilled will re-root with the next rain and then compete with the brassicas for moisture, light and nutrients.
The overgrown seedlings should go into the ground immediately, but should they go into soil that might engulf them in weeds? Late last week, we planted one of the fields to cabbage and cauliflower. As we were transplanting, I became more and more concerned as I noticed all the tufts of tilled weeds underfoot that might re-root. I decided to discontinue the transplanting until after the next rain. Then we’ll do another round of tillage to destroy the weeds that might re-grow in the fields. But, again, the seedlings are overgrown. They can hold longer in their trays, but this is not ideal. Farming is a series of compromises, always with an eye to the best outcome.
The Diversity Dance
We grow over 40 crops. Many people think that is wonderful, because it creates a bio-diverse farm organism and spreads out the risk that can accrue if we were to raise just a few crops. However, the many crops we raise create many overlapping, conflicting rhythms and priorities: the tomatoes need to be trellised at the same time that the lettuce should be transplanted; the high humidity will be good for the broccoli but might cause leaf blight in the potatoes; the celery should be weeded, but we need to harvest for the Wednesday pack. These rhythms ebb and flow in an almost infinite swirl of demands, concerns and alerts.
And, of course, there is always the weather to navigate. That lightning that struck way over there—is the storm coming our way and should we get everyone out of the fields for their safety? Rain is forecast, so let’s not irrigate, but if it doesn’t rain, then we should have irrigated. The ground is soggy from the recent storms; if we drive on it we will make ruts that we will have to contend with for the rest of the season, but we have to get the harvest in.
A worker doesn’t show up regularly for work, but if we let the person go, how do we get the work done? If we don’t let the person go, what does that say about our standards for reliability.
That crop of baby greens has a lot of flea beetle damage; do we abandon it or do we harvest it for our shareholders, many of whom would not like to see a crop go to waste. If we put it in the box, will some shareholders resent its quality and begin using Peapod? If we don’t put the sub-ideal greens in the box, will there be a hole in the box that some shareholders will complain about?
If a job is not completed on schedule, does the crew work late?
Always, we are deciding, wondering, balancing, and compromising, while we do or don’t harvest, seed, rotovate, weed, bunch, bag, sort, count, pace, water, clean, mow, subsoil, trellis, trim, top, peel, hoe, build, transport, inspect, repair, re-build, tune, adjust, slice, sharpen, wash, polish, putty, design, and write the newsletter. (The author Henry Miller also liked long lists.)
This past Saturday morning, for instance, we uncovered and weeded melons; transplanted cauliflower and lettuce; watered recent transplants; thinned beets; harvested broccoli; hoed thistles in the corn, and weeded potatoes, while we did not weed carrots, harvest scallions, weed fennel, seed cilantro and dill, or uncover and weed another field of melons.
The Crops this Week
As I have mentioned in prior newsletters, the beginning of our season has been a bit helter skelter, with some crops coming on early and some late. I suppose, if I were to review previous seasons carefully, I would notice similar variances. Our zucchini looks lovely and will provide you with at least a tease of zucchini this week. Garlic scapes are all harvested, and you will receive a few of these aromatic squiggles in your box. Broccoli is coming on strong. You will receive one or two heads of lovely lettuce—one of the heads will probably be a romaine. A fragrant bunch of dill might make its way into your box. Also, expect a beautiful head of reddish/purple choi. And you might receive spinach; spinach is a finicky crop that sometimes turns yellow and unacceptable on its way to maturity. Fall spinach does better than spring spinach on our soil, but we always try to grow a crop of spring spinach.
The Upcoming Crops
We took the row covers off of our cucumbers this week. (The row covers protect the cucumbers from cucumber beetles and from the cold.) You might get a taste of these cucumbers in Week 4. We have a lovely bed of Chinese cabbage that is forming cones (heads). All of our other main crops—sweet corn, peppers, melons, potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, beets, Brussels sprouts, winter squash, and spring cabbage look super.
Open House at the Farm, July 18 and Sept 19
We hope you can attend one or both of our Farm Days, Saturday, July 18, and Saturday, September 19. Plan to arrive late morning for hayrides, potluck feast, a visit to the animals at the Learning Center, and a trip to the U-Pick garden, perhaps for some green beans and a bouquet of flowers. It’s a great day for all. More details will follow in an upcoming newsletter.
Sign up for the Free Recipe Service
Make sure you sign up for the Local Thyme recipe service we offer with this year’s share. It received many great reviews from our shareholders last season. Go to www.localthyme.net/register . Enter the farm code AOLTFREE under “I am a member of a CSA farm.” Click the sign-up button.
Let us Know
Please Fold Your Boxes Properly and Return Them
The farm re-uses the vegetable boxes. Flaps are easily torn when the boxes are dismantled improperly, and then the box bottom might later burst open with fresh, organic local produce heading towards the floor. Please return your empty, flattened vegetable boxes to your delivery site. If you receive home delivery, place them in the location where your box is delivered.
More from Shareholders
Visit us often at www.facebook.com/angelicorganics , where we post exciting farm developments regularly, and shareholders post recipes, tips, and photos.
Saturday’s Box Contents
Please Note: this summary is written before you receive your box—be aware that some guesswork is involved. As always, be sure to thoroughly wash all of your vegetables.
Adventures at the Angelic Organics Learning Center
Join us for wine and cheese(making) on Saturday, July 11! Learn to make 5 different kinds of cheese, as well as your own wine from wild fruits. Sign up in advance at www.learngrowconnect.org/events.