Farmer John Writes: How I Once Saved my Friend from Getting Hit by a Tree
Welcome to our Seventh Harvest Week
We had a tremendous storm early last week, causing a lengthy power outage on the farm. The wind toppled a hickory and a Chinese elm very near to the farmhouse where Primo lives with his family. We were very fortunate that the house was not damaged. Primo and I knew that these trees were not safe. Weeks earlier I had contracted with a tree service to remove them. They were scheduled to be taken down in early August. The wind took them down earlier.
How I Once Saved My Friend From Getting Hit by a Tree
One evening in the early 90’s, we were experiencing a dramatic wind and rain storm. Kimberly, my farming partner who some of you might remember from back then, planned to race out to the truck to close the windows.
Before leaving the house, she asked me, “What if I get hit by a tree?”
I said, “you won’t. It’s really hard to get hit by a tree.”
“But the wind!”
I replied, “Look, if you tried to get hit by a tree, I doubt you could make it happen. Who gets hit by a tree…ever?”
Re-assured, she opened the door to exit the house just as a large tree came down in the yard, landing with a huge crash right where she probably would have been if I hadn’t delayed her for 15 seconds by telling her that her fear of being hit by a tree was completely unwarranted.
If I had simply said, “be careful of falling trees,” she probably would have been killed, but my elaborating with wrong advice saved her.
I still don’t know what the takeaway of this story is. Perhaps it’s to always give very thorough wrong advice.
Normally, by the time our harvests start in early June, we can do field work with the tractors 4 or 5 days a week. This season, we have had one or two days per week in which we have been able to do our transplanting, weed control, and direct seeding of crops like baby greens, dill, and cilantro. We are extremely fortunate to have well-maintained, reliable equipment, and experienced equipment operators to get the field work done in a hurry. Our equipment operators, Primo, Pollo and Victor, start field work pretty much at the first possible moment when the field is dry enough to be tilled. We continue to be timely in our field work this season, which seems a miracle, given the weather we’ve been having.
We have ample crops in the fields to fill your boxes to the brim. Weather has not quite gotten in the way yet of us harvesting our quotas. I’m beginning to wonder, though, if we will have a dry window for harvest of some key volume crops this upcoming week, given how relentless the rains have been and how saturated the ground is with water. Our carrots are ready to harvest, but we need two or three days of dry weather to get them out of the ground. We have splendid crops of baby greens, but we can’t get them out of the field if the equipment is going to sink into the mud. Plus, they won’t keep if we harvest them wet. We are very attentive to moisture conditions in our baby greens, and we race into action when the conditions are favorable for their harvest. The right conditions for harvesting a bed of baby greens might prevail for only an hour within a span of three or four days. The rain or the dew might make the greens too soggy to harvest; then a wind might evaporate their moisture to where the moisture conditions in the greens are perfect. An hour later, the wind might make the crop too dry to harvest. Know that we are always on call to get the vegetables into your box and onto your table.
Out of our 39 fields of vegetables and herbs, we have unacceptable weed levels in 3 of those fields. Of course, I am mortified and humbled to have that much weed pressure on our farm, but, in light of the incessant rains, which encourage weed growth and hamper weed control, I feel we are blessed with relative weed-free-ness. I’ll add that in the 3 fields where our weeds are rampant—garlic and onions—the weeds came on mostly after the onion and garlic bulbs were filling out, so there will be very little impact on the yields. The main impact is on my pride.
Normally, the humid, rainy weather we have been experiencing for most of this season would have caused leaf blights that would have seriously degraded our potatoes, melons, winter squash and basil by now. These crops have held up extremely well so far, so we anticipate good yields of these items.
Sweet corn will probably be ready sometime this week. It’s a bit of a challenge to predict exactly when the sweet corn will be ready, as its pace of maturation is very influenced by heat, humidity and rain. I can’t imagine weather that is more conducive to ripening of the sweet corn than the weather we have been having recently. I inspect the corn almost daily, wondering if it might be ready for the Thursday deliveries. Maybe Wednesday deliveries? Maybe not even until the Saturday deliveries?
The watermelons, though not so tantalizingly close to maturity as the sweet corn, are developing very fast in this balmy weather. They will be ready in one or two more weeks.
If your box isn’t packed to the brim, the primary reason is likely that the contents settled in transport. We have seen fully packed boxes go to Chicago and back, (when there was somehow a surplus in the boxes we sent out), and have noticed that the contents settle substantially, especially when there are many leafy items in the box. As the season progresses, this settling from transport diminishes, because we are including more and more dense items, such as sweet corn, melons, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant…
Another reason your box might not be completely full would be due to a breakdown in our system for filling boxes. On our pack line, we have a swing station, where the swing person has extra produce to add to any of the boxes that are not completely full at the end of the pack line. I design the box to be completely full without the need for swing items, but due to the variability of the sizes of the many items going into the box, such as cabbage, broccoli, head lettuce, etc., the volume of box contents will vary. Sometimes the swing person lets a box go by without completely filling it. The person who closes the boxes has the responsibility of flagging any boxes that aren’t full and communicating this to the swing person. It is then the box-closer’s job to top off the box. Sometimes an inadequately filled box gets by both the swing person and the box closer. I apologize for this occasional embarrassing breakdown in our system. I am most diligent to make sure that we have ample produce available to fill your boxes to the top, and when they are not filled to the top because a box gets by the swing person and the box closer without being fully topped off, I stop the line and say firmly “This is not a farm that sends out partially full boxes. We send out full boxes. Our farm is to be known as a farm that sends our shareholders full boxes.” Steve Jobs would probably have said it louder and more emphatically than me—not sure.
Our Field Day last Week at Your Very Own Farm
Thank you to all who attended our Field Day last week. Shareholders were fascinated with the beet papyrus made by artist Julia Goodman. The day was very hot and humid. Fortunately we have the air conditioned barn loft where overheated shareholders could enjoy their delicious potluck meal. Rain arrived in the afternoon, causing shareholders who were eating on the farm lawn to seek welcome shelter in the loft.
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 box to your delivery site. If you receive home delivery, place it 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.
Cooking Greens – kale
Fruiting Crops – sweet corn, cucumbers, zucchini/summer squash
Alliums – sweet onions
Stem Crops – fennel
Herbs – basil, savory
Your Farmer, John
Animal Day for Families at the Angelic Organics Learning Center! August 1, 10am-3pm
“Angelic Organics is one of my favorite places to be with my family,” one shareholder told us recently. At Animal Day for Families, you can enjoy time with your family, plus goats, cows, pigs, chickens, worms, bees and more. It’s coming up on Saturday, August 1 from 10am-3pm. Register at our website: www.learngrowconnect.org/events