Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cooperation between farmers/growers, with cooperative extension and with our customers help make it possible.

When we lost 2 acres of cantaloupes to cold weather this spring, we were given a hand by the Horal family at Melon Acres.  They had extra transplants of one of the varieties we grow allowing us to not lose too much of our early crop window.  We also saw some evidence of disease in our melon transplants and it was nice to go online and get diagnostic photos of diseased plants, from Purdue and other state extension services.  Thankfully, it was a minor, noncontagious disease. And finally, it is nice to have the patience and input from our small subscriber group as we work through issues of communication and logistics.  On the crop front, the zucchini and patty pan squash are really beginning to come on, along with cucumbers, broccoli, pea pods, beets and radishes, with a taste of cilantro and basil and there should be new potatoes for our subscribers this weekend.  

Caption 1:  Cantaloupe and watermelon field, with cantaloupes in foreground.

Caption 2:  Patsy, Norma and Danielle transplanting fourth tomato planting.

Caption 3:  Our second tomato planting, formerly low tunnel tomatoes.

Caption 4: Fifth week's CSA produce.     

Monday, May 31, 2010

Social weekend and harvesting of beets, carrots, pea pods, zucchini, chard, greens, lettuces, and kohlrabi.

I am running a bit behind on this blog and I will be talking about the weekend and week before the Memorial Day weekend.  I will have another entry in a couple days for Memorial Day weekend and the following week. On Friday, May 21 we got up early drove to St. Louis for our daughter Faith’s graduation, helped load her belongings into 4 vehicles and drove back Friday evening.  Patsy and I got up early on Saturday to get the CSA produce picked and boxed.  We spent the rest of the day getting ready for a family gathering for Faith on Sunday.  Ben and his girlfriend Ari were in from California and Adam was in from St. Louis. This kind of weekend probably won’t be possible again until after Labor Day.  On Monday, we replanted part of the 2 acres of cantaloupes that were wiped out by the unexpected cold snap.  We also planted about 4 acres of watermelons and another ½ acre of tomatoes.  The high tunnel tomatoes are setting on nice fruits and the potatoes are getting ready to flower.  Broccoli is a couple weeks off and the first five or so plantings of sweet corn are up.  The strawberries from Bland’s Farm are some of the best I have had.


First caption:  Faith, Ken and Patsy.

Second caption:  Ben, Adam and Patsy catching red bellied daces for Patsy’s aquarium.

Third caption:  High tunnel tomatoes and cucumbers.

Fourth caption:  Early tomatoes and broccoli that were under low tunnels in the spring.

Fifth caption:  Fourth week’s full CSA offering.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hard to focus: Temperature swings keeping us guessing.

I have had a hard time focusing on the theme for this week’s blog.  The 80+ degree weather the third week of April and now the upper 50’s to lower 60’s the third week of May have had us making drastic changes in our plan for the season. I guess that is my excuse for being nine days late.  The early warm weather convinced us to stop planting cool season crops in the high tunnel, switch from green plastic mulch (warmer) to black plastic mulch (cooler) in the field and now the swing back to cooler than normal weather is stressing the first planting of cantaloupes and we will have to do some replanting.  Oh well, warm weather is just around the corner, so we will focus on sunnier things.  We had a nice time at our farms with a number of our subscribers and employees this past Sunday afternoon and in spite of the chill we enjoyed fresh strawberries and ice cream.  Our warm season crops are progressing nicely in the high tunnel. We have been enjoying our greater involvement with Danville Gardens (nice people). We are getting ready to transplant more plants with the prospect of warm weather in the forecast.  And finally, we are exercising our farmers optimism that the perfect season is just around the corner. 



First caption:  Crops in our high tunnel.

Second caption:  Danville Gardens’ display has sure spruced up our stand for this time of year.

Third caption:  Cantaloupe transplants ready for the field.

Fourth caption:  Rainbow over our transplanter.

Fifth caption:  Our third week’s full CSA offering.  Wasn’t organized enough to get photos of the first two weeks.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The juggling has begun: seeding, transplanting, cultivating, fertilizing, irrigation, spraying, marketing, payroll.

We are getting into that phase of the season where nearly everything is going on.  We are marketing strawberries at our Tilton stand, we are cultivating potatoes and plastic mulched tomatoes, we are spraying herbicide on sweet corn ground and planting sweet corn every three days, we are transplanting cantaloupes, watermelons and more tomatoes, we are seeding more watermelons, we are harvesting spring crops for the CSA, we are fertilizing and laying plastic mulched beds, managing workers and doing payroll, we are repairing equipment and laying irrigation supply lines. This will reach a crescendo in July and continue through August when we are doing daily harvests of sweet corn, watermelon, cantaloupes, tomatoe and many other crops.


I have include some photos of equipment this week for you ‘grease under the fingernails’ crowd.


First Caption:  Rototilling down our cover crop after mowing.  Our 7’ rototiller.


Second Caption: Getting ready to plant sweet corn with our 5 row planter.


Third Caption:  Jason helping to lay plastic mulch beds for cantaloupe.  Jason is checking the distance between beds. 

Monday, May 3, 2010

Sweet corn is up, starting to prepare for first large scale melon plantings.

This spring has been fairly dry and the relatively low soil moisture has resulted to some spotty stands in our first sweet corn plantings. We are getting ready to mow our crimson clover and hairy vetch cover crop to get ready for our second tomato planting along with other miscellaneous summer crops. We will also soon prepare beds for our first cantaloupe planting. The pace is starting to pick up with large scale field work, seeding, transplanting, and marketing at our Tilton market. Soon the days will be filled to overflowing.

First Caption: Last years melon field with a rye cover crop that will soon be planted to soybeans by our neighbor.

Second Caption: This years sweet corn and pumpkin ground.

Third Caption: Crimson clover, hairy vetch and perennial rye grass cover crop which will soon be planted to tomatoes and miscellaneous summer crops.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Low tunnels help our early planting weather their first frost.

It has been an interesting spring.  The first spell of unseasonally warm weather pushed our baby lettuces and greens on a little faster than we had planned.  I guess that we will have adolescent lettuces and greens instead of “baby” this first harvest.  We were beginning to wonder if we would need to set up our low tunnels at all this spring.  Well, a check of the weather forecast yesterday brought us back to reality and we (Ken, Patsy, Norma and Jason) worked late into the evening to get everything covered.  We had a pretty good frost this morning, but everything looks good under the covers.  We will keep the covers on for a couple days and nights until some pretty warm weather blows in from the south.


First caption:  Low tunnels over early tomatoes.


Second caption:  Patsy and Jason setting up low tunnels in the high tunnel over the even earlier tomatoes, squash, etc. 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Looks like mixed lettuce mix, salad/cooking greens, spinach, arugula, radishes, asparagus for CSA next week. Potatoes are up.

Lets take a look at progress on crops.  Lettuce mix, salad/cooking greens, spinach, arugula, radishes and asparagus ready for next week’s CSA.  Coming soon: baby summer squash, squash blossoms, snow peas, sugar snap peas, Swiss chard, broccoli raab, baby beets, green onions, kohlrabi and strawberries.  Coming along: tomatoes (flower buds ready to open), diakon radishes, Chinese cabbage, cucumbers and carrots.  Planted in the field or high tunnels but down the road aways: green beans (at our neighbor’s), peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes (they are up) and sweet corn (not up yet).  Up in transplant trays: watermelons, cantaloupes, okra, cilantro, and basil. Not planted yet: eggplant, pumpkins and winter squash.


On the communication front:  we are now using, where we send an email with photo attachments and the title is the heading for the blog and the text is the body of the blog with the attached photos.  Also the title of the email becomes the twitter text.  Last week the tweet did not come through, we will try it again this week.


Caption first photo:  Things are moving along pretty rapidly in the high tunnel.  Spring greens, peas and root crops on the right.  Tomatoes, peppers, Chinese cabbage, in the middle. Summer squash and cucumbers on the left.


Caption second photo:  The first seeding of cantaloupes and watermelons, part of 25,000 transplants produced in a season.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Plants getting ready to take-off in exponential growth! Two new plots started: kitchen garden and raised beds for low tunnels.

The photos we will show here are already six days old. We will have another blog with photos in a couple days, so you can see a bit of how rapidly things are growing now. At the time the photos were taken, nagging questions, like: Will we have produce ready for the first CSA delivery? or Will some things be ready to be harvested before the first delivery?, flitted at the back of our minds. This unusually warm weather has forced us to change some of our plans.  We were worried that it was getting too warm in the high tunnel for some of the cool season crops. We started some of these cool season crops in our 18’x18’ kitchen garden which we considered not planting this year because we had access to extra CSA produce.  We planted snow peas, sugar snaps, spinach, swiss chard, radishes, mixed greens, salad mix and transplanted some leaf lettuces.  In one of our photos below you will see another change.  We have both green and black plastic mulch.  The green mulch warms the soil up more than the black.  We were going to use all green mulch between the greenhouse and high tunnel, but decided to go with one-half black because we were afraid that with the warm temperatures we were experiencing the soil might get too warm for optimal growth. We have been harvesting asparagus for several days, but we should still have it in our CSA offerings for a couple weeks.  Also we have planted the first sweet corn, the day after these photos were taken. 

Caption first photo:  Patsy, Norma and Danielle transplanting.  Danielle is a regular fixture around here, but she was here when the photos were taken for the website.

Caption second photo:  Green and black plastic mulched, raised beds for our low tunnel plantings.  The only thing is we are not sure that we will need the low tunnels with the early spring.

Monday, April 12, 2010

First potatoes are planted, all high tunnel tomatoes are transplanted, coming soon, sweet corn, cukes, squash, peppers.

We put together a two row, seed potato planter using an old plastic mulch layer and cultivator parts. It worked pretty well and we will probably put out 1 or 2 more plantings over the next month. We also transplanted all the tomato plants that we will grow in our high tunnel. We will transplant cucumbers, summer squash, peppers and few other crops in the high tunnel before we have it all planted, probably sometime this week. We are also planning to plant the first sweet corn this week. Also hope to get the beds ready for the low tunnel tomatoes, which will hopefully go out next week. We have been playing around with different ways to enter the blog and twitter information, so there may be some formatting differences. Enjoy the weather.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Potato seed pieces are ready for planting in the field and tomato transplants are ready for planting in the ground of the high tunnel.

This unusually warm weather is making it very tempting to jump the gun and start planting seeds/plants that would be killed or damaged by the hard frosts we are nearly certain to have yet this spring. Our friends at the local orchard said that the apple buds are two weeks ahead of schedule and they are concerned about the potential for frost damage. We are also wondering about this years strawberry crop which can be damaged if strawberry flowers experience a hard frost. We are planning to push our plantings a bit, for example, in mid-April if soil temperatures are high enough and we have a week of frost free weather in the forecast, we may plant sweet corn two weeks early. We are planning to put out our first planting of tomatoes two weeks early, but we have the back up protection of low tunnels this year. All the crops, we planted in the high tunnel are up and looking good!

Thursday, March 25, 2010


The seeds we started in trays in our sunroom are being transferred into the cold frame for hardening before transfer into the soil of our high tunnel. Yesterday, for the first time this season we seeded directly into the soil of the high tunnel the following crops: snow peas, sugar snap peas, lettuce mix, greens mix, carrots, radishes, including daikon, beets, spinach, kohlrabi, and broccoli raab. Also, yesterday Patsy and Norma, seeded trays of tomatoes that will go directly into the field under low tunnels and onions that will be transplanted into the open field. Next week we hope to work the soil, raise plastic mulch-covered beds and cover them with low tunnel hoops, plastic and row cover.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Seeds have been planted in flats for the early lettuces, spinach, napa cabbage, beets, Swiss chard, tomatoes and peppers. These seedlings will be transplanted into either our high or low tunnels. Soon we will be seeding other early season crops, such as sugar snap peas, radishes, green onions, etc., directly into the soil of the high and low tunnels. It will be a while before we start planting trays for the twenty acres worth of main season crops in our heated greenhouse.

Sunday, February 28, 2010


In January and February, we spent a lot of time working on taxes, accounting, websites, flyers, mailings, and planning. We also had some quality time with family and friends. This all worked out well for Ken, who was recovering from a hernia operation he had in early January. Our neighbors, Bennie and Lynette, helped us lay aside enough wood to feed the wood burning stove we installed in November. Beginning in March, we will be turning our efforts to all the outside work that needs to be done. On the list are: greenhouse repairs and upgrades, vehicle and equipment repair and modification, outbuilding repairs, building new marketing stands and signs, seeding, etc. We are figuring out how to run our blog and plan to have a weekly posting of two photos and a brief commentary to try give you a feel for our season as it progresses. Hope your year is off to a good start.