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This Week on the Farm 9/22
Thank you to everyone who bought honey this year. We are officially sold out! For those of you who missed out this year, we will hopefully have more honey next year since we are planning on getting a few more hives. Hopefully those queens will be as productive as our current queen, Sophia.
We got through the cold nights last week without any frost. The current forecast doesn’t show any signs of frost for the next seven days, so we should be able to harvest tomatoes and peppers through next week. There are still a lot of tomatoes on the plants and if the weather does turn we are thinking of harvesting the tomatoes that have started to blush and putting them in our big greenhouse. That way we can control the nightly temperatures and they will have sunshine during the day to continue to ripen. But this is just a back up plan.
This is the first week of squash in your box and we are starting out with my favorite type, Delicata. If you aren’t up to trying an involved recipe, then all you need to do to enjoy this squash is to roast it in the oven with a little olive oil. Yum!
Given the nice weather we are projected to have this upcoming week we are holding off our major squash harvesting until next week. We like to keep the squash in the fields for as long as possible so they can ripen completely and we don’t have as many issues trying to store them for a long time. This year we will have Delicata, Acorn, Baby Blue Hubbard, and Red Kuri squash that will go in your boxes. Our other squash varieties got hit really hard by cutworms early this spring and our replacement plants didn’t produce well. I want to try starting a second, later planting of winter squash in the greenhouse next year so we have plants on standby in case this happens again. We will have plenty of squash with the varieties that did produce well, but at the same time it would be nice to have some butternuts and buttercups to go into the boxes.
Onto other farm news. We had time last week to start picking up our irrigation in areas where we are done watering. Tyler and Shelbi spent a good chunk of last Wednesday rolling up the mainline in our back field. They left part of the line in place so we can frost protect the tomatoes and peppers if necessary, but everything past that field got picked up. Hopefully this week we can start rolling up the drip tapes in these fields and we can finish prepping the fields for winter.
We were also able to get the last direct seeded planting of the year in the ground. They also got the head lettuce fertilized. I want to get our hoops up and in place on the lettuce, not for frost protection, but to make sure the deer keep out of our lettuce. We had some issues with the deer nibbling on our buttercrunch lettuce last year and I don’t want that happening again!
I promised some time ago to give a description of how our harvest/packing days work since many of you will never have the opportunity to come out and see the process in person (although if you are interested we always love the help!) I thought I would follow this weeks cabbage plants from the field to your box. Many of our crops are harvested the day they get delivered. The exceptions being crops that are ready early in the season that store well (garlic, onions, dried beans, winter squashes) and crops that are very time consuming to pick (green beans). Sometimes we might harvest a crop the day before if the weather is going to be really wet and we don’t want to spread disease (tomatoes), but for the most part we do everything the day of delivery.
Cabbages are an easy crop to harvest because all you need is a sharp knife. You don’t have to search for the fruit like when you are harvesting peppers and you don’t have to crawl on your hands and knees like when you are harvesting turnip greens. You take the sharp knife and gently cut at the base of the cabbage head. Once that is done you have to remove the loose leaves and pull of any leaves that have been damaged by insects (one of the prices of not using chemicals is a little insect damage). After trimming the leaves there is usually some stem tissue that needs to be removed to create a nice round head. Once the stem has been trimmed the cabbages are placed in our harvest totes. Whenever we are harvesting we try to place a specific number of items in each tote to keep track of how many items we have harvested. With cabbages we can place 15 heads in a tote and still be able to lift the tote without too much strain on our backs.
Once all of the cabbages are harvested they are taken to our packing shed where they are weighed and then washed. Then they are laid out to dry and sorted by size. We start by sorting out the largest cabbages for the full boxes and then set a minimum size that the rest need to be in order to go in the boxes. Any damaged heads or heads that are too small get culled out and get eaten by our family or if there is too much insect damage it will go on the compost pile.
Once we have everything sized out and we know we have enough for the boxes that day, they are boxed up and placed in our walk-in cooler until we are ready to pack the boxes. When it is time to load up the the truck for delivery the cabbages are placed on our packing line and each one is placed in a tote as the tote passes down the roller track, the largest in full boxes and the smaller cabbages in the half boxes.
As the boxes pass down the roller track another item is added until all of the veggies for that week have been packed. Tyler double checks that every box has the correct number of items, snaps the lid in place, and then hands the box to Don to place in the truck, trailer, or wagon depending on which pick-up location we are packing.