Wednesday, July 31, 2013

harvest list for August 1st, 2013

This is our proposed harvest for tomorrow:

Amaranth Greens
Basil Bunches and Bags of Basil
Carrots!!! (Limited to CSA members only)
Cut Flower Bunches
Lettuce Mix
Sweet Spanish Onions
Bunching Onions
New Red Potatoes????
Zucchini and Yellow Squash

Potatoes are a question mark, because we have not checked the hills yet for production, but likely we will get them.

We thought green beans would be ready by today, but the cool weather has slowed them down. Maybe next week. Tomatoes are still a couple weeks off, but they are coming.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Root Cellar Coming Along Nicely - Photos

The final row of block is in.

top view. roomy.

Getting ready to pour the roof.

Lee Theorin. Our friend and builder, ready to pour.

The doorway. framed up and ready.

Post roof pour, the sheets of insulation are ready to get put on the top and sides.

The doorway. 

Looking down at the installed door. 

Garden Photos July 30th

Pumpkin patch. Fully vined-out.

Baby Pumpkin.

Beautiful Onions. Wow! You can see them.

Here come the onions!

Peppers on the left and eggplant on the right. 

Peppers up close.

Early tomatoes. Ready in two weeks? Notice the drip tape.

More tomatoes.

Cucumbers on the left and zucchini on the right. I Know. Beautiful!

Broccoli family crops. Twice as many plants as last year!

Brussels Sprouts.

Painted Mountain Corn.

Our first Liberty apples on the trees behind the Homestead are coming!

You never miss the water...

On Sunday evening we welcomed 9 Junior High Apprentices. The Apprenticeship is a week-long summer job type experience for adolescents, and we have been doing them every year since I started working here. In the past it was limited to 2 to 4 students per week, but last year we tried a week with 8 and it worked great. So we scheduled more big summer groups, and we were ready when they started showing up en masse on Sunday. Several of these apprentices have opted to do more than one week this summer, so most of them know the drill. We work in the morning starting at 8. Four students break off to make lunch at 11:15. Then after we eat, there is a 2-hour work period in the afternoon. The rest is free time, some of it organized.

With all of those hours, we try to take on some big projects. So on Monday we worked hard in the garden: hoeing the onions, picking zucchini, hoeing sweet corn, hand-weeding leeks, and wheel-hoeing pathways. Donna's group planted the 5 pine trees that had been on the stage at LCS graduation and they started work on the pigeon exclusion project in the Long Barn. Today all nine worked on harvesting the last of the garlic and washing it and hanging it up. 2000 plus heads of garlic! Big work.

As we were finishing up yesterday, the students informed us that there was no water. No water? No water. But we are all sweaty and in need of a shower! Oh well. Oh well! We checked the easy fixes and it wasn't any of those. The breakers were fine. There was electricity. There was no magic reset button to push on the pressure tank. So we called the well drillers and left a message. In the meantime, our students went into water conservation mode. We got some 3 and 5 gallon thermoses and filled them at the Farmstead. We washed dishes camping-style with the water being heated on the stove. We remembered not to try to flush the toilets. It was a little adventure.

Today in the morning, Donna talked to a real person at Dahl's Well Drilling. They came right out. They had to pull the pump, and they discovered it was shot. Bummer. Big bummer. So then they drove to Eau Claire and got a new pump, motor and cable. Dear blog reader, I will not bore you further details, except to say that you do not really want the well people to say your whole system is shot. They worked all day and now we have water again. The photo below is them purging some water from the new pump.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Drip Irritation

In looking back at the blog, I noticed that the last day we had appreciable rain was on July 9th, almost 20 days ago. Our fields have gone from swampy and muddy; to wet, but workable; to a little dry; to dusty and parched. Along the way we have had some very hot weather and we have watched our plants slowly develop water stress. They send us little messages asking for water.

We walk the fields and we notice that the onions are starting to size up. They are healthy plants, with onions about the size of a racquet ball. I know that if they get a timely soaking rain, they have the potential to get to softball size, or at least a chunky baseball. So the first sprinkler we set up was on the onions. They asked first.

The potatoes protested. They said "We need water too. Give us water right now, or you will get only small potatoes!" So the next in line were the potatoes. It took a while, because the potatoes had the audacity to be very far from the faucet, so we had to gather every working garden hose together. But then we gave the potatoes their due. And there was much rejoicing.

In the garden, when we thinned the beets, we noticed hard dry dusty earth. Yikes. We cannot make beets without water! Nor carrots! Nor cabbage! Nor green beans! And certainly let us not forget about the lettuce. Cried the vegetables. So along came the sprinklers. Everything breathed a collective sigh of relief as the first sprinkler started its rhythmic song "tsch...tsch...tsch...tsch...tsch...tsch..." It is a beautiful sound. Like sweet music.

But the lonely tomatoes had been asking nicely for a long time, to no avail. We had watched as they grew prolifically during that hot spell. In one week, they doubled in size. The next, they did it again! And then last week on Monday they sent us mental pictures asking for water and more. One night I could not sleep because the tomatoes were asking, asking, asking. First they asked nicely for some copper sulfate to protect them from the late blight that could come any day in August. Then they asked for a second helping of turkey compost fertilizer. They pointed out that they are loaded full of green tomatoes and if we wanted big tomatoes we needed to give give give them fertilizer (organic please!). Then they suggested that once the fertilizer was down, we should water it in. Finally they pleaded for a little straw mulch.

I heard all of this last Monday and I promised them that on Friday we would give them all they asked for and more. NOT SOON ENOUGH! They virtually screamed. But I could not offer them an earlier date. With all they wanted, Friday was our first full day to give. So on Friday morning we started by lifting the branches and tying them up with twine (something they did not even ask for, but they will thank us later, when the improved air circulation keeps them dry enough to resist the blight). Then Maddie sprinkled organic fertilizer (THANK YOU!) and hoed it in. Katie and I started pulling stray weeds and adding straw mulch. Audible pleasure streaming from tomato plants. But then we ran out of straw. Dah Dah Dah. I said to the tomatoes that I would do my best to scrounge some more straw next week. Then Maddie, put on the backpack sprayer and sprayed the blue copper. Finally, Maddie and I started to set up the drip irrigation.

Drip irrigation was invented by the Israelis (I think), and they have used it to green the desert, using as little water as necessary. Water is forced through a plastic hose that is perforated at regular intervals. The hose is folded such that the holes are protected and you can actually bury the hose and the water will still come out. It is pretty cool. The water goes right to the roots and nothing else gets watered. At the Land School, we don't actually bury our drip tape; instead we just lay it on top of the soil and sidle it up to the plant rows.

In theory we love drip. It conserves water, and we also don't get the flush of weeds that comes with overhead sprinklers. But drip has its own issues. It gets in the way when we want to tractor cultivate. And we dislike throwing away plastic, so we try to use it year after year. Where do we store it during the winter?

On Friday, we got out a pile of spaghetti-style convoluted bundles of old, used drip tape. We hooked up the first piece, next to the the first row of tomatoes, and there were mini geysers everywhere. Yuck. Mice love to eat through the drip tape to get to the leftover water in there (can they SMELL water? Hmm). Soon Maddie and I were splicing the tape wherever the geysers showed themselves, and adding sections of tape until we made it to the end. That was one row. On the end of the second row, we found a partial roll of brand new tape. Huzzah! And the final two rows seemed easier, even with old tape, because we found some long un-holey sections. In all, we spent two and half hours, just on the drip irritation for the tomatoes, I mean irrigation. It was a full day with the tomatoes. Finally! They said.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Dirt for July 24th, 2013

Tomorrow is the first harvest!!!

Here is what we anticipate harvesting:

Cut Flowers
Herbs (Basil, Parsley, Cilantro, Dill, Others)
Lettuce Mix

We might have:
Garlic Scapes
Beet Greens

Other News:
Great Garlic Festival. We hosted a good sized crew for our garlic harvest festival. Unfortunately the garlic was not all ready to harvest, so we got bunches of other projects done. A group weeded and mulched onions and leeks. Another thinned beets. Several people hoed and wheel hoed. And two intrepid helpers went over to the Homestead to dig a hole for the staircase going down to the new root cellar. Thanks to everyone who helped.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Farm Camp 2013

We have had a great week with our E2 Farm Campers. Even though our campers are all between 9 and 11, the experience has been very similar to a Junior High Farm Stay. We have all the systems in place for the young people to be independent and make contributions to the community. We have roles for cook crew, chore checklists, color coded schedules, and clear expectations. So it is easy to think of this as smaller version of a Farm Stay. We take the best from the Farm Stay, but we put a summer spin on it. So on a hot day this week, we took a field trip to Crystal Cave. On another day, we went to Clear Lake to go swimming and have a cookout.n the first day, Donna set up a huge slip-n-slide on then back hill using old greenhouse plastic. We did projects in the mornings, but took extra breaks in the heat. We had a movie night in the middle of the week and a games night too. There have been endless ping pong battles. Today the culminating activity was archery with our new compound bows. yay!

Tomorrow is the garlic festival!

Here are some group photos:

Monday, July 15, 2013

Here is the Dirt July 16th

Here is the Dirt (News from the Community Garden)

Warm Weather
After a cool and wet Spring and cool and wet early Summer, the summer heat has finally kicked in. This is good news for many of the crops. The tomatoes doubled in size since last week. The peppers finally have started growing and have a lot of flowers (maybe fruit by September). The zucchini are starting to produce fruit and the cucumbers are not far behind. The onions are sizing up. The flowers are flourishing. The dry beans are growing faster than the deer can mow them down. The pumpkin patch has "vined out" and now we cannot do any more weeding. Disadvantages? A few. The weeds are growing faster than the crops in some places. The heat is drying things out and we need to gear up the irrigation if it doesn't rain again soon.

Woodchuck Relocation Project
A couple weeks ago, I noticed that something was eating our early cabbage, brussels sprouts and broccoli. I assumed that it was slugs, like a few years ago. You don't see slugs during the day, but you can just pick them off if you come at twilight when they come out. I went up to the garden one evening and I did not see a single slug. This was good news, but we were still vexed with the disappearing cabbage leaves. Then I noticed that the edamame, which had just come up, was getting eaten. In three days, it was all gone. And the beets were getting hit too. The first thing I thought of was deer, but there was not one deer print and our fence was working. I had seen a woodchuck in the garden, but we had never had any known damage from woodchucks, so it took a while for me to realize that the devastation was the work of woodchucks. Every year is different and this has turned out to be the year of the woodchuck. Maybe they had never noticed the garden before, or they had other things to eat. Or maybe the fox had been eating them. Whatever happened to bring them on, I decided we needed to take the offensive. So we set a live trap. The first night I baited it with chicken food. We caught a raccoon. The next night I decided to use beets. Success - a very angry woodchuck. I relocated him/her to a natural area south of us. Since then we have caught 2 more woodchucks using beets. Also one curious raccoon. The trap is still set, and when we stop catching woodchucks, I'll fill their hole with rocks and dirt. If it is not one thing, it is another.

Garlic Fest is on for Saturday July 20th
As of July 15th, the garlic was not ready. But if this weather holds, it will be ready. If it is almost ready, we will harvest a portion and leave some in the ground to size up. Saturday we will begin harvesting between 9 and 10 am, and if we run out of things to harvest, we will improvise other garden projects. Bring a potluck for a 1pm meal. We may have a little veggie harvest for garlic festers to choose from.

Upcoming Harvest Projection

Cut Flowers
Herbs (Basil, Parsley, Dill, Cilantro)
Lettuce Mix
Beet Greens


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Root Cellar and Pizza Patio!!

Big changes a'happening at the Land School today!  After the delay of Tuesday's AM storms, Donna, Sam (great neighbor and friend), and Grace (summer facilities worker) worked yesterday to get the new root cellar AND pizza oven patio set up for concrete today.  Big truck, goopy cement, hard work.  The following pictures tell the morning's story:

Stay tuned..!