Sunday, June 24, 2012

Rough Evening in the Field

Despite having a record week last week and record sales at Saturday's market in Hillcrest, I'm feeling more than a little defeated tonight.  I know by now my friends are getting sick of listening to me complain about blister beetles but what we saw tonight is almost indescribable.  I spent so much time last week fighting these bugs and chasing hordes around the field it finally got to the point on Friday night that I just had to walk by and ignore them to get finished picking what needed to go to market.  After yesterday's market, a long nap and a visit from my mother-in-law, I didn't make it back to the field until this morning.  I spent the morning picking sungolds-an area we have diligently kept clean and slightly more beetle free.  This evening though it was time to pick squash and big tomatoes out of the middle field.  Robert and I had already discussed that we were going to take down the big tomato plants where the hordes have been so bad.  We have spent more time pulling off half-eaten, rotten tomatoes from those rows than we have harvesting tomatoes to go to market.  I started picking squash while Robert walked the tomato rows to make a plan of attack.  Neither of us got far before we heard them the squash and the tomatoes and everywhere in between.  I just sat down on my five gallon bucket and watched.  I really cannot describe what we saw other than to call it an infestation which seems like a strange way to talk about bugs outside of a house.  Blister beetles were crawling all over everything slowed down only a little in the squash by the squash bugs joining the feast.

If we were not in a burn ban right now, we would burn down the whole field.  I would take the summer off and try to replant a fall garden.  I even contemplated changing my crop plan and letting the organic certification go in that field and spraying it with anything I could find.  The three years it would take to get organic certification in that field again might be a small price to pay to make a dent in these bugs.  I really cannot express the disgust and frustration I feel about dealing with these bugs.  I watch them and absolutely feel like I've been kicked in the gut.  We've had our share of crop failures over the last four years, some due to our inexperience, some due to factors outside of our control, but nothing as overwhelming as this.  I'm seriously not sure where we go from here.    

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Patiently Waiting

I spent about three hours yesterday morning cutting flowers for today's market.  While I was busy, Monster Milan made his way through the blackberries, fed the goats some overly large squash, rummaged through the van that goes to market (promptly throwing out of the van anything not heavier than himself) and finally decided to come help with flowers.  Since he is not very much help with flowers it was definitely time to hit his box in the shade.  Surprisingly, I got a big smile...mostly in an attempt to coerce me into letting him out.

It almost worked.  Instead, I put Chacey in charge of babysitting.  

She was obviously thrilled at the prospect.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Shade Cloth

Shade cloth?  Deer repellent?  I have many uses for floating row cover.  Unfortunately it does not slow down a blister beetle.

Although I do enjoy hanging laundry on the line, no, this is not my laundry.  I'm attempting to shade a row of tomatoes that are getting way too much sunburn on them.  The added benefit is that the deer can't seem to figure out what the heck this blowing, billowing white thing is-although they already decimated the rows of purple hulls just to the right of these tomatoes before I put up the shade cloth.  I think it's time to hang some more next to the next patch of peas fixing to flower.

While chunks of my garden are waiting to be turned under and re-planted or covered in buckwheat for a few weeks, and other chunks of my garden are slowly succumbing to bugs and disease, the one area still rocking and rolling is the lower end of my east field (as I knock on wood).  Three massive rows of loaded up cherry tomatoes, a beautiful row of heirloom tomatoes, the onion patch, a winter squash patch, and cucumbers on the trellis.

If I had flowers down there I may just spend the rest of my summer there and let the blister beetles have the rest.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Who? Us?

Who?  Us?  We're just taking a quick nap in the hayfield.  Garden?  What garden?

Oh.  That garden.  Nah, never heard of it.  Ummm, gotta run...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

My Dad

I have a great dad.  He's big and strong and smart and makes us laugh (although he's always had a hard time getting a word in with three girls in the house), he's a good listener (when he has his ears in-although he fakes it pretty well when he doesn't), he's a really hard worker, he's a really good fixer and most recently, he's a really good grandpa.


We love my dad!  Happy Father's Day!

Inoculating Mushroom Logs

Robert and I spent last Sunday inoculating mushroom logs.  The process actually started over a month ago when he spent several weeks taking down sweetgum trees around our place and cutting up a few other hardwoods off of Bruce's place.  When he had a decent stack going I ordered spawn from Fungi Perfecti.  This year instead of ordering shiitake plug spawn we decided to go with shiitake sawdust spawn because it is much less expensive to do a large amount of logs and we read that more spawn actually makes it in the hole than when using dowels.  It took a little while for us to get in a groove and not be tripping over each other but eventually we worked the process out. 

Robert used his high speed drill with his "super fast drill bit" to drill holes every four inches or so around the log.

Then we each took a palm inoculator and jammed it down in the bucket of spawn, put it the opening of a hole and filled each hole with sawdust spawn. 

Then we brushed paraffin wax over both ends of the logs and over each hole to keep the sawdust spawn and as much moisture as possible in the log.  

Now we keep the logs watered and covered throughout the summer, sit and wait.  Till next April.  

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Squash Bugs

I've had some of the prettiest little squashes this year.  Beautiful green and yellow zephyr squash and a dark green and bicolor pattypan squashes.  I guess I've been so busy taking flower pictures that I've forgotten I grow veggies as well because tonight I can only find one picture of these pretty pattypans.

Squash plants never last long enough around here though.  Between the diseases that take them down and the damage inflicted by squash bugs we only have a few weeks before our squash plants look like this...

I was reminded a few nights ago that we definitely have pests that inflict nearly as much damage as blister beetles.  Squash bugs.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sungold Giveaway

All right, y'all!  We are swimming in sungolds!  So we are going to do a little giveaway for next week's markets.  Make a comment on this blog post letting me know which market we see you at and we'll draw a name for each of four markets to give away a pint of cherry tomatoes.  First up is Farm2Work-make your comment by Tuesday (6/19) at 8:00 pm!  Conway Locally Grown and Arkansas Local Food Network make your comment by next Thursday (6/21) at 8:00 pm!  Winners will have a box with their name on it when they pick up their online orders.  Hillcrest customers, you have till next Friday (6/22) night, I'll post the winning name at 9:00 and then you'll be able to stop by our booth on Saturday morning to pick up your tomatoes.  

Now if you've been reading this blog for anytime at all, you ought to know that you stand a pretty good chance of winning by posting-I promise my mom and my sister are out of the running! ;) 

Maters, y'all!

Monster Milan and I have been picking "oranges" (his word for tomatoes thanks to our orange cherries) all morning and I just had to post a picture of a few we'll be taking to Friday and Saturday's markets.

Cherokee Purple Heirloom Tomato

Not a great picture but, top to bottom, Cherokees, Valley Girls, and Sungold cherry tomatoes!

These and more will be at the Hillcrest Farmers Market Saturday morning!  Get there early, y'all!

Picking up Eggs

Nick found a big nest of eggs when he was moving some hay so I enlisted the Monster's help in picking them up.

Big mistake.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Surprise! Babies!

I knew we had a broody hen sitting on a nest but I wasn't sure how long she'd been sitting by the time I noticed.  Apparently, long enough.  Three little critters.  Nick found them today when he was cleaning out the chicken coop.  Since we'd already run the other chickens out of the coop, we shut the momma and her brood in the coop for the day with just the old blind bird.  

By about 6:00, most of the crew was getting anxious to get back in the coop...

Only until I fed the horses though.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Harvesting Garlic

Our garlic has been ready to harvest for a couple of weeks now but I've put it off because our lack of rain for a month has made the ground super hard.  Normally I can pull the garlic up without having to dig it out but the first few attempts I made at this last weekend just pulled the stem off of the bulb and I ended up having to dig the bulbs out.  Yesterday we got about an inch of rain so I figured it was time to start getting the garlic out of the ground.  An inch of rain didn't make much difference in how hard the ground was.  It didn't take long to remind me why I don't grow much of anything that needs to be dug out of the ground.  I don't like to dig.

Another difference in this year's garlic is we never pulled the scapes off.  Garlic scapes shoot up the top of the plant and end up flowering if left intact.  I have always read that garlic bulbs will be larger if the scapes are pulled off the plant because the plant is able to put more energy into the bulb.  This year I just never got around to pulling the scapes off.  Today I consider that a bonus for me because not only do I get to enjoy this...

but the majority of my garlic bulbs looked like this...

That's a pretty nice size hardneck garlic - not an elephant garlic.  Proof that letting your garlic acclimate to your soil for a few years by replanting your biggest bulbs will produce great garlic bulbs.  

One bed of garlic on the trailer so far, three more to go.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Calling All Hands

There's no doubt we're in the heart of it around the farm this week.  Not only are the summer crops in full production but the last of the spring crops are coming out of ground that needs to be cover cropped and late summer/fall crops need to get in the ground to keep from stalling out late in the season.  And everything needs to be watered.  I'm staying super busy, Robert comes home from work to start his second job as a farmhand, Nick's back from vacation and helping out a few days a week, Milan has to forage for his own food, even the goats are busy pulling their weight getting rid of diseased squash plants and overgrown okra.

And did I mention we have blister beetles?  In the house??  Are you kidding me?

Yet as I walk around the farm I consistently find a few slackers.  They all look like this...

This is Resentment.  So named because Robert resents that I brought him home.  I resent that he does nothing but kill bluebirds.  We had a little discussion about how things were going to change around here.  I think he really appreciated what I had to say.