Farmer’s Notes 2-7-09

We’ve had another rollercoaster weather week, but it certainly ended on a high note. It’s interesting to note that historically farmers and old timers talk about a February thaw. Sort of a break in winter, with unseasonably warm weather bookended by cold and ice and snow. It’s curious how much more I pay attention to these things now that I’m out in it every day. All in all it was a really nice break from bundling up everytime I went outside. We took advantage of the opportunity, getting another bed of greens seeded in the greenhouse, which germinated in the warm sunshine, and is now looking like green cordouroy on the east side of the greenhouse. We also put up the frame of one of the new portable greenhouses (although it was way too windy to get the plastic skin on it). Lesley and I did our best imitation of Dorothy yesterday, trying to fold a 100’x30′ piece of plastic in 40m.p.h.winds. The plastic had been covering the green onions, tatsoi, beets, mizuna, and arugula outside, and we were trying to remove it to let everything dry out a little. At one point, the plastic caught a big gust of wind, and both of us where being pulled across the gravel driveway on both feet, wondering where we would end up if we lifted off. Probably not Oz, more likely on top of the hoophouse. On the up side, all that sun and wind has done a good deal to melt the ice and dry out the mud that I waded through all last week. The new baby pigs enjoyed their first warm sunny days, lounging in the sun, and all the animals were in noticeably chipper moods (it’s possible that they were picking that up from the farmer). Best of all, the sun and warmth really gave all the greens a much needed growth boost, and we are well on the way to adding spinach and swiss chard to our greens selection. In fact, you may have noticed that there were some chard thinnings on top of your lettuce bag today. baby chard like that tastes a lot like spinach. I hope you enjoy.

By the way, I’ve been meaning to answer the question “why does my lettuce have aphids and dirt on it?” Nobody has asked, but I thought I’d offer an explanation anyway. First off, Aphids are appearantly the bane of all greenhouse growers. This is mainly because the greenhouse is a perfect environment if you are a soft bodied, tiny bug. There are some organic controls, like insecticidal soap, and chrysanthemum extract (known as Pyrethrem), but they require a regular spray schedule, and are only somewhat effective. The best control is predatory insects, like lacewings, lady bugs, and a whole host of other tiny heroes, but they are difficult to maintain in a cold greenhouse like we’re growing in. The most intriguing piece of the puzzle is that aphids seem to prefer plants which are being very well fed. This is probably a contributor to our current problem, as we filled our growing beds primarily with compost, so they are very fertile. Bottom line is, we are continuing to seek solutions, but fortunately, so far, the aphids are not causing significant damage. Alright, you say, but why are they still on my lettuce, not washed off? Two reasons; one, is that greens last better the less they are handled, and washing them without getting them fairly dry afterward is a good way to rot them right away. Secondly, we don’t yet have the facilities to wash and dry greens inside, and in a timely manner. This past spring when we were washing, sorting, drying, and bagging 15 bags of lettuce for each CSA harvest day, two people would frequently spend 2 hours at the job. I don’t have enough time each Saturday to harvest everything and get it perfectly clean by myself, plus most of the time I would be trying to do that in below freezing temperatures. On the upside, I’ve been researching more efficient and effective ways to clean our veggies, specifically greens, and have come across several promising ideas. One of them involves using a washing machine as a large scale salad spinner, so if anyone has such a beast hanging out in their garage that they would like to contribute to the cause, please let me know. In the meantime, please keep washing those greens, but don’t get too worried if you can’t get all of the dirt off, as Dr. Dasovich, who is part of our Core group, tells me that soil contains lots of good vitamins and minerals, like B-12, which many of us are deficient in these days.

Enough rambling for tonight, hope you enjoy the veggies; and thanks, as always, for letting us be your farmers. Sincerely, Curtis

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