Greenhouse

Greenhouse

It’s spring. The snow is melting even if it is not exactly warm outside. The fields where we will be working are largely clear. A flock of 30 or so robins stops by in the evening and searches for bugs in the flower gardens. The puddles are draining so I think the frost is starting to go out.

I was planning to change the greenhouse heater last Saturday. The forecast was for it to be above freezing overnight so it there was a hold up, it would not be a disaster. Saturday morning the old heater was kaput. Gas valves don’t seem to like the heat and humidity in the greenhouse. The hardest part was moving the old heater. It was full of antifreeze and had been kind of built into the corner behind the germ chamber. Once it was out of the way I used air pressure and a hose to transfer the antifreeze to the new heater. By Saturday night it was up and running. It is nice to have a working pilot light system again and a burner that puts out the rated amount of heat.

It has been a little cool in the greenhouse with the fading heater so the early tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant (for plant sales) are a little slow, but the cool season crops have been loving it.

Greg

 

 

Late Winter Newsletter

March 10, 2014

Riverbend Farm Late Winter Newsletter

 

It has been a real winter. It feels like I spent most of January plowing snow. We could get another foot of snow this month, but it feels like it is over. The sun is coming back north. The birds are singing. A wasp thawed out and was staggering around on the window sill this morning. I have moved enough snow that I can get into the greenhouse again. It didn’t help that the doors were iced shut, but with the warm weather the past few days it is all good. Today I’ll start heating up the floor to get ready for starting onions and herbs. I’m also going to test the germination of the seeds that we saved from last year.

Meeting season is over and it is time to wake up the next farming season.

At the Northern Plains Sustainable Ag Society meeting I came up with a vague idea of a farm breeding club to produce locally adapted vegetable seed. We would select varieties to do well in our region and produce the seeds. At first it will probably just be a club  or coop where we share the seeds between the farms that are growing them. In the future I see it being a local seed company, a place with a catalog of seeds for local growers and home scale vegetable gardeners.

If you have a vegetable garden and are interested in participating in a beta test I have some vegetable seeds that were in 2012 and grown out in 2013. I know that these produce good fruit. I also have some seeds that were saved from 2013 that have not been grown out. I’m very confident that they will also be productive since I’m planning to use a lot of them this year. Send me a note and I’ll send you my seed list. Packets will $3 each plus $1 for envelopes and postage.

Most of the varieties are straight ahead Open Pollinated varieties, but some are seeds saved from hybrids.  F2 seeds are saved from hybrids so they produce a lot of variation. All of the F2s that we grew out last year produced useable veggies, but the size, shape, and color were all over the place. Some of those variations will become new varieties. F3s are the result of selecting the plants and fruit with the best characteristics of the F2s from last year. They will be less wild, but will  still have a fair amount of variation.

I will have organic vegetable transplants available for sale this spring. There will be all manner of tomatoes ranging from big reds to cherries to heirlooms and paste (roma type). In addition to bell peppers there will be red and yellow sweet peppers, and many hot peppers. Eggplants, onions, herbs, and a few flowers will round out the mix. The plants will be available at the Birchwood around Mother’s Day, at the Saturday Delano Farmers Market, and here at the farm.

Our Sustainable Farming Chapter has been pushing around the idea of doing something with locally produced food, beyond fresh produce. Catsup, pickles, and who knows what else ( pop and potato chips would be popular, but were ruled out early on). Last fall Carl over at Three Crows tried making a test batch of kimchi using all local ingredients (except for salt) to see what the process would be like. He used cabbage, onions, the real deal Korean kimchi peppers, daikon, and smoked hot peppers (in place of fish sauce) all from our farm. It is spicy, but not too hot. Now I have jars of local kimchi available for sale.  Pints are $9, Quarts are $16 and Half Gallons are $30.  If you are interested, let me know. Mary is addicted to it.

A couple things coming right up on GMOs. The USDA is getting ready to approve a new generation of RoundUp ready seeds that will be resistant to Dicamba and 2,4-D.  The first generation of GMO crops was a failure due to the creation of RoundUp Ready resistant weeds. So now they want to add much more toxic and likely to drift chemicals to the mix to fix that problem. It didn’t work the first time, so why not do it again ?! Seems crazy to me.

One of the big problems with Dicamba and 2,4-D is that they drift a lot more than RoundUp and they can drift for miles days after they have been applied. The drift will affect everyone not growing GMO corn or soybeans.  The other problem is that they are much more toxic chemicals.

Today is the day to act. The USDA comment period closes tomorrow. Search for ‘USDA Subject: Docket No. APHIS-2013-0042 ‘ and make a comment opposing the approval for these crops.

Closer to home Right to Know Minnesota is having a lobby day at the Capitol in St. Paul to push for the labeling of GMOs in our food. Unless you are eating an all organic diet you are taking part in a mass feeding study to see if novel proteins in our food have undesired health effects.  If you would like a chance to opt out of this poorly designed  experiment, labeling GMOs in food is a good first step.

Big Ag and Big Food are spending 10s of millions of dollars to keep food from being labeled when close to 90% of Americans think it is a good idea. It seems important to them to keep us from knowing what we are eating. I get the idea that these corporations are all excited about the free market doing its work, not to mention I don’t trust them to do what is the best for me.

The event at the Capitol  will be Thursday, but they are asking that you sign up in advance so they have time to set up meetings with your legislators.  See their website at http://righttoknowmn.org/.

Greg

 

 

Saved Seed List

2013 Saved Seed (112 Varieties)

 

Greens (1)

Arugula (Fedco) 10#

Kale (3)

Red Russian Kale

Rainbow Lacinato

Lacinato

Other Brassica (2)

Brussel Sprouts

Columbia Cabbage

Roots (3)

Chiogga Beets

Purple Top Turnips

Misato Rose

Zucchini (3)

Dark Star

Golden Arrow

Cocozelle

Winter Squash (3)

Sunshine F2

Waltham Butternut (2012 Denny Compton)

Delicata (2012 Denny Compton)

Lettuce (3)

Rouge d’ Hiver

Grandpa Admire’s

Freckles

Peanuts (1)

Tennessee Red Valencia

Misc. Nightshades (3)

True Potato Seed

Aunt Molly

Purple Tomatillo

Peppers (22)

Korean Kim Chi

Sauhuro F2

Aji Dulce

King of the North

Boldog

Fehezeron

Hungarian Hot Wax

Habanero

Olympus F2

Highlander F2

Trinidad Spice

Alma Paprika

Pablano

Hinkelhatz

Early Sweet Hungarian

Vietnamese Hot

Revolution F2

Serrano OOHH

Sweet Sunrise F2

Flavorburst F2

Serrano Tampico

Jalapeno

Eggplant (12)

Beatrice F3 Oval

Beatrice F3 Round

Diamond

Clara F2

Classic F2

Nadia F2

Nubia d’ Gandia

White Lightning F2

Orient Express F2

Orient Charm F2

Dairyu F2

Galine F2

Tomato (32)

Granadero F3 1st

Early Girl F3 1st

Early Girl F3 Potato Leaf 1st

Amber

Early Cascade F3

Uncle Everett

Persimmon

Martian Giant

Orange You Glad

Valencia

Paul Robeson

Rose

Moonglow

Peron Sprayless

LeRoy’s Orange Banana

Granadero F3 2nd

Cherokee Purple

LeRoy’s Sausage

PROS Brandywine

Amish Paste

Dakota Sport

Pineapple

Moskovich

Early Girl F3 2nd

Early Girl F3 P.L. 2nd

Purden’s Purple

Evergreen

Chianti Rose

Blush F2

Pusztakolosza

San Marzano

FFSC Brandywine

ORLST

Caro Rich

Pole Beans (11)

Mette’s Gotland Cranberry

Kentucky Wonder (Siskiyou Seeds)

Kentucky Wonder (SSE)

Hidatsa Red

Hidatsa Shield

Scarlet Runner

Trebano Romano

Kelly Farm White

Blue Lake

Golden Nectar

Parshall Snap

Tarbais

Bush Beans (9)

Dragon Tongue

Black Turtle

Loyalty

Royal Burgundy

Strike

Gold Rush

Dove

Easy Pick

Herbs (1)

Basil

Grain (3)

Emmer

White Sorghum

Wachichu Flint

Oats

Field Peas

 

 

Comments on the FSMA

Re:      Food and Drug Administration Produce Standards Rule: FDA-2011-N-0921  RIN 0910-AG36

Nov. 12, 2013

We own and operate Riverbend Farm, in  Delano, Minnesota, a small scale diversified, certified organic, vegetable farm. We produce more than 20 types of vegetable crops for sale to our CSA members, local restaurants, grocery stores, and schools.

Food Safety is important to every small farm. If we have a contamination problem and someone gets sick from eating our food, we are out of business.  I take food safety very seriously.

The definition of a facility will make it very difficult for anyone ramping up production on a small farm. Many times a beginning farmer will not have a wide enough product offering or quantity to attract the attention of potential buyers. If they can piggy back their offerings on a more established farm they will have an opportunity to enter the marketplace.  For example: A neighboring farm grows great onions, but is just starting out. No one is going to buy just onions when they also need cabbages, winter squash, potatoes, and turnips.  They meet their produce needs with a farm that offers all of these items.  If the onions can be delivered by a farm that has most of the above items, both farms can benefit. A low limit (5 items) on the number of items delivered from other farms would solve this.

The proposed rules for applying composted manure are in conflict with the NOP standards for composted manure.  There is no documented case of anyone getting sick from produce that was fertilized with compost in accordance with the NOP standards. And the NOP standards are over the top for anything but sewage sludge. Align the proposed rule with the NOP standards. The FDA may also want to consider including best practices for handling raw manure in the new rules, i.e. incorporate the raw manure within 24 hours to minimize nutrient loss and the potential for water ( surface or irrigation ) contamination.

The proposed rules should include language to encourage the use of conservation practices that enhance beneficial insect habitat, provide windbreaks for soil erosion control and limit pesticide drift.

In many instances it is completely impractical to exclude wild animals from farm fields.  Training on how to identify scat and droppings would go a long way towards eliminating that as a possible source of contamination. A list of ‘animals of concern’ may be interesting, but not useful in many instances.  For example, what happens if our neighbors on three sides have habitat for listed animals ? 

Under the Produce rules for the ‘qualified exempt’ farms the income limit should not apply to commodity crops unless all commodity crop farms are subject to the proposed rules.  Since commodities are not regulated under the Produce Rule the value of them should not be considered as income for a produce operation.

It is not clear what would cause a qualified exemption to be withdrawn. I can’t tell from reading the proposed rule what would trigger that withdrawal nor what actions would prevent it.  It is also not clear how a farm would earn back the qualified exemption.  As a small farm we do not have staff to do extra paperwork and documentation. Losing the qualified exemption status ( for unknown reasons) would probably put us out of business.  This could be improved by stating what kind of problem would lead to withdrawal of qualified exempt status, what would be acceptable documentation to prevent withdrawal, and including a process to regain qualified exempt status.

The estimated cost to comply with the regulations would seem to favor large scale operations, perhaps another facet of an unstated, but misguided  ‘Get Big or Get Out’  policy.  Current trends show that the number of small farms are  increasing to meet the demand for local food.  Preventing these farms from operating is not going to help satisfy that demand and will not appreciably affect food safety. The vast majority of people who suffer a food borne illness are eating products from large scale operations. To put a undue portion of the cost of insuring a safe food supply on small farms makes no sense.

An integrated approach to producing safe food makes the most sense. We grow  more than 20 different kinds of produce,  several types of cover crop seeds, and large areas of green manures.  To treat each crop separately would be a  logistical nightmare. The details may differ if a crop  is lettuce or tomatoes, but avoiding contamination in the field,  during harvest, cleaning, packing, and storage are common to every crop we produce.

Thank you for your consideration of this.

Greg Reynolds

Riverbend Farm

5405 Calder Ave SE

Delano, MN 55328

763-972-3295

greg(dot)reynolds(at)frontier(dot)com

 

 

Food Safety Modernization Act

It is time to comment on some proposed regulations again.

Remember when the federal organic rules were proposed and they included GMO seeds, sewage sludge, and irradiation ? A flood of comments stopped that from becoming part of the NOP rules. This time it is The Food Safety Modernization Act. 

The FDA,  a revolving door for corporate ag ( don’t believe me ? do an online search for ‘ fda revolving door big food’ ) is proposing rules for food safety on small farms.  Not only are they out of control, they seem to have no idea that most food is actually grown in dirt.

All this came about due to the e coli spinach scare in 2006.  Remember that after waiting until all the contaminated spinach had been eaten the Feds declared a recall. Now the federal government has leapt into action again and  proposed a solution to a problem that doesn’t address the issue. 

Disclaimer: I am not an anarchist. Government has a role to play. I believe that at least some portion of our taxes are the price we pay for living in a civil society. Etcetera.  I do have a tin foil hat, but I reserve that for special occasions.

The issue is large corporations  handling huge amounts of food and shipping it all over the country with short term profit as the only goal that stock holders appear to recognize. 

Food safety is important. Especially for small farms. How many of you would buy from me if you knew you or one of your customers got sick from eating my produce ?  My guess is none. Since Mary and I are not a kazillion dollar corporation, that would be a real problem.  Trust me,  food safety is important.

If you search for ‘e coli spinach’ or ‘e coli beef’, you don’t find small farms showing up at the top of the results. It is big companies that handle tons of product and ship all over the country.  Small farms can and do have problems, but they do not affect  thousands of people in several states.

Back to the issue at hand. When it comes to ag policy, I have never seen a bunch of people who are so out of touch with that is actually happening as the Congress, the FDA and the USDA.  Not funding food stamps ?!  GMOs, etc. in organics ?  Subsidizing the wealthiest farmers the most, trade policy, the list goes on and on. But these proposed FDA regs are seriously off the rails.

Some of the big issues are: the lack for due process in withdrawing small farm status, the way that  small farm status is figured,  manure handling requirements, the definition of a ‘facility’,  conflict with conservation practices, and the cost for a small farm to comply.

A good place to start to learn more is Harriet Behar’s column in the Organic Broadcaster.

http://mosesorganic.org/policywork/inside-organics-blog/proposed-food-safety-regulations-put-americas-family-farms-at-risk/ 

( you might have to copy and paste the above URL).

Another good resources is The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

http://sustainableagriculture.net/fsma/

The National Organic Program is a mess.  Largely due to corporate influence in the decision making process.  The Food Safety Modernization Act  is simply another step in the unstated policy of “Get Big or Get Out” to benefit big  ag.  These people, who are far removed from where their food comes from and only hear from ‘people’ with money ( corporations are people now and money is not property or a modicum of exchange, it is speech) are deciding what is best for you and me. 

Here is the hard part. You are going to have to do some of your own research and write a comment letter to the FDA.  And the deadline for doing anything is the 22nd .  You have to get cracking. Please move this up on your to-do list.

We have to speak up and let them know what is happening out here in the real world. Please write a comment by next Friday.

Thanks for reading this far. I hope you will continue to help preserve local small scale agriculture.

Greg Reynolds

Riverbend Farm

 

 

 

Nov. 6

Riverbend Farm Newsletter                                                 November 6, 2013

It is a beautiful snowy day. The snow in the trees against the clear blue sky is very pretty.  Today is not a harvest or delivery day, and there is not much that needs doing outside.  It sure feels like a day off.

We have been surprisingly busy for this time of year, selling a month’s worth (or more) veggies per week.  I would much rather sell everything now than deal with freezing cold conditions putting orders together in December and January.  We have  lots of winter squash, potatoes, and red cabbage.  The kale quit growing several weeks ago and we are just taking the top leaves off the plants.

The rye and vetch that were seeded a couple weeks ago are just starting to germinate. They will need a little warm sunny weather to emerge.  If they don’t make it this fall, they will come up in the spring.  There is just a little field work left to do. A few sandbags and some row cover need to be picked up. Our neighbor Norman is going to chop the sorghum green manure crop once he gets all his corn harvested. And there are some black turtle beans that I would like to harvest.

Jacob and Andrew went out to Brookings to plant garlic last week.  They had enough dry days to till up their soil and get started planting. It took them a day and a half to shell out all the garlic cloves they had saved for seed. Planting took longer than usual because they didn’t have any help. Not to mention that Andrew sprained his ankle and had to crawl down the rows to plant. In all they planted about half an acre.

Jordan was off last week getting things ready to start up his farm down in Fillmore County.  He spent a lot of time getting his greenhouse set up. That left just Noelle and me to do the orders on Thursday.  It wouldn’t have been a problem if we didn’t have a month’s worth of orders on that one day.  Amelia was able to come over and help out. It made for a long day, but we did get everything done. This was a problem worth having.

This week we had another good day on Monday, but Jordan was back so it was much easier. The only complication was that people have started ordering coarse cornmeal in large quantities and the drive pin for my mill sheared off.

It has taken a couple years to get the milling process fine tuned to produce the maximum yield of finely ground corn. Less than 20% of it comes out as coarse so it was pretty easy to outstrip the production once people started ordering it. The mill came with two sets of burrs, a fine and a coarse. With a little fiddling the coarse burrs will produce about 50% coarse cornmeal. The flour portion of the kernel shatters into a powder no matter how the mill is set. 

Harvesting the black turtles has been a little more involved that I would have liked. The bean plants are kind of viney and don’t hold the pods off the ground very well. Straight combining them  loses about half of the beans.  I bought some Gaterman Crop Lifters, little flexible fingers that slide along the ground and lift the beans so they will go into the combine.  Very slick.

I hadn’t made one round when the lifters dug in and bent the sickle bar and the lip of the combine head.  Until that happened, I think that I was missing only about a third to a quarter of the beans. With the sickle bar mangled and the front lip of the head rolled under, combining came to an end very quickly.

Not wanting to let a thousand pounds or more beans go to waste the only remaining option was to pull the beans by hand and throw them into the combine, well, thresher now.  Noelle and I pulled out six rows and forked them into the thresher. It did a very nice job. Not a lot of splits and the six rows produced about 250 pounds of relatively clean beans. 

Yesterday the beans were still too wet from the rain to thresh them. With snow coming in, Noelle, Jordan, and I pulled up another half a dozen rows and stashed them in the greenhouse to dry a little. A couple sunny days in the greenhouse and they will be ready to thresh. 

I’m hoping to get more of the beans out of the field, but the window of opportunity is closing on that.  We will have to get them out in the next week or so or lose them.  It will take a few sunny dry days in a row to make it happen.

The seed saving project continues. Yesterday Jordan and I dug up several hundred kale and cabbage plants that will be stored in the root cellar until spring. Then they will be transplanted back into the field to produce seed for crops in 2015.

I’m very encouraged  by the results from this year’s seeds. One noteable  case was the misato rose  radishes. The row of saved seed had much bigger and healthier leaves than the purchased seed.  Many of the roots were the size of a softball. The purchased seed made a few roots that were the size of a base ball.  It was surprising to see the difference in just one generation.

Currently we have a stack of crates with pepper, eggplant, and zucchini seeds drying in our living room by the fire.  I’ll work on packaging up the dry seeds later today. It is pretty pleasant work, sitting by the fire.

Greg

 

 

October 20th

Riverbend Farm Newsletter                                                 October 20, 2013      

My life is dominated by the weather (like you couldn’t tell).  Right now the temperature is 30º. It is breezy and cloudy, much warmer than I expected. Last night the NWS forecast ( Bob Weisman doesn’t work weekends) was a low of 26º. We are usually a couple degrees colder than that, so it is warm this morning.

We are at the point of the season where a few degrees more or less makes a huge difference. Temperatures below 28º are considered killing frosts. The summer annuals all die at that temperature. That was two weeks ago. Somewhere around 24º is a hard freeze, cold enough to damage crops in the mustard family. That would put an end to all the leafy greens except kale. We had a low of 26º very early Sunday morning. It takes temperatures of about 20º to damage the kales.  Cover crops like oats and peas keep growing until the temperature drops to 10º.

Once it gets above freezing we will see what there is to harvest.

Sunday morning had all the makings for a perfect day. Cold and rainy, too miserable to do much outside and a fire blazing in the stove.  Perfect.

I did have a few things that need doing outside.  I have to split some wood, but that’s in the woodshed. The water heater in the greenhouse needs some attention. The combination of heat and humidity in the greenhouse has rotted out the burner. It needs a new water heater but I would just as soon not buy one and have it sit out there all winter.

I salvaged a burner out of a heater that my neighbor was scrapping and tried to adapt to this heater. The pilot won’t hold a flame for some reason and the burner  is not putting out the heat that I would expect. It’s really time for a new one. Although, this set up may work to keep the winter squash warm. Setting the temperature as high as it will go keeps the burner running all the time, negating the need for the pilot and the lazy burner keeps the water warm enough to keep the floor warm.

Last week was another good one for orders and we just finished up our CSA.  All the tomato trellis strings have been cut and the stakes pulled out.  All the cabbage has been harvested and stashed in the root cellar along with some turnips, winter radishes, and potatoes.

There are still a lot of potatoes that need to be dug.  It hasn’t been cold enough long enough to freeze the ground yet. Today we will work on getting the rest of them out.

I finally got around to harvesting a bucket of grapes for jelly. They are a mixture of wild and old Swensen Minnesota varieties. The prospect of a hard freeze clarifies what needs to be done.

Tracy at the Birchwood is having an 18th anniversary party on the 28th and it will be the kickoff for the Kickstarter campaign to raise some money for the long planned expansion of the Birchwood. If you have seen their kitchen you know they need it. Tracy says it better than I can.  Here is a link to what she has to say: http://birchwoodcafe.com/posts/4.   It is a good cause.

 Greg

Riverbend Farm Newsletter Oct. 10

Riverbend Farm Newsletter                                     October 10, 2013

It has been another wild week and the weather has been perfect. We have been moving 3-4 times as much produce as we would in any typical year.  But all good things must come to an end. The tomatoes have thrown in the proverbial towel. Everything is either slightly under ripe or rotten. Green peppers are seldom seen, Eggplant are mostly either small or over ripe.  Summer is definitely coming to an end.  Mercifully the days are getting much shorter much faster. 

The weather forecast went from a low on Sunday of 42º this morning to a predicted low of 36º tonight. Usually they overshoot a little and the predicted low come up a bit. I’ll have to see where it bottoms out, but It seems like time to get summer season crops harvested and under cover.

Rieders are making good progress on shingling the barn. It is a tough job. The roof is very steep ( 12/12) and there were two layers of asphalt shingles and a layer of cedar. I’m guessing that the cedar shingles were the original shingles on the barn.  They started on the north side.  Shingles need to be 70º+ to seal down. It is October in Minnesota. We don’t have that many 70º days left.  They will have the backside finished up tomorrow while it  is still warm. The south side will heat up in the sun and the tabs will stick down even if the air temperature never gets above 50º.

Other than harvesting all the time the crew has been picking up all the irrigation equipment, cutting the trellis string and removing the posts and stakes. Seed related activities are taking place on all levels, seeding cover crops, selecting plants for seed saving, and cleaning seeds.

We select the most disease resistant plants for seed saving. This year we planted saved seed plants next to purchased seed (of the same variety) plants and the saved seed did much better. They resisted blight better and produced more harvestable fruit. 

I have had such good luck with the seeds that were saved from hybrids that this year that I am going to save seed from a lot of the productive hybrids in addition to the high performing  open pollinated varieties.

In most cases, only about a third of the seed saved from hybrids comes true to type.  It takes several years to stabilize the a open pollinated variety from a hybrid. However, in two cases there was a second apparently worthwhile variety that came out of the hybrids.  I’m sure they will take several years to stabilize too, but they could be good. This has been a good year for selecting seed that do well in adverse conditions.

We had a great party last Saturday. Good food, conversation, and people. The weather was chilly and damp, but not bad. It made the fire all the better. Very fun.

I have a couple of projects that I need help on. One is pretty mundane. I’m looking for a 6½ – 7 foot wide snow blower for my tractor. It does not have to be in great condition, but it has to be all there. I’m planning to put it on my H and run it with a separate engine. The H does not make enough power or have enough hydraulics to run a big snow blower at low engine speeds. The separate engine will let me run the blower at full speed while the tractor is just idling.  If you know some one who has a big snow blower sitting in the grove, I’m looking.

The second one is a little more esoteric. This is one for fabric arts people. I want to grow pole beans on a large scale. To do that I need a lot of trellis. The trellis has to be made of untreated sisal, jute, or cotton. I do not want to pick bean vines off plastic netting. With  the natural fibre netting I can throw the whole mess in the combine and compost everything that comes out the back end.

The required netting would have about 8”X8” squares. The netting would have to be crocheted or tied. I don’t think that woven would not stand up to the weight of the beans. The difficult part, in addition to using 1/8” diameter string, is that the netting would be 300 feet long and 4 feet tall. I would need about 15,000 feet of the netting.

Nobody that I can find makes this type of netting or is willing to make it. The question is ‘How to make this type of netting?’  A shuttle with 3000 feet of sisal would weigh about 10 pounds and be the size if a soccer ball. 

The alternative is to run a wire the length of the row and tie a string from the wire to the base of each bean plant. That does not sound like a lot of fun.  Ideas ? Techniques ?

Extra credit question: What sparked the Back to the Land Movement in the ‘60s and ‘70s ?

Greg

 

 

 

 

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Crop Mob

Riverbend Farm Newsletter                                     September  29, 2013

 It was quite a day today. The crop mob was postponed due to rain on Saturday.  Today a dozen (or more) people showed up on short notice and harvested a field of winter squash. It was great. And what a beautiful day.  The good news is that  there were tons of squash. The bad news is that there were tons of squash. I’m sure everyone will feel muscles that they didn’t even know they had tomorrow morning.

 The Butternut squash that was from saved seed did at least as well as the purchased seed, but maybe a third of the saved seed planting was lost due to flooding in June. The saved Delicata  did much better than the purchased seed even with the higher losses due to flooding.  Next year I’m going to have Denny grow  some more pumpkin varieties.  And I’m going to plant them some place where they won’t get flooded out.

 We got a very welcome  quarter inch of rain on Saturday. The warm weather last week encouraged all the oat and pea cover crop to come up. The rye and vetch popped up after the rain. Rye emerges after a week at this time of year. Oats take about two weeks. The peas are a little slower and the vetch is slower still.  Overall, things are looking good for cover crops this fall.

 The fall cover crops do several things. They keep the soil from blowing oe washing away until there is snow cover and they keep the soil from washing away in the spring.  Cover crops also either hold or add nitrogen and organic matter to the soil for next year’s crops.  Rye is a particularly good nitrogen scavenger. It is trying to grow a big root system to help it survive the winter. It seeks out any loose N and uses it to grow a bigger plant.

 Tomato seed collection is in full swing. On Wednesday our crew harvested seeds from about 25 different tomato varieties.  On Friday they cleaned the seed and set it out to dry.  On Friday they also harvest the zucchini that were hand pollinated for seed production.  Cucurbit seed production is new ground for us. I say us because our crew did everything but clean the seeds out of the rotting zucchini. The most mature seed is produced when the insides of the zukes are rotten. Rubber gloves are required to remove the seed. The smell is not good. 

 Our crew is the best. When it is my delivery day I leave them a to do list and  usually only the worst or least understood task is left when I get back. This Friday they hand harvested five rows of pole beans that were being grown out for seed production.  With the rain coming in on Saturday, it was important to get the beans out of the field before they got wet  and had a chance of spoiling the seed.

 The full tilt harvest continues. The schools have backed off their tomato purchases to 12-1500 pounds per week. I am very grateful for the extra three weeks of harvest and the tomato sales that we have had this fall.

I’m sure there is more for this newsletter, but I have had a busy few days and am looking at a big day tomorrow.

 Reminder: We have having an open house this Saturday. 2 pm until whenever.  Potluck supper.  Farm tour. Hay ride.  Bonfire. Hope you can make it.

 Greg

 

 

Harvest

Riverbend Farm Newsletter                                                 September 19, 2013

Whew, what a day. Looking at the radar this morning it was clear that we were going to get rained on.  The question was ‘would we be in front of the severe part of the storm’. We made our preparations and headed out to do our harvest day.

 Rain gear was the order of the day.  The Crew started bunching radishes and I got set up to dig potatoes. Digging potatoes in the rain is no fun. The soil ends up being looser, but the potatoes are still buried.  It rained hard and the wind blew but it was not bad enough to keep us from harvesting radishes We picked up 0.55 inch of rain.  The rest of the day was pretty decent.

 We have been as busy as we can possibly be. We had a record sales day today, about twice our typical volume in August.  Two major differences from August: 1) we are down two people, 2) the days are getting shorter much faster.

 One of the reasons that we are so busy is because the Hopkins Schools decides to make all of their tomato sauce for the entire year  from local tomatoes. That translates into about seven tons of tomatoes. Since the season got off to a slow start there is about a month to process all those tomatoes. Today they ordered about 1200 pounds of tomatoes.

 Of course, this is on top of our usually busy late summer volume. The co=ops and restaurants have been buying more than usual too. If it doesn’t kill us it will be great. We had a pretty mediocre season going into September. It is turning around pretty quickly. Thank you all very much.

 We had our  first brush with frost on Monday morning. It was 36º at the house at 6:30 am. The dew was frozen on top of the cars. Down in the cold spot in the field the tops of the tomato plants were blackened. The basil had been covered, but some of the leaves were damaged. The next chilly mornings will be Saturday and Sunday.  At this point it looks like Saturday will be the coldest.  We will see.

 We have been getting a little rain. Saturday we got 0.8”, more than we have had in the past six weeks. The fall rains are critical to germinating the cover crop seeds that I depend on for rebuilding the soil.  The oats and peas that were planted in August  came up today. This is good.

 Now is the time to fill up on summer veggies. Winter is just around the corner. One of these days we will have a freeze that kills all the summer season plants. Frost can occur at 38º or below. It will damage the leaves and some of the exposed fruit. A freeze is 32º or colder. The severity depends on how much below 32º it gets and for how long. Below 28º most summer veggies are toast.

 Cook. Eat. Can . Freeze. Pickle. Now is the time. Soon it will be cabbages, potatoes, and winter squash. Not that they are bad, it is just that so many flavors are unavailable  until next summer.

 The tasteless, picked green, ‘tomatoes’ that  get sent up here from California or Florida aren’t fit for compost, much less eating. The same with all the out of season produce that appears in the grocery stores. It is bred for production under high input systems. Taste is not a consideration. One jar of home canned tomatoes has more flavor than a case of  cardboard winter tomatoes. Savor now.

 We are having a farm open house on the first Saturday in October. You’re invited. We might take hay ride, pick some corn. Eat some good local food.  Sit around the campfire and tell  stories. Put it on your calendar and stop by. It will be a potluck so you can show off your picnic skills.

 Greg