Godspeed Allie

Godspeed Allie

Allie was struck and killed in front of our house last night. She was never very good at looking both ways before running into the road and this time one of Doug’s workers was going too fast to avoid her. The impact broke her back.

Allie was such a nice dog. She was affectionate and always has a big doggie smile on her face. She was great with visitors, never barking or jumping up on them.  She loved ‘herding’ the chickens, wearing a path around the chicken yard.  We only had her for a short time, but she left a big hole in our hearts.

As we finished burying her, the full moon was just coming up over the trees.  There were a few clouds scudding across that face of it. Mary turned around, and said “ Oh, Look. There she goes running across the moon.”

Riverbend Newsletter July 20

Riverbend Farm Newsletter                                                 July 20, 2013            

Mary and I snuck off for a few days earlier this week. We went Up North and stayed at Micmac Lake.  A friend of ours, Mark, put us on to these hike in cabins at Tettegouche  State Park.  They are about a mile and a half from the road and seem absolutely secluded. The weather was much cooler than it was here and the location was absolutely spectacular. Cabin B is right on the lake.

We left our crew to run the asylum and they did a great job. All the buildings were still standing when we got back and there was an order to be delivered  Friday morning.  Needless to say, it has been a short week for me.  I see that everyone here was busy picking, packing, figuring out how to do deliveries, weeding, watering, trellising tomatoes and pole beans.  There is more I’m sure…

I was planting another round of greens and radishes and realized that we are only about a month away from quitting planting for the year. It seems like summer just got started.  That is also a sign to start planting spinach and beets for fall.

An exciting development is that there have been a few ripe tomatoes. There is a small yellow, Amber, that is ripening some small yellow tomatoes. Some of the Japanese eggplant are sizing up.  There are a bunch of smaller globes and variety types too. A few early peppers are starting to show up too.  I find that I am in a much better mood after finding them.

There has been a problem with the zucchini aborting the small fruit. The most likely cause of that is lack of pollination. Squash are mostly pollinated by bumble bees.  It is a little worrying. I have started hand pollinating some of the zukes to see if it makes any difference.  Pollinating squash is a very straight forward process since the male and female flowers are very different. The males have a straight stem, while the females have a tiny zucchini under the flower.  This morning we got a tenth of an inch of rain so it washed off a lot of the pollen  off the male flowers.  First thing tomorrow we will spend a little time pollinating summer squash.

Today I spent a little time threshing and cleaning kale and turnip seeds.  The process is pretty simple.

The plants are piled on a tarp.

I walk on them to break open the seed pods. 

Remove the big straw and chaff.

Winnow the seeds to remove the light trash. 

Sieve the seeds

and do a final winnow to clean out the last few bits. 

Quite a few people could not see the pictures last time,. So I’m just going to post them on our website www.rbfcsa.com.

On Saturday morning we hosted one of the sites of the Eat Local Farm Tour.  About 15 people found us without direction to the farm being listed in the tour booklet. Several of our CSA members came by. It was nice to put a face with the names of the people whom I had not met before.  There was a lot of interest in what we were doing and how things were going this year.  I even picked a few things to try.

There is a crop mob planned for next week. I reluctant to say what we will be doing since our crew takes a to do list as a challenge, but I think that we will be weeding tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, training the pole beans up onto the strings, and hunting potato bugs.

I’ll know more next week.


Unfinished newsletter

Riverbend Farm Newsletter                                                             July 8, 2013


 The weather continues its all or nothing pattern. The heat has been good for growing  things, but it is getting quite dry. We have been watering for a week or so.  Our neighbor’s corn is starting to turn gray and the leaves are rolling up, a clear sign of lack of moisture. Our other neighbor has had their corn drowned out twice and he is not going to replant a second time.  Some of our weeds are starting to wilt.

 Lettuce and cucumbers don’t like being under water for several days. The big rain and flooding wiped out most of the cucumbers and about half of the lettuce. The warm weather this week caused a lot of the remaining lettuce to bolt. Once the plants get stressed they take any opportunity to go to seed.  The good news is that the deer did not get to eat any of the lettuce this year.  I’m planning on using the enclosure to keep the deer away from the spinach and beets.

 We put in one last round of zucchini and cucumber transplants last week. At the same time we direct seeded some cucumbers.  There is a reasonable chance that they will make it, even if we don’t have a long fall.

 The tomatoes were dry enough to cultivate just before the crop mob on the 27th.  There were some very bad washouts in those beds. Elissa, Jacob, and Noelle went out and rescued dozens of tomato plants that had washed out of the field and replanted them back in the rows. Not all of them will make it, but I bet that more than half of the will.

 The tomatoes that didn’t  get washed away look great. There are flowers and small tomatoes on several varieties, but I have not looked to see which ones are the earliest.  The biggest tomatoes are on the left over plants that were potted up for bedding plant sales. Rather than throw them out, they were hand transplanted into the rows.

 The peppers and eggplant need to be cultivated.  The weeds aren’t the problem. The big rain packed the soil and formed a crust that is keeping the air from getting into the ground.  The tricky bit is that they are in a relatively  moist part of the field so the soil takes longer to dry out. Here the moister soils generally have higher fertility, which is usually a good place to put peppers and eggplant.

 The potatoes are looking very good this year.  Potatoes need to be hilled, to have soil piled around the base of the plant to keep the developing tubers from being exposed to sunlight. The light turns them green and causes a slightly toxic compound to form.  Hilling the potatoes killed an amazing number of weeds in the row and the loose soil forms a ‘dust mulch’ that conserves the soil moisture.  Everyone has been walking the field looking for potato bugs. I would like to get through one more year without spraying for Colorado Potato Beetles to avoid any issues with resistance.

 The greens and radishes took a beating with all the water. The smallest ones just got buried.  Some got washed out,  between a third and a half of a couple plantings wound up under water  for several days. 

 Greens and radishes are something that I plant every week.  After the rain there wasn’t anyplace that I could get in to. There was a bit of the oat and pea green manure that was about done, the peas were flowering,  That was high and fairly dry.  Jordan plowed that up and I planted in there. It was not exactly like eating your seed corn since I’ll go back with oats and peas when the greens and radishes are done.  Next year it will be planted to sorghum sudan grass. Those plantings look great. 

 The creek finally went down between us and Cathy’s so Andrew could get across with a cultivating tractor. The winter squash needed to be cultivated. Cathy has a new pond that is three times the size that it used to be so the edge of the squash field was very wet. Andrew had to turn over a few of the plants to cultivate. I’m sue that we lost much less than we would have to the weeds. 

 SFA Festival of Farms

Coop Eat Local Farm Tour 


Local seed saving projects

Riverbend Farm Newsletter                                                             June 30, 2013

 Locally Adapted Seed Saving Project

 Some of the seed projects are coming to an end. The red russian kale is done flowering and the seed pods are turning brown.  The seed pods on the rainbow lacinato are still green and some of the plants continue to flower. They were all blown over in last Friday’s storm. I decided against standing them up because that could rip out the roots that are still intact. Some of the plants have a kink in the stem so they wouldn’t stand up anyway.

 Both varieties of kale were dug up last fall and spent the winter in the root cellar. The lacinato  plants were much larger, having been planted last spring. The RRK were seeded in late summer and were much smaller. The RRK overwintered better and look like they will produce just as much seed.

 Jean Peterson is growing out brussel sprouts for seed and she notes: “ Seed pods are formed and green. (only one plant has pods that look a little brownish.) Also the little green seed balls inside the pod taste tender and yummy” . If you know Jean, you can see her smiling as she says that.

 Brussel sprouts, cabbage, kohlrabi, and most kale are all in the same family. The red russian and the rainbow lacinato are both kales, but they can be grown next to each other because they are two different species. The RRK is related to rutabagas and the lacinato is closer to the cabbages.

 Some of the turnip seeds have started to shatter. They need to be harvested right away.  A few of the plants still have green seed pods so I’ll let them go a while longer.  The misato rose radishes are done flowering but  the seed pods are still green.  The beets are flowering, but have not  started to set seed.

 Cabbage family seed on the same plant ripens at different times. The first flowers set seed and ripen first. The best seed comes from the early set seed. The seeds are larger and tend to have a better germination rate.  Since we are not growing 10 acres of any type of seed we will harvest the seed as it ripens and store it in the corn crib where there is plenty of air flow, it is not too hot, and the mice can’t get it.

 The first planting of arugula is all flowering now. We didn’t harvest much of it, but it will make a nice seed crop.  There is so much of that  that I will let all the pods turn brown before we harvest it. My guess is that there will be several pounds of seed produced in that patch.

 The oats and peas are flowering. It looks like a great week for  them.  If it is too warm at night they spend all their energy respiring and the seed does not form.  Emmer is an old variety of wheat. It looks like an over grown lawn at this point. It has not started to tiller. The rye and vetch are also flowering. They are not so sensitive to temperatures since they are closer to weeds than food.  They are very resilient plants.

 The F2 hybrid tomatoes over at Cathy’s are looking good. There are a lot of them. The original hybrid is known as F1 seed, the seed saved from an F1 would be F2.  In theory only about 25% of the plants in each variety will come true to type.  There are about 200 plants of each F2 variety. If 25% of them are good I will still have 50 plants to save seed from.  With tomatoes, 20-25 is considered a safe number of plants to maintain genetic diversity.  Most modern hybrids are entirely self pollinating, so the plant next to the one that is true to type won’t cross pollinate it. It usually takes several years to stabilize a hybrid.

 On our side of the fence there are several side by side comparisons of saved seed ( from open pollinated varieties) and purchased seed of the same variety of tomato. It will be interesting to see if there is a noticeable difference in the plants or the productivity.

 Some of the saved seeds in the comparison are from heirloom tomatoes, which are not entirely self pollinating. There are usually a few off types that show up.  They tend to be completely different than the rest of the plants in the row and are easy to spot. It is possible to save the seed from the crosses and start a new varietal line, but there has to be some limit somewhere.

 The only seed that is obviously an off type that was noticed early and saved was some potato leafed plants that came out of Early Girl seed. Early Girl is an old hybrid, a 1962 All America Selections winner. It is early and it tastes great. It has the perfect balance between sweet and acidic flavors that make a tomato so good. 

 A few years ago Monsanto bought up the company that produces Early Girl seed. I can see them dropping this old variety in favor of something newer and more profitable.  Potato leafed tomato plants are almost always an heirloom, typically Brandywine or one of the myriad of selections from it.  It will be interesting to see what they are.

 A new venture will be hand pollinating zucchinis. There are some great open pollinated varieties and why shouldn’t they be adapted to our conditions too ?  There are two  problems 1) bumble bees visit every flower in the field and cross pollinate everything. 2) a lot of the zucchini varieties are hybrids.

 Problem number 1  means that the squash blossoms need to be taped shut the evening before they open.  As you can imagine, that need to be done everyday.  And since the bumble bees aren’t visiting every plant, pollen has to be hand collected from many plants to pollinate each female flower.  The hand pollinated flowers are then marked with a ribbon and left to go to maturity.  The latest planting of zucchini was laid out so the open pollinated varieties are all in the same area. We will just flag that area off and won’t harvest anything from the hand pollinated plants.  It will be next year before we can see how that goes.