End of Summer Newsletter

Riverbend Farm End of Summer Newsletter                                 August 31, 2016

The days are getting shorter faster now. The sun isn’t up even if I sleep in a little and it is looking like dusk by about 6:30. The State Fair is in full swing.  Summer is coming to an end.  Typically we will have our first brush with frost in a couple weeks.  And then we will have another 6 weeks of decent weather.  On average.

It has been a warm, humid summer. We have had a couple months worth of rain in August and the mosquitoes are thick, but we have not had rain like other areas of the state – http://water.weather.gov/precip/index.php?analysis_date=1472515200&lat=47.1411618030&location_name=MN&location_type=state&lon=-91.5468107407&precip_layer=0.75&product=observed&recent_type=today&rfc_layer=-1&state_layer=0.75&hsa_layer=-1&county_layer=0.75&time_frame=last30days&time_type=recent&units=eng&zoom=6&domain=current  .  You can recognize the shape of Hennepin County. Wright County is the next one WNW of Hennepin and we have had a solid 6” of rain in August. You will notice the band of 10-15” rain just south and west of us, which I an very glad that we did not get.

The on farm pick CSA has been a big success on our side and Mary has gotten a lot more involved with it.  Our CSA is much smaller than previous years but we have had a chance to visit with our members, trade recipes, see what is popular and what is not, etc. It is a lot more fun that dropping off stacks of boxes behind a co-op.

Getting rid of the bunched arugula, radishes, and other greens seems to have worked out pretty well. Numbers at the end of the year will tell the tale. Our crew is much smaller, about 7 person days per week ( and now 5) versus  25-30 pd/wk the last couple years.  I actually have time to do something other than try to have enough work ready for the crew to do.

Not that it has all been smooth sailing this year but I don’t think that you can make any big change and not have to deal with some bumps a long the way.  One noticeable problem is that I should have had people working 3 days per week to keep up on weed control and things like trellising tomatoes, but all in all, it has been good.

This year we had a few hot rainy days  in early August when the weeds just exploded.  The pepper plants were too big to cultivate the last time I went through in late July. By early August there wasn’t anything that could be done from the seat of the tractor.

Meanwhile, on the mechanical side of things,  I think I have figured out some replacement nose rollers for my potato digger.  Last year the bed chain would come off ( and bust something)  when the digger had a big load of dirt  on.  A cursory look showed that the front bed roller on the left side was now a three piece  unit when it should have been two.  The machine is probably 100 years old and the rollers that run in the dirt all the time finally wore out.  As you might imagine, there are no replacement parts for an Oliver potato digger that was made when horse power was provided by horses.

McMaster Carr has some heavy duty cast iron wheels that were about the right size.  A few pounds of spacers and shims and it looks like it will be ready to go again. The hard part was figuring out how to keep the dirt out of the bearings on the new wheels.  In the end I turned four caps out of 3” aluminum round stock to capture a piece of 2” straight radiator hose between each cap and the hub of the new wheel to make a grease seal.  A couple grease fittings and it should be good for the next 100 years.  I hope.

The combine project is at a bit of a standstill while the potato digger gets repaired.  The wet weather has made it impossible to combine anything. I expect that the wheat and oats are a complete loss. The rye is tougher stuff, it started out as a weed in wheat.  While it would be nice to have it ready to go on Saturday, the vast majority of the small grain will go into cover crop seed. I can buy enough cover crop seed for $6-700, On the other hand there are thousands of dollars worth of potatoes out in the field that will need to be dug.

It looks like another good year for potatoes. They like cool wet weather, but don’t seem to mind the warm weather either.  For the past two years we have been planting potatoes very late to avoid the big waves of potatoes bugs. It appears to have worked. It seems like when the potato bugs chew on the plants they are also spreading diseases. Usually the potatoes would die off in late July. With the late planting they go until frost, giving me another 6 weeks of growth. Some of the potato varieties are starting to fade but mostly they still look good.  I know our crew, Nikki and Kathy, are looking forward to adding a thousand pounds of potatoes to the pick list.

Mary  waded into the mosquito infested squash field to see how they are doing.  She did not get very far but found a big rotten pumpkin and noticed that some varieties didn’t seem to have a lot of fruit. The butternuts looked okay. She found a delicata that snapped off and cooked it last night. The flavor was good but the texture was very dry, like an uncured kabocha. Hopefully this year will not be a repeat of last year when we lost half of the crop due to wetness in the fall, leading to lots of rot.

Well, last week a big week but not a lot got done on the farm. My Mother died on Tuesday and the funeral was on Saturday.  Thanks for all your kind thoughts on my Mother’s passing.  It is really true that everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to go today.  My Mom was a devout Catholic her entire life but felt that she was a terrible person who was bound to go to Hell.

She made everyone that came into our family, spouses, grandchildren, great grandchildren feel more than welcome and made sure that they were taken care of as best she could.

At the end of her life she was probably the happiest that she had been for a long time.  Mom started going downhill shortly after my Dad died, and for the past few years her short term memory was shot. She couldn’t remember all the things she was ‘supposed’ to be worrying about.  While she would ask me how the farm was doing three times in twenty minutes, she could remember details from her childhood as if they has happened yesterday.  And she was not afraid to speak her mind up to the very end.

All my brothers and sisters came into town and we spent more time together than we have in years.

Mosquitoes are still terrible.