2 acre farm: August 2010

2 acre farm

The experiences, trials, and lives on a small farm in rural Illinois.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Consistancy vs. Tribulations

Tommorrow (Saturday 8/28) will be the second week in a row that we will not be attending our regular farmer's market. Consistancy is one of the most importaint qualities we can provide our customers but despite a booming spring and mid summer, late summer is not looking so hot on our small farm. The heat wave we just escaped nearly killed the tomatoes, did kill many ground cherries, finished off the zucchini, made some of the fall plantings a bust, and the list goes on. But we don't have our heads hung too low. The pumpkins are ripening, some fall crops still have promise, and there have been lessons learned.
Ground cherries drying out and drooping in the summer heat.

We have got lettuce, radishes, and many other salad greens planted and coming up as I write this. Okra is still strong but isn't worth taking to market without other crops. We also have a second planting of beans which are a wonderful purple type called Royal Purple. We are looking forward to digging some sweet potatoes in the next few weeks. So not all is lost we are just in an unfortunate lull.

I have learned some valuable things this season. One thing is to not under estimate the power of succession planting. While the tomatoes are just starting to produce a second round and looking quite sad doing it a few "volunteer" tomatoes are looking healthy as ever and getting ready to produce soon. The "volunteer" tomatoes are at least four weeks behind the other tomatoes because they came up when the soil was warm enough. Next year I will certainly plant my tomatoes in two plantings staggered a month apart so we will have a continuous supply through fall. I am also going to do this with other summer crops that tend to wain off this time of year like zucchini, ground cherries, and cucumbers.

I know some will wonder why I wouldn't just water to avoid this but that really isn't the solution. Firstly, we are very conscious and work very hard at keeping the gardens as sustainable as possible, but most importantly it is not the heat which has defeated the plants because of drought but instead because of the plants age. By mid-late August the plants have been working hard for at least sixteen weeks. They have been attacked by bugs, wind whipped, stepped on by people and animals, flooded by torrential rains repeatedly and now dried out. It took seeing the volunteer tomatoes to make me realize this because they are growing as if the weather was just perfect.

Since this is our first full season I think we have done pretty well. Thanks to the cyclical nature of the seasons there is always next year to do better.

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What a Tease

(Backpost for 07/19/10) Last fall I planted eight Triple Crown blackberry plants. This spring I divided them and replanted them for a total of twenty four. They have grown beautifully and most plants have two to three canes about six feet long.

I picked this variety based on a few things I had read. One was that they are a heavy producer. This variety is known to produce as much as thirty pounds per plant. They are also thorn less. The berries are large, about the size of a quarter (see picture). The final reason was there growing habit was suppose to be semi erect and require little to no training. This last fact I can assure you is not true. In fact they are of such a trailing nature that they I have had to pull them from the grass' thatch.

Despite their trailing nature and need for more training than I expected, I am quite impressed by the size of the berries I have picked off of the one floricane (blooming/fruit bearing stem) I left standing up. Hopefully next year the fruit will produce enough for market, although I am sure it wont be thirty pounds per plant quite yet.

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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Giving "Leftovers" New Life

(Backpost for 08/1/10)
Last Friday's harvest yielded over 210lbs. of tomatoes, however once they were sorted only 144lbs. were of market quality (for harvest totals to the left we only account for items that go to market). So Saturday after the farmer's market we took the afternoon off, well sort-of, and turned the tomato seconds (scarred, split, and bruised) into salsa and tomatoes with peppers for chili.

As some of you might remember from one of Nathan's first post, More on the Why, one of our main goals is to produce at least 50% of our families annual food consumption, while also producing enough to sell at market to make a living off of. One of our biggest hurdles is how do we do it in such a small space which means to preserve just about anything we can.

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