Friday, August 21, 2009

Dog Days of Summer

My deepest apologies for not having written for, what, three weeks? I was traveling, but then I wasn’t, I was back working at the farm, but I couldn’t seem to find the motivation to write. Why not? Don’t know. The weeks have been up and down, but that’s normal. There has been plenty going on.

The name of the game this past week has been survival. Surviving the heat. We had a heat wave, with temperatures in the low 90’s on Monday and Tuesday, very high 80’s on Wednesday and Friday, with Thursday a relatively mild 83 or something like that. As you can imagine, working very long days in this heat, under the sun, can be difficult. We are lucky, between the ocean’s proximity and the open fields around us, to have a good breeze much of the time, but there’s only so much it can do in extreme heat and humidity. Plus, many tasks take us down onto our knees and between rows of vegetables where there is often little wind. Weeding is definitely a challenge. I think the worse task this week, for me, has been harvesting cherry tomatoes. They are prickly and viney, full of mosquitoes, unfortunately full of rotting leaves and fruit due to the blight, dusty and hot with no wind. Though the sungold cherry tomatoes that we are still able to harvest are certainly wonderful. Let them go all the way to their deep orange, when they are ripest, and they are so sweet, so delicious. If you can wait, take a few home, cut them in two and put a pinch of salt on them and it is an awesome explosion of flavor.

Those are really some of the only tomatoes we are getting, along with a few other of the smaller cherry varieties. We have also harvest a number of green tomatoes, which are ripening in our barn, slowly. They are not quite as good, of course, as tomatoes gone to full ripeness on the vine, but it is what we can do this season. The blight is taking virtually our entire tomato crop, and anything of any size that approaches ripeness goes bad. Sad! Tomatoes are such a wonderful part of summer, in particular a summer on a farm.

But other exciting things are happening. We are harvesting cucumbers (including lots of little pickling cukes that I really enjoy), eggplant (one of the most beautiful of vegetables, in all of it’s many varieties), summer squash and zucchini, lots of peppers (including some purple peppers and hot peppers which are just starting to come in), leeks…lots of stuff. Though harvesting can be monotonous, I generally enjoy moving along a bed of vegetables, particularly things like squash, cucumbers and eggplant where it seems every plant holds a little (or big) treasure just a little different than all the others. I enjoy the mild anticipation, wondering if the next plant will have a lot of fruits or if it will be bare, and the little surprise at whatever it has. Surprise is maybe a bit extreme of a word for this, but you get the idea. Eggplant in particular, with its big soft leaves; poking around and looking, suddenly there’s this shiny black globe hiding against the earth below.

We are not the only ones affected by the heat. The heat, and in particular the lack of rain for the last two or three weeks is also difficult on the plants, the soil, and us as we start to worry about them and figure out ways to get water to them, and endless speculation about if and when it’s finally going to rain. I know I (and most of us) complained quite a bit about our rainy, cold June, but it just doesn’t take much temperature in the high 80’s with no water to make our plants very thirsty. Most of these vegetables are mostly water. So moving around and fixing our irrigation systems has been a daily task.

Our irrigation comes from a well that was dug on the farm expressly for the CSA’s use. We have three systems. One is a standard overhead sprinkler system, where a series of aluminum pipes with four foot rotating sprinkler heads are attached directly to the pipe. These can be moved, but are rigid once in place and take a couple of hours to reset for another set of beds. We also have something called the Traveller, which is a single hose with a sprinkler attached, which is slowly (slowly) drawn across the length of a bed by a contraption that is powered by the water pressure. Finally, we have a set of drip tubes, which is a hollow plastic tape attached to a header hose. The drip tapes are run along a row of vegetables, buried in the soil at root depth or just on top of the soil. They are perforated with tiny holes every couple of inches and essential drip water slowly directly into the soil. They lose far less water to evaporation and runoff than any other method that I’m aware of. I like them. We had a few lines that were torn up by the reggie weeder earlier in the season, and I spent a couple of hours today walking the lines, finding leaks or kinds that were preventing the water from traveling the entire length of the bed, and fixing them with fresh tape and connector attachments. It was kind of fun, a bit of problem solving, with noticeable, tangible improvements at the end and the added benefit of being sprayed by water frequently when working on the leaks.

That’s all I’m going to write for the moment; I’m getting hungry. But I’ll try to keep with it a bit more than I have the last couple of weeks.

Peace to all.


Nikki said...

I did some tomato canning this week and have a big jar for you.

Anonymous said...

I'm canning right now! Hope to see you in October.