June 2012 - There is no sweeter sound to a Colorado farmer’s ears than the sound of rain. There is no more horrifying sound than when the pitter patter of rain turns into the pounding of hail. We got hail twice last week. Wednesday night was the worst. For about 30 minutes I stood at my kitchen sink doing the dishes trying hard not to think about the devastation that was occurring outside my door. Thursday morning I couldn’t even bring myself to walk the fields. Kym delivered a verbal report: “not good”.
Typically the hail storms miss us. The one that moved through Colorado Springs last Wednesday night was dead on. The good news is that all the summer and winter squash and the 15 acres of pumpkins for the give-away had just been planted earlier in the week and had not yet germinated. The other good news is that it is not too late to re-plant a lot to things. We quickly got to work trying to mitigate the damage. My farmer friends in the Arkansas Valley recommended spraying with raw milk. This helps spread good bacteria, lessening the chances of disease, and also provides the plants good nutrients. It’s too soon to tell if this intervention will have the results we are hoping for. In addition to spraying, we got busy re-planting and re-seeding. We had just finished planting over 2000 peppers on Tuesday. Because they were so little and not yet established, they sustained a lot of damage. Some of the varieties we could replace with plants we had left over. The same was true of the tomatoes. I would say we lost about 40% of the peppers and about 15% of the tomato plants. The spinach was totally shredded and most of the lettuce heads in the six long rows we had planted were badly damaged. It’s too late to re-plant spinach – it doesn’t like the heat. Hopefully we’ll get a fall crop if we can get a handle on the major grasshopper problem we already have. We’re going to harvest the damaged buttercrunch heads and have you peel off the outer leaves and enjoy the tender, juicy heart at the center. You will also get some romaine that was under insect cover so it’s in relatively good shape. I’ve planted 6 flats of lettuce which we will transplant out in about 3 weeks. Lettuce doesn’t like the heat either, so I was careful to choose the most heat tolerant varieties to plant.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking consequence of the storm was the toll it took on the broccoli. Each year we work so hard to have a good broccoli crop, determined to keep trying in spite of major weather and bug challenges. This season was shaping up to be the best broccoli season ever. We started and transplanted over 2500 broccoli plants, getting an early start because of the warm spring. The plants looked gorgeous and were starting to head up. We’ll be harvesting some this week, although not enough yet for CSA. I just hope the plants that weren’t as far along can rebound and stave off disease and insect pressure. It was amazing how quickly the flea beetles appeared on the damaged plants.
We shall see. You’d think that farming would have cured me of all my control issues by now – given how not in control we are when it comes to the weather. But I’m afraid not. I think if you ask my husband or anyone who works for me, they will tell you otherwise. I just have to keep reminding myself that the hail storm and the damage it caused were out of my control. It is what it is and it could have been worse. The produce may not look as beautiful as I would like or be ready for harvest as soon as I had planned, but it will still be nutrient packed and taste delicious. Thanks again in advance for your patience and understanding.
Eat well and be well,
March 2012 - The other morning my 15 year old daughter commented that spring must be near because she was awoken by birds singing outside her window. It makes me happy that she takes note of the song in the air because it’s so easy to overlook or take for granted things like that in our busy everyday lives. There are signs of spring everywhere on the farm as nature awakens from her dormancy. The daylight stays with us longer. Cover crops of wheat, clover and peas, planted last fall, are starting to green up. The garlic is poking its spears through - to be greeted by the hungry cut worm, I noticed the other day, ugh! The buds on the young apple trees are beginning to appear, dangerously early. There are boxes of recently delivered seeds sitting in piles in my office. The pigs are turning over their water buckets to create wallows. Tex, the sow, is preparing her nest to receive a litter of spring piglets. Stay tuned!
It’s time too for us to awaken from our winter dormancy and start moving at a quicker pace. In anticipation of this coming week of warm weather I disked, bedded, and planted the upper vegetable fields in oats and peas. These are fast growing, cool season crops, which after two months will be tilled under, providing organic matter, tilth, and nitrogen for the soil organisms and vegetable plants to follow in May. Oats also have allelopathic residues that can hinder germination of many weeds. I’m hoping that we see evidence of this here because we could sure use some weed suppression. The pastures down below are parched after a very dry winter, so Patrick turned on the big pump the other day to begin irrigating. He was greeted by a horrifying sound from deep in the shaft. It seems the 50 plus year old pump, which works long and hard every season, is in need of major repairs. Hopefully that’s happening this week.
In spite of the cut worms and this minor setback with the pump, we’re looking forward to another growing season with great optimism. We’re looking forward to seeing old CSA members and meeting new, as well as greeting our weekly farmers’ markets customers. As always we are happy that you’ve chosen to join us for another year of our ever evolving and unpredictable adventure. While you’re waiting for the fresh Venetucci produce, take time to listen to the song bird heralding the coming of spring.
Eat well and be well,