Amphibians Unite!

It’s been a pretty wet year. That has its influence on produce-cue the cracks in the top of tomatoes and nice growth on the tops of these beets in the box-but it also impacts the creepy, crawly things around here.

In the course of just 5 minutes, I had run-ins with this cute frog in the packing shed, a snake in the tall grass by the corn, and a whole host of mosquitos hell-bent on devouring me. The mosquitos were the most pressing critter yesterday. I had to suit up to harvest in one of those ski masks that can be sinched up tight so only my eyes were showing. That’s all well and good when subzero, but a bit warm on an August afternoon. I was picking cases of things in shifts. In contrast, due to last year’s drought, a person could have stood out naked in garden day and night and not have had a bite. Last year it was always 90-something, so, honestly, I’d prefer to put up with some mosquito pressure.

The reptiles and amphibians, on the other hand, are a positive sign of the health of the farm. I take joy when a toad or frog surprises me when I’m out in the potatoes or reaching down to pull carrots. Snakes. I don’t appreciate their surprise appearance nearly as much. Archer had to hear me scream like a girl when one slithered into the packing shed last week. I’m glad they are out there eating mice or whatever good things they do, but I wish they would do it away from me.

In the box:

  • A couple ears of corn: This is the end of the line for the corn. Even with two plantings and three varieties of differing maturity times, they really matured about the same time.
  • Melons: Most everybody is getting a pink Crimson Sweet watermelon, but a few will receive a cantaloupe and everyone gets a little Torpedo melon (yellow one with white stripes).
  • Green onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Jalapenos
  • Parsley
  • Colored Sweet Pepper: We’re starting to see some color out there, but nothing too consistent, so I got a mix of types turning color. You may have an orange or red bell or an Italia type. These are also sweet (not hot) but are long in shape and red/green in color.
  • A couple onions
  • Beets: One or two with some nice greens if you’d like to use them, otherwise I topped them.
  • A couple cucumbers

75-cent Sweet Corn

Lots of talk of inflation lately. Prices getting pushed up all over the place, but how does this happen? Even little Lida Farm is not immune from the pressures – we’re just one example of how this is coming about.

For over the last 10 years I’ve sold sweet corn at 50 cents an ear ($6 per dozen). Before that we were at 3 ears/dollar or $4 per dozen…that was around 2004-2008. I liked 50 cents an ear. I could more easily do the math at a farmers market and people weren’t locked into a dozen pricing. It was simple, straightforward, easy math. Now I’m back to making change with quarters and doing math in my head at the Pelican Market on Fridays – I’d like to think it keeps my brain healthy like doing crosswords. So, why would I want to make my life difficult?

Well, as a producer, prices jumped on me. At the farm we’re just as affected as anybody by the price of fuel, but we also saw a doubling of fertilizer costs, seeds go up by a third, and other inputs like compost go up together with the shipping necessary to get it here. Something had to budge and so we upped prices.

I think there’s some psychology to why we moved prices now, not unlike others. Because all other food prices were increasing around us, it became much easier to increase our own prices. Snickers bars have now broken $2. I’d like to think a person is getting more from an ear of fresh corn, which, if you put into head-to-head comparison with the Snickers is a downright bargain at 75 cents!

Where will it end? I don’t know for others, but for Lida Farm there’s nothing that will push a price higher this season – we’re not incurring any new price hikes that would affect us.

In the box:

  • Sweet Corn
  • Sweet Onions
  • Salad mix
  • Carrots
  • Melon – farmers choice: There’s a mix of melons getting ripe, so many will get a Torpedo Korean Melon (yellow with white stripes), but some will get a cantaloupe or yellow watermelon.
  • Mint
  • Cucumber
  • Tomatoes
  • Green Pepper

Tomato Rush

I’m sure it was an exciting day when that first prospector found gold at Sutter’s Mill in California. Likewise, Archer and I were in a veggie fever yesterday after finding a deep vein of tomatoes in the field. “Man, they just keep coming…” I thought as we waded through all 16 rows in the back field. We have about a dozen varieties to stretch out the season and give variety in the tomato department. Some rows were nothing but rock hard green globes, but others yielded some real bounty. Some of the early tomatoes coming in include a mix of Moskvich, Oregon Spring, Glacier, and Mountain Fresh Plus, a real mainstay on the Eastern Seaboard. The bigger Celebrity-types are holding off.

And that’s the excitement of vegetable farming, kids! When a crop comes in nicely, there’s nothing more satisfying than pulling in the harvest. I imagine this the elation felt by fishermen pulling in a big catch or hunters at the luck of coming across a great herd of prey. Now I’m getting overly dramatic.

Still, there is certainly a charge to this work. My mentor, Paul Burkhouse, once said that most veggie farmers are adrenaline-junkies and I think that’s true, at least for me. I need a little bump, whether at a busy farmers market or good harvest – it keeps the season exciting!

Do Over?

I think we’ve all had this impulse to take back time and do-over a moment in life. I’ve had this so many times in my life with so many things.

Farming produce has made me get over these regrets more than anything. In large part because a produce season is like life in hyperdrive. I’m on the schedule of a plant whose life begins and ends in less than year. For example, I was out looking at some spindly peppers we had saved from towering weeds and I thought, “Darn, if only 4 weeks ago I had pulled those weeds…” Well, in 4 more weeks those peppers will be close to a first frost so no need to beat yourself up, Ryan.

There just isn’t time to mourn the state of the garden. Certainly no chance of wallowing about a crop. I used to do this. I’d beat myself up about a crop, but now I just cold-heartedly mow the thing down and move on. I still worry plenty – that worry is a motivating factor in getting things done, of course, but, like life, we must see things to the end and worry more about our next moves rather than the moves we’ve already made.

Sylvia Adrift in Weeding Last Summer

In the box:

  • Sweet corn: Just starting to ripen. Archer and I had to do some hunting and pecking to get these to you today.
  • Sweet onion
  • Broccoli
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Some regular tomatoes: Like the corn, just starting to ripen. We waded though quite a jungle to find these hiding down low in the field.
  • Green pepper
  • Arugula: This peppery green is an acquired taste, but I love it, especially in pasta. Give this a try:
  • Carrots
  • Red potatoes

Gather Round the Fire

Any farm worth its salt continually grows a large pile of stuff. When sufficiently large, the farmer sets a match to pile and said large mound of junk disappears, transformed to ash.

We have had such a pile for a year and a half, awaiting some occasion. Sylvie lobbied for burning it when we hosted the cross country team last night. Every Sunday the team goes to a team member’s house and runs a route together; Sylvie had staked out the township road – really boring as far as a route, but the landscape is beautiful.

As the team started to come in, I knew now was my time. One piece of paper and a lighter was all it took to start the first waxed produce box, which started as a sizzle and quickly became a solid flame. The many dozen, maybe hundreds, took off like a jet fuel and in no time a roaring 50 foot fire greeted the runners back to the farm like a signal fire set ablaze by some survivors desperately trying to catch the attention of an airplane from their deserted island.

Way too hot for smores, instead we pulled down the long hose I was using for irrigation to wet down the fence that kept starting on fire. The creosote electrical pole kept smoking, but it was just a bluffing, I guess. Luckily, we had just received our second shot of rain just an hour earlier, so it was really safer than I’m making it out to be.

On the produce front, that rain on Saturday night was just a godsend. I had started irrigating in earnest on Saturday, pumping water to move these crops along. When they get too dry like that, all the sunshine and good growing temps don’t mean a thing. Somebody super dehydrated doesn’t have the get-up and go to do much and neither do vegetables.

In the box:

  • Norland Red Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Green Beans
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Green Peppers
  • Garlic
  • Napa Cabbage: This stuff is kind of ugly – that part of the field apparently was too short on fertility, but there’s still something here to chop up and put to use. This person put together 20 recipes for Napa –