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Agrarian Harvest

Wholesome. Organic. Experience. All about our farm, food, and organic, small farm life.

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“Off-Season” Work

Fall was way too short. It felt like we had a week of Fall and then went straight into Winter. Maybe it’s because the farmers markets are over, we’re exhausted and quickly go into hibernation mode. But, most likely, it’s the weather. It got way too cool too quick for this warm-weather-loving- body. We’d prefer our fall consisting of three months of 70 degree days. Most of our days are now cool and blustery; and it’s snowing while I type this. With all the leaves off the trees, looking bare and cold, it give us a chill  just looking out the window. But out we must go, there is work to do still.

Since the our growing season is over for the year, we will be spending our days in the field doing farm clean up. This consist of mowing the froze plants, pulling up the plastic row cover and tilling the plant debris into the soil. And the chore of pulling hundreds of t-post out of the ground that were used to stake the tomatoes up. Then there are tasks that need to be done before seeds can be planted for next year like replace the plastic on the cold-frame and, possibly, put another cold-frame up.  

There is also planting to do, believe it or not. It is time to plant garlic. It has to overwinter 20160729_224038in the ground to be ready to harvest by July or August next year. So, hopefully, the weather will hold out, meaning no snow . . . . but since that is already happening, maybe the ground won’t freeze hard as a rock just yet. We are trying to brace ourselves for winter, since we keep hearing that this winter is forecast to be worse than last year. We are just not ready for snow and cold and neither is the farm. Really . . . . we could skip winter this year or spend the whole winter on a warm beach.

November Happenings:

  • Besides the farm clean-up, we look forward to Thanksgiving and eating lots of warm, delicious food.
  • We still have winter squash, pie pumpkins, onions, dry beans, honey, eggs, pork by the cut, beef by the cut, whole chickens, and whole ducks for sale.
  • We are taking orders for whole or half pigs. The butcher dates are set and have limited quantity of pigs available.

Heat of the Season

The weather is heating up and so is our growing and market season. We are going to three markets a week (Twin Falls, Ketchum, & Hailey). The foot traffic at the markets is also increasing, which is good. That means less produce waste from market that is fed to the animals, which we like, the less waste the better.  We also have CSA pick-up and delivery three days a week. If you are doing the math, that means three harvest days a week, sometimes four which only leaves us with one day of rest. But most weeks we can’t even call it a day of rest because there is still work to be done: animals fed, irrigation water to change, and lots of projects that need to be done, which usually take priority over resting. That’s the life of a farmer, there are no days off or at least not very many of them.

We are busy . . . and about to be in the middle of the busiest part of our season and the heaviest harvesting; when the majority of our produce varieties are ripe and ready for harvest and market. Which means lots of heavy totes and boxes to be carrying, loading then unloading and lots of phones calls doing wholesale sales and customer relations. In the next couple of weeks, we expect to start harvesting cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, okra, fennel and new potatoes. Then soon after that: green beans. This is the heat of the season for us, when the real work begins. We start our days at dawn, we are going all day, and we don’t stop until dark. We are still tired when we get up in the mornings. We just get up and keep moving.

So if we don’t return a call, text or e-mail promptly, know that we will get back you. We don’t have hours to sit and chat or answer phone calls at all hours like in the off-season, but we do have minutes here and there. You are important to us. You are the reason why we do what we do. It is important to us that you eat wholesome, real food.  You keep us motivated to keep moving when our days are long and we are feeling weary. So do your shopping from your local farms. Just by showing up with your smiling face, you are motivating a farmer to keep up the hard work that he/she is doing.

We may have a lot to do, but we really do love this time of year. The sunshine, the smell of the great outdoors, the produce and all the meals we get from it, the sunsets, sounds of all the animals and insects, and people we get to interact with all week long. We hope you are eating wholesome, real food. If not, come see us, we can change that!

Summer Heat: Thrive or Hide?

The summer heat has arrived and has been good and bad for the farm and the farmers. The lettuce has just about stopped growing. It’s  like it is saying, “This heat is just too much for me.” The same thing that the farmer says when he goes in search of shade. On the other hand, the corn, tomatoes,  eggplant, and melons are thriving. I image them saying the same thing that I say when the summer heat has finally arrived, “Aaawww, now I’m comfortable, let’s get to work!” So the corn has jumped in height and is making ears, the tomatoes are ripening, the eggplant are getting ready to produce, and the melons are spreading and growing large beautiful melons. The cucumbers are doing well in the heat too. They are covered in blooms and starting to make little cucumbers. This is the part of summer that this farmer’s wife loves: the heat, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, corn, peppers, eggplants and melons. All my favorite things of summer!

In other farm news, the green beans are ready to be picked. The picking begins this week. The peppers were producing well, but were getting sun burnt. So we covered them with a shade cloth and will be able to offer higher quality peppers rest of the summer.

We also have a little experiment going on. The broccoli was so infested with aphids it was either mow it all the way to the ground, till it in and prepare the ground to plant something for fall or mow the tops of the plants off to try to get rid of the aphids and get the broccoli to grow more heads. We decided to mow the tops and wait a week or two to see what happens. So if mowing the tops of the plants off doesn’t take care of our aphid problem or if the broccoli doesn’t grow anymore heads, then we will be mowing it off to prepare the bed for a fall planting.  Either way it’s a win/win situation for us.

As we harvest the garlic, onions and radishes and end their growing season, we are preparing the beds for fall planting. We plan to plant a fall crop of greens, broccoli, cabbage and any other cool season plants we can and cover with them low tunnels to extend our growing season ( or maybe I should  say to extend our working season). We hope to offer produce as long into the fall and possible winter as we can.

I don’t want to think of the cold yet though, the heat just arrived! So the farmer is planning for fall and I’m headed back out into the summer sun!

 

Are We Farmers or Gamblers?

There was a devastating storm that went through the Magic Valley this week. We are blessed to not have suffered any damage from the storm. The opposite end of valley was not as lucky. Several farmers lost their crops to hail. If the hail would of hit our farm, we most likely would of lost our wheat harvest and all our produce; along with our income for rest of the year. It would of been a devastating loss. I believe this is one way that God shows us He is in control. When you choose farming as a living you have to rely on praying or maybe just gambling as to if you will have any income for the year. There are so many days that it feels like a waiting game . . .  a very long game of DSCN7425waiting and having no control of what happens next . . .  .  we are at the mercy of someone else or a higher power and we have no idea how the day, weeks, months or even the year will turn out. From my experience with the farming life, it is like riding a roller coaster with the faith that you will make it to the end of the ride. There are lots of ups and downs
and you had better enjoy the ups while you are up and find a way to manage when you are in the downs. Focus on the positives because if you focus on the negatives you are not going to enjoy anything in this life.

Honestly, I think  anyone that is crazy enough to choose farming as a living is a risk-taker, probably enjoys gambling once in awhile and likes to be spontaneous. In this farming duo, the farmer is a spontaneous risk taker. I like routine and everything planned in advance, but also like to gamble once in awhile, just a little bit. So I believe we are both,  farmers & gamblers. And it doesn’t matter if you call yourself a farmer or gambler or both, you need to have something to believe in and to keep you grounded.

For the not-so-good-but-to-be-expected-news of the farm, we have aphids in our broccoli, cauliflower and kale, and grasshoppers are eating the collard greens like crazy. So we are waiting or gambling that the ladybugs will move in to have an aphid feast! The zucchini is slow to grow this year, but is producing a little. Maybe that is just God telling us to stop talking about the abundance of zucchini and actually treasure this vegetable.

For the good news, the peppers have started to produce. The wheat has turned and looks like a beautiful crop with lots of straw. And we finally started to process chickens this week. They are ranging in weight from 4 to 6.5 pounds.  We are starting to get pork back from the butcher. And the beef will be back soon too. So we have lots of meat in-stock. This farm wife is excited to have a few less animals on the farm. An abundance of animals (especially chickens and pigs, my least favorite farm animals) gets to be too much for me and my yard to handle.

May we all have a blessed week to come with lots of positives to rejoice in!

Sweet Potato Project

Recently, we watched the movie Faith Like Potatoes and it made me think a lot about our sweet potato project. You can’t see what is growing beneath the ground, you just have to have faith. I try to look at the positive in all things, which I have a hard time doing. Sweet potatoes aren’t suppose do well or even grow at all in our area . . . . .  they grow in warm climates and are of tropic origin, our climate is far from tropical . . . . . .  so we set out to do the impossible once again, to grow sweet potatoes. We had to see for ourselves what would happen when we planted those unusual sweet potato slips. Honestly, we expected the project to be a failure. But, I guess, deep down we had to have a little faith and just not realize it or we wouldn’t of even bought the slips and planted them to begin with.

We expected a crop failure, but honestly it wasn’t that bad. Harvest is much different than regular potatoes, aka Irish potatoes that Idaho is famous for growing, which takes getting used to. Sweet potatoes are a root and not a tuber like Irish potatoes. The root is about 20 inches long with a swollen part in the middle that is the actual sweet potato. There were some that had two swollen parts or sweet potatoes on one root. The whole root thing makes them harder to dig and get out of the ground. You have to start digging 18 inches away from the plant, being careful not to poke or scratch the roots. They bruise easily.

We have learned they need lots of room to grow. The ones that were planted 24” apart as recommended had all small tubers, but the one that we planted 36” apart had larger tubers under them. And the vines spread and cover several rows and any plants that are growing near by. To make digging a little easier, we mowed the tops of the plants off before digging. And as with most task around here, we did it the hard way; we did all the digging by hand with a digging fork. Though we had a couple of nice sized potatoes per plant, there are a lot of small tubers. But, hey, they grew and we have sweet potatoes!

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Sweet potatoes are not very sweet when they are first dug. They have to sit and cure at a warm temperature (80 degree F) for 10 days to get their sweetness and set their skin. After they have cured, they need to be stored in a cool, dry location that stays above 50 degrees, ideally between 55 – 60 degrees, and should never be refrigerated (until after they are cooked, of course).

After digging those large sweet potato roots that never should’ve grown in our soil, it makes a person think and believe. It was amazing to see those large tubers come out of our soil. This project has taught me to have faith no matter how impossible the task, project or plant may seem. Have faith no matter how impossible things may seem or how many times you are told it can’t be done.

October Anticipations

October is one our favorite months of the year! The leaf colors are changing, there is brisk morning air, warm afternoons, and everything starts to slow down. October brings with it the anticipation and worry of the first frost. We are ready for life to slow down, but not ready to be done with all the fresh produce. But we have lots of produce canned and ready for winter. So if you are going to can produce to eat this winter, you had better hurry. It is too late to can green beans, but is a great time to can tomatoes, peppers, plums, make sauerkraut and blanch and freeze broccoli.

The beans have been thrashed. Most of the produce is still producing, although, the plants are looking tired and have slowed. But not the plum trees! The plums are ready to be picked and are abundant. The house smells like sweet, juicy sugar plums dancing in the air from all the canning, drying, jamming and juicing of the plums.

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This coming week brings the rush to get the “Experiment Sweet Potatoes Project” out of the ground before that first frost. Sweet potatoes don’t handle frost at all. If the vine is frosted, it goes straight down to the tuber or potato and ruins them. So one last push before we can really slow down for the season. We dug a few plants this week and if what we dug is any indicator of what is out there. Then it may be a good harvest. More on sweet potatoes next week!

Produce Has Slowed, But Life Has Not

The days have cooled and are shorter. It’s been raining off and on most of the week which seems to slow us down. It’s now too cool to sleep with windows open at night, at least it is for us. The house is chilly in the mornings causing us to start our days a little slower. The kids like to start their day curled up in a blanket on the couch doing their reading lesson before breakfast. After breakfast, I busy myself with a baking project or canning to warm the house and take the chill off. It’s the start of another busy September day of harvesting, canning and homeschooling.

While the produce is slowing down getting ready to die off and be done for the year, our lives are still very busy in this season. There is the harvest of the red beans to be done. They have been cut and are waiting to be thrashed when the rain stops and they dry out. There is still the major harvest of the pumpkins, winter squash, daikon radishes, turnips and beets to be done. Most of the late season produce is slowing down except the tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. They are still growing and producing strong. We are about done with picking beans for the season, the sweet corn, kohlrabi and cabbage are about gone, and the cucumbers, zuchinni, summer squash have slow their production significantly. The broccoli is about done for the season due to an aphid infestation.

September starts our fall juggling act as I like to call it. We are still harvesting and selling, there is more canning to be done, all the regular inside work and laundry needs to be kept up with along with all the yardwork. Then we add another year of homeschooling into the mix. The Other Half takes on most of the harvesting duties as of September. And I focus on getting the canning done and the family back into our fall and winter routine.

Although, September is busy it feels like life and tasks are slowing down. We are getting settled down for the year and getting ready for the cooler weather. It feels good to be settled! Although, I wish it would stay warm all year, but instead, we are forced to prepare for cooler temperatures and fall.

Turning A Shed Into A Walk-In Cooler (Refrigerator)

Now that we are picking hundreds of pounds of green beans at a time we needed someplace to put them. It was fine with the neighbor to allow us room in his walk in cooler when we didn’t have that many pounds of green beans or produce that needed to be refrigerated when it is picked. But with having so many pounds of green beans and other produce we felt the need to have our own place to put them . The neighbor (he is a very generous and helpful man) didn’t say we couldn’t use his walk-in anymore, but we felt bad using so much room in his walk-in cooler. And the other half has been dreaming of building a walk-in-cooler, saying it’s simple, I can do this!

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So we cleaned out a small shed we were using for storage, ordered an air conditioner and cool bot, bought insulation and went to work. The shed was insulated. Then the hole was cut for the air conditioner. It was installed and the cool bot had to be hooked to the air conditioner. A cool bot hooks into the air conditioner to control the temperature allowing it to go below 60 degrees. We had to do a little work and insulating of the door since it was an old screen door with no latch. Next, turn the air conditioner and cool bot on, program it to proper temperature and we have a walk-in cooler.

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I’m the skeptic about everything. So, of course, I had my doubts about trying this method of making a walk-in cooler. And every day is so busy I didn’t know when the other half would have time to make it happen. But he did and I’m impressed. It is really an easy, cheap way to have a walk-in cooler vs buying an actually walk-in cooler or refrigerator.

Green Bean Picker

One of our new ventures this year has been buying a green bean picker and growing three acres of green beans. The thought and talk of it was crazy to me when the idea came up. The picker saves a lot of work and back ache, but when it picks the beans the plants are done. It leaves the plant in the ground but strips the plant of most of its leaves. So you get one picking off a plant instead of one picking every week on all the plants from July to freezing. I honestly didn’t think it would be profitable to pick the plant just once. I’ve always loved hard work and have always been willing to work. So my thought was to just get out there and pick the beans by hand to get the most out of every plant, the old-fashion way. I’m not sure about new technology. But with picking by hand we can’t raise several acres or even one acre of beans, it was more like ⅛ acre of beans and then it took both of us several hours every week to pick the beans. I could average picking about 30 pounds of beans in an hour, the other half is slower so the pounds of beans added up slowing with hand picking. Then your back would start aching, we would stand up and stretch looking toward the end of the row and it seemed so far away.  Hand picking beans would get old in hurry every year, but in my mind that is the only way to do it. So I just buckled down and got it done, even if my back ached and it looked like I would never make it to the end of the row.

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The other half was not sold that hand picking is best for us. There is also the fact that we are growing acres of a large variety of produce that needs to be harvested on a weekly or even every other day basis. The other half starts doing calculations, throw numbers out there about profitability and how good this piece of equipment can be. And it will save me lots of time since I won’t have to pick the beans this year. Well, that was an enticing thought. So we bought the Pixall BH100.

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The plan was to start planting as early in the spring as possible and plant 4 to 12 rows every week. That way we would have beans ready every week from July to freezing just like if we were hand picking the same rows all season long. Except with the beans picker we have a lot more beans to sell every week. With the picker, we (it takes two people to run it) can pick around 1000 pounds of beans in an hour instead of the 50 pounds or less that the same two people would of picked by hand.

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It is very exciting to pick so many beans in a short amount of time. We are able to fill more orders and that is very satisfying. The downside is that I still have to be involved with the bean picking and boxing. Since it takes two people, the other half drives the tractor and I ride on the picker picking out the few leaves, stems or weeds that make their way through with the beans. I also switch the handle from one shoot to the other and stack the crates of beans as we go through the field.

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Another downside, or maybe it’s a learning curve, is timing the picking just right. We go out to check the beans and there are too many pin beans on the plants which means we need to wait for them to mature to a good sized bean or if we pick them then there is lots of sorting the pin beans out. And if you pick the beans too small like pin beans then we are losing beans and money. Wait four days and then there are too many overly mature beans on the plants, which also means lots of sorting to get them out. Or the beans are so far gone that we have to just leave rows of beans in the field to disk under. That is very discouraging and disheartening to do when you are trying so very hard and working so hard to make a living at small organic farming.  We are still working on mastering the art of timing the pick to that perfect time and praying we can perfect it before we have to leave any more rows of beans in the field.

Since our bean picking season won’t be over until it freezes, we don’t know how profitable it is yet. We have to sell enough beans to cover the cost of the picker, our time, expenses of regular maintenance and then have money left over. We are not sure that is going to happen this year, but the picker has been nice to have. My back doesn’t hurt and I don’t look at those rows like they are never ending anymore.The discouraging part now is having to clean, sort and box hundreds of pounds of beans every time we pick, which has been three days a week. That is still better than having to pick beans by hand for three days straight every week.

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