Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fruit at the farm

Finally got some rain...about two hours after we finished a two and half day blitz of digging a 6ft deep trench from the house 100+ft towards the creek (with a small storm water catchment basin before it reaches the creek) cutting a strip through the broken-up concrete layers in the basement and hand digging another 6 inches and running 4in pipes to drain the basement when it floods in the spring (which it does basically from February to mid-June). Now we won't have to worry about the sump pump burning out anymore, and we'll have running water to our new wash station. Thanks to Ken, excavator-extraordinaire , who made it possible for us to do all this on our budget and in the midst of a busy summer.

Now I can get back to the wonderful fruit we've been harvesting this year. Our strawberries were ripe and then gone in about two weeks in June, the pie cherries have about had it, and we're wrapping up a good year for the 'wild' black raspberries. The mirabelle plum trees (Prunus x domestica ssp. syriaca) that the farms previous owners' (our friends Kate and Jeff) planted are getting old enough to produce, and we've been picking 10-30lbs about every other day (except over the weekend where all we did was dig ditches and break up concrete) for the last week.

It also looks like a good year so far for our apple trees. Both the house apples and the orchard (which are cider apples) all seem to be loaded with decent fruit. Of course we haven't sprayed anything on our trees, so the fruit isn't picture perfect, and we have some scab and other blemishes showing. Last year we had the chickens in various sections of the orchard during what we think are certain life cycles for these pests, but damage to the fruit was still pretty pronounced. Some combination of low-toxicity sprays, like a refined kaolin clay, and hungry chickens will be next year's effort.

The hardy kiwi's didn't bear fruit this year (transplanted mid-year 2009). Last year we lost all but a few blossoms to a late frost with high winds, but nothing this year, but they are growing well, so better luck next year. The semi-wild blackberry areas that I've half-heartedly mulched and weeded, are showing lots of berries starting to change color, and areas in the unmanaged hedgerows show some healthy blackberries on the way too. We'll enough of a mid-day break, time to get back to picking the blueberries before the birds peck away at any more of the ripe fruit. More updates later on the red raspberries, highbush cranberries, elderberries, and aronias.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Summer fun

The wet spring has led to a bumper crop of black raspberries, raspberries, and cherries this week. We shared some for ice cream toppings at a friend's birthday party last night, and Amelia from Felicia's picked up a few quarts of black caps for their mixed drinks. We'll have to head down for happy hour this afternoon to try their "Black Cap Yap".

The 3,000 row feet of potatoes for Westhaven are getting hilled with hay mulch. We had planned on using discs to just push dirt on them, but between the last start, and equipment issues, we just skidded a few round bales from the field and spread them around the plants. More hand labor than we'd like, but with the exception of the voles picking at some of the above soil potatoes, we get pretty good yields. I also wonder about the cover of the hay being good for beneficial insects. We've seen very little colorado potato beetle pressure in our hay mulched beds. We also plant buckwheat nearby to provide cover and flowers which attract beneficial insects. Squash beetles are another concern of ours, and I'm hoping our tests with various compost teas will work again with the larger sprayers (one 12v cart-mounted and one PTO driven) that we picked up with the Farmall this year.