Provider Farm

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July 11, 2015

The beef bonanza sale has come to a close but I will continue to offer the same special for stew beef and shanks this week.

This Week's Share

Onions are one of our favorite crops to grow and we are excited because this year, the onion crop so far is looking absolutely stellar. The first onions are coming in this week. These onions are white, sweet, mild and delicious. They are a fresh type (not dried) so keep them in your fridge for best storage. They can hold for a long time (months) in your fridge.

Cucumbers continue to proliferate and we will continue to offer bulk cucumbers, zucchini and summer squash in the share for $1.50/lb this week.

Recipe of the Week: 

Tabbouleh

Ingredients: 
  • 1 c. bulgur
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 c. boiling water
  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 1 c. tomatoes
  • 1 c. chopped parsley
  • 1/4 c. chopped mint
  • 1/4 c. chopped scallions
  • 1/4 c. lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
Directions: 

Place bulgur in a heatproof bowl. Dissolve 1 tsp. salt in boiling water and pour over bulgur. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes.
Add the cucumber, tomatoes, parsley, mint, green onion, lemon juice, oil and allspice to the bulgur and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and let sit for at least 1 hour prior to serving.

Credit: 
Vegetable of the Day by Kate McMillan

The wonders of the stale bed

The tine weeder hard at work.
The tine weeder hard at work.

Dear Friends,

A bit of rain, a bit of sun. A few hours of blazing heat, a cloud covered chilly morning. This past week was a total roller coaster ride when it came to temperature and preparing for the day. Nevertheless we moved on, ever forward, and planted our first succession of fall brassicas. Over 10,000 little kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower plants went into the ground this week.

All things considered, they are really settling in nicely and looking pretty good. In the past, getting this planting settled in has been a real challenge. It can get pretty hot and dry at this time of year, and it doesn’t always provide the most friendly conditions for planting sensitive little transplants. Last season, it was so hot we actually had to have the crew come in at 4pm instead of their usual 8am start time. This was so we could plant in the evening and not expose the plants to the hottest part of the day before we could get the irrigation going on them.

Elsewhere on the farm, things are shaping up really nicely. The eggplants are starting to produce baby eggplants that will be sizing up nicely over the next few weeks. For whatever reason, our crop of eggplant got off to a bit of a rough start this year so we are thrilled to see that they have bounced back so strongly. We have begun to find the first new spuds forming beneath the canopy of potato leaves. While their harvest is still a ways away, it’s nice to see that they’re doing their thing. We have even started to see the first blushing signs of red in our high tunnel tomatoes. We just need a few more warm days strung together and we should be able to begin picking the first few tomatoes from the tunnel. The tomatoes in the tunnel represent less than 1/8th of our total crop so they will be quite limited when they come in, but hopefully the rest of the tomatoes won’t be too far behind.

In our efforts to reduce our overall work load and increase our farm’s efficiency, we try to identify particularly unpleasant, time sucking tasks and come up with strategies to improve them in the future. One such problem that we have identified is weeds in our storage beets and carrots. These crops are seeded in early July when the weeds are at their most voracious. In the past, the week after we seeded our fall beets we would be greeted not by neat little rows of baby beets, but by a solid, opaque mat of pig weed, with beet rows somewhere in there. This makes cultivation extremely difficult as I can’t really see where the crop is. Often times, I would end up killing a fairly substantial amount of beets in my effort to clean up the bed enough to allow the crew to go through and hand weed.

To try and address this problem, this year we committed to attempting to create what is referred to as a stale seed bed. A stale seed bed is a bed on the farm that you can seed into without weeds growing. Sounds awesome right? But how do we make this dreamy scenario a reality? Well, the interesting thing about weed seeds is that while there may be millions and millions of seeds present in a given acre of land, only the seeds in the top few inches of soil will germinate. The rest are too deep and will just sit there, waiting to be brought to the surface.

The idea behind creating stale seed beds is that we form beds in the spring, allow weeds to germinate and then till the beds really lightly, in order to kill the weeds that have germinated without bringing up any additional seed. Sounds pretty simple right? Well, it may be simple in concept but in practice it is a challenge of timing and execution. We use a tractor implement called a ‘tine weeder’ in order to perform the stale bedding. The tine weeder has thin springy metal tines that lightly scrape the soil and disrupt the germinating weeds. The tine weeder is perfect for stale bedding since it does not go too deep and therefore does not bring up any additional seed. The downside of the tine weeder is it really only kills weeds right after they germinate and even before they break the surface of the soil, called the "thread stage" of the weed (because the tiny root looks like a thread). If they grow too big the tine weeder won’t be effective.

This means we have to be extremely disciplined and diligent in our execution of this process. If we miss the window just once, months of preparation will be lost and we will have to go through and remake the beds bringing up millions of fresh seed. After months and months of killing weeds we couldn’t even see yet, it was finally time to seed the fall carrots and beets. Cautiously optimistic, we seeded over half an acre of one of our most important crops on the farm. At this point, I had a fair amount of doubts about our ability to create a proper stale bed and I would have been satisfied to find even a little less weeds.

Just like clockwork, 7 days after we seeded, the beets started to emerge from the soil. Handsome little beets in their handsome little rows. All alone in their big stale beds. I am honestly shocked that it worked as well as it did. Typically, at this time of year we have an all hands on deck beet weeding emergency. This season, I guess we’re gonna have to find another way to spend our time. It just goes to show that sometimes if you work smarter and not just harder, it really pays off.

On behalf of our farm crew,

Hannah, Mary, Marycia, Aaron, Erica and Larry

Your Farmers,

Max and Kerry

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