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Archive for the ‘Community Supported Agriculture Fall ’08’ Category

Two weeks since our last rain shower and the plants getting a little thirsty, we decided to irrigate.  The soil is currently a haven for mole crickets which burrow amongst the seedlings, creating air pockets, that quickly dry out the roots of the plant.  Watering down the pockets saves the plants from french frying on the hot soil.

The quickest and most reasonable fix was to make what is essentially a rain barrel strapped to the front of our tractor with an off/on valve attached to a pvc shower-head.  We drilled a 1″ hole in the bottom side of the barrel and attached a 1″pvc T fitting with a ball valve to regulate the flow of the water and the pressure on the soil.  Finding a good adapter to make a secure fit when attaching the pipe to the barrel was a challenge.  We used a pvc male/female adapter with rubber gaskets and large washers to minimize wobbling.  It takes a full 55 gallons to make it down a 400′ row with the pressure almost all the way on, but the mole hills tamp down against the plant once again!  One round of watering takes 25 minutes times 20+rows is, well, a good long day!  We are bringing in the nematodes to help us out with these crickets.  Hopefully the rain at the end of the week will flush them out and secure the plants in!

A photo of the rain maker at work!  We were so thankful to bump into Ricky at the hardware store!

The deer have made the plot at the Swamp Farm their midnight buffet.  The sunflowers are about done, over half the beans went last night, and the tops of the cucumber vines are gone.  We tightened up the electric fence and added repellent bags to the line.  A radio left on at night and a cayenne pepper spray are the next measures!

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I am realizing you can’t hope for too much perfection in this field of work.  Just after beautiful beds are sculpted, three inches of rain dumps down in an evening.  If all the work scheduled for that day had gotten done, our seeds would have washed away that night.   Definite trade-offs.  We need the rain, but we need nice beds.  We work hard and long, but know when its quitting time too.

Planting is moving along.  The soil is really nice already over at the Harts Bluff Farm, so we don’t need to add too much compost.  By the end of the week, we should have beans, red cabbage, carrots, lettuce, radish, arugula, a spicy braising mix, broccoli, cauliflower and beets in the ground.  The soil is wet, the air is cool and the sun is shining- the perfect recipe for germination and transplantation.

The torrential downpour gave the other farm a beating.  So much water backing up in the fields.  I don’t think it will need to be watered again this season!  The squash and cukes have sand all over them and the beans fell over.  These plants have a way of reviving themselves though.  The sunflower transplants have added some new leaves and the scallions have all germinated.  The chard and arugula are up too.

Thank you to all of the CSA members, family members and friends who continue to support this project.  It seems more impotant everyday to grow diverse crops, feed people and to teach others to do the same.  Don’t ever hesitate to ask any questions from myself or on this blog.

Have a great week!

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We were so lucky to have the tropical storm pass us by with little harm!  Two inches of rain instead of seven saved the cucumbers and squash.  We would have been under water otherwise!

As I was contemplating hurricane season and farming on the coast, I realized the only way to make it possible for the small farmer is to have a support system like the CSA.  I tried to get disaster insurance at one point and was turned down because I was too small and had too many crops.  If all else hypothetically failed, at least the CSA money would help to get by until the Spring when planting can resume.  Thankfully, we were unscathed this time, planting continues and for the most part we are on schedule.  Only 53 days left of hurricane season.  Hmmmm…

We are calling this the swamp farm, because it neighbors the swamp.  Mosquitos constantly bite if there is not a breeze and it has very low elevation.  We are trying a small plot for the Fall to see how it does.  So far we have germination and not too many deer.  The pH is low here, so we planted those crops which prefer the acidic side- squash, cukes, turnips, onions, mustard.  We are attempting chard, sunflowers and arugula here too.  This photo shows the raised beds which are mostly planted.  The weeds are popping back up too.   This field is enclosed by an electric deer fence.

Here is the more promising field.  The pH is a 6.8 and for the most part does not have too many obnoxious weeds.  The elevation is higher and it has drainage ditches.  I plowed it for the second time today and by the end of next week it should be ready for planting.  The transplants of cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, fennel and cabbage should be ready to go by then.  It should also be cool enough to germinate beets, carrots, lettuce and other greens by then too.  Note also our compost heap and hay mulch.

Our concerns are never ending at the farm- wind, too much rain, too little rain, deer, bugs, disease, poor soil, lack of pollinators, mechanical breakdown and on and on.  Some we can control and others we can not.  Are we crazy for trying to make a living off of a job like this?  I just keep thinking of how tasty those first Fall greens will be and it keeps me going.

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Happy Labor Day, Everyone!  The fields have finally dried up enough for us to get the tractor in to disc, rake and shape our beds.  And does it look beautiful!  So far we have planted 500 cucumber plants, 175 summer squash and 250 green zucchini, and 175 Delicata winter squash.  A light rain came just after planting to water the seeds into the soil.  Tomorrow we should be rolling right along with butternut and acorn winter squash, bush beans, turnips, scallions, radishes, and a braising mix.  There is more rain coming this weekend with the tropical storm headed our way.  We are trying to get the big seeds and quick germinators into the ground before that happens!

Here is a shot of the inhabitants in the greenhouse.  Here we have brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, fennel and sunflowers.  Right now the fennel are stemmy and wimpy.  I am hoping they become thicker skinned before transplanting.  Probably another two weeks before that.  Most of these babies will go over at the other farm on Hart’s Bluff.  The pH is just right for them there.

Earlier this week we drove to Canadys, South Carolina, along the Edisto River to pick up some wheat straw round bales to use as our mulch.  Beautiful drive and nice folks along the way.  After spending hours and hours pulling up the black plastic mulch at Hart’s Bluff, we have decided not to use that stuff if we can avoid it.  What a mess it makes in the field.  So much waste and cleanup.  Instead we have opted for the straw, which we can turn into the soil at the end of the season to add more organic matter.  Our truck was loaded down!

Please pray for not too much rain this weekend.  If we get washed out, we will just try again!

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Hey there Folks!  At the suggestion of a few of our members, we decided to start a blog for the Fall season to keep you well informed about the happenings at the farm and what is in your box each week.  It will be similar to the weekly e-mails of the Spring, but you will have a chance to post your comments, questions, recipe suggestions, cool foodie happenings around town, and all around to enhance the community of this farming experience.

For those who may have forgotten the basic principles of this style of farming, let me refresh your memories.  Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs were created for a few reasons.  The first is to feed people locally from small, area farms.

The second is to do it in a way that is sustainable for the farmer and the folks eating.  Traditionally, the farmer does not have an income until the actual sale of the crops, often times having to take out a loan to get to that point. With the CSA fee paid upfront, the farmer is now able to buy seeds, fertilizers, pay labor costs and so forth without making a trip to the bank.  In return, the customers receive a box of the freshest produce each week from their local farm.

The CSAs also sustain the farm in case of weather, pest or disease issues.  Signing up for a CSA is the customer’s agreement to the farmer to take on the same risks the farmer must endure each season.  If a tornado strikes and most of the crops are wiped out, the CSA will suffer, too.  The farmer will still have that initial CSA money to get through those trying times, so they are able to maintain their livelihood.  If all goes well, and the weather cooperates, the CSA members will share in the bounty of the harvest with full, freshly picked vegetable boxes, often times exceeding the value of what they initially paid.  Each season definitely has its successes and its failures.  It is very important for each member to be aware of the potential risks, but not to worry as the farmers will do everything within their power to get those veggies to their customers!  Just like any business, we want you all coming back smiling for more!

We are excited to grow food for you all this Fall and have a greenhouse full of seedlings coming your way!

~Rita’s Roots

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