Sunday, September 30, 2012

Long Time No Nuffin'

Hunh? What happened... well, this picture of my filthy, destroyed shorts being kept up with some baling twine probably says it all:
The end of Summer brought a ridiculous amount of work coupled with a ridiculous amount of  heat and put me into survival mode for a month or so. That meant constant hydration, stretching, work/sleep/work mentality, and calories galore. Towards the end there, it was not uncommon for me to eat a pint of ice cream by myself after dinner EVERY NIGHT! We did some really great work getting people fed and closing up shop for the season. 

Farmers' Market #1
I have taken the time since then to tag along with Courtney to California for a week and a half and generally get my mind and body back into a normal, functioning state. I have been working at the farm since the season ended and will continue to do so through the Fall and through the next season. In some ways it was a very easy decision to make, but on a physical level it felt difficult to sign up for some of the punishment that the end of next season will inevitably bring. As if I didn't appreciate farming in this state already, doing the actual work sure brings that home real quick.

Farmers' Market #2
There are many projects that we need to get done in the Fall that I am very interested in: installing a rain water collection system, clearing land, putting up fencing, and mot importantly to me, the addition of hertitage breed hogs to the farm. Lots of work to be done and the cooling of the temperatures really helps to get me excited to be out there still. Hooray, Fall!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Summer Season: One Month Left!

Chicken Tomato, Spiral Okra, Vortex Tomato, Magic Bug, and the Ole Beet Washing Days
The question I get most often has to be 
"How you managing out there?" 
I've been managing just fine, actually. I'm surprised at just how acclimated you can become to the heat when you aren't cranking the AC in the car and at home all summer. It's hot, don't get me wrong...really, really hot... but tolerable. The only day that gave me trouble was the freakish record-breaking 109* day that made me feel like my brain was boiling while picking tomatoes in the field at 3pm. 

It's very interesting to watch the crops in the field slowly disappear with the progression of the season. Once a row is done, it is tilled in and the emptiness of the field expands whilst the harvestable area shrinks. It's like watching the last few sands fall through an incredibly slow hourglass. 
Our recent crops for CSA and market are long beans, eggplant, various peppers, acorn squash, butternut squash, okra, and melons. Barely hanging in there are tomatoes, summer squash, and cucumbers. Pulling from our curing back stock, we are still dolling out our amazing garlic and two types of onions, as well as previously harvested potatoes. Harvest now takes most of the day with washing typically taking up a mere hour or two. Sadly, that means more time in the heat, but so it goes.
I am incredibly excited for the upcoming Fall season for a multitude of reasons:
  • two weeks off in August (!!!)
  • lots of tractor work to be done
  • installing a rain water collection system
  • clearing land
  • digging stumps 
  • installing fences
  • seeding new plants for the greenhouse
  • potentially working out some swine herding operation at the farm  
All good stuff, no?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Summer Daze

Is Summer officially here yet? 
I'm just going to say yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah... it was so much hotter this time last year, but let's not belittle this Summer's heat just yet. I've recently started getting tan on my back, through a long sleeve shirt. The sweat drenches me on the humid days and plasters my shirt to my ever hunching over back. The sun does the rest. I've also got the okra itch, the squash scrapes, and the tomato stains. I'm hanging in there and so far, so good. 

The crops are all doing great right now! What started out as back-breaking harvesting of the petite okra plants has gotten easier with each passing week and each foot taller they grow. Yesterday, the okra plants were just above waist high on me. The squash has been prolific and it is a difficult tight-rope act trying to not crush the plants growing out into the walking aisle. I can't even recall how many hundreds of pounds of cucumbers we've been harvesting and selling wholesale... at least half a ton now. Oh, and tomatoes. They just keep coming! They are unstoppable! Quality-wise, It is absolutely AMAZING to eat okra, an over-ripe tomato, or a cucumber straight off of the plant. It makes a huge difference eating truly fresh vegetables that haven't been flown in from Peru or ripened in the back of an eighteen-wheeler from California. 
There is no going back for me. The grocery store is so very lacking.

On the horizon: eggplant, more peppers, melons, edamame, and long beans!

Most importantly, here are some fun pictures! 
Tomato face, Patty Pan squash owl in the rafters, "Brioche" squash, and a wet dog caterpillar

Saturday, June 9, 2012

How a Farm Works... Right?

Whoa! I saw this kid's toy version of a farm in the window at Whole Earth Provision the other day and couldn't help but check it out. 

So, kids, just so you know... there won't be much green space on your farm. The more concrete - the better. Also, here's how we keep and raise livestock:
 Put on your hardhat, hook your cow up to that weird machine, and jam them piggies in there. All animals live on steel grated flooring, too. Dang! This farm depresses me!   
At least that one guy might be sweeping up poop, I think.

If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would say this is pretty good proof of big ag influence on kids. 
Good thing I'm not.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Death of a Hand Model

Regular "farm hand" (top right), post-tomato trellising (left), and washing the tomato hand (bottom right)

Woo doggy, it's hot out there! The start of Summer has brought on a whole new set of crops to plant, maintain, harvest, and wash. We have officially harvested the last of salad mix, kale, spinach, turnips, and other vegetables that either dislike the heat and/or have gotten overrun by legions of Harlequin bugs or the like. I find that the Summer vegetables have a personality all their own. Among other things, they prefer to put up more of a fight when giving up their goodies. The use of spines, itchiness, and hide-and-seek tactics are the new norm. 

Last week saw multiple days of tomato trellising, in which we hand-hammered T-posts into the ground all throughout the line, ran three rows of wire down the posts, and hand-tied tomato vines to the wire using square knots of jute twine. This gets the vines, and thus the fruit, off of the ground. As illustrated above, I had already lost my potential hand model status due to the numerous nicks and cuts and the perpetual layer of dirt (perma-dirt) that comes along with farm work. Trellising tomatoes brought a whole new level of dirty hand to the table, though. Strangely enough, after handling tomatoes for two hours you accumulate a layer of yellow so thick that it appears brown. You don't get a full feel for the amount of plant residue until you wash your hands and watch neon yellow water run down the drain for three minutes.

The new additions to the menu lately have been okra, tomatoes, two variety of beans, and two varieties of squash. Very soon, we should be adding basil, eggplant, and cucumbers.  

Out with the old, in with the new.

Matoes, patty pan squash, and an unusually spiraled okra


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Super Lucky Green Bean Challenge Quiz!

QUIZ TIME: How many beans can be harvested in this square foot before moving on? [Answer below]

Strangely, of all things on the farm, picking green beans has to be with most back-breaking chore of them all. It entails hunching over the plant, methodically shifting it this way and that, and grabbing all the beans you see. These bush beans are prolific little suckers, too. We've already harvested 85# in once session, 120# a few days later, 60# another, 80#, and so on. Side note: green beans are not heavy. The craziest part is that we haven't even been able to get to all of the beans before they get too big to sell. They just keep going and especially with the rain, it is hard to keep up! Needless to say, there have been a lot of green bean side dishes at the Hans-Vallery household as of late. The beans are incredible crisp, juicy, and so very fresh tasting, so I'm certainly not complaining.

If you guessed 832, then you are correct! Git back to work!

Rain or Shine

The shirt that was once white.
Just like the postal service, we work rain or shine. It's hard to complain about the rain, since I'm pretty sure it rained a total of 13 seconds for the entirety of last year. It has also been great for keeping the temperature down and the sun off of my body. The cons are a delay in transplanting (again) and a resurgence of weeds, which we had just about gotten a handle on. It was strange to dig leeks from the damp ground in the sun and stifling humidity the other day and feel freezing cold the very next day while being completely dry in the covered wash area. Isn't there some joke about not liking the weather in central Texas and just waiting 5 minutes? If so, hopefully it goes better than that. 
To the mud field!