Next Tuesday will be our first delivery for our CSA members! Finally – after dealing with unexpected setbacks and the vagaries of the weather, you will actually see (and taste) the fruit of our labor!
Getting the new garden up and running was a challenging hurdle. But we are so thankful for the support and prayers of so many friends who have helped us along the way. We can’t wait to meet some of you for the first time and see old friends too!
While being a farmer and having a connection to the land is a joy day to day, we also rejoice to bring these garden-fresh vegetables, wholesome chicken and nutritious eggs to our ATF friends. You’ve been very patient and we are glad you care about healthy eating and share our concern about protecting the world around us.
The start of our weekly deliveries also means a shift in our focus and activities at the farm. Farm work is seasonal by nature, and our daily/weekly routine must follow that progression.
First, if you have followed our blog, you have followed the many projects and tasks that we’ve undertaken this spring. Well, now the weekly priority to pick/clean/pack/deliver all the shares takes priority. The tight turnaround we face each week will absorb about 30 percent of our time and energy. That's a lot of our work week.
And that is okay – in fact, there is a deep satisfaction in harvesting. But it requires we set aside other tasks because we just won’t have the time to start or complete bigger projects until the field maintenance begins to tail off in late August or September.
During the main season there are a few jobs that take center stage and run on repeat all summer....
TASK #1 -- We’d Better Weed (Every Day)
We have the tools (read last week’s blog) but keeping the weeds at bay is a never-ending battle.
It’s not just that the weeds get in the way, but the weeds are vying for the same soil nutrients – so they are “stealing” our farm’s resources. So we aren’t just trying to have a pretty garden, but we want to give our plants an advantage (and deliver food to you that has the most nutrients possible!).
The challenge is to do that with nearly 200 rows of crops continually in rotation (plant, cultivate, harvest, start again). Weeds are very opportunistic, and in just a matter of days they take root, shoot up and begin going to seed. It seems that after planting a tidy row of sprouting vegetables, you walk by a few days later and it is an impenetrable jungle!
We like to keep things spick and span in the garden--and we've learned that it is worth it!
TASK #2 – Taking The Time To Trellis
Trellised gardens may bring to mind picturesque walled gardens, but there are many reasons for gardening with trellises.
One is simply that it saves space. Two popular crops we harvest each year are tomatoes and cucumbers – and each are vines so trellising encourages them to grow “up” instead of sprawling across several garden rows. They are still just as productive, but the vines are trained to climb a lattice-work of string. Saving space is important to us as we are expecting to have about 300 tomato plants this year and about 200 cucumber plants.
Growing them this way has several advantages. Having the plants up off the ground increases air flow and can help minimize plant diseases (and the fruit is cleaner). Trellised plants are also easier to water. Instead of watering an entire sprawling plant, you can just water the base where the plant roots are located. If nothing else, it makes it easier to harvest the tomatoes and cucumbers because you don’t have to search through a sprawling jumble of vines, you can easily spot the fruit hanging from a trellis (and with very little bending over!).
But trellising is also a job. As plants grow we need to keep tending them and make sure their growth is supported and able to keep climbing.
More Help Is On The Way!
We are very thankful for some good friends who have visited recently. Having friends come and assist us in the field is a great help and very encouraging.
As the harvesting season ramps up we are glad to have some other friends scheduled to arrive in the next week or so. Jed’s cousin Jether is coming next week. He has worked for us in the past and is quite capable in a number of “trade skills.”
Daniel’s friend Josh from college will be visiting with his friend Sasha. Josh spent a few weeks with us two years ago but this will be Sasha’s introduction to ATF. It will be fun to meet Sasha and having a couple extra folks in the field is wonderful (and there’s nothing like working and sweating together for a week or two to really get to know each other!).
And we are super excited to have a young lady named Beth join us for the rest of the season. Beth hails from Florida and, after following our work from afar, she contacted us about working here. Her contact came just when we were prayerfully considering how to help Megan with all of her numerous responsibilities week after week. It sounded like a good fit – we’ll introduce her more fully after she settles in.
And, finally, Jerram, who has been working with us for a while, but who has been recovering from an injury, will be returning this week. With that full complement of field workers we're ready to dive into the harvesting season!
Workers and guests enjoying the Kettle River after work!
Name The Baby Calf – Send Us Your Suggestion
As we mentioned in our blog last week, our dairy cow Daisy is expecting – any day now!
Her previous calf is Aurora (who we still own) and we will follow the tradition of naming all calves in alphabetical order. Alphabetical naming is fun, but it also helps us keep track of cow ages. Aurora was born two years ago. Last year would have been a "B" year but we didn't calve that year due to the extra business of moving to a new property (we can't do EVERYthing!). So that means this year is a "C" year!
We don't know yet if the calf will be a heifer or bull calf. But we are taking name suggestions now! Feel free to suggest any C name that you think would be good for our new calf and we'll but it in the running!
Leave your name suggestions in the comments and we'll announce which name was chosen when the calf arrives!
Aurora (front) and her pregnant mother Daisy (back) ruminating together.
The Best Beef Comes From The Best Pasture
Along with expecting the birth of a new dairy cow, we are expecting the delivery (by truck) of 12 beef calves (teenagers really) this week as well. They're all grass-fed calves from a local cow/calf producer, and we grow them out to finishing weight on our pastures.
That's what make all the difference.
We don’t just let them loose in a big field to graze where they want. We specifically use a rotational grazing technique (moving them systematically from one pasture area to another) for two reasons.
First, it protects and improves the health of our pastures and ensures our cows get the highest quality grass at all times. We respect the land, nurture the soils, farm sustainably, treat animals humanely, and produce healthy forage areas which feeds our animals -- which (eventually) means feeding you.
Second, these techniques improve nutritional quality of the meat and enhances its flavor. They are raised on mother’s milk and grasses only, with no added hormones, antibiotics or steroids. The result is truly gourmet – giving you great-tasting, and nutrient-dense grass-finished beef.
We sell this high quality beef through our CSA program, off farm, and in bulk as whole and half cows. Go here to reserve your cow.
Ground beef and individual cuts will be available in our new ONLINE FARM STORE later this season!
So that's the news! A lot of things will be falling into place this week! Stay tuned here for more details or follow us on Facebook and Instagram to see live updates!
Thanks for your support!
IT'S GRILLING SEASON!!!!