Garlic Harvest 2019

It’s August and you know what that means! Garlic is ready to harvest! With 4 rows of garlic this year it took 3 of us a couple days to pull it all.

The size of the garlic is larger than last year and MUCH larger than the year before. It seems like 3rd time is a charm for us. The third year we grow something we seem to have all the issues resolved. A tip I received from a garlic farmer for this year was to put a pinch of bone meal in each hole that you drop a clove into. It definitely increased the size of the bulb!

Next step is to cure the garlic or letting it dry. While we hung the garlic in the room we grow the transplants the last 2 years, this year there are too many large garlic to do that. The smell would be overwhelming! We decided to dry it in the hay loft of the barn. Lots of space with a lot of heat and very dry to reduce chances of mold.

We are 1 week into the curing process and it needs to dry for 2 weeks before we can sell it. We are very much looking forward to not only eating it ourselves but also to get great customer feedback!

Watch us harvest:

Dill and Butterflies

One of my friends is an heirloom seed collector and shares what she has with me. She shared some dill seed so this year we decided to plant it as some customers have asked for it in the past. We sold some but had more plants than we needed. I figured I’d let them go to seed and collect for next year.

One day I noticed something crawling on the dill and when I got closer noticed all the plants were covered with two different caterpillars! The one pictured above is a black swallowtail and the picture below is a Monarch. While most farmers would probably stalk and kill these “pests”, we figured we have plenty dill to share.

It’s exciting to see how Monarch butterflies really took to our garden considering they are endangered. We decided to grow dill annually just for the butterflies. With free seeds, it’s not a lot of work to go through for expanding the variety of wildlife in our property.

4 Hailstorms in 1 Day

Once again we thought we were safe. Nothing but sunshine and 80 degree weather in the weather report. The broccoli outgrew the protective covered tunnel so we removed it. Things looked great!

It’s June 21st and I took time off from my full time job to finish re-planting some transplants from the earlier hailstorms. The night before the meteorologists now predicted snow in the mountains and thunderstorms in our area. It wasn’t until the day off they sent out the Severe Thunderstorm Warning and Tornado Watch. Thunderstorms through the weekend. Hail possibly the size of golf balls!

I stopped what I was doing and pulled down the covers for the lettuce bed, tomatoes, peppers and beans. The squash is still small and low to the ground.and root vegetables are relatively safe as they have a lot of leaves now. Losing a few leaves won’t kill them. The onions and garlic don’t have open leaves so I never worry about them.

Watching helplessly from inside I kept an eye on the pumpkin patch that we had successfully reseeded and transplanted yet again this morning. And then it came! Hours of heavy pouring rain and small hail! It started at 12:30 pm and was on and off until almost 8 PM. In the end it was 4 hail storms that luckily only did a small amount of damage, and we have transplants inside to replace any that may die.

We are concerned again for what tomorrow will bring and wonder…..will this ever end! How far is too far to go to grow the crops you planned? We need to make money and every time we have to grow new transplants or buy new seeds, more money is coming out of our pocket and the extra work is tiring. What will the return on our manual labor investment be?

We are very lucky to not be in a single crop commercial operation. I wonder how many of those farms will have to shut down due to lack of production this year? The weather has been crazy!

Watch the video of me watching the first of 4 hailstorms out the window:

Salad For Sale

Finally after weeks of bad weather we finally have right sized lettuce and spinach up for sale! The snow, thunderstorms and hail went on for so long we were getting worried we might lose one of our best selling crops.

The light colored lettuce at the top is Black Seeded Simpson Leaf Lettuce. It’s an heirloom variety that is so tender, commercial processors can’t sell it because it would bruise before getting to the customer. That’s why you need to buy local produce. You’ve never tasted anything so good.

Behind that lettuce is an Bloomsdale, an heirloom spinach. Seeds were collected at the end of a growing season. We are very happy with how well it is growing in the cool moist weather!

You can see some slow growing red lettuce and next to that is polka dotted heirloom from more collected seed. Those are 4th generation seeds!

At the end front we have Little Gems which is a small romaine that is very crispy and has a nice crunch. There is a lot of flavor in this one. This is our favorite!

Behind the Little Gems is a new variety of spinach I wanted to try called Renegade which does not bolt as easy as your standard spinach. We thought it would be worth a try since the heat here will cause early bolting in the summer. This spinach grew enormous, thick leaves about 6 inches long! They are great for steaming but are very delicate. We are eating most of this ourselves due to tearing of the leaves. We probably will not grow it again .

We are doing succession planting by planting a new single row every 3 weeks so we always have new, young and tender lettuce to sell. It will last into October if the weather doesn’t get too hot or cold through the season.

To build the salad leaves of greens are collected one leaf at a time and field rinsed before being packed in gallon sized bags. Customers order as they want and we deliver directly to them. This has been one of our most successful crops.

Honey Comb In New Hives

We are excited to say that the new experimental hives that we set up for the new bees are working well! These hives are 2 boxes high and wide open. There are fewer frames custom made by us with no wax base. They started from scratch!

This window was a custom add on we created so we could keep an eye on the bees progress. We will never really be able to open the hive based on this new format so the window will be handy to monitor the health of the hive without disturbing them.

Considering we only received the bees a month ago and they have been through a 6 inch snow storm and 3 hailstorms they are doing incredibly well! We are anticipating more honey this year than we have ever collected based on both the new and old hives. We have a total of 4 thriving hives at the moment.

We also had the highest amount of moisture this spring than we’ve ever had. The state has been in a drought and we finally caught up to where we should be. This means a lot of vegetation growth. The pollen count is extremely high and the bees are reaping the reward. Even though the apple, plum and pear blossoms mostly froze during the late spring snow storm, there is still plenty of blossoms on the property.

We are looking forward to pulling honey from the Flow Hives.

See the current hive activity:

Yet Another Hailstorm

I spend 4 hours this morning finally planting tomatoes and peppers. Then I replanted new transplants for the plants we just lost in a terrible hailstorm. This included cucumbers, pumpkins, basil, okra, squash and a first planting of sunflowers.

I was pretty sore from all the extra work trying to recover from the hailstorm so decided to get a massage. The first 45 minutes was very relaxing when suddenly there was a roaring noise that distracted my masseuse. She said “do you here that?” I said yes. She asked “Do you think that’s rain?” I knew immediately we were in a hailstorm. NOT AGAIN! I completely lost all the relaxation I had achieved.

I got home and assessed the damage. There was about the same amount of damage as the last storm but to add insult to injury it was the new replantings that took the brunt of it. Luckily I grew extra transplants this second time around so was able to plant again. The only exception is the pumpkins. I need start them all over again!

More severe thunderstorms are projected this week but we have to continue replanting as they come. If we don’t we could lose the whole season. Wish us luck!

June Hailstorm

After recovering from the Memorial Weekend snow storm we planned to spend the first weekend in June finally getting the last of the transplants into the ground. All that was left was pumpkins, tomatoes and peppers.

We got down to the last 2 pumpkin plants when there was a lightening strike that surprised us and forced us to stop. Luckily we thought to grab the tomatoes and peppers to bring them back inside.

Dime sized hail pummeled the crops for almost 10 minutes. The rain was so heavy it rushed down the rows and aisles dragging down soil and a couple inches of hail. The loss of soil exposed the radishes and pulled some seed into the aisles between the rows. Of the pumpkins I had just planted only 2/3 of them survived. About a quarter of the squash was lost and the majority of the celery stocks had to be pruned off. The spinach and broccoli leaves had holes and the beans were torn here and there. All the root vegetables were a little ragged but will survive fine.

We spent the next day cleaning up and planting seed inside to get fast germination to catch us back up with the season.Then we heard the news we may get a couple more hailstorms in the upcoming week. Frustrated, we finally covered the most delicate plants and held the tomatoes and pepper for another week. Luckily we only had a couple days of small, soft hail that did no damage.

While this weather has been detrimental to the timing of our crop sales, it’s better to happen early in the season rather than later when the produce is in harvest…like last year’s August hailstorm. We Will Survive!

See the hailstorm and then the impact on the garden on the farms YouTube Channel:

Memorial Weekend Planting Spree

FINALLY After a long winter and multiple early spring snow storms we have the weather man’s confirmation that we should no longer see a freeze this season. Now it’s time to make up lost time and get growing. The plants we had covered from the snow mostly all survived but a lot had not been planted yet.

We took a 4 day weekend for Memorial Day to get the crops going. Luckily we had the foresight to start growing most of the plants inside to at least get the vegetables germinated. That action made up for 3 weeks of lost time. First we needed to get rid of the weeds that grew while the plants were covered for snow protection. It must have been pretty warm under the covers because a lot of weeds grew! Then we quickly planted all the transplants and seeded where it was needed. We also set up a few more tunnels for protection in case we get a hailstorm prediction.

The tomatoes are ready but due to a severe thunderstorm in the forecast we are waiting, but have a tunnel ready. There are also a few transplants that have not fully germinated that will take about another week before they can go outside. Pumpkins, peppers, spaghetti squash and acorn squash will be transplanted soon. Everything else is off to a good start

See how much is planted on the Farm’s YouTube channel:

Late Spring Snow

Every time we think winter is over we get assaulted by a freeze or snow! It’s only a couple days before Memorial Day and we had a snow storm that dropped 6-7 inches of snow!

It wasn’t really supposed to snow. A light dusting they said. Will melt as it hits the ground they said. When we came home from work it was already snowing and sticking! We frantically covered everything as fast as we could while we felt the temperatures plummet!

As you can tell from the picture we had a lot of plants to cover. Here is the laundry list of what is buried under the snow: garlic, carrots, broccoli, beans, beets, turnips, parsnips, radishes, lettuce, spinach and onions. Luckily we had already built tunnels for the broccoli and greens since they were planted early so we just needed to pull the fabric down the sides. But the remaining vegetables had just surfaced with a few leaves so we quickly laid the fabric on the ground directly over the plants.

Just before bedtime it was still snowing so hard we didn’t want the tunnels to collapse overnight. We went out with our head lamps on and tried to carefully clear 3 inches of snow off the tunnels. Since the fabric is fairly light it easily tears if mistreated. When we woke in the morning it was still snowing! We cleared off the snow again accidentally making a small tear in the broccoli tunnel, but not enough to be detrimental. The bean row was looking a little rough because of the height the beans so we pulled the fabric off and turned pots upside down between the plants and draped the fabric back over. This lifted the fabric off the plants to keep the the stems from breaking from the pressure.

The forecast kept extending the 32 degree weather causing us to have to leave covers over the plants for 4 days! Finally, on the 5th day, we completely uncovered all the rows and are happy to report the only damage was freezing of some of the bean leaves. Luckily we have plenty of collected seed from these heirloom beans so will be able to quickly replant.

In the end everything we learned over the past couple years about using row covers and tunnels saved this year’s crop. Although all of this spring’s bad weather delayed the growth of the plants this year, we are excited to say we haven’t lost the fight to get vegetables out to our customers!

See the garden rows under snow and then the reveal that shows they survived!

New Bees and Custom Bee Hives

If you have been following the farm you know we seem to lose 50% of the bees we purchase to cold weather or swarming.Swarming occurs when the bees either lose their queen or the queen decides she doesn’t like her hive. They all follow her on a hunt for a better home. The swarming also seems to be related to the crazy weather. The weather here in unkind. The temperature commonly can start at 80 degrees in the morning and drop all the way down to freezing in the same day. Then there is the wind that seems to range between 10 and 30 mph routinely. Bees really need almost no wind and prefer 53 degrees before they leave the hive to collect their pollen and water. In reality they end up stuck in the hive many days.

Last year we purchased 4 hives and ended up with 2 surviving, continuing our 1/2 hive success rate. We also found that the bees were building comb in strange places and every time we needed to get in to help the bees with food, etc, we were having to break and remove comb. If you were the bees you would probably be frustrated too! We are getting 2 new packages of bees this year and want to try something new to hopefully keep them happy.

Rather than setting up the standard 2 hive boxes each with 8 pre waxed frames, we custom built only 7 longer foundationless frames that extend all the way down through both of the 2 hive boxes. The bees now have a larger space with fewer frames that are completely blank so they can choose to build their comb any way they want. The idea is to give them something that is more natural and let them build their home the way they want. We won’t be able to get into their hive as much but building custom windows on the outside of the hive will allow us to peak in and determine if the bees are still healthy. Since we extract the honey with a Flow Hive rather than tearing out their comb there should be no reason for us to need to enter the hive anyway. If you are not familiar with the Flow Hive look it up on our earlier posts or do a search online.

Ironically when the bees arrived for pick up we once again had 3 days of rain/snow mix we had to deal with. While we were worried they may die from exposure they really didn’t want to leave the hive once we got them in. They started to work on comb building immediately. This in itself is an improvement from previous starts. We are crossing our fingers.

See the new custom hives: