I can’t tell you how many times family asked me to grow pumpkins so they could make pumpkin everything in the fall. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies and also a number of savory dishes too. So we agreed to grow a few pumpkins this year. Turned out to be a few over 20!
First thing learned is that pumpkin plants take a lot of space! Even when they are only pie pumpkin size the vines and leaves are huge. Another thing learned was that you have to leave a ripening pumpkin on the vine a lot longer than you think. It can look ripe on the outside but on the inside it’s not quite done. They were truly ripe in October. Of course there were a few stragglers that were still green at that time but they weren’t going to ripen before frost anyway.
Did you know that you should never grab a pumpkin by the stem? If not, you know now. That results in small cracks around the base of the stem that open it up for potential rot. You should also store it on a piece of paper. It reduces the chance of condensation which also increases your chance of rot.
After making a pumpkin pie with the couple pumpkins we saved for ourselves, we loved the results so collected seeds for next year.
This year we planned to grow a variety of peppers for just ourselves but ended up with some to sell as well. We had a red bell pepper, jalapenos, sweet banana peppers and a fantastic super sweet red pepper called Lipstick. It’s the brilliant red one in the upper left corner of the picture. It’s shaped like a giant candy corn. The fun part of growing peppers is watching the array of colors that change through the season. In the picture you can also see the green bell pepper, one turned yellow and one in process of turning red. Even the banana peppers, if not pulled at the peak yellow ripeness will turn shades of orange and then red. They are all edible, just with a slight flavor change.
The jalapeno plants did not bear any fruit this year. Very disappointing and not sure why it happened. Will try again next year and see if we have more success.
We are still not happy with the bell pepper results. In the dry environment the walls of the peppers aren’t as thick as you would hope. We did collect seed from the lipstick pepper and plan to focus on that next year along with the banana peppers. That’s the man of the house favorite pepper.
When starting up a new farm it is difficult to estimate how much product you will sell. We’ve learned the importance of not running out of product as we have lost customers who merely got a taste of an item to find that the crop was already done for the season. This is why we focused on volume this year to determine how much we could yield out of this new sunny plot and to be sure we had enough to go around. What we didn’t anticipate is the highly successful yield of the entire plot.
While we sold a lot of product this year it was getting close to the end of the season and product was starting to become overripe or was not the top of quality we believe our customers would expect. For the first time ever we needed to find a home for excess vegetables that were good for human consumption but were going to go past the peak of ripeness.
Interestingly enough we found that food banks only take packaged foods. They didn’t have the facilities to manage fresh produce. After a lot of searching we finally found a church with refrigerated storage for the purposes of having a true food pantry. At 3:30 on a Saturday morning we delivered a number of boxes to include tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and yellow squash. We were happy to be able to turn what could have been waste into a healthy meal for the hungry. Especially now that we know most food banks do not carry fresh vegetables.
Everyone should be able to eat fresh, healthy vegetables straight from the farm.
Not too long after we collected the honey from the hive we had a small cold snap. A big drop in temperature and a little snow. We didn’t think much of it but when the snow melted and it warmed up we saw bees starting to swarm and fight over the hummingbird feeder. They were knocking each other off the feeder trying to get to the sugar water. It then dawned on us that the bees were stressed out thinking winter had arrived and they may be short some honey to sustain themselves over the winter even though they had plenty of stores left.
A couple days later the whole colony swarmed and left the hive. The queen apparently felt they were not prepared for winter so they left to find a better place. This left us with no more bees. It was too late to get any more this year. This means no honey for another 2 years. Very disappointing. It seems like bees are just so hard to keep in the high plains dessert. All we can do is wait until next year to buy more hives and catch some swarms to start all over again.
You can watch the fight on the farm’s YouTube Channel: