First frost

Field 3 cover crops: Sunn hemp (Crotalaria) and Soybean bow to the frost, while Austrian Winter Pea keeps going. I have not yet determined if Oats reliably winterkill in this climate, and so was a little scared to add them to the mix. This field goes into Alliums on WALF (Weeks After Last Frost) -4 in 2020, and live oats would take a bit more horsepower to remove, when the winter would otherwise have done the work.  Despite a preponderance of legumes in this current mix, the normal aim is not just a multi-species cover crop polyculture, but a multi-function one as well. Legumes, like beans and peas, for instance, are great at fixing nitrogen when it is short, with a few of them also working on soil compaction. Oats, barley, and a summer cover like buckwheat, mellow the soil, do a fair job of eating rock, and also keep phosphorous in the biological—as opposed to geological—system. Radish and turnip are a nutrient sponge, hanging on to nutrition which might otherwise leach over the winter, and releasing them—hopefully not too early—in the spring.

Field 3 cover crops: Sunn hemp (Crotalaria) and Soybean bow to the frost, while Austrian Winter Pea keeps going. I have not yet determined if Oats reliably winterkill in this climate, and so was a little scared to add them to the mix. This field goes into Alliums on WALF (Weeks After Last Frost) -4 in 2020, and live oats would take a bit more horsepower to remove, when the winter would otherwise have done the work.

Despite a preponderance of legumes in this current mix, the normal aim is not just a multi-species cover crop polyculture, but a multi-function one as well. Legumes, like beans and peas, for instance, are great at fixing nitrogen when it is short, with a few of them also working on soil compaction. Oats, barley, and a summer cover like buckwheat, mellow the soil, do a fair job of eating rock, and also keep phosphorous in the biological—as opposed to geological—system. Radish and turnip are a nutrient sponge, hanging on to nutrition which might otherwise leach over the winter, and releasing them—hopefully not too early—in the spring.

2019 Week 43, Summer CSA 21 of 26

We had our first frost of the Autumn on Saturday morning, which put the summer fields to bed: no more flowers, okra, squash, tomatoes, or beans to harvest. The sweet potato leaves, in fact, curled and browned at 35-38F, a week prior, which was a little bit of a surprise. But the roots are all out of the field now, and curing on the germination heat mats—hot and humid for a week—to cork-over any openings, and thus increase storage longevity. We only planted 2 of 12 beds into the Japanese ‘Murasaki’ white-fleshed, purple-skinned type. This is largely due to the cost per slip, with 1000 ‘Covington’ being a much more efficient purchase. Let me know if you have a preference, though! I find the ‘Murasaki’ to be nuttier and less cloyingly sweet, though less dense in vitamin A or its precursor. It is the same cost to plant 50/50 between each type as it is 80/20, though, and 50/50 is the 2020 plan, unless objections arise. :)

As an aside, this frost was a week earlier than the average of October 26th. And while that makes sense, because averages are averages, it’s also a little funny. This was the hottest summer on record, with the hottest June ever, hottest July ever, second hottest August ever, and hottest September ever. We also had below 10% of normal rainfall on the farm, which combined with the heat, made for some tricky farming. But it also has been a righteously powerful lesson and kick in the bottom. Given enough CSA sign-ups, next year we will be adding composted wood chips and mulch to each bed, spraying a farm-wide molasses and microbiological mixture to lean harder on a sleeping soil, experiment with pre-soaking seeds for better germination, and maintain the current nutrient soil-balancing regimen. All that with the aim of transitioning the farm to a living mulch pathway and deep hay/straw mulch no-till bed system.

While the current set-up does not allow for a rotational approach to our own hay/straw production, in the near future we may be able to use the fields just outside our fenceline for our own hay. The challenge we get to tackle on that end involves us in the whole field of regenerative grassland / savanna management, which to me is still a speculative one. Would keyline ploughing—contour rips to equalize water flow—compost teas, a proper clover-grass ley, plus some interesting approaches to incorporating annuals into a perennial ley to increase system health, be enough to balance what is otherwise a one-way flow of matter? (In Vermont, one CSA takes its members’ urine at pick-up, and uses that to spray the hay fields. Virginia isn’t Vermont, though.)

It’s a question I have been wrestling with for the last two years—the cyclical versus one way flow of matter in agricultural systems—because 1) the new research on the below-ground liquid carbon pathway, 2) the historical conversion of above-ground biomass back into CO2 via herds of grass eaters, large and small, 3) the fact that some top-soils, before we ploughed them, were once up to 30 feet deep.

Harvesting this morning with a podcast, and with the current metaphorical engine of the farm in a thousand pieces on the shop floor, I thought: My, aren’t we a lucky and perhaps unique bunch. Farmers already climb the learning not-curve-but-cliff, day by day, with what the farm tries to teach them, but now they also get an endlessly cross-informing stream of conversations and presentations via podcast. Who else has such a robust continuing education curriculum built directly into nearly every day of their job?

The Farmshare CSA and Farmbucks are on sale until the end of the year! Over 75% of farm expenses occur from now until the end of the year; your early commitment keeps the farm a farm. Tell your friends about the farm, and get 5% of every dollar you refer into the CSA, back as farm credit.

Happy First Frost!
See you on the farm,
Austin


Expected Harvest

Greens
Bok Choy*
Tokyo Bekana*

Veggies
Bean, Soy / Edamame
Pepper, Sweet, Green*
Tomato, Large, Green*

Roots
Carrots
Onion
Potato, Irish
Potato, Sweet

Herbs
Garlic
Ginger*
Lemongrass
Pepper, Hot
Turmeric, Fresh

Flowers

Farm Honey, for sale

Farm Ferments, for sale
Kohl-Dill Pickle

Cooking Classes
Get in touch with Cecelia at cecelia.baum@gmail.com to sign-up.

Althea Bread is back

Apologies for the rainy-day photo blur, but here’s turmeric grown in a wood mulch (left) against the field-grown, unmulched control (right). The mulched turmeric was 2-8 times more productive, based upon the range of yield per plant, and something like 5 times more productive based upon average weight. Last year—when it rained, and rained, and was also warm—produced well-sized turmeric under normal field conditions, similar in size to the mulch experiment this year. That is, field condition yields are down 80% from last year, due to the drought.  Prior to this test, I would have been concerned that the soil temperature reduction from a mulch would have reduced yield, given turmeric’s tropical nature, and also the fact that I grow mine without plastic cover, soil or hoop. So, mulch next year? We’ll see! Do note, I would attribute the yield effect to water’s split impact on both the plant—because it’s thirsty—and the soil life—because it’s hungry.

Apologies for the rainy-day photo blur, but here’s turmeric grown in a wood mulch (left) against the field-grown, unmulched control (right). The mulched turmeric was 2-8 times more productive, based upon the range of yield per plant, and something like 5 times more productive based upon average weight. Last year—when it rained, and rained, and was also warm—produced well-sized turmeric under normal field conditions, similar in size to the mulch experiment this year. That is, field condition yields are down 80% from last year, due to the drought.

Prior to this test, I would have been concerned that the soil temperature reduction from a mulch would have reduced yield, given turmeric’s tropical nature, and also the fact that I grow mine without plastic cover, soil or hoop. So, mulch next year? We’ll see! Do note, I would attribute the yield effect to water’s split impact on both the plant—because it’s thirsty—and the soil life—because it’s hungry.