Seasons at Procter Farm

  (London, Ohio)
Procter Farm
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Season Extension

September 26, 2012

brussels sprouts in greenhouse

With the cool weather of fall arriving on the winds that sweep across SR 38 it comes time for moving the growing plants indoors.

Because the greenhouse size is one that will grow with the farm there is space in the back half of it to plant some hardier crops. These crops will grow slowly until about January, when the daylight hours are at their shortest, then resume growth in February. Most of the winter growing season will allow the plants to maintian more of a "holding pattern" than anything else; getting the majority of thier growing out of the way before temperatures drop and sunlight diminishes. Then as long as the temperature in the greenhosue doesn't fluctuate too much the plants should stay fresh, healthy, and crisp until they are needed.

Some of the crops that will be grown this winter are spinach, braising mix, lettuce, beets, brassicas such as kale and brussels sprouts (shown here), and even early tomatoes!

 
 

Fall Musings

Wow! it’s hard to believe its September already. Even though the temperature continues to be very "summer-y", in my mind September=fall. Luckily I am not the only one to feel such, the broccoli and storage cabbages have begun to arrive and I expect to be harvesting them in the next couple of weeks, with the cauliflower to follow. Additionally, the leeks are ready for harvesting. I spent a part of the morning harvesting for a large dinner here at Procter tomorrow evening and also for the Madison County Farmer's Market. The repetitive action of cutting them out of the ground, stripping the outer leaves, trimming the roots, and cutting the fan into a more manageable shape is a distinctly fall activity; not to mention the smell!

On a separate note, I have to say farmers can be such nice people. I called up an Ohio farmer to see about buying some garlic seed. He didn't have any, which I discovered in the first 5 minutes of the phone conversation. The farmer could have ended the conversation there but instead continued to chat for another 25 minutes, telling me everything from where else to look for garlic, what the pros and cons of other garlic varieties were, to how to make garlic powder from whole garlic cloves. It’s not everyday someone will take time out of their busy lives to simply share knowledge and have a friendly chat with a stranger. It was very nice and I was left with a sense of connectedness, of belonging, and of community. We had chatted, we had shared information, we were "on the same team". Maybe that is how community really starts and grows, by taking the time to say more than what is essential and being willing to offer more than what is asked.

 
 

Flower Power!

Check out the beautiful sunflowers growing in the field! I can't believe they are staying in bloom for so long. Also, the zinnias and marigolds are going strong, providing a nice habitat for a variety of insects.

zinnias

sunflowers

With all this hot weather and supplemental water via irrigation the eggplant have been growing very well and were for sale this weekend at the farm stand and farmer's market. Also ready are potatoes and beans - so many beans in fact, that Susie, the kitchen manager, is currently blanching and freezing them for preservation and future use!

 
 

Firsts

I have been reading a book called The Four Season Harvest by Elliot Coleman in which he talks about plant health and pest control. The idea being that healthy plants will have less pests because their actual physical make-up is less desirable to eat than that of a stressed plant. It is so interesting that just because the plant produces the desired crop does not mean that that crop is as healthy and full of nutrients as a similar plant grown in a better environment. I think this is partially where the idea of brix (a measure of the sugar content of a plant) comes from.  If you ever have the chance to read through this book, or even the chapter about pests, it is well worth the time! I find myself now looking around at my plants and seeing ways to lower stress and increase nutrient availability.

On the farm currently many of the heat-loving crops are starting to mature. The other day I ate the first cherry tomato off the vine and the first planting of beans are nearly ready for a first pick. Small peppers are on all the first planting pepper plants and the eggplants have flowers. Also, last week the first harvest of corn took place. I believe Senior High camp got to taste those corn first-fruits with one of their dinners! Speaking of camp, I have had the wonderful opportunity to welcome a handful of camp-goers and counselors throughout each camp week to the farm. For one of their activity times during the afternoon campers are able to come out to the farm and work on a project with me. This past week we spent a couple of nice hours chatting about anything and everything as we picked weeds from a variety of crops.

 
 

Photos from the Field

June 18, 2012

Over the last 24 hours the farm has been inundated with rain and thunderstorms. Irrigation from the sky is always my favorite form, not only because I was a passive observer but becasue the veggies always look brighter, bigger, and happier after a shower. The mid-summer storm also afforded me some time to relax and reflect, leading to time for this blog entry. Enjoy the photos and info!

pepper

The first planting of pepper plants are coming along quite nicely. Their early growth was a bit rocky but there are even little flower buds appearing. We'll soon have more tasty peppers than we know what to do with!

chardSwiss Chard is one of those vegetables that I really didn't think much about or know much about, for that matter, until I began to farm. I would always see these wonderfully-colored greens in the store but becasue we never bought them I never really thought of them in relation to food I could eat. Now I can't get enough of these greens. Their vibrant rainbow stems are just the thing to make any meal stand out at a potluck and with all the vitamins and minerals housed in the greens they are always a tasty and healthy option!

chickens

The chickens love napa cabbage!

 

chickenshey have grown so much over the past couple of months too! The roosters now are attempting thier "rooster calls", though they mostly sound like broken car horns. They'll learn!

 

chickens

 

toms

In the nightshade field the tomatoes are growing like crazy! They have already been trellised once and are in need of their second line. To the left of them in the photo are marigolds. I have always heard that marigolds are good to grow near tomatoes and we are using the flowers in salads at the center. They taste amazing!

winter squash

All of the winter squash are in! We will be growing spagetti squash, butternut, pie pumpkins and carving pumpkins to name a few. Also the cantaloupe and watermelon are in this field. I am trying to grow a variety of water melon called Savor, which is a small musk melon. We'll see how it turns out!

flower

Throughout the farm fields I have planted various flowers such as the zinnia's to the left. There are sunflowers and marigolds (previously mentioned) as well. They add a burst of color as well as a source of food for insects. Stop by sometime and have a look!

 
 

A Special Tomato Story

June 1, 2012

Last month I was contacted by a woman interested in giving me a couple of tomatoes. This woman's name was Deanna Douglas, and these weren't just some ordinary tomatoes. She explained to me that these heirloom fruits had been cultivated by her grandfather since WWII. Each year Grampy, as he was affectionately known, would choose 1 or 2 of the best looking tomatoes and save the seeds from them, first by soaking the seeds to remove the surrounding "goo" then by setting time out to dry. The seeds would be stored carefully away until the following March, when he would again begin to cultivate the tomato offspring, if you will.

These very special and historic tomatoes, whose variety name is Grampy's Tomatoes" are now growing in the newly-constructed raised beds at Procter. Deanna said she wanted to make sure some of this variety continued to be grown and what better place than a farm, where other veggies are already being tended. She also told me that the tomatoes are an interesting green striped and very sweet variety. Needless to say, I am excited to watch these special tomatoes grow and to taste the green tomatoes when they are ready.

If you are interested, next time you are at Procter take a couple of minutes to check out these tomato plants, exuding as much health and vigor as they are history.

tomato

Grampy's Tomato on the left and a Brandywine on the right, both given to me by Deanna.

Below are just a couple of snap shots of what has been going on at the farm.

blue greenhouse

I finally got the greenhouse endwalls painted! One thing I learned when buying the paint way back when the greenhouse was first constructed was that I had to wait until the temperature was above 50 degrees F at night and fairly dry, so the paint wouldn't just warp off the wet and cold wood. A couple of weeks ago I got the perfect conditions and went for it. It was a great experience, one, because I love painting, and two, because now I know the wood is protected from the elements and will last longer.

scallions

Some little scallions are making their way in the clay-dirt. With the rain we are getting now they are sure to spring up a couple of inches. Alliums love water!

beet

I am amazed at how well the beets have grown over the past couple of weeks. As I learned from two visiting farmers from California, beets and other root crops do rather well in clay-y soil. This was from a shared observation though none of us really understood the reasoning behind the result; given that the fruit of a root crop grows mostly in the soil has to push its way through the clay in order to expand in size. Any ideas?

 
 
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