Friday, May 29, 2009

Water Woes

Nothing on the farm creates more anxiety for me than not seeing my sprinklers going. A few years ago, I had one of my best and worst water days. The morning started gloriously. The farm looked great. Everything seemed to be under control. As the day wore on, the temperature climbed into the low 90's. I walked outside and saw there wasn't any water running. I had that sinking feeling. It turned out that my pump was down and it would take 10 days to get it fixed, this at the hottest time of the year. At that time, I was leasing the 80 acres I now own and Bailey's Nursery was leasing an adjacent parcel from the same land owner (today I lease this land as well). I thought up a plan to use some of their water to get through the crisis. It was tough and I never forgot the experience.

This week we began irrigating. Two days into it, the water went down. For a couple of days we struggled to figure out the problem. Finally we decided that the pipe in the river must be clogged. Within hours, the water began to flow again. I could see the rain bird sprinklers running over the entire farm. My day was better.

Strawberries continue to ripen. With the warm weather, the berries should size up and ripen. This weekend there should be berries for the hunters among us. Next weekend the season will really be going strong. One week ahead of last year. One week later than two years ago.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Few Strawberries

When walking through the fields yesterday, I found a few red strawberries. Every day there will be more. It looks like next weekend could be good for strawberry pickers.

If you come out to the farm ( this weekend you can wander the fields looking for a ripe berry. Make it a treasure hunt. If you find's free. It could be fun.

The BBQ is open this weekend. We are also hoping to fire up the corn roaster. Come out and have a picnic, the farm is beautiful in the spring.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Another Perfect Storm/ Strawberry Update

Just when we were starting to think irrigation, a perfect storm on Monday dropped 1/2 inch of rain, thoroughly soaking the farm. Unlike many rain periods we get, this one was isolated. It came, it went. Behind the storm is a long stretch of dry warm weather which could last a week. The timing for this break couldn't be better, as the strawberries continue to bloom and existing berries grow and grow.

Farming continues to go well. The peas are almost ready. We are picking our first lettuce and, once we start harvesting lettuce, we will have continuous pickings of successions until the end of October. This weekend we are planting our third succession of corn, our first big cucumber field, a third planting of beans and 1 1/2 acres of tomatoes.

My early small plantings of broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage look average. Some kind of root maggot is getting about a quarter of the plants and those pesky flea beetles are eating holes in the leaves. Since I don't spray, we'll see if the bugs get more of the plants than me. I always do much better in the fall when the problem bugs are gone.

Last night, before heading home, I picked a lone misshapen red strawberry about the size of my thumbnail. I ate it and symbolically began my strawberry season. But before you come out excited about picking, you need to realize that you might find 5 more ripe berries over 10 acres. With this great window of weather, I am starting to think that the first berries will be here on the last weekend of the month. Our favorite flower, Peonies, will also be here in big supply at the end of May.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Perfect Storm?

I looks like a fairly organized storm front with a tropical component could give us some heavy rain overnight and showers tomorrow. The amount should be enough to soak the farm with natural irrigation ahead of a strong warm dry out this weekend. The timing of this weather pattern seems perfect for the strawberry bloom which should be at a peak in a few days. (Strawberry lovers rejoice, it takes about one month from the bloom until we are eating ripe berries.)

I've had a life-time interest in the weather. When I was eight years-old living in Los Angeles, I was fascinated by a series of storms that flooded the area. I began keeping weather charts and measured rain in a glass with a ruler. My career as a farmer has taken my weather interest to a new level. Each morning I review the National Weather Service discussion page (a technical analysis of weather patterns). Then I go to the Weather-Underground site for a review of local and regional radar. I combine all of this with my personal understanding of how the patterns play out, add a little advice from Matt Zafino, and suddenly I have the day's weather all figured out (I think).

We are closing in on our first peas and lettuce --- maybe Memorial Day weekend. Right now we still have a lot of rhubarb and arugula from the greenhouses.

Hot items in the store:
Baby avocados -- 3 for $1 -- great value, great taste, little seeds.
Corn from California. Not inexpensive, but well worth the price.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Gully Washer Brings First Farm Set Back!

After a remarkable April of near-perfect weather windows for planting, last Monday's downpour sent water cascading down our hillside plantings of corn, beans and cucumbers. Lakes of silt with seeds that washed down formed at the bottom of the hill. Ten to twenty percent of the plantings may be doomed, but it wasn't a complete disaster. More rain fell on Tuesday and continued to soak the farm. The nice weather projected for this weekend will help dry things out a bit.

I am seeing marble-sized strawberries in the field and that means we may see our very first berries by Memorial Day weekend...only 18 days away! However, our cool weather could delay berries until later in June. I am always concerned about mold and disease issues related to wet weather because I do not spray. But, it has worked for more that three years, so I'm always cautiously optimistic.

We have lots of rhubarb right now and will be harvesting our first arugula out of our greenhouse this weekend. My first peas and lettuce will be ready in about two weeks.

I found some wonderful yellow corn from the desert of California. This corn is tender and sweet and available in our store. It's not inexpensive at 80 cents an ear, but if you're in the mood for corn, it's worth the price (4 ears = 1 Latte). Our own corn won't be ready until mid-July...