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Managing the Heat

It’s 106° right now. Paul has gone out for the fourth time today (it’s Sunday) to “check water”. Daytime highs are predicted to be around 100° for the next 10 days. Keeping the crops and the field crew hydrated is essential to ensure harvestable produce in the next month or so.

Yesterday I took some photos of things as they manage. It was 100°.

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Fennel, Kale, Collard and Scarlett Kale, ready to harvest.

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Potatoes (in the foreground) are looking healthy.

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These lettuces were planted two days ago.

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The bees are very busy in the heat.

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Looking across 6 weeks of lettuce plantings; Red Butter, Little Gem, Rosaine, Cherokee and Romaine. We need to cover the Little Gem in the last stage, so it’s not feeding the rabbits!

Summer is always busy. As the heat continues, we are relieved by the decision not to host the Saturday Farm Stand this year. Because we farm year-round, we have to use our energy wisely. Our sense of pace is maturing.


Farm Stand – Reviewed

As summer approaches, Paul’s Produce has been reconsidering the Farm Stand we have operated for the last four years. This year we have decided not to open the Farm Stand despite overwhelming local support. It has been far beyond what we had expected or planned for, and the demand has continued to grow. It’s not for lack of interest that we’re making this decision. We hope our customers will come to understand our reasons.

As we (Candi and I) continue to age we are looking for ways to continue farming. We realize that we don’t bounce back quite as quickly after long hard days, and Saturdays have evolved into the hardest day of all. We also realize that we should begin paring down the number of crops that we grow for the sake of efficiency. The beauty of the farmers’ market, or selling to restaurants and wholesale markets is that we can more easily focus on our strengths without feeling the need to make a full variety of crops that we’ve come to be known for — especially at the Farm Stand.

This year has also been a hard start to the growing season for us because of the rain. Later than normal planting of almost everything, and the lagging volume in availability because of that. We’re not currently meeting the demand of any of our sales venues. That will begin to straighten out over the next month or two, but it brings us to the last and possibly more troubling problem. Namely, labor and the high cost of living in Sonoma Valley. I doubt anyone reading this would be surprised by this. Seasonal labor in a place with such high rents is difficult. Training takes time for anyone not familiar with the challenges of physical labor and the crop specific techniques that we employ. We feel it’s a better strategy to attempt year round employment for anyone who is up to the task of being in the field. To that end we’re trying to adjust our cropping and work load to even out the seasons for our crew instead of overwhelming ourselves with Summer crops.

We have always seen ourselves with a “Local First” focus. The Farm Stand was so positive and exciting, such an overwhelming boost from our community. As with all life, changes are inevitable and though the Farm Stand will be closed this year, we are open to the next evolution which could bring it back, given the right conditions and personnel.

Thanks for your understanding! And enjoy revisiting Farm Stands from the past 4 seasons.
Paul and Candi

You can still find our produce at the Tuesday Farmers’ Market on the Plaza, 5:30- dark and Friday Farmers’ Market in Depot Park, 9-12:30.

 


Summer Season

This is the time of year that everything happens at once. Not enough time for much beyond the farm. Turning to the needs in the field is sometimes the best way to cope with scary environmental and political news. Focus on the bounty and abundance can steer one toward generosity and hope.

Our Saturday Farm Stand is off to a roaring start. We thank our supportive community. Couldn’t do it without you.

 


Rain Damage

California has had a bunch of rain this month. And it’s taken a toll on our fields, especially the artichokes. Wet soil and wind combined to flatten many of the tall, in-full-production, gorgeous plants. I guess the weeds, mud compaction and cold hands are a small price to pay for the groundwater recharge. Onward!

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Artichokes blown down

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Flowering kale

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Hopefully this lettuce will recover when the sun comes out.

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Paul’s shop has gotten more attention because of the rain. It shows in the organization here.

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Asparagus is coming. Must be spring!

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We are rich in cabbage, just in time for St. Patrick’s day!

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These brussels sprouts are about done. They look crazy at this stage, like a big Dr. Seuss flower.


Strange Spring

Strange as we adjust to a wet forecast with heavy rains in December and January. Our soils were too wet to plant for months. Transplants were ready but had nowhere to go. Finally we are back planting after a much longer break than in the past 4 years, maybe more. That means we will have gaps in product coming this spring. We already see it at the Farmers’ Market, with far less lettuce to sell than customers are ready to buy.
But we’re rolling along now. Even though, several storms are poised on the horizon, we have taken advantage of the warm, dry spell that we’ve been enjoying for a month. Lettuces, greens, fennel and more have been tucked into the ground, waiting now for a rain, hopefully not too much.

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The small greenhouse has moved! And it’s back in action, just in time.

 

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Our cultivating tractor sits idle most of the winter.


Winter crops are coming

Yes, celery root and parsnips are making an appearance on our table at the farmers’ market this week. We’re all longing for cooler, wet weather. Wandering around the fields this early evening, I am speechless for the beauty.

The crop of beets (red, gold and chioggia) look lush. Should begin to harvest in a few weeks.

The crop of beets (red, gold and chioggia) look lush. Should begin to harvest in a few weeks.

Parsnips were harvested out of this row for tomorrow's market.

Parsnips were harvested out of this row for tomorrow’s market.

Paul's reluctant to pose for me, too busy.

Paul is reluctant to pose for me, too busy.

The romaine this week was huge!

The romaine this week was huge!

Leeks dashes

Leeks dashing across the ground

Brocoli

Brocoli and cauliflower

I promise there are small carrots coming. This is the next 6 beds.

I promise there are small carrots coming. This is the next 7 beds.

Aren't these brassicas Amazing!

Aren’t these brassicas Amazing!

A little creek planting, to slow down the water. Looking ahead toward rain.

A little swale planting, to slow down the water. Looking ahead toward rain.

The onion baby bed

The onion transplant bed

Artichokes

Artichokes

Next week's Little Gems.

Next week’s Little Gems.

Chocolate brown pasilla peppers. Dry them for a traditional mole sauce.

Chocolate brown pasilla peppers. Dry them for a traditional mole sauce.

The low field has been cover cropped.

The low field has been cover cropped.

Pumpkins to sell tomorrow

Pumpkins to sell tomorrow


Fall is in the air.

Hard to believe but we’re more than half way through 2015. Pumpkins and other winter squash are ripening. The corn is finished, much to the disappointment of our local customers. Tomatoes are ripe and the melons are so aromatic the bees are tumbling around in their flowers. The pictures should speak louder than my words.

August 11, just before the onions began drying down.

August 11, just before the onions began drying down.

August 23, onions drying down

August 23, onions drying down

Paul preps the field for planting chicories.

Paul preps the field for planting chicories.

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Winter squash is thriving, with Santos planting chicories in the background.

Winter squash is thriving, with Santos planting chicories in the background.

Serrano peppers are loaded!

Serrano peppers are loaded!

Two types of lettuce, ready to transplant, with a bed all ready.

Two types of lettuce, ready to transplant, with a bed all ready.

Four successions of sunflowers, planted every two weeks.

Four successions of sunflowers, planted every two weeks.

Eggplant! The first planting was lost. This crop is coming very soon.

Eggplant! The first planting was lost. This crop is coming very soon.

Fennel and radicchio dot the field.

Fennel and radicchio dot the field.

Our kales and other greens have had a hard summer.

Our kales and other greens have had a hard summer.

The next two crops of beans. We've been gapping on beans. They should be back at the market next week...

The next two crops of beans. We’ve been gapping on beans. They should be back at the market next week…

Giant pumpkins are revealing themselves by the Farm Stand.

Giant pumpkins are revealing themselves by the Farm Stand.

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"Sunshine" kabocha squash

“Sunshine” kabocha squash

Shallots and red onions dry under the big old oak. Nice place for the bees, huh?

Shallots and red onions dry under the big old oak. Nice place for the bees, huh?


Summer!

Been a while.

So much is growing strong! Here’s a glimpse of various crops. One field finishes and before I can blink, on goes the compost, beds are shaped, seeds are planted and t-tape is pulled. Whoosh!

And the Farm Stand opens Saturday. 9-1. See you there!

Cultivating onions

Cultivating onions

The last brassica planting

The last brassica planting, still to harvest.

Green tomatoes

Green tomatoes

Sunflowers open

Sunflowers open look good from a distance…

Sunflowers nailed

Open sunflowers nailed by insects. ;-(

Green peppers

Green peppers, still a month, mas o menos, from harvest.

Drip

Melons on drip

Melons emerge

Last planting of melons emerge

Watermelons start

Second planting of watermelons

First planting of watermelons showing fruit!

First planting of watermelons showing fruit!

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Spreading compost


Hello again…

I am amazed I have not posted in such a long time. I am sorry to jump over months of farm activity.

This year, as always, we have much less produce coming out of the fields, than at other times of the year. We’re running into shortages at the market, running out of salad crops within an hour of the start. Beds in the field are damp and cold, not conducive to plant growth. But ground is drying and things are being planted. Our tables will again be full in a month or so. Let me catch you up, visually.

Fava beans are blooming madly.

Fava beans are blooming madly.

This crop of artichokes is especially delicious. Hope you can get some at the market while they last, another month or so.

This crop of artichokes is especially delicious. Hope you can get some at the market while they last, another month or so.

Yesterday's brassica planting

Yesterday’s brassica planting

This crop of Red Butter Lettuce should be on our market stand next week.

This crop of Red Butter Lettuce should be on our market stand next week.

Kales

Kales

Peas in full flower. We'll have sugar snaps and English shelling peas this year.

Peas in full flower. We’ll have sugar snaps and English shelling peas this year.

Second planting of peas

Second planting of peas

Paul is very busy this spring.

Paul is very busy this spring.

Baby lettuces

Baby lettuces

The greenhouse is  wonderful place to work on a blustery day.

The greenhouse is wonderful place to work on a blustery day.


Slammed!

 

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The small greenhouse appears to float…

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Water flows toward the lowest part of the farm.

 

Yes, it’s a gully washer. Glad the crew was able to get most everything picked yesterday. Today they pack things into boxes to get ready for deliveries to local restaurants tomorrow. And for the farmers’ market tomorrow morning. The market should be very interesting, with lots of stories to share.

As the crew packed, Paul went out to the fields to check the ditches, the tarps and the general water flow throughout the farm. And he happened to be there as a wave of water washed through his shop and across and under the greenhouse tarps. Up the creek he discovered lots of trash trapped against a bridge causing the water to spread out and overflow the creek bed.

It’s let up some now and I admit to waiting until it slowed to take the photos below. The first two in this post were taken by Paul while the water was at it’s highest. It’s reassuring to see how quickly the water recedes.

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Also looking toward the low end of the farm, about 30 minutes later.

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A creek ran through the farm until a few years ago. This is where it ran.

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The culverts are big enough.

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This is the lowest bed on the farm. Yesterday’s chicory harvest in stark contrast to the flow of water.

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