Wednesday, June 8, 2011

ups and downs

These past few weeks have given the farm a roller coaster ride of joy and frustration. This is one of the reasons that I have not been a very diligent blogger. Another reason is simple laziness. But this can be overcome.

I have several new favorite tasks in the garden. One is picking Colorado potato beetles from the potatoes. Another is picking squash bugs and squash bug eggs from the squash and zucchini. I never thought I'd look forward to crushing bugs, but every time I do it, I know that I'm protecting my babies and my investments.

We haven't had a significant rain in a week and a half, but before that, we were getting a few inches a week. This was very problematic. We got an afternoon rain (and hail too) the Friday before Memorial Day. I knew that the conditions were perfect for an outbreak of black rot, however, we didn't have the right spray for the outbreak. I called Green Resource in Charlotte, and even though they were going to be closed on Monday, they still sold me the spray and even brought it out to the vineyard on Monday morning! I am very grateful to this company, because, as I suspected, after this rain, we did get an explosion of black rot. The spray couldn't heal our grapes, but it did keep us from loosing the entire crop! I can now sleep at night.

The hail storm dealt a big blow to our tomatoes and our eggplant. On Saturday morning when I went out to our field on Poplar Tent Rd, the tops of many of our tomatoes were broken off, our squash leaves were shredded, and the squash plants had gaping wholes in their leaves. Luckily, my CSA customers were out there with me and they helped to prop the tomatoes back up, break off broken shoots, and lift my spirits.

Despite the really hot temperatures and the lack of rain, our plants are doing ok. Our garden is flourishing thanks to irrigation. We have started harvesting lots of squash, cayenne peppers, and yellow (hail damaged) tomatoes! We'll be opening up our farm stand tomorrow to sell the surplus squash and swiss chard.

And even though we got a heavy dose of black rot on the grapes, according to a class I was taking at UC Davis, this year has been a good one so far for the grapes. We got a significant amount of rain during flowering (good for berry set), and then it immediately started to dry up (good for phenolic development). Our trellis, the Geneva Double Curtain, has provided the most open canopy I've ever seen. Every cluster is exposed to the right amount of sun and shade for this hot climate (for those followers of Richard Smart, we easily have 1.5 Leaf Layers without even plucking!). It is messy, however, and our Moldovan employees, don't like the look of it. They keep trying to put all the shoots together in a bunch. I have to remind them constantly that the whole point of our trellis is to open up the canopy. It's beginning to get through the awkward teenage phase and look like a proper GDC. We have yet to figure out how to put bird netting on this trellis. But we have 2 months to figure that one out.

So, baring all other natural disasters (which are, of course, expected), this year should be a great year for our grapes.

We also have bought a tractor! This is a huge deal. We've been shopping for 2 years and we finally settled on a New Holland Boomer 8n! We have also purchased a bush hog and airblast sprayer (no longer do we need 5 people for 6 hrs to spray the vineyard with burdensome backpack sprayers!). We will now be able to do things in a timely manner, not relying on scheduling others to do our tractor work for us! We just have to get some implements to plow and condition our soil so we can proceed to grow without breaking our backs!

A final joy of the past few weeks: I graduated from NCSU, the best ag school in the nation if you ask me! I'm so blessed to have been able to go there and make all the great connections that will allow me to be a well informed farmer!

and now, everyone's favourite part, the pictures!
The Grimms, our CSA customers, picking up rocks, and our late squash plants

The Poplar Tent field, tomatoes on the left, corn in the middle and squash on the right

making a herb dryer out of two plant flats

put the herb between a flat with holes and one without holes

Vidal blanc on the GDC

a GDC vineyard, Vidal on the left, Chambourcin on the right

transferring the spring garden to a late summer garden



pumpkins and watermelon will be here soon!

our new tractor, Little Maggie, named for my mom, who bought it for us!

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