We finally have some tomatoes! The warm weather this weekend has been great for tomato growth. The Sungold tomatoes (orange cherry tomatoes) are ripening faster than we can eat them along with some other larger bright red tomatoes. The results from the taste tests are in and the ruling is delicious.
Last Thursday we visited the Organic Farm at Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont. They have a much larger farm than we do, and they have about twice as many full time student workers. We met some students and we compared our farms and had a tour of their land. They focus mainly on animals, which are a lot of work and require a lot of land. They have pigs, goats, chickens, and pheasants. After our tour we ate a freshly prepared lunch of entirely food from their farm and a little bit of Addison bread and cheese.
Last week we visited Spencer Blackwell’s farm, where he grows a large variety of vegetables. On his generous tour he showed us his extensive tomato growing hoophouse, including his thinning and pruning procedure where he keeps his tomatoes in check by cutting back leaves and “suckers”(alternative growing tips) as well as reducing tomato clusters to about four. We decided to thin some of our tomato clusters this week, the result being a big bag of green tomatoes with which we were able to fry and create the classic southern food.
While there were plenty of green tomatoes to remove, we are also beginning to see ripening in our hoophouse with an eggplant, peppers and even a few bright orange sungold cherry tomatoes. As for vegetables getting close to harvest out in the garden, we have more herbs than we know what to do with, baby zucchini, snap peas and flowers(many of which are edible, including daylily petals, which taste like peach rings). The garden is really starting to get going so come out and take a look!
The first moth landed on Jackie and stayed for a while. In the shed we have a big book of caterpillars and moths and the damage they do to certain crops. We couldn’t find this white moth anywhere in the book. It looks sort of like a cabbage moth, in the way that they’re both white, but this guy isn’t one. The second moth we found by the asparagus. It was patient while we took its photo. The third moth is a polyphemus moth, according to our book. It feeds mostly on trees, but we found it in the hoop house with the tomatoes.
Life at the farm extends beyond the plants. Our farm is an intricate system of life that provides a home to groundhogs, mice, birds, insects, toads, snakes and more. In the past we have had problems with rabbits but we haven’t seen any this year. Everything that lives at the farm fills an ecological niche and helps maintain the balance of the system. We don’t always see the animals, but they leave behind pretty neat stuff for us to find. (Below are some baby groundhogs, a toad, a huge snake skin we found in our shed, and a jawbone we found in the field.)
The two swarms we had indicated that the bees were doing too well out at the farm this week. Bees swarm when they fill up the space in the boxes that make up their hive. When they do this the entire hive leaves the nest and finds a temporary home such as a tree branch like the one shown in the photo below. Once on this temporary nest they send out scouts to find a suitable permanent home. They then report back to the colony and communicate the site of the new home. Unfortunately this means we lost two colonies this week, but Ross came out the farm to check on the bees and revealed the remaining colonies are still thriving. Ross opened up the hives and we all were able to taste a bit of this year’s first honey!
For those of you that don’t know, we have a wood fired pizza oven out at the farm. Last weekend the students from the Middlebury School of the Environment fired up the pizza oven for the first time since the Spring Planting Festival in April. Why such little use? It’s been cracked, and wont stay hot. To celebrate the first week of the second year of Middlebury’s environmental school, students brought out dough, toppings, and good friends to the farm. A bunch of delicious pizzas were loaded into the oven with some featuring fresh picked basil from our kitchen garden! Despite the cracks (and the extended cooking time) the pizza turned great!
The next morning a group of motivated individuals went out to the oven with a sledgehammer and smashed it to pieces. Why? Renovation. The clay was remade and laid over a sand mold to dry. The clay takes a few days to dry, but when it does, another layer will be added. Three layers are needed for the whole oven to be completed. When all the clay drys the pizza oven will be ready to use once again. The goal is to have it done before the fall semester starts. Feel free to come out to the farm and use the pizza oven anytime, but remember you need to be properly trained and you must have permission from the Cornwall Fire Marshall (same rules as the fire pit!). Thanks oven builders!
Here are some photos from an order we filled last week to Atwater. When we fill an order first we pick however many boxes or bunches we need, then we wash everything, pack it into produce boxes, and then deliver it! Everything is fresh from the field because we don’t have electricity to refridgerate anything.