It's been a really interesting week.
On Sunday night, we watched and waited to see if these gray skies would have mercy on us.
And then we watched as the rain clouds in the distance dumped measurable rain on another part of Shelton, passing over us yet again. This is the second time in the past couple of weeks that other locations within a couple of miles of us got measurable rain and we did not.
I never thought I would be the kind of person who cared about the weather forecast, but by mid-week our stress levels were through the roof as we had a big problem on our hands.
At our Booth Hill Rd. location, we water everything on a well. And as it stood mid-week, we started panicking because the well just wasn't able to keep up. This was the state of our pepper plants.
If you follow us on Instagram and Facebook, you got the long version of the story. I highly encourage you to follow us @laurelglenfarmllc for real-time stories and farm updates. Since we only post on the blog once a week, social media is the best way to see what's going on the rest of the time.
In a nutshell, we water all of our plants with drip irrigation. At the bottom of that pepper photo you can see a hole in the plastic mulch and catch a glimpse of a black tube. Those tubes are underneath our compostable plastic mulch on every raised bed on the farm. We turn them on and they live up to their name by dripping out water directly on the base of the plants.
Because we water on a well, we have to play the game of deciding which plants to prioritize watering and water them just enough to keep them alive before switching to the next crop. And because we use drip irrigation, it literally drips out to avoid water waste and takes essentially the entire night to soak the bed thoroughly. And because we aren't getting any significant rainfall, we need to rely entirely on the well.
So while Carly, Felicia, and I pulled peppers off of plants, Randy was meeting with a well company to figure out how we could increase the water pressure of the irrigation. After quite a few hours, they figured it out, which will allow us to ultimately water faster and more efficiently. The only drawback is ensuring that you don't use more water than the well is taking in. The well takes in 18 gallons per minute, so as long as we don't surpass that, we should be okay. We currently use 16.5 gallons per minute.
Here's a photo of the state of those peppers we were pulling off of plants.
When the plants shrivel up, the fruit does, too, and there's no getting these to revive. If you leave them on the plant, they're going to use up what little energy the plant has at this point to continue to try to keep that shriveled up pepper alive. It's a fruitless effort - pun intended. So, sadly, we needed to take every last shriveled up pepper off of the plants. (In case you're wondering, the food safety of these peppers is not good for consumption.)
What this unfortunately means in the long run is that the peppers have to start over from scratch. They'll start at the flower stage, make a green pepper, and then we have to wait a few weeks for them to turn red, orange, or yellow. Yes, another heartbreak right after the news of the yellow watermelon loss. Hopefully there were enough salvageable peppers on the plants that we'll have a trickle of colored peppers, but most likely, we are not going to have a substantial crop until maybe late September at this point. This is another big loss that only time will tell how it will result. We're also questioning whether or not we'll have pumpkins since they're in a spot without irrigation. This year has been really tough.
We really hate to let the negativity keep coming, but the dry conditions have also set us back in our goals. The excess work and headaches the weather has created mean that we are over a week late in our cabbage crop planting. It's Sunday and we still haven't even finished. Here we are, hustling on Friday at 5:00 to get an hour of planting in. We got 2 beds of kale planted, but there is still broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and collard greens to go.
One of our beloved past crew members Rory will be filling in this week before she heads back to UConn, and it's a blessing to be able to call on additional experienced farm hands.
We are almost caught up on our seeding, though. This week we seeded 1,500 Swiss chard plants, and in a silly stroke of luck, I seeded 768 Napa cabbages (in 6 128-cell trays) and had EXACTLY 768 seeds in the package. What are the chances?! I'll tell ya, I'd rather have luck in other ways, but we'll take the smiles.
In all seriousness, it's not all bad here. The reality is that this has been the hardest growing season for us personally and professionally. We're all kind of dealing with some personal things here too (maybe we can share more on that soon) and the weather is just fighting us every step of the way. But, we're thrilled to see that sales are up this season, support is sky high, and our community really keeps us going. Thank you for that!
Here are some really beautiful shots from the week.
Shishito peppers are in abundance.
And we got a really nice yield of cantaloupes! This week you get to choose between another cantaloupe or a red watermelon (the watermelons do have seeds, in case you are wondering). Delivery members will receive a watermelon. This is most likely the last of the melons for your shares, though whatever is left will continue to be in the store. Hopefully that information helps you to make a decision.
The hot peppers are just stunning. I highly recommend chopping them up and throwing them into the most unlikely of dishes... mac and cheese, pulled pork, even pasta sauce while you give it a simmer. A little bit goes a long way.
We took a rest from pulling peppers off of plants in the barn at Booth Hill. What a beautiful place to rest. We hope you all are having a good summer! This week marks the halfway point in our Main Season subscription program.
This week, you're all getting half a pint of husk cherries.
This is just enough to sample these sweet little fruits and decide what you think about them. Most likely after this week, since we've now all had grape tomatoes, shishitos, and husk cherries, we'll offer our Pick-a-Pint option and let you choose one for yourself. Husk cherries are super unique, and we recommend reading about them in the Library of Resources. I would describe them as a cross between a tomato and a pineapple. You just peel back the husk and eat the little fruit inside. I won't provide any recipes for them since you won't have enough to make a whole meal, but I recommend them sprinkled on cereal, yogurt, or even on toast with ricotta and honey. Let us know what you think!
Don't forget that we're playing Subscription BINGO this month!
Here's how to play:
Complete a task to mark it off. A diagonal line, horizontal line, or vertical line qualifies as BINGO. You must send us photo proof of one completed task in your winning line (you can even share the photo before earning BINGO if you have a line in mind to complete). Send us an electronic copy or hand in a physical copy of your successful BINGO board by August 27th for a chance to win a prize! One participant will be selected at random to win a prize on August 28th. Have fun!
In Your Share (Listed approximately from shortest shelf life to longest)
1 cantaloupe or watermelon (your choice!)
1 lb. of tomatoes
1 pint of grape/cherry tomatoes
1 lb. of cucumbers
1 bunch of kale
2/3 lb. of green or wax beans
2 green peppers
A few hot peppers
1/2 pint of husk cherries
1 cantaloupe or watermelon (your choice!)
1 lb. of tomatoes
1 lb. of cucumbers
1/2 lb. of green or wax beans
2 green peppers
1/2 pint of husk cherries
Caring For Your Share (All of this information, plus long-term storage info, can also be found in our Vegetable Library of Resources)
Store peppers in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your fridge. Set the crisper drawer to low humidity to allow some of the ethylene gas that results from decomposition to escape. Ethylene gas will cause the peppers to rot sooner.
Store grape or cherry tomatoes in a bowl with lots of airflow on your counter. If stems are still attached, don't pull them off until you're ready to eat the tomatoes. Wash before using and enjoy within a few days.
Keep tomatoes out on the counter and out of direct sunlight, where they will get plenty of air flow. Do not put them in the fridge; it will dry out the tomatoes and change their consistency. Tomatoes continue to ripen after harvested, so use within a few days. To ripen a tomato quickly, put it in a paper bag in a dark place, like a cabinet.
Leave the melon out on the counter. Use quickly within a few days. Or, cut up the melon and store it in the fridge in a container to make it last longer.
Keep husk cherries in a bowl on your counter, where they will get plenty of air flow. Husk cherries will last for weeks and will continue to ripen; the husk will turn brown and dry out while the cherry will turn a deeper golden yellow. Peel the husk and wash when ready to eat.
Store beans in a plastic bag in the fridge. Wash and blot dry when ready to use.
Store cucumbers in the crisper drawer in the refrigerator.
The LGF Cooking Club
30 Minutes or Less:
Cucumber Tomato Salad (Use slicing tomatoes)
Large Share Additional Ingredients:
Biweekly Catch-Up (A copy of last week's updates)
On Thursday, Randy went out with the crew to harvest what he could of the yellow watermelons... and found that our entire crop was severely decimated by woodchucks. Someone mentioned to me that because of the drought, woodchucks are looking for water sources and are turning more to crops to quench their thirst.
We hope they enjoyed them, because we got ONE lone crate of yellow watermelons. I quickly posted this photo to Facebook to notify customers that this was all we'll have this season, and the crate was depleted by the end of the night.
We are so sorry to share this news because we know how much our members love the yellow watermelon. It's a huge shame for everyone, especially because we doubled our planting knowing how coveted they are.
We have to keep a really close eye on the red watermelon. If we don't stay on top of it, the second they ripen, they're going to become woodchuck food. Luckily we plan to have a cantaloupe for you this week. If not, it'll be a red watermelon, whichever we have available. Most likely there will be a wagon of melons for you to pick one up from. Be sure to ask in case you aren't reminded.
Also, please note that the items in your share are super high value this week, which is why it will seem far less substantial. Thank you so much for giving us feedback in the Facebook group about whether or not to include both kinds of tomatoes this week. The results at my last check were 60 to 2. This is why I love this group - I was completely unsure about putting both kinds of tomatoes in the box, but you all clarified so much! This box is quintessential fresh summer bounty. Enjoy!
This past week we got a lot of odd jobs done. When we shift to the summer peak, harvesting becomes more systematic, where we harvest certain crops on certain days. This leaves time to get more tasks complete in the afternoon. Once it's full-on harvest time, things will pick up again, but for now we're grateful for the short respite.
One thing the crew got done was weeding in the melon field. This particular field has been especially out of control with pigweed, so we wanted to get it weeded before it starts to drop seed and spread.
There was also a lot of stringing to do. Here, Eric and Emily are stringing up the fall tomato planting, and on Saturday, they strung up the husk cherries to make them easier to harvest on one side.
Ethan also spent some time in the greenhouse, seeding fall crops. Believe it or not, seeding isn't just for spring. Here's some baby lettuce.
On Saturday, our neighbor Frannie and I seeded almost 1,200 heads of lettuce, and then almost 400 broccoli plants (before we ran out of broccoli seed). There is a ton more seeding to do later this week for the upcoming months.
Other tasks that weren't pictured: pruning the berry bushes, weeding the celery, fixing hose leaks, and mowing down old crops like the cabbage and Swiss chard.
But probably the biggest task, and one that will continue for the next week or two, was harvesting onions.
First, we pull them up.
Then we lay them down to dry out in the sun.
Randy made a joke to me this week that one sure way to get rain is to lay down the onions. It never fails - when we think they'll be okay to stay out, the rain moves in. Well, guess what? It didn't work. We even talked to a fellow farmer who is only a couple miles from us who got 3/4 of an inch of rain. But us? Nope! Not this week.
After the onions stay out for a day or so, we brush off the tops. If they're completely dry, they're crated for storage. If not, we lay them down on trays to do more drying in our small greenhouse. Then we'll move them over to a drying table, where they'll stay until we get a frost threat.
We worked on this every afternoon this week and still have a long way to go. The yellow onions were ready well before the red ones, so we'll continue on with more this week. Needless to say, you can expect to see a dried onion in your share this week.
Peppers are starting to come in more steadily this week. Everyone will be receiving shishitos - my absolute favorite quick side dish to blister up! I love to see what kind of dipping sauces you whip up to go with them. Share with us in the Facebook group! And don't forget that we're playing BINGO this month. Scroll all the way to the bottom of this newsletter for more information.
I know it's hot and I know it's August, but I just don't want to hear the F word yet: fall. What about you? I know we get some great crops in the fall, but I'm a summer girl through and through. Maybe these pretty mums will help...
We have gotten a lot of questions recently about enrollment for next year. Traditionally we start dripping out information to our email list in September, so stay tuned for more details. We open enrollment on the first Sunday in October and sell out the Extended Season program that day. One thing I can tell you for certain is that we absolutely, positively can not make exceptions if you miss enrollment day and don't get the spot you were hoping for. Truly. This even goes for members who are currently enrolled in a program. We can absolutely not play favorites and make exceptions because we love you all! So, please mark your calendars now for October 2nd at 7:00 a.m.
We've just begun contacting those who were on our plum tomato bulk box waiting list. We can expect these orders to be filled into October. We are in the home stretch of filling pickling cucumber orders. Please stay alert by email. Per our policy, you'll have 24 hours to respond to our email about filling your upcoming order before we move down the list - we'll circle back to you only one additional time. In the past we have lost boxes while waiting for responses and we can't guarantee filling your order if we don't hear back within this time frame.