Genesee Valley Organic Community Supported Agriculture

Notes from the Farm - August 2000
By Elizabeth Henderson

Real summer weather - hot and sunny with frequent thunder storms - finally arrived in August for a few short weeks, only to give way to bright cool days and 50 degree nights. No June-July drought this year. No melon sweetening, tomato ripening heat. There was a string of hot, dry days, just after we set out the fall broccoli. We scurried to set up irrigation to save the baby broccoli plants, but only had to turn on the water twice. Like every virtue, adequately rainy weather has its backside. Each time we try to cultivate the weeds out, the rains plant them back in again, so the farm is weedier than we would like.

Planting for the fall is up to date and most crops are doing well. We have planted a dozen 220 foot beds of broccoli, 2 beds of cauliflower, 2 beds of savoy cabbage, 3 beds of assorted oriental greens and kale, 2 beds of beets, 2 1/2 beds of leeks, a bed each of turnips, rutabagas and Swiss chard. To compensate for nutrients leached out by the rains, we spread Krehers composted chicken manure on some of the crops. We are continuing weekly plantings of lettuce and succession plantings of spinach. It looks like we will set a record this year with lettuce every single week of the season. Lettuce likes cool weather, as did the peas which continued all the way through July instead of shriveling from heat by the 4th, as often happens. The potato crop is looking promising. CSA members helped us plant them late in May. We hilled them up with soil twice, weeded once and squashed about 250 potato beetle larvae, a relatively small pest invasion. For the early potatoes you ate the first week in August , we planted 45 pounds of seed potatoes and harvested 334 pounds, a respectable yield. We have done late plantings of cucumbers and zucchini to relay the earlier ones that are succumbing to wilt and mildew from the damp weather. There will be an ample supply of winter squash: acorn, delicata, butternut, and spaghetti. Once again, the cucumber beetles did a number on the buttercup squash. In an experiment to keep the raccoons out of the sweet corn, we ringed the early corn with pumpkin vines. We planted all the seed members saved last year. It will make harvesting the corn harder, but we will have lots of pumpkins. Half the beans we grew came from saved seed, including the beautiful Dragon Tongue beans, and there have been a lot of beans to pick! We will save bean seed again this year. And we still have close to a miles worth of row feet of carrots to harvest.

Overall, the crops we planted later are doing much better than those we planted earlier, which suffered badly from the excess water and stingy heat of April through June. The red cabbages will be smaller than usual. The gladiolas are almost a total loss - the flowers are turning brown before they even open. Some sort of fungal disease, I guess. We planted a third more onions than last year, but the final volume will probably be about the same with many smaller onions. By contrast, the garlic, planted last fall, mulched with hay, and harvested in late July, is of excellent quality and size. To confuse this picture, however, while the full-sized tomatoes are ripening slowly as early blight attacks the leaves of the plants, the eggplants and peppers (same family and planted right next to them) are thriving. The peppers in the hoop house are already starting to turn red!

With the help of Xerox employees Fernan Cepero, Keith Karn and Mike Axelrod, we received a XCIP grant to cover part of the cost of the hoop house and an irrigation pond. We all owe a big thank you to them and Xerox for these farm improvements which will benefit all CSA members as well as the Xerox workers. We have not needed the pond this year, and it was too wet this spring to dig it. As soon as conditions allow, we will dig that pond since there is no knowing when drought will hit us again.

While we are in the thank you department, we are grateful to local member Gerry Welsh who finally solved the puzzle of how to open and close the roof vents on the greenhouse. He concocted a system of pulleys and ropes which works well on the high and heavy vents. Gerry also helped us reduce the dissymetry of our Allis Chalmers G tractor. Thanks are due as well to Fred Miller who brings us compost and used boxes from Loris Natural Foods every week.

As soon as we harvest a crop, we spade the residue under and plant a cover crop to protect the soil and provide organic matter for subsequent crops. On August 18, I spaded under the buckwheat we had planted on the beds where spinach, radishes, scallions, lettuce and oriental greens had grown. We allow the buckwheat to flower, but we do not want it to produce grain. As I spaded the beds, the waste high plants buzzed with all kinds of bees and wasps who were enjoying the nectar from the delicate white flowers. We will replant those beds in oats as a cover for the winter. A second seeding of buckwheat is just starting to germinate on the beds for next years garlic. We will spade that under in September to prepare the beds for October garlic planting. After rolling up the fencing and irrigation tape, and pulling out the posts, we will plant the pea beds to rye and hairy vetch to get ready for next years broccoli. The rye and vetch survive the winter to grow prodigious amounts of organic matter in the spring. Spaded under, the combination provides ample fertilizer for the heavy-feeding broccoli and cauliflower plants.

We have been keeping a list of all the children who have come to the farm this summer - as of August 20, we have had 81 children! Our friend Roland Micklem has been coming on childrens Sundays to take them on fascinating nature walks. Paula Vargas is encouraging us to consider having a summer camp at the farm next year. She suggests a day camp. Children would leave Rochester at 7:30 am, spend 2-3 hours doing farm work, help cook lunch, 2-3 hours learning about nature at the farm, take a swim and be home by 3. Please call Elizabeth if you are interested in participating either for your children or as staff.

The big event of the summer for me was the wedding of my son Andy to Midori Sugahara here at the farm. The rest of the farm crew agreed to give me a weeks leave of absence, even though I was more or less present. Like Andy, Midori teaches elementary school in a bi-lingual class, Spanish and English. For Midori, Spanish is her first language. She lived in Argentina until she was 11 when her family took refuge from the reign of the Generals in Israel. Andy arrived ten days before the wedding date to get things organized. For the ceremony, he chose a beautiful spot on the crest of a hill in the middle of a hayfield dotted with round bales of hay. Guests came from four continents - north and south America, Europe, and north Africa - with greetings from Japan. The guests totaled around fifty, half family, half friends. Many of them stayed overnight in the Henry house, purchased last year by the Kraais, which has 6 bedrooms, and is now available for celebrations and retreats.

Andy was able to persuade Rabbi Sheldon Ezring of Syracuse to come to the farm to marry a Henderson to a Sugahara. For the ceremonial arch (the huppa), we used a white bedspread crocheted 50 years ago by my grandmother. Midoris sister, Ami, a professional designer, led a crew of guests in bedecking the place with arrangements of wild flowers. Interrupted only by a winetasting excursion on which our French wine expert, Andys step sister Sarah, selected Silverthread wines over several conventional choices, Midoris mother and stepdad, Adriana and Mikhael cooked for three days, creating a great array of Moroccan salads and quiches for the wedding meal. Her cousin Juan, a cordonbleu chef-in-training, whipped out platters of hors doeuvres with vegetables I gathered from the farm. Sarah baked French onion pies and eggplant caviar. The Kraais contributed a bison roast. Instead of one cake, we had 7 - two carrot cakes baked by Donna Blondell, local CSA member, 3 cheesecakes, baked by Andy and me from my mothers incomparable recipe, and 2 chocolate confections from a NYC bakery. Altogether a memorable feast.

The skies hung warm and misty as our procession walked across the fields to the wedding site where the Rabbi read a modern version of the traditional Hebrew ceremony. Imani Uzuri sang about the winds and breezes of love. I read a sonnet by Shakespeare from a calendar of love I had painted for Andys dad. Reaching back to his memories of a summer on his family farm, Andys grandpa Harry described gathering the straw into shocks that, shakey at first, soon stood firmly on their own against the roughest winds, his metaphor for the love of Andy and Midori. With the smashing of the glass, the bride and groom kissed, a moment of the purest joy that I will savor for years to come.

With spontaneous decorum, the wedding party filed back through the fields to the dinner tent. Andy and Midoris mood of excitement and delight infected us all.
The rain held off till all the food was carried to the tables and everyone had filled their plates. I introduced our guests to the Russian custom - from time to time, everyone yells Bitter! and the bride and groom must kiss to make it sweet. Complete with a speech by Doug Kraai on the wonders of the bison, the party was appropriately merry and rowdy. The sun was out again by the time we were ready to climb on the hay wagon and go for a tour of our vegetables and the Kraais bison, followed by a noisy swim in the farm pond. Appetites recovered, we returned to the party for cake and conviviality late into the night. I tried to squeeze in an intense conversation with each of Andy and Midoris friends. What a delightful group of young people!

Wedding over, partners Greg and Ammie took a week off too. No restful vacation, they spent it replacing part of the rotting roof of their house. With their return, we begin a new phase homeschooling Helen, their 6 year old daughter. It will be a challenge to our whole farm crew to give her the attention, care and instruction she needs along with our vegetables. Contributions of time and ideas from CSA members are welcome!

Our CSA season is at its mid-point. Your shares were on the light side during the early weeks of rough weather. Harvests are more ample now and, barring disaster, prospects are good for the rest of the season. We hope you are enjoying the bounty of this good earth with us!


Copyright GVOCSA 2000. All rights reserved.