Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Here are some holiday photos from the farm:This picture is not from this holiday, because we're on behind with decorations and don't have such a pretty snow right now, but it does illustrate that delaying taking down Christmas decorations until February can result in a pretty picture for next year's Christmas card.You can see the lights on the star through the trees at spots when driving up the road. Some neighbors refer to it as the "star barn."
Gourds and gold ribbon on the mantle--using what we have for decorations.
And to all a good night!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas season!

Last Saturday was our last market for 2007; there will be a few farmers there this week, but not us. Since the ground is fairly frozen right now, there's not much to do outside. We put the last of our squash in the basement for storage, and called it quits for this year.
Of course, "the year" ends in eleven days, so after the holiday it will be time to get back to work. Seed catalogs have been coming in since October, so come January it will be time to inventory what we have and order what we need for the spring.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Winter is here

Snow is covering the ground, so mom is in raptures over the beauty, and dad is grumbling about the cold. At the end of last week, before it snowed, mom planted the garlic in the rows where sunflowers had been growing. It was a little bit late, but at the recommended time in mid-October we were too busy. Good thing we're not superstitious about planting at the right side of the moon--there never seems to be time to farm according to that schedule.

Now that the temperature has really dropped (it was 9 degrees last night) the garage is too close to freezing for storage, so the last squashes were moved to the basement. The best climate to store squash is somewhere cool (about 55 degrees) and dry. Some squash will store exceedingly well. When they were putting the squash away, mom found this butternut squash that was left from last year. It has a few spots, but hasn't rotted yet. I'm just thrilled that there's room to park in the garage since the squash and sorting tables have been put away.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Nearly December

The lettuce has stopped growing; it's been about this size for nearly a month. A couple weeks ago dad cut some anyway. Maybe he just didn't want the deer to get it. If you look very closely at the dirt on the plastic, you might see a couple bees on it. They were out and flying around in the sun, and here are getting a drink from the wet ground. Aunt Laurie has been working on taking the strings and stakes out of the tomatoes. Today I even did a few! A couple stuck too deep are left for dad to pull.
The only market still going is Beaver on Saturdays, which will continue through December. Last Saturday we were visiting David and my mom's family for Thanksgiving, so Sue took squash and cabbage to market for us. It was a pretty slow and cold day, so I'm glad I didn't have to go.

Friday, November 16, 2007

More than frost on the pumpkin

This morning I woke up to more than a dusting of snow on the ground; the grass was pretty well covered. We've had snow as early as Halloween, but it still looks funny with some trees still having leaves, and a couple bushes that are still green.

Yesterday was the next to last market day in Ambridge, and the last one on Thursday. Since next week is Thanksgiving, market will be on Tuesday. Last night mom didn't feel like unloading the squash into the garage, just to load it up again on Saturday morning. So, dad just plugged the small space heater from the bathroom into an extension cord and put it up in the van. It kept the squash from freezing, but the bathroom was chilly!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Still going to market

This weekend has been the typical November, cloudy and wet. Last night we had quite a bit of rain, with some thunder and lightning, but I can't give any exact figures because we took the rain gauge down when it went below freezing to keep it from cracking. Despite adverse conditions, mom and Sue are still going to market on Thursday afternoons and Saturday mornings. There is still lots of squash, pie pumpkins, and a few cabbage to bring.
The basil was completely killed by the cold weather; parsley and weeds remain unaffected.
Things are winding down, and it's time to start cleaning up and preparing for next year. Roger brush-hogged the corn in the flat field (you know you're in W. Pa. when you name a field the flat field, and it's perfectly clear which one you're talking about). If we're lucky and have a mild fall and early winter, we'll be able to pick up all of the plastic and tomato stakes so that the fields will be ready for next year.

On Saturday, dad went to the Western Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers conference, and heard an interesting presentation by Steve Groff on no-till farming. There is always something new to learn about farming, whether it's a new seed variety, a new method of farming, or a piece of equipment that will make work easier. That's what keeps it interesting.

Mom (on her own, all I did was add links!) added two more recipes to our website. The first one is basic instructions for how to cook squash, and the other is a nice recipe for a squash-apple bake I'll put some pictures in when mom or I have some time to make it and take some.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A cold and frosty morning--now with pics!

On Monday morning it did freeze; our thermometer showed a low temperature of 28 degrees. The frost sure did look pretty, but it did in the peppers and tomatoes. Dad hunted around and found a tomato and a couple peppers that were covered by leaves enough to not be damaged, but the plants are dead now.
Hardier cole crops were not damaged, like this Savoy (or curly) cabbage. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, dill, lettuce, and all the squash, gourds, pumpkins, etc. that we brought inside are still ok, also. Dad is still sorting through all the tomatoes that he picked before frost and picking out the ripened ones to sell at market.
Last evening while waiting for trick-or-treaters to come (all 10 of them, plus a dog) mom and I worked on creating a web page ( with instructions for making pumpkin pie from a pie pumpkin. I would like to point out that even though things have slowed down, she has not recently made a pie; the pictures are from last Thanksgiving. That's one of the nice things about squash--it stores a long time so we get to cook with it, something there's not enough time for with summer vegetables.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Finally fall

After many mild weeks we're finally having fall like weather and the leaves are turning gold, red, orange, and brown. People have been asking since Labor Day whether things are slowing down on the farm. Finally I can tell them "yes!" The farm stand has been closed for two weeks, and the last market in Coraopolis is tomorrow. Tonight we will likely get a frost if not a complete freeze. Today mom and dad were picking tomatoes and peppers in long underwear and stocking caps. Dad actually got 24 buckets of tomatoes, but a lot of them weren't very red. Some people also like to get green ones at the end of the year and wrap them in newspaper till they ripen.
Yesterday I left market early and cut some things left in the field: butternut squash, these cool looking La Estrella pumpkins, and my big lagenaria gourds. There are a lot of pumpkins still in the field that are just now coming ripe, because we didn't get them planted very early. This afternoon dad was scavenging for some pickles from a late patch (he found 40 or so) and brought in the big ones. He just couldn't resist.
Here are the ssssssssssssssssssnake gourds. They are really interesting to look at, but do not seem to be in high demand.Some of the other lagenaria gourds: bushel, African wine kettle, birdhouse, zucca, and swan gourds. They all are neat, and when they dry people do all kinds of crafts with them. I tried to grow luffa gourds as well, but am not sure if they had time to mature enough. I brought the biggest ones in to dry and try to cure so that I can use the insides as sponges, but I don't have high hopes for them.
It's a clear night with bright moon and stars, so it's likely that it will get as cold as 28 degrees, which the national weather service is predicting. Even so, the broccoli and cabbage will probably survive, and we still have squash, pie pumpkins, and the last tomatoes and peppers to take to market through December. If it's not a hard frost, dad will get up at 3 or 4 am and fill his air blast sprayer with water to try and save the tomatoes, peppers, and lettuce for another day. "It's neat to be able to say that I was picking tomatoes in November," he explains.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Gourd-eous weather

After a very light, scattered frost on Friday night we've had more warm summer weather. Nothing was badly damaged, though a couple leaves of basil got brown spots. It was damp enough to keep most things safe. We've had a few showers during the past week, but the ground is still dry. Fortuneately, we are done with the major parts of the harvesting. On Sunday I brought in some of my fancy lagenaria gourds. Pictured here are some African wine kettles.

Saturday was the last day of the farm stand being open. Aunt Laurie was busy that day, and our neighbor Shawn who helps out stayed around the whole day in order to say goodbye to all the customers. On Monday Aunt Laurie said, "I think this is the first lunch since July 20th that I haven't had to go out again to wait on a customer." She still is around this week putting stuff away and helping to sort tomatoes, but that's it.

Monday was the last day of sweet corn. Dad no longer has to go out as soon as it's light to pick before going to work. There are plenty of things to pick after work, and less daylight to do it in. The late tomatoes are still producing. Mom is picking peppers, though there are not as many; they slow down in cool weather. Lettuce, on the other hand, is growing really well. Fall cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower are also coming in. With all of that produce plus pumpkins, gourds, and all the different kinds of winder squash, it's difficult to find room on the table!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Squish squash

People keep on asking me if things are winding down for the year. We didn't have enough tomatoes to take some to Beaver market, but nothing is winding down yet! Dad is still picking sweet corn before work in the morning, and after work comes home and picks tomatoes until it gets dark. This weekend Sue and I spent all afternoon after market harvesting squash, and there is still more there. Here's some of what we gathered (you may have to scroll a little while):

Festival, a striped acorn squash
Acorn squash, you can tell that it is ripe by the nice bright orange color on the ground spot
Jarrhadale, with blue kuri (darker blue) below
Spaghetti squash
Blue hubbards and green hubbards
Kentucky Field pumpkin
Neck pumpkin, related to butternut
Pattypan squash

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Harvest Moon

Tonights full moon is the harvest moon, so called because supposedly farmers can use the light of the moon to finish bringing in the crops. It would be nice to have a little more time, but the moon isn't quite bright enough to tell whether a tomato is ripe enough. So, what are we harvesting by daylight? Canning and table grade tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, bok choy, pumpkins, winter squash, gourds, basil (parsley, dill, and cilantro, too), cornstalks, and corn.
Last week dad started picking from the "late" tomatoes. They will be producing up through October, if there is no frost. It's a gamble on the weather, or rather, more of a gamble than usual. We also planted a late patch of some cucumbers and zucchini, and they may be ready soon also.
Ashes and Charlie are fighting over who gets to pose with the pumpkins!
Besides different sizes of the standard jack-o-lanterns, we have pale ones that look like a cheese wheel, bright red warty ones, white pumpkins, white with orange lacey markings, and blue Jaradales. In fact, all of the special colors are actually types of squash, not true pumpkins, but they all look very pretty together. There are also many different types of squash. This weekend we'll bring in more, and I'll try to create a list of all the different kinds that we have. Till then, happy harvest, and enjoy watching the leaves turn.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fall is coming

The weather cooled down over the past weekend, and that slows a lot of the crops down. Peppers aren't setting as much fruit, the tomatoes don't ripen very quickly, and the basil really slows down growing. Somehow, though, the crops slowing down doesn't mean that we slow down any. Fall is the busiest and best time of the year.Saturday we brought in the first load of pumpkins and squash. They were planted late, so some of them are still a little green, but the vines are dying back and so it's time to harvest. If squash gets too much sun on it's skin it can get sun burn and then does not keep as long. In the picture below we have the sample squash that we brought in to test. Roughly clockwise they are: patty pan, red kuri, blue hubbard, festival (colored acorn), spagetti, hi-beta spaghetti, neck pumpkin, buttercup, Caspar (the white "pumpkin"), pie pumpkin, acorn, and butternut. And there are still more varieties out in the field!
Dad has cut some corn stalks and bundled them. Now all we need for it to look like fall are some red and yellow leaves on the trees!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Never a dull moment--even when you want one

At about three this morning I awoke to the sound of squealing brakes and then a lot of loud but uncreative profanity. Two foolish kids had run off the road, sideswiped a tree, and then drove into our flower garden. They did not appear to be seriously hurt. The purported driver passed a field sobriety test, though she only had her learner's permit. The other girl did not pass. Nothing important was damaged this time, but they narrowly missed hitting another tree head on. This is why they tell you to obey the speed limit and not to drink and drive. While I'm giving out free advice that people who read farm blogs probably don't need, I'll also suggest that we may have problems keeping the garden under control, but even so the weeds do not make an effective hiding place when the police come to investigate an accident scene.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Ginormous vegetables

With good ground and plenty of rain, some plants have produced huge vegetables!Some peppers weigh almost a pound, and are nearly too big to hold in one hand.This onion weighed 1.75 pounds (but it had some soft spots so we had to eat it ourselves).Dad put in a couple plants of heirloom tomatoes, and they aren't pretty, but they do get big. This one weighs one pound, 13 ounces. The melon beside the cut tomato below is not a cantaloupe (we don't have any tomatoes that big), it's a small, softball-sized melon. It still makes the ice cream scoop look like a teaspoon. The cabbage has gotten particularly big this year! This monster head weighs 14 1/2 pounds. (Mom made cabbage and noodles yesterday, so I know that they're not only big, but also sweet.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The old man's first attempt at posting on the blog

The Veggie Van lives!! Yes it only needed the radiator repaired and filled with new coolant. The top hose and the fan belts were changed while the radiator was out so we're good to go. Now return the expensive rental and do with out a comfortable cab and AC. Hmmm is that good? Ask Becky.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

End of the road for the Veggie Van?

On Friday as mom and dad came back from running some errands, they discovered that the van's radiator was boiling over--really boiling over so that when they checked it there was oil and transmission fluid in the overflow. Fortunately, they weren't going to market with a full load of vegetables or coming home after a long day. It couldn't be fixed before Saturday morning market, so mom had to find a rental van that we could use to haul stuff to Beaver. Since many students are returning to college this weekend, it was difficult to find an available unit. (We do know several people who have pickups, but they are all short-bed models and just don't have enough space.)
Eventually the did get this moving van from Volmers. It's bigger than our old one, but since it doesn't have our custom built shelves we needed the extra room to get everything to fit in. It does have an air-conditioned cab, which is a nice break on hot days like today. After market today, mom and dad checked a local dealer, but all they had was a new, seventeen-foot box van. It's way past affordable. So now they must decide whether to 1.) Try to get the van fixed 2.) Check the Farm & Dairy ads and find a used trucks or 3.) Just quit.

I'm pretty sure they won't quit, but setbacks like this make it seem attractive. Here's a view of the Veggie Van from the back with the shelves that dad made. It give new meaning to the phrase "custom van."

Monday, August 20, 2007

Rainy days

Saturday was beautiful and cool, but since Sunday we've gotten nearly 3 inches of rain! The lawn is unusually green for August; there's no need for irrigation in the fields either. Even though the sun hasn't been shining recently, our late-planted sunflowers have started to bloom.
Other crops are continuing to produce well. Mom has also started to pick tomatillos, or husk tomatoes, which are used in salsa. The summer cabbage is nice and big; some of them are ten pounds or more. There are tons of tomatoes; Aunt Laurie is sorting out the ripest for canning bushels. We don't have time to can much ourselves, but sometimes have time to freeze things or get extras from what Aunt Christie puts up.
Usually by this time of year, all the plants are in the ground and all that's left is the harvest. This year, though, we have new lettuce plants just sprouting in the plug trays. They are under a piece of plastic to protect them from heavy rain and hot sun. There's more lettuce that is ready to be transplanted, and some that is big enough to put in the ground, and still more that is ready for harvest. It's the continuous crop!
Summer isn't winding down yet. Unfortunately, dad went back to work this week. Not to say that he hasn't been working all summer, but now that fall is just around the corner, it's time for him to go back to the job that really pays the bills--Penn State Beaver. Mom has been doing double-duty as township tax collector all along, but especially since August when the new bills went out. She says every year that we must plant less, but that never happens.