Fall Excitement from Kate
From Kate, our Farm Manager:
Last week’s cool temperatures made me so excited for fall! Despite the comfortable weather, the long list of work, though different, continues. We continue to plant seeds and transplant for the late fall, weed the last crops, and put large swaths row cover fabric over beds of seedlings. We are cleaning the thousands of onions and garlic bulbs when the fields are too wet to work. As fewer crops require our attention, we are able to start in on repair and clean up projects: remodeling our u-pick cherry tomato hoophouse, prepping for a new plastic roof on the hoophouse, and pulling plastic mulch from the field. Sometimes fall comes and goes too fast. The season flies by, and before I know it, we are tucking in crops for the first frost.
Fall is my favorite time on the farm. Spring is exhilarating, with the promise of a fresh new season and greenhouses bursting at the seams. Summer is busy, with lots of sunshine and an abundance of food. Winter is a time for rest and planning. Fall is all of the best things: crisp, sunny days, golden light at the end of the workday, and stockpiling food for winter. I love hauling in hundreds or thousands of pounds of storage crops that will sustain us through the dark, cold winter.
My favorite crops to harvest are bulk storage crops: garlic, onions, winter squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, lots of root crops, etc. The feeling of squirreling food away feels good for the soul, knowing you’ll make it on a basic human level. As we harvest these crops, I’m reminded of how much hand labor goes into vegetable farming, and the small, but vital role mechanization plays at Blue Moon. At 6.5 acres of vegetables, Blue Moon is a small to medium vegetable farm. We can achieve a lot by hand, but we have a few tractor implements and other tools that make it easier on our bodies.
In the fall, one of our most important tractor implements is the undercutter. It does just what it sounds like: it has blades that cut through the soil under a crop, thereby loosening and lifting carrots, sweet potatoes, etc. free from our heavy clay soils. We still need to pull them out the soil and put them in crates, but it saves us a lot of digging with a shovel or fork.
Another key implement is the tractor’s pallet forks. The forks allow us to pick up a pallet-sized bin and easily transport it across the farm. We use these pallet bins for watermelons, cabbage, and winter squash. While we still hand load and unload the bins, our backs get a break from hauling heavy crates. A crew favorite is the bin toss, where we line up and toss squash or watermelons from piles into the bin. We’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, that eye contact is important.
In the washroom, we rely heavily on our barrel washer in the fall. We can wash about 40 pounds of beets or carrots at a time. The barrel rotates and a hose inside sprays the soil off the veggies. It’s a simple, yet effective piece of equipment. Going for “a ride on the barrel” is a common job in the fall. It’s all fun and games until you get too wet and cold from the spraying water. So “roll out the barrel, roll out the barrel of fun!”
As the weather starts to change, so does our harvest. You’ll see a few fall favorites mixed with summer’s last offerings. We still have a lot to harvest and tend in the fields, but things are starting to shift.