Something else we do at farmersdotter organics, albeit on a very small scale, is tree fruit. We have a modest orchard but enough to provide local fruit stands with a few pounds of something juicy. Some plums, apples, and pears in one area and along the fence line some peaches and nectarines that provide better privacy than fruit. That’s about it. One big cherry tree in the back yard but unfortunately its days are numbered. Its a gnarly old specimen and then there is Spotted Wing Drosophila, a nasty little fruit fly not to be encouraged and cherries are a perfect host for the pest.
No, we are not orchardists, at least not this year as evidenced by the condition of the Gala Apple Tree and lack of thinning. Maybe next year.
Anyway, right now we are pulling off Damson plums…
and my favourite, Italian Prune Plums. Thought you might like the photos.
Hot, dry, windy conditions on a freshly harvested field is not a good combination. To keep fertile top soil in place and our subterranean microbial friends happy requires a little management. Water and management. Growing organically by definition requires all ones inputs; fertilizers, mulches, cover crops etc. be certified organic. If organic is proven not practically available then conventional inputs may be considered.
For example; the mulch we use each fall to top dress newly planted garlic comes from southern Alberta because to our knowledge that is where the closest grower of organic straw is located. Expensive, yes. Most certainly not carbon neutral. Oops. The harvested garlic field pictured below with spent straw mulch will be replanted with garlic in 2016.
Here is an instance where conventionally grown straw could be considered. It is almost impractical to ship straw that far but we choose to absorb the cost and ignore the potential diamond or twelve that goes up in diesel exhaust to transport to our farm. Oops.
Now we are faced with how to manage the cover crop for this winter. Back in June our plan was to incorporate the spent fall rye and plant buckwheat for the summer then soon replant fall rye with harry vetch. But organic buckwheat wasn’t available back in June. A more experienced farmer would know that. Now I know. Oops. Of course organic fall rye is available but organic harry vetch is proving elusive. Potential oops.
Our solution this summer has been to merely allow perennial and annual weeds, grass, volunteers and whatever else to establish and preserve the top soil. Maybe oops?
Once turned in this volunteer biomass will introduce some beneficial albeit incalculable nutrients back to those aforementioned microbes. There is nothing wrong with the practice as long as one ensures the growth, especially annuals, is not allowed to set seed. That means more frequent mowing sitting atop the Massey. Oops, there goes another diamond. My bad.
Two weeks ago today harvesting of the Russian Red hardneck garlic began in earnest. A week later all the garlic was pulled off and hung to dry in the drying shed. Pictured is one of 15 drying racks from the drying shed, each measuring approximately 10′ x 36′ and supporting in excess of a thousand pounds of cured garlic.
Today, two weeks later the drying shed is emptying and the storage shed is filling up with cured and cleaned garlic. A lot of work. We decided it was time for a breather so we are taking a couple extra days of rest. The garlic won’t suffer from a couple of extra days of breathing or curing either. The storage shed is a straw bale constructed building that has a very stable storage environment.
Even when outdoor temperatures climb to the upper thirties the storage shed hovers between 12 and 16 C depending on how much the door is opened during the afternoon. The garlic moves to market quickly so the shed is primarily used to store our seed until mid October.
We are very fortunate and blessed. This past harvest, our very first, has been truly pleasurable because of the hard working crew we have at farmersdotter organics. It’s been 6 working days and all the Russian Red garlic has been pulled off the field and is hanging safely in the shed to dry. Natasha, Erik, Mo, Roxanne, Joe, Pierre and Jeremy pretty much have been here throughout the harvest. They were here at 5:00am every morning and stayed each day until the job was done. Although, Erik and Jeremy have been known to fall victim to a silent alarm clock! Missing from the photo are Madhavi and Olivia both of whom will come back this fall to help plant their second crop here. On the ground by the crew is the last of the freshly harvested garlic ready to be moved to the drying shed.
The garlic orders must be filled as soon as possible. Our retailers have been waiting since last winter when their stock of fresh garlic ran out so there is no rest for the weary. After the the last garlic was hung to dry the crew had time left in the day so they decided to begin cleaning straight away. The garlic they are preparing was the first harvested early last week.
Every bulb is handled and inspected at least three times before it reaches market. First at harvest, again when cleaned and finally when placed in 25lb sacks for shipping.
Must admit to being a little anxious. This past Tuesday we began harvesting the Russian Red hardneck garlic. The crew worked long, hard days in very warm temperatures. Consequently we plan our day to begin at 5:00am in the cool of the morning. We are 75% complete with the Russian Red harvest. We will be at it again tomorrow finishing up Tuesday. We decided to take the weekend off in part to soothe sore muscles but mostly to avoid the high heat. The forecast high today calls for 38 celcius. Our fields are usually 3 to 4 degrees warmer than the forecast.
Regardless, the harvest albeit a few days late is looking excellent. The average bulb size is about 2-1/2 inches with a large portion approaching 3 inches. I have my eye on some of those for my seed this fall.
Smaller bulbs average 1-1/2 to 2 inches. When purchasing garlic consider smaller bulbs if you require a small amount. The garlic flavour in Russian Red is intense regardless of bulb size so no worries there either.
Our garlic is hanging in the drying shed which is open on three sides to allow for excellent ventilation. You must go deep to get through the 30′ aisle to the other open side.
The drying shed can accommodate about 16,000 pounds all under one roof.
After the garlic has hung for a few more days we can begin trimming and cleaning the bulbs in preparation to send them to market.