Our Cup Runneth Over

Too much to do to blog it all.

This is life on the farm now:

Get up before the sun for coffee and a piece of fruit

Barn chores

Pick from dawn until done (about 2.5-3 hours)

Water, prune, other maintenance 1-2 hours

Sort and clean produce

Pack produce for restaurant for the chef to take or for me to deliver

Can, dehydrate, freeze what is to be used for the family.

Day Two:

Water, check crops, barn chores

Preserve everything that could not be done the day before


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Tomatoes grow in Indiana?

Gardening puts you in your place.  You might think you know it all, have done everything perfectly, and still end up with almost nothing.  My adventures with tomatoes over the past 2 years are the perfect example of this.  Last year,  had 42 hand raised plants.  I started my seeds indoors in March.  By midsummer, the plants were dripping with tomatoes.  I was starting to get the first ripe ones, when late blight hit my farm.  There was an epidemic of this particularly heartless fungal disease last year.  It was spread through transplants at big box stores (another reason to dislike big business!) and then quickly spread through the air.  I was well aware of it because it was big news in the garden world.

One morning I went out to do my morning picking and saw nearly every plant covered in it.  I called the county extension agent to report the disease.  Hours later, he was at the farm bagging up an entire plant and taking it to the Purdue plant pathology lab for confirmation.  I did not wait for the official word, I did what I had to do–bagged all the plants, fruit and all–hundreds of pounds of it.  It would be dead within days anyway. 

In the end, mine and one other case were the first official cases in Indiana.  My farm made the local newspaper.   When the plant pathologist called me with the news, she said she was calling Red Gold as soon as we hung up.  I wanted to say:  “tell them to send me a check.”  When I went to tell neighbors, most of them had it too.  I mourned those tomatoes, which I had cared for over 5 months.

This year, I scaled back.  27 plants.  I have used an organic spray called Serenade, to help the plants resist the blight, which I have not gotten.  But, the other thing I have not gotten —– are tomatoes.  This summer, as all of us know, has been so consistently hot that the plants have just about nothing.  When days are consistently hot (90s and above), the plant does the logical thing–going into survival mode.  Blossoms drop and the plant focuses on surviving.  According to one study, only 4 hours of 104 degrees, will cause the plant to abort the fruit.

So, I start to wonder, can we even grow tomatoes in Indiana anymore?  We are the second largest producer in the states, or we were…..

I don’t know if this is caused by global warming, but the weather seems more erratic than ever–this summer so horribly hot and last year’s so cool.  But, I do know that gardeners have to roll with the punches.  I am lucky that my tomato crop is not our livelihood. 

Late Blight 2009
tomatoes with cat face and splits 2010

Ugly Betties

tomatoes with cat face and splits

Tomato time is here.  Many of those I am picking are quite unattractive.  I am getting lots that are cracking and many that are cat faced.  The orange tomato in the foreground is cat faced–having ugly brown scars.  These are caused by cool temps during fruit formation.  Our erratic weather this summer caused this.  As far as the splitting, weather wins again.  Temperature swings, extremes, and plenty of moisture are causing the fruits to crack.  Neither of these change flavor and are completely cosmetic, but they are annoying.  I am still sending plenty of cherry tomatoes down to the restaurant, but I may not be able to send as many heirlooms for slicing as I had hoped. 

Here is a link about cat faced fruit:
and here is one about splitting:
Here is Cornell’s Tomato disease Identification site: http://vegetablemdonline.ppath.cornell.edu/diagnostickeys/TomWlt/TomWiltKey.html 
I am ever aware of how lucky I am to not be trying to sell at market–to a public that is trained to look for perfect, unblemished fruit. Today’s lesson is that the we need, as consumers, to look beyond the package and look for quality.
In the end, after losing 42 plants to blight last year, I am happy to be harvesting at all.  I will use my ugly tomatoes gladly.