Architecture and Strawberries

It was a wonderful Sunday on the farm.  The weather was perfect.  Paco and I got up early and focused on adding some functional scaffolding for the crops.  We completed placing and securing our homemade welded wire tomato cages on all 29 tomatoes.  We also used wooden trellises to create structures for the Zucchinno Rampicante.  We have grown this behemoth for 5 years now and know it needs some serious support.  We put in trellises for most of the cucumbers as well.

When I wasn’t helping the chef with architecture (yes that’s him in his Grinch pj’s), I was harvesting new purple potatoes, soft-neck garlic, and potato onions. I pulled all the pea plants in the main garden and the goats feasted on them happily.  I also snapped pictures to give a visible update on the farm.  Time flies in the garden and before we knew it it was 12:30.

I also dispatched about 60 lbs of strawberries this weekend.  That’s a lot of strawberries.  I will post separately about what happened to all of them, but there is a picture included here of a very happy girl enjoying some homemade strawberry lemonade.

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Decisions, Decisions

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We are occupied these days with planting fall crops.  As soon as a crop is in sufficient decline, we have been ripping it out to plant fall transplants or seeds.  So far, I have planted Bridger onions, Lisbon bunching onions, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, Napoli carrots, arugula, and various beets.  There is still a lot to plant. Yesterday, Lily and the chef helped pull out spent tomato plants to make more room for seeding.  She was quite proud to be pulling the vines out of the ground and then hauling them back to the brush pile.  While she and dad worked on that I picked currant tomatoes and Tinsel guarded the goats while they meandered the farm.  I have been sprinkling all the cole crop starts with cayenne to keep my garden rabbit, Junior, away from them.  Sometimes the decisions are pretty hard to make.  I know right now is prime planting time for high tunnel fall and winter crops, but I find it hard to pull out plants.  As August marches on, the decisions are becoming clearer.  Tomatoes have slowed greatly, but peppers and cucumbers are going strong. The Zucchino Rampicante in the high tunnel continues to produce heavily, but the one on the main garden is dying back. I wish it were the other way around.

Overall, the high tunnel has been a joy to work in and has worked miracles for the farm.  I have already been hinting at where I want the chef to build the next one and he seems to be accepting the inevitability of it.

Farming in Extreme Heat

July has made up for the cool and wet May and June–and then some.  Half of the days this month have been over 90.  We even had a 100 degree day.  Heat advisories have reached as high as 115+.  That is some serious heat.  Coupled with this, we have had only 3.4 inches of rain.  Granted, most seasonal crops now love heat, but not such an extreme, prolonged heat.

When plants are broiling in high temps, many stop the reproductive cycle in order to stay alive.  Tomatoes will drop their blossoms when overnight temps stay over 75 for an extended period.  Corn may not pollinate in temps higher than 95. I personally am picking a lot of tomatoes right now, but I do not see a lot of new fruit forming. My cucumber vines are strong and huge with prolific blossoms, but few fruits are forming.  My peppers are still producing well.  Most of the summer squash vines have been taken out by vine borers so it has slowed to a trickle.  The Zucchino Rampicante is big and lovely, but not a lot of new fruit is forming.   Looks like we will see a drop in temps later this week and I sure hope it is for good.

Extreme heat is hard for us as well.  I am picking as early as possible and spending the afternoons in the house doing canning or in the pool.  Many, many a time, I have been out and can felt heat exhaustion coming on.  I had been pretty careless about it in the past, pushing through the dizziness and pounding of blood in my head, but have been much more careful recently.  Here are the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stoke from the CDC.

I take lots of water out with me–as many as 3 liter-sized bottles.  A good, long drink goes a long way toward keeping you comfortable and safe.  I usually wear thin, long-sleeved shirts. Long sleeved shirts protect arms from scratches and a shirt soaked in sweat cools you more than bare skin.  I also mist myself with a hose.  Some like to garden in hats, but hats have always bothered me.  I don’t mind the sun on my face, but hate sweat running into my eyes.  I have some buffs–stretchy water wicking headbands I really like.  I am usually so soaked with water and sweat that I strip my dirty clothes off on the porch and dump them right into the washer.  (Yet another great reason to live in a place where no one can see you.)

Obviously, growing in extreme and dry weather requires more irrigation too, but I won’t get into that today.

Blackberries started coming ripe this week and I am happy it is going to be a light harvest this year 😉

 

 

 

Scaffolding for Zucchino Rampicante

trellis scaffolding in one of the raised beds of the main garden for the zuchinno rampicante

For reasons I don’t understand, trellises are almost always insanely priced.  Last year, I purchased wooden trellises that had originally been $22 for $3 each from my local Ace Hardware when they were trying to get rid of all the garden stuff at the end of the season.  I bought every one they had.  Paco rolled his eyes when he saw them, but I knew they would be great scaffolding for climbers like cucumbers and my favorite vining zucchini—Zuchino Rampicante.  It is also known as Tromboncino. It is much firmer than a regular zucchini and can also be used as a winter squash-and it makes excellent noodles.  I am growing 2 vines in the high tunnel and 2 in raised beds in the main garden.  These monster vines should be quite happy.

It also serves as a reminder to check out garden centers late in the season to grab the deals.

trellises tied together to form a zuchinno rampicante tower

Zucchino Rampicante

 Here is the process of turning Zucchino Rampicante http://rareseeds.com/cart/products/Zucchino_Rampicante_Squash_Zucca_D_Albenga-1140-16.html into dehydrated “noodles” for use in soups or as pasta.  I love this variety of squash.  It is superb as a summer squash or winter squash.  It is highly resistant to squash bugs and vine borers and it has a nice firm flesh and tastes better than common zucchinis.  We have battered and fried it as an appetizer.  used it to make zucchini Parmigiano, and cooked it on the grill.  Because of the firmer flesh, it can be quickly cut into noodle with a spiralizer, dehydrated and stocked away for winter.  These rehydrate well in hot water and are a great nutritious gluten-free alternative to pasta.

BUT

It is a monster plant.  It needs a lot of space and will vine itself into every nook and cranny.  Give it lots of space and provide a trellis to help control the beast.  I love the fact that as time and squash bugs call an end to other summer squashes, this one goes strong into fall.