Thursday, January 29, 2009

Farming without a Computer

No, I don't use it to make furrows, I don't take it into the field to cultivate, not even to the green house as a thermometer, but, still near impossible to farm without it. How would I know, you ask. It's simple, our brand new hp went kablewy last weekend. It seems to be the hard-drive. Made by seagate, just to give everyone a heads up. So many many pictures are gone, and songs and even some hard data re the farm. It's also, as you probably know, extremely hard to get in touch with anyone today without one of these things. Certainly can't post a blog without it (uh, that may show how out of it i am blackberry crowd).

Well, Rachel has a labtop that I feel we've turned into a rube goldberg machine, with disc drives and printers, and well, do-hickeys with wires, sticking out every which way, on top of old computers parts. And amazingly, data has been recovered from hither and yon (or there are plans for same anyways) - enough that I've just finished this year's brochure, with a picture of fresh heirloom tomatoes, different sizes, shapes, pretty, ugly and all delicious, on the cover.

So, with that finished, I'll first send it to last year's members, then start getting it out to the rest of you as I walk around town with hard copies. I would link to it right here, but I don't think blogger does that. I guess that is the difference between a website and a blog. I think it will be up at the Intervale site soon (More computers!)

I'm pretty eager to get into the dirt, it's hardrive can't break.

Monday, January 19, 2009

seeds of change, seeds of tradition

Last week I finished ordering the seeds last week and already the first shipment has arrived from Johnny's*.

As I'm sure it is often noted, ordering seeds is as emotional as it is a question of numbers (of heads you need, carrots, how many days does it take to mature, what temp does it germinate at). As I was flipping back and forth, mainly between Johnny's and Fedco and side ventures into Baker Creek and Seed Savers Exchange, I was definitely watching my hopes for next year take shape, in part via reflections of what has and hasn't worked in years past.

Some of the excitement? Melons! This little picture here is of Hanna's Choice, which, to show you the rationality (or lack thereof) of the whole thing, was chosen primarily to honor Hannah Beal, who was pretty much the whole labor force at open heart last year. Why Else? Cause I have not yet found a good combination of melons, and this one sounded good. Check out the catalogue description:

Hannah’s Choice Muskmelon (87 days) With more than 30 years’ experience growing awesome melons, Adam Tomash of W. Gardiner, ME, knows when he’s found a good one. Tomashwas mightily impressed with all aspects of Hannah’s Choice. I’ve grown a lot of different kinds of melons and this is clearly a superior variety.” He reports that in 2007 two hills with 2–3 plants per hill produced 22 melons of about 4 lb. or more each. 20 of the 22 were perfect, marketable and almost all were uniform in size. “Flavor is rich and perfumed without the strong chemical smell that some melons have.” Nikos, our trials manager, describes it as a tropical fruit cherimoya “custard apple” flavor—smooth, perfumy, juicy with syrupy sweetness. The 6-1/2 x 5-1/2" large netted oval muskmelons average 3–5 lb. with a high Brix rating of 13. As stunning on the inside as it is imposing on the outside, its rich green rind contrasts with the deep orange flesh. Kudos to the Cornell University breeding program for developing this gourmet melon rated #1 at trials in both Freeville and Jamesport, NY, where it had an astonishing 96% marketable fruits by weight. At Freeville it bested Delicious 51, Earliqueen, Athena and Burpee Hybrid in color, depth, Brix and over-all quality. Resistant to PM, tolerant to F2, ZYMV, PRSV, WMV.

So, things I liked about that description were a) flavorful b)decent amount of production per plant c) of those many melons, many matured without blemish or rot (some varieties can be closer to 60% than 96% (esp in wet year), and d) lots of disease resistance (definitely more important with cucurbits than other things)

I am now noticing an additional thing to like: it was bred at Cornell, which means not a totally different environment from ours. Sadly, I am also noticing one negative now: its a little long on the days to maturity, which can be bad if the temps drop off early

Those are the considerations, imagine hashing those out 200+ times, plus a few extra ones like how many seeds do I need. Haven't I already bought way too many varieties of lettuce already, etc., etc.

On a note of sad seeds of change, the melon sweetie number 6 is no longer with us, last year was johnny's last year for it, and our last season were taken over by winter squash. This was one of the seeds of tradition, gotten from Quail Hill. Still alot of those traditions carried on at Open Heart, and as I note them, I'll pass it along.

Anyways, while the break has been short I am excited to be farming again, and 09 seems full of possibilities (we probably all agree on that), not the least of which is Asparagus! (In my head I'm yelling these things in my Oprah voice)

Part of ought-nine, I foretell, is a bit more blogging, both by Rachel and myself.


The brochures will probably be ready the first of the month, at least for e-consumption, so any of you anxious to sign up and get the early bird discount will not have long to wait.

Have a fun day tomorrow!

* I am trying to buy less from Johnny's each year, and we are. Not only are the owned by Monsanto but they are expensive. Why get stuff from them at all, you may be wondering: there are just some things that only they have (at least without ordering from thirty places).