It is hard to believe summer has come and gone already. As a farmer and grower, I look at this as a growing season that has passed. Most things did very well this year. The Cherokee White Flour Corn did excellent. We are hand harvesting this and will continue over the next couple weeks. Ears average 10-11" long with ears going to 16" long. This was planted thru a 2 row planter this year in 30" rows and seed spacing was approximately 14" apart. This is very tight spacing for such a large open pollinated corn and it did quite well. I have seen very few barren plants (no ears) and we had no stalk lodging! There is an occasional "nubbin" ear which is actually 6" long. These are sorted aside and not used for seed but will be ground into flour.Our bean crop was also excellent this year. We have been picking most evenings and drying in the greenhouse. The other day I took a walk up thru the field to an isolated small patch where we grew out a new winter squash, Miami Green Spotted. This is a Cucurbita Moschata, very similar to the Choctaw Sweet Potato Winter Squash. I will be cuting one of these open pretty soon to investigate the quality of the flesh and to hopefully make some pies with. I love growing members of the c. moschata family, these have an excellent flavor and squash vine borers do not bother them. I also grew a small patch of Candy Roaster Winter Squash, a member of the Cucurbita Maxima family. These are squash vine borer magnets! It seems only one in 3 plants survive long enough to produce fruit. These are the most popular winter squash in the Appalachian mountains and originated among the Cherokee. Anywhere in eastern Kentucky, eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina, etc, you can stop at a farm stand and you will see Candy Roaster Squash. The only crop we had a failure with was our late sweet corn, it just turned off completely dry after mid July.
Although we are busy harvesting, we are also working on updating this website. We hope to have online ordering by December. Payment will be thru Pay-pal. You do not need to have an account with Pay-pal to make purchases with your credit or debit card. As always, you can mail in orders with a check or money order as we have done in the past.
As a reminder, the annual seed swap and get together at Bill Best's in Bera will be held Saturday October 5, 2013. Starts around 9:00 a.m. and goes thru early afternoon.
Tomato and bean crops have been excellent this year. We are already picking and drying pole beans for seed and we have been canning tomatoes. I get asked quite a few times "how much do you can?". From year to year it changes a lot but we like to keep 2 years worth of canned green beans and tomatoes at all times. This time of year I look thru what we have left and decide from there how much to put up. We can both red/pink tomatoes and yellow and bi-color tomatoes. I pressure can everything except pickles. On pickles and relish, I can these once every 3 years on average. I also make a sweet pickle mix with summer squash as a nice change. Some years we make salsa and sometimes I will put oregano and basil leaves in certain jars of tomatoes while canning to preseason them for pasta sauce.
This is the time of year to watch insect populations as they are growing. Minor damage is acceptable but Bean Leaf Beetles and Mexican Bean Beetles can destroy a bean patch in a short time resulting in very poor crop harvest. Aphid populations can build pretty high as we go into August. Stink bugs and Cucumber beetle populations are also getting quite large, specially on the vine crops. Not only do insects feed on folage they also can transmit various diseases which will stunt or kill the plant. This is the time of year I get people asking why their cucumber plants suddenly died. Usually they look limp for a few days to a week or so before they finally give it up. The plants die from a virus transmitted by feeding Cucumber Beetles. This is one reason I recommend a steady replanting of vine crops every 30 days thru the summer months. As some plants are dieing off, young plants are coming into production as replacements. One nasty little critter I am seeing a lot of this year is Margined Blister Beetles. Immature larva feed on grasshopper egg masses which is good but adults feed on plant foliage and if these beetles are squished, will cause a nasty blister to develop on the skin.
To my surprise, I am not seeing many benefical insects so far this year except for Praying Mantis. While bush hogging last week, I lost count on how many Praying Mantis I saw (close to 50?). So...what am I doing bug wise on the farm? Nothing...yet. I will only take an active role if things get pretty far out of balance. If things get to that point, I like to use a broad spectrum product along the lines of Pyrethrins. These are natural derived insecticides from Chrysanthemum plants. Pyrethrins have low toxicity to mammals, they kill insects quickly and in sunlight they break down and are non-toxic within a day or less. A good choice for treating the silks on corn to fight Corn Earworms is BT (Bacillus thuringiensis). It is another all natural insecticide that is essentially nontoxic to people, mammals and birds. Available in liquid and powder form, apply to silks on the ear as soon as the silks emerg. As of this writing, I have not sprayed anything on the farm, no pesticides or fungicides. Yes I do give some things up to mother nature but as long as things don't get too far out of balance, I am fine with that.
On a personal note, Mary lost her oldest sister (Bettye) to breast cancer a few weeks ago. She is greatly missed by all.
Mid summer. Late June and early July was quite wet, mother nature is just the opposite of 2012. At one point we received over 7" of rain within a 5 day period. Some of our pole beans sat in water 3" deep for several days, most have recovered but some didn't. The Cherokee White Flour Corn is now in full tassel. On June 22, this corn was ranging from 14" to 18" tall. Today it is 14' to 15' tall! Corn always amazes me on how fast it grows and how much grain it produces in such a small area. Aunt Mary's sweet corn was planted on June 29 and at this writing is 14" to 18" tall. Winter squash are all running and flowering heavy. Pole beans look very nice with many running to over 8' at this point. Sunflowers are 4 feet tall and should be flowering in the next couple weeks. We have just planted our bush beans which seems late for many of you reading this but...bush beans planted this time of year will mature in September which usually is after the high heat of summer resulting in better quality green beans and a better harvest (high summer heat will cause blossom drop too). Late July is also the time to start cabbage plants for fall harvest. We grow Golden Acre and Red Acre every year, this is a small headed 3-4 pound cabbage with a slightly sweet flavor which works well in both slaw and cooked cabbage. We have plenty of time to start plants yet this year for a late crop. Now is the time to start Summer Squash, Broccoli, Beets, Turnips and Kale too for a fall crop. Remember we have 11 weeks of good growing season before frost for tender crops and from then to real cold stuff is another several weeks. Hold off on lettuce starts for a few more weeks though.
I am getting calls from people having problems with their tomato plants showing some blight and other fungus, specially for those who grow them in the same garden year after year (same with potatoes). The best way to fight this is to rotate tomato plants to a new garden area each year but this is not a possibility for most growers. Probably the best way to fight this is pick off effected leaves and dispose of them and then mulch below the plants (with anything really...straw, grass clippings, etc.). Fungus usually effect the lower leaves first as the spores are splashed from the ground onto these lower leaves during rain. Mulch helps put a barrier between the plants and the infected soil (and conserves moisture and adds organic material to the garden). Now... to stop the spread of the fungus, you need to coat the unaffected leaves with something to prevent the fungus spores from infecting leaves that are not yet diseased. Copper based fungicide sprays work pretty good for this, is all natural and safe. Another way to fight this is with Serenade, an all natural microbial bio-fungicide, Bacillus subtilis. All natural, safe and can be sprayed up to day of harvest. Both copper fungicides and Serenade need to be sprayed on a regular basis and can be alternated for best results. Make sure new growth is coated to protect it. Even fairly damaged plants will "grow out" of fungal attacks if taken care of.
The last two weeks have been beautiful. We finished transplanting the Tomato plants in the greenhouse last week and they are recovering quite well. In fact some have really shown a lot of new growth already. We have 1,000 heirloom tomato seedlings available this year. Our most popular heirloom tomato seedlings each year are Black Mountain Pink, Grant County Pink, Red Brandywine, Vinson Watts, Hillbilly and Kentucky Beefsteak. We have a limited number of heirloom sweet peppers and these will go fast. Frost free planting date for southern Ohio is May 15.
The tractor is running well from it's engine rebuild and we are getting caught up with farm work. I got the Cherokee White Flour Corn planted on April 27. This year we planted this corn thru an antique 2 row planter, the first time we tried this corn thru a planter and things seemed to do well. I will know more once the seedlings come up. Many of the beds have been tilled. Some of these beds were planted in winter wheat as a cover crop/green manure crop and these beds were mowed off first before tilling. The blueberry bushes were all transplanted yesterday and the area for the vineyard is being prepped. We are almost back on schedule on the farm.
Spring 2013. Like every spring, there are new challenges. No matter how you plan things out, things never work as you had planned all winter. On March 30, 2013, while doing maintenance on our 1020 John Deere, I found antifreeze in the oil. My heart sank! No, not now! Luckily I have some mechanical background and within 48 hours I had the engine completely torn down and found there were seals leaking. I quickly ordered a complete rebuild kit and worked on my days off getting the engine back together again. April 18, I had the tractor running again but I lost valuable time on the farm. Time slated for work in the greenhouse with tomato plants and time for prepping the plot for the small vineyard. The tomato plants should have been transplanted 10 days ago but since they were not, they shot up and got leggy. Oh no! The grape vines were delivered a week ago but not being ready for them, I put them in the fridge in the workshop to keep them dormant. Anyone working on a small farm, with a small business or with mother nature knows how frustrating it can be. We keep pushing forward.
Winter is finally breaking. Snow showers and cold on and off but sunny days are returning. Seed sales have been brisk this year and we are running out of many. We pull and ship orders each Saturday morning. We are making lot of changes this year to the farm. A small vineyard is going in and our small pole bean area is being moved to a new area. We have a new 1/4 acre area for corn this year that was turned under last fall. This area will be planted around May 1st in Cherokee White Flour Corn. Barn renovations will continue this year, another section of roof will be removed and all new rafters will be installed along with leveling posts on new concrete footings. Stairs will be installed to the loft we installed last fall (12' x 12') for general storage. We would love to have a bee hive on the farm but it isn't in the budget for this year. The old apple tree was looking pretty bad the past couple years so last week I cut it back pretty hard. I actually removed 75% of the tree. There were dead limbs up high and much of the main trunks are hollow. The best was to rejuvenate the tree and keep it alive was a severe pruning. The previous property owner told me the tree was full size in the 1970's when he purchased the farm so we guess the tree was planted in the 1940's or 1950's. I don't know what type it is but the red blushed apples have a fantastic flavor, much better than a Red Delicious. There is also an old pear tree in real bad shape, in fact I can't believe it is still alive. It needs topped and trimmed and this will get done this spring sometime.
This is the time of year that it seems winter will never come to an end but we know it is getting close and spring will soon be here. We are still shelling beans that were dried in the greenhouse last fall. I often get asked how we dry our seed. We use the greenhouse for drying most things. This is a dry, warm environment and we are not using it for plants in the late summer or fall. Ears of corn are shucked and laid directly on the benches in the greenhouse to dry. Beans are spread on large framed screens laid on the benches. We got our framed screens donated to us last year by Dr. Schiller from Ohio O.M.S. We greatly appreciate this donation. Framed screens can be used to dry a wide variety of seeds ranging from sorghum and wheat sized seed to beans, peanuts and okra. Tomato seed, once fermented and washed, are spread out on parchment paper, wax paper or paper plates to dry. We do use a box fan to increase air flow in the greenhouse, improving and speeding up moisture exchange and drying of the seed. Squash seed and cucumber seed are quickly packed off over night by mice and chipmunks if left to dry in the greenhouse so these items are dried in the house. Once the seed it dried (and beans are shelled) they are tested for germination and then bagged and labeled with name and year and put in storage.
Last week we ordered the grafted grapevines for our new small vineyard from Double A Vineyards in New York and have them scheduled for delivery the third week in April. This is the time of year that we are working out what to grow out this season and where to plant them. We rotate crops the best we can and this helps reduce pests and disease (especially blight on tomatoes). I pulled a soil sample this week and sent it to Spectrum Analytic in Washington Courthouse. It only takes a couple days to get the test report back. We expect the soil ph to be improving along with an increase of organic matter.
I am often asked who we are and about our background. I (Tony) grew up on the west side of Cincinnati. I spent weeks in the summer on a family farm. This was a typical small farm in central Indiana growing grain and raising livestock. The time spent on the farm molded me into who I am today. By the time I was 20 years old, I was living in the country and have not looked back. I started to garden in the 1980's and by the mid to late 1990's, I found myself growing only open pollinated crops and vegetables, most of which were heirlooms. I found the flavor unsurpassed and many open pollinated crops did very well for me. I passed the Master gardener exam in 2002 but due to our very busy schedule, I was not able to continue with this program. Mary grew up on a small farm in Clermont County, Ohio and has been involved in various farm operations all her life. Mary has extensive greenhouse experience. I remember shortly after we met in 2003, I mentioned to her that I grew a tomato from Black Mountain, Kentucky. She looked at me and said "that's where our family is from". Once she tasted a Black Mountain Pink tomato, she was hooked on heirlooms. "That's what I remember a tomato tasting like growing up!"
We moved to our little farm in the fall of 2007. The property was overgrown and the over 100 year old barn was neglected but had good bones. By the spring of 2008, our small greenhouse was up and various garden plots were tilled. We both work full time off the farm and work the farm in the evenings and weekends. For two years we sold heirloom produce at the Anderson Farmers market and we enjoyed this time but it took too many valuable hours from the farm. We specialize in Appalachian family heirlooms and various Eastern Native American crops. We grow out what we can with our limited time and offer the resulting genetic treasures for others to enjoy. We are not a big seed company - we are a rare genetic preservation farm that produces a very limited amount of surplus. Available items will change from year to year as we cycle items in and out thru our gardens. Some items are available every year while others may be on a 3 year grow out cycle as we have space.
It's a passion, it's a lifestyle. Grow what you eat, eat what you grow. You will never regret it.