Tomatoes

The tomato plants are coming into full harvest.  I say coming into because we planted tomatoes in two waves – wave 2 hasn’t ripened yet. Even so, we have been feeding them to the chickens, the pigs, our neighbours, selling some, and we are eating lots too.  I have taken to cooking and freezing them.  It actually works out well because while I can buy tomato sauce in the market, one cannot purchase stewed tomatoes.  So I am freezing what I can.  I am also freezing whole the little yellow cherry tomatoes that Jon likes to eat like grapes and come winter weather, roast them for part of a meal.  Next year we might invest in a dehydrator, and preserve even more.

tomatoes 1

tomatoes 2

tomatoes 3

 

Zucchini

With the hot weather, searing winds, and endless sun the garden is a bit stressed – and so the weekly vegetable boxes have been put on hold for the season. But not delivering vegetables means that those few plants surviving the weather make odd surpluses for our kitchen. Such as Zucchini. Never a great favorite when merely sautéed, we grew a bit weary of it and did not maintain the strict harvest schedule needed to keep Zucchini plants under control. As you can see,  a few got away from us.  The pigs and chickens have been enjoying the excess bounty immensely!

zucchini

 

Garden photo update

We posted photos of these plots newly planted so I thought maybe you all might like to see them growing and producing.

Here is our tomato plot.  We are getting a few delicious tomatoes as they come ripe.  Jon is our tomato lover and is discovering which varieties he likes the best.  I am busy making stewed tomatoes and freezing some for winter. We also have been sharing tomatoes with friends.

tomato field 1

tomato field 2

And here is the corn and melon and pumpkin bed.

corn and pumpkin plot

In trying to work with the weather, our second dry hot summer with little or no rain, the crops we planted that like the heat are doing well.  The ones that need shade or cooler temperatures, are not doing so well.  Each year we learn a little more about our soil and climate and the needs of our plants.

Fancy WiFi technology for a water tank

The three water tanks which sit in the upper pasture are about a quarter of a mile up a small incline from the house.  A nice walk, but not all that close in inclement weather. The three 4000L tanks are essential in the day to day running of the farm – we can’t fill the animal water troughs or irrigate the garden without them. Which means we tend to obsess their fill status more than a little. In order to know how much water is in the tanks, someone has to walk up the hill, knock on the side of the tank, and listen for the sound change.  Full and empty have a different vibration sound and where the sound changes indicates the water level.  Sometimes we climb up backwards on the 7 wire fence which runs just behind them, balance carefully against the tank, twist the lid off, and look in just to make sure we’re reading the water level right.

We usually have the well pump run for 45 minutes, then let it rest and let the reservoir fillf back up for an hour and then run the pump again.  It takes about four times of running the pump to fill one 4000L tank, which we can empty quickly between the garden and the animals.

Jason has been listening to us grouse about the challenges of water management since we started the farm. He has done his level best to improve the situation every time he visits. In 2014 he made us an easy simple solution to “see” when the tanks were full:  a bopper that floated to pink duck tape when the tank was full. I just stood on the porch with binoculars and looked for the coloured tape.

tank 2014

It worked for almost two years.  We had to change out the cork floats, bend the inside float arm back into place, reposition the pvc pipe stand a few times, but it was nice not to have to walk up to the tanks and knock on them.

During this time, Jason was designing a new water control system for us:

water controller 1

The new measuring system is complicated, involved, time consuming, and, according to Jason, fun!

So this year on his working vacation, he brought the parts and pieces and began assembling them.

water controller 2

First item was to “program things” to talk to each other, then test it (this step repeated a bit), then explain it to his mother.

water controller 3

Finally, it was mounted on the wall, (under the weather station display), and now we can turn the well pump on, or off, for the time we want and monitor the time.  There are also bar lights to inform us how full each of the three tanks are, so we know our water levels.

install of water controller

(Yes, this is the kitchen table, and we do clear it for meals.)

install of water controller 1

Jason explaining how the water controller works.

install of water controller complete!

It looks like Science Fiction (and flashes lights like Science Fiction) but it is successfully installed and working properly.  Thank you Jason.

 

 

Garden irrigation tank now automated

Part of our water management for the garden is keeping the irrigation water tank filled.  We have buried hose lines to various garden plots and installed drip lines.  We have nine garden plots that cannot be watered simultaneously, three open lines empty the tank within 45 minutes and it takes an hour and a half to refill the tank.  So careful attendance is paid to which plot is getting water and when.  Of course it is best to water in the mornings and the evenings, but we also have to take in account the watering of the trees that have hose lines from the main field tank and those drip lines can drain the main storage thanks rather quickly.

Anyway, Jason is visiting.  He has listened to us lament over the time it takes to manage the tanks.  We walk around with a timer clipped to our shirt to turn the water pump off or on.  So for this working vacation, he decided to help us with our water anxieties.

The first thing he did was devise a flotation device like a toilet tank to shut off the incoming water when the tank was full.

irrigation tank inside

Jason w tank

YEAH!

It works just like it was designed!

Small harvest of small apples

A few apple trees gave us delicious little apples this year.  The trees are only a few years old – and those years have been bad water years. So any apples are a stroke of luck right now. Someday we hope to have enough to try making home made cider.

apple tree

apples

apples

We have nine different varieties of apples planted.  We had two colanders of a combo of Fuji and Granny Smith.  They were delicious to just pick and eat. In theory we should have a lengthy harvest period due to the varieties having different ripening times. Not this year. Maybe next year.

 

How our garden grows in pictures

Do you know your vegetables? Can you figure out what all we have growing, blooming, and seeding? Here is what we have in our outside garden plots:

garden 1

garden 2

garden 3

garden 4

garden 5

garden 6

garden 6a

garden 7

garden 8

We have eight outside garden plots.  One has been seeded for animal feed/grass.  The rest are vegetables (except for the strawberries).  Megan starts the veggies as seeds from two to four week intervals, so we will have rotating seasonal crops and not just a one time harvest.  She also keeps track of companion plantings and which plants follow another for soil nutrient replenishment.  Yes, this is a lot of hours in the planning and doing.  She has only one helper, Ruben.  He comes from a family of vegetable gardeners and comes to work with a smile, ready and willing to do what ever is asked.

Water Tower Fix Phase One

We have a well. Megan talked about both it and the first building of the water tower  way back when. It provides delicious unlimited water (when the electricity is working)  to the houses and out buildings, pasture trees, green houses and garden beds via a rather complicated set of interconnected pipes, tanks, and gravity.  We also have two spring fed “ponds” on our property.  We are fortunate to have water for our needs. We certainly noticed during this last year’s drought!

The system is set up such that we pump the water from the well to the highest holding tank and then gravity keeps the lower tower tank full – the next pump (an irrigation pump vs. a well pump), pumps it out and up to next set of holding tanks. The original design of the water tower was for the upper tank to be very high up so that gravity would do the work for us. It wasn’t really necessary as one tank is directly below the other so gravity was a given. But it worked and was going to be work to change. About a year ago, the top tank started to leak; last month, the leak was more like a constant rain.  Jon has been dreading having to fix the leak and yet at the same time, he wanted to change the height of the tower. Because in any sort of wind worth talking about that tower dances. It’s a little scary. So Jon has been pondering how to do this.  Finally, he had an AHA! moment and charged ahead.

We were only without water for about 20 minutes while the “change over” happened.  Phase One of the new tank and no more water leak is complete!

water tower 1

water tower 2

water tower 3

water tower 4

water tower 5

So now the top water tank is disconnected, empty, and waiting to be taken down.  The second tank (the new tank) has been installed, connected, and filled. Next up is to disassemble the top roof  and walls, shorten the support polls and re-add the roof.  All at a later date, when other items are not higher on the to do list.   BUT YEA! no more rain on my laundry line.

 

 

Inching into a CSA

So summer has arrived full force here on the farm. It’s well over 90 F today, scorchingly bright sunshine, high humidity, and little to no breeze. So it gives me moment to catch my breath while sitting under a fan.

Last week I delivered the first four boxes in La Piccolina’s CSA. Last year I tried to get one up and going – and I failed to be able to produce enough produce. The drought, lack of irrigation, and not being quite prepared enough just didn’t quite let me get there. Customers in nearby Garzon were wonderful last year. And excited to try the adventure with me again this year! I have wonderful, enthusiastic customers. Heidi, who very graciously agreed to be the central drop-off location, also happens to be a fabulous photographer (you can find her at: .heidilender.com,  heidilender.tumblr.com, and instagram.com/heidilender). When I dropped the boxes by she promptly set up an impromptu still life. Her resulting photograph is so gorgeous I asked to be able to share:

Copyright Heidi Lender 2015

Copyright Heidi Lender 2015

I’m going to get a print to put up on the farm office walls. No, I haven’t actually painted those wall yet and no, there is no floor. But that’s not the point. Look at the gorgeous photograph of La Piccolina’s CSA vegetables!