Saturday, September 24, 2011

Planting our Winter Greens!

Lettuce in an unheated caterpillar tunnel.
Besides our focus on harvest these past weeks, we have also been preparing for the colder weather by planting greens in our tunnels and greenhouses. Our winter CSA offers greens throughout the winter! It is very important for us to provide our members with fresh green produce during the winter season when they are very difficult to find.

Spinach planted in a greenhouse.
In order to do so, we plant two greenhouses, one high tunnel, and five (maybe six) unheated caterpillar tunnels to winter greens! That's a lot of food. Our two greenhouses are the only structures that consume fuel. The other tunnels are unheated and get warm by the light of the sun. In these unheated structures, we plant the hardier greens, like kale and chard, which are tolerant of the colder temperatures. For our more delicate greens, like bok choi and salad mix, we also cover the crop with a fabric row cover inside of the tunnel. These crops get a double layer of protection and insulation from the cold.
Kale in a caterpillar tunnel.
Though winter production is becoming more popular, we are still among a minority of farms that offer greens throughout the winter. Our winter CSA is the best way to get these yummy greens and to stay healthy all winter. Visit our website for more information and pricing (!

Kale in our greenhouse.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Story of Our Winter Squash

The winter squash looks great!
So, we harvested a lot of winter squash this week: 20,000 pounds to be exact. And there's more out there. But there is waaaayyy more to the story than that. We had quite an adventure harvesting winter squash.

The motivation: warning of frost on Friday night. Winter squash is particularly susceptible to damage if it gets frosted. It will not store at all if it experiences any freezing. Instead, it will simply rot. Not good.
This is the road. So muddy!

The challenge: MUDDY ROAD (see picture at left...). Most of our winter squash is planted in an idyllically beautiful field in the forest down the road from the home farm. It is wonderful to have this land, but... the road has gotten ridiculously muddy over the past two weeks with so much rain. There are ruts on the road that are a foot deep. And this obstacle is on the road to the winter squash field. In order to get to the field, we have to gun it in our trucks through the mud. Driving through mud is kind of fun, but not when you have a truck full of precious squash.

The wrapped stacks of winter squash that we left in the field.
Yesterday the road became impassable. Because we had driven on it so much the previous days, the ruts were just too bad for us to drive on them. However, with the threat of frost, we had to get as much winter squash out of the field as possible. So, we harvested as much squash as we could into crates, wrapped them in row cover to protect them from the frost and left them in the field. So they are still over there... waiting until the road dries out.

Throughout the winter, every time we eat a squash, we will remember the story behind it: the fiasco of the muddy road.

And, we harvested some pumpkins.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Chicken Slaughter 2011

Chickens in the chill tank.
Today we completed our annual chicken slaughter. We killed 80 laying hens and roosters this morning, most of which were about two and a half years old. It was a very quick and efficient process now that we have done it multiple years in a row. Though it is not anyone's favorite job on the farm, it is a very important annual task because we can not keep our flock of laying hens around forever. It is inevitable that laying hens slow down on egg production after a few years and, as a commercial farm, we can not afford to be feeding hens that are not laying enough eggs. We order new laying hens each spring so that we can phase out the older hens in the fall just as these new birds begin to lay. So, because our new batch of chickens is now laying a steady amount of eggs each day, it was safe for us to slaughter the older hens.

The process of defeathering...
A chicken slaughter is a very interesting and detailed process. First, we cut off the heads of the chickens and allow them to bleed out. Then, their bodies go into a pot of near boiling water to loosen the feathers. After, we pluck all of the feathers off of their body as best as we can... this can be a lengthy job. Then the birds go to the evisceration table, where we gut them and clean out their insides. Then they go into the chill tank before they are ready to be bagged and put into the freezer.  

We also like to be able to sell these frozen chickens to our CSA members. We sell them as stew birds because the meat is slightly tougher because they are older laying hens. They are an excellent quality of stew bird, as they have lived on pasture their entire lives. They were wonderfully happy laying hens and roosters and they sure will taste good in your soup!

At the evisceration table...

Saturday, September 3, 2011

We Weathered The Storm!

Harvesting potatoes.
We are happy to say that Mighty Food Farm weathered Hurricane Irene! We had between 5 and 7 inches of rain on Sunday. That is a LOT OF RAIN!!! Thus, our fields are quite wet but our greenhouses, chickens, and crops were safe. We are so grateful! We are very saddened to hear that many of our neighboring farmers in the state of Vermont were not so lucky. Many farmers watched as their fields were flooded and crops ruined. Our hearts go out to these friends.

This is a newly built tunnel for winter crops.
Thankfully, the work continues on here... This week we built a new tunnel for planting kale for the winter. This kale will taste wonderful when there are few green options in the cold season. We have been doing some field clean-up as well, including pulling the plastic from old melon beds and pulling out tomato stakes, definitely jobs which signal the change of seasons. We also have been harvesting a lot of potatoes and will soon dig the entire field to put all of the potatoes in storage. We just recently cleaned out our root celler to make room for all of the storage crops that we will need to store for our Winter CSA.

And we are still planting.... salad mix, bok choi, lettuce and spinach went into the ground this week. We sure are thinking about the fall time...