June 24th, 2012, by Rachel
June 23rd, 2012, by Lisa
There’s something delightful about opening the pod and finding the treasure inside of a pea. Enid, my three year old, can’t get enough! Last week she came down to the garden with her teeny tiny backpack and started to work. She filled it up and then sat down with a cup and started shelling. After a whole cup full she got out some kiddie chopsticks (the kind that are attached at the top) and ate and ate and ate! All winter long she spent digging around in the freezer for bags of frozen peas and finally it’s time for fresh ones! The only problem is that she’s eating so many fresh ones I don’t know if I’ll have any to freeze for this winter! Well, I guess it’s not a bad thing if she wants to eat a pound of peas every day!
And really, who can blame her, they are so cute and sweet and easy to pick. It takes a long time to shell out enough to make a pot full, but we enjoy them as snacks in the car or at the beach. I wish they could grow year round – we would never have to buy chocolate!
Peas are a part of the pulse family which includes many of the beans we know – both dry and freshly eaten. The Caseload which we planted are a shelling variety and only grow 2 ft. tall. The Sugarsnaps however have reached 6 ft. tall and are continuing to grow. Peas, like beans, can come in different colors and with varying tendrils. Farmer Ike was telling us about one kind that only has tendrils – no leaves!
Peas come from the Mediterranean basin where they have been cultivated since the 3rd century. For 14 thousand years they were grown to be dried and cooked. But somewhere in the 17th century a new idea took off. Perhaps it was a new variety or an accident, but someone discovered the garden pea. These sweet delicacies were presented to Louis XIV in pomp and circumstance when they were discovered by the French ambassador to Holland. Word was out and now eating peas was all the rage, everyone wanted in on these sweet treats!
Peas travelled with European settlers to the New World and so our gardening founding father, Thomas Jefferson, had to have all the varieties that he could find! It is said that his garden had over 30 varieties. A hundred years later a Austrian monk began his work with peas and thus began the basis of modern genetics. Who hasn’t had a high school biology class that begins the genetics chapter with Gregor Mendel’s famous experiments?
Vegetables are amazing! Peas have reached world wide to inspire biologists and to be presented as a royal gift. Next time you pick up a pea, think of it as meeting a celebrity. (It probably won’t change the taste, but it makes it more fun!)
June 13th, 2012, by Laura Beth
To keep on with a theme (see our previous posts “Sex in the Orchard” and “Hormones Raging“), now we’re on to the exciting topic of (you must be over 18 to read this) orchard bondage!
We do not, however, employ the use of blindfolds, gags, or silk ties here. Rather, baler twine, w-clips, white tie webbing, scissors, pruners, and maritime-style knot tying are all involved.
Bondage is required for one main reason – to encourage the trees’ branches to grow in the proper orientation. Branches trained to the correct crotch angle (I kid you not!) encourages fruit production, makes for strong branches which won’t tend to break from the weight of fruit load, and allows good sunlight penetration (yep, another interesting word!) into the fruit zone, which is essential in the production of tasty fruit.
For some trees, this means tying the branches down with the help of w-clips installed in the ground. For other trees which have droopy branches, it means tying them up with the help of a trellis. Then we also have wee baby trees, on which we use various tying materials to help them grow straight up tall and strong, which also helps these little guys handle strong winds from storms. (PS. I don’t think there is an age of consent for trees, so we’re good here, honestly.)
In a young orchard, of which we have several acres, bondage tasks take many hours for several teams of people over the spring months. As the orchard matures, less bondage is required, as you have (hopefully) done the required bondage while the trees were young.
So, in our young orchard, there are some trees which have so many ties here and there that they nearly look like Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons, securely anchored and waiting for the parade to start. And what’s the parade in this metaphor? Perhaps it’s that party in your mouth which you experience when enjoying a juicy and flavorful apple, peach, or Asian pear!
So yes, mention the word ‘bondage‘ or ‘crotch angle‘ in mixed society, and you notice either shivers of excitement or disgust. Around here, those words are likely to get us salivating (for a different reason you guys, sheesh!).
June 10th, 2012, by Rachel
Grape vines have adorable little tendrils that curl around anything they touch. The tendrils pull the vines up towards the sun, supporting broad, intricate grape leaves.
On Monday, I tied a thin rope to the trellises to give the heavy vines more support. Our grapes are seedless; they’re American cultivars, which tolerate cold better than the European cultivars. I worked on Petite Jewel, a small, red table grape that has an incredible burst of flavor. (see Ike’s description in the online Fedco catalog here). We also grow Jupiter, Thunder, and Vanessa. At this stage in their growth, the grapes are tiny green clusters, hidden within their leafy protection.
Grapes are thought to originate in the Black Sea area and the Middle East, and were cultivated in Mesopotamia as early as 6,000 BC.(!) The earliest civilization of grape enthusiasts that we know of was Greece; although Greeks diluted their wine with water, herbs and sometimes even cheese, which leads historians to believe that their wine, er, wasn’t very good. The Romans did better; they advanced storage and pruning techniques. Throughout the Medieval era, churches kept grape growing and wine making alive, and from there, the European grape spread all over the world. Grapes are grown in all continents except for Antarctica.
Viticulture is the science behind, and the growing of, grapes. Viniculture is the science of wine production. In the States, many farmers grow American cultivars, which are better suited to certain climates. California, where grapes were first introduced and where the grape-growing climate is ideal, grows the most grapes in the States– mostly Thompson Seedless. China is the biggest world grape producer, and Turkey is next in line.
At North Star, we grow table grapes– cultivated specifically to be delicious, instead of fermented for wine or dried for raisins. We planted a bunch of new baby grape vines in the tree nursery back in April. The vines are big enough now that we have to tie them to stakes; eventually, their tendrils will develop and wrap around a wire that runs parallel above the rows of grape babies.
Thanks to Lisa for the help and the picture. I hope you all have an absolutely beautiful week, filled with veggies from the June harvest– greens, greens, greens!
(Laura Beth’s blog is located here)
June 4th, 2012, by Laura Beth
As we begin a new summer, I realize how much more I am aware of the changes around me. Last year everything seemed so new and I could only keep track of the general waves that came to shore, bringing new vegetables and pests. But this year, with a subconscious timeline running in my mind, I can see some of the finer details. As I am aware of these details, I am more able to deal with pests effectively and plan more carefully.
It’s been wonderful to work with a new batch of folks and get to know their lives this early in the season. I am blessed especially to have a “partner in crime”, our new assistant veggie manager! It has been so nice to bounce ideas around, have someone to double check for aphids, or to hold the other end of a trellis rope. With all of the wonderful help I feel more relaxed mentally and am able to settle deeper into the work around me. I feel less frantic about doing the work and comfortable knowing that we have new implements and experienced people to make it more efficient. I am not so concerned about the next wave coming that I cannot stop for a minute to notice the impressions my feet make in the sand or the burrowing sand crabs.
A few days ago we spent an hour or so uncovering and tying the cucumber vines to the trellis, and do you know what I could see? The tiniest cucumbers! They were only ¼ inch long and were covered in teeny bristles; a miniature version of what will be in the share in just a few weeks! And as we staked up peppers in the greenhouse already we could see itsty bitsy peppers, only as big as a pea! Later the same day I noticed lacewing eggs. These are a wonderful beneficial insect which eat aphids and other pests. Their eggs look like tiny water droplets suspended by a tiny thread. I think that last year these same kinds of details were all around me, but I didn’t have the eyes to see them. I wonder what other mysteries await us this year?
I hope as each season brings new ebb and flow, the tides coming in and receding, that I can be more aware of finer and finer details. Maybe one day my eyes and mind can be so clear that I will be able to see the plants breathing and the lacewings hatching!
Our winter CSA ended weeks ago, and our summer CSA starts TOMORROW (!!!). We haven’t had any veggies to harvest for several weeks now. I’ve been getting produce from the Amish stand up the road. This upcoming week is extremely exciting– we’ll get to taste our efforts in the form of lettuce, chard, garlic scapes, broccoli, onions, and other yummy spring veggies. But it’s an important week for another reason…
Here’s the trajectory of the veggie farming season, with the line representing the amount of craziness/food production:
So as you can see, life is about to get insane. Everything is on the verge… I saw an enormous, unripe tomato in the greenhouse yesterday, the peas are big kids about to be grown-ups, some of the broccoli has already gone past the point of harvest, the chard looks heavy and lush, and the lettuce is perfectly plump.
The orchard is a different story. Imagine the graph above, but push everything a month later. The busy fruit season peaks August/September. It starts earlier than you’d think though, in late June/early July. The other day, Ike handed me a baby apple. My first North Star fruit of the season… it was delicious, tart in its infancy, but fresh and flowery. We’ll get our first apples in July!
I’m antsy for things to get going. I love the adrenaline of the harvest season– always something to pick, to weed, to prune. Soon now…