Monday July 11
Our son Mark and the two boys made it to our home last night about 10PM. We were all very happy to see each other. As expected the boys needed a “bedtime snack” and really didn’t want to stop talking about — well everything. Since they got in late and were tired from their 12+ hour drive we all slept in a bit this morning. Breakfast was a bit piecemeal as we all rolled out of bed at different times starting at about 7AM.
It was a real hot one today with a pretty stiff breeze. We had 99 degrees in the shade at 4PM. It was a day that dries everything out in a hurry. Good for those putting up hay but hard on our tender crops. We started up all our irrigation equipment – watering everything we can at one time. I did some more mowing, cultivated the latest planting of green beans, and installed a bit more drip tape on some of the cut flowers.
Even though I carry water with me, and can deal with the heat, a mid-day break really felt good. I came in to call an order into one of our packaging suppliers and to contact two of our florists about tomorrow’s flower availability. I simply don’t how we did without air-conditioning growing up. The boys were in and out throughout the day. They are not accustomed to being out in this kind of heat and humidity. None-the-less they were able to explore just about every inch of the farm (at least up around the barns and hoop houses) in a very short time. The kittens were searched for, the tire swing in the big oak tree was tested and the cherry tomatoes were sampled.
I spent the evening walking around checking most everything for insects and disease. Found that I have a bad infestation of mites in the plums – I could tell from the color of the foliage as I approached the row. You can confirm a mite infestation on any plant by holding a white piece of paper under a branch or leaf, shaking it, and then looking for very tiny specks on the paper. If the specks start moving you have mites. A bad infestation at this time of the season can defoliate a fruit tree and cause loss of all the fruit. A miticide will be added to the next cover spray
The boys were with me and when we got to the peach trees with ripening peaches we just had to stop for samples. Now that they know where they are I’ll have to add boys to the “critter list”, along with the birds, raccoons, opossums, and squirrels.
Tomorrow will be a long day. We have two flower orders to fill and when it is this hot we start cutting at 6:00AM. The shrubbery removal project is also on the agenda – the boys are anxious to help.
Tuesday – July 12
Well, we were missed by the line of thunderstorms that came through late last evening. We really could have used the rain, but not the high winds and hail that I understand some areas received.
The two flower orders that I took yesterday, totaling about 50 bunches, were cut and delivered by 9:30AM. We have six varieties of flowers that we are cutting at this time. The lisianthus are of particularly good quality and much appreciated by the florists.
I was back home by 10:00 and assembled the tools and equipment necessary to remove the shrubs in the front of the house. With help from a couple of friends we were done in about four hours. Oscar and Milo were satisfied to just watch us work, providing moral support, while we got hot and dirty. Some of the shrubs were evergreens and hollies, and not very pleasant to handle, especially in the hot weather. With the shrubs now out, I hope to fix the drainage problem over the next few weeks, and then be ready to re-landscape the area in early September when the weather is cooler.
As hot as it was, we decided to take the boys to visit my brother Barry in Oxford, instead of doing something outside. I had some tractor parts ordered at Koenig John Deere and made stop there to pick them up on the way to my brother’s home. Upon arrival at Koenig’s we discovered they were having a customer appreciation open house. Oscar and Milo just loved the opportunity to check out all the equipment, large and small. They didn’t miss a thing. Koenig’s was serving barbecued pork and beef with all the trimmings, so we enjoyed an early supper, and a chance to chat with some friends and some new acquaintances.
Following an enjoyable visit with Barry and his family we returned home. Our son Mark had returned to our house from a long day of equipment installation at the General Mills Cereal plant in Sharonville. It was good to just sit and talk to him for a while. Tomorrow looks like a busy day, but we have a lot to get done. An early start will probably be advisable.
Wednesday – July 13
Not a bad day. I got a lot done in the cool of the morning. There was no dew which made it nice picking produce. Ten half peck baskets of cherry tomatoes were picked by 8:30. I like picking most produce early in the day but don’t like handling it when it is wet. This morning was perfect.
Irrigating was a high priority with pumps and hoses running all day. While walking the fields and patches of produce and flowers two leaks were discovered and immediately repaired. As the weather gets dry, opossums, skunks, or raccoons will occasionally bite the drip tape in the field, for the moisture I guess. Not a big deal but one that we keep an eye open for issues – it’s not the water loss as much as it is the creation of a big wet spot in a field.
I pinched the chrysanthemums for the last time today. We are testing mums as a cut flower for this fall. I purchased 220 rooted cuttings of mixed varieties, from a grower in Minnesota who specializes in mums that were developed by the University of Minnesota for their hardiness. Of the over thirty varieties offered I selected twelve that they recommended for cut flower production. I’m hoping they will be a good addition to our mixed bouquets in October when many of our annual and perennial cut flowers are done, and that they will winter over for next year. We are also trying dahlias for the first time – it’s too early to tell how well they will do. Every time we try something different there is a lot to learn, but I always enjoy the challenge.
Some color is starting to show up in the tomato field. I’m guessing we will start picking next Monday or Tuesday. At this point they look great – about as good as we’ve ever had. The vines are real healthy with no significant sign of disease. The fruit set is very good (large clusters) and the tomatoes have great size. Our marketable yield potential looks even better than last year’s – a very good year for us. The late planting is also looking good. The first cluster is set with fruit about the size of golf balls. We will probably side dress them with calcium nitrate and apply the straw mulch yet this week. It will be good to get that done before we get heavy into picking the early crop.
The afternoon was spent doing some yard work and straightening up around the hoop houses and the barns. I need to deal with the weeds and grass coming up in the gravel areas around the buildings and on the driveway – don’t know if I’ll get to that this week or not. I had a truckload of crushed gravel delivered and I spread it on the tractor road leading from the sheds to the vegetable fields. It was so wet this spring that we created some “homegrown” potholes. Filling them now will make for a smoother ride for the tomatoes when we start picking. It’s all about the tomatoes!
The boys were all over the place today. They are very frustrated that they can’t catch the kittens – patience is not something they have an abundance of. As I write this, Judy has them both in the bath tub. They pick up enough dirt here in a day to equal a week’s worth at home. Our plans are to head up to King’s Island tomorrow. We are all looking forward to a great time.
Thursday – July 14
I woke up at my usual time – daybreak and had breakfast (cereal, fruit and coffee) before going out. It was another beautiful morning.
I sprayed the plum trees for mites. I hope it does the trick. We generally do not have mite problems. Use of dormant oil in March and orchard sprays during the growing season that are easy on beneficial predatory mites (oh yes, there are mites that eat other mites) is usually sufficient. We rely on a lot of beneficial/predatory insects like lady bugs, lace wings, “good mites”, parasitic wasps, and so on, to help in controlling the bad bugs. As a result we spray for insects only when necessary and then target the specific problem insect. We don’t just spray to kill everything.
I pulled some calcium nitrate out of the storage shed, and moved a trailer of straw to the field for Pat and Jess before we left, thinking they might come over to work the late tomatoes today while we were gone. By 9:00 we were on our way to Kings Island. The boys were ready! We made up math problem games on the way — “If Grandpa picks 9 baskets of tomatoes from each row of tomatoes, and has 35 rows, how many baskets will he have? And, if each basket weighs 25 pounds how many pounds does he have?” If he sells them for 70 cents a pound how many dollars will he receive, and so on. They had a calculator to derive or check their answers, and were quite proud of getting the right answers. Now, how many seven and ten year olds carry a calculator with them? You sure can tell that their mom has a PhD in Chemical engineering!
We had a terrific time at Kings Island. The weather was perfect today with a cool breeze all day long. After about six hours the boys, and Judy and I, were wearing down and ready to call it a day. Walking back to our car the boys started reading license plates, all the while hoping to find one from their home state of Minnesota. Although the majority we passed were from out of state (Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee, West Virginia, and so on) they were disappointed that Minnesota wasn’t among them. “Minnesota was just too far away” was their conclusion.
After supper I started picking peaches. I ran out of daylight before I had all five trees done, and will finish up tomorrow. Although they are smaller than we’d like (I should have thinned them back in early June) they are very nice and absolutely delicious – a few dropped and bruised ones became my desert. My son Mark pitched in and helped. It was like the “old days” when he and his brother and sister were still at home. Whatever we were picking, hoeing or packing, we always talked as we worked. All of us, to this day, still cherish those many hours together. It seemed that we (Judy and I) talked differently to our children, and they to us, when working.
It was so unstructured and so casual that discussions opened up about literally everything, from the humorous to the serious, from the very personal to world events. Things got talked about that parents and kids would not normally talk about. We all learned a lot about each other and from each other, and benefited immensely. I believe it is one of the many positives of raising your children on a farm and working together.
Tomorrow is “get ready for market day”, in addition to irrigating and all the other chores. I’m tired – all that roller-coaster riding wore me out. Goodnight.
Friday – July 15
Fridays are always busy this time of the year. Today was no exception.
Flowers and the tomato field were irrigated and will be again tomorrow afternoon. It is really getting dry. Some things are flagging in late afternoon – that’s not good for anything we grow. Our son Mark left for Minneapolis mid-day. The installation of the production line he was working on is far enough along that he can return home. The plant employees and contractors will continue the work and Mark will return the first week of August for the actual start up. The boys will remain here until he returns – or some other arrangement is made. He took a couple of baskets of peaches and tomatoes with him. They are presents from the farm for Erin, Mark’s wife, and for Mary Jane our granddaughter.
Most of the day was spent picking and packing produce for delivery to Burwinkel’s Farm Market in Ross, and for us to take to the Oxford Uptown Farmers Market tomorrow. I made the delivery of peaches , cherry tomatoes, sweet onions, hot and sweet peppers and eggplant, to Burwinkel’s around 5:00PM. We have been selling to Kathy Burwinkel for many years and enjoy working with her and her family. Her husband Richard and their sons Bob and Ryan grow what many people (including me) believe to be the best sweet corn in this area – maybe all of Ohio. Sweet corn is the key item at their markets and she supplements the sweet corn with a wide range of quality, locally grown, fruits and vegetables. Kathy buys nearly every item we raise and all our deliveries are made to the market in Ross. It is very convenient for me.
After supper we cut flowers for our market bouquets and loaded the truck for tomorrow. The boys love going to Farmers Market with us. It is the highlight of their stay with us, and the more Market Saturdays they are here the happier they seem to be. They willingly went to bed earlier tonight so as to be up and awake early tomorrow.
Saturday July 16
It was a great Farmers Market this morning. Although it was grey and overcast there was a good crowd and they seemed to be in a buying mood. We sold out early on literally everything. Peaches and the flower bouquets were the most popular items. The eggplant went amazingly fast as well. Our return business is substantial and we work hard make sure they know how much we appreciate their business. While I am terrible at remembering names I never forget a face and often remember what particular customers purchased the week before. I like to ask how they liked what they purchased and how they prepared it. That is helpful information for me because customers routinely ask me “how do you fix/use a certain item”. It’s nice to be able to pass along other people’s recipe ideas and their comments. We took the boys to Skyline in Oxford after Market. My brother Barry and sister-in-law Barb joined us. Even though Oscar and Milo don’t live around here Skyline Chili is one of their favorite restaurants. They both order like locals, without even looking at the menu. Back home they crashed in the family room, enjoying the air-conditioning. All the while, I was out in the heat turning irrigation on, on everything I could.
The market tomato field is starting to show a lot of red – we will start picking for wholesale on Tuesday. The tomatoes have been mature and plenty large enough for a week or more, but not turning ripe. Now with the changing of the moon phase – coming off of the full moon — they are ripening fast. I don’t know why, but it’s been my experience that the changing of the moon phases does impact tomato ripening. I’ve never seen it in anything else, but some of the “old timers” claim that it effects just about everything.
Pat Ramsey and his older brother Joe baled three acres of hay this evening. Joe farms the few acres we don’t have in fruit of veggies, including our rotational ground. The hay is mixed clover, alfalfa and orchard grass and very nice. I caught up on a few chores after supper. Tomorrow is Sunday already. I’m not sure what all is on the agenda yet. The boys want to do some target shooting with the air pellet gun. They are at a good age to instill respect for guns. Even if they never own or shoot a real fire arm it is important that they are knowledgeable about guns and gun safety.
Looks like it will be right after Mass and breakfast tomorrow.
Sunday July 17
I had promised the boys I would make buckwheat pancakes for them for this morning’s breakfast. The batter needs to sit for three to six hours after you mix it – time for the yeast to work. Unfortunately I forgot to mix up a batch last night before I went to bed. As a result no pancakes for breakfast – it was eggs or oatmeal for everyone. As the result of popular demand (meaning disappointed little boys), however, I mixed up a batch right after church. We had the best buckwheat pancakes you’ve ever eaten for lunch. So you can see, I do keep my promises – it’s just that sometimes I’m a little late.
Late morning was spent taking turns with the boys plinking paper targets with the air rifle. Both boys are quite patient shooters and are surprisingly accurate. Oscar won bragging rights with the most bull’s eyes, and was inclined to not let either me, or his little brother, forget his marksmanship skill for the balance of the day. A little side conversation with Grandpa was needed to get him to “tone it down” a bit.