Diary of Ray Arlinghaus – Lori Ridge Farm, Week 4 – July 18-24 2011

Week Three

Monday July 18

Flowers were cut starting at a little after 6AM and delivered promptly. Some of today’s cuts went to a wholesaler and some to retail shops.  The lisianthus were particularly nice this morning.  Five of the nine colors we grow were in are in full bloom and have terrific (long) stem length – something that florists want. As I think I mentioned earlier, we grow them in a plastic covered hoop house.  Not only does that provide protection from wind and rain but the slight shading from the plastic forces longer stems on many flower types – in this case lisianthus.

Speaking of light, we noticed this morning that it was a little less light at 6AM than a week or so ago.  Length of day is important to us, not only in terms of how early or late in the day we can work but also in how it impacts what we grow.  The longer the days and the more sun we get, the more quickly plants grow – we all know that.   We have found, however, that many flowers and a few veggies actually require long or short days to grow/flower properly.  Mums are an example – they require long (mid-summer) days to produce a plant, followed by short days (fall) to trigger bloom.  Zinnias are similar but the effect is not as pronounced – long days produce longer stems but delay flowering.  And, so on.  Onion varieties are categorized by the amount of daylight they require to mature/bulb properly.  You will see long, short, or day neutral varieties – and, yes it does make a difference.  The two varieties we plant are both considered to be day-neutral.  Butler County sits just north of 39 degrees latitude and is not considered a good day length location for either long or short day varieties.  Thus, the few varieties that don’t seem too effected by length of day (day neutral) are our best bet.

The balance of the morning was spent working in the planting of kale and Brussels sprouts that we made a few weeks ago.  The Brussels sprouts require around 100 days from the time of setting the plants in the field to maturity.  They are always raised as a fall crop due to the fact that the sprouts need a cold (light frost) night to sweeten them up.  The sprouts contain an enzyme that is bitter until it gets cold, then like magic they taste great (to those of us who like Brussels sprouts).

The afternoon was spent doing some maintenance jobs around the farm, watering the transplant bench, and getting things ready to pick tomatoes tomorrow.  It continues to get drier every day – the thundershowers just keep passing east or west of us.  We started watering some of our young apple trees.  We water them with a 300 gallon tank on our tractor loader.  Each tree gets five to ten gallons depending on its size/age.  We will do this once a week as long as it is necessary.  Sure wish it would rain.

Tuesday July 19

I started the day by running the irrigation pump.  While checking the vegetable crops I decided to pull our remaining sweet bunching onions, and worked on that the balance of the morning.  I pulled, bunched, washed and boxed about 100 bunches, about half of what was in the field – I’ll get the rest tomorrow.

After lunch I showered and took the boys to Judy’s brother’s home for an afternoon of swimming.  They really enjoyed having the pool pretty much to themselves.  I got wet enough to cool off but am not a fan of spending a full afternoon in the water – I’m getting wrinkled enough.  Judy, who had taken her Mom to a doctor’s appointment, arrived at about 4:00PM and took over the “life guard” role.  I returned home to cut zucchini and pick peppers, which I then delivered to Burwinkles, along with the onions that had been held in the cool of the pack-shed.

Pat and Jessie started picking tomatoes in early morning and were at it until dinner time.  They picked over 150 field buckets, and moved them into the pack-shed to cool down to 68 degrees before sorting and packing.  Some were sorted and packed after supper.  They look great – good size with very few rough tomatoes to cull out.  It is a good first picking.  We’ll finish up sorting and packing tomorrow.  They will be hauled on Thursday.

I picked our cherry tomato crop.  It is rather insignificant in comparison to the regular tomato crop but they sell well at Farmers Market, and Burwinkels move a fair number.  We usually pick a hundred or so pint baskets a week.The boys are in bed and Judy just said good night.  I’m headed for the shower – for some reason I smell like tomato plants – not a fragrance I want to leave on clean sheets.

Wednesday July 20

The tomato sorting and packing was completed this morning. About ninety 25# boxes of number 1’s was the tally.  We will pick again on Thursday evening and Friday morning.

My grandsons have a long standing love affair with Indian Creek.  They, like most youngsters, just love to wade in a creek, turn rocks over and catch whatever they can find.  We have several locations we have gone to over the years.  Today I took them to my nephew’s, whose property includes a portion of the creek.  As hot as the day was the water was cool and refreshing to wade in, and if “oh Grandpa come see what I have” was yelled once, I’m sure I heard it a hundred times. Minnows, toads, frogs, etc. were anxiously stalked and captured, examined and then gently released.  What a great time they had – me too.

I did more irrigating today – we have been burning a good deal of gas running the pump. I am starting to have to pick and choose what does and doesn’t get watered. That’s not good.  We’ve used about 15% of our large pond’s storage capacity in the past two weeks.  I’m not interested in pumping it dry but I will if necessary.

I pulled and boxed the last of our sweet onions.  Planted late and then affected by the dry weather and heat we pulled them smaller than normal.  Consequently the yield was way off.  I hope that’s not a sign of things to come.I picked our heirloom type tomatoes and our small test plot this evening.  Like the big field they look really good.  The two varieties we are testing look good so far.  I had one more row to go when we got a light rain.  Not enough to help anything but enough to run me into the house.  I’ll get the remainder tomorrow.

After dinner this evening Judy took the boys to visit her Mom and Dad.  They took a small basket of peaches for their Great Grand Parents.  Mom and Dad were pleased to see the boys, and the peaches.

Thursday July 21

The day began with the cutting and delivery of a flower order. The heat continues and so does the need to irrigate.  The ground soaks up the water instantly. Our irrigation setups were run at top capacity most of the day.  The smaller onions that were pulled on Wednesday and moved into the big barn in field crates were topped and placed on drying trays.  They will be sold at farmers market over the next few weeks.

I finished picking the “test plot” tomatoes and picked the cherry tomatoes.  The cherry tomatoes are packed in pint baskets.  We “pint up” most as a single variety per basket but have found that some customers enjoy having a mixture of the red, gold, pink and black varieties – so some are packed as mixed baskets.

With it being so hot we took the afternoon off and went swimming again with our two grandsons.  The water felt especially good.  The evening was spent checking the peach trees – there will be peaches for Saturday’s market.  The heat has the next variety ripening more quickly than I expected.  There are only a few trees of that variety.  I’ll pick them tomorrow.  I hope to get enough for market.

Just before dinner I delivered a load of tomatoes to Burwinkels market in Ross.  By the time I returned, Pat and Jess, trying to take advantage of the slightly cooler evening temperature, arrived and started picking tomatoes in the big patch.

The final chore of the day for me was to finish watering the young apple trees with a water tank.  They were just planted this spring and don’t have a root system sufficient to carry them through this kind of dry weather.  Tomorrow will be busy.  Pat and Jess will finish picking and packing tomatoes, and I’ll be getting ready for Saturday’s Farmers Market.

Friday July 22

Pick, pick, pick – that was today.  Pat and Jess finished up the market tomatoes and headed off for a week-end camp out.  I started with potatoes, then peaches and worked my way through eggplant, peppers, onions, red beets, cucumbers and zucchini.  Flowers were cut after dinner and the truck was loaded and ready to go by dark.Judy took the boys swimming again today – wish I could have joined them.  They are headed to bed.  Tomorrow’s farmers market will be the last one before they return home to Minnesota.

Saturday July 23

It was a really good market today.  We sold out of most everything.  Flowers moved unexpectedly well and the peaches literally flew off the table.  Folks just can’t resist a fresh, sweet and juicy homegrown peach.  The boys were a big help.  Oscar helped wait on customers and Milo was our “customer service representative” carrying flowers and packages for some of our older customers, who greatly appreciated the help (and Milo’s constant chatter).

Returning home I picked more produce and loaded it along with fifty boxes of tomatoes.  We rushed off to four-thirty Mass at Queen of Peach Church.  I made the delivery to the Burwinkels and then finished up some hose watering and other minor chores before calling it a day.  Judy packed up the boy’s belongings and got them ready to go home tomorrow.  A busy day – I’m beat!

Sunday July 24

I’m writing this at 10:30PM after just returning from Rockford, Illinois.  It was almost an 800 mile round trip.  Our son Mark and his wife left Minneapolis about the same time this morning as we did (6:00 AM) and drove south to meet up with us in Rockford.  There after having lunch we handed the boys over to their mom and dad for the drive home.  It was great having them here for the two weeks but they were glad to see their parents and younger brother and sister.  After hugs and kisses, and transfer of a half bushel each of Butler County’s best peaches and tomatoes, we departed for Ohio.  It was another long day.  We will miss the boys.                               







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