When In Doubt, Hoe
The farm follows its own seasonal schedule, with no regard to calendar dates, and yet every Labor Day, like clockwork, I can count on losing field hands. Apprentices go back to school, Peter pick up extra hours at his county job, and Steve and I are left to consider where to step it up and where to ease off. Last year, we misjudged on the hoeing. We figured that by early September, we could sign off for the season—everything was slowing down, and it didn’t seem likely that the weeds still germinating would pose a threat. Several weeks later, as we struggled to pull beets through knee-high galinsoga, we realized our mistake. Fortunately, this year, we’ve still got Alison and Anthony putting in part-time hours. For the most part, we’re busy bringing storage crops in from the fields—potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, etc.—but whenever we have a spare moment, we hoe. Back in August, when hoeing was as critical in breaking up crusted soil as it was in suppressing weeds, we coined a new phrase—When in doubt, hoe. That mantra continues to ring true, and the fields look great for it.
We just had two consecutive days of glorious weather, with more on the horizon. After two months of persistent rain, this break in the weather is a welcome reprieve. Over the past few weeks, we watched nervously as the rain and humidity took their toll. Like many growers, we overplant as a way of insuring ourselves from nature’s unknowns. Nevertheless, when your margin for error shrinks, you start losing sleep. This season’s casualties? Our first planting of fennel rotted before our eyes. Fortunately, the second planting dodged the worst of the weather and we’re harvesting it now. Many of our fall greens got pounded by the rain—broccoli raab in particular—but later plantings have fared better and are coming along nicely. I’ve also lost countless hours to squishing caterpillars in the kale and broccoli, but from far off the fields don’t look terrible. About ten percent of the of the leaves have been reduced to lace, but the rest are thriving, with no sign of disease. All the more reason to celebrate this glorious weather—it’s giving us a chance to come up from behind.