Give and Take

It’s been a short season for enjoying the fruits of our labor. While it seemed to take forever for the soil to warm enough for direct sowing, fluctuating temperatures after germination inhibited optimum growth, and now, just when the gardens should be surrendering their heaviest bounty, we are scavenging any successes from exhausted plants that look like they should in late September, not August, in a normal year. We even had a scattering of frost on the first day of September!

The tomatoes awaiting the steamy August days and balmy nights to start their blush have given up and the tangle of drooping vines and rotting fruits is disheartening to behold; the pumpkins are stalled at smaller-than-usual green orbs, and even though there are lots of peppers on the plants, it takes them forever to get to typical size. Our vegetable garden that was looking lush and promising once the starter plants established took a quick downturn once the fruits started to near ripening—from victory garden to defeat, and I believe it was all due to the diseases brought on by so much rain.

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Fortunately for us our good neighbor to the north plants excessive amounts of vegetables every year and we get to siphon off his surplus.

We were lucky enough to escape the devastation caused by gypsy moths just north of us, with just a few tents appearing here and there, but from what I hear, we can expect a greater infiltration next year. So we will have THAT scourge to deal with.

But where one hand takes away, the other gives, often profusely. The peach tree in our little fruit orchard is so heavy with fruits this year I fear we may lose it from damage to the limbs. It has been limping along, with the rest of the apple, pear and plum trees, from year to year, never really producing anything until, BAM!…a bumper crop.

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For the most part, the perennial and annual flowers did well; even the dahlias that were feared lost ( Don’t Count On the Dahlias ) recovered and produced some flowers. Next year they’ll enjoy a different location where lighter soil and good drainage should keep those tubers robust. And although the red lily bugs ate up some of the leaves of our orientals, we still got some beautiful flowers.

 

Strawflowers were a first and a pleasant surprise that made up for the failure of the first attempt at Bells of Ireland.  After a slow start germinating, the strawflowers grew to produce a variety of papery blooms that added beautiful color and texture to our bouquets. We have also been drying some for everlasting bouquets and to make candles using various vases and recycled solar light globes (thanks, Liz!).

So, as our harvest and selling season winds down for another year, we would like to thank all our customers who bought from the roadside stand and commissioned custom arrangements for special events, and to customers that brought back cans and vases for us to re-use.  Many thanks also to Shannon at Barstow’s Longview Dairy Store and Bakery for taking in our bundles of flowers to sell at their wonderful store. It’s been a good season despite the challenges!

With the addition of more peony bushes, lilies, and dahlias next year, we will have even more variety to offer flower-loving customers. Farmer D. is busy putting in a wall that will help accentuate the roadside stand and make it more accessible and we will continue to improve our appearance to make the business more visible not only from the street but out in the community as well.  Using donated and recycled vases and other supplies (special thanks my family (Mom, thanks for putting them aside for me always), friends (mason jars and newspapers for weed screening from the good neighbors to the north), and particularly brother Mike for his efforts at the transfer station!)) keeps our costs down. Practicing green farming methods to keep our carbon footprint small increases our positive impact on the environment.   More flowers = more pollinators, and that’s good for everyone! Every day IS a good day for flowers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shifting Gears

Well, it was good corn that we were tried to add to the offering at our roadside stand a few weeks back; just ask the neighbor’s cow who got to eat several dozen ears! But there’s no use crying over spilled milk, especially since it turned into such a delight for Gutter. Were he not a steer, he may have spilled his own milk when he realized it wasn’t just husks and cobs, that there was still raw corn on them! We haven’t given up on the idea of sweetcorn; a reworking of the business plan is in order and it may find us planting our own.  Don’t worry…we learned alot from the Indian Corn planted this spring which promptly washed away. Won’t make that same mistake!

Unlike the corn attempt, the sunflower bundles and mixed flower bouquets are selling well and our customers are happy to see that our section of Rte. 116 is newly resurfaced. As hoped, the zinnias and strawflowers are in full production lending beautiful color and texture to the mixed bouquets. 20170806_145551.jpgThe college-bound young lady who was hoping for a good corn season is now learning to arrange flowers instead. Her specialty is the new tin can bouquet.

20170730_131916Adaptation is something one learns living on a farm, working with what you do have and being grateful when things still work out, albeit by a different route.

“Live and learn; learn to live.”

 

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The wait is over…Sunflowers and Sweet Corn are here!

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READY FOR BUSINESS!!

Better late than never!  Weather conditions this spring that led to delays in seed germination were a source of frustration for anyone who sells their harvest, with no 4th of July sweet corn or sunflowers to grace the picnic table. The recent heat wave, following a few days of steady rain and gloomy drizzle, has kicked everything growing into high gear. Sunflowers are blooming in a frenzy, pumpkin vines in the field are starting to blossom, and the local sweet corn is finally here!  After planting some Indian corn this spring, only to watch it wash away in the heavy spring rains, we decided to leave the corn growing to seasoned farmers.  A happy mistake in driving directions landed us in the barnyard of Allen Zuchowski, of Lazy Acre Farm in Hadley, a B2B farmer who graciously agreed to sell us corn for resale at our stand.  So we now have sweet corn on the table, along with the sunflower bundles and mixed flower arrangements. We will start out selling Fridays through Sundays, adding other days if there is demand enough for it; today is a bonus day to get the word out, by way of visual appeal, that Zawadzki Farm now has fresh sweet corn available weekly.  20170719_105054

When you see the giant ear of corn in the front yard, we have it.  Not sure what the technical variety of corn is that we are getting from Allan but we are calling it College Corn, as the young lady selling most days is on her way to college this fall and looking to supplement her other part-time job by movin’ some ears and savin’ for school (she even made the corn sign)! 

The cost is $5.00 per dozen, in line with the local rate, so stop on in and put corn on the dinner menu tonight!

 

 

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Mother (Nature) knows best

After several years of growing flowers to sell at our little roadside stand, I can honestly say that no two growing seasons are exactly the same. With multiple variables like temperature, sunshine, moisture, weed and pest pressure, things can be relatively easy  (all farming or intense gardening is hard work!) or pretty ugly. Take 2016 for example; it was a drought year around here so we relied on frequent hand-watering to keep our flowers and vegetables from shriveling up in the hot, dry landscape. While the watering did save our plants for the most part, it had the unintended consequence of attracting thirsty insects to the plants and when the surface droplets evaporated in the merciless heat, the pests turned their attention to the most fleshy part of the plants: the fruits and blossoms. As a result we were left with loads of less-than-perfect flowers and produce.  Luckily, our great customers paid no mind to the blemishes and we even had our best year as far as sales!

This year we had a very cool, wet spring. Planting was delayed due to wet fields that could not be plowed, and when a farmer lucked out and was able to plant a plot, germination of the seeds s/he had sown was stifled because of unseasonably cool temps and not much sunshine. Wetter than average soil hindered germination, too. Any one of those factors would have been enough to hold off average normal starting dates for harvest; this year we had all three factors in play. The first sunflowers should have been ready to cut at the end of June. Instead, it is already mid-July and we are only now preparing to cut and bundle the sun-loving helianthus.

Oddly enough, what was happening to our annually planted seeds was NOT carrying through to the perennials that suffered through the 2016 drought. Rather than showing signs of last year’s stressors, the perennials have returned as if to prove the adage, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” True to her reputation for keeping us humans guessing, Mother Nature returned our perennials in their finest fashion…on time if not a bit earlier than usual and more lush and bountiful than past years can recall! We truly are at her mercy, and that degree of power should always be respected.

Past difficulties are, well, in the past and not soon to be forgotten. BUT… a rolling stone gathers no moss/a proactive farmer lessens the weed burden (before things get out of hand and you just want to bury your head amidst the bristly pigweed and cry your eyes out)…time marches on, and in the present we are gearing up for the cut flower season.

20170716_082240Sunflowers will be out in force beginning this week. The first picking was used to create a custom arrangement in a very UNcustomary “vase” of sorts…a large yellow pig that will be greeting mathematicians coming from near and far to attend the Yellow Pigs Day Conference at Hampshire college on July 17th.

If you happen to be in the vicinity of our farm this week, stop in for a fresh bundle of sunflowers. We have a variety which makes for a lovely bouquet.

 

 

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Don’t Count On the Dahlias

We are experiencing a dismal start to the dahlias this year. Last year we had phenomenal blooms for a first year planting. Purchased through Harris Seed, the tubers arrived bulging with energy, very healthy and ready for planting. They were set in an area that used to be our chicken run where the ladies spent their days when they weren’t free-rangng. Apparently, the chicken manure made for a fantastic planting medium. My veteran dahlia-gardening neighbor was amazed we got such good size on first-year blooms.

After a bountiful season despite the lack of rain (we hand-watered alot last season), and after the frost killed back the foliage, the tubers were carefully lifted, rubbed clean and let to cure for a few days before loosely packing them in cardboard cartons with sawdust layered between some newspaper. They seemed to carry through winter when checked periodically, so it would appear that the area we chose to set them this year has been less than hospitable. I THINK it’s just too wet, even though they need more water than most flowers. Between the dampness and the heavy soil that must be to their tubers like wet, tight shoes would feel on our feet, nothing good is happening in this year’s dahlia patch; they are very UNhappy!

So we are pinning our hopes on the rainbow of zinnias we planted again after having such good success with them for the first time in 2016.  We are trying strawflowers this year, too, and they are budding up nicely and should be ready for cutting soon.

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A rainbow of blooms

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Roadside Stand Now Open for 2017!

Back in late June we had two weeks of peony blooms which gave us some lovely bouquets at the stand.  Too bad they don’t last longer; their fragrance is divine and the layers of petals continue to open up until these gorgeous flowers are 4 – 5 inches in diameter.  It doesn’t take many to make a gorgeous bouquet.

As we await the dahlias, zinnias, strawflowers and various sunflower varieties, we are putting out some colorful cellophane bouquets consisting of oriental lilies, achillea, obedient plant, butterfly weed, early solidago, shasta daisy, veronica, and bee balm.20170703_071502

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