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State of the Farm: August, 2023

This will not be a long post as I’m in Pennsylvania for a family reunion.

I had planned an interesting post but left without the requisite materials. So, we’ll work with what we have.

The end of July and beginning of August is the beginning of harvest season. The first incoming is blueberries—of which we got an enormous amount, dwarfing all previous years. This is due to two reasons: 1) our blueberry bushes have finally matured, and 2) we’re using bird netting effectively.

We tried to use bird netting last year but failed miserably. Putting up the netting ended up destroying our harvest. I just couldn’t get the netting over the bush without ripping off the ripening blueberries. This year, I built two wooden frames over the low bush and high bush blueberry in the main garden. In addition, we had planted a large space area on the west side.

This year we used cattle fence panels (Remember those? They’re in the picture above.) to make a large space: about 16×18 feet. This is interesting since the cattle panels only come in 16ftx50in units. We needed four sections so cut two 16×50 panels in half and wired them to four 16×50 sections. We staked them into the ground and it gave us a very large area. This is wide enough and high enough that we can let the high bush blueberries grow quite large without ever having to trim them much.

That said, we still put bird netting over all the frames and that was an incredible PITA. The bird netting we used was the normal ½ inch mesh that we’ve seen. It’s always difficult, catches everything, tangles on itself and any leaf/branch/rock/shoe it comes in contact with. We did it but only managed by swearing the air blue.

After this, I looked on line. Surely, somebody had to do this better than we did. It turns out we used the wrong netting. While the thin variety is used quite a bit, when you look at what professional growers use, it’s a braided material that appears much less difficult to handler. Several videos I saw had the growers drape them right over the bushes themselves—which we will not be doing. In addition, when we were driving up in Vermont recently, we saw that some blueberry farmers were hanging long streamers of Mylar. My guess is this was to repel the birds.

So far we’ve gotten a few gallons of berries—it’s easier to measure it in pounds. Say 10+ pounds. The last harvest isn’t in yet but after that we’ll (Retch. Groan. Yowl.) remove the netting.

After the blueberries, come the pears and the Aronias. We’re doing the pears a little early this year. There’s been so much rain that some of the fruit is splitting. We could leave it on the tree but it’s a risk. Taking them from the tree, we’ll wait a week or so and they’ll ripen on the table. Not as great as letting them ripen on the tree but still quite good. Plus, we don’t have to fight the wasps for them.

Aronias are an… acquired taste. They always taste dry in my mouth even though they can be quite juicy. It comes from the astringency. I planted two trees with the idea I’d plant more if I liked them. I don’t much but the tree is doing well and it’s a shame to waste the fruit. I think I’ll press the fruit and see if I can make the juice palatable.

One new tree that’s coming on line is the mountain ash. Its berries should be ripe when we get back. We planted the tree because the paw paw we planted near the same spot wasn’t doing well. Now, both the ash and the paw paw are doing well. We’re still undecided about what to do next. Lose the ash? Let them grow together? We really like the paw paws.

We have five apples we’re trying to harvest. (We have some crab apples but they hardly count.) Two of them are still too young. One we planted a while back and lost the label so we’re not sure what it is. It seems to have a cinnamon flavor. The remaining two are the Granny Smith and the Sops of Wine.

The Sops is a terrific apple. Not too sweet and with a spicy bite. It is coming in like gangbusters. I had to put props under the branches before we left The Granny—well, I’ve been fighting that Granny for twenty-five years. It never gives much of a harvest. We’re talking to a tree service to see if they can prune it right and help us get it under control. If not… well, Applewood is nice to work with.

The Cornelian Cherries are just about ready to pick. I’m going to have to make room in the freezer or make wine of them instantly. We’ll see which.

We’ve reached the point in the main garden where the day to day work is less. The plants are just so well entrenched the weeds are being out competed. The biggest job I have is to make sure the melons don’t eat the bok choy or the pole beans and the cucumbers don’t eat the pintos. Work waiting for me when I get back.

As I said last time, the beans haven’t been setting much in the way of fruit because of the heat. That’s lessened some so I’m hoping we’ll see more. We started pulling in eggplant. The lettuce is in a shady spot so we’ve had good salads. Other crops such as sugar beets, cabbages, bush beans, and the like, are doing well. We’ll be harvesting them, soon, too.

I’m a little nervous about the potatoes. They’re starting to turn yellow. Wendy thinks this is when they die back. I think it’s a bit early. Still, it has been a hot summer. We pulled some the other day and the tubers look good.

All said, the harvest looks promising.



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