The Farm has changed dramatically in the last month. With cooler temperatures and the returning rains, we have seen most of our summer crops fade away. Summer squash and tomatoes will be ripped out this week and tossed into the compost pile. Cucumbers, winter squash plants, beans and corn have already been tilled under. Just in the past two weeks many of our tender greens, growing outdoors, have faded considerably and so our salad harvest have gone from 60 lbs a week to about 20 lbs. We are switching gears in our greenhouses, removing the remaining summer crops and quickly transplanting new lettuces and winter greens. These plantings will produce slowly through fall and by late winter will have a burst of growth that will give us our first harvests for next season’s farm stand offerings.
In the past two weeks we have been working manure and okara into the fields and seeding the areas with a rye-vetch winter cover crop. What is okara you might ask? It is organic soymeal, a bi-product of the tofu making process. Vashon’s Island Spring Tofu Company will deliver it free to your property and we take full advantage. The okara is nitrogen rich and we can get it in large amounts to help us recharge the soil fertility in our fields. We plant cover crops to improve soil organic matter and soil fertility, suppress cool-season weeds, prevent soil erosion, and create a better seedbed for spring planting.
This week we adopted twenty new chickens from another island farm that was shutting down. These chickens are about two years old, so we expect they will be providing the farm with eggs for another year or so. Our flock of laying hens now totals 60 (with some of the hens transitioning out this winter). Living with the hens we still have two roosters and one duck. The duck was part of a flock of ten ducks started in 2012. Many of her friends were picked off in the night (by owls we think) when they wouldn’t stay in their house and eventually she was the only one to remain. She quickly learned the ways of chickens and now sleeps in the coop and lays her eggs in the boxes.
In the last month we have welcomed back the middle school students twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays as well as the elementary students on Wednesdays. Tuesdays are the start of our work week and we spend most of it harvesting for the farm stand and restaurants. Middle school farm groups have been working with Bob to harvest, wash and pack produce like carrots, potatoes, winter squash, onions and more. They send the farm an order on Monday for produce they wish to buy wholesale and then sell thru their market at school. When they are at the farm on Tuesday they help to get this order ready and take it back with them to sell on Wednesday. Friday’s farm group has also been helping with harvest as we are focusing on preparing for restocking the stand as well as attending the Saturday Farmers Market. In addition to harvest, middle school students have been working on digging out a trench to run power to their outdoor kitchen and camping area. I am always amazed at how much these groups love to dig! This fall we will be focusing on Earth Science including a soil mapping project.
The elementary students have been working hard to help bring in the nut harvest. We have harvested over 100 lbs of hazelnuts and have just begun the gather chestnuts. Other projects have included gathering winter squash from the field, spreading compost in the fields and collecting eggs. This week we will begin winnowing our dry bean harvest, which is always a favorite! Elementary farm groups typically work with Jen in the morning and then after lunch have time for journaling, artwork and/or free time.
This Saturday we will host our annual fall work party from 10-2pm. We have some fun projects for cleaning up and putting the farm to rest. We hope you’ll join us!