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Wednesday, May 31, 2006


So The Amazing Weedless Garden will, in a week or so, will go down this year's garden memory-hole. Good riddance. I can say that today, because we've gotten rain the past two days, and, so far, what we have is mud between the rows.

A week from now, we'll have...Weeds Gone Wild!

In the meantime, no hose-dragging.

Also, very happy watermelons....

The sun is out today. More rain would be good, of course, but we'll take it an inch at a time (we've had about 1.5). Houston had 12 inches in the past few days, and we DON'T WANT THAT!
We have vivid memories of the dreaded Remnants of Allison. So I've watched the low pressure over texas as it moves slowly in this direction, taking note that it hasn't developed into a tropical system which, moving slowly, can dump a garden-killing amount of rain. During that June of whatever year it was ( I think maybe 2001) the 'remnants' of that tropical depression brought us 22" of rain in three days. There were ducks swimming in the front yard (from next door) and we sadly had to rip 250 tomato plants and about that many pepper plants out of the ground and pile them on a trash heap. And they had been loaded with green tomatos and immature bell peppers. The rain just drowned them. Killed the plants in a matter of days.

So, what to do? No rain, too much rain, you take what you get. There's no such thing as perfect garden weather. You put food up in the freezer and in jars and dry the herbs. At least here, if something happens to your Spring garden, there's always the Fall garden, which is never far away. Ditto for Fall.

For now, I'll just kick back and wait for the water in my 'plastic garden shoes' to evaporate.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Amazing Weedless Garden

If you have a garden you know about the annual weed-war, and the fact that you can never win.

Usually, this time of year, we are fighting the good fight, knowing that it's only a matter of time before no amount of weed-pulling and hoeing will put you out in front of this.

We don't use herbicides, so weed-control is purely a physical thing. Tilling between the rows helps, but the grass and nettles pop up down the middles and you just can't keep up. So you give in, and know that the garden will just look a little wild...too bad.

But, this year, we have the amazing weedless garden. We wish we did not. This is a picture of almost no rain since March.

Imagine pulling hoses through the field, setting up the sprinkler, moving it every couple of hours, and wondering how long until you have to pump the pond onto the field in order to keep things going. We're really close to that at this point. And the plants are big enough to suck up the water from in between the rows. Only the watermelons have buried hoses. Nothing else does. .. and here is the garden at 6:30 a.m., when it is a pleasure to be out there-it is cool and quiet.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

An Incongruent Truth

The tomatoes are rolling out of the field and across the yard and into the kitchen.

But the Basil is tiny and way, way, way behind.

That is wrong on so many levels...

which is what you get for planting your tomatoes in February...

ah. me. no bruschetta.

SO...Bee Balm = Wild Bergamot...who knew?

A friend gave me one bee balm plant the first year we moved was glorious. Big and purple and tall and all that. I had put it on a fenceline. But it never came back. I kept looking for it the next year, and the next. Oh, well. Then I read about Wild Bergamot; supposedly the precurser or wild form of Bee Balm so I figured why not?

So I planted a flat of it last year. I made a row in the herb garden for it. The plants looked great, but didn't bloom, no matter how much I stood over them and wished for it.

So this year, one or two or three plants came up here and there...and I left them alone, just to see, although I was not impressed! An unforgiveable attitude. Here we are, and this is just one plant, mind you. There are two or three bunched together in the next row. and they have an entirely different personality and are light purple. Then there's one hiding amongst the ox-eyed daisies, and it is very very maroon...good things come to those that wait. Right? Beats the living daylights out of Bee Balm, if you ask me...and the bees think so too.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Wrestling Match With the Tasty Chrysanthemum Leaf

What a lovely thought...last fall I ordered seed for something called 'Tasty Chrysanthemum Leaf' from the Oriental Seeds catalogue. How nice...fresh, tender greens from the Chrysanthemum family, supposedly a favorite in some Asian cultures, to be sprinkled in with your stir-fry....
But this herb bed didn't seem to take, and the winter grass kind of choked everything out. Until the Spring, that is, when the plants went 'SPROING' and, suddenly, I had this fabulous bed of what looked like, well...Chrysanthemums. Well, that's cool.

And then it was a hedge. And then there were a zillion blooms. We tried it in stir-fry...only once I'm embarrassed to say. And it was ok, if a little strange. But we enjoyed the novelty of just having it there. Maybe I didn't want to dedicate one of the herb beds to this particular plant, so I gathered seed in case I changed my mind later, and then we planned to just yank the plants up.

HA. No way. Even Will couldn't pull them out of the ground.

So I got the big loppers and headed out there early this morning.

I never know where the wasps have decided to hunker down, so you have to be careful. This is the South, and a wasp nest can be anywhere. If you hit a nest or grab one, they'll take out after you and you had better hope you are faster than they are. You don't cut things down in a hurry. You take your time and keep your eyes and ears open.

So, every few feet or so, I have to swing the loppers into the brush and step back to see if any wasps come flying out. The stalks are big and thick and close to the ground. Cut, cut, drag...Every ten minutes or so, I would stand there in the sun and consider quitting. But what's the point in that? If I can't win the fight with the Tasty Chrysanthemum Leaf, I'm not much of a gardener, am I?

I think all gardeners have this fantasy of meandering around the garden, seeing the butterflies and the bees and taking delight in this and that little thing...a bird, a volunteer sunflower. Yeah, right. That would be the first five minutes as you look around and decide which task you're going to tackle. Or in the last five minutes of daylight after the sun goes down. It's a good five minutes, either way...

I saw an unusual fuzzy bright yellow caterpillar...then another one. I don't remember seeing these before. They were nesting right on the ground at the base of each plant. I wonder what they are. If the sun hadn't been so high, I would have taken a picture and posted it here so someone could tell me about them.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The 6 to 8 p.m. Gardener

It's hot. Brutally hot. And it's only May.

Maybe it's an anomally...
So we garden late, late in the evening.
Even as I ducked under the tomato plants
brushing aside leaves and looking for red
sweat poured down my face and neck.

Maybe it will rain sometime.

Will was fooling with the watermelons.
He had buried drip hoses under the raised rows
and only needs to plug in the hose to water
This evening he had one of those containers you screw into the end of the hose
that carries fertilizer to be mixed with the water.
He had filled it with Fish Emulsion.
It was not cooperating, was leaking
and it smelled to high heaven.
I still don't understand why he wanted only yellow and orange watermelons this year
no red.
but, hey, he is the master of the unusual vegetable, intrigued with what no one else will have in the garden.

Porch-sitting at dusk, I heard thunder
and I saw the cloud boiling northeast of here
Some lucky people got some rain this evening.

Oh No! Produce overload and we're not ready!

First it was just that one 75ft row of lettuce. Then we went to check on the yellow squash...go get a bucket. Then we peeked at the bottom of the first row of tomatoes...then we got another 5-gallon bucket. Now we're in trouble.

It's mid-May and the garden is literally exploding with produce. Usually we talk about how we're going to sell this year. Farmer's Market? did almost killed us. Picking, packing, up at 4:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. That would be fine if we did this for a living...but cramming it in-between and around work was just too much. We lasted about three years. Last year we just sold from here. We made cool signs for out front, set up our market tent. That turned out to be a squirrelly proposition. When to be open? Who's turn is it to sit out under the tent? Flurries of activity mixed in with long hot hours of tent-sitting. We had not decided how we wanted to handle it this year, and now....too bad ha ha!

We garden because we have to. I should reserve that for my husband, Will because frankly... he gardens because he has to. I have been (happily) swept into this...this...accidental gardening life.

A new neighbor droped by this afternoon. She saw the sign. She'll come back this evening with her kids, when it's not a million degrees out there, to walk in the garden and buy some vegetables and flowers. Good thing; there are a lot more tomatoes out there, and new squash every 5 minutes!

About Our CSA

We are entering the sixth season of our CSA (Community Support Agriculture). What began as an experiment for the creative marketing of our produce has developed into a fulfilling experience for us and our members, one that we so look forward to each year. What you will find below is an explanation of how we operate the CSA, the cost, length of season, expected commitment, etc. We ask that you read it carefully before responding. We have dedicated members that stay on year after year, but for a number of folks, it is challenging to come out every Saturday for nine weeks running and to have time to participate. For those who love the quality of the vegetables, herbs, and flowers – and who like the experience of planting, harvesting, and interacting with others who have the same likes, it is a very rewarding experience. Please read on…

What is Community Supported Agriculture? (CSA)

Community supported agriculture is a movement that got its start in this country in the mid-1980’s, driven by a desire by neighborhood groups to re-connect with local growers and producers. The CSA movement is enjoying increasing popularity and availability with each passing year. The goal of CSA is to involve the vegetable-eating-public more intimately with “their” farm. Why do I use “their” in that description? Because in CSA, members buy a share of the farm which, in effect, provides them an ownership stake in the vegetables produced. In that respect, the farmer and consumer become partners. There are many benefits from this relationship to the farmer and consumer alike. For the farmer, it provides a guarantee of sales so he can plant to supply his contract. It also minimizes the time required to market the produce, freeing him up for what he does best, which is…farm. For the consumer, it guarantees a steady supply of farm fresh produce for a fixed price, encouraging healthy eating, and promoting a sense of participation and community around the farm that has been long lost in the age of industrial agriculture. For both the farmer and consumer, it promotes a bond based on trust and mutual interest. For those interested in information on CSA and farms that have set up these systems, the web has worlds of information available with a simple word search.

Why did Port Hudson Organics decided to become Port Hudson CSA?

For most of you who have spent any time visiting our farm and talking with us, you are aware that Thais and I both work full time, maintaining our little farm, bee hives, yard, and other farm-related activities in our “spare” time. This means that virtually every waking hour that we are not at work you would find us in the field or manning the produce tent (or carport). As we expanded our farm-related enterprises to areas such as biodiesel, berries and bee hives, the farm demands finally exceeded our available time. So in 2009, in order to continue our farm sustainability effort and reduce our time commitment (primarily the time spent selling), we tried a concept that is becoming increasingly popular across the country in the “Eat fresh, Eat local” movement, that is, the CSA farm. In the spring of 2009, we enrolled (what ended up to be) 25 CSA member families, and were blown-away by the success of the venture. Member enthusiasm, assistance, and clear appreciation for the unsurpassed quality of our produce resulted in an excellent experience for everyone involved. Since then, we have expanded our enrollment to approximately 40 member families, which is a comfortable carrying capacity of our one acre garden. At this point in our lives, with regular jobs and other commitments, we have no plans to expand further.

What kind of vegetables are grown and how are they distributed?

We grow a wide variety of Spring and Summer vegetables (generally about 20 different varieties). At any time during the season, you can expect around 12-15 different offerings, and 6-8 culinary herbs. We also grow cut flowers, usually zinnias and sunflowers. Each week members will receive a selection list by email. Members then make 7 selections of vegetables and 2 selections of herbs from the list. Members can check off their first and second preferences and we will make every effort to supply the members with their selected items. In cases where we are short on a particular item, say, yellow squash, we will substitute another available vegetable (for example, zucchini) from member’s second choice selection if at all possible. Members are free to make notes on their list if there is a particular vegetable they do not want (for example, zucchini) and we will try to honor their request. The amounts (pounds or numbers) of vegetables or herbs per selection were based on an approximation of equal value based on the prices we have charged for these items in the past. And as last year’s members know, the amounts of produce on the list are the minimum amount you will receive. Often, when there is a surplus beyond what has been selected, we will throw in some “lagniappe”. Members should note that there are a couple of exceptions on the selection list: a bouquet of flowers, when available, counts as two selections from the herb list; similarly, watermelon, when available, counts as two selections from the vegetable list. Each week, a basket with all of your produce and herbs will be made up with your list attached. Blank lists will be available for you to fill out for the following week, as the mix of produce and herbs change with the weather.

Can I select more than one of a particular item?

Yes, if you want 6 pounds of tomatoes one week, you can simply put the number “3” next to the selection “2 lbs. tomatoes” on your sheet and pick four other vegetable selections to make a total of seven selections. If we have enough tomatoes to satisfy your request, we will provide that amount. If we are short, we will attempt to at least provide you with one selection of tomatoes and make up the rest of your basket with other choices. We will let members know each week which vegetables we expect to have in abundance. For example, due to space considerations, we have limited plantings of corn and each planting is generally available for only one Saturday, so we will be encouraging members to select as much corn as they can from the list on the weeks that corn becomes available (we try to send out weekly emails on the state of the farm). Of course, members will also be given preference for the purchase of additional vegetables if, for example, you want to freeze a bushel of corn when it comes in and there is surplus available.

How will the CSA Baskets be distributed?

Members choose to come to the farm either Friday evening or Saturday morning each week during the season. Once you arrive, you can choose from a variety of garden activities in progress and lend a hand. This can range from planting and/or picking vegetables; washing, weighing, and bundling produce; cutting and arranging flowers; cutting and separating herbs to order; helping to pack baskets with weekly selections; sitting under a tree with other members and stripping beans off of plants. Occasionally there is a bigger project at hand, such as erecting the cucumber fence or helping to mulch rows with hay. There will be weeks when you are not able to help due to your schedule, but we find that most of our members help out almost every week. The process takes about an hour, and when you leave you bring your weekly basket with you. Many find this outdoor activity in the garden a respite from their work week in an office!

Members are asked to pick up their CSA baskets each Saturday by 10:00 AM. This is probably the biggest commitment you will make as part of the CSA. We understand that it may be difficult to come every Saturday for 9 weeks, but there are a couple of strategies you can employ to make this easier. (1) you can buddy-up with one or more members in your area and go on alternate Saturdays, each delivering or holding the other’s basket for pick up at their house; (2) you can send a family member or close friend; or (3) you can come Friday afternoon to help with the harvest and bring your basket home with you then (we had a lot of members take this option, as we do a lot of harvesting on Friday in advance of the Saturday bedlam).

What if you have a crop failure or natural disaster?

A CSA is a partnership between the farmer and the consumer, and within this partnership is an understanding of shared risk. That said, we do not expect members to bear the full cost of a catastrophic failure, nor have we ever experienced a completely failed season. Should the worst happen, members will be reimbursed a portion of their investment and we will do all in our power to make it right with members through a combination of refunds and discounts on following seasons.

What time commitment is asked as part of the CSA?

CSAs, by definition, include member support. Each week, literally hundreds of pounds of produce must be harvested, hundreds of bunches of herbs must be clipped and tied, and dozens of flower bouquets must be picked. Without member support, this is logistically impossible for part time farmers. Hence, we ask members to commit to help in some fashion (picking, sorting, filling orders, etc) according to their abilities every other weekend or so (we are not rigid on this). We have found that members enjoy becoming involved in the process. Learning about how food is grown and harvested is an uplifting and educational experience. After all, that is why we do it. And it is an integral part of CSA farms across the country. We are assuming that you found us because you appreciate this connection, and we hope that you can find the small amount of time to required to experience that connection.

What is the cost?

Cost of the CSA membership is $350. This covers 9 weeks of farm fresh vegetables, herbs, and flowers of your choice. This comes out to about $38 per week, probably more than you would pay at the grocery store for conventionally-grown produce, but less than you would pay for organic produce at Whole Foods. The quality of the produce, however, cannot be approached by any supermarket, and the experience is priceless. Also, membership in the CSA includes a pint of our farm honey when it becomes available.

In Summary

So that about covers it. If you want to experience first hand the pleasures of seeing, smelling, picking and eating truly wholesome food, please respond quickly to this email. We would appreciate some information on you and your family, and why you want to join the CSA. We will let you know within a few days, and will ask for payment at that time. We ask that you understand that we have about twice as many families on the waiting list as we have openings. However, if you do not make in into the CSA this year, we will give you first shot at joining next year if you are still interested.

Thank you so much for your interest in our little farm. We hope to see you this spring.

Will & Thais Perkins

Port Hudson Organics CSA