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Monday, July 31, 2006

Loofah Update

I really truly thought at one time that Loofah sponges grew in the water. I didn't know they grow on vines and, not only cn you plant them but they produce like crazy! After we ripped up the cucumbers, I set out some loofah seedlings I had started a month ago. Mid-July they looked like this: Two weeks later, we have this: In this third picture, if you look closely, you can see a yellow flower of the vine, and attached to it is a tiny baby looafah, soon to become a really long husked object, which, when totally dry on the vine, can be taken off, the outer shell peeled, the loofah cut in half, and all of the seeds removed; and let me tell you what, there are a LOT of seeds in each and every loofah. And in the end, you have a wonderful stash of loofah sponges, which as we know, we pay a stupid amount for in the beauty section of the 'whatever' store. My great aunt told me that, before those colored cellulose sponges we get in the grocery store, people used loofahs to wash dishes. Of course, how sensible is that? Here is the end result. These are fomr last year - it's what is left. If all goes according to plan, there should be plenty more sometime in October.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Things You DON'T Want To See...

Like this...yikes! I followed them (with my eyes - I'm not a fool) because they were bothering my clothesline and I wanted to know where they were nesting nearby. Wasps love the cellulose on clothespins. Sometimes one gets beligerent, like today - and I shook the line and flapped the sheet and that sucker was clinging to that clothespin for everything he was worth. Anyway, I finally shook him off, and he flew here, up under the roof of the wood-pile structure at the back of the house. They look pretty wicked, don't they? And to think I've been mowing right up against there...
Then there are things you DO want to see...but they're hard to get a good look at. Since we scooped out our 'bog' or 'wetland happening', and dug a pond, suddenly we have these odd frogs. We've always had frogs there, lots and lots of them, bullfrogs too; but these are a type I've never seen before. They are very large, and very very green (you see that when you happen upon them suddenly ). Of course, when they see you coming, they jump right into the pond. But Will told me that when he mows, they, for some reason, don't jump - but let him come really close to them. I don't know what that's about. So I got the camera and got on the mower. This is as close as I could get, because I'm a sissy about going all they way down the slope. I'm just sure I'd keep going right into the pond. Anyway, here they are...

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Busy End of the Season

yes, it's been a few's gets harder and harder to get to this blog, but it's because we've been so busy...not just pulling in the very last of the produce, but also engaged in complicated garden tasks; and each comes with it's own unexpected problems, of course. Will was hosing off the bush-hog today, which was attached to the tractor. When he was finished, he cranked up the tractor and, in a very un-Willish moment, forgot the tractor was in gear. So it took off and rammed the fence! Good thing there's a big Jasmine vine there - the destroyed fence will be kind of hidden until winter, when it can be attended to...(Sorry, Will, for telling on you, but it's a good story). And all of my projects seem to be cursed with wasp nests! I knew they were in the thyme bed because they're in the thyme bed every year, no matter what I do. But I had whacked the bed all over, and thought I was in the clear to weed everything. So I raked all the hay off, and took a good look at the problem. Nut grass is one thing, but bermuda is not to be tolerated! Everybody hates bermuda grass. It's a royal pain! But, you just get the hoe and get to early in the morning as possible because the work is hard and it's too hot for this kind of thing after 8:30 a.m.! Well, I made quite a bit of headway...then I was pulling Bermuda out from the Thyme and I heard them...I actually woke them up! bzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...and up they came. I backed off and stood there and looked to make sure I knew where the nest's somewhere in there. I had to wait until Will could locate it late in the evening, because you have to wait until they all come home for the night, to make sure you get them all. It took two days - he wasn't sure he had killed the nest the first evening. Well, I finally was able to get back to this job. Got all the weeds out, dug around the edges to make sure there wasn't weed-creep, wherein the bed just gets a little smaller each season. When all was said and done, I raked the hay back onto the bed. This hay has beenthere since March, so it has broken down quite a bit, and is good for the soil, which in this bed is pretty poor. This is all I can do for now, because there are so, so many cleanup jobs to be done. It's that time of year. The weeds win out, in the end, and you give over some parts of the garden and yard to them, even if just temporarily. Yes, the earth laughs.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

8:00 p.m. and too hot to work

so I just picked flowers instead...

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Things I Hadn't Noticed...

Really. It's been such a busy season. These are the types of things you'd think you would notice! But there's so much to keep up with...
we have pears. Actually, we have LOTS of pears!The Loofah vines have taken hold in the old cucumber row...they were looking spindly when I weeded this row on Monday. What a difference for a couple of days with no weed-competition and some rain.

When there's not as much vegetation in the field, it's much easier to spot something with THIS outrageous red color. You wait so long for red bell peppers, that you sometimes forget there's going to be some later in the season.
The okra is finally tall enough to not have to bend over to pick it. yea!
(yea for Will, that is...I admit I'm not the one that keeps up with this almost daily task...)
More purple hulls! More purple hulls! I'm trying to psyche myself up for the work part...I was wishing the weather would cooperate and the second row would make. There never seems to be enough of these little babies. The finest of the beans (if you don't count the red beans, of course). There's more in the 'wake up and look around' department, but it was hot, and I had a job I wanted to begin tackling this morning. More about that later...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Volunteers in the Garden

Does it look too hot to go out there and work in the garden this morning? Yes. I thought so, too. Which is what I get for waiting until 7:30 a.m. to consider the possibility. Besides, Will and I were outside yesterday evening...I was mowing and he was weed-eating. We just kept it up until almost dark. And I'm feeling kind of blasted from it today. Like a fool, I got too close to him while he was working around the pond, and as I passed him on the mower, a rock went 'TWANG!' against the side of my neck. It was stupid, besides being alarming and painful. What does all of this have to do with volunteers in the garden? nothing. We'll just put that in our personal 'Department of Lessons Learned'...Volunteer plants in the garden can be something surprising that you never planted in the first place, or something that you planted in the past that has re-seeded itself and springs up once again. Sometimes it comes up in the same place you planted it. And sometimes it comes up in an altogether different place. We like our volunteers, and they provide interesting interplay in the garde, so many times we just leave them alone. In the back of the garden, on the very last row next to the fenceline, we set out a row of Mexican Sunflowers last year. These are fabulous flowering plants, and get very tall, sometimes 8 feet or more, covered with beautiful big, orange flowers. The bees and the butterflies absolutely love them, and we tend to let them grow wherever they appear. They have sprung up back there with the eggplants and black-eyed peas. These are the ones the bunnies didn't eat when they were small. We also planted an entire fenceline of them several years ago, in preparation for our daughter's wedding. No matter what I plant on that fenceline (zinnias this year and last), there are always Mexican Sunflowers in the mix. These we don't mind. Then there are things we kind of do mind, but there's not much we can do the poly-headed
sunflowers. When we planted these (again, for the wedding), we didn't know they were perrenials, or if we did, we didn't think about it much. We were in a planting craze at the time, and when we sat with the 'kids' and ordered all of the flowers we would plant for the wedding, more than a dozen different types of sunflowers were chosen. These we put on a different fenceline, and when they re-appeared the following year, we were pleasantly surprised. But they were leggy and got out of control, and didn't bloom well the second year, so we thought we'd get rid of them and plant something else. HA. The roots are very deep, and send runners and we have decided that they cannot be conquered, short of a major plowing operation. So, looks like they will be part of the permanent landscape! And then, there is the Evening Primrose...ah, me. I hardley know what to do about this one. As yet another experimental herb-growing adventure, I thought I'd plant a flat of Evening Primrose and make a row in the permanent herb beds. Actually, I had so many plants that I made TWO rows of it. It behaved itself last year, and made beautiful plants and stunning flowers. Again, I thought that maybe I would do away with it, or narrow it down to one bed rather than two. I didn't give it much thought at first....I didn't know that evening primrose is a HEDGE! And a migrating hedge at that! This year, the plants came up in rows, yes they did...but outside of the rows I planted them in, and to top it all off, there are stray bushes of primrose here and there all over the herb beds! I'm not sure what the ultimate solution is, but after they've played themselves out, I'll see if I can't formulate a plan. I don't want to get rid of it altogether, but I sure would like to think I have some control over the situation!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Rip and Tear

globe basil
It's that time. I feel like such a lazy gardener. My herb beds are a mess. That's a week of off-and-on rain and a month of light maintenance but no real back-breaking work. It can't be avoided now. There are so many chores I hardly know where to start. The nut grass has invaded my original thyme bed, the violent storms have whipped around the globe basil, and the borage really needs to go...which is sad. It was so beautiful. But a life cycle is just that; I think the borage got too wet, probably with the flooding from the pond. The lower stems were positively gross and black - rotten. Oh well, there's always next Spring for borage... not everything is a mess, though.

The lime basil is looking fabulous. I wish it dried well, but it doesn't...not like Italian basil. Both the lemon and lime basil smell like dust when they are dried.

It's too hot for parsley now, so i will pull it up, trim it, and dry it in the herb dryer. We had a customer drive up a while back and exclaim, "I HAVE to have parsley!", whereupon she tripped out to the garden to clip some. If I knew how to get ahold of her, I'd call her up so she could get her last fresh parsley experience of the summer.This parsley we planted last fall, and it exploded in the spring. I think I'll do that again. It made such wonderful globes, and made a home for many caterpillars.

Here is the yarrow, mowed down a month ago; we need to till this area for new fig trees, and the yarrow was in the way. So I waited until new growth popped up, and now I'll move it to it's own personal yarrow bed in the herb garden. Will thinks that's a bad idea...'It'll spread everywhere!" he says. Yes, well, many of the herbs 'spread everywhere', but I want the yarrow. I'm not sure exactly why, but I do.


Saturday, July 08, 2006

Hot July Night

A long day. I guess there comes a time when you just wish the summer garden was done. We had the market tent up all day, and had good Will fixing the mower and me ducking in and out of the house. It is July, so the afternoons are thick and sluggish. But we've had these strange cold fronts crashing through..they aren't supposed to make it this far south this time of year. Usually we're just dealing with moisture from the Gulf and afternoon storms and still, wet, hot air. But not this year. A cold front in July in the South means wild shifting of air. How odd, a little cool north breeze in the evening. Cool is a relative term, after all. We're talking 79 degrees rather than 92. But, all things being equal, it feels cool.
We have many regular customers this year. That's been a pleasant thing, all in all. It's nice to see the same couple you saw last week, coming to see what you have in the way of 'groceries' this Saturday. And someone who always comes for flowers for her house. And all kinds of people who have moved in nearby (many from New Orleans). And one lady who, responding to the watermelon she bought a few days ago, called to say "Oh. My. God." We've sold the first flush of melons, and all of the corn. There will be more watermelons to sell, but it can wait till next weekend I think. The animals are hot and tired, too. They do perk up in the night time when it cools off a bit. The cats, curious things that they are, must investigate any change in the vicinity, including the driveway signs, pulled in for the night, standing in the truck. No selling tomorrow. It's a family day...aunts, kids, Bloody Marys.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

No More Weather Whining

Although, I'm beginning to think that complaining publicly about the lack of rain seems to bring on the rain...we've had about 4 inches in the past three days. Enough to calm the hysteria about the drought, and roll up the hoses for a while. WIll spent yesterday afternoon picking produce and dodging rain storms, packing an order for Our Daily Bread, a small health food store in Baton Rouge. It will take a day or two for the garden to dry out. I think it will rain today and maybe tonight, and then we'll decide what to pull up or plow under. I'm glad we got the tomato plants out of the field before the rain. They get pretty nasty once they are in decline. The last of the corn is ready for sale, and the blackbirds will miss their daily feast, I'm sure. But Will has been laying out sunflower heads for them on a picnic table out by the garden. I missed the biggest storm while I was away yesterday, and went out to survey the damage in the evening. Lots of herbs and flowers blown over. But they tend to stand back up once the sun pulls them off the ground. The annuals will never look perky and new again, but they've still got lots of life left. I'll take some post-rain pictures after I get out there again this evening. It will be one of those times when you survey quickly, then pick up a hoe and get to work. After a big weather event, it's clean up time in the garden. Also, we're in that mid-summer never-land, turning over the spent vegetables. re-planting beans and cover-cropping.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Ring of Fire

See this picture? Looks like we're getting lots of rain in Louisiana. But there's this hole. And we're in the hole. The storms build and I swear they break up and go around us and form again on the other side. We watch the weather very closely here...not just because of hurricane season, although we watch for that too...but because of the drought. So we look at the radar fifty times a day probably. We're just to the north and west of Baton Rouge. But we're right there in the clear. Today, the storms are coming out of the south. But this line formed just north of us. We can see the dark thunderclouds off to the north. If it rains today, then we'll do fireworks tonight. If it doesn't, then we're hoping everyone in the area holds their fire for a day or two. But not everyone will. After the corn and the watermelons today and tomorrow, the garden will take a long slide towards the dead of summer. We'll still have the hot weather things, the eggplants and peppers and okra and beans. But the hardest longest workig days will taper off for a short while. During those weeks we'll be ordering seed for fall and planting flats. Will's melons are what he hoped for - a lot of them and excellent and sweet. But, in order to have these things on this table on this day, we had to do damage to the pond. It's a shame, but we're grateful we had the pond, or there would have been a pitiful garden this year. Most people just plowed their corn under, and both corn and watermelons need lots and lots of water to ripen. It will rain one day. We'll get some sort of tropical system sometime this season, I'm sure. As long as it's not another Katrina/Rita, we'll be grateful for the rain.

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