Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Signs of Summertime

   Summer is in full swing now. We have weeds up to our waa-zoos and it is hot with lots of bugs. With only three of us working the farm, we've been ultra busy. Our first order to the chaos is to start pulling weeds. We are also mowing some areas and preparing to till for fall crops. Our fall crops include more beets, radish, onions, etc. But, for the most part the crops are looking really good right now. The potatoes are blooming, the beans are setting fruit, and the squash are flowering.
   Squash blossoms are one of our major crops. We harvest a couple thousand of them a week. The restaurants prepare them in lots of ways, stuffing them and frying them, making soups, using the petals in salads and as garnishes, and mixing them with other delicious ingredients. I love squash blossom soups.
Squash blossoms and nasturtiums next to a quarter
   Another sign of summer is the harvest of our wheat, hay and straw. Being a city kid originally, one of my first farm lessons was learning the difference between hay and straw. I learned that hay is a mix of alfalfa, grasses, or other greens that are dried and baled and that the animals eat. As kids we would say "Hey!" and mama would reply "Hay is for horses". Thanks for the lesson mom!
   Straw is the leftover stalks of the wheat, oats, (or whatever) that is already dry and then baled, and the animals use for bedding. The tops of those plants are harvested for the fruits or seeds (wheat berries being one) and then the stalks shoot out of the combine into a long pile that the baler picks up into bales.

This is our cool old combine

   I have also learned that our hay bales (baled by friends of ours) weigh about 80 pounds each. I would definitely make the suckers smaller! We moved 400 bales from hay racks to the barn, and stacked them in the hay mow in the barn. Talk about pooped out! We have a system tho...I shove the bales off the hay rack, Marty puts them on the conveyor belt that takes them up to Will inside the barn, and Will stacks them. We broke down and hired a friend of Will's on the last rack (thanks Tyler!) and boy did that help a ton.
   Then Will used our old 1940's Allis Chalmers all-crop combine to bring in our wheat. It does a great job. We actually only brought in about two acres of wheat we are buying from mom Willa. Our wheat that we planted isn't quite ready yet. We asked that the two acres from her not be sprayed with anything except our organic bio-enhancer stuff so it could be sold to our customers and not have all the chemicals on it.
   The straw will be baled later this week or next by a neighbor. Those bales weigh closer to 50 pounds each and will also be put in the barn. We will pile in as many as we can fit as we use them for mulching our tomatoes and for the stall bedding in the winter time. We also use them to form a wind break around the pig pens in the winter.
A half load of straw
   Then there is the delivery system. Another sign of summer!
   Every week we deliver to Chicago, Champaign and Bloomington restaurants. And this time of the year we always get requests from curious people who would like to ride with us. Needless to say, we cannot sqeeze another cucumber in, and simply not a cucumber the size of a person. Sorry folks. This day is grueling. We are up at daybreak loading the van,

Side view, can't see out the back window. Another
week and all this will be completely to the inside of the roof.
 drive an hour to pick up more products from a handful of other farmers, and then drive another hour into the city. Traffic isn't as bad as people think when you get used to it...the key is getting used to it. For us it is just a normal delivery day.
   But the day lasts from 6:30 am until we get home, usually around 9pm. In traffic all day, in alleys, unloading crates. Long. Why do we do it? We love it. We enjoy visiting with the chefs, seeing what they can create with our food, bantering around cool ideas, thinking up the next great find for them. It is inspiring and exciting. So, even tho the day is long, we can't imagine someone else doing it for us. Everyone is great to work with and we would miss seeing them if we had someone else delivering for us.

The bustling kitchen at The Bristol on N. Damen.
Fantastic food and wonderful people!

   The last of the news...Happy Independence Day to y'all! We didn't see the fireworks that were put off by people, but Mother Nature had a great show! The fireflies were out over our prairie by the billions. I wish I had a camera that would take a picture over ten seconds...it would've been filled with light. It was fan-tastic! It is great to live in a country where we are free to stand looking out over our own tiny piece of land and see a sight like that. Hope you are having a great summer!

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