Farm Focus: Winter is Coming
Last week we joined Rachel for a ride around Frog Hollow Farm to check in with our crews who are busy preparing for winter. It was warm and surprisingly humid with threatening clouds in the sky. Fall is here and the time has come to batten down the hatches and get the orchards ready to spend the winter resting and soaking up as much water as possible for the long hot summer ahead. In many regions this time of year is also spent getting ready to go all but dormant for a few months. Here in California there is no rest for the weary! Between pruning the trees, weed whacking, composting, cover cropping our new orchards, and preparing the winter garden - we have a lot to do. Even as we drove around the orchard we were reminded by looming clouds that is all a race against time knowing that rain and mud will make it practically impossible to do some of this work in just a few short weeks.
The ground crew is working in the understory of the trees weed whacking. The extra mulch created by their hard work will help make sure rainfall that soaks into the ground is not lost from evaporation due to the sun and wind. Luckily, some plants are spared! Sometimes, through the trees you can still see beautiful yellow wildflowers blooming. These Golden Crownbeards were identified by the UC Berkeley’s Urban Bee Lab as beneficial to native bees so our ground crew knows to let them bloom and reseed.
The tree crew is in major pruning mode. Each row of apricots is littered with branches. The small ones will stay to be mowed by the tractor as added mulch while the big branches will end up over in our compost pile to get broken down into nutritious fertilizer. They are just wrapping up Apricots and moving on soon to pears.
Things are also busy at the compost pile, too! Compost has been developing all summer and now trees are getting top dressed with fresh woody compost, full of vital nutrients and beneficial organisms that will be carried down into the soil with the rain. We’re especially happy to see it on our young mandarin trees.
Meanwhile Rachel, Rene and John have been working hard getting the veggie garden ready. with seed selection and and prep to do before even starting to plant, there is a lot to juggle. Although we specialize in fruit we love our veggies, too! Rene has already started some of our winter favorites like onions, broccoli and leeks in the greenhouse for our kitchen to use for baked goods like empanadas and quiche. We’ve also started making seasonal soups for the CSA member webstore! We're excited to try some things out this year, some specifically for the CSA, like an heirloom variety of Garlic called Red Toch and greens, too.
Another project has been attempting to our veggie plot to a new field. As usual, things like this are a lot easier said than done. The plot we have been using for the last few years could use a break as it has a lot weeds and has been working hard growing veggies all summer. There is a large 9 acre field nearby where we're hoping to relocate our 1-2 acres of veggies. This field has been fallow for a year and had barley on it the year before. It should be in great shape to plant on, but, between disking the soil and building the beds, there is a lot of work to be done before we can get plants in the ground. We also need to to plant 110 acres of cover crop on the other side of Frog Hollow Farm before the rains hit! So much to do, so little time. Hopefully the stars will align to make this move possible but, if not, we can always replant our current field and use our compost and organic grade paper mulch to revitalize the soil and suppress weeds.
Luckily we made it back to the packing shed right before a big storm cell moved over the farm and dumped a good amount of rain. The smell of wet dirt was wonderful! We will be sure to let you know how our winter prep continues. In the meantime savor the plums and get ready for pomegranates!
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