We are lucky to have easy and constant access to irrigation water. The Kinderhook Creek flows through the back of the farm and runs year round – providing water for irrigation and some good recreation as we float between the two farms on our giant tubes on hot days. The only regulation we have on water use is to fill out an annual report for the DEC of how much water we use; both surface water and well water. No fees and no worries about our water source drying up or being used up by someone up stream. One of the benefits of farming in the Northeast.
Both sides of the farm have underground pipes that run from the creek to our vegetable fields. We have a large pump at the creek with an intake hose that floats in the creek. In the field we have two kinds of irrigation systems. One is called drip irrigation. Each bed in these fields has a plastic tube with holes in it running just under the surface of the soil, putting water right at the roots. We use this kind of irrigation in our tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, and melons. There is very little loss of water to evaporation and you can give each type of plant the right amount of water at the right time as each bed is watered individually.
For instance, onions need a lot of water from transplanting to the middle of June in order to develop into a good sized onion. After that the onions don’t need much water. Tomatoes need water when they are very young and then once the fruit is developing on the vines. Too much water when the plants are young causes the vines to grow out of control and set very little fruit. Too much water when the tomatoes are ripe and they all split on the plants. Keri monitors the amount of water in the soil carefully with sensors that are buried at the depth of the plant roots.
The other way we irrigate the fields is with a giant sprinkler that is attached to the underground pipe system. This one is not very fun to run under unless you are my border collie, Loki. She thinks the water needs herding. The machine is a large reel of 4-inch hard pipe that is ¾ of an inch thick attached to a metal cart that holds the big irrigation sprinkler. We pull the hose out with the tractor the length of the bed. Then as the water goes through the reel it pulls the hose back in while watering the vegetables as it goes. We can control the speed of how fast it pulls in to give the fields a ½ inch to 1 inch of water. One person can irrigate the whole farm without help each week. It is a great machine.
On Friday afternoon and Saturday morning we planted the fall cabbage. Our plan was to irrigate it in just after planting because of the hot, dry weather. We irrigated winter squash while we finished up planting. As the reel wound itself back up we noticed water shooting out of a place that is supposed to be dry. That gives a farmer a sinking feeling. Little plants in dry earth with no rain in site. Upon further exploration we found that the clamps holding the metal sprinkler cart to the hose had twisted in a strange way and cut a giant slice in the hose. Not a fun fix but something we can do without having to wait for parts.
Kyle and Max came over armed with a saw, a propane torch, and some ratchet straps. Trying to get a barbed 4-inch piece of metal into a 4-inch hard plastic pipe is not that easy. We used the torch to heat the plastic just a bit to make it pliable. Max, Keri, and I held the pipe in line with the sprinkler cart and Kyle cranked on the ratchet straps has hard as he could. About 30 minutes of cranking and wrestling and we had the sprinkler cart back on the hose reel. Thank goodness.
Thinking our problems were solved, Kyle left to help bale hay for his uncle and Max to feed the pigs. Keri and I then realized that there was more wrong than a sliced hose. The insides of the machine were bent and not aligned properly so we couldn’t pull the hose out to bring water to the cabbage. We unjammed, unbent, and re-aligned things a couple of times as we didn’t really know what the insides looked like before the bending and jamming. After a couple of hours, we had everything put back together and the sprinkler back in action watering the unhappy cabbage.
Not exactly how we had hoped to spend our Saturday afternoon but that is farming. We are lucky to have very knowledgeable, creative, and experienced farmers working with us to keep all our moving parts going smoothly (or at least going). I think a new irrigation reel is in our future.
CSA SHARES STILL AVAILABLE
The share price will be pro-rated for the weeks you missed. Use the link above for more info.
Broccoli or cabbage, kale or chard, cucumbers, snow peas, summer squash, zucchini, onions, scallions, garlic scapes, chiogga beets, salad mix, basil, cilantro, and head lettuce.
STORING YOUR SHARE
Sugar Snap Peas: Store in the fridge unwashed in a plastic bag. Wash just before using. Snap off both ends and the string along the pod. You can eat the whole pod. Cook for just a few minutes, either steaming or stir fried.
Baby Onions: These onions are sweeter and milder than regular onions. You can use them thinly sliced raw or cook just like other onions. You can also use the green tops. Store in the fridge in a plastic bag. Wash just before using. If you notice white dots on the greens that is clay we use to protect the onions from insects. The clay coating confuses the insects so they can’t find the onions.
Chard (for some members): Wash and dry when you get home and store in a plastic bag in the fridge. Cut out the stem and chop and cook for a few minutes before you add the greens. Sauce in olive oil or use in recipes calling for kale or spinach.
Cucumbers: Wash just before using. Store in the fridge. You can eat the skin or peel before you use it. You can often find crew members eating them like a banana.
COOKING YOUR SHARE
GREENS with Tahini Yogurt Sauce and Buttered Pine Nuts
Greens about 2 lbs
2.5 TBS unsalted butter
2 TBS olive oil, plus extra to finish
Scant 5 TBS pine nuts
2 small garlic cloves, sliced very thinly
1/4 cup dry white wine
sweet paprika to garnish (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black better
Tahini and Yogurt Sauce
3.5 TBS tahini paster
4.5 TBS greek yogurt
2 TBS freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 TBS water
Start with the sauce. Place all the ingredients in a medium bowl, add a pinch of salt, and stir well with a small until you have a smooth, semistiff paste. Set aside.
If the greens have a tough stem, cut out and remove stem. Cut both to 3/4 inch long slices. Bring a large pan of water to boil and add stalks. Simmer for 2 minutes, add the leaves, and cook for 1 minute. Drain and rinse under cold water. All the water to drain and then use your hands to completely squeeze the greens until they are dry.
Put half the butter and the 2 TBS olive oil in a large frying pan and place over medium heat. Once, hot, add the pine nuts and toss them in pan until golden, about 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the pan, then throw in the garlic. Cook for about a minute until it starts to become golden. Carefully pour in the wine. Leave for a minute or less, until it reduces to about one-third. Add the greens and the rest of the butter and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chard is completely warm. Season with 1/2 tsp salt and some black pepper.
Divide the greens among individual serving bowls, spoon some tahini sauce on top, and scatter with the pine nuts. Finally, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with some paprika, if you like.
SUMMER PASTA with Zucchini, Ricotta, and Basil
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 pounds zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick pieces (for larger zucchini, cut in half lengthwise before slicing)
Salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced, or 2 tablespoons chopped green garlic
1 ounce basil, about 2 cups loose leaves
1 pound ziti or other dry pasta
8 ounces ricotta, about 1 cup
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Zest of 1 lemon
2 ounces grated Parmesan, pecorino or a mixture, about 1 cup, plus more for serving
Put a pot of water on to boil. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the onions in 3 tablespoons olive oil until softened, 5 to 8 minutes. Reduce heat as necessary to keep onions from browning. Add zucchini, season generously with salt and pepper, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until rather soft, about 10 minutes. Turn off heat.
Meanwhile, use a mortar and pestle to pound garlic, basil and a little salt into a rough paste (or use a mini food processor). Stir in 3 tablespoons olive oil.
Salt the pasta water well and put in the pasta, stirring. Boil per package instructions but make sure to keep pasta quite al dente. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of cooking water.
Add cooked pasta to zucchini in skillet and turn heat to medium-high. Add 1/2 cup cooking water, then the ricotta, crushed red pepper and lemon zest, stirring to distribute. Check seasoning and adjust. Cook for 1 minute more. Mixture should look creamy. Add a little more pasta water if necessary. Add the basil paste and half the grated cheese and quickly stir to incorporate. Spoon pasta into warm soup plates and sprinkle with additional cheese.