Hermit Creek Farm 65554 Spring Brook Rd High Bridge, WI 54846 Google Map 715-492-5969
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It's a three cup morning!

Posted 7/21/2014 12:00am by Steven Spickerman.

Roll over, hit snooze and catch a bit more sleep on a lazy Sunday morning…. Wait, it’s July, not January. 5:00 A.M., there’s farm work to be done, even on what has traditionally been a “day of rest” in the western world. Roll out of bed and get the coffee going, it’s going to be a 3 cup morning!

At HCF, we work seven days a week during the growing season (for us that is April through October). This past Sunday went a bit like this:

Up and out of bed by 5, Landis and I spend an hour or so discussing the days possible activities over coffee and a quick breakfast. Landis mentions the need to harvest cucumbers and summer squash and I'd like to renovate a pig pasture that we just moved hogs off of. Landis wants the zucchini in a hoophouse pulled out and the bed tilled for later planting and I have some work to do on a tractor. There are several flats of zucchini transplants needing to find a home in a field and if all goes well, the last couple beds of dry beans need hoeing. A full day to be sure.

Outside before 7 A.M., I take care of chores (feed and water pigs and chickens) while Landis scouts a planting of salad mix to determine if there’s anything worth cutting before it is turned under. It already feels like it’s going to be a hot one today! As I water hogs, Landis feeds me a few leaves of salanova from several different plantings (blind taste test). I can’t tell which one is from the oldest or newest planting so Landis harvests 10#’s destined for the Black Cat coffeehouse as I prep the packing shed for action.

8 A.M., up to our elbows in salad mix, beautiful hues of green and red lettuces. It takes us roughly an hour to cut, wash, spin dry and pack 10#’s.

 Salanova cooling in a packing shed sink.

9 A.M., Landis has moved on from the packing shed to a hoophouse to harvest trellised cucumbers before it gets too hot. At this time of year, certain crops such as cukes, summer squash, and beans get picked almost daily to both keep up with demand and to keep the crop flowering and at peak production. I find myself getting our primary planting tractor set up on a battery charger (it needs a new alternator, a job I’m putting off until I have a bit more time). The temp is rising and the dogs are already shaded up under the tractor I'm working on.

Hot dogs enjoying shade where ever they can find it.

10 A.M., Landis finishes with cucumbers, picking 100#’s or so while I dive into another hoophouse to rip out our first zucchini planting which is now past its peak (the first field planting is now producing, out pacing the hoophouse grown plants). After pulling out a 100 or so zuc plants that were about chest high and hauling a truck load to our compost area, I run a mulching mower through the hoophouse to shred any remaining foliage and follow with a rototiller to prep beds for salad mix planting later in the week.

 Landis harvesting cukes in the summer sun.

11 A.M., I’m done with squash and have moved on to watering kale and cherry tomatoes in yet another hoophouse. Landis is in the summer squash field harvesting for Tuesday’s CSA and food co-op delivery.

1 P.M., in need of water and shade, we retrieve to the relative coolness of the house for lunch. The temp is 87 on the shady side of the house, must be upper 90’s in the hoophouses which is great for tomatoes but hard on us. Thankfully, the mornings harvest is safely washed and in the walk-in cooler which feels great on a day like this. After lunch, Landis squeezes in a power nap while Tilia and I go down to the pond for a swim. It is Sunday after all!

2 P.M., Landis resumes harvesting summer squash while I renovate the pigs pasture. We rotate them between three adjacent areas and re-plant forage crops continually through the growing season. Today's pig pasture work included first ripping things up with a chisel plow run at a shallow depth followed by an S-tine harrow. The pasture the pigs just moved onto is a mix of oats and buckwheat. In the area I just worked, I'll plant heavy to field peas with a light mix of oats. I also plant a strip of Phacelia, a great bee forage plant that will be a buffer between the pigs and adjacent sweet corn. After sowing the pea/oat mix, I move on to a half acre or so that we just finished harvesting our spring and early summer brassica from (spring turnips, radish, kohlrabi, Napa cabbage, mustard greens and bok choi as well as the salad mix we washed earlier in the day. As soon as the neighboring peas are done and turned under, this area will be planted to a fall cover crop such as winter rye. Landis, having wrapped up summer squash harvest has moved on to watering transplant starts in the greenhouse.

Summer squash.

3:30 P.M., I ready a tractor and transplanter while Landis loads the truck with summer squash transplants and heads over to our Beaver Brook property. I follow on the tractor, a 20 minute drive to go 2 miles. This is our third planting of summer squash for the season; we started with a relatively small spring planting of zucchini in a hoophouse (these only go to CSA members), then follow with a large early summer field planting when the threat of frost is over. The first field planting includes many types of summer squash including the traditional zucchini that we all enjoy making jokes about. And lastly, we follow up with a small field planting of just zucchini to help round out late summer and early autumn CSA boxes. Once we’re set up in the field, we plant about 200 zucchini in less time than it takes to drive over on the tractor. Before heading home, I gleam a couple handfuls of dead-ripe strawberries from a three year old planting that will be mowed, turned over, and planted to a cover crop in a few days. As I munch on the berries, juice running down my chin, I take a few minutes to watch honey and bumble bees working clover flowers. Landis moves on to another field, hoeing the edges of winter squash beds where plastic mulch meets bare soil. We cultivate these beds by tractor and a special bed cultivator that I built a couple years ago but there is often a narrow band of weeds that we just can’t seem to catch with the tractor. A quick walk through with a hoe does the trick and soon, the winter squash will fully vine over and choke out any remaining weeds.

5 P.M., we're both back home, I clean up the transplanter and Landis does the evening chores of feeding and watering the hogs and collecting eggs.

As the day turns to evening, it's time to take the dogs for a swim, have a cold beer, and make dinner (wild-caught salmon on the grill tonight, a gift from CSA members Andy and Linda). All in all, it's been a satisfying day, and although we worked steady and hard, it was at our own pace and rhythm, the very reason why we farm. The other six days of the week are hectic and fast paced, with employees rolling in early, veggie orders and deliveries to be made, crises averted, farmers market customers to wait on, equipment to repair…those days are long and filled with more than we can ever hope to complete. But Sundays, as busy as they may appear, well, they’re our day, and even if that day is spent working, it is work that we enjoy and is of our own choosing.

Now, if I could just finish hoeing those darn beans. Maybe next Sunday!

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