Week 2. Old fashioned pest control: praying mantis and HOT pepper spray

Well, we made it through week one and we’ve enjoyed meeting everyone. Last Friday’s packing for the big Saturday delivery was intense, as the storms that came through made picking, washing and packing more than just a bit challenging. Right before the storms hit, the team moved into the sturdy old shed here on the farm:  we had all sorts of tornado warnings and it seemed prudent. So we did most of our packing to keep produce safe, inside what some of us affectionately call the “coop”–a 1920s era building that once housed poultry.  The tin roof kept everyone dry!

As for other farm news: we’re anxiously awaiting our orders of guineas and praying mantis. One of the challenges of growing produce without synthetic insecticides or pesticides is dealing with ravenous bugs that like to eat greens.

We’ve been using a concentrated hot cayenne pepper spray on our plants but a heavy rain will wash it off, and in some cases, we’ve made the call not to send in lacy turnip greens or kale (though they are in fact perfectly edible).

Without insecticides, we have to look at other options for pest control. The best option is to use guinea hens. Guineas eat all sorts of small bugs without tearing up the garden, albeit they do make a lot of noise and are very protective—somewhat like dogs. So, we’re getting guineas babies, also known as “keets,” next week. Our particular variety will be a “Pearl” guinea.

Guineas tend to stay close to where they are raised, and we’ll get them at two days old to be compliant with NOP (National Organic Program) standards. Then we’ll keep them closely confined for the next six weeks, to make sure they stay home. Later in the season they’ll be used for eggs!

Along with the guineas, we’re waiting on a shipment of praying mantis,  “beneficial bugs,” well known for pest control. Praying mantis should be an excellent solution for our current nemesis, the potato bug!

But overall, our potatoes are doing well. Some vines are starting to lie over (a sign that potatoes may soon be ready to dig) and our heirloom beans are doing well. The Flint Corn (an Ark of Taste choice) is doing well also, although the Sugar Pearl sweet corn is coming along more slowly. We anticipate having a large crop at the end of the month and in mid-July!

For this week, our crate will include more cabbage and squash, and more lettuce and radishes and beet greens and possibly a small pack of herbs, as the basil is going gangbusters.

One more thing: we’ve tried to stay away from plastic but for packing the lettuce, but after last week we realized that the cheesecloth just does not work well.  So we’ve gone to using plastic zip lock bags for lettuce and mixed greens.  Sometimes modern technology really does have the right answer!

One final note:  we had planned for a much larger variety in June.   The dry weather in April and wet early May impacted us quite a bit, so we don’t have the variety that we had planned for right now.  But we’re working on this and we’ve planted much more and we intend to be “jamming,” as one of the farm partners would say, in July.   We appreciate your support in this first year.   Every week we’ll continue the newsletter and provide updates on operations—but we’ll be emailing this and also updating the website.  One key change—there should be a place on the website where you can share recipes.  That should be a lot of fun!