Starting to get the blues.

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Salad greens in rows with tomatoes trellised in the backdrop. 

Every year, around this time of the season, I start getting this longing feeling.  The feeling that garden fresh tomatoes are not that far away.  We primarily grow salad greens but we do grow a few select varieties of flavorful, unique and nutritious tomatoes.  We choose varieties based on ripening time, fruit size and most importantly…flavor.  This year we have the following tomatoes:

  • Atomic Grape – Elongated, large cherries in clusters. The color (and flavor!) is a full-blown assault on the senses—lavender and purple stripes, turning to technicolor olive-green, red, and brown/blue stripes when fully ripe. Really wild! Fruits hold well on the vine or off, making this amazing variety a good candidate for market growers. Olive green interior is blushed with red when dead-ripe. Crack-resistant fruits are extraordinarily sweet! This release from Wild Boar Farms won best in show at the 2017 National Heirloom Expo!
  • Black Beauty – a dark, meaty, very rich-fleshed tomato with extreme anthocyanin expression (same antioxidant in blueberries and blackberries). So dark that some tomatoes turn solid blue-black on the skin. Deep red flesh is among the best tasting of all tomatoes. Rich, smooth and savory with earthy tones. World’s darkest tomato!
  • Blue Beauty – a cross between ‘Beauty King’ and a blue tomato. Fruits are modest beefsteak-type slicers, weighing up to 8 ounces, and the flavor is as good as their outstanding antioxidant content! Gorgeous, deep blue-black shoulders make this unique among slicing types.
  • Black Pineapple – the multi-colored, smooth fruit (green, yellow and purple mix) weigh about 1½ lbs. The flesh is bright green with deep red streaks. Superb flavor that is outstanding, being both sweet and smoky with a hint of citrus.
  • Solar Flare – this 6-10 ounce beefsteak is red with gold stripes and has very meaty flesh with luscious sweet red tomato flavor.
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Blue Beauty from Wild Boar farms is one that has a high antioxidant content.

To trellis or not to trellis, that is the eternal farming question.  We trellis some, others we let sprawl…I guess it really comes down to how much room you have and how much time do you have.  I find that with trellising tomatoes I am able to grow more in a closer area and utilize the vertical space.  During harvest this means less work picking tomatoes as well and there is something satisfying in trellising a plant.  As to which is more efficient you’ll have to figure that out on your own.

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Nice little May shower we had here on the farm.  

Our tomatoes are started from seed in late January inside the house and the heat from the wood stove helps with germination.  Around late February to March the seedlings are potted up after having spent some time under lights to help them from getting leggy.  I move them outside to the greenhouse and they’ll stay there until they get hardened off and transplanted the first week of April.

 

 

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Arugula, Spinach & Kale – three of my favorite things.

Arugula

Fresh cut arugula is delivered 20 minutes away to local restaurants and is generally served that evening.

Baby arugula is a staple on our farm.  We grow this peppery mustard green in small batches but consistently produce it almost all year around.  I like to use arugula as a substitute for making pesto.  I call this, the poor mans pesto:

  • Almonds
  • Olive oil
  • Shavings of Mozzarella cheese
  • Sweet, baby arugula harvested fresh from the field.  Blend it up and call it pesto!
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Bay spinach just cries to be eaten amidst a salad in downtown Nevada City on a spring day.

Fresh local spinach from a small farm is the way to go.  When you buy our greens or are eating them at a local restaurant we supply, you can know that they were picked and delivered moments before you arrived.  Well, maybe not that quick but we do deliver twice a week so you never know.

Kale - Red Russian baby

Red Russian kale at the most tender of stage.

With a little morning dew on the tips of these bay kale leaves, you know that the farmer is not far behind.  We grow, as I’m sure you figured it out, baby greens.  Salad greens, as the sophisticated salad connoisseur refers to greens utilized in a salad, are best when young and tender.

 

 

Son of Something Salad greens

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Almost there little guys.  Red butter Salanova getting bigger every day.

We pride ourselves on growing high quality gourmet salad greens.  Spring mix, Arugula, Spinach and Red Russian kale are staples on the farm throughout the season.  Our spring mix provides a good mix of flavor, loft and texture.

 

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Our first little caterpillar tunnel getting those greens off to a head start.

We have plans to build several more caterpillar tunnels so we are able to grow more year around, utilize them for shade in the summer and to keep leaves from landing in the crops during the fall.  Any extra work you can eliminate on a small farm greatly improves your success.  Weeding and sorting through crops does not make a small farm any profit (it does make for a nice looking farm and product but there are other ways to mitigate those issues).

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New starts and a new succession almost every week.  Green Crisp Salanova does really well on these cool spring days.

Being proactive on the farm pays off in more ones than one.  You have to be very efficient with every task and set your farm up for this.  As a small scale farm we can mitigate weeds through no till practices, stale seeds beds and be highly productive at the same time.  Look for our produce at local restaurants like Heartwood in Nevada City, South Pine Cafe both in Grass Valley & Nevada City, Watershed in Grass Valley (due to open this Summer) and other fine restaurants in the local area.

You reap what you sow

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A thorn less rose, with a beautiful scent, wafts in the air as you brush past a white sage entering the garden.

If it could stay this mild of weather year around I wouldn’t mind that at all.  The air is crisp in the morning, things are green and flowers are blooming.  The dew on the crops in the morning are a welcome sign that moisture is still in the air.  These are moments to be cherished, moments to marvel at all that nature has to offer. It is the calm before the storm.

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Inter-planting in the beginning of the season.  Basil next to Atomic Flair Heirloom tomatoes.

Sometimes in life you feel you are on top of it and ahead of the curve.  Then you realize you have lost signs of the pack and don’t know whether you are leading or lost.  In the world of farming there are often more unknowns than guarantees.  You could work an entire day or week and lose all of your efforts to a pest, the harsh environment or some other unforeseen event – your own stupidity.  You come away with a life lesson and usually a hangover as you start the next day putting those lessons to work.

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Red Russian Kale, Spinach and Arugula – plantings done almost every week. 

Farming is life.  As simple as that may sound all the lessons of life can be learned on a farm and probably should.  There are no shortcuts when working with nature.  There are only lessons to be learned and how one should change themselves to be a better person.  You can get mad all you want, try to do things in a hurry, or not put in a hundred percent effort but it never changes the fact that you reap what you sow.