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.
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.
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.
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:
- Olive oil
- Shavings of Mozzarella cheese
- Sweet, baby arugula harvested fresh from the field. Blend it up and call it pesto!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Looks like Spring, sounds like Spring , but sometimes it sure doesn’t feel like Spring.
Well it sure was a good soaking we had here on the farm. Luckily we have been holding out on planting a few beds (some are covered so we can suppress the weeds with tarps) and those are the beds most affected by heavy rains. We are on the end of the drainage in our neighborhood so we get lots of runoff from the neighbors driveway.
Having grown up on this property since I was fiver years old (I’m 38 now) I sure do have an advantage of knowing how the weather plays a role on our landscape. Although each year is different and there is always something new that pops up and keeps you on your toes. This year was the first time that I have seen our pond overflow as well as our neighbors, luckily none of our crops were affected.
Since I have started market gardening I have little time to put in my own personal garden. This year I’m looking forward to growing some items just for our family. We have shishito peppers, pumpkins, squash, eggplant, cucumber, beans and corn that we are growing. I’m also looking forward to finally harvesting our hops this year to make some celebration beer for another wonderful season.
“Another season is upon us and the time for change is in the air.”
I really like living with the seasons and embracing each one as it comes my way. There is something refreshing about each new season, the body and mind can feel the ebb and flow. There is a yearning for what the future brings, a solace on reflecting of the past and a desire to remain present.
A Double Delight peach and Housi pear in bloom
With each new passing there is something put in place. A tree may go dormant but will spring forward with new life and give fruit. The sun may set but will rise again and in each moment change is a constant. This will be my third year farming and a first for some on the farm.
During Spring there are so many things to do on the farm and yet it is the most beautiful. At times I want to just lounge around and watch the flowers bloom, mill around in the orchard and enjoy the pleasant weather. But I’m reminded that we reap what we sow and for now I shall work from sun up to sun down and enjoy the little moments of rest.
Artichokes starts ready to go into or mixed orchard.
The one thing we all have a limited amount of: Time.
As the days turn cool and the fleeting heat of Summer fades we turn to preserving those moments. Here on the farm we are making salsa and tomato soup with our surplus of leftover tomatoes. Our first attempt at curing olives ensues and we look for ways in which we can pickle beets, eggs and all the other bounty that we grew this year.
We had a great season and are looking forward to growing in the Fall and through the Winter. Although we don’t know what our production will be like for the Winter there is a certain eagerness that comes from trying something new. The beauty and the curse that come with living on the land is that nothing is ever a guarantee. Perhaps this is the ultimate understanding that modern living has eluded from our society at large: there are no guarantees in life. We live and die, and in the moments between we try to hold and preserve those precious memories.
An eclectic mix of goods that we grew this year.
Farming is the ultimate source for lessons on life and I feel that I was fortunate enough to glean a few of those this year. Here are a few lessons that I have come to understand in a whole new way.
- We reap what we sow: So literal and always true. The work put into farming is always realized when it comes time to harvest. I had the pleasure of experiencing both the positive and negative aspects of this and learned from both situations. Take the time to learn the right way to do things, get your hands dirty and learn from your mistakes.
- You can’t always get what you want but you get what you need: Learn from what worked and what didn’t and make the necessary adjustments. Sometimes we can get set on what we are doing that we don’t allow things to happen naturally. Take cues from nature on what works and what doesn’t and apply it to your own life. Just because we have an idea on what things are supposed to be does not always mean that’s the way they are. Being open to change and letting go of control is much easier than trying to control and changing things.
- Focus: “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing” Stephen Covey. A very simple quote yet so fundamental. What is the main thing? Well, that’s for you to define but without out it we tend to work on things that may be irrelevant to the cause. We can climb a ladder as fast as we can but if it doesn’t go to where we want, then it will not matter the speed in which we climb it. Staying focused this year has been a challenge but it is one that has taught me what is truly valuable in my life.
Sometimes all you need is a hand.
Farming is not easy. But it is in this unease that we find out who we are and what we are capable of. We find that we are not the ones growing food but that food grows us. Being a part of “where food comes from” gives a purpose far from a title, career or profession. It is who we are, all of us. Struggling to grow as a farm we are reminded of all those that came before us who struggled to make a living from the land. We are lucky. We are privileged to grow food. With that privilege we push forward into the unknown guided by the thought that, as we care for the land, the land will in return care for us.
I like lists. It gives me great satisfaction in checking accomplished tasks off of a list. Often times though, we can be extremely efficient but not effective. This year I have learned the value of balance by having a lack of it in my life.
Rheza Peppers. Making a profit off peppers can be tough for a small farm.
I have always looked to work smarter and not harder but on a farm both are needed. More often than not the latter takes precedence because it can feel as though you are accomplishing a lot when working hard. I believe that in our culture working hard equates to accomplishing something. Sometimes its better to do nothing and observe, but in an instant gratification world this can be frowned upon.
Perpetual Spinach. Grows great during the heat and long lasting in the Summer months.
As the years roll by I find great satisfaction in not accomplishing lots of things and instead focusing on cultivating a well balanced life. This is easier said than done as most people know, but yet all the lessons of life can be found on the farm. Time management can mean the difference between a well functioning business or one that is about to go under. The lessons that nature teaches are all around us and sometimes stopping to be a part of that world can allow us to accomplish the most.
Our friend, companion and the best farm dog anyone could ask for.
With the passing of our beloved farm dog Buster, many things have been put into perspective. The time we have is short, the work we do will vanish and the things we love most are here for only a short while. We don’t get to choose when loved ones will go, we only have the present to be with them. It’s hard to balance life when there are so many things to accomplish, so much work to be done and so many places to go. In the end, we will never get the time back no matter how hard we work or how much we accomplish.
Summer days are here! Between the heat and the wet that we have received this year I can tell you that it has been a heck of a first season to farm full time. But you cant control the weather, you can only only control your reactions to it.
Well, we are getting some Goji berries this season but not enough to bring to the markets this year. Our plants have only been in the ground for a year but were moved mid season as we changed around some of annual beds to permanent ones. This change was done for a couple reasons. Primarily we wanted the garden closest to the house and under a very large Oak tree to be perennial beds with a focus on drought tolerance and beneficial attractants.
Head Lettuce under shade cloth
Getting plants to germinate in the summer can be tricky. Having a small farm can be very advantageous when it comes down to growing difficult crops or utilizing season extension. Having a smaller area means I don’t need much in the way of shade cloth or I can utilize the land that is shady to grow on. Since we live in a canyon near the river we have plenty of micro-climates and there is always somewhere that is shady on our land.
Eggplant: Purple Long
This year we are narrowing down our crop focus based upon what is in demand, how well we can grow it and can we harvest it efficiently. I’ve always enjoyed growing eggplant and love the hardiness of the plant as well as the purple blossoms. I’m also a big fan of Eggplant Parmesan but when you are growing for market it can’t just be about what the farmer likes.
“You’re only dancing on this earth for a short while” – Cat Stevens
So what’s with the name Son of Something? The short answer is, it’s my last name. From Spanish origin the name Hidalgo is broken down into “hijo de algo” which directly translates to son of something. My Grandfather Pedro Hidalgo was a sheep shearer and worked in the orchards of California. My Father worked in the orchards as a young man as well but became a train engineer after going to Vietnam. I myself worked every job under the stars and never found anything as meaningful as farming.
“The first generation works their asses off, the second generation goes to college and the third goes to Cancun” – George Carlin
My Mother and Father gave me the ability to become whatever I wanted. Although they themselves never went to college I had the opportunity to be the first in my family to graduate from college in 2016. A late bloomer I was and also in finding my passion but I had a lot to live up to. When I was younger my mother would give me a “thinking” cap to wear and I would stare at the clouds and dream. She instilled my compassion and desire to dream big. My father worked hard for what he has and came from meager beginnings. Through him my hardworking ethic and drive was formed.
“…Be the change you wish to see in this world” – Mahatma Gandhi
Farming is no easy task and there is a reason farmers had so many kids. I am lucky that I have so much support from my family to pursue a different kind of dream. I would think that most parents want there kids to be lawyers, doctors and engineers. I’m sure most parents also want their kids to be happy but what about the dreamers that want to make this world a better place? In order to be that change we wish to see in this world we have to work harder, sacrifice more and care for one another.
“Family: Father and Mother I Love You” – what you learn as a child and come to truly appreciate as an adult.
Mom and I crossing a bridge in the Grand Canyon.
Some say I look like my dad…