July 27, 2006

This has been quite a week. The berry harvest unceremoniously ended itself in a big hurry, which meant that instead of the 70 baskets for sale available at the 7/18 Farmer’s Market, we had only 24 for sale on 7/22. But with the heat, that’s how it goes.

After Saturday’s market we dropped off a second dozen berry baskets to Tuco’s Wine Market and Cafe in Davis, and Ken was able to meet the delightful proprietor of this amazing eatery. Ken returned to the car and mentioned that there was an interest in heirloom tomatoes….I couldn’t help but note the 30 pounds of said tomatoes in the back of the car….so we dropped off some of those. Tuesday evening all of us involved in Nevermore Farm returned to Tuco’s to dine. I can’t begin to explain what a gourmet experience we’ve discovered there. Thanks to my parents, I’ve been privileged to eat at some very sophisticated establishments, and have grown to enjoy and appreciate a wide range of fine foods. But Tuco’s commands a special niche, the like of which I’ve never experienced. Each offering is small, unique, and exquisite in flavor. I believe I’m sampling the freshest and finest food ingredients rendered into simple, yet elegant, combinations that are a culinary equivalent of handcrafted fine art. All I know is, when someone can get beets and parmesan cheese together on a plate and make me wish I had 16 helpings more of it, I’m on to something. I won’t even get into the tenderloin of bison or the chocolate cream puffs, let it suffice to say "I will cherish the memories". But the best part of all, for me, was looking at the menu and seeing that our farm was listed, with thanks, along with the other local farms that supply produce to Tuco’s. We’re so small, and so new…..acknowledgement like that makes struggling against the heat, the fire ants, and all the other less-than-fun elements of being a grower all worthwhile.

The "Farmer’s Market Garden" actually at our farm is at about 40% production right now. Okra, sunflowers, armenian cucumbers, & all summer squash are harvestable. The sunflowers are particularly magnificent. Between the garden itself, Drew’s insistence on actual use of fertilizer, and the seeds from Pioneer Hi-Bred, they are like nothing I’ve ever had. I cut a bouquet for myself at work. The flowers are 8′ across, on 2 foot stems. And that’s just one kind. There are white ones, deep maroon red ones, red and yellow ones….and there are a lot of them. What I’m cutting now are just the first 160′ that I planted; there are a few successive sowings lurking in the background. The French cantaloupes, Charentais and Noir des Carmes, are the size of softballs and growing away. I don’t even like cantaloupe, but I’m pretty excited to see what these are like. They are described in the catalogs as intense in sweetness and aroma, and are both supposed to be highly sought after in European markets. We’ll see….those catalog descriptions can get carried away. Still, if they are ever going to be good, it’s going to be in that garden. The Jenny Lind honeydew melons also look good, and the Armenian Tigger melons, largely grown for fragrance, perk along.

The French climbing beans should be yielding in less than 2 weeks, and there are already gourds and loofahs all over the trellis. About 320′ of zinnias are coming soon, and most of the dahlias are already blooming and being sold at the market. As much as I like heirloom produce, nothing takes the place of seeing 7 full buckets of flowers ready to go to the market, all perfect in shape and color. I know I don’t charge enough, but flowers just make people happy. I know it’s supposed to be about the money, but sometimes seeing people walk away smiling with a big bunch of flowers in their bag has its own worth. Well, it is widely known that my business skills need managing….

The tomato/eggplant/pepper garden at Drew’s is at about 75% production. A few tomatoes still are hanging back. We pick something like 50 pounds a day and can’t remotely keep up. They’re all really, really tasty. Our quart pulp baskets arrived from the farm supply place, so now we can package the smaller tomatoes into dry quart containers–this will make sales a lot easier. The beefsteak slicing varieties are looking great, particularly the Cherokee Purple which has thus far lived up to its flavor reputation. The eggplants and peppers are slow but harvestable; a few more weeks and there will be many more of them.

The birds have had a tough week in the heat. Luciano, one of our Leghorn roosters, passed on. He was older, but I’m sure the weather didn’t help. He was a good bird, and at least he enjoyed some years of life with grass and sunshine. We continue to have intermittent problems from the foxes; the overall toll on our second hatching of turkeys was significant.

So all in all, productivity and profits are up, sleep and cool weather are down, and our busy busy lives go on….

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