Watermelon Lotto & Other Themes on Heat: Summer CSA ’12 – Week #7

 In CSA Newsletter

Zea is continuing to play ‘irrigation’ and make pretend irrigation dinners. Still no rain – and nothing in sight. Since that’s the theme around here, I thought this week I’d share a little bit more about how the heat and lack of rain is affecting the farm in 4 themes: the watermelon lotto; burnt fennel; emergency well; & heat lovers extra happy.

Watermelon Lotto: If it seems early to see watermelon in your box, you’re correct! Generally watermelons aren’t ready until the first week of August.  Sadly, we had to pull them from the field a little early this year. Some sort of disease has taken over the entire planting. We saw the first signs of it about 10 days ago, as the leaves of the plant began curling up in a wilt of sorts, despite being irrigated regularly through drip irrigation. Flash forward just one week and all the vegetation has died. Just like that. We aren’t sure exactly what caused it, but we aren’t shocked. These hot, drought conditions are stressing the plants. Just like you or I, being stressed makes one more susceptible to sickness and disease.  What this means for you as an eater is that your melon might not be totally ripe yet.  We decided to pull all the fruit out of the field once the plants had died.  Since it is the leaves of the plant that give us indication which fruits are ripe or not, some of the fruits may not be ripe.  We have no way to tell.  Some of you will get a watermelon that tastes just as a watermelon should. Others will find that yours are light pink in color, but not very sweet. You’ll be getting the luck of the draw in your box this week; aka the watermelon lottery.

Burnt Fennel:  We are continuing to seed plants in the greenhouse this time of year. We are mostly done except for things we like to grow in weekly, or bi-weekly successions – like scallions, lettuce, and fennel.  While we know that lettuce is sensitive to the heat (we are germinating the seed flats in our pack shed to prevent the lettuce seed from going dormant), we are seeing some interesting heat effects that are new to us. Our last big planting of fennel just looks burnt. The seeds germinated and grew, but then as it tried to send out leaves, they all looked yellow/brown and slightly burnt. We’ve experimented with trying to put the fennel flats in different locations – in and out of the greenhouse, but we just can’t seem to get the fennel to snap out of it. Another big change with the heat is water sensitivity. In a normal summer, we need to water the greenhouse about 3 times a day. We need to water more frequently on these triple digit days; the tough thing is that if we don’t remember to add the extra 1 or 2 waterings, we can be greeted by dead flats of plants that were almost ready to hit the field. There is little forgiveness of a missed watering on these hot days.

Emergency Well:  We are in the process of applying for an emergency irrigation well. Usually the DNR takes at least 90 days to approve a new well. Given the drought conditions that are affecting so many farmers, they are are speeding up their approvals to a 5 – 10 business days.  Mike and I decided to apply for a new high capacity well – one that will allow us to pump 100 gallons per minute (gpm). High capacity is defined as any one, or combination of multiple, wells on one property that pump over 70 gpm. Our current well is our house well, from which we can pump 60 gpm. We will be emptying all of our emergency financial savings to construct this well. Here’s hoping 1) we’re approved  2) the new well helps us catch up and keep up with the irrigation needs of our crops & 3) that no other emergencies arise, as we will be without the financial wherewithal to deal with them.

Heat Lovers Extra Happy: In addition to the utility companies, movie theaters, soft drink companies, and well drillers, we also have some inhabitants on our farm that like the drought/heat combo. Peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes are looking great so far this season. They don’t really blink an eye at the heat, and in fact thrive on it. The lack of rain is helping keep many of the waterborne diseases that affect this family of crops at bay.

We hope you enjoy your veggies this week. As you open your sweet corn husks, remember that organic sweet corn is often plagued by the corn root worm. While it may be unappetizing to see the mush they create of the top of your sweet ear – remember that bugs are a much better option that petrochemicals.  Enjoy!

Sincerely, Cassie, Mike, and Zea


In the Box:

  • Basil
  • Bottle Onions
  • Cucumbers
  • Garlic
  • Green Bell Peppers
  • Head lettuce
  • Sweet Corn
  • Watermelon
  • Zucchini

REGs Only:

  • Broccoli
  • Eggplant, globe

EOs Only:

  • Eggplant, Japanese
  • Parsley, Italian
  • Sungolds (to various sites, not all)

This Week’s Recipes:

Summer Week #7: Wednesday, July 18th ” Everyother Group A