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From Pastoral Idyll to Cold Mudfest

Happy Friday, Black Catters.

It has been a busy week. We have been planting at a fevered pace for a few weeks, and due to the snow/rain that we saw coming earlier in the week we understood we had to get seeds into the ground before it all began.

We grow artichokes, a biennial, from seed. This week's planting will not produce artichoke globes – which are essentially flowers — until next year.
We grow artichokes, a biennial, from seed. This week’s planting will not produce artichoke globes – which are essentially flowers — until next year.

So we planted corn. We planted cucumbers. We planted melons and squash and basil. And we planted artichokes, from seed, and plenty of other things, including … peanuts. Will the peanut experiment work? We will know soon enough. Toiling for a peanut harvest represents something we engage with every year at Black Cat Farm. We think of the farm as a food laboratory, and if the plant has even a remote possibility of growing in Boulder County we give it a shot.

We won’t be planting lemon or olive groves, nor will we take a stab at turning a field into a rice paddy — we know these things won’t grow in our climate. But sesame seeds? We tried a few years ago, and they thrived. So we grow loads of sesame seeds. Artichokes? It took eight years of experimentation, but last year we finally had a harvest, this year the crop is larger, and we hope next year’s is the biggest  yet.

So this year, peanuts. We will let you know how things turn out.

Meanwhile, we had weeds, weeds, weeds to remove, and we use tractors to get rid of ’em, if we can.

The piece of machinery on the back of the tractor is fabulous for removing weeds. The guys on the back help direct the rotating tines.
The piece of machinery on the back of the tractor is fabulous for removing weeds. The guys on the back help direct the rotating tines.

With the forecast calling for temperatures hovering around 32 degrees, as well as snow, we had to pivot resources from the important planting to prepare for the storm. To combat the low temperatures, we use row cover. Unless temperatures plunge down into the 20s, the row cover should protect the tomatoes and peppers that we had just planted the week prior.

However, if too much snow falls on the row cover protecting the peppers — which stand upright (we plant tomatoes horizontal to the ground; they eventually rise up, but for now they remain supine) — the row cover draped over the plants grows heavy, and can easily snap the pepper stalks. So we spaced tomato cages between pepper plants (we have more than 1,000 tomato cages) and covered it all with row cover. With snowfall, the row cover ends up weighing down the cages rather than the plants.

Tomato cages, placed on their sides, get draped with row cover prior to the snow. The row cover protects the plants from plunging temperatures, and the cages protect the plants from the snow, which can turn the row cover into a weight that will snap their stalks.
Tomato cages, placed on their sides, get draped with row cover prior to the snow. The row cover protects the plants from plunging temperatures, and the cages protect the plants from the snow, which can turn the row cover into a weight that will snap their stalks.

We made it through the storm. The pepper plants protected by both tomato cages and row cover survived. However we didn’t manage to leverage the tomato cages for all of the pepper plants, and we lost some.

On Friday morning we awoke to gray skies, swiftly melting snow and mud so greedy it grabbed at our boots. Friday is an important day at the farm, because we harvest for the farmers’ market and for our two busiest nights of the week at the restaurants, Friday and Saturday. Steering clear of the mud and snow was not an option, so we harvested.

Here is what we hauled from the fields, for Saturday’s market and the restaurants:

  • Arugula
  • Lettuce mix
  • Tat soi
  • Mizuna
  • Osaka purple
  • Purple tat soi
  • Gailan
  • Mustard greens
  • Spinach
  • Perejil
  • Pok choi
  • Swiss chard
  • Tom Thumb
  • Kale
  • Harukei turnips
  • Magenta turnips
  • Hailstone radishes
  • Scallions
  • Farro
  • Polenta
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Breakfast sausage
  • Brown ale sausage
  • Pale ale and lovage sausage
  • Chorizo
  • Pork and beef chili
  • All cuts of pork except for ribs and fat

We hope to see you at the markets and in the restaurants, and enjoy Saturday’s sun!

Gorgeous radishes.
Gorgeous radishes.