Greetings from Horsefeathers Farm where the late summer sun illuminates a variety of harvest projects, and a couple of planting ones, too.
Our East Olympia garden and edible landscape offered up an amazing — and early bounty — in this, the endless summer of 2013. Take the corn, for instance. We plucked our first sweet, juicy ears of Bodacious corn on Aug. 22, a full month earlier than any corn harvest in 10 years of living off Rich Road near the railroad tracks.
We still have a couple of rows in production, but the corn will be gone this year about the time we usually start harvesting.
We’re not alone, I checked with the Parkers Produce, which grows corn commercially in East Olympia. The farm’s first harvest was Aug. 10, three weeks or so before they’re typically ready for their loyal customers, Alice Parker said. “Now we’re all done — we’re pulling the sign today,” she said of the farm’s corn crop, their earliest on record.
Remember that stretch of warm, dry weather the first 10 days of May? Any South Sound corn grower who sowed their corn kernels that early probably set personal records for earliest corn crop to maturity. I know we did.
Another sign of an early-to-end crop cycle: The potato vines withered away weeks ago, leaving plenty of ripe spuds to dig at our leisure. I started the potato harvest Sunday, an activity that will stretch out into the early fall.
Most of the squash varieties are ripe as well, with delicata and butternut leading the way to the dinner table.
We ate our first Brussels sprouts for dinner Sunday. Lightly sauteed in apple juice, they tasted like candy.
Beets and carrots from springtime sowing are all bulky in the ground, and available on demand.
The second plantings of spinach, lettuce, arugala and mustard greens have thrived in the warm and occasionally moist weather of the past few weeks. Even though the towering corn stalks and dahlia plants block their afternoon sun, these mixed greens are ready to eat.
The apples ripened weeks early, too. They’re dropping from the trees faster than we can turn them into apple butter, apple crisp and applesauce. Even our dehydrator can’t keep up.
One troubling note on the apple crop: We’ve experienced a nasty infestation of apple maggots, which are the result of fruit flies laying their eggs on the fruit, beginning in early July. It’s easy to overlook the tiny punctures they make to insert the eggs just under the skin of the apple. But by harvest time, the maggots have tunneled through the apple’s flesh, leaving brown trails behind.
“Apple maggots seemed to be a bigger issue in South Sound this year,” noted Lucas Patzek, Washington State University extension agent in Thurston County. “It might be associated with the mild winter.”
According to WSU Extension Bulletin 1928, the apple maggot was first found in the Pacific Northwest in the Portland area about 35 years ago, and has spread through the region ever since. Control options for the backyard apple grower are limited, but we intend to destroy our infested and fallen apples so the maggots don’t pupate in the soil.
We’ll probably place some sticky fly traps in the trees when the fruit sets next summer.
The latest additions to our permaculture landscape are two hop plants transplanted from the former homestead of George Washington Bush, the black Tumwater pioneer who settled on 640 acres of Deschutes River prairie land in 1845.
They are from a cluster of hop plants Mark and Kathleen Clark found entangled in a fence in a tangle of blackberry bushes on what remains of the Bush property, which the Clarks purchased five years ago.
Clark has transplanted a number of the hop plants in rows, and doled out a few to folks like me, who are fascinated by the possibility that the plants are offspring from hop seeds Bush may have planted shortly after he traveled the Oregon Trail from Missouri some 170 years ago.
Clark is fairly sure the plants are of pioneer stock. He’s found records at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma, noting that Bush and his sons attempted to grow hops on the property.
There’s a nice crop of hop buds drying in one of the Clark’s out buildings. Hopefully, a local brewer will use them to brew a batch of beer. Bush Prairie IPA anyone?
We have the two hop plants Clark gave me growing on trellises next to our barn. AndI’m more than willing to sample any beer brewed from the pioneer Bush hops.
John Dodge: 4360-754-5444