Fresh Earth Farms - CSA

Deerly Beloved

Radical radishes

It’s raining again so time to write a newsletter. Here is an announcement.

We grow a variety of hot peppers each year. For delivery folks we like to keep a list of people who want them and how hot you want them. On farm people can choose their own from the hot pepper bin. So, for you delivery members, if you would like us to include hot peppers please let me know and how hot — from one to five — you’d like them. For those who have been with us awhile you’ll have to resubmit your request since last year’s list is not to be found.

What will we have this week?

We have garlic scapes! Plus more green garlic. Plus more green onions. And snap peas, and snow peas, and some lettuce, some zucchini, some bok choy, a few broccoli, some kale, some chard, some radishes, a couple of kohlrabi, maybe some basil, and possibly something else I forgot.

We have FlowerShare and ‘ShroomShare this week. For those who purchased FlowerShare, plan to pick-up your flowers at your usual pick-up location.

Farm News

This newsletter will be my annual complaining about the deer issue. Maybe I complain about them more than once per year, I don’t recall. They certainly deserve any wrath thrust upon them. This season they seem to be especially bold and hungry.

To recap the farm’s relationship with deer: When we first bought the farm we were a farm surrounded on three sides by corn and soy bean farms. Though we had deer ramble through occasionally they didn’t seem to be a huge problem. As the years progressed the surrounding farms became five acre lots with houses occupied by people. The more houses built the more deer problems we see. Is this the cause of the increase in deer? I don’t know. They say correlation is not causation but in this case I might not agree.

Works if the wind doesn’t blow

When the deer first started to be a problem it was related to one specific vegetable: beets. So we figured we could puts some hoops and mesh over the beets and we’d be rid of the deer problem. But this just moved them to the lettuce. When we covered the lettuce it moved them to the peas, then the chard, then the beans, then the cucumbers, then the melons, then the corn, then the tomatoes, then the broccoli, then the okra (who even likes okra?), and on and on. They’ve developed a hankering for just about everything we grow except garlic and onions — though they have taken a few bites out of these as well. We’ve tried various temporary fencing that works for a bit but eventually it fails once the deer decide they want whatever we were trying to keep them from. Or equally likely, they got startled, bolted through the fence then realized it wasn’t very strong.

Temporary deer fencing — until they decide to run through it

One trick we used to deter deer eating our veggies was interplanting — planting something they don’t like with the items they do. The idea was the deer would take a bite of the tasty item — say beet greens — and get a mouthful of something they don’t like — say green onions. But they didn’t seem to be bothered by the onions in their beet greens. They still ate the beets and mostly left the onions, though it could have been a timing issue — i.e. the beets grew faster than the onions. We’re trying this again despite the lack of success but this time planting dill with edamame. So far the edamame is outgrowing the dill and the deer are eating the edamame tops. Hmm, maybe this strategy is a losing strategy.

Another idea we tried in the past was to spray many of the plants with fish emulsion. Fish emulsion is a fertilizer so feeds the plants and hopefully repels the deer — win win! This worked for awhile until we ran out of time constantly spraying fish emulsion on everything. It also seemed to damage the beans so we couldn’t spay them and of course that is what the deer ate when everything else was sprayed.

Tomato cages and deer fencing all in one!

So this year we’ve tried a variety of things, none that work very well. The plants we covered with hoops and mesh worked until the high winds blew the mesh off. We thought we could plant the tomatoes and peppers every other bed so that we could then use the tomato cages and some rope to block the deer from eating the pepper plants. Well, with all the rain it took a while for us to get the rows cultivated prior to putting up the cages so the deer were able to walk freely through the peppers and eat whatever they found tasty before we had a chance to setup the barrier. We’ve since set it up and it seems to be working.

Camouflaged peas

Another technique we employed this season was to stop weeding the peas. After the peas emerged we wheel-hoed them (a wheel hoe is a fancy hand weeding device that works great when you have plants planted in a straight-ish line) to knock back the weeds. This allowed the deer to find the peas and of course eat whatever they desired that night. Out of frustration and discouragement I decided to stop weeding the peas — why bother if the deer are just going to eat them all? And this seemed to discourage the deer from consuming them. It makes harvesting peas far more time consuming but I guess that is our only option for providing deer-free peas.

We tried a similar technique with the beets. At one point we had a great stand of tall beet greens just waiting for the beet roots to size up. We weeded and cultivated them fairly well. Ever since the deer have been feasting on the plants every night; I know because I’ve been chasing them away yelling “Get off my lawn!” They are not afraid. I can get within 50 feet of them before they run away. We’ve practically abandoned the beets to the deer. The thinking is that by letting them have the beets maybe they’ll leave the rest of the farm alone — basically a “trap crop” for deer. Perhaps that is the real reason why they are leaving some of the peas for the rest of us.

Deer habitat?

The one line of defense we thought would always work was our hoop house. Deer would never go into a structure would they? This season, much like most seasons, we left the hoop house open all night so that it doesn’t overheat in the morning once the sun comes up and I’m not. We never thought a deer would go inside the hoop house. But we were wrong. A couple weeks ago we found deer hoof prints and chomped heads of lettuce. How bold! Now we can add yet another thing to the list of things that we have to do because of the deer — opening and closing the hoop house every night and morning (before the sun gets too high to heat it up). What a pain in the posterior. Most of the lettuce has now been harvested so we put beets in the hoop house as a follow-on crop. I guess my opening and closing of the hoop house will continue.

We’ve looked into putting up more permanent fencing around the perimeter of the farm but it is cost prohibitive and more importantly vastly reduces the amount of land we can farm. At the end of each row we need an area to turn around the tractors. If we put up fencing we have to reduce the row length by the turnaround distance at each end. That reduces our 200 foot beds by at least 40 feet — 20 feet on each end — but more likely 60 feet taking into account the length of our transplanter. Plus we need to get the tractors into and out of the fenced in area. And finally, since our house is in the middle of the farm we’d feel like we were living in a prison. So tall, permanent fences are the least desirable but I suppose may turn out to be the only effective solution.

Deer eating the beets

Finally we tried having bow hunters come out and help rid us of the deer problem. Unfortunately the deer don’t seem too interested in being hunted and disappear around the time hunting season starts. Seems like if we just extended hunting season to coincide with the veggie growing season we’d never see another deer and no longer have a deer problem!

Anyway, that’s enough complaining about deer. Next week I’ll complain about something else. Let’s see, deer? Check, Rain? Check. Mud? Check. Bugs? Hmm, there are a few more in this category…

As always, do not hesitate to contact me with jokes, questions, brain teasers, or other items of interest.

Joke of the Week

What should you give a deer when it eats too many beet greens?


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