When I was a kid my dad wouldn’t eat bananas. “I ate real bananas during the war in the Phillipines. Those things from the grocery store are not the same,” he would declare with contempt. I feel the same way about strawberries – I eat real strawberries in May and June in the middle of my strawberry patch. Those things in the store are not the same. Let me be unequivocal – I am a strawberry snob. I do not eat California berries because no decent berry can withstand the packaging and shipping. I will eat local berries in august and september that come from “everbearing” varieties but usually just to be polite. The best strawberries come in the spring and are done before summer really gets going. We plant two such varieties of June bearing strawberries: Hoods and Shuksans. These two are top tier for flavor and that is why one eats strawberrries, no? Some other varieties make bigger berries which means less labor to fill a pint and still others bear throughout the spring, summer and into the fall. None of these approach the quality of our favorites.
Lot’s of work happens before the flats show up at the market. We planted a new patch in July 2010 that we will begin to harvest late in the spring of 2011. Below is the story of how we plant them.
Amy trims the roots of the strawberry plants we bought from a nursery.
The trimmed plants are placed in a kelp solution which stimulates the roots.
On the left, the trimmed plants are much easier to plant without doubling over the roots.
Amy loads the plants into the planting cups on the transplanter which is pulled down the row by the tractor.
Several plants line up waiting to be planted by the machine.
Several rows of planted strawberries waiting for drip irrigation tape and some delicious water.
The same rows in early January. The foliage will fill in as the days get longer. April's flowers will be May's berries!
Most of our insect pests are dormant, keeping their powder dry until the temperatures rise when they will resume their rapid reproductive cycles and their voracious and unauthorized consumption of our crops. Their warm blooded partners in crime, however, continue the destruction and are more desperate than ever to eat, burning calories just to stay warm. Pocket gophers have been our worst pest since we started here in 2003 and they remain a serious foe but a different rodent has joined the race for the title of Public Enemy Number 1. The cute and cuddly meadow vole has exploded in population and every one of the little rascals wants to eat, grow, and reproduce!
Burrow entrances like these riddle the farm. Voles are everywhere!
This young apple tree was "girdled" by voles who ate the nutrient rich bark from the bottom half foot of the tree.
THe roots of this tree were severed by gophers and voles. Only the tap root keeps it from falling down completely.
A vole burrow - probably excavated by a coyote. Notice the clipped grass fronds and the big pile of green poo. They are herbavores!
Because Square Peg Farm is a certified organic operation, our options for control are limited. We have done some gopher trapping with decent success but it is time consuming. Our best hope is to provide habitat for natural predators and this is where the USDA’s EQIP program comes in. With EQIP funding we have erected raptor houses and perches and installed some owl boxes. Some kestrels have taken residence in a couple of our bird houses and kestrels and red tail hawks frequent the perches. The owl houses went in a week ago and so far no one has taken up residence but nesting season hasn’t started yet so I am still hopeful.
A kestrel perching above a raptor house. Kestrels eat insects, amphibians, and MICE!
A red tail hawk on a perch. The hawk is much larger than the kestrel and can eat gophers. They also eat carrion and are often seen perching by highways.
An owl "box" made from a concentrated grape juice barrel hangs in the rafters of the barn. No residents yet - part of the housing glut?
Shouldn't you be hunting?!?!
The long nights at the turn of the year were brightened with some new additions. Three sows farrowed between December 24th and December 29th.
She'll need lots of water to nurse all those pigs!
Hi, my name is Spot.
Most of this flush of pigs will go to the CSA program.