Greetings from the farm! Dry, still heat that makes the air feel like it is simmering brings with it muggy November nights to the Piket-bo-berg mountains. Our crops bask in the warmth - bean seeds sprouting thanks to the temperature, young tomatoes picking up their growth pace with more sunlight hours in the day, peaches filling out steadily, and a host of crops including pumpkins, potatoes, sweetcorn, peppers, baby marrows and brinjals all kicking into gear. On top of this, the hot days have also brought us a fair amount of animal visitors on and around the farm!
Pumpkin in our open field coming along nicely.
Updates from our Fields and Gardens
One of the simultaneously most exciting, and most tiring things about farming is the constantly shifting and changing nature of literally everything about it. Every year is different - evolving weather patterns and their resultant different humidity, temperature, and light conditions; soil nutrients, and other flora and fauna all play into the equation of growing crops as variables with compounding, and sometimes exponential effects. This makes keeping things consistent challenging, but also truly exciting - learning the rhythms of nature, and figuring out how to ride them is an adventure in and of itself.
This time around, we've shifted things a little based on our past successes... And so we have moved our summer baby marrow crop to within our net-house, to protect it from pumpkin fly. We've transplanted mint galore (peppermint, chocolate mint and spearmint to be specific) next to our swiss chard to repel the pests which they usual fall victim to. Our mangetout has demonstrated the exact time and temperature that it loves to flourish, through our most successful crop of it to date. And although several of our cayenne chilli bushes did not survive the winter, those which did, along with our jalapeños, have recovered with good vigour, sending ample new shoots which should hopefully bear fruit soon!
We have also had some exciting success in Fatima's garden at our Mowbray collection point - the transplanting we have done, including peppers, basil, purple basil, thyme, mint, sage, dill, fennel, pineapple sage, sweet potatoes, and a few others have all settled in nicely, hopefully enough to supply her and us with even more herbs within the next few weeks.
Bushrah thinning out the fruit of one of the peach trees.
Pulling Garlic & Prepping Peaches
Two of our main farm crops, garlic and peaches have called for a fair amount of tending to as of late. Along with the arrival of summer, the garlic begins to dry - indicating that the bulbs are going into their last stage, growing considerably. Our newest variety - Egyptian Pink, has turned out to be the quickest to mature, and has already been pulled, tied and hung to dry, and prepared, leaving our Giant and Porcelain to still come, and spreading out our garlic harvest period nicely.
As for our main orchard crop, the peaches - this time of year is crucial for them. Their fruits are growing steadily, the trees channeling energy to growing the pip and flesh of the fruit, which requires careful attention from us in the form of thinning out. This is the process of choosing and removing excess fruit, and thus spacing the peaches left on the tree out, so as to prevent the branches from breaking due to excess weight, and redirecting nutrients evenly to the fruits to help get a more consistent size and ripening.
One of our recent visitors - we think it is a Western Yellow-bellied Sand Snake,
which is apparently "mildly venomous".
Working With Nature
This month has brought us very tangible experiences of our close proximity to nature here on the farm, in the form of several animals, including snakes, hares and dassies. As organic farmers, taking inspiration from the environment that surrounds us, we need to look at our farm as an ecosystem, and while we may find them to be disconcerting or worrying for each of their own reasons, they are a great reminders of how we need to change the way we look at things.
Some crucial parts of our little farm's ecosystem are the flowers in the orchard, the fields, the fynbos surrounding our crops, and of course - the crops themselves. And for this reason, this month drew serious cause for celebration when one of our hand-made hives, constructed from scratch by Gaby from recycled wood, was colonised by a huge wild swarm - great news for pollination on the farm, and the prospect of increasing honey production.
Thali inspecting our work of setting up a structure to hold our incoming solar panels.
A longtime dream which has been hastened thanks to Eskom and the propensity for loadshedding, which will apparently be growing as the years pass, we have started setting up our first phase of going off-grid, using solar power. Despite having a grace period of possibly two days thanks to our reservoir, not having electricity poses a serious risk for us and the farm - since we depend entirely on our borehole pump for water needed for home and irrigating the farm. In our first phase, we will switch the pump over to the solar system, and downgrade our power line to a single-phase pay-as-you-go; and at a later stage transition it to the solar system as well. For us, it is a huge step in becoming self-sufficient!
If you enjoyed this newsletter, and think somebody else you know might like it too, please feel free to forward it on. If you're interested in reading a bit about our experiences, visit our website thosewhoharvest.com to find out more and read our blog.