Game over (already?)

OK, so even the casual reader will note that I didn’t do a very good job of updating my blog this season. That’s putting it mildly.

There are lots of good reasons for this, but they all come down to the simple fact that I don’t have much time.  See previous posts for an idea of why.  The 2014 growing season included many of the same challenges presented in 2013, most notably, maintenance issues.  Pretty much every piece of equipment had something go wrong with it at some point.  From collapsed buildings, to repairs on 70 year old refrigeration equipment, to rewiring of complicated irrigation systems, to tractor fires and more, I was never bored.

But now that the season is over and most of the money is in the bank (a later article on that perhaps?), since I didn’t make any other distracting posts during the growing season, let’s just do a quick analysis of my last post and see how well I did with my crop predictions.

Apricots – yep, they all froze.  Moreover, we actually lost a few trees when they never awoke from the long winter.  I’d like to plant more apricots, but it is difficult to find a variety that grows well here.  Our biggest problem is a disease called “bacterial spot”, which sounds dangerous, but simply causes ugly blotches on the fruit.  It doesn’t occur in dry climates, like California or Persia, but around here it thrives.

Strawberries – right again!  It was the best crop in a long time – maybe ever.  The plants went nuts and the moist soil pushed some really nice berries.  It will be a hard act to follow this year.

Peaches – right.  It was a good crop.  Most of the peaches did really well though we did have a block of peaches fail at the end of the season.  The trees are getting old and they seemed to just give up on their heavy crop.  Next time, I’ll throw some fertilizer at them at the first sign of trouble; maybe it would have helped.

Blueberries – right.  It was a great crop.  We had some freeze damage from the winter, but not enough to knock back the plants.  In fact, it is probably time for some serious pruning to help the plants produce bigger berries.

Cherries – my concerns were warranted.  It was another poor year for cherries, but at least we had a few.  Orchards to the north and west had almost no cherries at all.  I was once challenged by a customer who told me that cherries are too expensive.  The challenging crops of the last few years show why they are so costly.

Apples – I projected a good crop, heavy on Reds, light on Golds, and otherwise average.  I was happily wrong.  It was a huge crop.  We broke records on our Golds and hit benchmarks not seen for many years.  The quality was very good on our fresh eating apples, with a cool summer providing optimal coloring conditions.  Apple scab continued to be a problem, exacerbated by heavy rains in the spring; but the disease was largely limited to the processing apples so the economic damage was minimal.  The only downside to the crop was that everyone else in the country had a good crop too – in fact, a record crop – which lowered the wholesale price of apples yet again.  This is the classic problem with farming: if you have a good year, chances are good others did too, and the prices fall.

Raspberries – they didn’t grow as quickly as I would have liked, but after a shot of mid-summer fertilizer they perked up and provided some good snacking.  They should be well-positioned for a harvestable crop this year.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

We raise a few other crops that deserve mention.

The pumpkin crop this year was pretty good.  I devoted even larger fields to it this year, but yields didn’t seem to be quite as good as the last few years.  We grew a record variety of “curbits” (the technical word for squash/gourds/pumpkins) including some really tasty new squashes.  I really enjoy watching these form in the field because you always see a few interesting hybrids.  This year we found a unique orange and green “camouflage” squatty pumpkin that Jana quickly claimed as her own.  It was rock hard up to January when we finally decided to eat it, and were pleasantly surprised by how good it was.  I saved the seeds, but don’t really expect the sons and daughters to look like their parent.

Corn and soybeans were good for most farmers this year, but just average in my fields.  The wide variety of food and water on our farm makes an ideal habitat for deer, and deer love soybeans.  So between the deer, the groundhogs, and the hired spray applicator that missed two acres of beans, we had a highly average year of grain.  (And yes, the record harvest elsewhere pushed the price down to about half of what the price was just two years ago.)

All in all, it was a very good year.  But I’m happy for a little time off!


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