That fast, the cool, moist spring and early summer seem to be of the deep past. True to form, beginning around mid-month July began to kick up the heat. As I tap these keys the mercury reads an even 100 degrees outside. The 100’s seem locked in for the remainder of the week and the once green hills are fading by the day. Still, we are all so grateful here as, so far, we’ve no nearby wildfires, smoke and the real heat just recently has begun. This is far the opposite from last summer.
And summer birds… Such a terrific summer, this has been, for birds. Two clutches of bluebirds have now been raised in one of our bird houses. Two clutches of house wrens from the south porch and, a newer delight has been a clutch of waxwings that are nestled in one of our smaller apple trees. They are about to fledge as there’s no room remaining in their now tiny nest. Hummingbirds zip around as if drunk on summer’s flowery liqueurs. Evening warblers give way to the nighttime voice of poorwills and the zip of nightjars. Such the sound for one to finally doze to, as the eventual cool of these summer nights settles across the foothills.
Contrary to what Janis Joplin gasps, however ( I love her gravelly, bluesy, lazy voice!) in her rendition of “Summertime”… the living ain’t always easy. Working these dry, hot days isn’t always fun but the intensity of the season is an absolute necessity to growing high quality crops of most any sort be it grapes, fruits or small grains. In our home field at the new Bluebird Grains facility perched atop the Twisp/Winthrop town lines, the second cover crop of this year – buckwheat – cranks away. I’ve finally begun irrigation cycles and when I walk out through the lettuce-like, leafy stand of the 3 week old buckwheat, I can fairly hear it grow. Soon it will fill out and shade the very moisture I’m giving it. Ultimately, its thirst will diminish as the leaves shade the soil, and we will ease up on the irrigation. All of our annuals – legumes and cereals, are far less the water hogs once established, than most all perennial crops. One of our goals always is to conserve resources – particularly mountain water.
Buckwheat loves the heat, similarly to maize. I was able to establish the stand without irrigation as I mentioned in June Notes, and now with the heat and supplemental water this crop is doing what it does best: Shade out weeds and make available more potassium in some cases, and ever important phosphorus in all cases. Meanwhile, it acts as a great attractant of beneficial insects and pollinators. When it goes to blossom – which happens to be when I generally take it down – the fields are generally alive with bees. Sorry, bees. We will be back.
Sad as it is, I will be taking it down mid-August either with a roller or a mower, then I will sow in our winter rye for next year’s harvest. This is a big cover crop year for Bluebird as we rest our soils, and I take growing these crops as seriously as any. Rich cover crops give more available nutrients than most proportioned inputs. I’m always excited to pull soil plugs and run tests on our soils after intensive cover cropping. I will be doing this mid August and before sowing our winter grains.
Alas, the big news is our “BIG MOVE” to the new Bluebird along Highway 20. Phew! Truth to tell, there have been a lot of moving parts which, most often means, moving targets. We like moving targets!
So far we’ve shuffled all of our raw inventory down there, most of our packaging supplies and infrastructure and yes, we’ve tested our new processing line with some success. As of this writing, we’ve not yet dialed in the cleaning settings for all our grains, but we have cleaned lots of both wheat and rye with much improved efficiency and throughput. As of this writing, all our freight is now going out of our new digs at 19611 Hwy 20. That said, we most likely will not be running at 100% capacity there until the next Farmer Notes. Already, I can tell you it is going to be awesome for all of us in operations, and all of you as customers! In next month’s notes, I will give you a run-down of some of our improvements. Meanwhile, please hang in there during our time of transition. We may run thin on certain products at times, but so far we do not anticipate any complete shut-down. That alone we feel proud about. None of this would be the case without our dedicated, hard working staff who cover one another on a daily basis. We couldn’t do this without. All of you. No question.
Please take time to enjoy the fruits of deep summer. Hopefully you can enjoy some cool waters and yummy fresh fruits, grains and veggies. Next month – August – will be all about harvest. So… Stay tuned!
Yours, Farmer Sam