"The pumpkin is a womb" is probably the most poetic thing I've ever heard Kyle say. But I guess after 20+ years of growing, there's a lot of love between the pumpkin and this pumpkin farmer.
Today the crew is finishing planting the 7-acre pumpkin patch at the farm. We plant a few varieties, from small cooking pumpkins to bigger ones for carving. In the next week or so, the pumpkins will start to pop out of the ground, and in 95-115 days, they will be fully grown, ready for fall.
Planting this year has taken about three days. The rain, including the spectacular cloudburst on Friday night, delayed us a few times. But the hot weather the last two days made for a great day of planting today!
To plant the pumpkins, Kyle uses a modified corn planter - an old Case plate planter - which seats two people, each in front of a seed hopper. These helpers drop seeds into into the hopper, which disperses the seed into the furrows. It's a hot, slow job, but it used to be a lot more painstaking. Like all things here at the farm, Kyle has constantly innovated his process - today we plant more pumpkins than we ever have, but at least it's not all on our hands and knees!
When I asked Kyle about what he's learned after all these years of growing pumpkins, he said it just comes down to weather and timing. Pumpkins need a good amount of rain right after planting to establish their root structure and develop their vines, but the hot, dry heat of August is perfect for when they are setting fruit. Last year was one of the best years for pumpkins: a lot of rain in July and a hot, dry August and early September.
It was during this conversation that I learned the pumpkin itself is really just a vessel (or womb, as Kyle said, to my delight) for the pumpkin seed. The pumpkin grows the outer skin and pulp during hot weather, which in turn serve as protective covering for those seeds. The pumpkin protects its seeds until the outer portion breaks down, releasing these soon-to-be pumpkins into the ground and starting the growing process all over again.
So the next time you find a whopper in the patch, give it some credit: it's been doing a really good job. And now I have a lot of questions about which came first: the pumpkin or the seed?
This week, we planted 16,000 strawberry plants. It took twelve hours, seven people working in shifts, one tractor, and a lot of sunscreen to plant the new fields, which cover about two acres.
We won't see a strawberry crop off these plants this year, though. These little babies will take the next year to spread through the runners and grow into big healthy plants - they'll be ready for strawberry season 2019! This June, we'll be doing a final pick on the fields by the house, which will then be tilled under for a new crop. Kyle rotates crops every 3-4 years to give the fields a break and ensure healthier plants and soil.
The first Vesperman strawberry patch was by the white barn, located right where the duck races are now. Kyle, Judy, and Bruce planted that first field - about 5,000 plants - by hand, spending days on their hands and knees digging, planting, and watering.
"We were younger back then," Kyle says with a shrug.
Today, strawberries are planted by a Transplanter. Hitched to the back of the tractor, the Transplanter seats two people in some actually pretty comfortable chairs. While Kyle drives the tractor at slow idle speed, the planters grab plants from two large compartments and feed them into a wheel. Each individual plant is placed into rubber fingers. As the tractor moves, the Transplanter opens up the furrow and drops the plant in, watering it at the same time. Then the packing wheels close the furrow back up. Check out the video below for a little taste of strawberry planting!
Fun on the farm...in blog form!