Farmers need more sleep

Farmers’ Market Update
By: Billie Jean Salle Special to The News Messenger
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We are exhausted. Everyone is dragging around like zombies, not much smiling or talking going on in the peach patch today. Knowing this heat wave was approaching, we have been picking longer, trying to keep up. I don’t think we have an empty box left to fill. Now let’s hope we can sell it all. Our family’s’ favorite peach, the O’Henrys, are ripe and ready to cut for sun-dry. So in a way, the heat way will work to our advantage. It will speed the drying process up, giving us a quicker turn-over time so we are able to dry more of the full flavored fruit. I’m hoping I can get enough of a break in our workload to process a couple of batches in the canner. This time of year, though, it is hard to think of the winter and how good they will taste. I’m so tired, the extra rest usually wins. Up until now, picking the watermelons have been a hunting expedition, one here and one there. We have had only enough ripe melons to supply the farm stand. We carefully covered the watermelons with straw, keeping them shaded to prevent sun burning. So the picking process has been extra labor intensive. Uncovering each melon, checking for ripeness then recovering, (try doing that in half an acre)! Finally, the entire patch is fully mature and ready for harvest. Our “to-do” list today includes picking melons. Our crew usually has fun with this job. Boys being boys love to show off when tossing them to each other through the field to the waiting bin for loading. They try to outdo each other and tend to get a “little” aggressive when tossing to the next person in line. The boy dropping his melon gets teased all day. (Of course, they try to play football with them when we aren’t looking). There has been a time or two when a crewmember has come in from the field covered in sticky watermelon juice. Even the dogs get in on the game; they love eating the broken melons. The two new boys we hired are getting the hang of things and their packing skills are improving. The ripe fruit must be carefully sized and packed in the orchard while picking to prevent bruising during the short but bumpy trip to the house. The first week was questionable for them, though. The 6 a.m. start time was hard on the teenage boys’ nightlife. But after a couple of weeks of hard physical labor, they were amazed on how early they were going to bed or falling asleep before dinner. They were declining invitations to hang out with their buddies for extra sleep time. Welcome to adulthood! They have lost weight and have learned to bring extra food for the 9 a.m. nutrition break time. All the fruit they could eat still wasn’t enough to keep their energy levels up. Now the fruit doesn’t look as appealing as it did to them the first day. The crewmembers are encouraged to sample the different fruits because it will teach them to better judge the best fruit for picking. What a way to learn! There are some perks on the farm. All the fruit you can eat and bragging rights to watermelon tossing! Billie Jean Salle is Sierra Fresh Certified Farmers’ Market manager. The Downtown Lincoln Farmers’ Market runs from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursdays. The market is at F Street between 5th and 6th streets. Salle also runs the Sun City Lincoln Hills Farmers’ Market from 8 a.m. to noon Wednesdays. The Lincoln Hills Market is at 965 Orchard Creek Lane. Call her at (530) 632 4692 for more information.