The trials and uncertainty of farming!

Farmers' Market column
By: Billie Jean Salle Special to The News Messenger
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Farming is never boring. It seems every day has a new challenge for us. Whether it?s the weather, the machinery or the shortage of helping hands, a farmer?s day is anything but predictable. Last week, most of our days were centered around water rotation, trying to keep the orchards and gardens wet enough to survive the heat wave but not so wet that we wouldn?t be able to get in and pick the fast ripening produce. Picking is best done in the cooler morning hours before the produce heats up, but if we are pushed, we will pick until midday. By then, waterlines must be moved again and animals checked again! During times of high heat, our animals required extra attention and protection. Egg production will drop in the heat (which cuts into our income), and the larger animals such as hogs and pigs are extremely sensitive to heat and can actually have heart attacks from over exposure. It is critical to keep them cool and wet. Cattle will find a pond or shade to relax in while ?digesting? but tend to eat less during the heat, causing a decrease in milk production, again cutting in to our profits! I won?t even go into the farmers? discomfort. This time of year, that doesn?t even matter. What does matter is being able to pay our bills. Lives are depending on us (both animal and human) and we won?t get a chance to do over. We can?t make it up in the winter; it?s all about now. So we suck it up and get to work and deal with what ever is handed to us. For example, today Cody, a dedicated young farmer from Basil Creek, called in to confirm a space in tonight?s market and then began picking for it. While picking, he noticed areas in his garden that looked wilted and stressed. Upon closer inspection, he discovered a ?critter? had chewed through some drip lines, not a huge problem, just time lost in repairing that could have been spent harvesting for the Farmers? Market. But it wasn?t that simple. It turns out his irrigation pump was cycling on and off every few minutes and unable to build up the pressure required to pump the water. The motor was very hot to the touch and Cody, suspecting the pump had burned up, panicked! Knowing triple-digit weather would soon return, he couldn?t afford to waste any time. This could be a very costly fix and needed immediate attention. Everything stops, no picking, no lunch, no market and no money made. Instead his time is spent dismantling the pump and taking the motor in for diagnosis. Turns out the motor is fine. Relief at first but then why? Why is it still not working properly? Back home and more fixing. Hours later, and many phone calls later, a disaster is diverted and the waterlogged pressure tank is fixed. Whew! No money was made today but the garden was saved! Even when you ?do? everything right, there are still little hiccups that keep you humble. Farmers are the biggest gamblers of all. We put all our heart and soul, and money, into a tiny seed and expect great things to happen. When we have a great year, we think, ?Oh boy, this is fantastic? and sink all the money back into the farm for repairs and improvements, expecting every year to be like that one. But when we have a rough year, and want to quit, we are invested (that?s a nice way of saying in debt), so deep that we can?t get out. The farm owns us; we never own the farm! And yet it is the miracle of that tiny seed reproducing, the hope it represents and the rewards it gives us that keeps us going. It really is a beautiful thing! What?s growing on? This week, the weather has been refreshing and much appreciated. The cooler temperatures have allowed us to catch up on the never ending weeding, which is a job I usually dread but the nice weather and good company (I have family visiting from Colorado) made it more enjoyable and the time passed quickly. With the extra helping hands, a lot was accomplished. We are picking and packing some of the sweetest and finest fruit ever. The good thing about last week?s heat wave is the sweetness brought out in the fruit. My family can?t seem to get enough of it. We have fruit with every meal and sometimes we eat only fruit for a meal. Besides the homemade peach ice cream we had on Sunday, the favorite recipe has been the BBQ peaches or nectarines. Just like eating a little pie.? The freestone peaches and nectarines are ripe and juicy; you know the kind you eat over the sink to catch the juices running down your arm. Yum! Plenty of white and yellow fruit is available. I?ve been getting a lot of requests for pluots, (a delicious plum and apricot cross), they are ready and we have started picking them in small quantities as they ripen. The early Ginger Gold apple (a sweet, yet snappy golden apple with ?attitude?) is just starting to ripen as well. We lost the remainder of the apricot crop to the heat but we are grateful for the large crop we had, and were able to pick most of them and enjoyed every bite. Bravo?s Produce has been harvesting and furnishing the markets with the first grapes of the season along with his peaches, plums and nectarines. Time to dig out your cobbler and jam recipes for the beautiful blackberries locally grown by Gordon from Willow Creek Ranch. He is very excited about the quality and the quantity of the berry crop this year. They responded well to the high temps last week and the flavor is outstanding. It seems the season is flying by, everything is moving along, that is except tomatoes! The cooler nights just cancel out the progress made during the heat of the day. The vines are just loaded with lots of pink and orange tomatoes but few ready-to-eat red ones. We have some tomatoes at the market now but the supply is still less than desired. The heirlooms are extra slow in ripening but always worth the wait. Hopefully, that will change this week. Melons are starting to trickle in and sweet corn has finally showed up too, almost two weeks late but it?s here! Summer is definitely upon us and the locally grown produce is better than ever. The farmers have dedicated long hours planting, growing and harvesting healthy food to nourish your families. Sierra Fresh Farmers? Markets is providing you the opportunity to shop for outstanding local produce, meet the farmer and support the local community. Together, we are a team. We thank you for your support and strive to give you only the best. We are proud of our product and pleased to share it with you. Grilled Summer Nectarine a La Mode 4 medium sized nectarines (cut in half and remove the pit) ½ tsp of cinnamon 4 tbsp of brown sugar or honey Vanilla Ice cream (for the topping) Wash and cut nectarines in half, remove the pit. Mix sugar or honey, with the cinnamon in a medium bowl. Toss in the nectarines, coating with cinnamon mixture. Marinate several minutes, (the longer the sweeter). Lastly, fire up the grill. (If your grill is dirty lay some foil on the grill first.) Place fruit on grill, cut side up Grill for no longer than 10 minutes or else the sugar will burn. Grill long enough to give grill marks and soften to the consistency of pie. Place in a bowl, top with vanilla ice cream, and enjoy * If you don?t want to grill,slice or dice the nectarines and sauté all the ingredients together. Make sure your pan is lightly buttered or the sugar will stick and burn. 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.