You may remember that last year our peach orchard grew no peaches at all, a first in 15 years of ample peach production. The previous winter was so warm that the orchard blossomed early but our one hard freeze came after that and snuffed out the flowers — so, no peaches for our porkers. I'm not worried that we will have an early bloom, but I am anxious that we may have a late freeze after normal warming occurs. If so, we could see our second year without peaches. I can hear the pigs grumbling already. They like their peaches.
Recall that we had only one freeze this winter, albeit a harsh one. 17 degrees at JVF though slightly higher in Houston. The rest of this winter was mild, spring-like and wonderful for the human inhabitants. But not enough chill hours to get the chill the peaches need to produce their wonderful fruit. My rough estimate is that we will get about 15% of our normal harvest. The pigs, our primary consumers, will be disappointed for sure, not to mention friends and neighbors.
What we miss in peaches we gain in happy animals. An extra 6 weeks of mild weather grazing is a tonic for the cattle and pigs. More grasses as the winter pastures are sporting the early warm weather grasses and a wide variety of clovers as well. Clovers we have not seen before this year include yellow bud clover and purple vetch, adding to our existing crimson, white, ball and medic clovers. So what do the yellow buds and vetch tell is about nature? She is NOT fragile like some would call her, she is resilient! We have seen this evidence too many times in our nearly 28 years of stewards at JVF. She’s strong! Yes, she will go into hiding when we abuse her resources. But cut out the “fragile” talk. It’s an insult to her.
Clovers are not only great forage for the creatures but life-giving to the soil and its subterranean inhabitants. So there is palpable excitement as we move our creatures from one fresh pasture to another. The creatures know there are good things happening above and below the ground.
The long spring is good for another reason — we have plenty of green stuff to turn under as our winter graaes start to change. We do that by attaching our disks and setting the blades so that thereis just a shallow turn of the soil. We attach the drag behind the disks to accomplish 2 things: the drag breaks up any clots and helps press the grasses into good contact with the turned dirt. Why do this? Because it prevents the surface from getting crusted – a crusted surface sheds water rather than allowing it to be absorbed. Secondly, both the disk and the drag assure that the grass is laid down into the newly turned soil, improving the process of adding to the organic matter in the soil. Good soil is all about organic content and keeping artificials out. We’re making food for the big soil guys – the worms and the beetles – and for the little guys – the ones you can only see with a microscope. That together is what a living soil is all about.
What’s the result? High value food from happy creatures in a holistically sustainable environment. And that’s also what it’s all about!
Once we were able to get to the farm from Houston (all three routes were closed for the day of and the day following the main flood), we did find the orchards to be relatively unharmed. Our sixth generation Celeste fig tree split down the middle but I think it can be rehabbed and otherwise there were no trees lost, though there was some fruit blown off their limbs. Our pears, which are slowly reaching maturity and therefore making fruit in better numbers, did lose about 15% of the formed pears. Peaches were lost but we have a bumper crop this year which easily offsets the minor losses. We have put away 2,000 peaches already and have many hundreds, perhaps even a thousand still to be picked. We will still beat the average harvest of 2,500 peaches.
The pigs and I do love the peaches. Peach pork will start in the July delivery.
Overhead and expense requires that we announce a price adjustment. The adjustment will be phased in starting in the July deliveries with another adjustment to be made in January of 2017.
We love it when the fruits start showing themselves. As many of you saw at Open Farm, our peaches are coming along quickly and we expect another 2,500 peaches put away to use in finishing our happy pigs – peach-pork should be in your coolers by July and last through October. By then, we will be picking figs for fig-pigs. And the pears are maturing all the while – perhaps by next year, we will have enough pears to bring you pear-pigs. When our plan is fully mature, and we have added our sweet potato garden, all finishing fruits will come from the farm. That goal was implemented 5 years ago and we are now 7/12ths of the way there. Expect the nourishment value of your JVF food to keep increasing. JVF wants to continue its position as your best value farmer.
As you know from earlier letters, the peaches are in and in the freezer for our pigs after Honi went through her annual canning frenzy. We made peach ice cream on Father’s Day as well as just eating them out of hand. Preserves and jams are all over the cabinets here – something I never complain about. Wild grapes are next for grape jelly. Whoo hoo!
So you should detect some peach in your pork this month and through the month of September. After that, the figs come in and you’ll be eating fig pigs (the pear trees are not old enough yet, so that fall fruit is not quite on the table. Hoping to see pears next year).
That’s eating with the seasons, folks. You can’t get it anywhere else. Only at JVF do we take the time and expense to build those values into our food. It’s good for the creatures, good for the planet, and good for you!
The peaches are ripening on the 40+ trees and they wait on no one. Harvest only lasts 3 weeks so we have to get after it to get the most out of it. This orchard has never ever had a single speck of man-made materials on it, only composted barnyard manure we cultivate at JVF. And they are all as healthy a productive as any tree can be. When they try to tell you you need chemicals on your lawn or trees, just ignore the advice. If we can grow peaches in southeast Texas without chemicals, anything can grow naturally.
You will have peach-finished pork by July.