Lakeview Farms

January 15, 2009 Newsletter

La Estrella Squash Celebration Squash Don't throw away your fall decorations after the season is over -- eat them !
Don't forget that most of our fall decorations -- particularly the attractively colored new squash like La Estrella(Calabash), Pink Banana(Hubbard), Celebration(Acorn), Sunshine(Buttercup) and Sweet Mama(Kabocha) are eminently edible and keep for a long period if stored in a cool (above freezing) location.  Even the small miniature decorative "Indian" corn can also be eaten -- it's really popcorn ! 

Kids at the top of our Straw Pyramid Straw Pyramid Getting too Popular
The growing popularity of our pumpkin season Straw Pyramid is creating problems for the strawberry crop which depends upon the leftover straw for winter mulching and clean picking aisles in the spring.   A 2008  "perfect storm" combination of loosely baled straw, heavy rains, and heavy use by our customer's children and school groups led to a "sorry looking" haystack of broken, soggy, and  wire strewn straw bales that finally had to be closed during the last Sunday of October for safety reasons.  As you can imagine, trying to use this "recycled" straw for strawberry mulching was exceedingly difficult but our 2009 strawberry crop was eventually mulched successfully for the winter.  For 2009 we will switch to tighter plastic tied bales that hopefully will hold up better under heavy traffic.  If this change doesn't work, we may need to take steps to reduce customer traffic to one of our most popular fall attractions.

Newsprint Advertising -- gone with the wind
2008 marked the first year we went "cold turkey" on newsprint advertising -- spending zero.  I have been a loyal Post Dispatch newspaper reader but found that fewer and fewer new customers have been responding to our newspaper ads over the last few years.  For 2008 we relied totally on our direct mail cards for berries, roadside signs, email newsletter, and internet advertising for promotion.  For 2009 we will continue to send "get free berries" cards to those customers who picked in 2008.

Prelude Raspberry Looks Like a Real Winner
Both my customers and I continue to be quite impressed with our new Prelude Red Raspberry.   Besides producing an excellent crop of very early June raspberries that complemented the strawberry season, the Prelude also produced an excellent fall crop of large, tasty, and easily picked berries in  September & October that meshed nicely with the pumpkin season.  Even though we were closed to customers, I continued to pick Prelude for my own breakfast cereal well into mid November! 

Like a squirrel who has created a cache of acorns for the winter, I continue to enjoy red raspberries that were frozen whole during the summer and fall by directly plopping them (frozen) into my breakfast cereal throughout the winter. 

Record Rain in 2008 -- both a curse and a blessing
While the excessive rain ( 2X normal) in 2008 did lower the farm water bill by $2,000 and facilitate our best corn and sorghum mazes ever, the overall effect was decidedly negative.  Cold, soggy soils in the spring delayed strawberry planting well past the optimum time -- Cabot is particularly fussy about early planting and does not fill out the row if planted too late so our 2009 strawberry crop will be negatively impacted.   The September rains proved devastating to our smaller and medium sized pumpkin crop -- slugs and grubs fed on the side laying on the wet ground creating wounds that eventually rotted.  On the plus side, weather during the critical June berry harvest and October weekends was unusually good facilitating excellent customer flow.

To minimize future problems, extensive excavating work conducted in November was necessary to repair damage from the huge rains that overwhelmed our system of levies and caused major soil erosion.  Our nicely sloped fields do drain rather fast but this does come at the expense of some extra soil loss and gully formation unless runoff is carefully controlled.

Diamond Mine check out changes work well
Moving Diamond Mine check in and check out to the upper level, purchasing another electronic scale, and assigning a full time clerk during weekends seemed to have worked out better than I had hoped.  Customer congestion in the lower pumpkin sales area was minimized and waiting lines for diamond check in/out were reduced from 2007 even though customer flow and sales increased.