Saturday, June 18, 2011

Watermelon Elementary: Harvest Part 1

We actually had clouds and rain this week, so I took the opportunity to take some harvest pictures. It’s usually too bright! The rain we got today and yesterday was the first real rain that we’ve had since probably February. It was so. dry. here. But not so much now – we’re sure thankful that the Lord sent us some rain.

Just before the bus crews got rained out, I snapped a few pictures!

We harvest watermelons with convertible buses. Our crew comes from Florida and works our watermelons for harvest. Then they go up to Delaware to do it all over again. They bring some buses with them, and some stay on our farm between seasons. They do bring a repair truck and mechanic to keep these old things running!

001This bus would have made my commute to school a whole lot more interesting!

In each field there are at least two crews, usually more. In this field, there were two cutting crews and two collecting crews. Each crew has about four or five guys plus a bus driver with the collectors. For example, two groups of five guys cut the watermelons from the vines and two more groups of four collect them and put them in the buses for transport to the barn. Each bus driver takes a full bus to the barn and hops on an empty one to head right back to the field. We probably have 10 or 12 buses in use this year.

These buses are something else. Where else do you think Brad would have gotten the idea to use a bus as a chicken coop?! We know how to put an old bus to good use around here!

The cutting crew goes through the field and cuts the watermelons that are ripe.

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They roll the cut watermelons over with the belly side up so that the collecting crew can see them easily.

028Yellow bellies shining on the watermelons waiting to be collected. The belly of the watermelon is usually yellow when the watermelon is ripe. The belly has no color because it never sees the sun. It’s more like the watermelon’s bottom!

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And a video of cutting and rolling.

Just behind the cutters are the collectors.

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I don’t know how these guys do it. I spent 10 minutes throwing watermelons tonight to bust them for the calves, and I WAS BEAT!

More later on what happens when the buses get to the barn! We’re in full swing now; go buy some super sweet GEORGIA watermelons!

See the other Watermelon Elementary posts here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Southern Grown

We southerners sho’ do know how to draw out some words. I’m so proud to say that Blair is learning just right!

Her little conversation skills are getting better all the time. I can’t believe how much her vocabulary has grown just in the last month or two.

Here are some of the words that she’s putting a particularly southern accent on:

EE-yan – in

Moe-wah – more

May-yam – ma’am

Woe-wam – warm

Woe-won – one

EE-ya – ear

Hay-yand – Hand

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Watermelon Elementary: Turning Back Vines 2

I happened upon the guys turning back vines today and raced home to get my camera! I got some good pictures of a field whose vines were way into the middles – and I took video too (You can hear me speak a little Spanish on it!)

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The rows in this field are perpendicular to the sun’s path, so the vines grow into the harvest middle, which is east towards the morning sun. The vines are much thicker on the east side of the rows, and they have more watermelons. It’s pretty neat.

003The vines one the left are facing. See how much bigger?!

015Looking back down the row… vines on the right are facing east. All of these have been turned back.

032East side

033West side

These had gotten so big that the guys had to pick up watermelons and place them over on the row.

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In the name of ag education, I bogged my chanclas (flip flops).

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And I either have a giant (dirty) foot or this is a really tiny watermelon!

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

“Wanna make some paperwork?”

The things that Blair and Brad play.

There’s the word “kadoonk” that Brad uses to describe most any sudden move, bump, jump, fall – or pretty much whatever he wants to use it for. Blair and I drove over my parents’ cattle gap the other day and Blair said, “kadoonk.” I couldn’t help but chuckle!

Then there’s the game where Blair gets on your back from behind and says, “Somebody’s got me!” Brad started that too.

And the paperwork. Blair has two folders in Brad’s filing cabinet, and they staple paper together to “make paperwork.” She goes to the filing cabinet, opens it, and gets her folders out.

047Paperwork.

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And just like my dad, Brad is also a horsie, complete with “Giddy up Daddy!”

Oh, and how can I forget the salt all over my counter all the time. They “make a wish” by throwing the salt over their shoulders.

And she “ties” his shoes and fastens his belt. This daddy and daughter are quite the precious pair!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I got educated at the Wild Hog Festival.

My sisters were in town a couple of weekends ago, and we all took our first trip to the Wild Hog Festival. I’m all about a southern festival, but I have to say that this festival was unlike any other.

I was shocked by the number of people there! We first made our way through the vendors, but we didn’t see anything we couldn’t live without.

As we made our way to the back of the property, we saw a line to enter a separate area. It was what I had been waiting for!

Inside the area was a fenced in part of woods (“the branch” around here!) with spectators piled in all around the outside. There were bleachers and tents and elevated viewing stations. What in the world were they checking out?!

The pig chase!

The pig chase is when tons of kids run wild after a pig, trying to catch him. If you would like some inexpensive yet seriously hilarious entertainment, a pig chase is the place to go! One person told me he drove over an hour to attend!

Just a sample of the fun:

wild hog festival (14)The Chasee for the little ones. Even 3 year olds can participate.

wild hog festival (17)And they’re OFF!

This kid was awesome!

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And he got him!

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wild hog festival (39)So close!

We saw quite a few spills.

wild hog festival (41)Triple wipeout in the making.

wild hog festival (44)Again!

wild hog festival (46)Umf!

But there were plenty of winners too!

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Molly, Linsey, and I were excited to watch the action… Blair was just excited to have a pickle.

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The other thing we watched was the baying contest. The hog dogs have to make the hog stand still only by barking at him… no touching him. The people standing next to us were really nice about telling us what was going on. We found out that biters are disqualified.

The hogs were HUGE! One dog got near his hog a couple of times and high tailed it the other way. He never even attempted to bay. People in the audience were chuckling at his frolicking around the pen.

This one below did pretty good with quite a large hog. The dogs are scored on their performance – their ability to “corner” the dog and keep him still. After they keep the hog still for an amount of time, the dogs are called off, and the hog leaves the arena.

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It was definitely an educational event for us… and lots of fun to watch!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Watermelon Elementary: Puttin’ on the Melons

The watermelons are transplanted as baby plants.

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In their new plastic covered home, they get all warm and happy, and start growing. They actually start “running.”

watermelons 11 (53)The plant in the middle is running.

watermelons 11 (55)The little vines creep out over the dirt, while underneath the roots stay toasty warm and grow.

watermelons 11 (54)Lots of growing, running watermelon plants!

A month or so after planting, the watermelon puts on yellow blooms.

watermelons 11 (15)watermelons 11 (19)Bloomin’ away!

watermelons 11 (20)This is a good picture of the blooms, buds, and the end of the vine with its little curls reaching out.

To have fruit a watermelon plant has to be pollinated. For a seedless watermelon plant to be pollinated it has to have two things: bees and a pollinator plant. Because of the makeup of the seedless plants, they cannot pollinate themselves. We used to grow a lot of the long, seeded Sangria melons, and they took care of the pollination. Now, since there is not a big market for the Sangria, we don’t grow many of them. Instead, we use pollinator plants. A pollinator plant makes what one might call a “dummy” melon. The melon is pretty plain on the outside and yellow on the inside with big black seeds. It tastes just like a watermelon, but we don’t sell them.

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The other integral players in the making of the watermelons are the bees. We have a bee man who places his bees adjacent to our watermelon fields. They live there usually for a year or more – until he has to move them elsewhere. Watermelon is a rotated crop, so we don’t grow watermelons in the same fields each year. But if we use part of a farm for watermelons one year and the other part of it for them the next, the bees may stay on that farm the whole time.

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We get fresh watermelon honey from our bee man. I love me some honey on a big fat homemade biscuit. (We call those biscuits “catheads”!)

So after the all of the pollinatin’ we finally get some melons on the vines! The melons grow at the base of the bloom. In this picture below, you can see the bloom on the end of the baby melon. After the bloom is pollinated, the watermelon will be ready in about 4 to 6 weeks.

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In a normal world, from seed to watermelon takes a total of about three months (we let the greenhouse handle the seed part). But the farming world is never normal. This year, with the weather so super hot and almost no rain, the watermelons are growing at record speed!

We are supposed to start harvest on Monday, which is VERY early, but the watermelons are the boss! We can’t let them sit out there and get sunburned. Yes, watermelons get sunburned! I guess you might say that watermelons are a bit sensitive. There are all types of things that can go wrong with the plants and the watermelons both. Enough of the negative though!

Blair and I ate our first from-our-farm watermelon today, and it sure was yummy!

Want to learn more about your watermelon? Check out my other Watermelon Elementary posts!