October 7th-10th 2019 – Agricultural thoughts

NEW YEARS 5780 – CHANGES IN CHUBEZA DELIVERY SCHEDULES:

DURING THE WEEK OF YOM KIPPUR:

  • Wednesday deliveries will take place on Thursday October 10.

DURING THE WEEK OF CHOL HAMOED SUKKOT, THERE WILL BE NO DELIVERIES, i.e. no deliveries on Monday October 14 or Wednesday October 16.

DURING THE WEEK OF SIMCHAT TORAH:

  • The Monday delivery will be moved to Tuesday October 22.
  • Wednesday delivery (October 23) will take place as usual.

DURING THE WEEK FOLLOWING SUKKOT AND SIMCHAT TORAH, ROUTINE DELIVERY RETURNS!

OPEN DAY:

In keeping with our twice-yearly tradition, we invite you for a Chol HaMoed “pilgrimage” to Chubeza’s field to celebrate our Open Day.
This year’s festive Sukkot Open Day will take place on Thursday, October 17, the 18th of Tishrei (third day of Chol HaMoed) from 12:00 noon – 5:00 PM.

The Open Day gives us a chance to meet, tour the field, and nosh on vegetables and other delicacies. Children have their own tailor-made tours designed for little feet and curious minds, plus special activities and a vast space to run around and loosen up. (Open to adults as well…)

Driving instructions are on our website under “Contact Us.” Please make sure you check this before heading our way.

Chag Sameach and Shana Tova to all of you from all of us. We look forward to seeing you all!

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Over the holiday season, Ish Shel Lechem will not be baking bread, although cookies and crackers are available and may be ordered at any time.

Ido and Carole will resume their regular baking schedule immediately after Sukkot and Simchat Torah.

Happy holidays!

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Pondering the Past Year at Chubeza (Part I)

The New Year is our chance to look back and do our soul-searching with the hindsight vision that was not apparent in Real Time. This Newsletter and the one to come will now give you a glimpse of the review and examination of events-in-the-field which Alon and I have undertaken.

Happily, this past year has been characterized by progress and development at Chubeza. In general, we tend to try out new things, and nearly every year we set out upon new experiments: species we haven’t yet grown, work methods we’ve heard about and opt to attempt, different growing methods and so on. We usually start small with one round of vegetables or a short time span and then draw our conclusions. This year we advanced to the second stage in some of these new endeavors, where positive results gave us the impetus to expand the scope and fine tune the implementation.

One example is our progress in the use of the hothouse. Several years ago, we worked hard to renew and renovate a very old, glum-looking hothouse and carefully learned the various methods of greenhouse  vegetable growth. Next, we constructed a number of tunnels (much smaller than a greenhouse) where we could grow our own tomatoes and cucumbers all year long. We also discovered the advantage of growing other vegetables in these settings over winter (greens, beets, cauliflower and broccoli were some of our newcomers). After new regulations forced us to fence in the entire field in order to separate it from neighboring non-organic fields (which in the past could be done by distance alone), we constructed four new tunnels which also serve as a buffer perimeter, thus gaining growth space and a separation marker at once. The new tunnels are slightly higher than the previous ones, allowing for the superb ventilation that is crucial for growing vegetables in such  structures. At this stage, the first round of tomatoes and cucumbers is approaching ripeness in the new tunnels and we are quite satisfied…

The nice green field with the new tunnels in background

This year we also performed solar disinfection in four veteran growth tunnels. This is the second year we are using the method of loosening the earth, covering it with compost, moistening it and then tightly spreading a plastic cover tucked firmly at the corners to create a vacuum and warm up the earth. This warming results in a disinfection that weakens disease factors within the earth and bolsters its immune system. Last year we attempted this on a small scale by covering only two of the tunnels for two months. Thanks to the successful results, this year we expanded to four tunnels and a three-month growing period. The new solar-fertilized veggies acclimated perfectly, and thus far are free of Pythium (a fatal fungus that can thrive in the earth which causes young plants’ stems to dry up in the closest part to earth). Another fortunate consequence of the solar fertilization method is a general fortification of the earth. At times we encounter weaker areas in the field where growth is slower and lazier for no evident reason, but after cleansing the earth we can actually feel the renewal and strength and the development, even throughout the tunnel. Perfection!

In light of this success, we decided to try cleansing another plot. The scorching summer was nearing its end, but we were willing to enjoy even partial results. We spread a clear cover over the plot at the beginning of September which will remain for a month and a half. Then we will uncover it and plant the autumn yield. We anxiously await the results and a chance to check the veracity of our instinct that a shorter span at the end of summer will prove its value as well.

This year we tried out various new species, including Salanova lettuce, a small, delicate, lovely variety which turned out to be less tasty than the better-known types and thus did not make the Chubeza grade. On the potato front, we grew four species at the end of winter: yellowish potatoes of Nicola and Vitabella varieties, as well as the red Desiree and Delila types. We have known and loved the Nicola and Desiree for years now, but Vitabella and Delila were brand new to us. Unfortunately, the potato outcome across the board was disappointing this year. The plants were thinner with fewer stems (maybe because the bulbs were smaller than usual) and did not achieve their usual standard. Perhaps the cold and rainy weather (gratefully received – except when growing potatoes) upset the potatoes, some of which developed various leaf diseases (including Bacterial speek), and achieved an overall small yield… In summing up the potato situation, we determined that the problems reflected the location in which they were planted, the small-sized bulbs and seeds and the very rainy season. And yet – we’ll try for better luck next year!

Other innovative ideas where it’s too early to measure success: new species in the fall planting – crimped Winterbor kale and the multicolored Swiss chard that yields dark green leaves in various spine colors: yellow, pinkish, light green. Hopefully you will see for yourselves as we move along this season.

Our annual contemplations have not ended. Tune in for our Post-Sukkot Newsletter where we shall continue, plus regale you with stories of Chubeza’s Winter in the Rain.

In the Yom Kippur spirit, I’d like to reshare something I wrote in the past:

Several years ago, a friend introduced me to the “complementary confession” – an alternative or perhaps supplementary addition to the standard “we have sinned, we have betrayed” Yom Kippur confession which accounts for 22 sins in alphabetical order. The supplementary confession is based on beautiful words by Rav Kook: “as there is great benefit to the healing of one’s soul in confessing sins… this holds  true also towards confessions of good deeds which will gladden one’s heart and strengthen his/her good ways.”

In the complementary confession written by Rav Benjamin Holzman, the Rabbi of Kibbutz Ma’ale Gilboa, each Hebrew letter receives a word of a positive nature, referring to life and deeds. And he is not the only one. Professor Vered Noam, a scholar and Talmud teacher, wrote a confession for adults which not only berates oneself for sinning, but also contains compassion, acceptance and humane, healthy self- observation. Reading these beautiful confessions inspired me to write a Chubeza confession by aleph-bet. So it’s not as well-phrased and refined, more like a salad of thoughts and emotions, as is appropriate for a farmer…

Anyway, here goes:

We have loved the land

Chosen seeds and plants

We trimmed

And thinned out

We smelled the scent of rain

Made sure the earth was moist

We seeded

Furrowed

Tasted

Sat down to take a rest

Bent our backs

Learned to cope (or to accept)

life with a new harmful pest…

We sorted out the produce

Wiped our brows

Told you the vegetables’ tales

Answered questions like “what is this petrified corn”?

We weeded, and weeded and weeded

and scattered compost

We rejoiced

and harvested

Made lists of veggies in the boxes

Delivered the vegetables to you

And thanked the Lord, the earth, the rain and sun. And we thank you for all your love and support. 

אהבנו את האדמה
בחרנו זרעים ושתילים
גזמנו
דיללנו
הרחנו את הגשם
וידאנו שהאדמה לחה דיה
זרענו
חרצנו תלם
טעמנו
ישבנו לנוח
כפפנו גו
למדנו איך להתמודד (ולפעמים להשלים) עם מזיק חדש
מיינו את התוצרת
ניגבנו זיעה
סיפרנו לכם על הירקות
ענינו לשאלות “מה זה התירס הקשה הזה”

עישבנו עישבנו עישבנו
פיזרנו קומפוסט
צחקנו
קטפנו
רשמנו רשימת ירקות בארגז
שלחנו אליכם ירקות
תודות לאל, לאדמה, למטר ולחמה, ותודה לכם, על התמיכה והאהבה.

And just before we part, we happily send congratulations to Saffa and Majdi on the birth of their second daughter, sister to Salame, niece to delighted uncle Ali and of course, granddaughter of the very proud grandpa Mohammed. A hearty mazal tov from all of us!

Wishing you all a good year. May you be inscribed in the Book of Life!

Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Orin, Yochai and the entire Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

There’s an abundance of vegetables at Chubeza, so this week you’ll be receiving 12-15 vegetables, including a bundle of delectable greens as our gift!

B’teavon and labriut!

Monday: Red bell peppers, sweet potatoes, eggplant/potatoes, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes/tomatoes, lubia Thai yard-long beans, slice of pumpkin, parsley/coriander/dill, lettuce, New Zealand spinach, Swiss chard. Special gift: mizuna/arugula/tot soi

Large box, in addition: Corn/baby radishes/beets, Iraqi lubia/okra, leeks.

FRUIT BOXES: Bananas, pomegranates, yellow delicious apples. Small boxes, in addition: Kubo (cactus fruit). Large boxes, in addition: Pomelit, kiwi

Thursday: Red bell peppers, sweet potatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes, lubia Thai yard-long beans, slice of pumpkin, parsley/dill, New Zealand spinach/tot soi, mizuna/arugula/lettuce, Swiss chard. Special gift: coriander.

Large box, in addition: Baby radishes/beets/potatoes, Iraqi lubia/okra, leeks.

FRUIT BOXES: Pomegranates, apples, Kubo (cactus fruit). Small boxes, in addition: Bananas. Large boxes, in addition: Kiwi.

August 5th-7th 2019 – Here Comes the Sun

Our order system will close earlier for next Monday’s deliveries.

Due to the upcoming Tisha B’Av fast on Sunday, the order system for next Monday’s deliveries will close this Thursday, August 8th at 10:00 PM.

Thank you for your cooperation.

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Last week I mentioned that we covered the ground in the growth tunnels with plastic in order to carry out “soil solarization.” This Newsletter is dedicated to a full explanation of this fascinating procedure.

Why should we disinfect the farmland to begin with? For the same reason we wash our hands with water and soap – to prevent the transfer of and infection from viruses, fungus and germs. Pathogens exist in the ground as well, and they stress and harm the plants. One of the most infamous is the fungus that caused the Irish potato blight of 1845, devastating the crops and bringing on the greatest famine in Ireland’s history. Some one million people died of hunger, and a similar quantity emigrated to the U.S. Here at Chubeza, we meet soil-borne diseases every year. Fortunately, they are not on a large scale, and of course, they do not cause disasters of Irish potato-famine proportions. Sometimes the problem is manifested by non-uniform growth in the bed – some parts of the bed have hearty plants, while in other sections the growth is sparse. In such cases, we attempt to regain soil balance and renew the helpful organisms within by disinfecting the soil.

Soil solarization means taking a preemptive step. The idea is to cleanse the earth of pathogens before seeding, in order to prevent attacks on the plant. There are several methods to sanitize the earth. The first, developed at the end of the 19th century by German researchers, is to heat up the earth and disinfect it using steam. Subsequently, a chemical method was developed in which the earth is cleansed by volatile chemicals, particularly the strong, familiar (and extremely toxic) methyl bromide. Chemical fumigation was very popular and common in large agricultural settings, where it seemed essential and irreplaceable.

But chemical soil fumigation is also very problematic, to say the least. The immediate problem is clear: these chemicals are extremely toxic to humans, animals, insects and earth. Methyl bromide also injures the ozone layer and is therefore forbidden.  But chemical fumigation has other disadvantages as well: unfortunately, the disinfectants are not so picky about who and what they disinfect. They frequently harm the beneficial natural enemies together with the pathogens, thus destroying the earth’s positive micro bacterial texture and violating the soil’s biological balance. The result is an ecological blight to the earth and the environment. Upsetting the balance can be a double-edged sword: the moment the “good soldiers” are destroyed, the earth and plants no longer have any protection against diseases or pests which swoop in after the disinfection.

In 1976, an alternative method was developed by Professor Ya’akov Katan and his colleagues: disinfection by heating the earth via solar rays. The idea is that the ground will reach a sufficiently high temperature to kill disease-causing organisms and cleanse the earth of future ills. Weed seeds are also destroyed by the heat, which is why this method can be used successfully to rid an area loaded with weed seeds, and start off “on the right foot” with fewer weeds-in-the-making.

Soil solarization is gentler towards the biological processes conducted within the soil. Research has shown that the temperatures reached by the earth (40-45 degrees Celsius) do not destroy all the pathogens and certainly do not kill the earth’s biological activity. Another development of the method, where compost is dug into the earth prior to the solarization, contributes to the increase of the microbial activity.

How is soil solarization conducted?

  • Wait for the right season, i.e., summertime (July and August). Prepare the earth as you would prepare it for seeding and planting: clean remnants of previous plants, loosen the earth and add compost; form beds.
  • Water the ground, usually with sprinklers. The moisture conducts the heat deeper and encourages biological activity. The earth should be saturated to a depth of 70 centimeters.
  • After the earth is sufficiently wet, cover it with a clear plastic sheet to heat it up.  This should be done very early in the morning, when there is no breeze and it is not too hot, and we are as patient and precise as possible. The sheet is pulled and stretched across the earth, then sealed by dirt along the sides to create a vacuum.
  • Then wait. It is recommended to keep the sheet cover over the earth for four to six weeks.

During this time, the earth heats up slightly more than the outside temperature, and strong gases accumulate within the vacuum under the cover. These materials are naturally secreted from the compost mixed into the soil, but thanks to the cover they do not evaporate. Instead, they convene in the earth at higher levels than usual, leading to an extermination of pathogens. The result is a weakening of the pathogens, and an induction of “soil resistance”- basically bolstering the earth’s immune system. Unlike other disinfections, no “biological void” is created with soil solarization, nor is the biological balance violated within earth. Of course, there is shock and a change from the previous condition. Instead, a different microbial deployment occurs in the earth, one that is still rather balanced.

Our first attempt at soil solarization eight years ago did not fare well. After the first week of covered soil, we discovered that Noah, our good- hearted but frisky dog, had decided to use the covered plot as his very own running course, and his paws had neatly punctured the plastic along the beds… Needless to say, we were deeply disappointed. However, more successful attempts followed, and this is now the third year we are disinfecting our growth houses by soil solarization. We reuse the plastic from the tunnel roofs, even though it has lost its crystal-clear transparency through use. We still prefer to recycle the plastic, even if the highest temperatures cannot be reached in the process of disinfection.

At the end of the process, we remove the plastic sheets, give the earth a bit of time to recuperate, and let its positive microorganisms return to operation. Then it’s time to begin autumn seeding and planting. (Yes! There is an autumn on the horizon.) We shall report our progress in the near future.

May we enjoy a good week, filled with sun and breezes!

Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Orin and Yochai and the Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Amoro pumpkin, lettuce, corn, eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes, Thai yard-long beans, Napolitana pumpkin/butternut squash, parsley/coriander, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers/zucchini.

Large box, in addition: Onions/scallions, New Zealand spinach, okra.

ALL FRUIT BOXES: Sabres, mango, apples. Small boxes also: Bananas. Large boxes also: Plums

Wednesday: Lettuce, corn, eggplant/potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, Thai yard-long beans, Napolitana pumpkin, parsley/coriander, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, okra/zucchini.

Large box, in addition: Onions/scallions, New Zealand spinach, Amoro pumpkin/butternut squash.

ALL FRUIT BOXES: Plums, grapes, apples Small boxes also: Bananas. Large boxesalso: Sabres