Off we go and the pace is quickening. Here’s an update on spring farm happenings. Mostly photos, miscellany, and muddled chronology.
Seed trays are filling up. We just started an early round of tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. We’ll get some of these planted out in the tunnel, and we’re also planning a fancy pants/fancy plants Memorial Day Plant Sale (mark your calendar!) with lots of great vegetable, herb, and flower varieties. Stay tuned for more details on this.We’ve re-arranged our beds in the greenhouse, replacing the long rows with key-hole style beds. This has nearly doubled our growing space and will give us more flexibility with crop rotation.And a few more shots from the greenhouse – clockwise from upper right: scallions, mixed lettuce, beets, spinach. A few weeks ago we got a chance to visit with our neighbor/farmer friend, James, of Lookout Gardens and Gage’s Gardens; he showed us the germination chamber they use to get seed trays started. It’s elegant, efficient, and brilliant. With theirs in mind, we built one. Slightly less elegant, rather more clunky, but it should do the job alright. It’s a 6’x6’x2′ frame box lined with blue foam (leftovers from building the walk-in cooler), and wood slat shelves. The door is plastic sheeting (leftovers from the tunnels). In the bottom, we’ll set a metal tub with water and a heating element to try and keep the chamber at 75-80 degrees with high humidity. We’re looking forward to being better able to take care of these little ones as they get started and hope to have more consistent germination rates (last year’s cold, wet spring was a challenge for us) – and we truly appreciate our clever, thoughtful, supportive farmer friends’ sage advice and inspiration. As regards germinating, we’re experimenting with stratifying seeds. We are growing bunches and bunches of plants this year that we’ve never grown before, extra-specially for a good friend of ours who is studying for a certificate in traditional naturopathy. We just started 23 different varieties of flowers and herbs, all tenderly tucked away in bags with wet sand and set aside in the fridge, some for 30 days, some for 60 days. Jeremy, in particular, is excited about this because it’s given him an excuse to order things that have been on his dream seed list for years. So now we’ll get to have things like Compass plant (aka silphium, admired by Aldo Leopold in A Sand County Almanac) and Maximilian sunflower (a perennial sunflower!? yes please!), Angelica (a key ingredient in drambuie) and Joe Pye Weed (beneficial to pollinators and people, plus it’s got a great name) growing on the farm.We lost one of our field tunnels in a hearty wind storm, mid-February. The wind lifted the tunnel, pulling five of the twelve 30-inch earth anchors and sending the structure off like a dervish across the beds, nearly somersaulting over the adjacent tunnel. This second tunnel didn’t budge. We heard reports of 75 mph gusts, though haven’t verified this. On the positive side, we’ll be able to salvage and re-use about half of the frame and this was the tunnel we needed to move this spring anyway, to follow our crop rotation. So we’ll be building another tunnel. Along with a few other construction projects underway and pending: we are establishing a new raised bed up at the farmstand for you-pick herbs. In order to accommodate more starts, we’re adding on to the front of the greenhouse. A starter annex to replace our living room. We’re building up the vegetable wash station, creating a space that’s both efficient and pleasant to work in. And it looks like this year we’ll have to replace the fence and hop trellis posts.
We just finished pruning the grape vines, a process that has progressively become more streamlined since the Big Buzz Cut of 2012 and developing a pruning/trellising system that we like. There are a handful of chickens that routinely make like Houdini out of their run each morning. They join us as we’re working, at times helpful and at times ripping out entire beds of freshly planted strawberries. And Jeremy found this incredible skeleton this past weekend while cleaning up grape vine trimmings. Woah.And lastly, the garlic is up! We expanded out garlic planting last fall and are trying a few soft-neck varieties as well as our favorite hard-necks. The garlic are planted in alternating beds with a rye and vetch covercrop in between. The covercrop will be crimped and laid down in place as mulch and we’ll plant winter squash into these beds. We should be able to harvest the garlic in time to give the squash plenty of room to spread out.
With wind tussled hair and big smiles,
Your farmers, Trish & Jeremy