Full Speed Ahead!
These past weeks have been wonderful for digging, plowing, and cultivating in the fields! We are enjoying all of the beauties of spring on the farm. The lilacs are like fireworks and the woods canopy is filling in the blue holes of sky each day. Asparagus pops, currents cluster with flowers, and the garlic is stretching above its winter mulch. The days have grown a lot longer, too, which allows us to work later with all of the veggie plants, trees, and seeds we need to get into the ground.
It was an extremely early year to get into the fields. We have not been in the fields this early since 2012 – making it a great spring! Though it was dry for a good chunk early May, it has been wide-open for planting, and the soil is a dream to work in. The winter’s light snow cover, in addition to the windy spring and below-average rainfall, caused the soils to dry up sooner than usual. Snow was off of the fields in late March. It also helps that our farmland sits on the highest land in the surrounding area – a little hilltop of sorts. We get hit with the wind but the water runs away and does not gather!
Also with this early spring meant that transplanting started earlier. We started transplanting the last week in April, which is absolutely ideal, time-wise. Crops planted included: Brussels sprouts, spring broccoli, cabbage, herbs, onions, kale, fennel, napa cabbage, bok choi, and more. Besides the cool-season transplants, we have also seeded all cool-season seeds including: carrots, peas, beets, radishes, arugula, turnips, mustard greens. We also started a permanent perennial herb garden next to the barn, which we look forward to enjoying for years to come. Almost everything is out of the greenhouse- with exception of the peppers, eggplants, and some succession rounds of cucumbers, zucchini, and the fall brassica seedlings that we will get in late June.
Perennials and Teamwork
Nick and I have become experts in digging holes – good, wide, saucer holes for many perennial food varieties and fruit trees. In all this spring, we’ve planted about 50 apple trees, about 20 cherries (mostly trees, some bushes), six pear trees, 30-some rhubarb plants, and even some table grapes. The early spring has given us plenty of time to get many perennials in the ground. The reward in the years to come will be beautiful and tasty! It’s great to be able to think long-term now that we own our own piece of land.
We couldn’t have done all the work without the help of some wonderful CSA members. Thank you to Kelly, Addie, Mitch, Allie, and Chase, who all pitched in on a nice Saturday afternoon in April. Everyone worked together and worked so well as a team! It took about two hours to plant, water and rake all of the new bare-root apple tree varieties. Nick and I spent parts of the winter designing the orchard, choosing varieties, rootstocks, pollinating varieties, location, etc. Apple-wise, we have about 10 different varieties- Zestar!, Liberty, Sweet Sixteen, Haralson, Snow Sweet, Keepsake, Frost Bite, Northern Spy, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Centennial Crabapple (edible) and Chestnut Crab (edible). Varieties range from early, mid, late season, and edible pollinating crab apples. We chose mostly trees that have a Geneva-type rootstock, which has been developed for disease-resistant crops and are hardy to our climate. This is a big help in our goal to cultivate an organic orchard without use of sprays. We look forward to beautiful springs of fruit-tree blossoms in the healthy orchard.
Lakewinds Organic Field Fund
In March, we received a generous grant from Lakewinds Co-op. We are building up our farm and establishing our place as a farming operation- now more then ever. We spent the later part of January putting together a grant proposal for our future wash-pack- and storage shed that we have been building this May. There is an existing pole barn that we are converting into our packing and washing area on the farm. We poured a concrete slab with floor drains last week - it was a barn raising event! Our friends and family came to help out on a Saturday morning to pour 16 yards of concrete! It was a fun time. Thanks to the hardworking amazing friends who came and helped- we couldn't have done it without you! We are currently moving/rebuilding our walk-in cooler to this new space just in time for the first harvest come early June! Working members Claire and Paige deconstructed it with me and got it loaded for its short distance journey to the freshly poured concrete slab it will sit on top of! As the summer goes on we will continue to work on the space with framing some walls and getting washable siding on the walls. It’s a lot of work but also very exciting, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the co-op’s generous support. Thank you, Lakewinds! You can learn more about the Organic Field Fund at this link:http://www.lakewinds.com/community/loff/
Over three years ago, on the day we day we finished the greenhouse, a fellow farmer told us, “Now you’ll have something to think about every time the wind blows.”
Most windy days, I cringe at the heavy gusts that I can feel blow against the windows. Even though I am comfortably set up for the night, reading and ready for sleep, I can't help but think about the greenhouse. How it is holding up? The first thing I do after a major wind storm is check the greenhouse for loose screws or potential damage we may have gotten after the storm, making sure that the structure will maintain its strength for the next round of storms or winds. This past April has been consistently windy – strong, gusty winds. One Sunday’s gusts were strong enough that just enough screws popped loose to send the north wall flapping off its sidewall. We quickly buttoned up the damage and put a temporary ‘band aid’ on the plastic with the help of Nick’s dad, Paul. We spent the following Saturday (a beautiful, calm day) totally replacing the side rail boards and tightening up the plastic. It’s amazing how much of a difference that made. The greenhouse is good as new. And we sleep better because of it, too.
Our Soil, Our Home
As many of you know, this is the first year that we’re growing veggie crops on our new land. So far, it has been beautiful soil to work in. It’s deep and loose, and lighter than the soil at our previous farm, which is nice for hand-planting and getting the crops rooted. The best news for us is that the light soil requires little if any rototilling. This is beneficial in so many ways, because the roto-tiller can really deteriorate the soil’s structure with the way it churns the soil. We may just till the top couple inches to get a good seed bed for some of the planting.
Every night as Nick and I are spending the last couple hours of sun putting together the farm, I simply smile. It is such a great feeling to look over and see the house. For the past five years, home has been just some place where we slept and ate, while we farmed at a different location. Now, we both feel the satisfaction of living where we farm. It’s simple, but incredible. We find ourselves working with the sun until it tucks in – satisfied and fulfilled.