Rain! Rain! Rain! (and lots of May pictures...)

For the past three weeks, we've been having scary flashbacks to last summer's drought.  At the farm, only a half inch of rain fell during all of May... until this week, when two inches pounded down.  While the rain was a bit rougher on the baby crops than ideal, we are not going to complain!  It's supposed to be tapering off today and tomorrow, and then we hope for some good drying weather so we can get back in the fields, where our crops, cover crops, and pastures are growing like crazy! Weeding and rock-picking the brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, kale, and collards).  The white fabric is our insect pest excluding row cover.

Pasture, oats, rye, and windmills--on blustery days, it's all very ripple-y and gorgeous in the wind!

 

The rain brought us a real feeling of relief.  We have the capacity to water all our fields, but it takes a long time--irrigation after a three week dry spell runs to 3 or 4 hours of extra work a day.  This recent rain will basically give us the time equivalent of having an extra person in the field!  Even with irrigation, the crops don't seem to grow quite as well as they do from real, actual rain.  We can already see a jump in growth out of the peas, greens, and broccoli!

Early May pre-rain shot of garlic with baby onions in the background--everything's a lot bigger now!

Third times a charm!  This is one of our pastures where the grass seed just keeps not germinating.  Fortunately, it's starting to come along now (and this rain will help greatly!).

 

We've been laughing a bit because the weather for much of May has been poster child weather for days that you shouldn't transplant crops--dry, hot, and with battering winds.  Yet when plants need to go into the ground, sometimes you have to put them in on these terrible days!  We shifted our schedule to start transplanting around 3 or 4pm many days, and stayed out there to water crops in by flashlight as late as midnight.  Starting late means the plants will get the cool evening to settle into their new homes (and it's often less windy here at night), and watering each newly planted crop heavily helps get the roots to make good contact with the soil (and gives each plant a supply of water for its first few days).  It also leads to groggy farmers in the morning...

Thanks to our great volunteers--John, Mary, and Ben--who helped us plant onions, potatoes, and more.  Thanks too to everyone else who's come out to the farm to help plant these past few weeks!

Heavily watered in baby broccoli (before they get tucked away from flea beetles under their row cover blanket).

 

So far, all of the 2014 strawberry crop is planted, the potatoes are in, and all the spring crops are seeded.  We did lose a couple beds to poor germination (and one to the row cover blowing off one windy afternoon and our nemesis the flea beetles invading the arugula... but more on them next week), but all the transplants that went in under May's non-ideal conditions seem to be doing great!

Even our canine supervisor is dusty.  Pre-rain (and pre-bath) picture...

First working of potato field using a new tillage tool we are borrowing--it breaks up compaction and makes the soil much easier to work!  (Thanks Robert for letting us borrow this!)

Matt working up the potato field with the scarifier.

Wild apples... great for critters and for our fall cider making!  Last year's cold spell destroyed all the blossoms, so we are enjoying their blooms even more this spring.

Happy hens--they are a little obsessed with us so it's hard to get a candid shot (or to move around the field without almost stepping on them!).

 

Chilling Out...

... in our new walk-in! Things have been busy at the farm with harvesting and flipping beds from spring to fall crops (not to mention the endless hours each day spent on irrigation).  But we (well actually, just Matt) finally did the big push on installing our walk-in cooler!  We haven't finished off the exterior yet, but so far, it's working great!

We use recycled 2 to 4 inch foam panels to insulate an 8x10 framed box (we did floor, ceiling, and walls).  There is a plywood floor.  Matt hung 2 layers of panels in opposite directions (so there are no gaps for cold air to escape) and used spray foam insulation to fill in any gaps.

 

We bought the panels from a place in Oneonta that recycles material from cold storage facilities (like apple storage warehouses).

 

They were pretty easy to work with.  It took Matt about three full days to build the insulated box, install the door, and set up the AC.

 

We just used a standard exterior door since it was easier to work with than a real walk-in cooler door.

 

For refrigeration, we used an air conditioner and a Cool Bot (check out their website here).  It's basically a little box that tricks the AC unit to go really low (like down to 32 degrees).  We went this route over a standard refrigerator largely for cost reasons.  First, the Cool Bot is much cheaper than a compressor (like a quarter to a tenth of the cost, depending on the compressor).  Second, it's cheaper to operate since you are essentially just running an AC unit rather than a whole large compressor.

 

So far, everything is working great.  We are excited at how much more efficient this should make our harvesting (and it will help us bring even higher quality produce to market!).  Plus, in the winter time, we can reverse the whole process and use the space as a root cellar so we can extent the CSA season!

Early June

We are all over the place now!  This time of year, it's all about keeping as many balls up into the air at one time as you can.  For example, this week we:  direct seeded, ordered more seed, transplanted, started more transplants, blended more potting soil, weeded by hoe, weeded by tractor, changed around the tractor, roto-tilled, laid out beds, rock-picked, harvested, and... ...well a whole lot more.  Hence, the somewhat random photo montage of today's blog!

This weekend will see us at the Cazenovia market with a whole bunch of crops, and next week are our FIRST CSA distributions!!!

Click on any pictures below if you want to see them close up...

End of May Work Photo Gallery

We've been rushing between storms, heat days, and projects to get the bulk of the summer plants in the ground.  Here are some pics for the last few weeks... we will have the remaining transplanting pictures up next week! Included are pictures on:  pea trellising, irrigation, rock picking, pepper planting, clay, and more!  Click on the thumbnails if you want to see the picture in a larger scale.

 

We have water!

Hooking-up-Pump_1632x1224.jpg

Hooray!  Our irrigation system is underway.  We started putting it into action yesterday and today to water in brassica transplants. Here's our old fashioned and new fashioned systems (actually, the watering can is just for priming the pump).

It's a gas powered 6hp trash pump, and is actually *new* which means it's one of the few things on the farm that turns on without any little tricks involved.  The bigger gas tank on top means it can run for a pretty long stretch, if needed.

It draws from the pond.  Matt sunk an anchor down with a float on top, so the inlet is suspended mid-way from the surface and the bottom.  There is a filter on the end (so we don't suck up any fish).  (There is also a secondary filter that will go on for the drip system, but we don't need that until later this month.)

For the past two days, we have just used it to water in seedlings.  That's when you drench the seedlings right after transplanting, which helps their roots make good contact with the surrounding soil so they take better to their new surroundings.  One of the hose bib connections is below.

Right now, our pump and water pressure is total overkill (we had to dial everything way down to not blast the plants with the hose), but as we start seeding again early next week, we will be hooking up our overhead irrigation (the "big gun") which waters 1/3 an acre at a time, and will need all the water pressure we can get!

So far, we are very happy with how the soil in the fields handles water.  It's a loam, but a bit on the silty side, so it holds a lot more water than the sandy loams we are used to working with.  The surface dries out pretty quickly (and it drains well enough to work within a day or two after rain), but when you water the ground, it stays wet for a couple of days.  However, with the 10 day outlook pretty sketchy on rain, we are happy knowing that we now have water in the fields should the plants need it.