Cleaning House!

It was a busy weekend on the farm as the weather starts breaking.  Yesterday, we headed over to NOFA-NY's Syracuse CSA fair and got to meet a lot of great folks.  We love seeing how more and more people are getting interested in CSA.  We might be biased, but it really is a great way to connect with your local farms and enjoy delicious seasonal food! With today's beautiful days, a bit of the fields are starting to poke out through the snow.  (Since we are at 1400 feet elevation, we have a bit longer a thaw than everyone living down in tropical Syracuse or Utica.)  Matt used the break in the weather to finish cleaning the greenhouse in preparation for firing it up this week.  We have all our trays, seeds, and soil ready--we just have a few more heating system tweaks and we are good to go!  I'm working hard to control myself from starting seeds too early.  Last year we had such good early growth the plants were ready before the weather was!  This year we are waiting an extra 5 to 10 days on our first seeding round.

Greenhouse spring cleaning!

While Matt played in the greenhouse, I finalized (for the sixth time) our irrigation order (I definitely got the bum end of the deal).  Each year I tell myself I'm going to pawn off irrigation planning to a high school algebra class, but each year I forget to do it until midway through the process.

We survived last season with our existing irrigation system, but the severity of the drought definitely made us realize that even though we have a pond, we need to be more frugal with water (since the pond is not limitless).  This means changing around our set-up quite a bit, and each change involves solving for a range of variables (flow rates, water pressure, length of the lines, and more).  Hopefully we have perfect weather this summer (3 days of sun followed by 1 day with a gentle 3/4" of rain) and don't need all this irrigation, but we want to be prepared just in case!

Winter Working--How We Figure Out What We Grow!

Despite our lack of blogging, we have been busy on the farm--just either not working on very photogenic stuff or working in non-camera friendly conditions, though Matt's been rocking the chainsaw, cutting wood for next winter!  (We are looking for a wood/oil furnace for our greenhouse if anyone out there knows of one floating around!) Since one of our most common questions is, "what DO you do in the winter?" we thought we'd itemize a bit of what most of our winter work entails--crop planning!  The basic theory of crop planning is to do anything that involves thinking and decision making in the quiet winter time and write it all down so that in the hectic, crazy, sometimes 20 hour days of spring, minimal thinking is involved (and we don't forget to plant anything)!

We started by deciding:  1) what markets we want to go to (the Cazenovia summer market, and a number of  winter markets); 2) to expand our CSA a bit and add a second delivery loop out to Utica/Rome; and 3) to add a bunch of new crops (potatoes, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, strawberries, and more).

Once we figured out what and where we are selling, we then calculate out how much of each crop we need to grow.  Essentially, we sketch out exactly what crops we will have to harvest each week for every CSA member and our market (barring weird weather, disease, or pests) from May through December.  And then we do the math to figure out how much we need of each supply to grow that crop (mulch, trellis posts, twine, foliar sprays, trays, harvest boxes, irrigation line, and on and on).  We then go back and forth a bit to figure out what combination of crops will best please our members and market, while being the most efficient use of space, time, and resources.

This process generally takes us about a month, and by the time we are done, we are usually tired of algebra, geometry, and computers!  However, we also have a set of documents that tells us what we are planting, when and where we are planting it, and a ton of other details.  This comes in handy when the season's rush arrives, and lets us be more efficient with our limited time and money!

The final step in planning is assembling all our orders.  This is really satisfying and fun (who doesn't love seed catalogs?) but also a bit scary, since we end up purchasing 90% of our farm's expenses in a 3 week period in February (gulp!), before we even start growing any crops!  This is where the CSA model really can really help farmers, both by making planning easier since you know who you are growing for, and make juggling pre-season expenses less challenging thanks to early signups and deposits.  (On that note, a big thanks to all our great members!)

Resting and Regrouping!


After a busy fall on the farm, we've been silent on the blog for a few weeks as we work on re-tooling the website and regrouping from the season.  We are working to get the 2013 CSA sign-up material up (hopefully this week)... it's held up as we decide which additional farmers market to add for 2013, since we try to space out market and CSA harvest days!

Folks have been asking what happens on the farm in the winter, and our answer is, "A lot!"  First, we do relax a bit, sleep in (well, farmer sleeping in, which means until 6 or so!), and eat a lot more farm food (since we have more time to cook).

We do still have a few things going on in the field.  This week's warm spell will likely be our last harvest window to get in the final turnips, radishes, carrots, and beets.  After these crops all come into the walk-in cooler (which now doubles as a root cellar), we will roll up all our protective row cover and call the vegetable fields done for the season!

Wood is a big winter project--right now we are bringing in the wood cut late last winter to split and dry further in the greenhouse.  We need wood for our house, for our greenhouse (we are switching from propane heat to a wood/oil boiler this winter), and for boiling down maple syrup.  Right now, we are just cutting wood at the south edges of the fields (which will reduce shade in the edges of the growing area) and in a section where some of the trees have lots of galls.  As the maples grow larger, we will start doing more selective thinning to improve the sugar maple stand (but that's a few years off!).

Out of the woods, we are working on a few building projects, including a permanent wash stand and storage area, a new hoophouse, a better potting area and propagation chamber for the greenhouse, and a slew of smaller construction activities.

The most important work we are focusing on now is in the office!  Besides working to revamp and improve the website, we are assessing how things went this past season to see where we can improve things for next year.  After this assessment is done, we start working on our crop planning.  This is a huge task since it essentially entails figuring out the timing of every planting of each variety of crop we grow--which for some crops is up to 20 plantings and 15 varieties!  We need to complete this by early January in order to get our seed orders in.

We'll get some more winter pictures of the fields up soon!

Rule One: Everything takes way more time than anticipated!





Well, we *are* on the ground, but...Sunset

... we forgot rule one!  We rapidly remembered it as our first weeks post-closing were filled with cleaning and painting and unpacking (and then yet more cleaning, painting, and unpacking).

Cone of ShameSome of the highlights for this past week:

...We learned that there is a sweet up and coming sugar-bush in the back of the woods on the farm.  Hooray!!!

...We met some great people at yesterday's Shades of Green event in Madison County. ...Arlo helped us find a large amount of barbed wire in the woods (using his face), which led us to find a very nice vet in town!