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.


Tillers and Peppers

Big day on the farm... First Rototiller Pass 2012The tiller arrived, so now we are set to plant!  Of course, *today's* weather is not quite so planting-encouraging as the last few weeks (so we are holding off for a few more days... not that 17 degrees in the air will chill that deeply into the ground).

Here's Matt making the first pass on the right.  There was definitely good news in that the tiller seemed to handle the soil and corn stubble fine (we were a little worried about that, since there's some pretty serious stubble, and the tiller, believe it or not, is actually a bit undersized for our tractor).  But things worked up nice!  On the bad news, however... there were certainly a few more ROCKS than we anticipated.  Not that we can't handle rocks (we did come from NH), but we were hoping they were a thing of the past!!

Here's a close up before/after of what one tiller pass looks like.  Matt choose to try the tiller on one of the rougher areas of the field... it had been pretty compacted by previous field traffic (it's right by the entrance to the field).

What you see on the left (before) side is soil that has a fair bit of wind erosion going on... not an uncommon thing on a windy site with some slope that's been in a pretty "clean" (read:  weed-free) corn field for most of a year.  What happens is the wind whips through exposed ground and removes the "fines" from the soil (all the little tiny parts), leaving the larger gravel pieces exposed on the surface.  One of our main operational goals is to reverse the process.  This is much easier in a diversified produce operation, than for folks growing corn.  We will protect the surface fines by keeping the soil covered up more--either under plants with more leaf area than corn, or by cover crops (particularly in the windier off-season months).  To build up the soil more, we ultimately hope to add composted manure.  But until we have animals (or a source of local manure), we will focus on cover crops.  This summer we will be using a mix of buckwheat, red and white clovers, and a range of grasses.

Other big news on the seed starting front (besides the fact that we are living overnights with something like a hundred flats in our house... we will appreciate getting our greenhouse up next week!):  peppers are planted!  We intensively seed them in open flats and then pop them on the heating pad at 85 degrees.  We planted about 3000 plants this year, of a mix of hot, sweet, and unique varieties.  Check out the varieties HERE.

Peppers (along with eggplants and tomatoes) really like an extra boost of heat in order to germinate.  Since we have limited space for seedlings on our heat mat, we start one crop each week, and then rotate them off as they germinate.  Peppers grow the slowest, so they get a head start (followed by eggplants and then tomatoes).

It's been hard these past few weeks to control ourselves from planting more things early, but we have.  Last night as the temperatures started to drop, we were glad we hadn't jumped too far ahead of ourselves!  There is actually a crop warning for the next couple nights for our region for growers to protect things like trees that are prematurely blossoming.

One last pic before we go... herbs are germinating GREAT!  In the past, they have been tricky for us (they each are particular in their needs), but this year, they are doing really well... even the rosemary and lavender (my two personal favorites)... can't wait for them to be in the CSA (and at the market)!

Patience, and the last big push...




... inside before the season begins.  I keep saying that we will start our outside work (and we certainly will) with all its exciting pictures and stories any day now.  Yet Matt and I find ourselves busy wrapping up the last inside loose ends despite the warm spring weather.

(Arlo is outside, supposedly chasing our evil nemeses [geese] out of the pond... however, they quickly learned that the water is too cold for the dog and are taunting him from the middle.  Clearly he needs to step up his game a few notches!)

We are also focused now on practicing patience.  I really, really want to start seeding things that I probably shouldn't.  It's just so nice and the soil (even here at 1400 feet) is actually pretty warm.  But... we are almost guaranteed to get cold again, so we are trying to be patient... for at least one more week!  It's just hard not to get antsy with days like today!  This used to be a big problem of mine, especially with starting seeds.  The year that cured me was in NH when I started all my tender seeds and threw in snap peas a couple weeks early since it seemed to be warming up faster than usual.  Of course it ended up getting VERY cold in late May, and I couldn't get my tender summer crops in until 2 weeks later then normal (and I had started them 2 weeks earlier than normal).  The plants survived and didn't get too root bound, but I had to spend a lot of money and time re-potting them.  Twice.  The pea flowers, however, did not make it through the frost, and we lost a lot in yields.


"What DO farmers do in the winter?" is a question we hear a lot.  In sort, recover, regroup, re-plan, and get prepared.  Winter is a great chance to reassess how the season went, what we liked or didn't like, and where we want to go from there.  It's also a time to put together your vision and goals for the farm in the next season, and assemble all the things you need to make that happen.

This winter (and this early spring) were certainly busy for us.  In the past week, I have been working on finishing the orders for most of our spring supplies and seeds.  Typically we would do this last month, but we didn't want to buy anything new knowing we'd just have to move it again!

Where do we order our seeds and growing supplies from?  Our favorite places for seeds include:

Johnnys Selected Seeds (out of Maine)

High Mowing Seeds (out of Vermont)

Wild Garden Seeds (West Coast)

We try to work with companies and seed houses that breed (or at least test) seeds for our northern climates.  We also like places that offer a mix of hybrids and open-pollinated/heirloom seeds, to give us a good balance between new and old crops.

For growing supplies, we use Johnnys again (link above), as well as:

Nolt's Produce Supplies (no website, but out of PA)

Fedco Seeds

And for when random parts are breaking, FarmTek

This year we are trying out some NY vendors and hope to find some local places!

Matt, meanwhile, is focusing his energy on finding a tractor.  We have a great little cultivating tractor, but now need something with a bit more power to work the roto-tiller.  Unfortunately, our scale seems to put us in the black hole of tractor sizes.  There are tons of sub-35 hp and over-90 hp machines out there, but not a lot in the middle range (which is of course what we are looking for).  He hopes to decide on something by the end of the week!

Look for notes and seed starting pics tomorrow!