January in the greenhouse, again!

Let’s see.. last January, we had one greenhouse.

Now there are two.  Let’s take a look inside the big one.

Looks promising.  What’s growing in here?

Tatsoi.  Beautiful tatsoi.  More people need to know about this delicious spinach alternative.

Lettuce & green onions.  The lettuce maybe has another cutting in it, since we’re having this warm, sunny spell.

For really early spring, there is a bed of radishes & carrots.  The radishes are only a couple weeks away.. the carrots probably won’t be ready until March or April.  The southernmost bed, not pictured, has red mustard, kale, arugula, and spinach.

 

The small greenhouse looks nice too.

Baby kale, anyone? The other beds contain mizuna, arugula, and yukina savoy.  Another grower told me I should try yukina savoy, and I do like it a lot.

All the rows are uncovered today because it’s 55 F outside, and the forecast is for fairly warm nights this week.  When it gets below 20 F at night again, I’ll cover the beds back up with the white row cover.

 

 

August Abundance

As usual, once summer abundance sets in, it’s difficult to find time to blog.

We just put our final batch of broilers out on pasture, and received our last shipment of baby chicks for the season- 50 golden comets.  We’ve not had this breed before, but they are supposed to be tame and excellent layers.

golden comet chicks

First meal after 2 days in the mail

The tomato abundance is keeping us very busy.  These pictures are of less than one day’s harvest.  Our biggest one day harvest so far was around 250 lb.

tomatoes

tomato zoom

heirloom cherry tomatoes

I am busily working on the CSA application for next year and should have it ready by the weekend.  One of these tomato pictures might even be included.

Our next abundant harvest item?  Winter squash.  We have a lot of Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck butternut squash out in the field- they are sizing up to enormous proportions and look delicious.  The seed is from Nature’s Crossroads, right here in Indiana.  We’re growing several of their products this season but this squash might be my favorite.

We’ve applied for a grant for some fencing on our farm.  They are accepting applications through October 31st.  I don’t know if more page views benefit us or not, but have a look at our story.  I was limited to less than 500 words, so it’s shorter than my blog posts!

Catching up…

April was wet, and our 80 foot greenhouse fell down in a storm. These two things meant we started the month of May behind schedule.

Two greenhouses were standing in a field. One was taken, the other was left.

The 40-foot greenhouse has been overflowing with transplants ever since that time.  When the ground is wet, the plants stay in the trays.

The weather dried up enough to start field planting around May 15th or so.  I got a few things in before that, but cold, rainy weather didn’t really encourage them to thrive.  Our replacement greenhouse arrived on May 17th.   Nothing like having it all happen at once!

On Saturday, May 21st, some friends and work share members visited.  The friends helped with the greenhouse & the work share members helped with the field planting.  The weather was perfect- sunny during the day, followed by about an inch of rain to soak in the transplants after everyone went home.

Cold, rain, and storms have been the rule, rather than the exception, for the last few weeks, but I think we’re turning the corner.  The new greenhouse is fully planted as of today, the west end is framed up with a fan installed, and we might actually put the plastic cover on this week.

West end of greenhouse, with fan!

It’s 90 degrees out today, and the strawberries are getting ripe.  Why didn’t I renovate the paths last summer again?

We’re still behind schedule, but the dry, warm weather in the forecast for this week is a very good thing.  June is off to a more encouraging start than May.

Oh, and have you ever eaten garlic scapes?   Because that’s the other thing we’re harvesting this week, brought on by the heat.  This means another early year for garlic!

Thankful

Thank you to all of our customers this year.  Whether you visit us at the market, join the CSA, or enjoy our real eggs, you keep us going.  You’re the best.  Thank you for caring about where your food comes from.  Whenever we get to know you, we feel like we’re meeting old friends.

We won’t be at Traders Point market on Saturday, November 26th.  It will be our first completely market-free weekend since April!  We’ll be back during the next two weekends for Christmas at the Market.

This is our time of year for planning & analysis.  We’ll keep you posted on any changes we’re planning for 2011.

We got the Carmel market contract in the mail & noticed a few changes:

  • More market weeks:  The market will start May 21st and go through October 29th.  More work for us, but also more revenue.  Having another market for fall items will be nice.
  • We’re not enormous fans of the Carmel market’s “50% rule,” which is that 50% of product is supposed to be grown by the vendor.  As a grower, I’d rather have a grower-only market (a 100% rule, if you will) or at least more of an 80% rule.  However, a big step in the right direction is in the current contract.  Any products that vendors don’t grow themselves are now supposed to be labeled with the name & address of the grower.   I don’t know how enforcement will work, but it sure seems like the right thing to do.  I think the market committee is concerned that a grower-only market would result in an insufficient product mix.  It will be interesting to see exactly which products are being “bought in.”
  • New market space.  The Carmel market is moving to the green next to the Palladium.  A new, larger, fabulously landscaped space with more parking is something both customers and vendors like us can be thankful for.

We are also very thankful for the friends & family members who helped out on the farm this year.  Some worked for money, some were part of work shares, and some just volunteered their time and effort in various ways.  All of you are amazing.

Finally, we’re just thankful that we get to do this.  Living in the country, seeing the stars, watching plants & animals grow out of the soil, and watching the soil come back to life are everyday miracles.

Whenever someone asks me at the market, “Did you grow all of this yourself?”  I feel a strange moment of hubris when responding, “Yes.”  Because I didn’t, really.  The plants grew, but I’m not the one who told a tiny seed to open, instructed leaves to transform sun into energy, enabled roots to draw nutrients up from the soil, and made all prosper with flowers and fruits into something good to eat.  The plant grew itself, and whatever you believe about how it got the means to do that, I get to watch it happen all the time, over and over, thousands of times every season.  And that’s what I’m most thankful for, and that’s why I’m farming.

 

 

It’s dry out there.

I looked at our rain data for this summer and it was as follows:

June: 12.4 inches of rain

July : 7.9 inches of rain

August: 1.4 inches of rain

The rain in August has all come 1/4 inch at a time or so.  Right now I’m running the irrigation for a couple of days to loosen up the sweet potato hill.

Despite the dry conditions, and due to the drip irrigation, we have lots of fall stuff up and looking ok so far.  But it would all really take off if we had a nice, gentle, overnight rain.  It’s funny how in June we can be praying for the rain to stop, and in August, wishing just a little of it would come back our way.

CSA Work Day #1

4 friends, new & old, came out & braved cold, drizzling conditions to help out with putting up our hoophouse.  They stood in puddles, lost shoes in the mud, and even brought side dishes.  They made a lot more space in the pole barn, sorted out all the parts, put together all the hoops, and have the posts driven.  Once it dries out a little, we’ll get the hoops up & take some pictures!

We are so grateful that folks who, in some cases, have just met us are willing to take time out of their weekends to help us in our effort to build a sustainable family farm.  Perhaps it’s our farm name, but many of our members seem to be employed in technical fields or be engineers.  It’s doubly amazing to me that many “desk job” sorts of persons will come out and spend a day covered in mud to help us out.

We’ll be using this hoophouse, assuming it makes it up in a timely fashion, to grow early tomatoes for the CSA & market.  I hope to get a few cucumbers going in there also, and possibly early greens.

Long term, we have the pieces for 1 more hoophouse that’s twice as long, or 2 that are the same size.  We’d like to use one to grow & start produce, and use the other for overwintering chickens, probably alternating between the two as needed to maintain soil fertility.

A familiar face

I was walking through the dining room this morning when I saw a familiar face looking at me through the window in the front door.  It was a fuzzy, black and white face- the face of one of our heifers, standing on the front porch.  She stared at me for a minute, then bolted away as I moved toward the front door.  

We hadn’t had any cows escape since one particularly bad day in June, and I was not looking forward to repeating that experience in the winter.  This same heifer had led the way on that day.  

Since I was home alone, I had to spend some time thinking about how to handle this.  I peered out the front door & didn’t see any other cattle.  Went upstairs and, to my relief, was able to see that the 4 others were still inside the fence.  

With a bale of hay, some herd psychology, and about half an hour, I was able to get her back inside the fence.  She was ready to rejoin her friends.  There was no running madly through muddy fields this time.  

A little investigation revealed that she had probably stepped over the wall of our cow stall in the barn, and just waltzed out the front door.  Mr. Burke is presently outdoors, nailing a few more boards to the stall wall to make it higher.  I’m especially glad that it wasn’t something like a breach in the field fence, which is a very annoying thing to fix in the winter!

Also, I’m very glad that our work with taming the cattle has paid off so much.  The heifer that escaped today was the least-tame of all our cattle, but she still tolerated my presence and responded to what I wanted her to do MUCH more easily than before.  We strongly believe that tame cattle make better beef, since they will have produced fewer stress hormones.  Food is a great motivator!