Sunday, March 21, 2010

Warm spring = busy spring for farmers!

A nice rosy sunburn on your face is not something you expect in the middle of a Rochester march. But we are managing to get lots done in this amazing weather.

I started tilling today. The first few rows, for peas, carrots, spinach. I'm glad I got it in before the rain starts & it turns cold again.

In the last few days we've done a general farm clean-up, moving sandbags & fenceposts, checking the fields for dropped irrigation parts, etc.
We put up a deer fence around 10 acres, turned it on, and baited it with peanut butter. The fields are dimpled with so many hoofprints that it looks like a herd of moose trampled through. They fertilized for us, it was actually pretty convenient. They enjoyed grazing on our lush winter rye. Now they will learn to respect our boundaries (hopefully)! They could absolutely jump over our one-strand line, but the tactic is pychological.
New farm-hand Don helped show us how you can put fence posts in with the front loader of the tractor-- we got the job done a lot easier than pounding them in by hand with a post-pounder!

We also met a new friend who has horses & needs a place to get rid of their manure--- we were more than willing to take it, especially if she drops it off! It will need a few years to decompose before we use it probably, and we will turn it with the loader to make a rich black compost. I may decide to spread it on fields that we won't be growing in this year... that way it will compost right in the field, building organic matter as we let the fields rest & recoup with a cover crop.A new member of the Mud Creek family was just purchased at an auction in Canandaigua. An Allis Chalmers "G"... one of the few tractors with the engine mounted behind the seat. This makes it an excellent tractor for cultivating rows of vegetables-- you can see everything in front of you & below you, as you scrape the weeds out but leave the broccoli! It's a late 1940's model, but it starts up fine, steers okay, and has 3 gears + reverse, and working hydraulics!
Luke & I have been toying with the idea of converting it to electric--- this has been done on the "G" model tractors by many small vegetable farmers. (
For now though, since it runs, we will probably use it as-is. I'm trying to decide whether I will buy a set of basket-weeder cultivators to go underneath it. They cost more than the tractor... (and it cost $2000!) Jack says that our other 1940's tractor, Princess Rose III (a Farmall Cub), will be fixed up & ready to cultivate by mid-April. A name for this one? Maybe something with "snail" in it... any suggestions?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Spring is here!

On this cold, windy, rainy day, we started up the greenhouse heater & pressed thousands of seeds into the soil. We turned on the hose & watered them in. We brought the onion plants from my parent's house (where they've been growing for 2 weeks near a sunny window), and the artichoke seedlings we transplanted up into 4" pots. Beth here is checking on the trays that we set on a germination mat at 80 degrees. The air in the greenhouse is set to about 55 degrees.
There is nothing like that shade of green in the spring, after months of seeing gray.
Luke helped me pull a giant durable tarp over our new shed we built over the walk-in cooler. It's actually a used billboard we got from the local billboard company!

The fields are indeed muddy. Mud Creek is flowing fast & high, and is living up to its name. The fields have a few soggy spots. I remember this from last year. As soon as the soil below thaws out, it should drain away soon. The patch by the garlic concerns me a bit, but the garlic is starting to push through the soil & grow now, so I think it should have enough strength to survive. I just hope the rain stops soon & we get more sun like last week! We'll need to plow soon...
Here's a few pictures from constructing the shed:

And from up in the greenhouse peak, working on plasticking the vents.
It's a great time to be out at the farm-- every day more and more bird songs can be heard, and all sorts of insects & critters are crawling out of their hiding places. The mud makes a slurping sound when you pull your boots out of it. The air is crisp & new. Hello spring!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Project: COMPOST

Compost is kind of my religion.

Everything that is alive composts eventually. It's how nature recycles. And the end product after decomposition is ultimately nourishment for another generation of living things. Organic farmers who are growing & harvesting vegetables rely heavily on compost to replenish their soil.

Compost is that step that brings dead things back to life. It's pretty miraculous actually.

This year I'd like to invite all our CSA members to be a part of the whole cycle-- by saving any kitchen scraps, etc. (see list below) and dropping them off at the farm when you pick up your veggie share every week. This keeps a lot of precious "waste" from going to the landfill, and it helps grow your vegetables too!

The best way is to collect scraps in a 5-gallon bucket, with a lid on it. You can keep it outside, in the garage, under the sink, by the trash can, etc. -- just make sure it's tight so that critters can't get in. You can get free buckets from the bakery & deli sections of grocery stores-- just ask them next time you're doing your grocery shopping. If you get a few, share with a friend. Keep asking-- we can always use more on the farm too, so start collecting!

We have a chef in the city (Natural Oasis Restaurant) who collects all his food scraps for us & sometimes even personally delivers them to the farm! He usually has about 10 buckets worth a week. If anyone knows other sources such as this that might be interested, let me know.

Here's a list of compostable items:
-all food scraps (peels, cores, tops, old moldy stuff from the fridge, meat & dairy ok too)
-coffee grounds, tea bags
-paper bags, black&white newspaper

Sound good? Once you get in the habit of it, it's kind of fun. You'll never go back.

A chance to be a part of growing new food by recycling old food. So go get a bucket & start!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Greenhouse almost ready for planting!

The last four days we've been out at the farm taking advantage of the gorgeous spring weather-- and after many frozen fingers & muddy knees, we've finally finished putting all the new plastic up & it's just about ready to go. First we had a little excavating job to dig out the sides of the greenhouse...
Then we pulled the 2 layers of plastic sheeting over the top of the greenhouse (by 3 ropes attached to the plastic around snowballs!)... securing it on all sides with a metal-rod system & bolts. This system is outdated & extremely time-consuming & frustrating. Next time we do this, we're updating to the "wiggle-wire" method. Boy, what a headache. Thankfully a few farmer friends came out to give helpful advice (they have more experience with greenhouses themselves). Then we stapled smaller pieces of plastic to the endwalls... on the north wall I was able to use the old plastic from last year, since we don't care too much about light penetrating through this side.As the sun set this evening, the greenhouse glowed as I walked back out to my car.
All day big "V"s of geese were squawking overhead... I like to say "welcome back" to them in the spring, even though I know that lots of them overwinter here probably!
Spring feels like it has arrived. The ground was thawing & the mud was making its presence known-- on our boots, gloves, pants, & everything. Glorious, glorious mud.

Thank you to all the enthusiastic volunteers who came out to help with breaking in the farm for the 2010 season!

I'm excited to get to know everyone-- all the new CSA members who'll be joining us this season -- as well as seeing old friends who are back for a second summer. Happy spring!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010