Sunday, May 22, 2016

Team farming!

 We had a lot of helpers this week on the farm, and got a ton planted!
 Our winter squash and first round of summer squash went in with some volunteer Cub Scouts and their families.  Thank you!!!!!!

We also planted peppers, fennel, scallions, and the rain held off so that we could get it all in!

 We could use the rain though.... farm apprentice Stephanie spent the rest of the evening laying irrigation lines on everything we planted (and got muddy feet!)    We also cover up some of the plants to protect them from the bugs.
Hopefully we'll get rain this week.
The blueberries are blooming!   I've plowed up most of the ground that we'll be planting this spring, and the sand polished the plow nice and shiny.
Also, I  took the little 1953 Farmall Cub out for the first time this season to cultivate the onions!  It is a very fun tractor to drive.
It's hard to see the onions in this photo, but they are there.  Some of them got accidentally buried, but the weed control was easy in the sandy ground with the Cub cultivators.
This week we also finished seeding 17 acres of pasture and clover with a nurse crop of oats!  It's been a busy week.
Getting that field ready for planting
Breaking some equipment on rocks
We spent a whole day picking rocks out of this field.  Did I mention it's been a long week?
We rented a friend's grain drill to seed the oats, grass, and clover, and it was so satisfying to get it all done!  Now we just wait for rain.

We still have lots more to plant this week, like our first sweet corn field, lots of lettuce, and more covering and irrigating to do.
 Not to mention weeding!  I'm trying to be in denial of all the tiny little crabgrass seedlings that are coming up right now in all the planted beds, especially the ones under the covers.  I don't see them!  Just kidding, I'll be tackling them tomorrow morning, and likely all day tomorrow.

We've been so blessed by getting volunteers.   The farm really is going in fast.  In a few weeks, when the covers start coming off, the plants will really shine.  I'm looking forward to the view from the hill when the mosaic of vegetables starts to come in.
Do you want to help out on the farm?  We always need more hands.  We also have CSA shares available still, Full and Half.  Go to for more info.  Thanks folks, and happy full moon!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The sport of May Veggie Farming

There is a long gravel driveway that leads out to our vegetable field.

We've started plowing, tilling, and planting, and that's why I haven't written a blog post in a while!  

Did I mention that besides the 2 acres of veggies we're growing this year, we're also transitioning an additional 50 acres of conventionally managed corn fields into organic pasture and future fruit/veggie ground?  I've been on the tractor a lot.  Dreams coming true can involve lots of work.

There are some rocks in these fields. 

Fortunately for us, though, the fields we're planting vegetables in this year don't have hardly any rocks at all-- they are just like heaven to work in.  Actually, like heaven was a beach that was growing organic vegetables, and had friends helping.

 We've had 2 volunteer planting parties so far-- onions and broccoli.  The onions were a big haul to get in, but they are all in now!  They look a little sad for a few weeks, as they establish themselves in their new surroundings.  But they will perk up and we'll keep watering them once a week if it doesn't rain enough.

There are a lot more plants coming out of the greenhouse soon to plant as well.   Farm apprentice Stephanie has been busy helping seed trays of lettuce, peppers, basil, scallions, and more!

  Also we have 600 lbs of potato seed to plant this weekend.  We are always looking for volunteers, and potato planting is one of the easiest jobs.  Last night I spoke with 12 excited Cub Scouts in Rochester who want to come out and help plant something on a farm.  I love the possibility of including kids more, teaching them about real work, that involves their whole bodies and not just their thumbs and fingers on a screen!

Water!  We have a great well on the property, and have run a large flexible hose from the barn where it's located out to our field.


From there, we run drip irrigation lines down the 200' rows of veggies. 

It's an efficient way to get the water right to the roots of the plants, without losing a lot to evaporation.


After planting and irrigating, we will sometimes cover our plants with row cover to keep the bugs off--- in this case, the broccoli/cabbage/kale crop is protected from flea beetles.  We weigh down the cloth with sandbags.  Lots of sand available!  The cover also creates a little greenhouse environment for the plants, letting in rain and sun, keeping out bugs, and raising the temperature by 5 degrees or so.

We spent a long day setting up a high voltage deer fence.  Two fence lines with three hot wires, baited with peanut butter to teach them to stay away... hopefully it will work!


The blueberry bushes are starting to think about blooming.  

We are transitioning this quarter-acre patch of berries from conventionally managed to organic, so we spent the early spring mulching with wood chips, pruning, fertilizing with organic Fertrell fertilizer, and now we've planted grass and clover in between the rows.

And things are starting to pick up at the EquiCenter Farm again, with a tractor safety class to kick off the spring season-- a professional safety trainer came out and showed us how to avoid potential dangers around tractors.  Managers and apprentices from several other farms gathered to learn.


 The weeks ahead promise to be exhausting, with planting, planting, planting, and everything else that comes with it.  Of course the weeds will start growing too soon!  But for now, this rainy day has allowed me to take a little rest, and prepare myself for the olympic sprint that May is for vegetable farmers.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Getting roots in the ground!

The greenhouse has suffered through some really gnarly weather but our pampered little vegetable transplants are doing alright.   To do seeding work in this protected little bubble during a snow storm is very nice… the propane heater kicks on when it gets below 6o degrees, a fan keeps the air fresh and circulating, and if it ever gets warmer than 85 degrees, the automatic vents open and blow cold air through to cool it off!  It is ideal, it is control—it’s easy to understand why so many people are excited about hydroponics and hoophouse growing.  But it can be energy intensive.   
 Fairly soon we’ll start the hardening-off process for our March-seeded vegetables, which means we take the trays of seedlings out into the “unprotected” outside environment, in the sun and wind, and they get to learn firsthand about the cold hard world, but still get some pampering at night.  This is to prepare them for their mature lives in the field, where they need to be strong enough to withstand storms and weather.

Speaking of the field, we’ve started plowing up some of the new sandy ground!  (no rocks!)  Next week the weather looks pretty good for us to plant.  The ingredients are simple:

-       A prepared bed to plant in:  the clover we’ve plowed under takes a few weeks to decompose, and then we’ll sprinkle in a little bit of certifed organic soil amendments and fertilizer (we use Fertrell products), then till up a 5’ wide bed 200’ long, marking the rows we’ll plant with a custom-welded row marker our friend made for us.
-       An electric deer fence to save our crops for the two-legged eaters
-       A drip irrigation system hooked up to a well
-       Plants ready to go in the ground!  We received our onion shipment – this year we decided to buy onion starter plants that were grown in the south where the weather is a bit more conducive in the spring (instead of firing up our greenhouse in February and expensively heating it just for a few trays of onions).
-       Farm workers and volunteers to help plant – will you help?  We’re hoping to get them in the ground mid to late next week, possibly next weekend.  Email:  erin dot dandelion at  if you’re interested in lending a hand.  Onions are easy to plant, and the more hands we have helping the faster it goes!  Donuts for volunteers!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Marching forward!

 March is very unpredictable in this climate.
One day it is 70 degrees, the next day it is snowing.
We've had a lovely warm spring so far, but this week has been a bit stormy!
It makes planning kind of difficult...
However, things are moving forward quickly at Wild Hill Farm.
 We've tested the soils, decided on our veggie field location, and ordered our organic fertilizer and amendments based on the soil test results.

The last person to farm this land planted corn on some steep hillsides, and last spring's stormy weather resulted in some major erosion.  Check out this gully!  They wised up and planted alfalfa which holds the soil in place for many years, unlike corn, which leaves soil bare to wash away.

 Fortunately, this erosion ended up just depositing silt and nutrients right into the flat field which we'll be growing vegetables in!  Most erosion, however, results in precious topsoil being washed into a stream which washes into a river which washes into a lake or the ocean, and by that time it's lost to us as the valuable food-growing substance that it is.

This farmer was definitely doing some of the right things, though.  Below is a picture of the soil where you can vaguely make out little clumps of straw.  It might not look too fascinating, but it is!

Under each little mound of straw there is an earthworm hole!  The worms come out to the surface at night, and pull these little sticks and pieces of dead grass down into their holes, where they eat them and turn them into amazing compost!  The sticks on top of their holes were just too big to fit down their holes.  It's fascinating to me!
 I'm also on the hunt for a few key pieces of equipment that will allow me to work the soil, and plant what I want easily in it, preventing the weeds from taking over.
A friend is making a rolling marker that we'll pull behind our rotary tiller -- it marks a grid on our beds which we can transplant or direct seed into!  I hope that we'll be using this within the next 2 weeks to plant peas, carrots, beets, etc.  It's very important to get the rows straight, because we use an antique cultivating tractor to weed with, and anything that doesn't get planted in the line gets wiped out!  Brutal, I know.  But very effective.
 The greenhouse is starting to fill up with
trays of transplants.
And things are starting to sprout!

We were out pruning blueberries one sunny day, when a cold wind blew in something fierce, and suddenly we were in a snow squall!   Almost done getting the blueberries ready.  It will be nice to have these taken care of in the next few weeks and just anticipate the harvest in July!

Onward we march...