Archive for May, 2011

Spring Farm Pics

May 18, 2011

Our humble abode not surrounded by snow - note stunning forsythia in background

Tiny house with view

Planted beds weathering the storms

New wheelhoe (locally made) inside the coldframe

Strawberry plantings - okay not much to see but doesn't the plastic look great?

Garlic bed

One of this year's doe kids, Goddess

Broken-legged kid - yes, she needs a better name than that!

Happy poultry family

Freyja, next year's milker

Daffodils and tulips, just a distant memory for you West Coasters but in full flower here in the East

A Cold Day in May

May 13, 2011

Here we are, heading for the end of April and it’s finally starting to look like spring may be on its way (summer, too!). I managed to get some discing done in the fields a few days ago and once this rain is finished and the fields dry out again, I will start composting, transplanting and seeding. The fields are coming up really nicely, mainly because there was very little cover crop on them. Next year there will be more dead stuff on the soil surface to break down but this year it’s pretty much ready to go.

The garlic is up and looking good. The Glen Valley garlic (seed from the original garlic Jeremy brought out in 2009) is way ahead of the stuff I bought locally so I’ll probably keep it all for seed and sell the other. The other was really big but with lots of double cloves that weren’t much good for planting. We’ll see how the two varieties compare in yield and then I’ll decide which one to keep for seed. I spread some lobster meal on the straw between the rows and hopefully today’s rain washed it all down into the soil to give the garlic a nice feed to get it growing. I will add some compost later on, overtop the straw, and then cover with some more straw for weed control and moisture management. I’ve never used straw mulches like this before and I quite like it, though straw is expensive and it’s heavy to handle it at least adds something to the soil once it’s done its job with the plants.

Will is going out this week to pick up compost and cover crop seed (buckwheat and chickling vetch). We had originally planned to get a truckload of compost but the trucking costs were exorbitant and the minimum order was a bit too much for us. So Will is picking up pallets of bagged compost, unfortunately this means lots of packaging but at least we can store it and afford the transportation costs. Once we get the compost I’ll pot the tomatoes up (they are still in small cells) which means that I’ll need to move all the flats that are on the heated table. We don’t have anywhere to put them now but hopefully they’ll go in the ground pretty soon.

I’m back again after a couple of weeks. We had some great weather and managed to get beds composted and made and some seeding done in the fields (spinach, turnips, radish, peas, broad beans) plus some transplanting (cabbage, broccoli, onions, lettuce, kale), as well as our strawberry and raspberry plants in. We also have just over half the potatoes planted though we’re now enduring long days of cold, wet weather and trying to get the rest of the potatoes planted. We had a break in the rain yesterday and I managed to transplant some more onions but it’s wet and yucky again today with the long range forecast looking grim.

We are very lucky to have slightly sloping, well drained land with sandy-loam soil. This means that when we do get a break in the rain, things dry out pretty quickly and we’re able to get back into the fields. Unfortunately the slight slope means we are also getting some soil erosion and will need to deal with it very soon. The field with the berries in it is eroding quite badly so we’re thinking of seeding white clover into the pathways and the empty beds around the raspberries. The strawberries are under black plastic and this seems to be holding soil quite well. We are planting onions in this field as well and then will cover crop the rest of it for this year. Of course my planting plan has gone out the window as everything is now going into the beds that are highest and driest! The area I’d planned for early planting has been disced only once so far this season while the most distant field (with the garlic) has proven to be the one that dries fastest. It works well that we’d planned the potatoes, peas and broad beans for that field anyway!

We have done a mighty culling of goats, cleaned out the boys’ area and spread manure on part of the field to be cropped next year (buckwheat for this year). I managed to find homes for one doe and Buckley but the rest went to the auction in Truro. Nick was converted into a very large quantity of ground and stewing goat (quite delicious) and Keehay passed away after a short illness. So we are now down to 14 – yes, this is still quite a lot but 6 of them are little boys who won’t be overwintered. I’m keeping the three doe kids born this year to see how they shape up and will probably sell one of them next year. One of Gaia’s girls fell and broke her leg but is healing up quite well and I think she’ll turn into a lovely little doe. It turned out that Gaia bore Pinto’s babies – you may or may not remember the kerfuffle with bucks back in breeding season: Gaia had strongly rejected Pinto and only stood for Buckley. However the evidence is undeniable that Pinto got close enough to do the job and we are quite amazed, once again, at the resourcefullness of goats!

Gaia’s broken legged kid had a terrible break where the bones not only parted but misaligned. I had to set the bone, with Will holding the kid, and then wrapped the leg in paper towels (nearest to hand), put a homemade cast made of a piece of PVC pipe sliced lengthwise around it and wound copious quantities of duct tape around the whole thing. It’s been almost 4 weeks now and she is starting to put weight on it. I’ll leave it for 6 weeks and then hopefully she’ll be fine. They heal very quickly when injured at such a young age. I just hope my bone setting results in a straight leg. A crooked legged goat will still run around and enjoy life but will have trouble when burdened with the extra weight of pregnancy.

The lean-to coldframe is full and we have also built a sheltered area outside for hardening off seedlings. Now that tomatoes, peppers and Cape gooseberries have been potted up and cucumbers, zucchini, melons and squash have been started (not to mention the basil!), there’s no spare space on the warm bench. We don’t have any frost on the horizon but it’s close: down to +1 in a night or two. Next year we’ll need more heated space and I think, soon, the whole lean-to will be heated. All this heating cable has made a significant contribution to our power bill, but that was to be expected. I’ll be starting even more stuff in trays today to give us a jump on the season that is slow to start. So when the weather improves, there will be lots of plants to go in the ground.

Will spent many hours earlier in the spring doing maintenance on the tractors: fixing leaks, changing fluids, fixing brakes and lots of other small jobs that can mean big savings in the long term. He’s also done some more wiring in the steel building and hooked up a 220V outlet for the welder, which came in handy for some of the tractor and equipment repairs. He built a garden cart out of square steel tubing which is quite beautiful but a little larger than I’d envisioned. He has no trouble pulling it along but I may need a bit of help! It is a very useful tool and we’ll save money on fuel costs by being able to transport things (seedlings, tools, harvest) up and down the beds by human power rather than tractor power.

We received an unexpected gift from one of our neighbors a few weeks ago: 7 spreader loads of horse manure! What a nice guy! We saved him the cost of trucking because he’s close enough that Will was able to drive the spreader to his place for loading, and we got some bonus manure for our fields. It is fairly rotten so was easy to spread as well, very different from the stuff we dug out of the boys’ shed which was mostly hay and makes a tangled mess in the field. Either way, it’s all good stuff and will save us huge amounts of money on compost (plus greenhouse gases transporting it from 2 hours away). It is very sad that many farmers see manure as an inconvenience, to me it’s more valuable than gold!

We had our well checked out by the local well drillers and learned many useful things. We now know the depth, depth of casing, depth of water level and, most importantly for us as we plan to irrigate from it, the sustainable flow rate. We know we can sustain the water level pumping 7 gallons/minute which means we can run a couple of thousand feet of dripline at a time without depleting our system. We have an irrigation specialist coming out next week to visit the farm and offer us some advice on setting up our drip system. We have dripline set up in the coldframe now but will put in something a bit fancier for the rest of the fields this year. By the looks of things, though, I don’t think this will be a season that will be short on rain! And on that note, I think it’s time to get back to work….