Tag

fresh eggs

Juggling All the Things!

By | farm journal

Week 11

2017

Juggling Plants and Animals

We planted peas and garlic in the beds we double-dug last week (now named Shady Acres.) The garlic popped up within a few days but we’re still waiting on any sign of the peas.

The baby chicks have started spending the days outside in the old hog cage to keep them safe from all the full size creatures.

We’re trying to keep up with transplanting seedlings into larger pots as they’re ready… Most of the brassicas and all the tomatoes are now in 2″ and 2″ pots and looking happy. I had to separate lots of little ones that had come up two in a cell, and they all seem to have adjusted just fine.

I also re-seeded as many of the mouse-acred plants as I could and the new ones are popping up and happy.

The plantings that are supposed to be going into the outdoor beds are falling behind, though. Something about not yet having a fence to keep out hungry beasts…

Strange Warm Weather

The apricots and peaches are in full bloom. Yerba mansa is waking up. And I spotted a full size grasshopper in the garden. All before the first day of spring. The next few decades are going to be a weird ride.

Real Estate Subdivisions

We’re been talking for years about assigning names to parts of our farm that mimic real estate subdivision names and we’ve finally settled on them. We’ll put up adorable cheesy signs eventually. But for now it will be helpful to have a system to refer to each bed in our crop plans and record-keeping for our organic certification.

And then after choosing our names we also found this magical tool that made my day…

Weather Station

Kemper got us a super sweet weather station so we can monitor temperature, humidity, air pressure, precipitation, wind speed and direction, soil and air temperature inside the greenhouse, and soil temperature in our planting beds outside! It can alert us when certain high and low temperatures are reached, and we can check it remotely. It’s the coolest. Kemper pretty much doesn’t look at anything else anymore.

FORMS FORMS FORMS

So so so many forms! Remember that time the state named us Bluefly Forms? Yeah. This week is all about job sheets, specifications, land history forms, environmental health permits… the list never ends. Our biggest obstacles currently are trying to navigate the opposing requirements of the NRCS and the Organic Program. Planning out our fencing has proven especially tricky. The NRCS requires either treated lumber or cedar. The organic program prohibits treated lumber. Cedar is really really hard to find (and expensive!) We are also allowed to use drill-pipe but the NRCS wants it painted and the organic program prefers that it isn’t. Navigating one set of rules is hard enough! The intersection of the two of them is just exhausting.

We have also discovered an amazing phenomenon in which every time we look deeper into what it will take to build out our projects or get closer to ordering them, they get more expensive. Every single time. The list prices actually go up, we remember other parts we need, another requirement comes to light… My original pricing research that showed each project being achievable within the reimbursements are now looking quite different.

Baby Chicks and Double Digging

By | farm journal

Week 10

2017

Three New Recruits

Our egg production has gone way up with the warmer temperatures but I’ve been wanting to add more green to our egg rainbow since last year. So with the arrival of the first batch of chicks at the feed store I was ready! And I love the way they bring new life and spring and beginnings right into the house in the most joyous and palpable way. And so we got three new chicks, all Americanas—Dr. Naylor, Francesca, and Turtle. And they’re SOOOO FLUFFY!

Transplanting & Re-Seeding

The first batches of transplants went into their big kid pots this week. It’s so satisfying to see neat little rows of happy teeny plants. It really shouldn’t be so surprising to see how many plants come out of a 200-plug tray when you spread them out, but it’s quite a lot!

After some time to recover from the mouse devastation (and one culprit caught) I have begun re-seeding the trays that were wiped out. Peppers seemed to be a clear favorite of those hungry vermin, and the spinach and cilantro suffered, too, along with marigolds and zinnias, but those may have simply been collateral damage being next to peppers. I reseeded as many as I could with what seed I have left, and set a tight perimeter of traps around the fresh trays.

Double Digging

We started to prep our first planting bed for peas radishes and carrots (and really really late garlic because… Do what you can!) The area this bed is going into is directly north of the Alpaca Loaf/Chicken Coop, so it’s been getting a huge amount of water from the still-un-guttered roof and now also from the greenhouse, and it was heavy clay to begin with. I could hardly get through the surface with the broadfork. So we decided to give double digging a try and add lots of compost. It took both of us half the day to finish the first 4′ by 22′ bed, but it does look rather more inviting for baby veggies now. Time will tell if we find this amount of labor pays off!

After all that hard digging we took the shovels over to the garden to compare how our mulching and manure and compost and clover have done, and the soil there is much healthier! Darker, better aggregate, less compaction… It’s going to be a walk in the park to prep those beds by comparison!

All About Seedlings

By | farm journal

Week 9

2017

The Greenhouse

We started building our greenhouse in November… It was all-consuming and fun and empowering and frustrating and it might never ever be all the way done.

The best part of it by far is the rad high-hose we installed so we can water everything without dragging a hose down the aisles. It’s THE BEST!

We’re still working on getting gas and electricity hooked up, so we’re getting by with extension cords and space heaters for the time being. We’ve got the cold sensitive plants in mini-tunnels that get tucked in at night, and so far that’s keeping everything happy.

Seedlings Everywhere!

We have a couple thousand lavender transplants slowly waking up from their winter slumbers. They all have strong root systems so we’re just watching to see them explode in growth above the soil.

Getting our annuals going has involved a bit more heartache…

First, I ordered all the seed I could think of and got so excited when they all arrived I just started putting them in trays… 100 or 200 of everything. And then I started realizing I was about to run out of real estate for seed trays and was going to overrun the garden with all those plants. Then, we went off to Colorado for a weekend and left our brave and wonderful farm sitters to deal with our shabby high-maintenance system. Most of the trays of starts didn’t make it through the hot afternoons. But the time away gave me the chance to finish our garden plan and come back with more realistic numbers for each variety we’re growing, including some to sell at plant sales, and enough to support our very informal trial run CSA that we’re putting together for this year.

Planning, Planning, Planning

This overall farm plan has proven indispensable again and again. We’ve used it for the conservation practices we’re implementing through grants from the NRCS, for our Organic Certification, for our planting numbers, and sometimes just to look at and daydream.

The solstice drawings helped us figure out the best placement for our greenhouse and high tunnel to maximize their solar gain. The high tunnel is scheduled to go up by April.

Now we’re using the placement of the high tunnel to lay out our planting beds for this coming season. I drew up hexagonal plant spacing for each bed and used it to calculate how many seedlings to start. It’s been a little challenging to know when to start a lot of these seeds since we need to have some ready for our first event in mid-April but our planting out date for frost-sensitive plants won’t come for a few weeks after that. I’ve just been working really hard to keep detailed records. We’ll do the best we can with what we have this first year and with enough notes, we’ll be so much wiser when it comes time to do this again next season.

Those two ideas have been my mantras through this planning phase. It always feels like we’re behind the curve and behind schedule. Deep breaths! Move ahead! And take detailed notes!!!

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

And then there were mice.

After several days of moping that we lost so many seedlings, I put myself back together and got excited about planting anew with more appropriate numbers. And now I’ve discovered that I have inadvertently created a five star mouse retreat. It’s the bleakest time of year and here we have this warm cozy little spot with a breakfast bar of seeds that gets replenished every day!

Those crazy little rodents dig up each seed leaving a mess all over my neat, carefully labeled trays, and eat half the seeds right out of their shells. It looks like a massacre.  A mysterious, tragic massacre. It took me a few days to understand what was happening, and my first reaction was devastation and rage. And then I tried to imagine those furry little guys coming upon this feast and holding my precious seeds in their teeny tiny little paws and thanking the heavens above for their unbelievable luck. It’s a little less painful when I think of it like that. But then I set mousetraps… because the world is cruel and confusing.

The Chicken Miracle

Almost a year ago we built this awesome new chicken coop into the same structure we built to house our alpacas, our tiny hay barn, and our planting benches. Only… we never finished securing it against predators. And the chickens never got the memo that it was where they were supposed to sleep. And we never did much about it, because for a year we hadn’t seen any evidence that raccoons or any other critters had been bold enough to come into the yard thanks to the dogs and alpacas.

That changed a couple weeks ago when Kemper woke up to the sounds of raccoons. He went running out with Remy the guard doodle and chased them off, and we collected all the sleeping chickens within reach and had them spend the night in a teeny cage in the kids’ bathroom.

Miraculously, all ten chickens were accounted for the next morning. We spent the next two days installing chicken wire and transformed the place into a fortress. Now, with the irresistible lure of chicken scratch every evening at sundown, we’re finally getting those ladies into the groove.

Week Fourteen – So Fresh & So Clean

By | farm journal

Put alpacas, chicks, and plants out… Put them in… Repeat!

We’re in a pretty good rhythm taking care of all the things lately as long as we stick around during the day. Being away means the chicks are locked up in their cage inside and the alpacas are stuck in the back and the plant starts spend the day in the hallway leaning toward the sun. But putting the plants out has had its downside, too. Lots of them are showing signs of sun-scalding. Hopefully with careful watering we can keep bringing them out for full sunshine without cooking them to death and if we can, they’ll get tougher and tougher.

We got our first rain in months Friday and Saturday. Didn’t add up to much, but it’s crazy to think how long it’s been. It was the longest dry spell on record since 1895.

Our big new area of growth and difficult decision-making is in our lavender nursing capacity—the greenhouse we’ve been chomping at the bit to build has been helped along by a contract to grow a couple thousand lavender plants for Robert, who’s building a lavender farm and retreat center outside Belen. So now we’re weighing all the possible ways to best nurture that many plants. A huge kit greenhouse on the existing slab that joins with the house? A partially-underground area with a shorter roof made of double-wall plastic or poly panels? A custom designed glass greenhouse? In-floor heating? We have a couple months before the starts will need to be under shade and a few months more after that before they’ll need to be protected from cold.

This weekend was a flurry of organizing and cleaning up thanks to a visit from Robert. His coming by was a great excuse to put away all the loose ends and scrap piles that have been haunting and torturing me for months. Kemper nearly finished weed-whacking all last year’s weeds from the front field and now you can see there’s lavender out there—not just scruffy rows of mystery growth! Our farm hasn’t looked this clean since we got married. Evie even remarked that our house “looks like a farm now.”

The infrastructure support continues to increase our efficiency (and my sanity) thanks to a huge effort by my parents and brother who spent all Friday in the drizzle helping us organize inside the garage and now when we need a tool or material we can just walk right in there without tripping or ducking and find it on a pegboard! No searching, digging, head-scratching or cursing necessary! It’s a miracle!

Kemper and Leon also put up a smooth two-wire fence around the poppy mallow test area Friday to keep the alpacas out. (And Decoration already found his way in…) Guess we need three or four wires!

The dedicated attention we’ve been able to put toward the farm, the insane amount of help we’ve gotten from my family, and the opportunity to grow plants on contract are transforming our farm in the most exciting way. Every day it gets closer and closer to the way it looks and feels in my dreams.

Week Twelve – The Infrastructure Party Continues

By | farm journal

The ‘Croncost’ is Sorted!

We mathed our compost bin design plans to death and figured out a size for which we’d have enough scrap tongue and groove lumber to build the three-bin system and it’s awesome! We were limited in material choices since treated lumber and recycled palettes are against the policies of the organic certification, so it was super exciting to be able to make it work with approved materials without having to buy anything new. It will likely need to be rebuilt in several years because the wood will break down quickly under those conditions, but it should serve us well in the meantime!

We’re fairly certain the majority of the peach crop was lost in the freeze last week. Time will tell if we get any.

Week Eleven – Tractors and Power Tools

By | farm journal

Building and Moving and Harrowing

Kemper borrowed Tyler’s disc and hooked it up to the Ford 800 to try using it as a harrow. He set it barely down and ran it across the grass-ish area south of the garage to see if it would break it up just enough to establish new grass seed. He’s pretty confident that it’ll be just the right amount of soil disturbance.

Kemper and the kids broadcast the Purple Poppy Mallow seed in the northernmost section of the field (after stratifying them in the refrigerator for a month and then soaking them for 24 hours in hot water.)

Friday Kemper fixed up the drip system in the lavender field so it’s finally getting the full pressure but we’re DYING to get our new system in place. Especially since the pipes running from the pump just gave way and are going to need a temporary repair…

The chicken coop now has roosting bars and a door! Which is how we discovered that Remy can fit through exactly the same size opening as a chicken! He’s been sneaking in to steal eggs and I spent an hour adjusting the doorway and testing it on chickens and Remy until finally deciding they are the same size. Sigh.

The peach tree is all blooming and we had a low of 28 Saturday and are expecting another freeze Wednesday. We’re hoping desperately we still get fruit.

Week Ten – Chicks!!!

By | farm journal

New life all over the place!

Week Ten :  Babies and more babies!

The awakening continues, with plants in the trays growing bigger by the day, peas just barely popping their heads up in the garden, clover becoming a gorgeous green carpet in our pathways… (Though it’s pretty hard to check on the peas when we can’t quite walk in the pathways just yet. Thank goodness that won’t be a problem once the clover is established enough to handle year-round foot traffic.)

And: WE GOT MORE BABY CHICKS! The two little Maran pullets were promptly named ‘Cheep’ and ‘Hush.’ They will lay a dark reddish brown egg. Time will tell if we’ll be able to tell the hens apart from our Barred Rocks, though! And now, to round out the egg rainbow, I just need to find a couple more green layers! I plan to get 2 more, but as my mother pointed out: that ruins our fibonacci sequence! Before yesterday we had 1 cat, 2 dogs, 3 children, 5 alpacas, and 8 chickens. So now I guess I have to make it all the way to 13 chickens and get 8 of something else. (Did someone say guineas???)

 

We continued work on the chickens’ new coop and finally have finished nesting boxes! They’re awfully cute! And I’ve already collected 5 eggs from them. Last step is to figure out how to hang our roosting bars and ramps. That’s a bit challenging — we decided to use stripped branches from the old juniper Kemper cut down, but deciding how to orient and fasten those funny, crooked things is really hard! And we have a little work to do to smooth the rolling of our home-fashioned barn door. Leon, Kemper, and my dad designed and built it using old skateboard wheels and a discarded closet track.

We also decided we desperately need a three-bin composting system, but we’ve pretty well used up most of our scrap lumber. We could get pallets, but we’re awaiting a response from the Organic Inspectors to find out if that would be allowed.