Tag

greenhouse

Holy Market Season!

By | farm journal

Week 17

2017

Market Season is Here!

We kicked off this year’s market season with another intense series of events—opening day at Downtown Growers’ Market, the Sustainability Expo at UNM, and La Montañita’s Nob Hill Earth Fest. After a long few months being holed up down here working, building, talking to plants, and fretting over the bank account it was SO GREAT to see all the folks we’ve been missing, and have the money flowing in a much more exciting direction. And it’s so fun to send our little plants home with people to start their gardens! And after that whilrwind week, it only took two solid days of vegging out and soaking in gratitude to be ready to get back to work.

Sparkling Flavored Water is Launched!

After a whole lot of permits and paperwork and a few struggles with our new kegs and carbonating system, we finally debuted our flavored sparkling water. We brought two delicious flavors—Peppermint and Lavender—to the first market and they were a great success! I’m obviously partial, but I’m completely hooked. They’re so fresh and yummy. They just taste of plants in the most true and delightful way. We have a batch of Rosemary brewing to add to the selection tomorrow, and it is super tasty, too!

Progress in the Greenhouse

With the exception of the liliaceae, the last trays of plants stuck imprisoned in tiny plugs have been bumped up to larger pots. We cleared out enough space at our first few plant sales to make room for a new wave of big trays and I hope the poor ones that spent so long in such tight quarters will forgive us and grow big and healthy.

Meanwhile, the ginger has begun sprouting and a few have moved into pots from their flats while we try to figure out the best way to build a raised bed for them. As the lavender comes out, the ginger will take its place and fill up a large space in the greenhouse.

Solanaceae Recovery

The eggplants seem to be holding up well after tackling the aphids. No new mold has appeared and they continue to look strong and are growing consistently. They do, however, have a few holes now thanks to a couple tiny rogue grasshoppers.

It appears that the trouble with the tomatillos may have been entirely self-inflicted by yours-truly. Another search of the almighty internet revealed photos of plants with symptoms that look identical to what ours were experiencing and the problem was simply oedema–overwatering. With the troubled leaves removed, the new growth seems to be looking much healthier.

The tomatoes seem to be suffering from another issue, they are showing lots of yellowing and purple veins. Research led me to believe that may be caused by soil temperatures too low for the plants to metabolize nutrients. Kemper moved them into larger pots with added compost and gave them a round of fish emulsion to see if we can keep them a little warmer and supplement their nutrient needs. As soon as it’s warm enough for them to go in the ground, we hope they’ll be happy and healthy.

Plants in the High Tunnel

This week we picked up a load of compost from my brother at Soilutions and got our first bed—Chughole Meadows East—in the high tunnel double-dug, composted, and planted. Yay! We shuffled the original plan a little bit to get the most desperate plants in the ground first: beets, broccoli, and cauliflower. When I started beets to transplant, I expected to have beds ready to plant into by late March. Now that it’s nearly May… Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

It’s a ton of work to prep a bed that way with our solid hunks of clay, but the plants in Shady Acres that got the double-digging treatment are looking nice and healthy! So I continue to believe it will be worth it.

We’re also planning to implement better soil conservation practices through the winter. For any beds that won’t be growing fall and winter crops, we will either cover crop or apply alpaca manure and a heavy layer of mulch and allow it to compost in place through the winter. Completely abandoning the garden for six months as we’ve done the past two years certainly couldn’t have helped.

The onions, scallions, leeks, and chives (the last starts still stuck in tiny plug trays) are headed for the ground just as soon as we finish digging and prepping Orchard Estates East. We got partway through this morning before the rain came in and forced a tea and farm journal break.

High Tunnel Hijinks

By | farm journal

Week 14

2017

Construction Begins

The high tunnel arrived Monday and we’ve got the frame almost completed. The rafters and purlins went up quickly. It’s much easier the second time around. Especially with the scaffolding and chop saw we borrowed from my pop. It’s so so so helpful to have access to tools when we need them. We looked at a few possible configurations for our end-walls and finally settled on putting in a person-size door hung from two vertical 4x4s and a vent up high.

With the frame up, we can start marking and digging the beds and get some plants out of the greenhouse and finally into the ground this week!

The Tragic Mouse Massacre of 2017

We discovered mice were getting into seeds in the greenhouse again, so we set a fresh run of traps and gave a plea to all the mice to please find food elsewhere. The next morning there were three mice caught. And another one two days later. It feels so strange to be in charge of deciding that the plants live and the mice die. I do not think I’m qualified for that position.

Freezing Temperatures & Tons More Rain

The peach tree is full of tiny little fruit babies, and the lows according to the weather station got down to 25 this week. So far they’re still hanging on, miraculously! I hope they can make it a few more weeks!

And Shady Acres officially became Swampy Acres with a half inch of rain. We looked it up—that’s the total average rainfall for the whole month.

And then just to make it official, the hose we mended last week keeps busting apart and flooding Swampy Acres just to be sure we didn’t think it was about to dry out anytime soon.

CSA Modifications

With the setbacks from aphids, mice, and construction, we’ve fallen a bit behind on the planting and harvest schedules I initially set out for the season. We have plenty of eggs, green onions, and green garlic to start off our first week, but I was hoping for much more! Hopefully it won’t be too long before the radishes and greens are ready to join the ranks.

Learning Everything the Hard Way

By | farm journal

Week 13

2017

Greenhouse Management

Running things manually in the greenhouse has been working out so far, but is severely limiting our ability to go places. Our system currently requires us to be around to open up covers and turn off heaters in the morning, turn on fans when the temperatures start to rise, roll up the side vent or turn on the wet-wall, monitor the water level for the wet-wall, and monitor the plants periodically throughout the day and rotate them though the water as needed. Then we turn the cooling systems off and start closing things up as the sun goes behind the trees in the afternoon, and finally close up the covers, turn on heaters, and set mousetraps each evening at sundown.

This is all fine except that the way we turn each of these things on and off requires dragging extension cords around and trying to dangle them across things so they can reach all the plugs they need to without leaving a connection somewhere it will get sprayed by the dripping wet-wall.

And until today, we had only one hose running to the greenhouse and garden which meant turning valves on and off and disconnecting hoses and sprayers anytime you wanted to water anything. This afternoon we were joined by my incredibly knowledgeable and patient dad who helped us cut, mend, and rearrange hoses so that we can have water in all the places just by switching valves on and off! It’s amazing!!!

So far many of the plants are getting to look really nice, so it has all seemed unquestionably worth it. AND THEN … within this week we’ve started encountering problems left and right. We found sun-scorching on several trays of brassicas (though new leaves appear to be doing better now that they’ve been moved to a shadier location.) Then there’s the mysterious problem with the tomatillos (the leaves are getting bumpy, blistery spots and the plants are dying.) My frantic obsessive research is leading me to the hypothesis that the damage is caused by thrips? But they’re SO small I’m having a very difficult time confirming this idea. A strange grey-ish mold is appearing on the eggplants. Aphids have appeared on the eggplants and several of the brassicas.

UPDATE: My dad brought us a magnifying glass, which allowed me to (I think) confirm the presence of thrips, which we have attempted to treat with a Neem spray. I also discovered that everywhere I witnessed mold on the eggplants, I also saw aphids. A little googling led me to believe we were getting ‘sooty mold’ which grows on the sweet excrement the aphids leave behind. So we are trying ladybugs to control the aphid population and hopefully also curb the mold.

High Fives for High Tunnels!

Our high tunnel is ordered and on it’s way! It’s scheduled to be delivered Monday!

Meanwhile the only bed we have ready to plant is still Shady Acres. We got radishes and carrots seeded, and kale, lettuce, arugula, and collard greens planted out this week.

Thank goddess we have Callan to call on. She’s going to come over this week and help me prep beds so we can prove that two hot ladies with shovels and broadforks can do the job in less time and money than one rented tractor!

Water Falling from the Sky

We recorded our first rain on the weather station this week—0.18 inches over two days.

Thankfully not enough to turn “Shady Acres” into “Swampy Acres,” but if we don’t install gutters on the loaf I expect that will happen soon.

How much would can a wood-chipper chip

Kemper rented a wood-chipper to chew up lots of branches we’ve had lounging about and get them composting. He cut and sawed and dragged and pulverized Russian Olives and Siberian Elms from all corners of the property along with lots of pieces of the dearly departed Juniper we removed last year. Now we have a glorious pile of wood chips to compost with.

Let It Be Spring

By | farm journal

Week 12

2017

Ostara Blessings

To celebrate the vernal equinox we continued a tradition we started two years ago by decorating and then burying eggs around the farm as blessings of fertility. A few eggs went into the post holes that were left open after removing the fence that was where the new hoophouse will be going. We put our special water blessing eggs right down all the way into the water table. Sin agua, no es vida!

Peas!

The peas are popping up in Shady Acres and looking happy! And the garlic alongside them is making up for lost time. It’s all already a couple inches tall. Perhaps the March planting will work out?

Greenhouse Filling Up

This afternoon I seeded and transplanted twenty one new trays… It’s so satisfying to see the rows fill up just like we planned.

Kemper has been working hard to try to get the wet wall running. It’s been getting up into the nineties inside the greenhouse every day and the lavender are starting to send up buds. We’re hoping if we can get the temps down they’ll put their energy into more foliage instead of flowers.

Ginger

And we added a whole new crop to the greenhouse this week—Kemper ordered a huge batch of organic ginger from Hawaii. The timing might work out just right to have it fill in the spaces that are opened up as the lavender gets planted out.

Week Sixteen – Holy Earth Day

By | farm journal

Back to Back Festivals!

The madness started Thursday with the UNM Sustainability Expo, which meant we were running around all day and night on Wednesday trying to get ready and remember how to pack up for outdoor events. I worked for hours on sewing little pouches stuffed with lavender from our feed and seed sacks, but didn’t get enough done to take them. We bundled up the last of the 2015 lavender harvest that had been carefully boxed away and took that along with all the plant markers and some notecards. Double-tabling for BlueFly and the Community Farm worked pretty well. We had another event for RGCF at Civic Plaza Friday evening (which was nearly rained out) and the Coop’s Earth Fest with both tables again on Sunday. The plant markers were a big hit everywhere and we sold all but three bundles of lavender.

Sunday our table was next to Mandy’s Farm selling their eggs, vermi-compost (with my logo—yay!) and Alpaca Beans!

Harvested the first few radishes from the garden! There were so bright and beautiful and juicy and yummy! And they grew SO FAST! Definitely going to plant more! And the peas are finally grabbing onto the trellises after a few weeks of hanging out at the same height. And while we were out there checking on all the plants we discovered raccoon prints in the mud. I didn’t think they were still getting in (thank you dogs and alpacas) but I can’t argue with a fresh footprint.

Saturday we got all the sweet and poblano peppers transplanted in the garden. There are so many more than what I originally drew in my plan, but I also had them drawn a little too far apart. So there are nearly 96 plants in one 4′ by 22′ bed. I broad-forked it to loosen it, then Kemper added another layer of alpaca beans (he had added and turned in lots of them a few months ago before we covered the bed with a thick layer of alfalfa mulch) and then a layer of our Soilutions mix on top. It has a little sand, some partially composted wood chips, some compost, and some perlite. We mulched back over the top after all the peppers went in, and it looks gorgeous.

Week Fifteen – Greenhouses are Confusing!

By | farm journal

But people are amazing!

Virtually all of our attention lately has been devoted to deciding how to proceed with our greenhouse and how it fits in to the farm as a whole. I took an entire day to update and refine our scale site drawing first envisioned and created by Kemper. I printed it out and stitched it together and stuck it in the frame he got so we have a two-foot by three-foot drawing to scribble on and try out ideas. It’s awesome!

We’ve also gotten a ton of insight and advice from some magnificent growers. We had Barbara and Ross over to share their thoughts about greenhouses since they’ve built and managed many of them. Ross suggested starting with the plastic-covered hoop-type and avoiding the costly panel construction—partly because our intense UV exposure here degrades the panels and makes them vulnerable to hail damage, and partly because the up front cost is so much higher and we might do better by starting with something smaller and building up. He also gave invaluable tips about the types of vents, thermostats, and sprinklers that have held up best to the humid conditions inside a greenhouse.

Today I visited Michael Reed who also had some super great suggestions including building up a thermal mass using earth or straw bales on the north side to passively moderate the temperature. He agrees with the chorus of wise responsible grown ups who have counseled us that it makes most sense to start simple and learn as we go. We talked about how to gain the most solar benefit by choosing where and how to orient the greenhouse and even how to fill it inside so that we can layer plants and save space while still allowing each plant the maximum exposure. And he also takes down his plastic and replaces it with shade cloth during the summer, so he supported that idea.

Last week we also had a visit from Fergus and his crew of farm staff & interns at Los Poblanos. They came down to see our place and talk lavender. They have a situation in their field that’s remarkably ridiculously similar to ours. Along the southern edge of their field (where there’s a driveway lined with tall cottonwoods) they’re having issues losing lots of plants. But they, like us, aren’t sure if the shade is entirely to blame. It was also a culinary variety planted on their southern edge that’s less tough than the Grosso, and they also suspect that because of the design of their irrigation system that it might be getting less water than the rest of the field. They’re going to try re-planting and increasing the amount and consistency of water by splitting their field into zones. Hopefully we’ll both get some answers.

It’s so reassuring to get so much loving attention, information, and encouragement from so many amazing people.

And speaking of homeless plant starts, we’ve started putting the trays of plant starts outside as much as we can but have to watch over them to make sure they’re not gobbled up by alpacas or chickens… which has us drawing more lines of fences throughout the farm plan to keep everybody where they belong. Meanwhile, Kemper suspects that the yellowing leaves we’re seeing on some of the starts are from over-watering. And Jon agrees. And so I will have to try not to be so overbearing and protective with the water. And the spinach starts, which have hardly grown a full set of leaves are already bolting.

In the garden, things are waking up and reemerging all over the place. We have cilantro that’s popping up despite the fact that I snatched up as many seeds as I could to save as coriander. The chard is spreading everywhere. Carrots are finally starting to pop their heads up, and the radishes are looking great. The peas are taking their sweet time grabbing onto the trellises. It looks like they popped up in a hurry and are now taking a two week break before doing any more growing.

Kemper and I made an agreement this week that may turn out to be the very best thing that’s ever happened on this farm. We’ve designated the area of the orchard North of the house as the experimental zone. It’s where we can try weird seed and new ideas and Kemper can put anything anywhere without worrying that I’ll freak out. And it might just turn out to be the most wonderful, wild, magical spot.

 

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.