Thursday, May 27, 2010

Week of May 24 2010 : Busy

(Here is a picture of Moon & Stars watermelon seedlings. The red fleshed variety is common but this is a less common yellow fleshed variety. Both the red and yellow fleshed varieties sport the same foliage. Interestingly that foliage is spotted! The spots are expected and not a nutritional deficiency or disease.)

The blue birds have hatched. The nest contained five eggs and all five successfully hatched. Lets hope the success continues and all five fledge in about eighteen days.

The North and South fields have been completely prepared. The raised beds have been formed, the irrigation trickle lines have been laid, and the plastic mulch rolled out. Forming the raised beds with the rotary plow was easier and quicker than I anticipated. That was a nice surprise! Working from the right edge of the field to the left, I simply made one clockwise pass around the edge of each bed. Done.

Now transplanting is furiously in process.
Suddenly I remembered the joy of direct sowing.

The first beans have been sowed. We are growing green, yellow and purple snap beans. The beans we are most excited about, though, are the soy beans. These are a 100 day crop so there is still a lot of time to anticipate those sweet beans.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Week of May 17 2010 : Soggy

(Here is a picture of our second stand of sweet corn. The first stand was damaged but not destroyed by the freeze. This stand was also were able to withstand several waves of thunder storms including hail. The third and fourth stands have been planted and are already emerging.)

Its a well known fact that the market farmer bylaws mandate lamenting the early season weather. In April, we had record highs. Earlier in May, we had a very low, low. Here in the valley we bottomed out at 27 degrees. That is not a frost, that is a freeze.

The cold weather was soon followed up with significant rainfall. In a few days we went from below average moisture to above average moisture. The problem? Remember the nicely plowed fields? Apparently primary tillage acts like a big sponge in a big tub. Nice absorbent soil in the middle of hard pan.

Now field work has been excessively delayed. We still need to form the raised beds. Which means we still need to lay the trickle irrigation lines and the plastic mulch. Which means we still need to transplant. So we have been busy watering and shuffling seedlings in and out of the garage. In an effort to minimize unnecessary labor, the garage door has been open more often.

Which produced an odd side effect, now we have a pair of purple martins nesting in our garage. Quick recap, we went from a rotary plow to a bird nest. The connection is obvious? (No).

In a sense, farming is like a game of chess. The grand masters must think several moves ahead. In farming, though, the impact is much less direct.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Week of May 10 2010 : Brrr

(Here is a photo of the back half of our farm. In the foreground is the North field, which will be planted to broccoli, cabbage, zucchini, cantaloupe, blue hubbard and acorn squash, and watermelons. In the background is a portion of the East field, which will be planted to sweet corn. And in the far background are the bird houses, the NABS house is on the left and the Peterson house is on the right).

The record high temperatures have been replaced with cold temperatures. The cold air rolls down the hills and collects down here in the valley. Early in the morning when the frost settles, our fields are at least 2 degrees cooler than nearby but higher areas. So the damaging effects of frost are magnified.

But this morning, there was a freeze, not a frost, advisory in effect. That is bad. Thankfully we chose not to transplant yet so were spared the damaging effects. Except for our first stand of sweet corn! The stand suffered extreme damage. Ironically the damage looks like the leaves are "burned".

Oh well. Those are the risks. We were prepared for disaster. We over purchased corn seed so if the seedlings are dead then we will simply replant the first stand when we plant the second stand. And hope for better weather.

The blue bird nest is in the Peterson box and now contains 5 eggs!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Week of May 3 2010 : Nice soil

(Here are three photos. First, the good news is we finally found our son after an extensive 2 month search. (Ed. note to County Services - he was never lost, this photo is staged.) Second, after the flail mowing. Third, after the rotary plowing. I am impressed what 2 passes with an 11hp walk behind tractor can actually do!)

The concept of two nesting boxes may actually be working. The blue birds claimed the Peterson nest box as early as February and have dutifully defended it from any and all competition. The blue birds finally built a nest in early April but have not yet laid any eggs. I am convinced this is the behavior of a goofy first time couple. Tree Swallows have claimed the NABS nest box and recently started a nest. The two nest box theory sounds great but rarely works in practice. This is the first season (out of four) when it apparently will work as advertised.

In early spring it is hard to fathom mowing down perfectly healthy plants. But such is the life of a cover crop. The winter rye reached a height of 26" while the hairy vetch used the rye as a trellis. My trusty Palladino flail mower reduced these beautiful cover crops to organic matter in mere minutes.

Then the new Berta rotary plow incorporated the residue into the soil. That did not go quite as fast. I plowed to a depth of 12" with one pass but the sun was already down for the day when I finished up 2 hours later. My pattern leaves much to be desired, as there were many dead trips across the field.

I anticipate forming the raised beds will go much faster. Then there will be a flurry of transplant activity. And presto. Instant farm!

Each spring when I start working the soil I am reminded why cover crops are worth the extra effort. THIS SOIL IS SO HEALTHY! The soil is dark and sticky. The worms love it. In the fall of 2008, the soil was tested at 4.7% organic matter!

Week of April 26 2010 : 512+

(Here is a photo of one raised bed. This particular bed has been planted to snap peas and will be double planted to pumpkins.
Eventually I will form 20 more raised beds.)

The grow room is growing at maximum capacity. There are 16 trays and each tray contains 32 plugs so that is a capacity of 512 seedlings. The first wave of seedlings have been moved outside to harden off for a week before transplanting. Each tray moved outside will soon be replaced with another tray of seeds. The cycle continues. For a continuous harvest throughout summer and fall, we will be seeding and transplanting until mid July.

Seedlings and transplants are nice because we can get an early start on the growing season. But from a labor perspective, we appreciate direct sowing. So far, we have sowed snap peas and sweet corn. Peas are hardy and could have been planted much earlier but we intentionally delayed the sowing so the harvest would better coincide with our first market day.

We also planted the first of eight stands of sweet corn. This has been an unusually warm growing season and a lot of sweet corn was planted early. Although the weather permitted planting up to three weeks early, we decided to advance our planting schedule by only a few days. We planned to harvest corn late July through mid September. We have enough land for eight stands and not a stalk more so an earlier planting would not gain an extra stand. An earlier stand would eliminate a later stand.