Monday, April 23, 2012

Last week/this week and silver linings

Last week we were running around in shorts and planting out a variety of tomatoes in the high tunnels:

And this morning we awoke to three inches of very heavy snow:

Sorry for the poor-quality photo. With a dead digital camera battery, the best I can offer is a lousy webcam shot from my netbook...

The fruit trees are taking another hit from the heavy, wet snow and near-freezing air temps, but the blanket of snow on the ground is insulating the leaks, potatoes, fava beans, and lo-growing perennials -- including rhubarb and horseradish. Meanwhile, inside the new high tunnels and the smaller half-tunnel we've been using for a few years, the air temperatures are hovering around 40 degrees. Since we cover all of the seedlings with plastic or up to several layers of row cover (a lightweight, woven fabric) draped over frames spanning each planted row, our annuals shouldn't have any problems. They might slow down for a few days till the sun and temps come back...but we haven't yet started going to market at Felicia's Atomic Lounge or the Trumansburg Farmer's Market

With all of the seed trays and lugs full of potted plants, it's a tight squeeze moving around in the half tunnel (15'x20') tucked up against the south wall of the shop (the little red barn visible from the road). We've definitely expanded enough that if we continue at this rate, we're going to have to develop more efficient potting and seed-starting systems.

To help us figure out what we'll need, we've visited several of our friends' farms and they've given us great ideas about how to lay things out and what equipment works for them. Mom has gotten into the swing by volunteering at Red Knickers' Herbs and seeing how they produce thousands of incredibly healthy plants a year out of their house and a small greenhouse. We stopped down and visited with them briefly over the weekend and thanked them for all the information they've been sharing via her reports. They offered us pots, catalogs, and tons of great tips on how they make a living as a small nursery without all of the chemicals and less of the long shipping involved in the masses of plants found at big box stores. It was really great meeting them and here at TGF we've had some great followup conversations about what our greenhouse might look like someday. NOTE: IF you ever want to watch my head spin, ask how late blight obliterated most of our county's tomato and potato plants in 2009 due to the disease vectoring around the country. If you're interested in learning more, Sharon wrote a really great article about the epidemic and the issues of disease spread.

But really, back to the silver linings. The white snow is beautiful and I'll get some much needed work done on the tractors while the field is too wet to work, plus run some overdue errands to Agway and NAPA, and maybe even stop in and see our friends at the Piggery!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Seed potato distribution

On Sunday, we picked up a pallet of Saranac Valley Farms' seed potatoes from the Regional Access and dropped off West Haven Farm's, then came home and sorted the rest of the 50lbs bags into orders for Muddy Fingers Farm, Kingbird Farm, and ours. Sharon was heading out on a business trip, so she loaded the back seat of the Civic with Kingbird's and dropped them off on her way out of town.  So now there are about 150lbs of seed potatoes adding to the mudroom clutter along with the light shelves and various seed trays.

We're still getting the occasional hard freezes overnight, so they won't be going out quite yet. Some plants, like the leeks and onions, have been out in the the 1/2 hoop tunnel for a few weeks, but the tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, etc are still indoors, or living on the hot bed. What's a hot bed you ask?  It's a pile of fresh horse manure and bedding surrounded by square bales of hay. The composting action creates enough heat to keep the seedlings warm during the cold nights. We pull the row cover off during the day, except over the bin to the right that has some tiny pepper plants that I was worried might get too much sun...Yes, some plants can get sunburned too. Thanks to Muddy Fingers again for being such good mentors. We learned about the hot beds from them, and while Mathew was picking up their potatoes this morning, I quizzed him about a range of topics from high tunnel watering to their potato planting practices. It really helps to have such great resources in the community.

The fields are greening up quickly despite the hard freezes we're still getting intermittently. The 80deg temps we had in late February and March really threw off the trees and many of our perennial crops like the blueberries and hardy kiwis. We'll have to see if we get any fruit set from the plums this year...

Back out to finish running the irrigation lines out to the tunnels and maybe plant some early potatoes before it rains.