Farm update, mid-March 2009

Spring is progressing rapidly, with all natural signs that we track at least a week ahead of the past few years. It’s very warm and the natural world is really taking off. We’re shaping up for either a spectacular early spring or a heartbreaking late freeze like 2007.

In any case, we work with what we have, and are moving forward on preparing our spring plantings. Multiple beds of radishes, beets, and peas have been seeded, and we’ve transplanted out several beds of lettuce. The vole population seems to be enormous this spring; their tunnels are everywhere in our permanent beds and they’re eating some of the peas and even the young lettuce plants. I think the previous year of mild weather has caused a population explosion.

Above, you see a market garden bed of transplanted lettuce, with our home-built plastic hoops offering some extra warmth and protection. These are built from 7′ lengths of 1/2″ PVC set onto thin rebar. The plastic sheeting is tied at the end with baling twine and braced with wood and more rebar. Twine tied to the PVC’s rebar and stretched tight over the plastic holds the sheeting in place and allows the plastic to be lifted up for ventilation on hot days.

We’re experimenting with different methods of starting seed this year, from soil blockers to very small plug trays. Above is a 288-cell tray which allows the lettuce to get started just enough for early transplant. Below, I’m keeping the copious records required for organic certification; for this bed of transplanted lettuce it includes transplant date, seeding date, variety, source, any soil amendments, number of transplants, and more.

We have many trays of onions going, which are currently up in our new hoophouse hardening off for transplant later this week, along with various brassicas, herbs, and other items. We don’t really try to get too early a start on summer items like tomatoes; we have enough going on and have found that the early yields aren’t that spectacular for the extra work and danger of early tomatoes. Potatoes will go out eventually, but our field soil is very clay-rich and stays wet far longer than we’d like; it’s currently too mucky out there for spuds.

The Columbia Farmers Market opens on March 21, this coming weekend. We expect/hope to be there by mid-April, with early greens, radishes, and probably goose eggs. We spent Tuesday afternoon laying out our stall design for this year and working out our new materials, presentation, labels, and so on. We’re trying some new ideas for presenting variety information and prices, and will post on that when the materials are ready and can be photographed.

In other projects, we’ve trenched the fenceline for the larger field and drilled about half the post-holes. Foundation holes for our new prep shed have been drilled and basal piers poured; the concrete is curing and I’ll be doing the main post piers later this week. I hope to have the shed build by mid-April. We’ve mostly cleaned out and reorganized our main barn and are moving forward with running electricity to it. Joanna shovelled out the goat hoop and built a massive new compost pile (more on that soon) of which she is very proud. Spring is definitely here when our infrastructure projects begin to run up against our produce projects; time management becomes very critical now. In any case, we feel pretty good about where we’re at for the coming season.

One thought on “Farm update, mid-March 2009

  1. sounds like you’ve both been very busy! We don’t have a vole problem here, but I suppose the cats, owls, hawks, coyotes and fox pretty much keep them in control.