Farm projects, mid-May

With a rainy/stormy day coming up, this is a good time to write up blog posts and take a break from the long week of dry-weather work we just put in. We’re both very tired at the moment.

May marks our transition from spring growing to summer, as we finally move beyond the threat of frost and the soil & air warms enough to accommodate summer plantings. Every kind of produce has a range of soil temperature and conditions that are ideal for germination and/or transplanting, and we monitor these carefully to get the best start possible.

Sunday was a long day of dry-weather work, getting beds worked & prepared and seeding/transplanting various things before an expected week of storms and rain. Lots of hoeing, hand-weeding, digging, and other basic work to get the necessary beds in good shape.

We set out 130 feet of summer squash plants, about half of them Costata Romanesco, a variety intended for baby squash and squash blossoms. These are intended partially for Sycamore Restaurant, and partially for market. Below, you see a long row protected by row cover, a thin fabric stretched tight over PVC hoops that helps exclude insect pests until the plants are large enough to withstand some of their privations. Handling and stretching 100′ of lightweight row cover in even a slight breeze is no easy task.


Our late spring items are growing beautifully. Below you see one of many plantings of peas. These are the later and thus smaller ones; in the garden they’re waist-high. Our tall, vining pea varieties are planted along cattle-panel hoop trellises. If you look closely, you’ll see another parallel row on the far side of the hoops. The panels are 16′ long, bent over an 8′ diameter, such that each row of peas gets 8′ of trellis to grow on but we never have to reach very far to get to them. There’s another row down the middle planted in heat-sensitive greens or brassicas which will want some shade by the time the peas are big enough to provide it. We’ll be doing cucumbers the same way once the peas come out.

We’ve also seeded, or are about to seed, the first round of many summer items. Sunday, the first rows of edamame and Fin de Bagnol green beans went out, along with some more zucchini. Below you see Joanna planting a row of Fins. Dried beans, corn, and so much more are coming soon.

In preparation for the large amounts of produce we’ll be handling this summer and fall, I’ve been squeezing in time to work on building our walk-in cooler. Below is an early shot, when it’s just been framed in with cedar lumber. I’ll be adding siding and thick insulation, and sealing all cracks with caulk and spray foam. Cooling power will be provided by a basic window air conditioner, tricked into going beyond the call of duty by a nifty little device called a CoolBot, which is a form of thermostat that converts A/C units into cooler machinery. These were invented by a small farmer and come highly recommended by farmers around the country. More on this in a separate post, but you can see the frame for the A/C unit toward the back, where I’ll cut out the barn siding to allow venting to the outdoors. Hopefully this project will be done in another week or so; I expect to get some more time on it during this rainy, stormy week.

Along with all this, there’s the ever-present weeding (that’s all we did with multiple employees on Wednesday), watering/irrigation, general maintenance, harvest/market, indoor/greenhouse seedling maintenance, daily milking & animal chores, building and managing a new large compost pile, and so on. Then there’s the good cooking we refuse to neglect, generating some of the tasty recipes & meals I intend to share on Wednesday.
Oh, and sleep. There’s that too.

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