Sunday, March 27, 2011

High Tunnel II

Since I last wrote in this blog, we had a nice "little" March snowstorm of about 18 inches.  The weather did warm up enough to melt the snow and while it has not snowed much more, we have plunged into the proverbial deep freeze.  Normal highs this time of year are around 50 degrees and normal lows are around 32 degrees.  For the past week, temps have been running a good 15 to 20 degrees below normal.  Next week the forecast is for more of the same.  March is usually my least favorite month because of all the mud.  Who would have ever thought they I would craving for a little bit of mud?  Dang it is cold outside.

But farming must go on.  Living up north on the frozen tundra of Ohio, farmers have to be creative in order to grow crops more than the 4 months of good weather that we have.  One of the solutions is to erect something called a "high tunnel".  A high tunnel is basically an unheated greenhouse.  PCF High Tunnel I was built with loving care and lots of extra supports in the fall of 2009.  January of 2010 it collapsed under the weight of a typical winter snow storm.  Today it still stands all mushed and collapsed in one corner of the field.  The rabbits sure did appreciate the shelter all winter though.

Last week, High Tunnel II was built.  Different design and hopefully a different outcome.  Here the posts are being set in the ground next to High Tunnel I.  The guys had fun starting their work in the field the day after we got 2 inches of rain.  They should have waited until this week with everything frozen.  I'm sure they are somewhat used to this though.  March does equal "mud" after all.

Ta Da!!!!!!!!!  High Tunnel II.

Yesterday Mike and I took a walk around the farm and got to take a good look at our new addition to the farm.  Mike took a thermometer with him.  The outside temps were around 30 degrees with windchill around 20 degrees, but the sun was shining.  As soon as we stepped inside, we were greeted by gloriously warm air and instantly fogged up glasses.  The thermometer read 80 degrees.  Of course with no heat, the temperature will drop as soon as the sun goes down, but boy it felt good to stand inside there for a few minutes.

Doing my best Vanna White.  So now we can extend our growing season.  Mike is already talking about trying some early radishes.  Fingers crossed that this new design will withstand our winter snows.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Hellooooooooooo? Spring where are you?

You may think that asking for spring weather on March 3rd is a little presumptuous.  After all, the spring equinox does not occur until March 20th.  The solstices and equinoxes define astrological seasons.  If you want to map out climatologic changes, you need to follow meteorlogical seasons.  Meteorlogical winter is the time of the coldest temperatures of the year.  Generally around these parts, meteorlogical winter runs from November 1st to February 28th.   March 1st is first day of meteorlogical spring.  And since the average daily temperatures are getting warmer (up to around 40 degrees now for the average high temperature and around 25 for average low temperature), well then, I would like to actually have warmer temperatures.  Oh we've had a day here and there above average, but overall the cold has been hanging on.

This morning when I left the warmth of the house to shuffle to the barn to feed the cats and chickens, it was 12 degrees outside.  As I made my way back to the house, the sun was just starting to rise.  For the first time this year, I heard gobbling from the toms that live in the resident flock of wild turkeys that live across the road.  The male redwing blackbirds were singing loudly.  The cardnals joined in with their "birdy birdy birdy" song.  There was no doubt to any wild bird that the days are getting longer and breeding season is not far away.  The only thing missing this morning was the tiniest hint of warmth in the air.

After work I took the dogs for a walk through the garden area.  I needed to get them some exercise and Mike asked me to take a measuring tape and measure the spacing between last year's plants that had been planted in double rows on plastic.  So to kill two birds with one stone so to speak, the garden became the dog walking destination.  Obviously Mike is plotting out something for this year's garden.  I didn't ask him what.  I certainly didn't want to get involved in a math problem.  After about 3 attempts and nearly falling and breaking a hip on the ice that had formed in between the crop rows, I settled for "about 16 inches" as my answer to Mike's question.  Close enough.

As I turned to cross the middle of the field and start working back to the house, I noticed some deer in the very back of the field.  Then they noticed me.  Then I noticed it was not "some" deer, but "MANY" deer.  This time of year, the whitetail deer is known for a behavior known as "yarding up".  Most of the bucks have lost their antlers.  The bucks are neither concerned with fighting with other bucks or chasing does.  So does and bucks harmoniously gather together around food sources.  As the deer bounded across the field away from me, I did pretty good counting to 29 and then I lost count.  I figure there were somewhere between 35 and 40 deer out in our field tonight.  A beautiful sight for sure.

Mike loaded up some cell packs to take over to the neighbor lady's greenhouse tonight.  The cell packs are where vegetables such as tomatoes and broccoli and cabbage will grow until they are ready to be transplanted into the ground.  The plants won't be started for another month, but Betty, who owns the greenhouses, will be able to fill the cell packs with dirt and store them until they are needed.  It is always good to be able to get whatever work can be done now before the growing season gets busy.

Spring is now the time to keep the blog in line.  Lots has been happening around here.  I missed the opportunity to blog about the great deer, dog, cross country ski adventure.  The flood through the back yard was somewhat notible too.  The new baby layer chicks arrived over a week ago and they are all settled in and growing.  This evening when I went to collect eggs from the 4 mature laying hens, I collect 3 eggs for the first time since the hens started molting last fall.  You see, even they know it is spring.  Someone just needs to come and fix the outdoor thermostat.  I am ready for 40 degree days.