Saturday, October 13, 2012

First frost

I am thoroughly enjoying what is kind of a rare Saturday morning for me of late.  I am off work from the clinic, I have nothing planned, Mike is selling at the farmers market and I am at home alone.  It was glorious sleeping in until sunrise and not having to get up and stumble around in the dark.  It's kind of funny, but as I laid in bed enjoying the sunlight coming in through the window, I could hear the sounds of guns going off.  It got me thinking that if I were in the city I would probably be having some kind of anxiety attack hearing that.  But here on the farm, I know today is the opening day of goose and duck seasons and so the gunshots were registering in my brain as normal background noise.  We had a good hard frost last night.  The garden made its way through two light frosts earlier in the week, but I do believe that the more tender plants like the peppers and eggplant will be done now.  With temps hovering right around 30 degrees all night, the cold tolerant plants such as cabbage and Swiss Chard and broccoli should be just fine.

The beagles are out in the pasture between the house an the high tunnel and even with the windows closed and the furnace running, I can hear faint sounds of baying.  This past week, my neighbor moved his dairy cows to his pasture that is directly adjacent to our pasture.  The cows grazing, the morning sun, the grown up pasture behind the barn and the fall colors all are joining in this morning to near perfection.

Last week, I sent Mike on a mission to buy some of the season's last raspberries from one of our fellow vendors at the farmers market.  My supply of jam was a little on the light side and because of the drought this summer, I did not get around to making my usual batch or two of strawberry jam.  And so, I am glad I now have some raspberry jam to add to the canning shelf.  Speaking of the canning shelf, mine is looking quite colorful this year.  I love to can and wish I had more time for it, but whatever little bit gets done will surely be enjoyed all winter long.  Add to that the fruits and veggies that are frozen instead of canned (corn, broccoli, blueberries) and the two of us should be all set.

And so today is going to become of day of doing some outside work around the barns and yard to get ready for winter.  October 13th.  First frost.  Yep, the official end of the growing season, but there is plenty of work to be done.  Life is good today.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Zac Brown Band supports local farms

Yeah, yeah I'll get to the fun part of yesterday soon enough.  But stay with me for a moment while I give a few words of thanks to those who make it possible for my husband and I to make a living doing what we love.

There has been a lot written in the past couple of years about the local food movement.  For those of us who own and operate small farms, the attention being given to locally grown food is a good thing.  Big farms can fill orders for big companies and they have the employees to execute picking and packing and shipping.  All of that is much more difficult for the small produce grower.  But through outlets just as farmers markets, CSA programs, and selling to local restaurants and schools, the small farmer can eke out a living.  The customer benefits too by getting produce that is better quality (fresher) and has less fuel costs associated with it.  Plus buying local strengthens the local economy.  But while gaining some strength, I feel the local food movement is still in its infancy.  There are so many hurdles for us small farmers to jump over and perhaps getting our message out to the consumer is one of the biggest.  Fortunately there are quite a few really good people and organizations out there that have been willing to support local farms and to talk about it.  They are our voice.  They support what we do and they have the ability to connect with consumers in a way that we cannot.  I know I am speaking for most if not all small farmers when I say that we truly appreciate this support.  And so while this blog post is about a day of fun and adventure in the lives of two people who own a small vegetable farm, it is also about ALL the organizations that are willing to speak the message of the small farmer for nothing more than a "Thank You". 

The first time I met Chef Rusty Hamlin was in the summer of 2010 in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  My girlfriend Valerie and I took a whirlwind one day road trip there to see the Zac Brown Band at a concert.  It's a 5-6 hour drive and we left at 10am the morning of the show and got home at 4am the next morning.  And I had to go to work that  same day after the show.  It was painful but worth every memory of that day.   The band was just starting to headline its own shows and Zac Brown had come up with the idea of doing "Eat and Greets" for the fans instead of the typical "Meet and Greet".  At these "Eat and Greets", fans and band members sit down and eat together before the show.  As a fan, it truly is a unique and amazing experience.  Zac, a chef himself, has a deep appreciation for really good food and so he teamed up with Chef Rusty Hamlin who provides the culinary magic so to speak at the eat and greets.  Through a newspaper article, I had read about how Chef Rusty had been supporting local farms by purchasing food for the eat and greets from farms near the venues where the band was playing.  For the show in Fort Wayne, I was able buy a couple of tickets to the eat and greet and Val and I had an amazing time meeting the band, sitting down for dinner at a table with Joey and Rory, and eating some REALLY good food.  After dinner I decided to introduce myself to Chef Rusty and he told me if the band was going to be playing near our farm to let him know and he would be willing to purchase produce from our farm.  A couple of months later, the Zac Brown Band came to Blossom Music Center and the rest is history as the saying goes.  You can read about that day in my blog post "Those Extraordinary Days".

I've seen the band many many more times since then, but all of the shows were out of town or at a time of year when we didn't have any produce to sell.  Eventually though the timing worked out for another chance for our farm to provide produce for a Zac Brown Band Eat and Greet.  And the timing couldn't have been more perfect.  The fields are finally starting to produce after the large set back of Drought 2012.  Add to that the show was going to be on a Saturday and that meant that Chef Rusty could pick up at the farmers market where we sell produce every Saturday morning.  The market is less than 10 minutes from the show venue.  As perfect as perfect could be.

For the past week, my computer and phone had been a hub of activity to set everything up with Chef Rusty.  Emails, phone calls, text messages galore to make all the plans.  On Friday the day before the show, I was not able to help in the fields like last year, but Mike along with a couple Amish girls that live down the road were able to pick and pack all the produce for Saturday's market plus for the the Eat and Greet.

Saturday morning, Mike and Steve left early for market with the truck and trailer.  I left later so I could tend to all the animals.  The farmers market opens at 9am and so when I got there around 9:15am, the guys were all set up and starting to sell to the early customers.  Those guys do such a great job of setting up the Peters Creek Farm / Covered Bridge Gardens produce stand at the market.

I love just looking at all the different colors of vegetables.

About 10am, Chef Rusty showed up to pick up the produce.  Cauliflower, golden zucchini, white sweet corn, garlic and cherry tomatoes would all be used in the chef's creations that evening.  Mike and I had fun chatting with Rusty and catching up.  And we had some fun posing for pictures at the market too.

Oh yes, there were more traditional posed pictures too.

Then I took the chef over to meet Bob the owner of Seville Berry Farm and to purchase some raspberries that would be used on the dessert that evening.  (I also placed my order for Bob to bring me several quarts of raspberries to next week's market so I can make some jam.  Oh yeah!)

After Chef Rusty left, I finished helping the guys at the market which is something I really don't ever do.  Thankfully the people I waited on were very patient with me since I was really clueless, but I managed to muddle my way through.

After a small lunch and a quick nap and some visiting with my brother-in-law and my niece, Mike and I made our way over to Blossom Music Center for the show.  Through Chef Rusty's generosity, we were able to attend the Eat and Greet, say hi to the band members and enjoy some beyond describable good food.  Both Zac Brown and Chef Rusty always give a little speech about the food before dinner.  They thank the local farms where they bought the food and they encourage everyone at the eat and greets to support their local farmers.  I can tell you it is very rare for us small farmers to feel a bit like celebrities, but for a brief moment in time these guys make it happen.  Mike and I got to tour Chef Rusty's new custom built semi trailer where he and his staff cook all the food.  It was AMAZING.  No, beyond AMAZING.  What a change from 2 years ago when everything was carted around in a basic small trailer pulled behind a regular sized truck. 

There is a tent that comes off the side of the trailer and that is where the tables for the guests at the eat and greet are set up.  This is a little farther back view of the tent that comes off the semi trailer.

We then made our way over to our seats which we didn't hardly use as the entire crowd stood for the entire Zac Brown Band show. As a fan of country music, I can tell you is not very often that the ENTIRE crowd stands for the ENTIRE show at a country music concert, but Zac Brown Band is far from a typical country music concert.

And so once again, I find my self sending out a HUGE thank you to Chef Rusty Hamlin and the Zac Brown Band organization.  Their support for local farmers is just amazing.  I encourage everyone to go visit Chef Rusty's web site at  There are some recipes as well as links to his restaurant that is down near Atlanta, Georgia.  

And now it is back to normal farm life, but yesterday's memories will last forever. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Late summer evenings

It's been nearly a month since I wrote in the blog.  A lot of good has happened in that month mainly in the form of rain.  Not that all the bad from the drought has been erased, but at least some of the vegetable plants are really starting to look good.  It is this time of year that my husband and I enjoy walking the field in the evening and look at the results of the last 4 months of hard work.  The evenings are cooler and this year especially the bugs are minimal.  An idyllic setting for a nice evening walk.

Yesterday I was outside doing poultry chores and just thoroughly enjoying the late afternoon.  Directly across the road from our chicken barn is our neighbor's cow pasture.  Years ago when I was a youngin', I used to do a little bit of work with dairy cows.  Occasionally I miss being around them, but with a dairy farmer as a neighbor, I get to enjoy watching the cows without any of the work.  I like this arrangement.  Best part is that in the summer, the cows give birth out on pasture so every once in awhile I will catch a view of a cow and calf before the farmer makes it out to the field to take the calf away.  There ain't nothing much cuter than a baby cow.

And an equally fun part of cow watching is that they are so darn curious.  It doesn't take much for them to walk up to the edge of the pasture and watch the human that is watching them.

After chores were done, Mike asked me if I wanted to walk back to the garden with him.  On such a fine evening, there was no way I could say no.  I had already turned the beagles loose in the pasture behind the barn about an hour earlier and they were happily baying and trailing rabbits round and round.  That is a sound I never get tired of hearing.

The cabbage is looking very good.  I particularly like the Savoy cabbage.  The plants are beautiful and the heads of cabbage that form are just as beautiful.  There are banana peppers to the left of the Savoy cabbage.  All is well in this part of the garden.

The purple bell peppers are doing well too.

And the eggplant is doing very well.  Somehow Mike has become the king of eggplant.  He jokes about it because neither one of us likes the taste of eggplant at all.  But he has a knack for growing gorgeous eggplant that is in high demand.

We spent a good bit of time walking up and down the rows of cauliflower searching for signs they were forming heads.  The plants are tall and gorgeous, but only a couple of plants have formed cauliflower heads so far.  It is a little bizarre to see these beautiful plants not doing what they are suppose to do - an effect of the drought for sure.  On the other hand, as miserable looking at the first planting of broccoli turned out, the next planting of broccoli is turning out some awesome looking heads.  These are a few that went to market last week and tonight for dinner, I steamed an equally beautiful looking head of broccoli.  Good stuff right here.

And at the very back of the garden, the soybean field starts.  The beans are starting to turn and in spite of the mild weather, this is a sure sign on the farm that fall is just around the corner.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Drought 2012 and other challenges

We have had a lot of people asking us how the drought has affected us this year.  Well it hasn't been good, but I can say it's been somewhat better than some of the pictures I have been seeing from farther out in the Midwest.  We have had three rainfalls since early June.  1.6 inches on July 3rd, 0.4 inches on July 19th and 1.5 inches on August 10th.  It's pretty bad when you can remember when it rained and how much it rained for the last 2+ months.  The July 3rd rain really saved the day for a lot our plants that were newly transplanted in the ground.  However, the plants that got transplanted after July 3rd only had that little bit of rain on July 19th so they are pretty stunted.  In fact walking back through a good bit of the vegetable plants gives the feeling that I am walking through the land of the Lilliputians.  Mike was not thrilled when I said I was going to be posting some of these pictures but I told him that this is the year of the drought and people should see what challenges farmers face in dry years.  Now some of the vegetables are doing halfway decent and I'll save those for future blogs, but here is a tour of how the drought has affected our vegetable farm.

These celery root plants were planted about a week or two after the July 3rd rain, so they have been in the ground for over a month.  They are still smaller than my cell phone.

The broccoli plants themselves are not too bad size-wise, but they are either not forming a discreet head, more like a cluster of little shoots like in this plant

Or if they are forming a head, the broccoli heads are very small.

I couldn't find any good comparison pictures of an individual broccoli head from past years, but here is a picture of some large bins of broccoli that we sold in 2010 (These bins are the size of the big bins that you often see watermelons stored in at the grocery store).  A big difference in size to be sure.

Then here are some green beans that are out in the field right now.  The plants are not much bigger than this water bottle and they are starting to flower and will be forming pods soon.

Then there are two different patches of sweet corn that were planted at approximately the same time.  The first patch should be taller than this, but it is growing in the wettest corner of the field and actually produced pretty well for us.  This is the corn that my mom, my sister and I put up in the freezer last week to enjoy all winter long.

And there this is the patch that is planted in a drier area of the field.  This sweet corn variety normally produces plants that are about 7 feet tall but they are tasseling and are not even waist high.  I have no idea why I am smiling in this picture because I really really REALLY love this variety of sweet corn and it is sad to see it like this.

Mike has replanted some of the cold tolerant plants such as carrots, spinach and beets and is hoping for a late frost.  Those seeds are just starting to come up.  All of the earlier plantings died in the ground due to lack of rain.

And since the blog is entitled "Drought 2012 and Other Challenges", I thought I would show a few pictures of how wildlife can impact crops.  We actually have not had too many problems with raccoons in the sweet corn until just this past week.  Perhaps it was because we wiped out the family that decimated the early blueberry crop and it took awhile for new ones to find their way over here.  Who knows, but they are here now.  We are tolerating the damage right now, but will have to start setting traps again if the problem escalates.

And then last but not least is a look at the soybeans planted this year.  The bushel per acre yield will be lower than average but so much better than what has been happening in the hardest hit drought area of the Midwest.  Overall the plants do not look too bad.

But you don't have to look far to find areas of the field that sit next to a groundhog den.  Pretty impressive groundhog damage shows why farmers hate groundhogs.  From standing in waist high beans in the previous photo to standing in beans that aren't even knee high.

I asked Mike if he thought last year's disastrous year when we had over 2 feet more rain than normal was better or worse than this year and he said it was too early to tell.  It really depends on what happens with all the late plantings of vegetables.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Yard Aquarium

My husband likes to refer to our chickens as "the yard aquarium".  I think that is a very fitting description.  The laying hens especially provide as with ample entertainment as they get to free range in the yard most afternoons as long as the snow is not piled chicken-deep on the grass.  Our amusement comes from two sources.  One is that they are chickens and we are people.  So often we are left wondering exactly why they do what they do.  The second is that because they are chickens, they have tiny little brains.  They have a hard time finding solutions for obstacles in their lives.  So this blog is a collection of minor happenings in the lives of the chickens on our farm.  It is the reason we have a yard aquarium.

Meet Lucy.  She is one of our laying hens that work for a living.  As such, until about a week ago, she did not have a name.  Names are generally reserved for those lucky few hens that get elevated to pet status, but sometimes a working chicken does something special to distance herself from the crowd.  About a week and a half ago for no apparent reason, Lucy decided that she did not want to go back into the barn to roost at night with the other hens.  She's a skittish little thing and I don't know if you have ever tried to herd a chicken across the yard, but it is very difficult.  And so it came to pass that I just decided to let her do her thing.  It took a few days, but I finally found where she was staying at night which was tucked in behind some old railroad ties that are stacked behind the chicken coop.  Every evening I would tell her she really should go to the barn because she was in danger of being eaten by a variety of predators that wander through the night, but being a chicken she could not grasp the concept of something she could not see right then and there.  Well that and she doesn't understand English.  Every morning I would start my morning routine by walking to the chicken coop saying "here loose chicken, here loose chicken".  She would come out of her hiding spot and I would feed her some vegetable scraps or a little cracked corn.  It didn't take long for "loose chicken" to become "Lucy".  And that is how a working chicken manages to snag herself a name.  This behavior lasted about a week.  Then 4 nights ago Lucy went back into the pen with the others to roost.  3 nights ago, she stayed outside by the railroad ties all night and now the last 2 nights in a row, she has gone to roost with the others in the barn.  Crazy little chickens.

Leaning up against one of the barns is a collection of old pipe gates that are not being used right now.  A few weeks ago I was walking out to the barn to lock up the chickens for the night.  It was just starting to get dark and as I passed the front corner of the barn where the pipe gates are standing, I heard a long pitiful "bawwwwwk".  I looked over and there was a chicken wedged between two of the pipe gates.  Probably in the quest for finding the best bug or worm ever, the hen had walked in between the gates until she could go no further.  And because she is a chicken with a tiny little brain, she could only think of one solution to her problem and that was to go forward.  And in her attempt to go forward, she found herself trapped with her wings awkwardly wrapped around the rungs of the gait.  All it took from me was to gently push her backwards about two chicken sized steps and she was free.  She must have been there for some time though because the first thing she did after she was set free was to run to the waterer and drink for several minutes.  Tiny brains.

One of the other big jobs I finally got done last month was the summertime stripping of the laying hen pen.  With the hens being outside most of the time and the hot weather we have had this summer, I put it off longer than I should have but I finally got it done.  I always wait until late afternoon to do this chore.  By that time the chickens are done laying for the day and they are out in the yard foraging.  It really messes with their tiny little chicken minds to be in the barn while I am shoveling, scraping, sweeping and using the shop vac.  But the confusion for them does not end when the pen is clean and the brand new wood shavings are spread across the pen floor and all is quiet.  Wood shavings that are months old and mixed with chicken manure and dander take on a very drab gray-brown color.  Brand new wood shavings are bright in color with almost a pinkish hue.  Mix together a sudden change in floor color with a very stupid animal that can see in living color and it becomes rather amusing.  The nighttime going to roost isn't too bad as colors are subdued in the fading light.  However morning is a different story.  When I walked into the barn the morning after I cleaned the pen, almost all the hens were still on the roost even though it had been light for a good hour.  You should have heard are the squawking and carrying on they were doing.  The color change was too much for them to comprehend.  They acted like they new shavings were hot coals.  If one of them happened to teeter off the roost and land on the new shavings, it would set of a commotion of wing flapping to get back on the roost as quick as possible.  Every time I do a major clean out of the pen it is the same.  Fortunately it only takes a few hours and the girls do figure out that the new shavings are not dangerous.  It can be tough being a prey species thinking everything is out to eat you.  Tiny little brains.

The new layer chicks are five weeks old today.  Last week I finally started introducing them to food items other than the chick feed they have been eating.  First up, zucchini.  This is always a favored treat among the hens.  The chicks on the other hand have only ever seen feeders filled with crumbled feed so squash is a foreign object to them.  At first as usual, the sight of squash sent terror into their minds and they all huddled in the back of the pen.  One brave Americauna chick did finally come to "look" at the dreaded zucchini before retreating to the back with the others.  I never did see any of the chicks peck at the squash while I was in the barn, but by morning it had disappeared so they figured it out.  Since then they have enjoyed watermelon, tomatoes, spinach and apples.  Each new food item is getting less scary.  

It won't be long until I toss some scraps into the pen and a feeding frenzy will ensue like it does when I toss treats to the hens.

And so the yard aquarium continues to make me smile.  I get such a kick out of looking out the back window to see chickens hanging out on the back deck.  Even chicken droppings on the front porch make me smile.  The chickens act happy and they make me happy.  And although I don't have the room or the time to have a larger flock, it's nice to know that my chickens are feeding a few families with their eggs.  For that I am thankful.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The year of the varmint

The most significant event that has happened since the last time I blogged was that it rained.  That event was most significant indeed.  Just like a good chunk of the Midwest, we have been lacking moisture in the form of either rain or snow since the beginning of the year.  We had some planting delays this year but most of it was more of a personal matter than a weather related matter.  With the warm dry spring, most farmers around us were well ahead of their normal planting schedule.  But a couple weeks ago, Mike and the crew were going full tilt getting the flats of vegetables planted.  And then things started looking desperate back in the fields.  The unplanted flats of vegetables by the barn were getting watered daily.  The newly planted vegetable plants in the field were withering from the heat and lack of rain.  The soil was getting drier and drier and we have no water source for irrigation.  The house water well was on the verge of giving out as well.  We were in severe water conservation mode.  The animals got first priority and the unplanted flats of vegetables got second.  I even took a trip to the laundromat instead of doing laundry at home and I was showering at work.  And then one week and a day ago it rained.  Blessed rain.  It rained slow and it rained all day.  At the end of 24 hours, we had 1.6 inches of rain.  Without it, those newly transplanted plants would have surely died.  In the nick of time is an understatement.

With disaster at least temporarily averted, the last week has been spent tending to other threats to the crops namely varmints.  My evolution into a varmint hunter has been an interesting journey but the scale of the damage these critters have caused this year is reaching epic proportions.  Sometimes necessity takes over.

There are all sorts of reasons why I should not be out in the fields with a gun chasing after small furry critters.  I grew up in a middle class suburb and was schooled in the ways of Bambi and Lassie.  I developed a strong love of animals and loved every encounter with every raccoon and squirrel and snake or whatever I would come across in my romps in the woods behind the house.  Then I harnessed that love of animals and became a veterinarian with years of training to keep animals alive and healthy.  But life is full of twists and turns and the desire for a rural lifestyle and marrying a farm boy brought me to living on this farm.   Along the way I came to embrace the thought that man is just as much as part of the natural world as any other living thing.  We must be careful to not take too much, but taking some from nature is, well, natural.

That brings us to varmints.  When I first started to hunt, I said I would never kill an animal that I didn't intend to eat.  However, all it took was a raccoon trying to break in and kill my chickens to change my views.  Mike grew up on a farm so shooting varmints that damaged crops is second nature to him.  It's not that he likes doing it, but it is necessary if to protect crops and make a living.  And now I have been absorbed into the farm lifestyle.  We enjoy wildlife watching immensely, but the line is drawn when they start causing damage.  Raccoons in the woods are fun to watch.  Raccoons in the chicken barn are unacceptable.  And as Mike and I learned late last week, raccoons in the blueberry patch are unacceptable too.  

The only critters that we have had to keep out of the blueberries are the birds and that has been easily accomplished with bird netting over the bushes.  That is until last week.  On July 4th I took a stroll past our early variety of blueberries to check progress.  Most of the berries were ripening and all was looking good for our first picking to go to Saturday's farmer's market.  On Friday evening, I was unloading bags of chicken feed and Mike walked back to the blueberries.  As I finished my job and pulled my car around into the driveway, I heard Mike screaming.  I looked back to see him standing by the berries.  I heard "bring a gun" and "raccoon".   I ran and got a gun and some ammo and hopped into my car and drove back to the blueberries.  Mike said when he got back there, a young raccoon had run out from under the bird netting but another young one was sitting still in the middle of one of the blueberry bushes.  Mike shot that one and then we set a trap for the other one which we ultimately caught and killed the following day.  The damage?  In the three days since I had last checked the blueberries, those raccoons had stripped all the early bushes of every bit of ripe fruit.  It was a total loss.  We have later varieties of blueberries that will mature in a few more weeks and we did what needed to be done to protect them.

That brings me to the garden.  Mike and the crew have planted broccoli in the rows that run along the fenceline with the neighbor's.  The neighbor's field on the opposite side of the fence from us is a hayfield.  We know there have always been some groundhogs living along the fenceline and for the most part, since they have not caused too much damage, we have left them alone.  However, with the super dry conditions, the hayfield has turned brown after it was cut for hay.  The groundhogs have been looking for better food and have found the broccoli.  The rabbits may be helping a little bit, but I have seen a groundhog carrying nearly an entire broccoli plant in its mouth and seeing is believing.  The groundhogs must go.

This is a picture of a row of cauliflower about 4 or 5 rows from the fenceline.

And here is a row of broccoli 2 rows closer to the fenceline.

And because of this I hunt the broccoli eating varmints.

I have not quite come to full terms with eating a groundhog however.  Oh, I have heard it tell they are quite tasty and they probably are.  But on the farm, there are others that need to feed their children and so I am more than happy to help them with a few handouts.  Nothing in nature ever goes to waste.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Small town moment #393

There are certainly smaller towns out there and it's not like Ohio is in the middle of nowhere, but I live in a small town.  Last census, I think our township finally went over 1000 people by a little bit.  There are no stop lights.  The center of town is a crossroads of two state routes with the tiniest of convenience stores on one corner, the township hall on another and two farms on the other two corners.  We don't have our own post office but instead our township is divvied up among the neighboring postal routes.  It is 15 miles one way to the nearest WalMart.  The closest grocery store is a little over 6 miles away.  Not too bad actually, but much different than the large suburban community I grew up in.  I love living in a small town.  It's very rare indeed that I miss the lights and noise of the city.

Since we moved out here, Mike and I have had lots of small town moments and today was a perfect example.  Mike and some of our Amish employees had been working on transplanting plants all morning.  Around noon they happened to be back near the barns loading up more plants when our mailman Kenny pulled into the driveway.  Usually the only time he does that is when we have a package that we have to sign for.  When Mike walked up to the vehicle, Kenny handed Mike three six packs of started tomato plants.  Seems as though Kenny was delivering the mail on the next road over.  On that road about 4 miles from our farm is where our neighbor with the greenhouse lives and she is the one that starts the majority of our vegetable plants.  (Is it still considered a "neighbor" when they live 4 miles away?  Yes, out here it is.)  Well, Kenny saw these tomato plants sitting on the side of the road.  He got out to take a look and there was a tag on them that said "Mike".  He said he couldn't think of anyone else whose plants they could be and so he picked them up and brought them over to our farm which happened to be on the continuation of his route.  Yep they were our plants that had fallen off the wagon yesterday when Mike had been hauling some more of our plants from the neighbor's greenhouses to our farm.  And so we now have had tomato plants delivered to us via the postal carrier.  They looked just a little bit haggard from their rough trip to the farm, but not too bad considering.

Mike and his 2 person crew planted just under 5000 plants this morning.  I'll try to get some pictures of the progress put up in the next 2 or 3 days.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The babies (chickens and plants) are growing up

Once again the farm is off to a slow start.  Last year it was the never ending rain.  This year it is the lack of rain.  And to think we were so hopeful that things would be ahead of schedule with the early warm up this spring.  We did have some fits and spurts of activity until the soil dried out and became like concrete.  Yep, had some early radishes and oh gosh I forgot what else, that was planted and it all died in concreted earth.   That's farming.  Easy come, easy go.  Truth be told we have had some family health issues too that caused some delays here and there, but family is way more important than trying to get things planted on a schedule.  Things will get planted when they get planted and not before.

So now for the updates that should have happened long long ago.......

The first batch of meat chicks arrived safe and sound in May.  Once again I forgot that I really need to be placing my order with the hatchery in February to get the shipping date I want and so by waiting until late March, I ended up getting the chicks in late May instead of early May.

The pen was prepared for arrival:

The chicks arrived safe and sound via the US Postal Service.

And were placed into their new home and proceeded to look entirely too cute.

And then three weeks later grew up and became miniature chickens.

They will be 4 weeks old tomorrow and I will be moving them to their next home out on pasture.

On the vegetable side of things, Mike has been his usual busy beaver self.  This year he did some experimenting with planting early sweet corn under plastic.  The way it works is that seeds are planted and then a thin sheet of clear plastic is laid over the seeds.  The plastic keeps the soil underneath much warmer than the surrounding soil.  That means in the cool spring temps, the seeds germinate better and grow better.  When the little corn plants reach the plastic, the plastic layer is split open and the corn is allowed to grow normally.  Mike said there was quite the learning curve during the planting process as the clear plastic he was using was about as thin as saran wrap and kept tearing or bunching up.  And I have to double check with Mike, but most of the plastic mulch he is using this year is made out of that corn starch material and is biodegradable.  I'm pretty sure this stuff used on the corn is the same.  In the end though, the whole process seemed to work good and we have a nice stand of sweet corn coming along way earlier than we have ever had sweet corn this tall before.

Here are the plants right after the plastic was split on May 22nd.

Then a little over 2 weeks later on June 7th.

Then today, 10 days later.  (Someone {me} needed to being paying better attention while they were taking the picture and should have went and stomped that weed in the road between the rows of corn)

And so we have sweet corn that is looking quite good in spite of the lack of rainfall and is well over knee high.

And last but not least, we have the flats of plants.  As usual Mike's mom who lives in southern Ohio started some plants very early in her green house - mostly tomatoes and broccoli I think.   Those plants came to live on one of hay wagons in late May.  And then they sat there waiting for some rain to fall and the concreted soil to soften.

We had a few nights in late May when we were holding our breath due to forecasted morning frost, but they plants managed to pull through unscathed.  And so the combination of dry soil and family issues made planting take a back seat.  Before we knew it, the flats of plants that get started by our neighbor the next road over had to come and live at our place instead of hers.  Lots more flats joined the southern Ohio started plants on the hay wagon and on the ground by the hay wagon.

And on the ground out behind the garage.

And on the ground by the old milk house.

There has been progress though this past week.  We have hired some of the Amish kids that live a mile down the road from us and between them and Mike, they have made a huge dent on the piles of flats sitting around.  All the melons are planted.  All the tomatoes are planted. And quite a few others as well.  If we are not halfway planted yet, we are getting close.  Now there are quite a few baby plants hanging out in the field waiting eagerly for some rain.

As I am typing, some rain is spitting from the sky.  Enough to moisten, but we could use a little more to soak in.  Darn farmers anyway.  Never satisfied.  Too little rain.  Too much rain.  Ha!  I keep putting my order in for 1 inch of rain per week falling on early Monday morning from midnight to 5am, but my order must keep getting lost.  The growing season will go on though.