Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 review in pictures and a few words

Time to sit down and write up the annual year in review blog.  Once again, like 2013, not a whole lot of blogging going on this past year.  While 2014 wasn't quite the disaster that 2013 was, it was not far behind and once again I was trying to avoid doom and gloom blogging.  You know, it is quite difficult to fully grasp the concept of global warming when you live day in and day out with colder and wetter conditions than normal.  A warmer December doesn't mean much when there are no crops growing.  A warmer summer would be nice.  But there were a few bright spots along the way and it is always nice for me to be able to look back through the blog to remember when things got planted (or not).

January was a cold cold month.  We had a polar vortex visit us, one of several that visited during the winter of 2013-2014.  My January picture file has no farm pictures.  This was however the first winter that we sold frozen produce and that went very well.  In spite of the cold weather, I was able to get out and do some hunting on the farm.  We eat a lot of wild game such as wild turkey, deer, rabbit and squirrel in addition to the chickens we raise in the summer.  My hunting photos from January contain lots of layers of clothing and trying to look happy even though I was freezing.

February brought more cold although for a farmer that is not all bad.  The colder it is in the winter, the more bugs that are trying to over-winter in the soil are killed.  The local deer herd took every advantage of visiting the produce field for leftovers.  There was a lot of napping in the house.  And Mike showed off his cooking skills by making a very delicious frittata.

March continued with cold weather and more single digit temperatures.  The pond was still frozen solid on the 23rd of the month but a warm up in the last week brought official "ice out" one week later.  We were very happy we did not stock the pond with fish last fall as several area pond owners report 100% winter kill in their smaller ponds.

There is still not a of farming to be done in April, but nature slowly started to emerge from a frigid winter.  Hibernating critters started to come out and about.  The pond got stocked with bluegill and bass and I had fun identifying the various toad and frog egg masses that were laid in the weeds around the edges of the pond.  The new batch of pullets were moved from the grower pen to their home in the main chicken barn that has access to the outside.  And I spent one whole day being terrified at a chainsaw safety class that ended with me successfully felling my first tree.

May was a very scary month.  This is normally when planting begins, but in 2014 it rained and rained and rained some more.  The first picture is a collage of farm fields from the area that I took the third week of May.  No one had put a plow in the field yet and lots of standing water.  There was lots of farmer anxiety in these parts.  Then on May 25th the party started.  First was discing of the old biodegradable plastic mulch followed two days later on May 27th with chisel plowing of the fields.

It took all of June to get the fields ready to plant.  Rain would put a halt to everything.  Then it would dry out just enough to start working in the field again for one to two days.  Then it would rain again.  Highlights from this month include a rare appearance of yours truly working in the field both on the plastic laying machine and the transplanter.  The first batch of meat chickens were moved out to pasture.  We had our first known visit to the farm by a black bear.  And the last week of the month we had a Deja Vu all over again flood similar to 2013.

July was more continued stop and go but we were able to finish planting (and I think we were done earlier than good ol' rainy 2013).  The first picture from July 12th is of the final flats of plants waiting to be transplanted.  The second picture was the produce field on July 21st.  As you can see, the crops were not very far along at all.  July ended up being the third coldest July on record and with all the added rainfall, many of the transplanted plants drowned.  What wasn't killed by the cold and rain was horribly stunted.  The last picture is of the celery root to show that we had pretty much had non-stop standing water in between the rows of crops all month long.

The first part of August brought a nice dry patch of weather and there was a glimmer of hope.  The early sweet corn ripened so I froze some for the winter.  The county fair was the second week and I won some ribbons for my baked goods and Mike won some for his produce.  And then it started raining again on August 13th and that put an end to our optimism for an average year.

September was more of the same.  It would dry out and then just when things were looking brighter, it would rain.  I don't have any pictures from the farm in September except for some jars of green beans so we must have had green beans to pick and sell.  Most of the broccoli, melons, cauliflower and cabbages approached a 100% loss.

When crops do not get planted until July, October turns out to be a big month for harvesting.  The celery (and later the celery root) was one of the shining moments from 2014 and we had a couple large orders leave the farm.  The turkeys were growing out in the pasture pens and the soybeans got harvested on October 25th.

November pretty much brings an end to the farming season.  There are always a few cold tolerant plants that can be harvested (such as kale and cabbages).  We had a very snowy middle of the month.  And of course November saw the turkeys being taken to the processor for Thanksgiving dinner and pumpkins were turned into pumpkin puree and then into pumpkin pie.

December has been much warmer with very little snow compared to years past.   The laying hens sure do appreciate not being "cooped" up for extended periods of time.  We are in the middle of the indoor winter farmers market season and Mike did gear up by getting a much larger variety of frozen produce ready to sell.  And Christmas always brings with it a feeling of peace and remembering that in spite of all the trying times, we have many many reasons to be thankful.  And the end of the year always brings renewed hope for a wonderful new year.