Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Soggy Days

As Yogi Berra once said "It's deja vu all over again." This Spring has continued to be wet, just like last year. We hope, however, that we learned a few things from last year's difficult growing season. The intensive hay and straw mulching that we are doing seems to be allowing many crops (chard, kale and peas right now) to "weather" the cold, wet conditions to date. We also planted the 2009 potatoes in a large block to allow for better drainage than last year, hopefully eliminating the rotting (80% of the crop) that we had in 2008.

The bees are doing well, being fed a syrup of water and sugar until they get their hive established. The strawberries are also in good shape (they like all the rain), with some already starting to flower. And on a personal level, it's been a good year for morels on the farm.

Bees on their temporary feeder

Strawberry patch


Last week we were able to get the first tomatoes planted, 67 cherry tomato plants. They are currently undr row cover and doing well. And while this week's soggy conditions (2.75 in rain Sunday/Monday) have once again brought planting to a halt, there is plenty of work to do. The last several days have been spent thinning the beets, spinach and arugula, as well as sanitizing the many crates and buckets we use to harvest and pack the vegetables.

Cherry tomato transplant

Cleaning crates

Ready for harvesting

Lettuce update (see 4/1 posting for last view)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hiving the Bees

Sunday afternoon, the bees arrived at the farm, a day late after being stuck in a snowstorm in the Rockies. Below is an attempt to show you just how they were hived.

They are shipped in boxes containing the bees (10,000 per box), one queen in a separate cage, and a can of food (sugar water).
Getting set up.

Opening the boxes.
The queen bee.

Placing the queen in the hive. On Wednesday Keith will remove her from her cage.
Dumping the bees into the hive.
Tumbling bees.
Unfortunately we only caught the tail end of the dump on video.
Bees in the hive.
Closing up the hives.
Our intern Lori Watley helping out.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Graff Grafting

This year we are trying something new with the tomatoes---grafting. Recently a method has been developed to improve disease resistance in tomatoes, a disease prone plant (especially heirloom varieties.) The basic method is the same as those used for fruit trees, grapes and other plants. What you do is grow a root stock of tomato that has disease resistent properties, cut off it's top, and graft the tomato variety you want to grow to the top of it.

In our case we are using a root stock called Maxifort ($20/packet!). We seeded them at the same time as the heirloom tomatoes, so that when the time came to graft them together, the plants would be about the same size (with the same size stem). Next we cut off the top of the Maxifort (throwing away the top), and cut a small notch in the stem of the remaining plant. The top of the heirloom tomato is then cut off (the scion), the bottom of the stem cut into a V-shape, and the stem is slid into the notch of the Maxifort plant. Next we clamp them together, and place them in a healing chamber (low light, high humidity).

If that's too hard to understand, the photos will hopefully make things a bit clearer. We will trial these grafted heirlooms next to ones grown the normal way to see if they are less susceptible to fusarium and other diseases.

Cutting the top off the Maxifort root stock.

Notching the Maxifort.

Notching the heirloom tomato scion.

Heirloom tomato scion.

Grafted tomato plant.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cold, Wet Spring

We know this Spring has been slow in starting, and we now have the data to prove it. We get the Horizon Report from MU Extension during the growing season, and it tells us what the soil temps are, what weeds to expect, weather predictions and other info. This soil temp chart shows that the soil has been below the 9 year average all Spring long. That is why only now the peas, beets and carrots are popping out of the ground, as they need it to be at least 50 degrees to germinate.

Meanwhile, we have been stymied from planting since we got 3.2 inches of rain overnight Friday. We did uncover the strawberries (they look good) and set the bee hives on some soggy ground to stay on schedule with those things. We also built a small pen for the 2 sheep that arrive next week. We plan on being busy planting all day Friday and Saturday.

Just uncovered strawberry plants

Keith and Nancy setting the hives

Bee home

Friday, April 10, 2009

Finally Farmin' (revised)

2009 has been the most difficult year yet to find a window to plant the Spring crops. And while we are neither crazy nor mad, we planted like we were over the last 3 days. We were thus able to get caught up on our schedule. Here's the rundown--600 broccoli plants, 400 cabbage, 525 Asian greens, 200+ Chinese cabbage, 900 shallots, 600 kohlrabi, 2,400 onions, 150 Red Russian kale, 500 cilantro/dill, and 1,200 potatoes. We also direct seeded 400 ft sugar snap peas, 600 ft carrots, 300 ft Hakurei turnips, 200 ft radishes, and 150 ft arugula. Our transplants are as healthy as they have ever been, and we feel lucky they have been in the greenhouse instead of the field over the last several weeks.

When we were done planting the hard part came, covering all the transplants with row cover. It's one of those things that you just have to experience to appreciate it's calorie burning power. Organic crunches. The video shows how it looks like a Cristo installation when the breeze is blowing.

Here are a few photos and a video of Rebecca at work.

Cabbage transplants

Rebecca planting broccoli

Broccoli in the ground

Row cover with chorus frogs singing.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Who'll Stop the Rain?

Lots of progress and busy at the farm this week, though planting vegetables hasn't been the main activity. The snow, thaw, overnight rain and soaking rain forecast for Thursday has precluded the cultivating and planting we are usually doing in late-March/early-April. We feel good about the quality of transplants we have been growing this year, but as you can see, they are accumulating at the greenhouse instead of in the field. We'll get them out there yet.

It has been "dry" enough though to plant the 23 new fruit trees we ordered (8 Freedom apple, 8 Gold Rush apple and 7 Asian pears). With the help of our intern Kara, we got them all in the ground Wednesday, staked them and mulched them. There are now 46 trees in the orchard that we hope will someday provide for fruit in the share several times a year.

The lettuce in the field survived under the row cover, as you can see.