Thursday, March 14, 2013

2010---Our Seventh CSA Season

Hawk wing impressions, and one less rabbit on the farm.
In 2010 the focus was better ergonomics.  The farm had grown for the past six years and we were realizing that we needed to find more efficient ways of farming so that our bodies would hold out for many years to come. Organic vegetable farming entails a lot of stoop labor.  Farming smarter involves improving the ergonomics of the work. Sometimes that means that you let a machine help you do the job, as in the case of tractor-mounted transplanters and cultivators.

With that goal in mind, I made the 300-mile round-trip to Morgan County Seeds near Barnett, Missouri and ferried back a transplanter on John's 16-foot trailer. No task causes me more anxiety than over-the-road hauling. I've hauled 50 greenhouse barrels strapped 3 high, our Allis Chalmers G, 100 square bales of straw, and entire kit for the high tunnel.  Each trip has given me more respect for the power and control necessary for such activities.

 the new Water Wheel transplanter
Farm apprentices Emily Lecuyer and Matt Maes joined us in late March. Emily had returned from a Peace Corp stint in the Phillipines and was ready to learn about CSA and biological farming. Matt was to get married that July, buy land nearby, and start a farm and a family - what a busy year! Emily and Matt pitched in during what would turn out to be a cold Spring and hot Summer.

Emily and Matt in the Spring greenhouse
We had our new Water Wheel transplanter, but no tractor to pull it. The Graff family tractor (aka Grandpa) was having some problems after 45 years of farming. Valve cracks, a rotted out radiator, and numerous other issues meant an overhaul was in order. Luckily FSF beekeeper, CSA member and all-around helpful soul, Keith Stubblefield, volunteered to share his mechanical knowledge and saved the day. He walked us through all of the repairs and gave the muscle of the farm a new life.

Keith adjusting the engine
Once Grandpa was back in service, we found that we could plant rows and rows of broccoli, cabbage, squash and sweet potatoes with the transplanter and made good use of it. Some plantings still required the tedious tasks of mulching and row covering, but such efforts have a payoff in improving the chance of a good harvest.

A quick planting of broccoli and cabbage

Mulched and covered to survive the cold Spring
Transplanting sweet potato slips
2010 was the year of a terrible outbreak of tomato blight on the east coast. It wasn't much better here, as our early planting was stunted by the cold, wet Spring. The later plantings of tomatoes that missed the bad conditions grew much better and saved the tomato crop from being a total bust.
Tomato plants with wet feet on a cold day
2010 success stories included 1,000+ quarts of strawberries (the record so far), 1,000+ lbs of beans, excellent onions, and our best winter squash harvest yet.  Efforts for the squash crop included cutting vine borer worms out of the stems of the plants. It saved a lot of plants and helped increase the harvest.

Garlic harvest
Lots of cukes
CSA bean picking morning
Winter squash in the barn
Our Allis Chalmers G had been with us for several years now and were were starting to realize it's full potential.  Along with seeding and cultivating, we increasingly used it to "gutter", using discs to make a raised bed. Guttering the beds has become one of the most important tasks we perform to improve drainage.

Emily cultivating and guttering
2010 was also the year of the Federal Stimulus.  Through University Extension, we learned that funds were available for remote solar irrigation systems on farms. In the end, we received 75% cost-share on purchasing over 2,000 feet of below ground irrigation pipe and four more solar panels. Trenching, laying and covering the pipe and appertunances took some doing, but was well worth the effort. Having a permanent supply line from the pond to our fields saves us countless hours previously spent rolling out and rolling up hose each year---yeah!  The additional solar panels improved our ability to reach the highest points in our fields with life-giving water.

New panels on left
On November 6th, 2010 Rebecca and I made it official and got married.  It was a great day!  With some help from the Graff family, we traveled to Hawaii in December and soaked up the sun and gorged ourselves on tropical fruit.

Star fruit tree on Kauai
Next up---putting it all together, Outstanding in the Field, barn facelift, and a long, hot Summer.

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