Sunday, April 26, 2009

Compost, Soldiers and Gardening!

What a crazy week we had!  We spent a lot of time last week spreading compost on our fields - we do this every other year (mostly due to expense), and get 20 yards to spread on 1 acre or so.  At that time we also spread organic fertilizers like Cheep Cheep, Pro Grow, etc.   It is just such
 a great way to spread fertilizer since we already have the compost spreader hooked up.  We did this project last Sunday - a day when no other
 farmers at the Intervale really do any tractor work, and since we need both the New Holland (for the use of the bucket) and the John Deere (for the PTO for the spreader) for the task, it's just better knowing that we won't be hogging the tractors when other farmers need them.  It was a beautiful and productive day - preparing us for the task of tilling and laying the biodegradable plastic for the 
potatoes, onions and shallots - a project for 
this week.  It took us 3 hours or so - not too bad, considering we only do this every other year, and I have relative inexperience with using the bucket; that thing definitely takes some practice!  Our other major projects this week involved potting up hundreds of pots for Gardener's Supply Company - we have a growing account with them and do quite a few potted veggie starts for their retail store.  With all the beautiful growing weather coming up, it feels good to get moving on the potting up so that everything can get out of the greenhouse and sold to all those eager gardeners
 out there!  The pots all look so obedient with their colorful tags - like regimented soldiers ready to fight the good fight against conventional food! 
 I always feel so proud of all my plants when we drop them off at Gardener's Supply - I know they're going to good homes with people that will appreciate what they have to offer.  It's a nice component to our business that takes up most of our time this time of year and then it's over by Memorial Day weekend.  A short, but sweet part 
of our season.  We moved the geese and ducks out to their outside house - they were simply getting too big for their brooder!  They're only a week and a half old!  They have been growing so quickly!  I recently read that Pekin ducks can potentially be 
ready for harvest in only 6 or 7 weeks (that's faster that cornish chickens!) - and in that amount of time they'll have eaten 20+ pounds of feed!  Crazy!  I'm so glad we're supplementing with pasture (currently grass clippings - soon field
 grass) - which they love!  They descend upon any patch of grass like locusts; except they're quite cuter and make nicer sounds.  They actually
 whistle more than chirp - very cute.  We anticipate moving them out to field pasture very soon.  First, we must construct a solid home for them to live in at night after they're done ranging and also to protect them from predators.  We're planning on making them a house on top of this frame - Spencer was very proud of his medieval style wheels he fashioned out of an 

old cable spool!  They work quite well, actually.  We're also planning on a door that becomes a 
ramp for them to walk up.  This was a fun Friday project, after we deconstructed the old hay rick at our field - we needed a nice flatbed wagon for moving plants to the field, and the wood from the walls was rotten and dangerously falling apart.  So, we will be gleaning some great wood from that project for the duck house and the pig house as well.  Saturday was our first 80 degree day here in Burlington!  We were so focused on trying
 to pack so much in on this perfect day that we almost had project paralysis - but, we were able to accomplish some major gardening projects here at home (after spinning class, a great breakfast, and tuning up the bike of course)!  Don't worry, the irony is definitely not lost on us - we are farmers that leave the farm early some days to come home to garden!  It is definitely funny!  However, it makes tons of sense - we love 
gardening at home because it allows us to grow things we'd never grow at the farm; like perennials, fruit trees, flowers and fun herbs.  It was nice to see the Johnny Jump Ups doin' their thing, and to notice that our first try at asparagus seems initially successful!  The wormwood, angelica, chervil, chives, marjoram, thyme, sage and mountain mint are all up and looking great!  We spent time talking about the project for the front yard - Spencer's super fun crazy wild and huge garden!  Since we grow so many baby veggies at the farm, he thought it would be fun to grow HUGE veggies at our house.  And, after falling for the urgings of Eat the View and the White House garden, we decided it was time to do our own front garden here in suburbia!  As Spencer unloaded the tiller from our van and started to till up the front yard, I was listening to The Splendid Table, where Lynn Rosetto Kasper had a story on just that - growing a garden instead of a lawn.  

Her guest was Rosalind Creasy, who was touting her new cookbook, but she's also known for
 her book on Edible Landscaping - she grew wheat on her front lawn!  Felt good to be on the
 same page.  It felt like we were getting some support while tearing up the lawn in a block of lawns that are all perfect and manicured.  Now it looks so purposeful and industrious, and ready for the transplants of our Giant Red Celery, Mammoth Cabbage, Dill's Atlantic Giant Pumpkins, Giant watermelons, etc.  It's going to be a blast, and certain to be a conversation starter this summer!  We'll post pictures as the garden 
progresses...  There it is, the last post of April!  Hard to believe!  We're gearing up for the first downtown farmers' market, which is only 2 weekends away!  Hard to believe we've only got 1 free Saturday left for 5 months!  Gotta make some relaxation plans for next week...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Bird Pics & First Planting Projects

We've arrived!  We received our very first ducklings and goslings this Wednesday.  They are so cute and so independent compared to the cornish cross chicks.  The chicks seem to need so much care, or they die.  Even when you think you have covered every contingency, some die.  They need heat, they need water, they need grit, they need a surface to walk on that is not too slippery or they'll develop leg problems, they need their butts wiped or else they'll "paste up".  At times, it's a little much.  However, with the arrival of the ducklings and goslings, 
we have realized how cool heritage breed animals can be.  They simply know what to do, how to live, and they are oh so charming while doing it!  Our rare breed chickens last year also made us realize how much more sturdy they can be.  After growing out cornish cross chickens, the rare breed guys are just so much more chickeny!  They scratch, they look for bugs, they hassle each other and they make dust baths.  The cornish cross chickens are little couch potatoes - they sit, they eat, they poop.  Rinse and repeat for 8 weeks.  They sure are efficient food-meat machines, though; they make meat in only 8 weeks.  By comparison, the rare breeds aren't ready for 14+ weeks!  The feed gets expensive, but they certainly work harder on the farm - they scratch up ground and clear weeds far more efficiently than the cornish cross birds.  At any rate, it is fun experimenting, and we are having fun watching the ducklings and goslings!  There is no doubt that they are water-oriented animals!  They need tons of water to drink, because they play in it, too!  They need enough water access to drink, but not swim in quite yet - their down doesn't have their mother's oil on it so they'd chill really quickly.  We need to wait until they feather out before we install a kiddie pool for them, but meanwhile they make bubbles in their water font!  Especially these little black ducklings - they spend their entire day running between the water (blowing bubbles in the water while drinking), the duck chow and the little bit of grass they
get at this stage, their feet smacking on the ground all the while.  So cute!  I can't wait until we can get them outside rooting around in the dirt and in the sunshine - probably a couple more weeks under the heat lamps, until our weather regulates a bit more.  We got these birds from the hatchery in Iowa called Murray McMurray which has a great catalog (you should have one around just for reading material!).  The folks at Murray have a sense of humor, too - they offer lots of bird combinations based on use of the bird: Barbecue Special, Frying Pan Special, Homesteader's Delight, etc.  The bird package we got was the the Barnyard Combination #3, 6 ducklings and 6 
goslings.  They send an assortment of varieties - and we've had fun trying to figure out what types of birds we got sent.  We think we have 2 blue swedish ducklings (the black ones), 2 fawn runners (upright ducks), and 2 pekin ducks (all yellow).  In the goose department, we think we have 2 chinese white OR white embden, 2 toulouse OR african (they look identical at this stage), 1 Sebastapool (it will be frilly and white) and 2 buff goslings.  We got sent one extra goose - thank you, Murray McMurray!
In other farm news, we have officially completed all of the construction of the Haygrove with the completion of the simple doors!  Feels good to
 finally be done, and start using the Haygrove to its fullest potential!  We would have finished the doors last week, but we actually ran out of plastic that Haygrove sent us.  When we called to let them know we thought we had been very conservative with the plastic, but still ran out, they made good with us and sent us the perfect amount to complete the doors!  This is just another reason we love this company!  They have been amazing in the customer service department!  Thank you, Haygrove!
So now that that is done, we are well on our way with our growing season at the farm!  We have transplanted our first round of head lettuces, baby bok choy, red, chioggia, and golden beets, and seeded the first rounds of arugula, broccoli raab, radishes, salad mixes & fava beans.  Below, some pictures of that process - including a time lapse of transplanting.  Because it's fun to watch!  Enjoy!

Doors open and secured.

Irrigation set up and flowing!

Looking good!

Covered the brassicas - to protect from flea beetles.  I think that we could probably just have secured them with tacks instead of using a shovel and soil to secure the edges since we are under cover already and wind inside isn't too much of an issue.  Such creatures of habit are we.

Looking so industrious!

More gosling and duckling pictures... can't resist!  This is one of the African OR Toulouse geese.

One of the blue swedish ducklings looking curious!

Closing the new Haygrove doors.

Laying Driptape in the Haygrove

Transplanting Beets.  Note very tired dogs not doing much - end of the day.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Seeding, Irrigating, Micros & Chicks!

Mr. Smeems is super excited to be spending long days at the farm doing his favorite activities - barking, sniffing, digging, getting filthy while know, dog stuff!  Bullet is never far behind, and is in fact usually leading the charge!  Last week we spent some time working on tilling the Haygrove beds with our BCS tiller, and getting them ready for seeding.  While Spencer did that manly job, I spent a lot of time re-organizing our irrigation and cobbling together what I think amounts to a really nice system.  Hopefully it works!  We'll turn it on this week and put it to the real test.  Digging trenches really puts the old muscles to work, but I'm happy to report that with all my gym-going activities, my recovery time after this super-physical activity was merely overnight - I woke up the next morning  surprisingly not remotely sore!  True testament to working out and doing strength training really paying off!  At any rate, Spencer seeded the first rounds of arugula, salad mix, radishes, dandelion greens, etc.  We'll be transplanting out the first round of lettuce heads this week in those same beds.  We're gearing up for the Downtown Farmers' Market, which starts this year on Saturday, May 9th.  Four weeks away!   Today, after meeting with my gym trainer, I received the phone call from the post office saying that there was a box of peeping chicks waiting to be picked up!  So, off I ran to collect some food for them from Guy's Farm & Yard out in Williston, do my grocery shopping, collect the peeping chicks from the post office, turn on the super cool new brooder box we ordered, and put them away in their toasty new environs.  All went smoothly, and we now have 26 cornish roaster chicks slowly getting meaty in our brooder!  They sure are cute at this stage!  They seem to like their new house and are happily peeping away - they are successfully finding their food and water, so all's well.  After getting those guys situated, I ran back down to the Intervale to harvest the first batch of microgreens of 2009!  They'll be sold to Healthy Living and should be on their shelves after 1pm on 4/14/09.   We'll be doing deliveries 2 times a week to them, on Tuesdays and Fridays.  Here's some pics of the chicks and microgreens!  We're anxiously awaiting our ducks and geese, which should be arriving tomorrow.

Here they are checking out their new digs.  The green gel stuff is 1st day vitamins for them.

Curious about the camera.

Doin' their chickeny business!

Micros!  Can you identify all 8 varieties in there?  Amaranth, Arugula, Mizuna, Red Bok Choy, Tatsoi, Hong Vit Radish, Giant Red Mustard and Russian Red Kale!

Close up micros.  Had some sashimi, pork dumplings, and rice over a salad of these tonight.  It was sublime!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

WCW, Food Club and Micros!

The Red Wheel Barrow

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

I first read this poem by William Carlos Williams in 10th grade in Mrs. Ludwig's English class at Manual High School in inner-city Denver, CO.

Back then, I liked it because it was so short, and I was sure that this was one poem that I could memorize! However, this week as I was seeding in the greenhouse, this poem came to me, unbidden and wouldn't let go. Here I was, 19 years hence, FINALLY aware of the meaning of this poem! Alone, the seeds, the soil, the trays, the sticks that remind me what I planted, and yes, the red wheelbarrow I use to cart soil, all seem so inconsequential.

They're essentially meaningless alone. Together, they mean everything to me. For it is on these tiny seeds that we pin all our hopes for the season. Every greenhouse season I am surprised at my own incredulity over the power of the potential energy stored up in a tiny dry seed that becomes a huge tomato plant that grows so massive it kicks us out of our hoop-house every September! What I think William Carlos Williams was saying in his poem was that these everyday items, the wheel barrow, the rain, the chickens, they don't seem like they mean much, but to someone they do; and perhaps they mean everything in some sense to that someone. I am also reminded of people that visit any farm, and see farm implements that look ancient, rusted, and unused. Chances are that so much depends on the two-bottom plow seemingly rusting into the soil. I guarantee that a farmer has plans to hitch that sucker up and use it perhaps only once a season, but so much depends on that one use. Nice poem! I forsee myself reflecting on it often.

That said, finally we have the Half Pint Farm Food Club Brochure ready to go! First 15 respondees become the lucky members of our farm share for 2009! Read thoroughly before committing, then get ready for what we're calling the "Summer of Taste!" Can't wait to meet all of you!

Lastly, a head's up - the first microgreens will be ready in one more week - YUM!

Some pictures of our week for your enjoyment:

Seeding micros

The first beets up!

Our cipollini onions starting to come up this week!

Red bok choi microgreens lookin' mighty fine!

We broadcasted some Cheep Cheep before Spence disked it in.

Spencer doing the first pass of disking. We have some winter-killed oats to turn in. Hopefully they'll break down in a week or so. We refer to this process as "hitting the reset button". Note the side-skirts up and hanging.

Side skirts hanging loosely as per the FEMA requirements. The temperature rose instantly after we got these up!

A nice view over the tops of our circus tents after getting one door up. Forgot to get a picture of the door, though. Will do that this week as we get that project finished.

A view of Half Pint Farm from the perspective of the tops of the Haygrove. Neat!

Lastly, what are we eating these days? Homemade pizza often - this week's offering, pizza di quattro stagioni! One section with artichokes, one with anchovies and mozz, one with mushrooms and parsley, one with prosciutto and olives. The tomato sauce is made with our very own pineapple and gold medal tomato sauce from 2008. YUM! Buon appetito!

I leave you with my homage to WCW in poem entitled:

The Amaranth Seed

so much depends

a white amaranth

sprouted with rain

beside the fuzzy