Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sunday Walkabout 4-20

It’s been a long, hard week here on the hill.  Actually, it’s been a long, hard, COLD week here on the hill.  Maybe it was just the cold that made it seem so long and hard. Everybody has been talking about the cold lately…and honestly, it’s getting more than a little tiresome.

We had an inch of rain on Tuesday, followed by cold winds that got colder and colder. 

However, we did beat the rain and got the Spring potatoes planted. (finally!)

But by Wednesday, we were definitely On Pins and Needles because of the weather.
even the dandelions were frozen solid!

The temperature finally bottomed out at 24* here on the hill. (others reported even colder temps) The moisture from Monday’s rain made the ground heave into weird “ice-crystally” formations that would have been incredibly cool…if I hadn’t been so concerned about the plants.
ice crystal formations in the broccoli garden

1/2 inch ice on the stocktank

cold, cold broccoli plant
Once the sun came up, the temperature warmed and the winds died down. The plants seemed to have faired well. We managed to get some row cover placed, because although it looked like we escaped much damage…the cold wasn’t over yet.  Two more nights of sub-freezing temperatures were to follow.  It is often the cumulative effects that damage the plants. Thankfully, the cold wasn’t quite as severe.  (27* and 31*)

The cold and wet weather allowed time to get to the farm paperwork completed, balance the bank statement and do some filing.  The Boss did some repair work and cleared out a portion of one hoophouse in preparation for some upcoming planting. My desk was actually clear for about five minutes, so I guess it’s all good.

see the cold damage to the leaves?

onions are showing good root development
that's a good sign
While most all of our transplants survived the cold, we won’t know the extent of the damage for quite some time.  It is possible that severe cold will cause the broccoli to “button”. That means that instead of big, gorgeous heads of broccoli, we will just get little tiny ones. It is also possible that the cold will cause the onions to “bolt” and send up a seedstalk from the center of the plant.  This makes a hard core and renders the onions useless of anything except onion rings (or chopped onions).  We’re in a wait and see mode. The Good Lord has always provided for our needs, and I’m certain that He will continue to do so…but, I won’t kid you…sometimes it’s really hard to have faith.

a sampling of what we had for Market on 4-19

The weather moderated and Saturday’s Market was beautiful.  It’s nice to finally have a little more variety (and that should increase every week). Lots of folks came out, Brian Buchanan provided some well-received music and the bubbles floating in the breeze from the very popular Pufferbellies toystore across the street added to the festive feel of the morning. Blondie took the old folks to lunch, too. (thank you!)  All in all, it was a very good day!

this may have been the most photographed spot in all of Staunton
so pretty!

The upcoming week looks promising for “potting up”  (moving to bigger pots) the tomato plants, planting out the squash and cucumbers,
squash and cucumber plants

tomato plants
 sowing some bean seeds, planting more greens in the hoophouses (and doing our succession seeding), moving the sheep to greener pastures in preparation for the long-delayed weaning process…and maybe, just maybe getting that box of strawberry plants off the kitchen floor!

Have a 
               Happy Sunday!

Spring is coming to our Valley...

…and come back and visit us again real soon.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

On Pins and Needles

I’ve been worrying a lot lately. 
(the Boss says I always worry a lot, but…) 

The weather has been causing more than its fair share of concern and extra work. I’m beginning to think that winter might never really end.

The winter weather just won’t release us from its icy grasp.  We’ll have a few nice days, get all excited…and then, bang…back to unseasonably cold. It’s not just here…the endless winter has enveloped the nation. 

Mark my words, all the weather issues are going to have far-reaching effects on all sorts of things.  
Particularly the food supply.

While this might sound like I’m just doing more than my fair share of complaining…it’s far more than that. 

The weather affects absolutely everything we do here on the hill…and ultimately, the weather (and our ability to adapt) will dictate our success or failure.  Making your living from the land is risky business.  Every decision has the possibility of being all or nothing. Farming is the biggest gamble out there.  The rewards can be great, but the possibility of loss and ruin is even greater. And, there are never any guarantees.

Ordinarily, cold temperatures can be countered by covering new plantings.  Row cover (sheets, blankets, buckets or overturned flower pots) will grant some protection and a few degrees of warmth.  But, sometimes these options fail us.

Rain on the hill...clearing across the way

The wind howled long into the night.
Prior to this particular cold snap, we had torrential rains combined with gusty winds, so the row cover wasn’t an option.   Ever try to place row cover in the wind? Not only is it a frustrating affair, the flapping cover can actually do more damage to the young plants as the wind whips it around. It was our concern that by attempting to place the cover in the rain and allowing the soaking wet cover to freeze onto the plants, the risk for loss would be even greater.

  So…we didn’t…and I’m worried.

you can't SEE wind, but trust's BLOWING!

The temperature continued to fall.
clearing skies allow for dropping temperatures

We worried. We prayed. …and we left it in God’s hands.

I woke at 3:30am and the temperature was 26* (and steady).  By now, the wind had died down somewhat, the sky was clear and the moon was bright.  I must say, there was a great temptation to go out and cover stuff up, despite the time. It wouldn’t be the first time I had been out in the garden in the middle of the night.  But, I’m pretty sure that this wouldn’t help much at this point…the row cover can only retain the warmth of the ground, which was already cold and very wet…so I restrained myself.

The crops that we plant this time of year can withstand a great deal of cold.  It’s generally accepted that as long as the temperature is above 20*, the newly planted onions will survive.  We have seen broccoli/cauliflower/cabbage take similar temperatures with little loss.  Despite the setback from the cold, the plants will generally recover and produce. (did you read this one about lettuce?)  However, that doesn’t keep me from worrying.  A total crop loss would be more than a little costly.  And, it’s frustrating to lose something in which you’re deeply and personally vested. But, you go on. 

Despite what anyone might think, we have no safety net for crop failure. Crop insurance isn’t an option for an operation of our size. A loss is just a loss, plain and simple, and we would only hope that we could make it up with another crop later in the season. But, again…no guarantees.

We also cannot wait until later (when the weather is warmer) to plant.  By waiting until later in the season to plant, we run the risk of running out of time for the crop to mature enough in time for harvest. There are also the weather risks of summer…thunderstorms, hail, drought.  Like I said…it’s always a gamble…a very real gamble.


I’m on pins and needles until daylight when we can assess the damage and see if we need to make any preparations for what promises to be another cold, cold night.

pretty sure there won't be many (if any) peaches/nectarines this year

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday Walkabout 4-13

Another week has slipped by and made its way into farm history. ...and here are just a few of the noteworthy happenings from the hill.

The broccoli survived the cold. …and the rowcover didn’t end up in Timbuktu. It looks like the rowcover won’t get stored away quite yet, though.  There’s cold and snow in the forecast again for the midweek. (seriously)

This doesn't look good!
Despite what looked like a dire situation (twice) the Boss finally got the Gravely running once again. We both felt a big sense of relief over that one and it looks like we will get another season out of the geriatric machine after all.  It might not sound like a big deal that the little mower didn’t work, but with today’s focus on huge mowers, it is increasingly hard to find something small enough to cut the grass between the garden beds.  Our incredibly hilly terrain doesn’t allow for big, flat fields for vegetable planting, so we have lots of small beds with grass in between.  Good for the environment (no erosion) bad for mower choices.  So, we’ll be hoping that the little mower will keep on mowing without too many difficulties this season.
fingers crossed that it keeps running

After a check on the perimeter fences and a little bit of repair, the sheep finally left the barnlot and went out to somewhat greener pastures.

 This year, there was no joyous cavorting.  After a moment of running about, they simply put their heads down and ate their way across the paddock.  …and ate back the other way…all day long.  We got them out just in time, too…we have 9 bales of hay left in the barn!

the sheep are still coming back to the barn for feeding
and for the night

look close and you'll see thousands of little onion plants
The onions got planted!  Incredibly, we were only one day behind schedule on that job.  

…and since toughchick stopped by, we had some extra help. It seems that I might have forgotten to tell her we had a big job planned for the day of her visit.  But, as a former farm-kid, she knows that if the old folks are workin’, you gotta pitch in and help. (we did give her lunch…’cause we’re just nice that way)  Thanks for the help, kiddo!
helpin' the old folks plant onions

might not look like much now...
just wait!

The countdown to the big, sweet onions of summer has begun.

The spring batch of layer chicks arrived and have settled into the re-purposed henhouse turned brooder.   We lost a number of little girls just after they arrived.  I suppose they got chilled in transit.  Hopefully, the remaining chicks will do well and in just 5 months, these little girls will join the laying flock in the henhouse. 
broiler batch #2 - 1 week

broiler batch #1 - 5 weeks

The hoophouse crops are growing well, and our customers were happy to see that our mixed lettuce had joined the produce line-up at the Market once more.  More seeding and planting continues to be the routine.
first lettuce of 2014

Last week for the Claytonia
(the ladybug was a bonus)

With an eye on the weather, we will be chopping seed potatoes sometime today in hopes of planting them tomorrow.  It will be a race to beat the rain, snow and cold weather that is coming in Monday afternoon/night. Maybe we can get some beans in the ground, too.  I was tempted to plant out some squash and cucumber seedlings, but I think I’ll wait a little longer.

kinda hated to leave the hill on such a pretty morning
We had another beautiful day for Market.  With Staunton’s Earth Day celebration in full swing, the downtown area was a vibrant, active place…lots of people and activities.

In other odd and random news...

Gus was caught having a "picnic" in the orchard.  Don't worry, he didn't eat the chicks.  He did, however, take the box out of the burn pit and rip it to smithereens.  We're trying to remember...he's a puppy....he's a puppy...

A large portion of Mbrook Road was freshly paved this week, making for an incredibly smooth trip to town. Paving might not sound like a big deal, but Mbrook Road the only way to go ...well...anywhere, so we're grateful that job is completed for another decade or so.

And, here's a reminder why it is not common practice to do ram pedicures alone, before breakfast. 
Ye-ouch! It looks worse than it really was once it was cleaned and bandaged.  And, thanks to the Boss, we tag-teamed Waylon and got the clods out of his hooves. Can't have a limping ram!

It looks like the bluebirds are nesting near the garden again.  Mr. Bluebird has been spotted nearly every morning. The missus is a little more elusive.

...and here's hoping that the apple blossoms (and the peaches, too) can withstand the upcoming cold weather.


Have a very Happy Sunday!

sunrise over Mbrook

Thanks for stopping by!  Come back and visit again soon.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Grins along the Way - A Thursday Thankful

It rained on Monday.

It rained a whole lot on Monday. We got well over 5/8 inch of rain in a short amount of time.

all the transplants survived and seem to be thriving

The broccoli plants benefited greatly from the moisture, as would the grazing paddocks.  All the rain made the dogs incredibly “photogenic”.  And you know…”April showers bring May flowers”…and all that jazz.
Ironically, April showers make for one DIRTY farm dog!

But, the rain played havoc with our well-planned week. And, if you know me at all, you know I really don’t like my plans changed…but roll with it…right?

When the rain let up (some) at midday, we headed out for a much-needed run to the dump.  While the dump run was needed, it certainly wasn’t in the plan.  But, then again…roll with it (right?) We could get another errand out of the way after the dump, so the day wouldn’t be a complete wash.

If it wasn’t for the rain, or the change in plans, we wouldn’t have gone to the dump on a gloomy, rainy Monday afternoon….and we wouldn’t have seen this.

I don’t know about you, but the sight of a somewhat forlorn, dripping wet jack-o-lantern wearing a Santa hat at the dump just made me laugh out loud.  I wasn’t alone, the other folks depositing trash made comments, too.

I’m thankful for 
the odd and random amusements that come along when I least expect them.

So, today…here’s to finding some grins along the way.

Have a great day!