Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sunday Walkabout 4-17

Chilly mornings mean frost and wood smoke hang in the valley
Here we are.

Another Sunday morning.

Time for another little farm tour to see what happened around here this week.

It finally feels a little more like Spring!

We got some more planting done and our harvest for the Market is beginning to seem a bit more substantial. But, I must admit, things seem like they’re getting off to an incredibly slow start this year. However, I've been blogging for a long time and a check of the archives reveals that this is really not that unusual.

After last Sunday morning’s low of 21*, things started to warm up to more seasonal temperatures. 

ready for planting
That meant that we could get the potatoes planted. So, that was Monday’s priority job. The “potato-hiller” makes this job somewhat easier than it was back in the day when we raked the entire crop in by hand. You can read about that innovation  HERE. 

But, the chopping and “plunking” are still done by hand as our operation is just too small for the machinery used by bigger producers.
these sprouts will become the plant
which will make the potato tubers

"plunking" potatoes
(see the Boss way down there at the end of the row?)

hilling the potatoes

We had hoped to get the potatoes planted before it rained. A light rain would be perfect to get the soil soft and the newly planted potatoes off to a good start. However, all the rain simply evaporated when it hit the state line. With all the wind from last week, things are looking a mite dry around here. ...and you guessed it, now everyone is talking about how we need RAIN.

the supply company is located in the heart of Mennonite farm country
On Tuesday, we took a little field trip to pick up some drip tape that the Boss had ordered for the hoophouses. The little emitters are closer together than in the tapes we use in the field gardens and we are hoping that will help with the growth in the hoophouse crops.  

the farms are quite unlike those that surround us here 

We also need to address the soil fertility in the hoophouses. Since the crops in the hoophouses have a fairly short life span, we are constantly re-planting. Every time we pull out an old crop, we lose a bit of soil. We need to be aware of this and work diligently to re-build the soil. Compost seems the best choice for this project.

Since we use the old, waste hay for mulching, the hens eat the weeds and the sheep mow the grass, we don’t have much left to compost. That means we need to purchase the “black gold” from elsewhere. We visited the local compost producer who came highly recommended and picked up a load. 
loading up "black gold"

Then the Boss had the daunting task of unloading it AND applying it...but, it gave him a chance to use the new wheelbarrow that we got on sale this week. 

unloading compost
The new purchase replaces a very old, well-used and much-repaired wheelbarrow that had finally reached the end of its productive life…and it looks pretty cool, too. (for a wheelbarrow)

spiffy new wheelbarrow

Keeping with our hoophouse theme for the week, we took advantage of a relatively calm day and applied the shadecloth for the season. Here’s an old post that tells a little about shadecloth. Read this. 

shadecloth job begins

nice and shady for the summer season

Years after that post, we still do it pretty much the same way, using the old jolly ball that Blondie had for her mini horse. The horse was NEVER one of my favorite farm residents, but we sure have gotten a lot of use out of that toy!

With the hoophouses covered (and well-watered) we don’t need to worry quite so much about the crops inside. There is still a fair amount of management involved, as the changeable spring temperatures necessitate protection at night and good ventilation during the day. And, then there’s the planting and harvesting…
covered hoophouses

By maintaining our hoophouse planting/harvest schedule, we can produce a fairly large amount of produce in a relatively small space...assuming we keep the varmints out and the insects from feasting on our hard work. If you’ve been reading for any length of time, you are well aware of our on-going battles with the groundhogs.  To read about groundhogs, click THIS. I truly hope we’ve resolved that issue! Although, I did see some other smaller rodent scurrying under the hoophouse wall the other day…(I'm trying not to think about what that might have been)

This year, we are facing a new challenge in the form of a leaf disease that has infected the spinach crop. It looks like I need to do some serious research to understand how best to face this.  There is always something new to learn!

Somewhere in the midst of the week of the hoophouse, we worked the sheep again. 

looking for breakfast

nice ewe lamb!
she's pushing 100#
We checked weights and treated for parasites. (the two ewes that have been suffering are looking somewhat better…) This year, we are committed to keeping good records on lamb weight gain. (ordinarily, I check it...scribble it on a piece of paper...observe it...mean to record it...lose the paper...and well, that’s the end of it...) But, I have remained diligent this year and entered all the information into the computer. (yay, me) We are quite impressed with the lambs from the new ram. In three weeks, the lambs gained over 400 pounds collectively. One ewe lamb is particularly nice, and I might just have to reconsider my earlier decision not to keep any lambs this year. The lambs are gaining incredibly well and are all looking good (even the bottle baby) as we turn the flock out on pasture.

greener pastures

Yes. Finally, they are out on grass! They’ve been spending the nights in the barnlot, as they acclimate to the new set up. But, this week they will start staying out in the field around the clock. And, we will be weaning the lambs at the end of the month. Sure signs that the season is progressing.

More signs of progress…

The baby broilers moved out of the shop.

The radishes are almost ready.

And, the lettuce is be-yooo-ti-ful!

We had planned to process broilers this week, but we decided to give them some more time, in hopes that they would grow a little bigger. I must say, I will be SO glad to finish these broilers! This batch has offered greater challenges (and LOSSES) than we have ever experienced. And, we’ve been doing this a LONG time. We are really hoping that the issues were weather-related and not an indicator for the season. But, batch #2 looks good (so far) and batch #3 should arrive on Friday… 

We have had numerous people asking about chicken, so here’s hoping that we are back on track!

But, there are a few more signs of the season...

pear blossoms escaped the cold

pretty tulips

a bumper crop of maple "helicopters"

It looks like our big Monday job this week will be getting the brassica crop in the ground…and planting our “experimental” onions. (more about that one some other time) There’s a lot more seeding, planting and harvesting to keep us busy for the rest of the week.  …and there’s a birthday dinner in the works for Saturday after Market…

Since I know some of you look forward to a picture of the Market, here's a shot from this week. "Smiley" came down and hung out for a little while with Grandpa. He's becoming quite the Market regular. Can't believe he's eight months old!

So…here’s to a restful and

Happy Sunday! 

Thanks for stopping by. Come “visit” us again real soon.

 P.S. ...pray for RAIN!

 Here's the link to the Boss' weekly Market pictures...


  1. You have been BUSY! When I first visited your blog, I didn't realize to what extent you are in the vegetable growing business! I love your sheep pictures. Do you process your own chickens, or take them somewhere? -Jenn

    1. Thanks for commenting, Jenn!
      We have about 2 acres in vegetable production as well as our two hoophouses. It is amazing just how much can be grown in that small area!
      Yes, we process the chickens ourselves. (in the backyard) I have hesitated to blog about that in great detail because I worry about reader reactions. Maybe I should take the plunge.

  2. I wish we could send some ofour rain over to you Barbara. We have had much more than our fair share over the last eight months, and the ground is just too wet to work at the moment.

    1. Too much rain is every bit as problematic as not enough!
      While I realize there is no point in thinking it, just once I wish it could be "just right" for farmers everywhere.