Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sunday Walkabout 6-4

getting ready to plant the round of summer broccoli
Getting things done. 

That was the underlying theme of the week.

And, while we got a great deal accomplished, the “to-do” list continues to grow. But, that’s just par for the course this time of year. In order to keep a somewhat consistent supply of produce throughout the Market season, we practice succession planting with many of our crops. So, we will be continuing our seeding and/or transplanting throughout summer.

shearing is a total body work-out

Monday was our annual Shearing Day, even though most folks know it as Memorial Day. Back in the days when Blondie still lived at home and worked at the Farm Bureau, she used her holidays to do farm work. Somehow, we settled on Memorial day for our mother-daughter shearing event. And, we’ve been shearing on the same day ever since even though she long since quit that job and went into business for herself. You can read about our other shearing “adventures” HERE.

she seemed pretty comfy

I am perfectly content to be the assistant in this particular task. Shearing is one farm chore I have never attempted and I probably never will. My talents are best used by managing the logistics of the operation and trimming hooves.

last one for 2017
Despite the torrential downpour Saturday afternoon that soaked the ewes thoroughly and another shower on Sunday, they were fairly dry for shearing. It seems that the odd weather patterns have affected the sheep as well. Their wool was quite dense and their hooves were dreadfully overgrown, but the entire job went off with little difficulties and we were done in time for lunch. THANKS, Amanda! (and for those of you who have wondered…while it may seem like a waste, we do not utilize the wool, but bag it and take it to the dump)

heading to town
looking back at all the work waiting

It looked like we would have a short stretch of dry weather, so while I headed to the feed store, the Boss got busy on the prep work for planting the tomatoes and cucumbers. Since both of these crops are trellised, there is a little more involved than just plunking the plants in the ground. T-posts are installed with cattle panels attached to them. This provides some support for the vining plants.
"man-saver" in action

We were both more than a little thankful that we made the investment in “the man saver” a couple of years ago. Without this tool, we would have to rethink our growing methods. If you’re wondering about the “man saver”, I swear I didn’t make up the name. But,  it is a total game-changer when it comes to fencing here on the hill. Read THIS post if you want to know more. (it even has video!)
ready to plant

When I got back, he had all the garden infrastructure in place and we worked together to get all the plants tucked into their new homes.  There other more pressing jobs warranting our attention, so we left the mulching for another day.

1st plant

almost done

I am happy to say we FINALLY got the shadecloth on hoophouse #1. It’s been weeks since we discovered that rats had destroyed the original piece. Even though he ordered a replacement that day, we had to wait for it to arrive from the supply company and then we had to wait for it to stop raining long enough to do the job. But, now it’s on, and we don’t have to worry about the plants being cooked in the bright sunshine! We did, however, discover that the plastic skin of the hoophouse has developed some serious holes and will need to be replaced. It looks like the hoophouse will have to get “re-skinned” at the end of the season when we remove the shadecloth. Yep, it’s always something.
Wondering about shadecloth on the hoophouse? Read THIS ONE.
ready to cover the hoophouse

well, that can't be good!

inside the shaded hoophouse

With the hoophouse job done, I can work on getting all the baby lettuce, spinach and kale transplanted. I had been holding off until we got the house shaded. Late in the week I got all the tilling done, the Boss transported the plants, so you can guess what I’ll be doing in the upcoming week! Here’s hoping there won’t be any gaps in greens production!
mulched broccoli
 hours after planting and the looper moths had already invaded

Mulching the tomato/cucumber and summer broccoli plants was next on the list. By applying a thick layer of waste hay to these crops, we cut down on weed pressure and conserve moisture. In the case of the cucumbers, it keeps the fruits from lying directly on the ground where they are almost certain to rot in the hot, humid days of summer. As an added benefit, the decaying hay provides much-needed carbon matter to the garden soil.

mulched garden
we beat the rain!
(May's rainfall total was TEN inches!)

I spotted teeny, weeny squash, cucumbers and tomatoes, so it won’t be long until we’re enjoying the fruit of our labors.
teeny, tiny cuke
means it will soon be time to make pickles!

green tomatoes
potato blossoms mean tubers are growing beneath the ground
potato beetle (in the flower) means a battle in the offing

tilling the brassica garden

side-dressing (fertilizing) the brassica garden

I saw some itty, bitty cauliflowers
and the cabbages are starting to head up

baby grapes
And…just like that…it was time for the Market again!

The Market has been hopping lately. We have had record numbers of vendors. And, customer flow is incredible. Live music adds to the festive atmosphere and it is a pleasant way to spend a Saturday morning. Here is the link to the Boss’ photos of the week.

Every year, a group of MBA students from EMU (Eastern Mennonite University) comes down to the Market for part of their Entrepreneurial Management course. They visit with vendors and ask a lot of questions on various aspects of the Market. In years past, I’ve talked to a number of students. This year it was the Boss’ turn. But, I kept overhearing snatches of the conversation as I waited on customers.

They were talking about community and how the Market played into that.


That’s what makes the Market different than any other retail venue. For the few hours that it is opened each week, the Market is a unique experience. I know a lot of folks come to the Market for fresh, local food. But, even more count on the connection that they feel with the vendors. While it doesn’t happen with every single sale, a connection is made (and maintained) with many of our customer-friends that comes straight from the heart. And it works both ways. In the past couple of weeks, folks have shared experiences that warranted far more than a “yeah, nice day” kind of thing. Some of the stories are unbelievably raw and brutal. Hugs and offers of help are common occurrences. When we have found ourselves in the midst of hard times, customer-friends have been the first to offer aid and comfort.

But, honestly, I don’t think that this is something you can teach.  It cannot be contrived. There is no formula for building connections and community. (believe me, I know, we’ve tried)  We may make a decent living from the Market, but it’s far more than a source of income. The folks buying our stuff are not simply customers. It’s not just a business model. It is a way to reach others, to educate, to minister, to serve and to truly connect with our fellow humans. Personally, it has been (and continues to be) a life-changing experience.

And, now that I’ve begun to wax poetic about the Farmers’ Market (of all things), it’s probably time to bring this post to a close.

I truly hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 

the wisteria did indeed survive the Boss' un-supervised trimming
so, he can heave a huge sigh of relief
(the future of both hung in the balance for a while)

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


  1. Barbara - that view of the farm and all you fields in such perfect condition says it all. What a credit to you and your family.

  2. Nicole the weaverJune 5, 2017 at 12:30 PM

    As a spinner and weaver, I cringed when you said you trash the wool. There are many people like me out there who would love to have it! It could be a good revenue source.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Nicole!
      I appreciate the suggestion about the wool. However, Suffolk wool doesn't lend itself well to the fiber arts. It tends to be too short for nice hand while spinning and the high level of lanolin makes it difficult to clean. With our small flock, it would cost far more to pay for processing than we ever could make in sales. I have looked into the wool pool and other outlets, but the market simply is not there.
      Honestly, you would cringe if you saw the wool. ;)
      Since it's a question we get fairly frequently, I will have to write a post about it soon.
      Hope you'll come back and "visit" again.