Monday, February 27, 2012

Tilling in February

The Monster and I spent most of the morning doing this.

He did pretty good for over an hour but then got a little bored at our slow speed and decided his boot was more interesting than tilling.  This would be how yesterday's casualty in the field happened.

And I know a few of the people who see these pictures are going to laugh at my crooked passes in the field but I promise that is not my fault.  Not even with a toddler in my lap.  The sway bars on this tractor are locked up and my tiller has about 8 inches of sway in it from right to left-I have no control over it.  

We rely on a lot of hand-me-down equipment and this set of equipment is by far the most important equipment in our operation.  

This little tractor was given to us by my father-in-law when we first started building on this property, around the same time my in-laws decided to move to a smaller property.  It has been a workhorse around here and today was no exception.  My father-in-law gives good gifts but this one takes the cake.  The Land Pride tiller we use with this tractor was given to us practically brand new from a customer of ours through Conway Locally Grown.  This gift has meant more to this farm than that customer could possibly have known.  We appreciate it so much and I think of David every spring when we pull this tiller out of the shed.  

I think III thought I was ambitious when I told him how much ground I wanted to get worked up today.  He laughed and said, "It IS only February".  I laughed and agreed.  We have never had ground worked up in February.  Very little in March usually.  Then I realized we need to change our mindset.  We've done a pretty good job selling vegetables the last two summers but still have had a lack of farm income for six months out of each year.  We are working on changing that.  But to have farm income in March and April means we need to be in the field every February.  Or find more fall-planted vegetables and flowers to overwinter and harvest in the early months.  

Today the ground ended up being dry enough to work halfway down our fields.  I'll try to explain what the next picture shows.  III took it from up on the deck of our house.  

The t-posts are the trellis for four rows of sugar snap peas.  They are just starting to show.  Today I tilled several  passes north (right) and south (left) of the t-posts.  This is where we are going to plant the majority of the broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and lettuce.  Behind the tractor in this picture are the garlic beds.  Just south of the garlic is a bed of kale and south of the kale is rye/clover cover crop that we push-mowed yesterday and tilled under today.  North of the garlic beds is the area we were tilling in the pictures up above.  This afternoon Jessica and I planted about 500 broccoli, 250 cauliflower and 100 red cabbages in that area.  I'll try to get a picture of it in the next few days.  I'll also try to get a better picture of the whole field from farther away.  

Tilling in February.  YAY!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Casualty in the Field

We had a super productive weekend on the farm thanks to good weather and good help from a few interns.  We planted fifty new blackberry plants that came in on Thursday and finished mulching all of the blackberries in the patch.  III worked hard to finish trellising all of the blackberries and our little row of grape plants.  He also transplanted a few more of the older blueberry bushes from the fence line to the berry patch.

One more bush needs to be transplanted and then we need to finish mulching the blueberries and the berry patch will be ready to go for the year.  Hopefully needing less weeding than last year due to our heavy mulch.

The interns potted up trays of lettuce yesterday.  Today, with the help of one intern, we transplanted the snapdragon seedlings to the field and raised and mulched a flower bed that will hold zinnia seedlings in a few weeks.  Then III put the disc on the tractor and Jessica got a crash course in working up a field.

She did great!  After Jessica left the Monster talked me into getting back on the tractor for a few rounds. 

How could I resist this face?

That is when we took our first casualty in the field.  The Monster's mud boot.  I was driving, he was on my lap and in one swift motion he kicked off his boot and I ran over it with the disc.  Essentially cutting the toe off.  No more monkeys.  Luckily we were just given a back-up pair.  

On a less productive note, this is what was happening in the barn while we were working in the field.

Lazy cats.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

New Skill

Up until last week I wouldn't really say the Monster has slowed me down a whole lot this spring.  He's happy outside, the weather has been nice most of the winter and he takes a long nap in the middle of the day.  With a little bit of monster-proofing around the farm, I felt pretty good about letting him roam the yard where I could almost always see him from the greenhouse.  Until last week.  He has developed a new skill that requires me stopping whatever I am doing many, many times a day to catch up with him.

He is obsessed with THIS tractor.  The minute he steps out the door he is looking for THIS tractor.  He scares me on this tractor.  I'm afraid his wet boots are going to slip or his hands and that he'll fall or crack his chin or any number of things that could happen to a toddler playing on a large piece of metal equipment.  It worries me enough that the other morning I parked this tractor clear over next to the sunflower field in an attempt to keep him off it.  It didn't work.  It just took him longer to get to.  Running back and forth to this tractor is slowing me down immensely.  It might even be slowing down my blogging.  ;)

Suggestions are welcome.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

First Shiitake!

Last April III cut down a few gumball trees and we inoculated about twenty-five logs with shittake mushroom spawn.  We drilled holes, tapped in the plugs, stacked and covered the logs, watered them all summer and waited.  The instructions recommended letting them sit for 9-12 months.  It's been ten months and we have been anxious to move on to the next step and see what happens.

Last night III decided it was time to move on and went about the business of submerging the logs in the big water tank full of rainwater we've been collecting for this purpose.  The logs need to soak for 24 hours in non-chlorinated water.  This step is supposed to initiate the crop.  Now mushrooms are supposed to start to form in the next two weeks.

The surprise we had last night though was when III pulled the tarp off the logs, the first log he saw had a shiitake growing out of it.  He was so excited, he quickly cut it off with his knife.  Which is really strange.  Those that know him know he does almost nothing quickly.  I cannot believe he cut our first mushroom before the Monster and I even had a chance to get over to the pile and look at it. Before I even had a chance to take a picture of it.  Our first mushroom!  He did wait for me to eat it though.  It was excellent.

This is what it looked like in the bad light of our kitchen.

YAY!  I'm so excited about mushrooms!

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Little Press

Last week I received an email from the media relations office at Hendrix College regarding our involvement in their internship program.  So I answered a few questions and the interns answered a few questions and they wrote up a really nice article on their website.  Here's the link:

Saturday, February 18, 2012


As a non-fixer, I have a great appreciation for the fixers in my life.  Every small farm needs at least one fixer and I'm lucky enough to have three really great ones most of the time-my husband, my father and Bruce.  There is not much that I can break that one of them can't fix.  I suspect my brother-in-law is probably a pretty good fixer as well but since he lives a few thousand miles away he lucks out of my messes.

I thought about this yesterday as the interns and I were planting peas using my Earthway planter.  I ran the planter down a row to show the interns how it worked.  Then the first intern made her way down a row and passed it on to the second intern.  She made it partway down the row and the belt came off.  I've used that planter to plant every bean and pea and a lot of sunflowers on this place for the last five years and have never had the belt come off.  It wasn't any big deal, but I felt an immediate kinship to her because I'm pretty sure I'm in the company of another non-fixer.  Some of us can merely look at a piece of equipment and it breaks.

I like to think I've developed a few skills over the past six years, not so much fixing skills as more non-breaking skills.  There was a time though when we were first married that III would work out of town for four or five days at a time and would joke that the reason we had to have three tractors was so he could leave a different implement on each one and hope to be back in town before I broke all three of them.  Since then though I've learned how to change most of the implements I use, replace shear pins and jump start most of the battery operated things on the farm.  Pretty much anything beyond that though I still hand off to III.

Since I try to pass on to my interns as much helpful information as possible regarding starting a small farm, I've decided talking to them about the importance of having a good fixer will be the most important lesson that came out of planting peas.  There is no doubt in my mind that fixing things I break could practically be a full-time job for one person.  If I had to pay for this, my little farm would definitely be in the hole.  Thank you to my fixers!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Picking up Eggs

Surprise, surprise.  The Monster loves picking up eggs.  With only seven little old hens left in our flock right now it's not the biggest nightly chore but it does provide some entertainment.

A few weeks ago I thought I was smart and decided to give the chickens a drier nest box and hauled an old dog box into the coop.  

Of course the chickens loved it.  I, on the other hand, can't reach the nest they made all the way in the back of the box without taking the lid off-which is not super easy.  So I had to recruit some help.  For a few days the Monster has been watching Chacey go in and bring the eggs out to me.

Today he decided he wanted a piece of the action-muddy britches and all.

I think it should be noted that my child is sitting on the floor of my chicken coop.  There are days in the past that my OCD would have caused me to completely freak out over the mere thought that my child may have been sitting on chicken poop.  I'm not sure if I've grown or simply given up.  

Thursday, February 16, 2012

February 16

Today.  This is what things look like as I walk around here today.

The tulips.  For the most part coming on strong.

Mud.  We actually created this standing water (on some of our higher ground) and mud but everything else looks just like it right now so I figured I'd throw it in there.

The caterpillar tunnel.  Far from full yet but we're getting started with it.

From inside.  Mostly cabbages, lettuce, chard and delphinium.


Kale.  We'll list this on Conway Locally Grown next week.

Broccoli in the greenhouse.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Potting up Seedlings

Most of yesterday was spent potting up seedlings from the flats used to germinate seeds inside the house into 50-cell plug trays that we hauled out to the caterpillar tunnel.  The interns floated in and out throughout the day.

I'm happy to say the broccoli and cauliflower all made it through last week's cold nights with flying colors and welcomed yesterday's sun.

The seedlings weren't the only things taking in a few rays though.  I caught Jody in a rare moment.  Still.

Chacey, on the other hand, was doing what Chacey does best.  Supervising.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Germination Station

For the last few years, January is when our bedroom gets taken over by seedlings.  It's my germination station!  For any seeds that need warmer temps to get them started (pretty much everything we start except lettuce), we start them in trays in the house under florescent lights and then pot them up as they move to the greenhouse.  

Most of these little dudes are ready to move out anytime now.  They are mostly cabbages and a few other cold tolerant vegetables and flowers that can take the temps in the greenhouse right now.  They simply have a better germination rate inside. 

I love tiny seedlings.

Friday, February 10, 2012

An Hour in Monster Time

So the day before the broccoli plugs arrived and things started to get busy around here I decided to follow the Monster around the farm for an hour from behind my camera.  No interference.  Today is rainy and yucky outside so it seemed like a good day to post those pictures.

Busy.  Busy.  Busy.