Monday, March 29, 2010

spring firsts

A few weeks ago we started seeding some crops indoors and last weekend we saw some more springtime firsts... the first harvest of the year (technically a crop from last season - leeks we overwintered under straw... they're delicious!), the first direct seeding outdoors ('hardy white' and 'deep purple' bunching onions), and the emergence of our first 2010 crop - the garlic we planted in the fall (left). It has a long way to go; we won't harvest this until August, but I'm thrilled to see the first shoots poking through the straw.

Our partners in beekeeping, Gary Marshall and Tony Indovina (the "bee guys" as I call them) came over a couple weeks ago so we could do some spring maintenance. This involves removing the overwintering wind barriers we set up around the hives, and opening the hives up so we can do a spring inspection. Everything looks great - so much so that we added a honey super to our original hive and brood boxes to the newer hives. The bees overwintered well, are producing lots of brood (new bees) and all is shaping up for this to be a season of bountiful honey harvests. The first harvest of the light spring honey (my favorite) will be in early June.

Notice the orange/yellow stuff that looks like water wings on this lady's back legs (left)? That's pollen that she's collected from some of the first flowering vegetation on and around the farm, and she's carrying it back to the hive.

Our seedlings are doing well indoors and we've been adding new plantings every week. We're about to move some early crops outdoors to harden off, which will open up space on the shelves for the 400 + heirloom tomatoes and 300 peppers and eggplants that are still (mostly) in the germination tent (where we monitor soil temp and keep it as warm as possible until germination). Every week we'll be starting new crops indoors and out - later in April we'll start the melons and squash inside, and I'm starting some cabbage and lettuces this week. There's lots of planting going on this coming weekend - we'll transplant the kale, chard, leeks, onions and brussels sprouts that we started indoors in February, and we'll start direct-seeding beets, carrots, arugula, spinach, radish and other late spring crops that members will receive in the first weeks of CSA.

My mom, Julie and I have been hard at work with our new fabulous intern, Jess, preparing the beds for planting. In the pic above, Julie is incorporating by hand (and fork) the composted manure we spread on the beds in the fall. The next step was to aerate all the beds with a broadfork - no tilling here! Then we cover the beds with black fabric to heat the soil and prevent weeds from germinating until planting time, when it comes off and is replaced with straw mulch. It's a lot of work but the soil looks fantastic, and as we build it with these natural amendments, cover crops, and our sweat and careful labor, it gets better every year.

My dad has been hard at work in the berry patch (the chickens are helping) cutting down the raspberry stalks from last year and getting the rows ready for additional plants. As they spread each year we transplant them to make additional rows. The new stalks are already starting to grow, and these tasty berries will start rolling in around mid July.

Keep in mind that we will be selling seedlings later this spring at one of our first on-farm markets! If you're planning to have a veggie garden this year, treat yourself to some of the same exquisitely tasty, lovely, and unusual heirloom tomatoes, peppers and eggplant that we'll be growing on the farm. Watch the blog for more info, or email to add your name to our Market notification list.

Happy spring!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

getting started

The snow is melting and we're finally getting our hands in the dirt again! I'm really looking forward to the 2010 season... new crops and varieites, a full season with the chickens (along with some new ones), new CSA members (and returning ones as well), and the chance to apply the incredibly vast amount of knowledge we picked up last year during our first season of CSA. We're expanding significantly this year, not only to accommodate our growing CSA family but also to experiment with things like markets on the farm and selling to a few local restaurants. In taking on more commitments we knew we'd need more help and were lucky enough to get Julie, our work-for-share in 2009, for the 2010 season as a part-time grower and consultant. We're also taking on a few interns, which takes a bit of the pressure off my poor parents.

A few weeks ago our 2010 seed orders started to roll in and my mom and I started the first flats last week... onions, brussels sprouts, kale, the first batch of chard, and some other early greens. They're already up! Below are our Red Marble onions and the Bright Lights chard - you can already see the red, pink and yellow in the stems.

We'll be seeding flats indoors pretty regularly through the spring. We have a new shelf system set up in the basement with a heated germination chamber, and as soon as some of the cool weather crops are ready we'll rotate them out into cold frames and plant them in the field to make room for the later starts indoors. With the exception of our new strawberries, we start all of our plants from seed and doing everything in a small space is a bit of a challenge.

I'm hoping to get the snap peas in soon, but so much depends on the weather. After all the melting snow and rain this week we need to give the soil some time to dry out before working in it. There is something growing in the main produce garden though... the cover crop of winter rye we seeded late in the fall is getting started again in the raised beds where we'll transplant our heirloom tomatoes in late May.

Keep checking the blog for updates as we get ready for the 2010 growing season.