The Farm Journal
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1998 Farm Journal
Another year begins on the farm. Actually we've gotten a little farmin' in when you weren't looking. Last month I got the hotbed started and yesterday Cindy and I planted the hotbed with tomatoes (7 varieties), eggplant (2 varieties), and peppers (8 varieties, I think.) All winter long Cindy and I (mostly Cindy) have been hauling and spreading manure.
We look forward to another successful year on the farm and we hope you'll follow along here in the Journal and visit us 'Down on the Farm.' By the way, if you can't seem to find me on the farm I may be out fishin'.
We checked the hotbed Sunday and found that a few tomato plants were up. This begins the daily ritual of tending the hotbed. Each morning it must be opened to let in light. During the day it must be ventilated to varying degrees to keep a hospitable temperature inside. And each evening we cover the bed up with straw and tarps to trap the heat till the sun rises the next day.
This year the bed is heating pretty well from the manure compost inside. Some years are better than others as far as that goes and there is little you can do about it once the bed is planted. In years past we had used electric coils in the bed, but eventually we went back to the compost method. We actually have more confidence in the compost heating than in the electric coils. Either can fail, but it seems to make more sense to put our faith in our secret compost formula than in technology with it's multiple points for failure.
The list of things to do begins to grow -- figure out why the tractor/loader won't start, order some planting mix for the April plantings, fertilize and prepare the Spring garden field, plant peas and potatoes, spread the manure that is piled everywhere you look, go fishin'....
Tomatoes and eggplants are up and growing well in the hotbed. Cindy says there is a problem with mice or moles in the bed so we baited and hope for the best.
We're a little behind schedule as far as plantings on the farm. Usually by this time we would have at least prepared the ground for peas and potatoes. Cindy says it is snowing outside (just heard a roll of thunder too) as I type this. Not your typical weather year. The cold and wet will likely postpone planting for another week or so. Can't rush the weather...
We have had a run of really super weather. I spent two days getting the Smith field ready for planting -- fertilized and tilled. On Friday I planted peas and beans. Today we planted potatoes. It seems the red potatoes were cut a little smaller than usual. When all was said and done we had 15 rows of potatoes.
Transplanting tomatoes will likely be done this week as well as planting most ot the crops that we seed in the greenhouse for latter transplanting.
Lots of activity on the farm this week. Cindy, her dad and Mr. Bunk worked hard at getting tomatoes transplanted into flats as well as planting a gazillion other things from seed. April 1st was our target for planting things like herbs, flowers, squash, cukes, lettuce and much, much more. We are right on schedule.
Over the weekend I ran a harrow over the peas and potatoes. There were few peas showing, but no sign of potatoes. The rye cover crop was beginning a come-back in the field and the harrow set that back too. The cover crop becomes a weed when in persists like that and it makes me aware of the short-comings of farming on the edge.
What's farming on the edge? It's trying to do too many things at the same time. It's planning farm activities around other employment, family interests and all the other good things that make life interesting. The field should have been tilled weeks in advance and retilled to kill the rye before planting. I believe I went fishin' instead....
I'll probably fight the same battle with rye 'weeds' in the broccoli field. I just turned over the lush growth yesterday. I'll only have one opportunity to run the tiller over it again before planting the spring garden of broccoli, kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, and collards latter this week.
We had a false start last week in getting the Spring garden in gear. Our plant supplier reported that our plant order needed another week to grow. I had tilled the ground last week and it sat fallow as we waited in vain for the plants to arrive. Finally on Thursday of last week I called and was informed things were behind schedule.
So I had to till the ground again this week and we crossed our fingers that the plants would arrive. Brocolli, kale, collards, cabbage, radichio, lettuce. kohlrabi, and chard arrived Thurday of this week.. Cindy and I worked on setting out the brocolli and a few other things until darkness brought our day to a close on Thursday. We finally got back to it today and finished things up. Tomorrow's weather calls for a chance of showers so that should work out well.
Our peas and potatoes are doing ok with the exception of a healthy crop of rye which has re-sprouted in the field. I harrowed over the potatoes this morning and knocked it back a little there. I hope to cultivate in the peas tommorow if I can squeeze it in between showers.
Oh, yeah! Last weekend we held the annual Easter Egg Hunt on the farm. We had quite a crowd and it turned out great. The weather was superb, the crowd was large and we had a nice crop of 6" tall winter rye with plenty of oak leaves mixed in for hiding the eggs. We hid 70 dozen eggs. We're still finding eggs! Rick found three today when he was weed-whacking along the edge of the donkey pen.
Most of the cole crops look good. There were a couple of varieties that were a bit small at transplant and I have my doubts whether they will bounce back. Cindy and Bunk worked this week in cleaning up the peas. They finished as far as I can tell. Looks good!
I harrowed over the second pea patch this morning. There were just a few peas showing. The potato patch is looking ok. I can see the rows of potato among the thriving crop of rye that has volunteered to stand guard. I hope to get into that field this week and clean things up.
Cindy tilled most of the remaining fields over the weekend. I went fishin'.
It has been tough staying up with chores this past week or so. The weather has been uncooperative. Actually if I didn't already have a full-time job it might not be that bad. Seems time is at a premium and I must go fishin' too. Between raindrops and other commitments I have managed to get the first peas, broccoli and other Cole crops, and the second pea/bean planting all cultivated and fertilized.
Last week Cindy and I set out the first planting of tomatoes, squash and cukes. There are plenty of other crops to set out, but the weather has been too wet to get in the field. The wagon is loaded with lettuce which will be the next thing to set out in the field. We also are sitting on a box of 1000 broccoli plants which desperately need some sunshine and soil around their roots.
Cindy and Bonnie have set up the wagon for plant sales. This year we have mostly vegetable transplants for sale. Right now tomatoes, eggplant and peppers fill the wagon. An assortment of herbs will soon be ready.
We had planned on starting to set out some more plants today, but it has been threatening rain most of the day and is drizzling pretty hard right now. The fields where we need to plant are a bit too soft to enter so it looks like we are set back another day or so. I did make a little headway today by cultivating and fertilizing the tomatoes. The ground there was a little more solid since it hadn't been recently tilled. I would have been able to zip right on through and finish the squash too, but the heavy drizzle settled in and forced me to take a break.
My To-Do list is growing -- get a jump on the potato beetles, spray the squash for aphids, repair the mower, mow a bunch of grass, set out several acres of crops, get another planting of beans started...go fishin'.
I checked one thing off my To-do list today -- went fishin'. The day started off misty and wet. In between morning periods of mist I finished cultivating the squash and cukes. I had planned to continue with the field work, but the mist and drizzle set in and dampened my plans. The whole family went across the road to see Troy, our new horse.
There was lots of activity on the horse farm since this was the day Troy got his formal, in the field, introduction to the other horses. Everything went fairly well -- no major horse battles.
Since it was drizzling and misting so hard Rick and I decided to take the afternoon off and go fishin'. Of course, as soon as we got to the pier the rain stopped.
The sun is back! I took off a couple days to work on the farm (isn't that called an oxymoron or something?) Cindy and I managed to get the ground worked again and transplant lettuce, okra, peppers, eggplants, broccoli and sweet potato. It was nice to feel the warmth of the sun.
Yesterday evening I planted the lima beans and a second planting of string beans. I've made a big dent in the to-do list of several days ago, but the list keeps growing on the other end. I need to hit the broccoli with some BT, spray the beans for bugs, give the broccoli and potatoes another dose of fertilizer, haul a load of manure from the horse farm, set out the plants in the flower patch and cultivate, cultivate, cultivate.
Cindy is picking strawberries constantly now. In between picking, setting up and all the other farm chores she has been tending to Troy who came down with a cold and needed some extra attention. Troy is better now, but her days are still busy. Yesterday she completely forgot about a church meeting. And she was the chairperson! Busy farmin...
This was a very busy weekend on the farm. On Saturday I cultivated everything in sight and fertilized a few things along the way. On Sunday I managed to wrap up a few loose ends that still needed cultivating, pulled a harrow over the lima and string bean patch, and killed a few bugs. Cindy and I also set out some cukes and some peppers out back. Across the road we planted a field of squash and began setting out our second planting of tomatoes.
Today we finished setting out the rest of the tomatoes.While all this was going on (except when she was riding the transplanter) Cindy was steady pickin' strawberries. The produce stand is now open daily with strawberries and bedding plants. Today we added snap peas to the daily picking schedule and very soon lettuce and broccoli will be coming along.
I wrapped up this weekend with a brief bit of fishin' and a boat ride. Still have to plant the flower patch, but that's a job for another day...
We're now close to having all our ground planted with the first planting. We finished the tomatoes and one evening this week we got the flower patch planted. There is still a shipment of brocolli sitting in the shed that needs to be planted. That will probably wait till this weekend.
Cindy started picking summer squash this week, but strawberries have pretty much fizzed. Right now things look pretty good with the exception of the lima's. The dry conditions produced a spotty germination. There is still hope that most of the seed still sitting in the ground will pop up with the next rain. Fortunately for the guy (me) who does the cultivating, the weeds have held off too in most of the plantings due to the dry conditions.
Those limas look a little better today. The crop will be a pain to pick since some plants just emerged today while other sections are up several inches already. But it is encouraging to see we'll likely get a crop.
This past weekend was productive for me on the farm. I managed to take a swipe at those potatoe beetles muching on our potato crop. I also cultivated the second planting of tomatoes, broccoli and squash. In years past I would have consider these meager achievements, but I managed to get Ricky fishin', and handle a few horse activities to fill out the weekend. So all in all I had a productive weekend.
The big excitement of the weekend came on Sunday afternoon. I had loaded about 600 pounds of fertilizer on the truck and took it across the road. While I was setting up the tractor for cultivating, it started to drizzle, then it started to pour. I jumped in the car and zipped down the driveway in hopes of retrieving the truck before the fertilizer got wet. I got as far as Mountain Road and sat as the rain poured and the traffic flashed by. It seemed like forever before I got a break to cross the road. I jumped out of the car and hopped in the truck. As I backed the truck into the shed the rain began to quiet and very shortly it stopped.
It is raining this evening. Nice rain. I cultivated the lima's and the flowers today and then went fishin'.
I had the pleasure of picking the squash over the weekend. The squash field is in the shade in the early morning so it is a great place to spend a half hour or so to start out the morning picking on a hot summer day. The squash are doing well. Picking the squash is therapeutic.
After many years of picking squash you learn where to look on the plant to find the fruit. They are often camouflaged and hidden behind the big leaves. Most of the fruit will be on the end of the vines and the tell-tale orange flowers help locate the growing tip.
You have to be careful though as those bright flowers attract an assortment of insects including honeybees, several kinds of bumblebees, wasps and other creepy crawlies. Usually as you move the plant a bit it will cause any bees that are in the flowers to move on. It is always best to avoid grabbing any open flowers as you are picking.So far I haven't been stung yet THIS year.
We had some storms yesterday that left the fields a bit too wet to work with the tractor, so I went fishin' instead.
The market is creeping along with squash, potatoes and brocolli. Hang in there! We are very close on tomatoes and corn. In fact, we started picking cherry tomatoes yesterday! Work on the farm has been non-stop for the past two weeks. Cindy has been fighting weeds and I managed to get some more things in the ground.
We turned under our earliest peas and planted our winter squash. We set out another planting of squash and put in another planting of beans. The flower patch is looking terrific! The asparagus is making a come-back after I lost that early battle with the asparagus beetles. I may have lost the battle, but won the war.
Ricky has taken over most of the grass mowing and trimming on the farm and that has been a big help. Katie is taking care of some of the stable duty and that has helped too. And it helps keep THEM busy!
The produce stand is now tended by Cindy's mom and Aunt Lee during the week. Everyone wants to know when the summer crops will be ready. Having someone there to answer those questions is important.
Activity is now brisk on the farm and at the market. Cindy picked about a half dozen baskets of tomatoes today! Squash are coming in by the bushel. I picked the first corn this morning. We also have peaches!
Cindy has done a terrific job of staying ahead of the weeds this year. Some of the most recent plantings need another cultivation which is high on my list of things to do. We have yet to get the drip irrigation down on anything and if the promised rain doesn't come tonight or tomorrow that will have to be a high priority.
I'm still recovering from the 'jet lag' of a long work day on July 4th at the park. I'm hoping to get one more chumming trip in before the striper season closes for the summer. Lots of work to do, but got to go fishin' too.
The season is still stalled, but things are ready to break loose any time. We have been selling out of some things like tomatoes and squash and beans on most days.
I got some more plantings in this past weekend. Planted more beans, squash and cukes. We are still holding a planting of tomatoes and have our fingers crossed that we can get them in and growing in time to get a crop off them.
I cultivated a bunch of things this past weekend too. There is still plenty of work to do and I guess we'll never catch up, but that is the way it goes this time of year. Benign neglect and no rest for the weary.
'Tis the season. We are very busy on the farm just keeping up with picking and dealing with buyers and sellers of produce. The market is extremely busy and we have expanded parking. Feel free to park on the grass parking area next to the driveway. The farm yard is red with the harvest of tomatoes. Now is the time to can some tomatoes!
We weathered a severe heat and dry spell these past weeks and just barely squeaked by. The rush of the season caught up with us this year and we never got the drip tape down any anything. The rains came regular enough early in the season that there was no urgency at the time. We were just about to scramble and get it down on a few crops this past dry spell when it broke with a 1" rain. Wew! Close call. Almost had to give up a fishin' trip to get it done.
Our most recent crop of brocolli burned up in the heat. We hope to have more in the fall. Most other crops are doing surprisingly well. See you down on the farm...
The weather hasn't improved much. We got about a half inch of rain last week which brought the string beans on and gave the squash field some new life, but things are starting to dry out again. We are still picking tomatoes and now is the time to can some. We started picking and selling raspberries this week. They sell about as fast as they are picked so we are pleased!
We began mowing the Hyde farm this week That project has kept Mr. Bunk busy all week and likely part of the coming week. I blew the clutch on our loader trying to mow down there about 2 weeks ago. That tractor is now in the shop. We're mowing with offset International right now, but as soon as we get a new tire we'll be able to use the old John Deere that usually handles that job. (Actually we're not really mowing, it's more like bushhogging since it hasn't been cut in about 2 years.)
The days are getting shorter now, but the pace of life hasn't slowed. In spite of being on vacation all of the past week it hasn't seem like it. I was determined to squeeze in a little fishing before my vacation ended and managed to get out to go fishin' this afternoon. It was fun!
Golly, has it been a month already? Things are drying up on the farm. We haven't had a significant rain since mid-August and that wasn't much. We have begun harvesting the fall crops and you will find the produce stand is quite colorful these days with pumpkins, gourds, and mums. Once we get organized and clean up some wagons we'll have all the fall decorative crops for sale including indian corn and corn stalks.
Still available at the market are tomatoes, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, apples, peppers, onions and a few other suprpises including okra occasionally. The drought conditions make things iffy, but we are trying to squeak what we can from the remaining crops. It's not too late to get your canning tomatoes, but don't delay.
Cindy and her dad took a stroll around the old Hyde farm last week after Mr. Bunk finished the mowing. They both came back with a collection of chigger bites. Still scratchin....
The growing season will end soon and things will quiet down on the farm. Right now the daily ritual continues with Cindy and crew picking the few remaining crops and setting the stand up each day. We have begun picking our last tomato patch and pickins' are slim. Those plants were set out amid the recent drought and didn't fair very well. Availability of tomatoes will depend on the weather and how much we can scavenge from that planting. Most of our sales this time of year are from the ornamental crops and we have a full array available every day.
You will notice as you pass the farm that the field across the road has been planted in cover crop and the rye came up well and is already a couple inches tall. The rains came just in time to put the farm to bed for the winter...
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