Posts Tagged ‘crazy weather’

Winter time is generally a good time for us to work on big construction-type projects. And do we have many! While we have finally gotten to the point where we think we are farming enough land to support us farming full-time, we still need to develop some of the physical aspects of the farm. There is a lot of infrastructure and equipment involved, so this year, we are tackling a few big projects.

One of those is a high tunnel for which we are receiving cost-share assistance from the USDA NRCS. The financial assistance works like a reimbursement. It’s less than 25% of the total cost of the project, but every little bit helps. This season-extension structure will allow us to grow early spring greens, early tomatoes and cucumbers, and provide a nice shelter on rainy days (if it ever rains!). Plus, with it’s height, we can get the tractor in there to cultivate, spread compost, etc.

Normally, this time of year is when we service our tractors, too. Everything is going to get checked so that we can get them in the field and going when we need to. Timing of cultivation, planting, etc. is so crucial in organic farming.

Another big project for us the next few weeks is to put up about 2 miles of rangeland fencing. With assistance from our landlord at Heart Arrow Ranch, over the next couple years, we are fencing off more pasture areas for our sheep and cows and for our landlord’s horses. Ideally, the ground would be easier to dig from the rain, but we have to get it done now anyway.

The sunny weather has made awesome working conditions for these projects, not to mention for our lettuce. At the same time, we welcome precipitation. There are some indoor-activities we need to catch up on, like wedding planning and gutting our new house, and we like to save those for rainy days – then we have an excuse to not be outside working on the farm!

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Surprise! The first blog post in a while happens to be on a rainy day.

It’s our first rain of autumn, and it is pouring down this Tuesday evening! Last we checked Accuweather, a bit over 2.5 inches was in the forecast. While we knew that rain was coming this week, we didn’t expect quite this much.

Since we’re not grape farmers, all this rain is not so bad. Sunday evening, we finished seeding a perennial pasture that needed some rehabilitation. We had wanted to do it last year, but the rain always beat us, and the ground was never the right moisture/dryness to work. This year, we had two tractors going until around 8pm on Sunday, but we got it done. Hopefully we’ll see some little green sprouts popping out in the field soon!

The fall vegetable crops are doing reasonably well, too. We just need to keep an eye out for pests like cabbage worms and slugs this time of year.

All this rain will also get the soil moist enough for us to start prepping ground and seeding grain. In our climate, it’s possible to dry-farm grain. Without irrigating, we can over-winter grain, like the barley we grew last year and the wheat before that. So, we’re excited for this watering. Cross your fingers that the weather will cooperate this fall…

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Llueve

Llueve. That’s “it’s raining” in Spanish. We’re practicing our Spanish, and it’s fun! The past month and a half, a fellow named Lorenzo has been working with us two or three times a week. Despite the rain, Adam and Lorenzo have been progressing putting up fencing for a pasture area at Heart Arrow. The old rangeland fencing is very old and mostly barbed wire which doesn’t keep our sheep in. So, they’ve been hiking around the hillside, taking down the barbed wire, putting in new wooden posts here and there with concrete, and stapling on new fencing that will keep the sheep and cows in. It should only be a couple more days of fencing before that first pasture area will be completed, but it will take a couple years before we have all the pastures at Heart Arrow ready with new fencing.

We’re not going to let the rain stop us from growing spring produce!

This is what happens when you try to eat our cabbage, raton.

While we’ve been able to transplant out trays of lettuce, spinach, beets, chicory, collards, cabbage, and cauliflower out of the propagation greenhouse, there are still many crops that are ready to go into the ground. But they have no place to go! When will the rain stop and the soil dry out a bit so we can cultivate? Heart Arrow and the Coyote Field being smack in the middle of wildlife habitat, we have no shortage of pest issues. Most recently, the birds have been finding their way into the greenhouse again, probably seeking some refuge from the frequent downpours, as well as to feast on our lovely lettuce and chicory. For now, we are covering the trays with row cover to provide a physical barrier.

Pac Choi

Some of the collards, cauliflower, and cabbage (repollo!) that we transplanted in the Coyote Field during a dry spell earlier in the month are looking a little hammered by the hard rain and birds. But hopefully this coming week’s sunshine and warm weather will help them bounce back. For now, we have row cover on them again, but they really need more sun.

Arugula

The little bit of pac choi that is grow in the same field is coping okay and growing a small amount. The arugula, still small, is looking pretty happy in the cold frame, too. We also have a short bed of lettuce under row cover, but right now, we are transplanting the new lettuce into the newly-constructed high tunnel or hoop house. Whatever you want to call it, the plastic structure will be great for protecting crops from the rain and keeping the soil warm.

The vegetables growing in the small 20′ by 50′ greenhouse are looking pretty good:

Green Lance

Espinaca

We recently applied compost, shoveled up raised beds, and have transplanted lettuce, beets, and new spinach in the 30′ by 60′ hoop house. It’s a lot of hand labor, but currently, that’s how we deal with late heavy rains! Now when are we going to be able to get those potatoes in the ground…

Transplanting on our knees (nos piernas!)

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Newsletter 3.12

IN YOUR BASKET THIS WEEK

  • Carrots
  • Leeks
  • Parsnips

NOTES FROM THE FIELD

The past couple weeks of mixed weather has kept us on our toes. From the bright sunny days to hail and snow, we’ve been scurrying around the gardens to provide the best conditions for the crops. Part of that entails moving around plastic. Organic vegetable farming uses a lot of plastic, particularly with season extension. The row cover and poly sheeting help us protect vegetables without fungicides and pesticides in the winter. Unfortunately, plastic does not last forever and needs replacing every couple years, but we do our best to keep it in good condition to reuse.

Orange, rhubarb, & golden chard, transplanted in December, have started to grow again with more daylight hours.

Ideally, the precipitation in the forecast for early March will blow away. We have just about received the normal winter rainfall. The quick-growing crops, like hon tsai tai, arugula, spinach, lettuce, and radishes will grow and mature faster with warm, dry weather. Since the soil is still cool, the crops are not able to uptake nutrients easily, so we’ve been fertilizing everything. We just don’t know for sure when it will be warm again. Normally, one sows spinach and beets directly into the ground, but to lessen the chance of losing them to rot (if we still get a lot of precipitation), we’ve started them as seedlings. Transplanting them takes more time and labor, but the early crop can be worth the expense.

Starting spinach as transplants.

We saw frost some mornings at the garden, so we took the opportunity to flame weed. The bed sown with radish seed had not started to germinate, but there were tiny weeds starting to grow. With a propane torch, we burned the frosty weeds, killing them back so we won’t have to spend as much time hand-weeding later on.

The arugula in the cold frame is germinating well, and the over-wintered romanesco broccoli is holding steady despite nibbles from earwigs and slugs. Of all the heading brassicas we planted in early fall, these did not succumb to rot from the heavy October rains or slugs. They are also a long-season crop. Let’s hope for more sun!

Eat well,

Adam & Paula

Snow blanketed the main CSA garden Friday morning.

The snow seemed to insulate the propagation greenhouse, keeping it warm.

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Did anyone miss normal winter? How about some extreme weather to keep us farmers on our toes?

While we can’t work the wet ground, there is still much preparation for the main growing season (spring to fall).

We need to fix up and put new plastic on the propagation greenhouse for our hot weather crops (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers). We start those seedlings in here because we have access to electricity, which we need for the heating pads.

We took down the old, tattered plastic and will put new plastic on. Our heritage turkeys pooped it up in here about a month ago, and we will shovel and spread compost (under the green tarp) inside, cultivate it, and plant some veg.

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Newsletter 3.4

IN YOUR BASKET

Spaghetti Squash
Turnip
Braising Greens
Red Russian Kale
Green Onions

NOTES FROM THE FIELD

Happy 2011! We hope everyone had a great holiday season and is looking forward to weekly local vegetables again. We farmers are especially excited for the sun-filled week ahead. The rain came down so much on Heart Arrow Ranch that we have found new sinkholes and slides in the landscape. The land literally moves here.

Snow by Adam's loft on New Year's Day

Many more lambs have been born, keeping us busy, as we have to check them often and sometime bottle-feed them. In the month of December, over 20 lambs were born. We finally castrated our baby bull, which was like a mini rodeo event. And our pigs are in hog heaven as long as we give them enough straw bedding. With livestock, the rain makes manure and soil management challenging.

In the dry week ahead, we expect to cultivate and start planting vegetables in the new greenhouse. Even today, it was quite warm inside it. And we are spending most of our evenings on crop planning, budgeting, cash flow forecasting, and general brainstorming. Crop planning, including crop rotations and cover cropping, really means planning a year out. The weather that actually happens – like when the rainy season actually ends and starts – forces us to make adjustments in those plans along the way. As many of you know, that’s what makes farming challenging, but having CSA members like you, it’s less risky and more manageable. Thanks!

Eat well,
Adam and Paula

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Herbs
Adapted from MarthaStewart.com

Ingredients:

1 spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise, seeds
removed
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, & more for brushing
1 tbsp packed light-brown sugar
Salt & pepper
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup blanched hazelnuts (1 oz.), toasted and coarsely chopped

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 400º. Brush the cut sides of squash with oil, and sprinkle with sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Place squash, cut sides down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until tender, for about 45 minutes. Let it cool slightly on the sheet on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.
2. Using a fork, scrape the squash to remove the flesh in long strands. Place the strands in a large bowl. Add oil, Parmesan, parsley, cilantro, hazelnuts, salt, and pepper to taste. Toss, and serve immediately.

Did you know that you could eat spaghetti squash and meatballs?

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Sometimes, people ask us, “What do you do when it’s raining?” As a matter of fact, we work! Regardless of what Nature feels like, there is some farmin’ to do.

Today was no exception. We knew the big downpour was coming, so the day before, we did as much vegetable transplanting as possible and dug out the trenches/culverts on the hillside to ensure no veg beds would wash away. We also had to make sure the equipment and tools were covered or put away so as not to get wet and rust.

It rained a lot! This morning, Adam and Alder dug some culverts to stop the erosion in the recently cultivated Pond Field. I harvested produce (cauliflower, lettuce, sugar snap peas, broccoli shoots, and green chard) for Head Start and made the delivery in Ukiah. While in town, I purchased 6 bales of wheat straw for mulch. The guys up-sized some summer seedlings in the greenhouse and cut seed potato in preparation for planting later. There was some lunch where we discussed techniques for growing potatoes and how to find more shareholders for the Live Power CSA (which you should join!).

After some administrative computer stuff, I joined Adam and Alder in moving the sheep and cows into a new pasture area in the rangeland. Herding the animals has gotten easier with three of us instead of just two. Cell phones help too. We took down the fence, put it up in the new place, and herded the ovines and bovines – all pretty much at the same time. It went pretty smoothly. No cows went wild, no sheep scattered. I think we are getting better at herding.

Later, Adam and I threw straw down in the gullies in the Pond Field to prevent any more erosion. So, we got a lot done despite the rain, some wind, and a short spell of hail. We did see the sun a couple times, as well as some rainbows! And of course, the daily chores – checking the meat chickens and egg layers, feeding the livestock guardian dogs, and watering the greenhouse – were taken care of.

I was able to take a few pictures of the spring vegetables when it was not raining.

We have a couple beds of broccoli and cauliflower flourishing at the Pond Field.

These are some beds of different lettuce varieties growing in the north section of the Coyote Field.

This is radicchio under the floating row cover. The birds like to eat it if they can get to it.

These are beets we transplanted a while ago. We usually sow beet seeds directly into the vegetable bed, but because the soil has been so wet these past couple months, we had to start them as seedlings in the greenhouse.

Cabbage! - up close and still growing in the south section of the Coyote Field. Many other brassicas and lettuce are growing in this section.

Here is more lettuce (left) and one of our plantings of peas (right), ready for trellising.

Driving down the hill at the ranch, I spotted a rainbow over the vineyard. You can sort of see the grapes to the right.

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