Spring is here! We've got sprouts sprouting and greens greening up! Here's a snapshot of what's growing these days.
Each year since starting the farm, we've invested in some long-term infrastructure and equipment to make it run more smoothly, increase efficiency, and extend or improve the growing season. These have included tractors and implements, greenhouses, cold storage, and most recently, the installation of a pond and irrigation system. For next year, we're putting in a wood-pellet boiler to provide heat to our greenhouses. This will help us start seedlings, get tomatoes going earlier, and reduce the incidence of disease in the tomatoes later in the season (by being able to heat on cold mornings to evaporate moisture that encourages diseases to spread). The pond and the heating system will also increase the farm's resilience in the face of shifting climate and weather patterns.
The installation of the boiler is one of our major winter projects, along with tuning up our various antique tractors and configuring the implements. (Also high on the winter project on the list: having a baby! Caitlin is due in two weeks, so if it gets a bit quiet over here, that'll be why.)
December is here, but we are still farming! We've been seeding greens, carrots, turnips, and radishes, with an eye towards the early spring; the seeds should just sprout in the next weeks, then hold during the dark and cold of deep winter, to start growing again in late February and March.
Our winter sales this year were much higher than we'd expected; we've sold out of nearly all our storage crops except onions and winter squash and what we're saving for CSA. We planted twice as many potatoes this year over last, and next year we'll be planting even more. Same with carrots, beets - even our parsnips are nearly sold out!
It's a great sign of the maturation of the local foods movement - for farmers and consumers both - that winter demand is growing. No longer must localvores follow the plenty of summer with turnips all winter - though winter's pickings are certainly slimmer than August's, there is a huge increase in variety and quality over what was available several years ago. On our own farm, we were excited to be able to provide food for our neighbors for an additional two months this year with our Winter CSA and at the farmers' market, and hope next year to expand our winter growing even more.
Huge thanks to all our Summer CSA members! We've had such a good year - we sure hope you've had a good one as well. Folks who are staying on or joining us for the Winter CSA, please note that it starts the first week of November - there is no CSA pick-up next week.
We were glad to get a bit of sun and warmth over the weekend, but the combination of hot and humid with torrential downpour has had us playing a tedious game of tag with the greenhouse, which has sides that roll up to let heat out. We don't want the tomatoes to get wet, so when it rains we run over to close the sides and doors. (Tag!) But we don't want it to be too hot or humid in there, because that can stress the plants and cause disease. So when the sun comes out, we run over and open it all up. (Tag!) I think we must've done that a dozen times yesterday as storms swept through.
The strange weather has also made it hard to judge when crops will be coming ready - two weeks ago we had several little zucchinis, which generally indicates lots of imminent giant zucchinis, but they've mostly just stayed little. However, the peas are still cranking out peas, and everything is coming along, if slowly. We continue to be grateful for our good, sandy soil - we spent years looking for a farm and "not clay soil" was one of our major criteria. This season is making us glad that we held out for this great piece of land. Even still, some big downpours have caused washouts in a few places in the field, and one spot that's usually a bit wet now has a little running stream. Jeremy took the tractor through with the plow attached and dug a ditch to give the water somewhere to go; hopefully that'll help it drain out of the rest of the field. We know farms that have really flooded in the rain, so despite the frustration, we're glad to just be suffering from slow growth, muddy boots, and big weeds.
Well, another winter has (mostly) passed, and even though it's only about 15º as I write this, we know that spring is coming. There is birdsong in the morning, our neighbors have been sugaring, and the greenhouses are turning green.
This year we're undertaking a new spring adventure: plant sales! Starting at the first outdoor farmers' market on May 4, we'll be selling seedlings for home gardens. We'll only bring plants that are healthy, hardened off, and ready to plant. This means that early in May we'll have cold-hardy seedlings (like lettuce and greens), and then the more tender plants (like tomatoes) at the end of the month when the risk of frost has passed. Overall, we will include our favorite varieties of lettuce, onions, summer and winter squash, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, and heirloom tomatoes.
Then, on Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, we'll have a big on-farm plant sale! Come by the farm and pick out all the seedlings you need, and get a tour of our operation, too.
Spring also means CSA sign-up time! In addition to the traditional on-farm CSA pick-up, we're also offering CSA delivery to homes and workplaces this year. There's no delivery fee if five or more shares are delivered to the same location, so if you're interested, team up with some friends or co-workers and let us know!
As spring is fast approaching, it is time to turn the farm switch to "on". We had a much busier winter than expected, which unfortunately did not involve growing any produce.
Jeremy spent the fall and winter building a new high tunnel and solar heating system for the greenhouse. This will enable us to expand our indoor production greatly. We are both very excited about having 3 times the greenhouse space as last season. What that translates to is more early spring produce (greens, radishes, and scallions) and more tomatoes in the summer.
Last Fall we received a grant from the State of VT to build a solar heated germination chamber in one of the high tunnel greenhouses as a research project. We are researching the feasibility of using solar hot water for supplemental heating in the greenhouse. The idea is to heat a very small portion of the greenhouse rather than heating the entire volume of the building. While we have not artificially heated our high tunnels until now, we feel that this system fits with our philosophy in that we are still only using the sun and water to grow plants (no fossil fuels). What we did was create a radiant floor heating system in a raised bed and then covered that with a cloth cover (row cover). So far the system has been able to keep the soil in the bed between 50F-55F and the air temperature 3F warmer than the rest of the greenhouse. The next test is to set the soil to 70F and see if we can keep the air temp 20F above ambient.
Finally, the most exciting news is Caitlin's winter growing project... a baby! We have a new addition to Gildrien Farm arriving soon. The due date is March 13th, which can mean any day now. Much of our winter was spent preparing for the baby and now we are waiting for the baby to arrive.
The summer seems to be pretty thoroughly over, though the Eye in the Sky claims that there's some more warm weather coming. We've gotten about to the end of the summer foods - we gave pretty much the last of the tomatoes and definitely the last of the cukes to the CSA this week - and the fall goodies are coming in. The cherry tomatoes are the only thing still going in the greenhouse, which has been mostly taken over by drying onions and curing winter squash, but even they are starting to look tired.
We're getting ready to start on our new greenhouses - just got the building permits last week. Soon we'll rip all the tomato plants out of this house and plant some spinach and carrots, probably; the big new one will be our tomato house next year and this one will probably be our plant house, where we'll start all our seedlings. The third one will be much smaller, and probably an experimental house, a place to play with new ideas. It's pretty exciting to contemplate the possibilities of all this new greenhouse space - even though we don't heat our greenhouses, they provide enough protection to really change the scope of what it's possible to grow up here, and we're really looking forward to exploring that a lot more in the coming seasons.
Follow us on Facebook for more updates!