What Do You Do in the Winter?

Woodpile

People ask us that a lot. Prospective farmers ask us. Market customers ask us. Friends and family ask us.

Our winter work looks very different than our spring or summer or fall work but it’s equally as important to the success of our farm.

Our answer: There are many things we do in the winter.

On a very basic level, we keep our house from freezing. Our house is heated only with our wood stove. A few years ago, we had insulation installed into our old farmhouse which has helped a lot. We don’t heat the second floor of our house, where our bedroom is located, instead just relying on mountains of wool blankets from thrift stores. But heating the house still takes vigilance and we don’t leave the house for too long in cold weather because of it. If anyone is remotely interested in hanging out with us on cold days, it’s highly likely that much of that time will be spent in front of our wood stove.

Shovelling snow is of course something we do (in solidarity with all other Canadians).  But, it’s not just our driveway. The snow from the top and sides of the tunnels must be kept clear so the tunnels don’t collapse in on themselves. This means that when the forecast calls for snow, we can’t be too far from the farm.

Dried herbs

We process all the things we’ve dried. Culinary herbs, medicinal herbs, flowers, and seeds that have been dried and then stored in their rougher state (on the stem or in the seed pod) get threshed or ground or, in the case of the flowers, stuck in vases around the house.

A large portion of our winter diet comes from food we’ve frozen, stored, dried, and fermented and there’s almost always a pot of food cooking (or at least water to warm) on our wood stove.

High Tunnel

We try our best to improve our winter growing/overwintering systems. We definitely don’t have this down on our farm yet and every year have failures and (small) successes. But we keep trying and are still very keen.  Before we started Broadfork Farm, Shannon interned with Paul and Sandy Arnold at Pleasant Valley Farm in Argyle, NY to learn about (among many things) winter hoophouse growing. Their knowledge, experience, and innovation continue to inspire us and we hope to one day be even half as good at winter growing as they are. But until then, we muddle our way through winter growing as best we can.

Crop Plan

The largest chunk of our time in the winter is spent planning for the coming season (and longer….5-year, 10 year, and 20 year timelines are re-visited and re-adjusted).

  • First the Crop De-brief from the past season,
  • then Harvest Projections,
  • our immense Crop Plan (a small snippet of it is shown in the photo above…there are many more columns and rows than you can see),
  • and then Seed Orders take up a lot of time.
  • The Budget, Cash Flow, and the rest of the bookeeping and accounting are all done.
  • Researching equipment and tool purchases, infrastructure developments, new crops, or old crops/new techniques….
  • Soil/land/field/building/market stand improvements and projects…..

Professional development is a big priority for us in the winter. Getting together with other farmers, attending farming conferences and workshops, reading books and magazines and research papers, listening to farming podcasts, and attending webinars are all very valuable for us and we place a high value on them.

We also revisit our business plan, make any changes or make sure we’re on track.We Forecast and Backcast. We learn more about business management in general and figure out how we can improve as small business owners/entrepreneurs. This includes trying to improve our website (which we’re being helped with this coming winter after winning this competition from Carts and Tools!)

The winter is also when people sign up for our Market Food Club and we meet with store managers and chefs to plan the coming season with them (see the To Your Plate page for an idea of who these folks are).

We also spend time recuperating from the work of the season. Whether that’s deliciously sleeping in or spending too long cuddling a purring cat or watching “hen TV” or movies we borrow from our local library, the winter feels luxurious compared to the growing season. Our to-do list is just as long but there are less time-sensitive/urgent jobs on it. Most of the deadlines for tasks are just…To-Do in Winter.

And what does January hold? Clean account books. Bare diaries. Three hundred and sixty-five new days, neatly parceled into weeks, months, seasons. A chunk of time, of life, waiting to be filled. One thing is certain. There will be more newness than ever before. All the world over men and women are facing changed values, an altered lay-out of life.

-Phyllis Nicholson (1947)

 

Photo Credit: All of the pictures in this blog post were taken by Len Wagg for a project by ThinkFarm through Communications Nova Scotia.

Posted in On the farm | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Fall Harvest

Shannon harvesting kohlrabi

Well, the countdown is on, we’ll only be bringing our produce to the Dieppe Market for 4 more weeks (Nov.1st is the last day)!

Deadon cabbage

In previous years, we’ve tried to continue a bit longer, but it gets REALLY cold outside at the market! One year, we brought the most beautiful Easter Egg radishes to market in mid-November and they froze on our stand! We had to compost them. It was really sad.

We decided to focus more on coming back to market earlier rather than continuing on later. Which I think suits our personalities better anyway.

Purple and White Daikon Radishes

Luckily, many of our fall vegetables also store really well at home. If you’ve got any extra space in a basement, gararge, mudroom (see my last year’s blog post about storage conditions), you can store many of our vegetables yourselves.

Pink fingerling potatoes

The picture above shows some of the pink fingerling potatoes we grew for ourselves this year. We don’t grow potatoes in general, but we are into fingerlings and they’re hard to find. They are so cool and delicious though that we will be bringing some to market this week for the pre-Thanksgiving market. This week only! Though, we may start growing more in the future (especially when our dream root cellar project happens).

Broadfork Farm apples

Today, we finally starting making some apple sauce to store in the freezer over the winter (to add to winter breakfast oatmeal!). Our apples aren’t “grocery store” perfect but we think they’re more perfect – because they’re organic, completely unsprayed (no organic sprays even), heritage (the trees are OLD!), and unique to our farm (they’re seedling apple trees…we had them tested at the Kentville Agricultural lab and they told us we could name them!). It’s not easy to find local and organic apples in our region in general and I don’t mind the cosmetic imperfections. We only bring them to market for a VERY LIMITED TIME because it’s a lot of work to harvest and sort them.

The apple sauce we make is only apples (no sweetener at all) and we leave the skins on. So, it’s super easy if any one wants to make their own. Just cut up into pieces and put in a large pot on the stove until they become sauce-y.

Bryan harvesting Jerusalem Artichoke

Here’s Bryan harvesting Jerusalem artichoke. This year, we grew 4 varieties, including one from a chef we worked with who said it was his favourite.

Carrot bunching

 

And the rainbow carrots! We lay out the different colours on tables in order to ensure that each bunch has a nice rainbow.

Rainbow carrots

 

The carrot varieties we grow for fall are different then the varieties we grow for the summer so you can expect some new colours (like the red and the dark purple).

Oh, how I love how Brussels sprouts look on the stalk! They also store longer on the stalk. AND you can eat the stalk (see more about that here.)

Brussels sprouts on the stalk

 

 

 

Posted in Food Storage, Market, On the farm, Storage, Updates, Vegetables, Winter Storage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mission to Quebec: Grower’s Tour

Robin Fortin speaking to our group

Last week, I (Shannon) spent 4 days either on farms in Quebec or sitting in a van with other farmers on the way to and from Quebec. It was awesome! I went because I love growing as a farmer and one of the best ways to do that is to go and visit other farms (though THE BEST way, I think, is to work while on other farms…but our schedule was too tight for that).

One of the other benefits was to spend time with other farmers from our area. There were 18 of us who went on the “mission.” Most were farmers but there were also farm-support professionals (not sure if that is the right term…but it sounds good) from ACORN and the New Brunswick Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture, and Fisheries who planned the entire thing! They did a great job: we saw a great diversity of farms, the schedule was jam-packed and well scheduled, we slept comfortably, and ate plenty. And, we met other cool farm-support professionals along the way. Quebec agriculture extension folks and researchers, a greenhouse supplier, and staff from Ecocert (an Organic certification body…who we happen to be certified with) all joined and left our trip at different moments along the way, sharing and adding to our experience in a great way!

So, here’s a bit of a recap from my perspective (it’s longer than my usual blog posts but much shorter than all the notes I took!):

Ferme Horticole Jean Yves Gamelin

Our first stop was to Ferme Jean-Yves Gamelin, a 37 hectare fruit and mixed vegetable farm. From this farm, I learned about the popularity of Le Tomate Rose (pink tomatoes). We grow pink tomatoes too and people do love the flavour and the colour but, in Quebec, pink tomatoes seem to be a MUCH BIGGER DEAL. Well, pink tomatoes are some of our personal favourites at the farm, so a takeaway for me was to build that obsession among our customers here too.

I really appreciated hearing about the amount of research and talking to other farmers (ones who were happy and unhappy with their own experiences) the farmer did before selecting the type and brand of high tunnel to put up. It can be easy to buy the cheapest or most convenient items but I think time spent talking to others about a purchase is never wasted.

Ferme des Ormes

We then moved on to Ferme des Ormes which was nearby. They grow between 30-40 hectares of fruit and mixed vegetables and four families (who are all related) live off their farm. They sell to small stores, at markets, and through their on-farm store. Their on-farm store was the coolest one I’ve ever been to! It was in a barn and had fruit and vegetables of course, but also cool products from other local people. They had hand-made rugs and blankets, pies and other baked goods, an assortment of bulk coffee beans, canned goods and other prepared foods, garlic braids……And they had a commercial kitchen inside!

While we were there, we heard about a pepper research project that was happening on 12 farms (including this one) and saw the trials in one of their tunnels. One of the researchers was there and spoke to us about the goals and some of their current findings (the paper will be published in the winter). One of the qualities they seemed to be looking for was blockiness (more square, without a pointy bottom).

Ferme de la Berceuse

The first organic farm of the trip came after lunch: Ferme de la Berceuse, which supplies 250 CSA baskets and sells at farmers’ markets. This year, the farm has 4.9 hectares in vegetables and 3.1 hectares in cover crops.

The farmer, Robin Fortin, placed a high value on employees. He wanted to train people well and pay them well so they would stay. He wanted all of his employees to be part of the decision-making process on the farm so they felt a part of the business. As an example, just that morning, they had had a staff meeting to discuss the upcoming heavy frost and figure out their plans to prepare for it.  Because of his employee philosophy, his labour costs are higher than recommended (he said his accountant freaks out about it!) but it’s something that is important to him and it seems to be a very successful strategy on this farm.

Robin had multi-bay tunnels (which you can see in the picture above) which he said was the best thing that ever happened to them. Putting them up was their biggest step forward in organic production, he said. However he expressed that the biggest challenge was figuring out which varieties to grow. What had worked well for them in the field didn’t necessarily do well in the tunnels.

Le Potager Mont-Rouge

The last stop of the day was also the largest farm on our trip: Le Potager Mont-Rouge, which has 120 hectares in fruit and mixed vegetables. One hundred of those hectares grow a mixture of winter squashes and you can see from one of the pictures above that they have a large washing and packing line for those squashes. One thing that really amazed me about this farm was that they were growing over 50 different varieties of tomatoes, many of which were heirlooms! Out in the field! We went on a nice tractor ride to check out all those tomatoes and just one of the fields of squash (Butternut). I have never before seen such a large farm growing so many of the specialty varieties that we are so into on our small farm.

I liked that they were growing annual rye between their tomato rows. Even though they weren’t an organic farm, they weren’t using any herbicides to kill weeds and the annual rye was to prevent weeds. On our farm, we don’t like weeding the pathways and have been experimenting with living pathways but haven’t used annual rye yet. I’m excited to try it! We were also told that they’ve found that growing rye for no-till planting afterwards works better than any fungicide.

Galinsoga

One of the things that we noticed on all the farms we visited was the weed Galinsoga (in front of the butternut squash in the picture above), which so far, has not been an issue for us in most parts of Atlantic Canada (though I saw it in the Annapolis Valley last year). I’m afraid to get it so was glad I was wearing non-farming boots that I washed in very hot water in the Superstore bathroom before coming back home.  Apparently, galinsoga is an indicator of easily accessible nitrogen.

Les Jardins de la Grelinette

The next morning, bright and early, we were off to visit Les Jardins de la Grelinette, a small farm made famous since Jean-Martin wrote a book about their farming practices called The Market Gardener (you can read my review of his book in this blog post). I was super excited to see this farm and I was not disappointed. It was great to see the soil and produce quality, the compactness of the farm, and the toolroom. Les Jardins de la Grelinette is only a 1.5 acre farm, but it has been profitable and rewarding for the farm family. I also love how much the farmers have taken their professional development seriously, through focusing on a specific crop every year and learning how to do it better (with the help of agrologists). This was the farm on this trip that is most similar to our vision for our own farm and I was very happy it was included. Also, Richard from Les Serres Guy Tessier, a season-extension structure company that Bryan has been in touch with was there and it was nice to see their caterpillar tunnels in person.

I also really liked hearing about (and seeing) their use of ramial wood chips which we’ve been excited to try out too. These are woodchips from the small branches of hard wood and they are using them in the pathways between garden beds.

Les Jardins de Tessa

Not too far away, we stopped at Les Jardins de Tessa, a mixed vegetable farm with 400 CSA baskets from 5 hectares of vegetables (also with 5 hectares in green manure, mostly red clover). Frederic, co-owner of the farm with his wife has been a big fan of the Adabio AutoConstruction ideas and book (which includes open-source plans for making your own tractor implements to use on a permanent bed system) from France, something that I’ve read about and been interested in. The implement in the picture above (a “Vibroplanche”) was made in a workshop held in Quebec for growers which one of the staff members at Jardins de Tessa took part in and helped construct! (Etienne Goyer wrote a great article in the June 2014 issue of Growing for Market about this workshop, you have to be a subscriber to read it, but here’s the link anyway.)

I was very impressed with the quality of the crops and the wash station. They have a great “hardening-off” area just outside their greenhouse which can be covered or rolled up completely, depending on the weather.

In addition to the vegetables they grow for their CSA, they grow a larger amount of potatoes and winter squash to sell to other farmers (for their CSAs) and to wholesalers.

Frederic talked about how his customers were crazy for Italian tomatoes (Romas and Plum tomatoes) and he was growing a number of different varieties of these.

Potager Andre Samson

Then we arrived at our very last farm tour of the mission: Potager Andre Samson, a 4 hectare mixed vegetable farm run by a young couple. They operate their organic operation on the family pig farm.

Sylviane talked about some of the crops they grow that differentiate them from other CSAs like strawberries and sweet corn (which many organic farmers don’t grow). They have also planted a mixed orchard and table grapes for this reason.

We learned that, in Quebec, one of the hardest parts of growing sweet corn organically is the Corn Borer and the Corn Earworm is a minimal pest for them. In the Maritimes, it’s the exact opposite, with the Corn Earworm being the major corn pest and the Corn Borer a minimal pest (apparently….I don’t grow sweet corn, and I’m not sure if it’s the same across all of Atlantic Canada).

Because of the big problems they have with the Seed Maggot, they transplant all large-seeded crops (peas, corn, spinach, beets). The only crops they direct-seed are carrots and radishes.

Their soils were rocky but quite fertile. You could really see it in the health of the plants!

 

Some of the strawberry growers in the group then went on to a strawberry farm, but the majority of us went to sample some local organic wine and then have THE BEST meal of the trip at a trendy spot in Drummondville called Le 200 Brock. I wish I’d taken pictures of our meal. We sat out on the patio where we were toasty under heat lamps (I felt like a young chick in a brooder!) despite the chill in the air.

This mission was a great opportunity for me and I’m so thankful to the organizers and all the farmers who took the time to share with us! I really hope that Bryan and I have the opportunity to go on more learning adventures like this one.

Posted in Field Trip | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our 5 Favourite Market Gardening Tools

Tools

This post was inspired by seeing this post from Allsun Farm (in Australia)  and the Farm Start posts from other farmers we really respect and admire. I wanted to just share those links but then thought, what the heck, why don’t we just join in!

1)      Vermont Cart. We use this ALL THE TIME! We love the one we bought at Lee Valley so much. This year, we bought an extra one from Vesey’s (it’s bright red) and, while it’s still useful, it is just slightly less wide, which doesn’t allow us to have our harvest bins side by side in it, which is way less efficient. So, we don’t like using it as much (whichever one of us is slower to grab the Lee Valley one has to use it) and our next one will be another one of these for sure.

Vermont Cart with rhubarb

2)      Bio 360 biodegradable plastic mulch (made with non-GMO corn). We don’t love constantly weeding…and we don’t get paid to do it. We also hate seeing bare soil, especially in the spring when it can rain hard. So, we use Bio 360 for almost all of our transplanted crops. Especially, in year one, converting our hay fields to vegetable fields, it made all the difference in being able to work full-time on our farm (and not just weeding) without any other source of income and pay the bills. We buy it from Dubois.

Parsley on Bio 360

3)      Jang Seeder. Since we’ve gotten the Jang, we haven’t done any thinning of plants. Not to say it’s the perfect seeder (we still get frustrated with the results of seeding beets), but we’re very happy with it. The Earthway seeder still gets used for peas and beans because it does a great job with that but the Jang is responsible for the rest on our farm.

Jang seeder

4)      Winstrip trays. It is gross to us to have to throw out broken flimsy plastic seed trays and then just buy new ones that we know will have the same fate. We expect our Winstrip trays to last our lifetime and we’re very happy with the health of the resulting seedlings. To us, they’re a good replacement for soil blocks also (with their side slits and large bottom hole for air pruning as well as the nice layout for air circulation up top), since we found transplanting with soil blocks less enjoyable than with plugs. These are not easy to buy…you have to wait until the order is large enough to justify making a new batch….could be a few years even for the size plug trays you want.

Winstrip Trays

5)      CoolBot. What would we do without you, little CoolBot? We would spend a lot more money to get a good storage temperature for our crops. Also, I like the fact that it dries out the air. All of our bins of vegetables are kept covered with lids anyway and I think it’s better for my flower crops that the air is cold but not humid. We bought ours from Store It Cold.

CoolBot

 

If you want to share your Top 5 tools, I’d love to read them in the Comments below. We’re always on the look-out for new tools to increase efficiency and overall enjoyment!

Hand hoe

Posted in Tools | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Chatty Cathys

Barbara Kingsolver quote

Sometimes we get interviewed for various reasons by various people. And neither of us find it particularly easy to say the right thing at the right time. Or say witty or funny things at the perfect moment (but of course, we can think up good ones later….).

And sometimes people ask us the same questions but get a very different answer, depending on the day, the weather perhaps, our mood most definitely, and the conversations we may have had right before then.

So really, each interview or story can only capture a specific moment in our lives.

Rye

Well, here are 2 recent “moments in time.”

The first is an interview I did after we were awarded a “Your 2 Cents” seed grant from the Rodale Institute.

The 2nd is this story that was put together from an interview based on the fact that I will be speaking on a panel at the upcoming Beginner Farmer Symposium put on by ACORN’s Grow a Farmer program.

July 29, 2014 – Symposium Speaker Profile: Shannon Jones of Broadfork Farm 

Shannon Jones of Broadfork Farm in River Hebert, NS. Shannon will be presenting "Investing in Farmland: Key Considerations for Beginner Farmers" at the 3rd Beginner Farmer Symposium/ le 3e Symposium annuel pour les fermiers débutants & soirée d’accueil on August 18th, 2014 in Sackville, NB.

Every farmer finds a different path to a career in agriculture. For Shannon Jones, it began with her studies in holistic nutrition, where she decided that the best way she could help people be healthier and more food-conscious was by growing the food herself. Since that decision, she has been volunteering, apprenticing, or working on farms for over ten years- and for the last three and a half years, she and her partner Bryan Dyck have been running their own 15.6 acre operation, Broadfork Farm, in River Hebert, NS.

Shannon is undoubtedly pleased with their choice to open Broadfork Farm. She loves “how fulfilling and challenging it is intellectually and physically and emotionally and spiritually. I love that I don’t have to always look “presentable” for work (besides the market).” At the farm, Shannon loves “…how quiet it is. I love how it’s located in the middle of the Maritimes provinces. I love our neighbours. And the forest. And the tidal river.”

Shannon’s passion for organic farming extends beyond her own farm, however. She is also an ACORN Board Member, contributes to the National Farmers Union Youth (NFU) and Young Agrarians blogs, and also sits on the Grow a Farmer Steering Committee where she provides thought and guidance supporting the future of farmers in Atlantic Canada. Her commitment to the organic sector is admirable and encourages the importance of community engagement–a vital ingredient for any aspiring grower!

She will admit that it can be challenging to work with just her partner (in both life and in business) all day, every-day – however, she adds that working with Bryan also makes her job easier and even more fulfilling as they gain a deeper understanding of each other while they also evolve as farmers. Shannon encourages new farmers to “place value on your professional development. It’s not a waste of money! Conferences (like ACORN’s), farm tours, books, magazines (like Growing for Market) are valuable. I’ve been getting into farm podcasts. I like Farm Marketing Solutions and Permaculture Voices.”

Thanks to Shannon for sharing her words of wisdom with us! We look forward to hearing her input during the Investing in Farmland Panel at the 3rdBeginner Farmer Symposium on August 18, 2014. REGISTER NOW! 

Posted in Organic, Press | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Broadfork In Bloom

June wanderings

If you’re a Dieppe Market goer, you may have noticed the bouquets I (Shannon) have been making and selling at the market at this time of year.

Right now, local and organically-grown flowers are a very hot trend in the flower and wedding and event industries. For more about that, read this.

Why have we added cut flowers to our farm?

It was never really part of the plan for our (primarily) vegetable farm.

In our very first year starting Broadfork Farm on leased land, after a long vegetable harvest day, I would wander the property looking for pretty things to make up a bouquet. I did this as an adornment for our market stand. I wanted to bring a little more of the beauty of the farm to the stand. Earlier on, I thought it would just be a spring thing, when our market table looked very green. But it just kind of became my end-of-harvest-day ritual. And I loved it.

Mason Jar bouquet

And market-goers seemed to like it too. People would often ask if they were for sale. I started bringing a few bouquets each week. There were some other vendors at our markets who made bouquets to sell and they really encouraged me to start growing and selling cut flowers. So each year since then, we’ve devoted a little more space and seed money for cut flowers.

Poppies

One of the huge benefits for me personally has been the learning opportunity. I knew (basically) nothing about flowers (besides edible ones and the flowers on food crops) in year one. It is so much fun to learn about something completely new! I mean, vegetable-growing already offers me (more than) a lifetime of learning….and then there’s fruit, herbs, animal husbandry, bee-keeping, record-keeping, farm planning, business management, habitat maintenance, soil biology, soil chemistry, soils management, and all the other things that I love learning about. But cut-flowers are a newer addition to that list that I’ve become mildly (?) obsessed with.

So, I’ve bought books (see list at bottom of this post), joined the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers, bought Kraft paper sleeves and little plastic bags to hold water at the base of the bouquets, and practiced!

Market bouquets

As a plant grower, the growing part (while having its own set of quirks) hasn’t been as hard to learn as the design part. Also, I’ve found that learning more techniques from flower growers has enhanced my vegetable growing.

The flowers have enriched our crop rotation, habitat and pollinator health, and our morale with the beauty we see every day while we’re working.

Bumblebee on hyssop

Making bouquets has helped me see the beauty in all kinds of plants on our farm, not just the ones I grow for bouquets.

Customers who bring one of our bouquets home with them have a visual idea of what’s blooming on the farm that week as they eat the vegetables grown in our soil. That’s a pretty special connection.

Flowers also really connect people, and memories around flowers are so strong. Recently my grandmother (Beryl Jones) passed away and my father told me that her favourite flowers were carnations. She was always amazed at how long they lasted! This year I’m growing carnations (Floristan Salmon) for the first time, and every time I harvest them and use them in bouquets at the market, I’ll be thinking of her.

All in all, it’s been a really fun floral journey so far and I’m excited for the years to come!

Flower harvest

I also wanted to share a link to a youtube video with you. Bryan’s aunt Pam very sadly passed away recently and she was a great florist who passionately promoted and advocated for sustainability in the floral industry. Watch her rock it in this video! All of the black buckets we bring our cut flowers to market in were from her shop and I’m looking forward to the time when we plant a whole bunch of peonies like she suggested.

List of web resources for local flower lovers:

I don’t want to overload you but if you are so inspired, I’m sure you can go on an amazing interweb journey from here.

Books

Spring flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Flowers, On the farm | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

A Harvest Morning in Pictures

Bryan harvesting arugula

Libby harvesting greens

Sweet 'n' Spicy Mix

Yokatta-na greens

Rhubarb

Rainbow Radishes!

These pictures were all taken a few weeks ago…..but it’s not often that I remember to bring a camera out with me on harvest mornings. A few people have asked us about these harvest bins. They are food grade bins that we bought from Dubois in Quebec. They are two-toned grey bins. They nest when the light grey sides are placed on top of each other and stack when the opposite colours are placed on top of each other which makes it faster and easier to tell which way to stack them.

Posted in On the farm, Vegetables | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Quick Cut Greens Harvester

Cutting greens

We really love growing salad greens so, while envisioning how to be more efficient at it, we looked into the Quick Cut Greens Harvester from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. First, I spoke with a few farmers who had tried it and read any reviews on farm blogs I could find. Then I asked Chris Siladi, our awesome rep from Johnny’s if he could arrange to have one sent to the New England Fruit and Vegetable Conference so I could hold it and “go through the motions” of harvesting imaginary salad mix in the trade show. The tipping point in the decision to buy it though came from Randy Cummings from Johnny’s who said that if we didn’t like it, we could always just return it. Sold!

Sweet 'n' spicy mix

Last week we tried it for the first time. On the first bed of greens this season that was sufficiently weed-free in our opinion (note: this does not mean it was free of weeds….just sufficiently for trying purposes).

The greens may have been slightly too big for ideal Quick Cutting. We harvested our mix of Asian greens that we call our “sweet ‘n’ spicy” mix, as well as arugula. Both were very quickly harvested and taken to the wash station. The time spent in the wash station cleaning those greens was longer than usual because weeds and leaf “bits” had to be sorted out. As well as a few bruised or broken leaves but those didn’t account for too many.

Quick CutGreens Harvest

So, after this first attempt….we’re still undecided. We really like doing quality control at the harvesting stage. But it is nice to be able to harvest a lot quickly, before the sun comes out and heats the greens up.

Also, you can kinda see from the picture below, but it’s a bit less easy for me to maneuver this thing than Bryan (although I’m sure I’ll get better at it with practice…this picture captures my first moment holding it). I guess due to the size and maybe the extra weight. It’s not really that surprising I guess. There are lots of jobs on our farm that work better with a smaller/shorter person or a taller/stronger person.

We are also curious to see how it may work differently with our beds that are not raised (we’ve only tried it on this raised bed so far) and how the ergonomics may be different (I think we lean in more with the raised beds than we will with the non-raised beds).

Little Shannon

If you like, you can watch a short video of the very first moment the Quick Cut Greens Harvester was used on our farm. Very monumental. Epic actually.

 

Or, if you’d like to watch one that is 100% slicker than our video, watch this one.

 

 

Posted in On the farm, Tools | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Ginger-ama

Planted ginger

Well, we finally felt confident enough with the nightly lows to put our precious ginger into its caterpillar tunnel which had been reserved and ready for quite some time.

Transporting ginger

Here we are transporting it to its new home. Out in the big world. Away from the sheltered space of its formative young life…

Ginger with tall shootsGinger just sprouting

As you can see from these 2 pictures, some of the ginger shoots had grown quite tall. While others were just starting to sprout.

Ginger trenchDrip TapeWorm castings

First, we made a trench. Then we laid down a line of drip tape in the trench. I don’t know if anyone else has done this or if it will be useful. We just did it because we were worried about the need to not overwater early on but then water it more as it gets bigger. We don’t want any seed pieces to rot. While we were sprouting it, we basically didn’t water it after our initial “misting period” which we lost patience with pretty quickly and so we just stopped watering it. And it grew pretty well. And the dryness of the potting mix made it easier to seperate the pieces from each other whose roots had intermingled.
Then we put earthworm castings in the bottom of the trench because we just got some and are excited about using it and hope that the ginger loves it and that it reduces any potential diseases.

A ginger planting gingerDrip tape lines

We then planted the ginger. We played around a bit with the spacing, depending on the size of seed piece mostly. Anywhere from 5” to 12” approximately. And we stuck 2 lines of drip tape on the surface of the soil. These drip lines will get buried after our first hilling. And, because I want them to be so happy, I watered them in lightly with fish and kelp.
If you’ve planted ginger too, what have you done differently?

Here’s our other sweet little ginger:

Kubota, our ginger cat

Posted in On the farm, Updates, Vegetables | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The View from the Farm

Rye

Well, despite the less-than-ideal weather this spring: wet fields even with our well-draining soils, cool nights and frost (some of our early/risky planting of summer squash was hit but that’s just part of the game…we were lucky last year), things are still growing. In the picture above, you can see the cover crop “cocktail” from last fall (that just means a mix of crops rather than just one or 2) which included rye and is now only rye and looks good.

Lettuce on clear Bio360

This year, we’re trying out some of the clear Bio360 (biodegradeable plastic mulch). It breaks down faster than the black Bio360 so we’re using it for succession crops. We’ll be laying it for field cucumbers soon and we’re trying it with head lettuce, dandelion greens, and green onions. We’ll probably use it for our next succession of summer squash too.

Salanova lettuce

These lettuces were started in April. Some of them were planted into the greenhouse and have long since been harvested and eaten (well, sold…hopefully eaten by now). But they’re just taking their sweet time out in the field under their row cover. But they’re doing well. At least that’s what I tell them. Motivational speeches and such.

Winter Density lettuceGreen Salanova lettuce

After too many weeks of not having radishes at our market stand, we’ll have them again. That makes me happy. They’re so pretty. They’re like the jewels of the vegetable world.Radish

Here are the shadow-y figures of Bryan and I. Walking back from the “secret garden” fields after a day of transplanting, insect netting, bed prep, and rebar pounding.

Bryan and Shannon

Posted in On the farm, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment