Now that the snow is gone we can progress again on the crops. This weekend we are laying irrigation. We haven’t purchased a hoe attachment for the Grillo yet so we purchased a rolling hoe tool to make the job easier and faster. Once the ditch was dug last year’s subsurface irrigation taped was re-laid in the bed. We invested money into good commercial grade irrigation tape so we could use it year over year. We used the Grillo’s power harrow to smooth the beds back out.
Just to confirm the tapes were still good we tested the irrigation by starting it up and making sure the water fully came through at the bottom of the row. Once we knew it was flowing, we folded and put ends on the base of the tapes. Then we turned the system on once again, leaving it run for 20 minutes, looking for moisture meeting the surface. Circular patterns appear on the top. If the pattern is interrupted there is a leak or blockage and the tape is removed to the garbage.
Over the last year we have created leaks in tapes, once by stabbing a last minute tomato stake in the ground when the plant started falling over and a few times digging carrots out of the carrot beds. We have yet to have a blockage.
Now that the irrigation is in and tested we can move to laying down fabric. Once again we will be reusing what we purchased last year, saving money. The only beds that we don’t lay down fabric is lettuce and root vegetables. The vegetation should be so thick it should prevent weeds from taking over.
We are really close to planting, but there is one more thing to put in. This will be the first time trying low tunnels in the spring to protect our plants. We installed hoops on the rows with the most concern, such as lettuce, and laid Agribon, a light protective fabric, over the hoops. The hoops were made from 1/2 EMT metal conduit pushed through a special bending frame to make hoops for this purpose. The fabric is tight up with Velcro straps until it’s needed. When it gets too cold or a storm is blowing through you just pull the Velcro ties off and pull the fabric down the sides of the rows. The ties make it a quick process for a last minute storm which are very common here.
Now we are ready to start planting!
Watch as we lay the irrigation and test it on the 5280 Artisan Farm YouTube Channel:
While we made great progress on prepping the plot for planting the meteorologists had different plans for us. Like usually happens every spring on the prairie, we had a significant wet snow storm that covered everything with about a foot of snow! Since we didn’t have anything planted the only crisis we had was dealing with the chicken run. Since we have 1/2 inch wire cloth on the sides and 2 X 4 inch fencing across the top. It does not readily allow snow to pass through and quickly holds it, creating a lot of build up. It almost creates an igloo style insulation. Since we work away from home we get up early to feed and water the chickens and open the chicken door into the run.This morning we had to get up earlier to shovel a space for the chickens to walk. After shoveling we lay down hay to keep their feet from freezing.
Luckily snow does not last long here so we should be back working on the plot soon.
Since we saved money this year on spring start up we decided to make an investment in a new tool to save both time and our aching bodies!
Meet the Grillo. It’s an Italian made walk behind tractor that you can buy multiple attachments for to do just about anything you might need on the farm including snow blowing! We had to order well in advance since it comes from overseas but it is well worth the wait! The bed preparation that took us a back breaking 3 weeks only took a weekend!
Why a small tracker versus bringing in the large tractor?
First, we did last years full size tractor work before we built the deer and rabbit proof fence. Adding a large gate to the fence reduces the integrity of it. The fence being solid and buried eliminates access for rodents. Every exception increases a break in opportunity for hungry wildlife. The Grillo fits through the existing doorway. Also, with our intensive planting method the smaller machine builds better small rows with little effort. Not only does it have row building, it also has a bed SMOOTHING tool that flattens out the top of the bed making it easier to plant in.
So here we start by spreading compost and building our bed rows in a single weekend!
Watch the Grillo at work on the farm’s YouTube Channel:
It’s March 10, 2018 and it’s time to start growing!
Here we are pulling off the black covering that was holding back weeds and warming up the soil for planting. Inside we have tomatoes and peppers growing for transplants. We did a wide variety of vegetable starts last year but found many plants grown by seed from the start did better such as beans, squash and cucumber. We usually have a snow storm around Mothers Day that kills everything so in the past we’ve waited to plant shortening our growing season. In order to get a head start we will be building low tunnels with Agribon to protect seedlings if there is any adverse weather in the spring.
We will be using the same drip irrigation and weed fabric from last year as well as seed we still had from the previous year’s purchase. I also collected a lot of seed from last years crop I will use. This will save us money after having made some large investments the previous 2 years.
Now that we have everything uncovered we will let the ground rest a week. Then the real work starts!