Memorial Weekend Planting Spree

FINALLY After a long winter and multiple early spring snow storms we have the weather man’s confirmation that we should no longer see a freeze this season. Now it’s time to make up lost time and get growing. The plants we had covered from the snow mostly all survived but a lot had not been planted yet.

We took a 4 day weekend for Memorial Day to get the crops going. Luckily we had the foresight to start growing most of the plants inside to at least get the vegetables germinated. That action made up for 3 weeks of lost time. First we needed to get rid of the weeds that grew while the plants were covered for snow protection. It must have been pretty warm under the covers because a lot of weeds grew! Then we quickly planted all the transplants and seeded where it was needed. We also set up a few more tunnels for protection in case we get a hailstorm prediction.

The tomatoes are ready but due to a severe thunderstorm in the forecast we are waiting, but have a tunnel ready. There are also a few transplants that have not fully germinated that will take about another week before they can go outside. Pumpkins, peppers, spaghetti squash and acorn squash will be transplanted soon. Everything else is off to a good start

See how much is planted on the Farm’s YouTube channel:

Late Spring Snow

Every time we think winter is over we get assaulted by a freeze or snow! It’s only a couple days before Memorial Day and we had a snow storm that dropped 6-7 inches of snow!

It wasn’t really supposed to snow. A light dusting they said. Will melt as it hits the ground they said. When we came home from work it was already snowing and sticking! We frantically covered everything as fast as we could while we felt the temperatures plummet!

As you can tell from the picture we had a lot of plants to cover. Here is the laundry list of what is buried under the snow: garlic, carrots, broccoli, beans, beets, turnips, parsnips, radishes, lettuce, spinach and onions. Luckily we had already built tunnels for the broccoli and greens since they were planted early so we just needed to pull the fabric down the sides. But the remaining vegetables had just surfaced with a few leaves so we quickly laid the fabric on the ground directly over the plants.

Just before bedtime it was still snowing so hard we didn’t want the tunnels to collapse overnight. We went out with our head lamps on and tried to carefully clear 3 inches of snow off the tunnels. Since the fabric is fairly light it easily tears if mistreated. When we woke in the morning it was still snowing! We cleared off the snow again accidentally making a small tear in the broccoli tunnel, but not enough to be detrimental. The bean row was looking a little rough because of the height the beans so we pulled the fabric off and turned pots upside down between the plants and draped the fabric back over. This lifted the fabric off the plants to keep the the stems from breaking from the pressure.

The forecast kept extending the 32 degree weather causing us to have to leave covers over the plants for 4 days! Finally, on the 5th day, we completely uncovered all the rows and are happy to report the only damage was freezing of some of the bean leaves. Luckily we have plenty of collected seed from these heirloom beans so will be able to quickly replant.

In the end everything we learned over the past couple years about using row covers and tunnels saved this year’s crop. Although all of this spring’s bad weather delayed the growth of the plants this year, we are excited to say we haven’t lost the fight to get vegetables out to our customers!

See the garden rows under snow and then the reveal that shows they survived!

New Bees and Custom Bee Hives

If you have been following the farm you know we seem to lose 50% of the bees we purchase to cold weather or swarming.Swarming occurs when the bees either lose their queen or the queen decides she doesn’t like her hive. They all follow her on a hunt for a better home. The swarming also seems to be related to the crazy weather. The weather here in unkind. The temperature commonly can start at 80 degrees in the morning and drop all the way down to freezing in the same day. Then there is the wind that seems to range between 10 and 30 mph routinely. Bees really need almost no wind and prefer 53 degrees before they leave the hive to collect their pollen and water. In reality they end up stuck in the hive many days.

Last year we purchased 4 hives and ended up with 2 surviving, continuing our 1/2 hive success rate. We also found that the bees were building comb in strange places and every time we needed to get in to help the bees with food, etc, we were having to break and remove comb. If you were the bees you would probably be frustrated too! We are getting 2 new packages of bees this year and want to try something new to hopefully keep them happy.

Rather than setting up the standard 2 hive boxes each with 8 pre waxed frames, we custom built only 7 longer foundationless frames that extend all the way down through both of the 2 hive boxes. The bees now have a larger space with fewer frames that are completely blank so they can choose to build their comb any way they want. The idea is to give them something that is more natural and let them build their home the way they want. We won’t be able to get into their hive as much but building custom windows on the outside of the hive will allow us to peak in and determine if the bees are still healthy. Since we extract the honey with a Flow Hive rather than tearing out their comb there should be no reason for us to need to enter the hive anyway. If you are not familiar with the Flow Hive look it up on our earlier posts or do a search online.

Ironically when the bees arrived for pick up we once again had 3 days of rain/snow mix we had to deal with. While we were worried they may die from exposure they really didn’t want to leave the hive once we got them in. They started to work on comb building immediately. This in itself is an improvement from previous starts. We are crossing our fingers.

See the new custom hives:

Fox in the Hen House

In order to keep egg production up we needed to bring in younger chickens. The current ones are 3 years old and laying has dropped. We were without eggs for a couple months late last year. Unfortunately there is a capacity limit in the coop to be sure each hen has plenty of space to be happy and healthy.

Another coop would be a major expense that would perpetuate the tight margin we have on egg sales. Since we have not purchased the goats yet it was decided to move the older chickens in the barn. The corral was lined with 2X4 inch fencing and logs and blocks lined the gate opening to prevent digging. We were told a fox was picking off chickens in the neighborhood right as we completed the project.

Even though we were trying not to spend more money, we purchased a solar panel powered electric fence with 4 wires climbing up the outside of the corral. We were able to get behind the purchase as there are some future projects that the fence could be used for.

The chickens love their new spacious home. Unfortunately I met the fox multiple times over the next few days. First I caught it taking out the rabbit population in our back yard. Since it was always a love hate relationship with the bunnies I was disturbed but not emotional about it. I saw first hand how foxes hunt. They are proficient climbers and will scale a 6 foot fence with ease. They are sly, fast and quick to take their prey down. Viciously they don’t stop at one animal. If there are multiple animals to prey on they take down as many as they can, take one and then come back for the rest at their leisure.

There was one section of the chicken’s corral that a fox could get past the hot wires if it jumped rather than climbed, and we believe that’s exactly what happened. The fox killed 4 hens, injured 2 and gave 1 a heart attack. We can tell it was a heart attack due to the rigid extension of the body. We’d seen it before. The fox only took one hen away which was one with a broken toe so was clearly easy to catch. Interestingly it didn’t come back for the other hens. We wonder if the fox got shocked from the wires on the way OUT and it may have made an impact. Regardless, it still made it’s way in so the next course of action was to put a scarecrow in front of the weakest section. It was enough to make both of us do a double take thinking someone was on the property so it had to capture the foxes attention.

It was over a week after the hit that I happen to catch the fox rushing the corral gate as if it was going to make a flying leap over it. I screamed so loud it glanced over, saw the scarecrow, turned tail and ran away so fast we couldn’t find where it went. That was the last we saw of it.

The 2 injured girls luckily recovered after a week and it appears we only lost the worst of the layers so we are still getting just enough eggs to cover our current customers. Once the new chicks come of egg laying age we will be in good shape for sales again.

You can see a video of the fox on the Farm’s You Tube Channel:

Planting Onions

One of our downfalls that’s plagued us is our inability so far to grow and store large onions. First year we had scallions. Second year we planted onions but they only grew to the size of scallions because we had them planted too close to the Black Walnut tree. Black Walnuts release a chemical that stunts other plants. It’s a survival technique we found out 2 year after we bought the farm. Last year the onions got only a little larger than golf ball size and when we tried to cure them they dried up!

We’ve read all the recommendations on how to grow onions and tried variations of them without full success. We decided to try the most extreme strategy which is labor intensive, but supposed to result in the largest possible onion so we hope it works this time.

It appears the deeper you plant onions the SMALLER the bulb will be. That seems counter intuitive so I didn’t believe it until we tried various ways without good results. To get the bulb larger, you plant more shallow, then as the bulb starts to surface you keep covering it with a rich blend of compost and soil. Mounding on top of the onions over and over again can be difficult in an environment like ours due to high winds and torrential downpours which just pull the soil back down.

Digging trenches into the bed will allow us to plant the onion sets shallowly and then taking the soil from either side of the row, slowly covering the bulb as it surfaces. The trenches will also capture and funnel water directly to the plants which is extremely important for onion growth as well.

This is really a test. If we get large onions this year then we know how to grow them for customers. Until then, we will keep trying!

Take a look at the onion bed on the farm’s YouTube Channel:

First Broccoli in a Tunnel




The snow finally made way to nice weather which mean the overgrown broccoli transplants I had re-potted because they got too big can finally be planted into the ground! With the continued cooler weather it became clear that the plants still need protection for night frosts so we went ahead and put up a tunnel over the row. We are happy we did this because we had a few days of snow and the cover kept the plants from being impacted by the cold.

We were in the middle of laying and covering the subsurface irrigation drip lines when the weather turned bad so we still have some work to do before the beds are fully ready to plant. We focused on planting the one row of broccoli first since they had gotten too big to stay in their pots anymore.

We really wanted to get an early start on the broccoli because its a cold weather vegetable. Every year we planted it later during the same week as the tomatoes. The the weather go too hot. Unfortunately this resulted in the broccoli being ready to harvest late in the fall when it started to cool down. We decided planting earlier may result in bigger yields. Let’s see how this year goes!

See the broccoli on the farm’s YouTube Channel: