Late Winter

Well. Below you can see a triptych time-sequence of the new hoophouse and greenhouse, from top to bottom: Monday afternoon, Tuesday morning, and Wednesday morning. That was quite a storm! The gothic (pointed gable) structure of these new, large structures, sheds snow fairly effectively. You can see in the bottom image that most of the snow has slid off the roof and piled up at the sides. 

We do, however, have some smaller hoophouses in the back field that cannot support snow loads, and we have had to clean them off during and after storms before. Fortunately, on Monday afternoon, we figured out how to get the plastic off of them while one side (the shady side) was still frozen to the ground. Huzzah! So we saved ourselves many hours of shoveling and brushing off snow.  

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Despite the weather, things are growing in the greenhouse! The herbs that we started propagating a couple of weeks ago have already rooted, for the most part. Once they have put out roots, we can take them out from under the table and let them have a little more light. More light will encourage them to grow new leaves, now that they have roots and can draw nutrients and water from the soil. 

Our first round of spinach of 2017 is just about ready to be transplanted. It will be going in the second bed from the left in the photo below. The third bed from the left you can see is covered in landscaped fabric. We cut the mustard greens that were in that bed several times for market until they were getting a little tired. We then cut the remainder and fed them to the ducks (who were delighted to get greens at this time of year!). After that we covered the bed with landscape fabric and lightly watered it - this is a method of no-till weeding and bed renovation made popular by a Canadian farmer named Jean-Martin Fortier.  

In occultation, what you want to happen is this: the landscape fabric and watering warm and moisten the soil, which encourages the decomposition of the mustard green stems and roots, and which encourages weed seeds to germinate; the mustard greens continue to decay, and the weed seeds germinate, but because there is no light, they die and decay as well; then you can remove the landscape fabric and transplant directly into the bed. No rototilling, no forking, no weeding. Theoretically. We'll let you know how it goes!

See you at market!

-Ailish

Wild and Crazy Weather

Hot. Cold. Sunny. Snowing. It's run the gamut over the past week and it seems as though this weekend will be no different. On Thursday afternoon it was bright and sunny, but in the morning we had periods of snow (see below)! You can also see that we've had days warm enough that we've begun to rut up our gravel road. Mud season is almost upon us. And yet it might be 1F on Saturday night! 

Inside the greenhouse however, temperatures are more stable, and the seeds we started a couple of weeks ago have germinated and are getting growing! You can also see some lines of green near the back of the greenhouse - there are some young mustard greens, lettuce, and arugula in those beds back there. This is part of the reason we set up the greenhouse as we did. We are planning to harvest those greens in the back by the time we need to put tables over those beds and fill them up with seedlings. Then, in July, after the big seedling push is over, we will be able to take the tables away, and we can grow some hot season crops like lemongrass, ginger, or tomatoes in those beds.

The ducks don't mind the snow or cold weather. We moved them onto some new ground on Wednesday, and they were pretty excited. We were pretty excited that we managed to keep the fence upright. Even though it was warm Wednesday, the ground is still frozen about an inch down, so getting the fence in the ground was a real challenge. There's actually a part of the fence you can't see in the picture below that's being propped up by a kayak. 

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The ducks were extra excited to get some gnarly arugula that we are clearing out to make way for new plants. They are very ready for all the green stuff that comes with spring. And so are we.

Speaking of spring, and new things growing, we will be raising meat ducks again this year - please talk to us at market this weekend if you are interested in reserving a bird or two. Currently we are planning on doing about 50 birds in July. 

See you at market!

-Ailish

Sun and Snow

This week saw some more snow, but, for us, not an unmanageable or overwhelming amount. We got a little over an inch, and it wasn't too wet or heavy. The ducks, as you can see below, were quite happy to have the fresh snow and bask in the sun today.

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We have had some time this week to do some cleaning up and rearranging in the barn. We are evaluating how we use the space we need for our vegetable washing, packing, and storage, as well as duck egg washing and packing, and supply storage. As different enterprises grow or change seasonally, we often see ways in which we could improve the layout and flow of how we are currently doing things in the barn. 

We also have a chance to just plain old clean up things that got away from us in the fall. You can see Sophie below trying to put away some chains that were out in the yard from a delivery in the fall. (They were a little heavy and unruly. In the end we split the load.) We use chains like this for securing pallets and even the tractor to a big trailer we use, mostly to ferry things between our field in Bowdoinham and the home farm in Topsham. 

This week we are going to have more sweet winter greens, but again, they will go quickly! We will also be having a sale on smoked ham steaks - $1/lb off, making them $9.95/lb. Ham steaks are quick to thaw and quick to cook, and we really like the brine and smokiness of these steaks cut by the butchers at Herring Brothers Meats. Our ham steaks will also be featured in a sandwich tomorrow from the Market Cafe at Midcoast Winter Market tomorrow (Friday, at the Topsham Fairgrounds).

See you at market!

-Ailish

Snow, Snow, Snow

It may not officially be winter yet by the calendar, but it sure feels as if it is! We don't have too much left in the ground, but we do have some leeks (below). We realized that even on a warm day, the soil around them wouldn't thaw enough for us harvest them because it was insulated by 5-6 inches of snow! We cleared snow away as best we could in hopes that the sun would be able to warm the exposed soil right next to the leeks and allow some thawing. Of course, then we saw that the forecast is for 5-8 inches of snow and sleet Saturday...we are now hoping that the rain on Sunday will do some thawing work for us. 

We are plugging away at the new greenhouse. We are almost finished with the polycarbonate endwalls (see below), which means that we should be able to cover the house in plastic next week, if we have favorable weather.

I can't deny that working outside today was definitely a challenge, however. The ladder is crooked in the picture above because the wind kept blowing it over if someone wasn't holding it steady. 

It is supposed to be even more frigid and windy tomorrow, but it will still probably be easier and safer to get to the market tomorrow rather than Saturday. We will be there Saturday and hope to see folks there as well, but please be safe!

See you at market!

-Ailish

A Wild Week

The prediction on Tuesday was for some scattered snow. We got three inches! On the left you can see the snow still left on Wednesday morning, but by Wednesday afternoon most of it had melted, fortunately.

 

We were not prepared for three inches of heavy, wet snow, and so we did have some losses. Fortunately we have a lot of plants under the protection of unheated hoophouses right now, and the low tunnels did a decent job of withstanding the snow, but the first round of broccoli and cauliflower is toast. 

That is part and parcel of this farming adventure. It's part of why we grow a lot of different crops and it's part of why we grow a lot of successions of the same crops. The next round of broccoli and cauliflower will be ready to go in the ground next week.

We were able to take advantage of the snow in a way, though! It has been so dry that some of the new transplants in the high tunnels are really thirsting for water. We were able to bucket snow into the pathways of the high tunnel, where it could melt and with hope, give the plants a drink!

We still have our PORK BOX SALE running! Check out the link or contact us at whatleyfarm@gmail.com for more information. Our recipe of the week is a (Duck Egg) Omelette with Tarragon and Chives. We will bring copies to market. We will have quite a few herbs at market this week - tarragon, thyme, oregano, chives, and maybe rosemary, too!

We are also excited that Amanda Parkhurst of Music and Magic Maine will be providing entertainment at the Midcoast Winter Farmers' Market on Friday from 1-5 - music, rhymes, puppets, and great fun for kids and parents!

See you at market,

-Ailish

Out like a lamb?

Happy Equinox (last Sunday) and Happy Easter (this coming Sunday, if you celebrate it)! 

March is supposed to be in like a lion and out like a lamb, but the weather seems a bit lion-ish to me lately! We have about a week left for it to become more lamb-like. We shall see.

It is not a bad time of year for celebrate. Yes, we are still getting snow and cold weather (see above - that was the greenhouse on Monday!), but it's warmer cold weather. Things inside the hoophouses are starting to grow, and the seedlings are doing great in the greenhouse.

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The rosemary (above), came through the winter amazingly well. Outdoors, rosemary is only hardy to zone 7, particularly this Gorizia variety that we are growing. That means it can only tolerate temperatures down to 20F. I bought these plants as plugs from Johnny's Selected Seeds, and most of the plants are now turning 3 years old!

I have managed to keep them alive through the winters by planting them in a high tunnel (unheated hoophouse) and covering them with two layers of row cover in the winter. Given that rosemary is fairly easy to propagate by cuttings, I have also been able to propagate a lot of new plants from the original 30 to fill in any holes I have as well as to sell as seedlings at market later in the spring.

SPINACH is going to be on SUPER SALE again this week! I highly recommend Nigel Slater's Classic Creamed Spinach as a side-dish for holiday meals, or just as a meal on its own. We will bring copies to market!

See you at market!

-Ailish

Arctic Blast

I don't know about you, but we were all a bit colder this week. All the greens and some of the perennial herbs are under row cover to protect them from frost damage, especially since this cold period follows an unusual warm period in December. Fortunately, though, that warmth means we actually got a bit of growth in the spinach - we will be bringing that to market today and tomorrow!

Still, ice is the name of the game. The deer leave lots of tracks; they dig through the crust of snow to get the remains of the last fall vegetables in the field. We are spending a lot of time reviewing our numbers and memories from 2015, and working on all the planning we will need to make 2016 happen.

Ben would like to share a hearty soup recipe that he made us for lunch earlier in the week: http://whatleyfarm.com/recipes/2016/1/7/whatleys-carrot-cumin-soup-for-a-crowd

See you at market!

-Ailish