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

Ponds and Potatoes

Aside from harvesting, washing, packing, weeding, seeding, transplanting and all the other normal late-summer activities, we have also been trying to chip away at some larger infrastructure projects. I have mentioned the greenhouse project, and that is going well. This past week, however, the Bartons, who did the excavation work for the new greenhouse and high tunnel came over for another earth-moving project. 

The weather this summer showed us the limits of our irrigation pond and our irrigation system in general. Our pond was only four feet deep, and though it held quite a bit of water, it was not really sufficient for the 2-2.5 acres we need it to cover. NOW the pond is more like fourteen feet deep, with substantially more volume - see below!

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Next year we hope to catch a lot more snow melt and spring runoff so that the pond will allow us to irrigate that whole field amply. 

New this week we are starting to bring leeks and some of the storage potatoes. Blue Gold (above) is the first variety we have in addition to the new potatoes we have been bringing (Red Gold and Yukon Gem). Blue Gold is an excellent all-purpose potato. Starchy enough to mash, but not so starchy that it disintegrates if you pan-fry or roast it. 

Fingerlings are not far off - I know we have quite a few fingerling fans out there. The Elba potatoes - big, gold mashing potatoes that were a big hit last year - are still growing! We will let them grow a bit longer, then let them cure in the soil for several days depending on the weather, which helps their skin set and thicken.

Enjoy the full flavors of summer and the first hints of fall. See you at market this Labor Day Weekend!

-Ailish

Warm, Sunny Weather, We Don't Mind It

It has given us plenty of opportunity to start developing a tan, that's for sure. We have also had time to prepare beds for transplanting, transplant, and put up the deer fence! You can see Ben fixing up the solar charger below, while Cassie, in the background, winds out the fence wire. 

As some of you might rightly imagine, four thin strands of fiberglass and metal do not actually keep deer out of the vegetable fields. Actually, our neighbors saw deer basically limbo-ing their way through the fence last year, never mind trying to jump it! Therefore, this year we are setting four strands, 15" apart, on each fence. Then, we use the solar charger and battery to get the fence to a minimum of 6000 volts.

If you've worked with electric fencing, you know that this is not actually a very high charge (in fact I have been shocked at this voltage many times - it stings, but it doesn't linger), but the real key to the electric fence is psychological. As soon as we get the fence set up in the spring, we bait it (see below). Getting 6000 volts straight to the tongue is quite memorable, and with hope convinces the deer that the white string should not be crossed or even touched, no matter how much lettuce is on the other side. 

And, of course, about the DUCKLINGS...they are getting huge. They are already more than twice the size they were last week when we got them. They are also constantly on the move (it was hard to get a picture without a blurry duckling:

No recipe this week, we're afraid, but we will be back with one next week - I have a pork belly brining in the cooler as I write this!

New at market this week we will have some green garlic, rhubarb, and our first asparagus from the patch we planted three years ago! Limited quantities at the moment so show up early!

See you at market!

-Ailish

May Showers bring Seedlings and Greens

We didn't really get our "April showers" - but we are catching up this week with May showers! This has been a great week for transplanting - it has not been too hot or sunny, so the plants don't wilt while they wait to go in the ground, and they have gotten rained on pretty much every night, so they get plenty to drink after they are in the ground. 

We have all of our high tunnel tomatoes planted - 850 of them! (We are going to also plant about 100 paste tomato plants outside, unprotected, once the nights are consistently 50F or above). We had to commandeer the market truck for field use in order to transport all of the tomato seedlings back to the field (bottom right photo). We filled up the two 'Rolling Thunders' (the higher tunnels to the right in the top photo) and the middle beds of the three farther caterpillar tunnels (to the left in the top photo).

And in other news, the DUCKLINGS ARE HERE! Yes, 175 fuzzy, adorable baby ducks are now cheeping away in their makeshift sauna in what is the (adult) ducks' winter house. They need an air temperature of about 90 F to survive when they are so small. They arrived on Wednesday, from Metzer Farms in California, just one or two days old! Laura picked them up at the post office first thing Wednesday morning. We are increasing the laying flock with 150 new Golden 300 ducks, and we are also trying out meat birds, with 25 Pekins. We will keep you posted on that! This glamour shot is of a little Pekin. The Pekins are yellow and the Golden 300s are brown, so it is easy to tell them apart!

This week's featured recipe is a Nettle Frittata. Ben made it for us for lunch Thursday. Yum! 

We will have pork, duck eggs, herbs, spinach, lettuce, nettles, seedlings and MORE at market this week! Wow, it must be spring! And those markets are - the Brunswick Farmers' Market on the Mall in Brunswick (Tuesday and) Friday 8-2 and Crystal Spring Farmers' Market, Crystal Spring Farm on Pleasant Hill Rd, Saturday, 8:30-12:30!

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

Weather or Not

My grandmother likes to say, Well, we'll have weather whether or not, won't we? She's right, of course, and this was a good week to prove it!

First, the cold and even a bit of snow - we were worried about our garlic, because it is about four inches high already! Fortunately, there seems to have been only minor frost damage. 

Also, by Tuesday morning, we had filled all available table space in the greenhouse with seedlings, and we still had more tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant to pot up. We had to make a sacrifice. We decided to give up on some of the early greens in the unheated high tunnel next to the greenhouse. We covered them with landscape fabric and laid pallets down on top of that. Then we moved all of our onions and some of this weeks transplants (spinach and lettuce) on the pallets, and covered them with what is known as a "low tunnel". That is basically a small hoop structure (about three feet high) covered with plastic. Then we ran an extension cord to a space heater inside the low tunnel, and, presto! A mini greenhouse inside a high tunnel!

We will again have a SUPER SPINACH SALE this weekend at the Topsham and Brunswick markets! For those of you who are cooking for several people or who, like us, just like to eat a lot of spinach, we will be selling some one-pound bulk bags of spinach for $12/pound!

See you at market!

-Ailish