We’re finishing up our weekly market season here, only two weeks of the Saturday market left and five weeks remaining for our farm share program. We look forward to shifting out of planting and harvest mode and into building and project mode. The planting and harvesting never really ends, as we grow year-round in the tunnels, but we do get a little respite with only a once-monthly winter market to provide for from November through April.
Deer’s eye view of the garden. We hope to make this the view they see of the rest of our fields soon. Not that the deer have been a real problem for us, but it will be one less thing to worry about. Not to mention the effects a wandering cow could have on our crops. And our land is surrounded on three sides by cattle fields.
This is the field we hope to fence this winter. Then we will slowly bring the land into production so we can rotate our crop fields on a very long-term rotation. It will take many years to get the fields ready for planting due to the invasive weeds present. We are so grateful to have this acreage for expansion, rotation, and the production of fertility on our farm. We’re working towards sustainability here, and it is a slow process with the limited time we have available.
This is the field we’ve been working on for the past year. Disced, seeded, and waiting on the rain.
Other two fields seeded. The field between the two tunnels will be the site for future tunnels! We’ll cover-crop them for a few more years until we are ready to undertake the project (and cost) of more tunnels. After last winter’s push to get the other big tunnel up we need a break. This winter we’ll focus on building a walk-in cooler and fencing.
Rains came to the farm over the past few days, and our cover crop seeds have germinated! Crimson clover and rye here.
Lots of crops to harvest now, before the F word happens here: frost. Time for digging sweet potatoes.
We’ve dug a quarter of the patch and yields were not great. Not sure if we will grow sweet potatoes again! We’ve tried for three years without much success.
The fall chard is amazing!
Still trying to perfect my celery seeding dates. This batch struggled through the heat of the summer in the field… but the upcoming crop in the tunnel looks great. We should have lots on the market table for Thanksgiving stuffing!
Clearing out a row of peppers in the little tunnel. Time for some stuffed peppers.
Mmm. Poblanos, jalapenos, and cayenne peppers. I finally made a batch of cheese-stuffed bacon-wrapped hot peppers, after hearing from so many market customers how good they are. Yes, they were indeed delicious.
Fall broccoli lookin’ good. Despite the cabbage worms. They’ve really struggled with the heat and drought this fall.
Spinach, finally growing well with some rain and cooler temps.
First fall carrot harvest, along with turnips. Made some ginger-carrot soup last night, yum: a match made in heaven.
It’s a great time of year to enjoy the bounty of the crops we can grow here in Virginia.
Our deer fence is now up, and fully functional.
But not before a few minor setbacks! The fence contractor crew returned and put up the wire, but we still had three holes: two for the gates, and one for the garden shed. The gates came by freight a few days later, but not before the deer found their way into the enclosure and did some minor, but irritating, damage to the row covers.
These are the gates we used. The galvanized steel pipe gates should last a while.
Gavin put up some barbed wire across the opening for the shed; but it wasn’t enough to keep the deer out. The next morning we found more damage to another newly planted row… the deer had wriggled through the barbed wire strands! Luckily, we had a piece of scrap fence wire that was big enough to stretch across the opening, and Gavin hung it on the barbed wire. Since then we have had no more deer issues!
Yesterday I planted out a row of brassicas and lettuce.
And watched as a groundhog wandered along the hill slope to his hole underneath a tree there. I hope he doesn’t find his way under the fence!
The rest of the deer fence materials (posts, concrete, and hardware) were delivered on Tuesday.
The fencing contractor crew came yesterday and put in all the fence posts and braces. They accomplished a lot in one day!
Our water table is very high; about 3 feet down along the northern edge of the fence. This section is near the creek and wetland area. The posts will sit in this water.
The skid steer auguring post holes.
East side of fence posts in place.
Corner braces at northeast corner.
Looking south. Starting to look like a farm!
It was amazing to see the differences in the soil from the different holes. We had very yellow soil to orange to grey to white.
The southern section of the fenced-in area where we will plant fruit trees and berries.
The east side; red flags are where the garden shed will go.
Gavin added compost and tilled up a few rows while the crew was working; it’s about time to start planting! We will as soon as we can keep the deer out!
This weekend we headed a few counties north to visit my sister and her husband. It was our last chance to get away as the growing season is almost upon us. Our seed orders have arrived, and it is time to start germinating! The light is getting longer, and it already feels like spring is here! Yikes!
We were very fortunate to be able to hear Eliot Coleman give a talk today at UVA. He has been a successful small-scale vegetable farmer in Maine for 40 years, and has written several very influential books on the subjects of growing organically and growing year-round with minimal inputs. As young farmers in 2003 we first read his book Four Season Harvest, and it truly inspired us as to what is possible with farming at a small scale. Reading his work cemented the idea in my mind that yes, it is possible to farm and make a decent living, at a time when we were just starting out on this path. His other books, The New Organic Grower, and The Winter Harvest Handbook, have continued to influence and inspire us. So seeing him in person today really brought me back to my true intentions. Not that I have ever strayed from the intention to be a farmer or had any second thoughts about all the hard work that we’ve done to get here. I’m just ready to get going! So glad we took the time to make the trip up to Charlottesville.
The deer fence project is on track, with posts set to be delivered Tuesday and the fencing contractor to arrive on Friday. We already have the 8 foot tall fixed-knot woven wire: three rolls of it. The fence will make a big visual impact on our little farm! The weather is supposed to cooperate with temperatures forecast to be in the 70s on Friday!
Gavin bought this Brillion Seeder from a local farmer who had used it in his tobacco production and no longer needed it. We will be able to quickly sow cover crops with this! The seed box is in need of some revamping (and is not shown in this picture as Gavin has taken it to a local welder and sheet metal worker). We will also be able to use the seeder for spreading soil amendments. This implement should be a big time-saver for us!
Now that the yurt is mostly completed, we can focus on why we’re really here: to farm! We have been doing a lot of planning over the last few weeks for farm projects we’ll complete this year, and considering future projects that these plans will impact.
Our first project is to build a deer fence around the garden. We had a lot of deer damage, and some raccoon and rabbit activity, in the garden this past year, and we need to protect the area before we have anything salable. We have a contractor who will set the 14′ posts several feet into the ground, and either the contractor or Gavin will put up the 8′ woven wire. Then we will have to either build or buy gates. The contractor should be able to complete the post work in mid-February, so we are well on track to protecting anything we could imagine growing this year! This is exciting to me. It is very disheartening to walk into your carefully tended plantings to see deer tracks running through, seedlings and plants eaten to the ground, and row-covers ripped to tatters and rendered useless by the deer. The fence will enclose about an acre and a quarter, which is more than enough space for us to get started. We figure that any future expansion will happen in structures (high tunnels/hoop houses) that we will put south of the main greenhouse, where there is plenty of open, mostly flat land.
Looking south from the edge of the future shed to the south-eastern corner of the fence. The fence will go about 90 feet up the incline past the water spigots. In this area we will put our berry bushes.
Looking north from the southeastern corner of the fence.
Measuring to the southwest corner of the fence. We considered going up the hill further with the fence but the incline is not ideal.
From the southwest corner of the future fence looking north. Gavin cleared off a good bit of brush from the western edge where the fence will go. The northern side of the fence will follow the contour of the woods. There will be enough room all the way around to get the tractor around the outside to mow. We planned the fence to use exactly the amount of wire on three rolls, which adds up to a perimeter of about 950 feet.
Our next project will be to build a garden shed on the eastern edge of the fence. The shed will house the lawnmower, hand tools, and various other things which need to be easily accessed from the garden. This year we used the greenhouse for this kind of storage, but we are hoping to use the greenhouse for growing plants instead this year! Gavin has salvaged a whole pile of oak fence boards which we will re-use as the siding for the shed.
The red flags are the perimeter of the shed, which will be 32′ by 12′; yellow flags are the fence line.
We also have the frame for another hoop house (high tunnel) which we’ll put up at some point this year, in the field south of the main greenhouse, as I mentioned previously.
After that we will build a barn and packing area, but we will likely not focus on these projects until late this year or even next year.
We have done some seed planning, and we will grow a few large crops for markets as well as many small plantings for ourselves. We plan to establish more perennial flowers and herbs in the garden this year, and prepare the ground for blueberries and raspberries, which will be planted in the spring of 2012. This year we will continue to grow and trial many different varieties of cut flowers for bouquets, and grow large crops of storage onions, potatoes, and spring peas for market. We will also grow smaller quantities of many vegetables.
This winter Gavin has also been working on clearing the walking trails through the woods. When we bought the property the previous owner had chipped several tractor-width trails through the woods, which had grown up in brush over the past few years. Now that they are clear again we can enjoy recreating in the woods!
The woods aren’t terribly spectacular; they were cut over 10 to 15 years ago… but someday they will be!
We are looking forward to the coming spring!