Farm Journal 1996
The growing season has begun! Tomatoes, eggplants and peppers are growing in the hotbed. Potatoes and peas have been planted. We are in the process of potting up many of our bedding plants.
The strawberries are looking good. Our plant supplier for some of our Spring garden (Broccoli, kale, collards etc.) says a hard freeze in their Georgia fields may have affect our order. At this time it is too early to tell.
We are looking forward to a bountiful season. We hope to see you down on the farm!
Most of Cindy time lately has been devoted to the greenhouse. She has been potting up bedding plants and putting those tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers from the hotbed into planting flats to grow out in the greenhouse.
I've spent my time on tilling up some ground to turn under the green cover. We need to get this done early so the green stuff doesn't interfere with planting. I've also been working with Cindy's father on the rebuilding of our shade house. We use this to grow out herbs and bedding plants in early summer.
It sure has been cool lately. In fact the temps have gotten down below freezing at night. For the first time, we've had to put supplemental heat in the greenhouse.
Cindy brought home a new batch of baby chicks yesterday. The last time I saw them they were roaming around the kitchen in the farm house.
Cindy has continued transplanting to flats. We have one greenhouse completely full. She began planting seeds in flats for the stuff we will be planting on the farm in May. The weather continues to be colder than normal. Scrounged up a propane heater for the greenhouse. It looks like we'll need it.
Cindy has continued planting seeds. Both greenhouses are full to capacity. In fact they are overfilled. We have stuff blocking the aisles. The weather has finally warmed a bit. We didn't put heat in the greenhouse tonight. In fact I switched to just electric heat last night because we could see noticeable damage to the plants from running the unvented propane heater in the greenhouse for the past week. We only hope we haven't done permanent damage. Of course, without the heat everything would be dead by now.
Cindy's father has just about completed the shade house except for the bench tops and the sprinklers.
I tilled the bottom of the back field this evening. The only thing left to till is the section above the strawberries where I have the wagons parked.
Activity on the farm is still centered around caring for the plants we're growing out in the greenhouses. Things are looking very good. We have some more plugs arriving this week which means a flurry of activity as we pot them up.
All of our tillable ground has been turned over once and is already starting to green up again. The strawberries are looking great! I harrowed over the potatoes and peas this past weekend. They were close to breaking ground and that should put me one step ahead of the weeds there.
In her spare (grin) time Cindy has been working on making bird houses out of some of the goose gourds we saved from last year. Once she settled on the Dremel tool as her tool of choice for making the holes the project moved a little faster. Painted up they look pretty nifty.
Finally, it feels like Spring! I finished mowing the Hyde farm yesterday. It took me about two weeks off and on to finish it. It could probably be done in about a day and a half if I stuck with it, but I never have whole days to commit to it. The John Deere was a bit quirky too. Got a bad electrical connection somewhere and a weak battery. The place really looks nice when it's mowed.
Today I put in our second planting of peas. I planted two rows each of Early Snap, Oregon Sugar Pod, and Knight. I also planted two rows each of Provider bean and Bush Kentucky Wonder. Early beans are always a gamble, but if they make it the returns are good.
Cindy and crew continue potting plants. Most recently they have been working on geraniums, impatiens and ornamental grass. We have literally run out of room to put plants. Cindy plans on opening the stand this weekend to start moving some things which are ready for sale. In particular marigolds, zinnia and tomato are definitely ready for sale.
I noticed yesterday that the potatoes are up pretty well. Probably 75% are showing. Other that a few sprigs of chickweed there is not a weed in site. Peas look great. Strawberries are blooming. Cindy and Bunk worked today on pulling some of the chickweed that has jumped up in the berry patch.
Spent the morning building a rig to lay some plastic mulch. This year we plan to experiment a little with growing on plastic with drip irrigation. If all goes well we may invest in the equipment needed to do it on a larger scale. I can guarantee our experiment won't be too large since we have to plant everything on the plastic by hand. After many years of using a mechanical transplanter, crawling down the row is not high on our list of things we like to do.
Today was our first day of plant sales at the roadside market. We opened this afternoon with some flowers and vegetables for sale. Actually made a couple of bucks, even though we didn't open till after lunch.
I ran the tiller over a couple of acres around the house today. I hope to be able to lay some plastic tomorrow. Hoping for a calm day.
Spent the morning trying to lay some weed barrier cloth under the benches of the shadehouse. Mistake. Windy. What a pain. Cindy arrived and saved the day. This afternoon we took all of the tomatoes out of the greenhouse and loaded them on wagons. This will give them a couple of days to harden off before we set them out. This also gave us much needed room in the greenhouse.
Late this afternoon I set up the tractor for our plastic mulch laying experiment. This should be interesting.
This week we managed to lay a few rows of plastic with drip tape. Things went pretty well until the wind picked up. The last two rows got a little sloppy. Rather than go overboard with trying the plastic I think this will be it. We will plant 4 rows of tomatoes and 2 rows of peppers on plastic and see how it goes.
Yesterday Ricky and I planted the four rows of tomatoes on the plastic. I paid him $2 and a snowball for his efforts. Cindy and I planted the 3/4 acre or so of spring crops from Georgia (broccoli, kale, collard, cabbage, and kohlrabi). I paid her nothing for her efforts.
Today I put the shade cloth on all the greenhouses and the shadehouse. We were having trouble keeping the temps down. I set the transplanter up for planting the tomatoes, but when we tried planting we had to stop because it was too wet. We got about an inch of rain last night.
Cindy's father potted up quite a few herbs this weekend. I believe he worked on basil, sage and summer savory. My parents came down to help out too. They worked the stand both Saturday and Sunday. Had a pretty good weekend of sales.
The weather has been the big story for the past week. We have tried a couple of times to get into the front field to finish planting tomatoes, but it has been too wet. We have gotten over 3" of rain in the last 10 days.
Because the tomatoes really needed to be put out and the field out front didn't look like it would dry for quite a while we decided to put the tomatoes in the back field which is a little sandier and drained well enough to allow us to plant. We also put the squash and cukes there.
Last night the weather was predicted to be a chance of frost. We covered what we could with baskets and grow cloth. We had enough cloth to cover about half of the strawberries. We picked a few berries while we were covering the plants. Mmm good! Won't be long now!
The past couple of days have been real scorchers. Temps in the mid 90's are not typical of May. In spite of the heat we have been moving ahead with planting. Things finally dried out enough to put some more plants out. This past week we set out lettuce, lopes, watermelon, eggplant and broccoli.
Strawberry sales are going well. The early birds get the berries. Cindy said she was sold out of berries by 12:30 today. The strawberries are really just starting and we are picking them clean in a couple of hours. Soon there will be lots more than Cindy can pick in her usual morning or evening stint.
The peas are flowering. The spring crops across the road are looking real good. My only regret is that my schedule and the weather haven't cooperated to allow me to cultivate. I am going to have to take a break from our planting schedule to clean things up over there.
The potato beetles are out in full force. That's another issue I need to deal with very soon. They are too busy mating and laying eggs to do much damage now, but in a week or so they will be an issue.
It's raining now. The weather forecasts predicts drizzle/rain for the next couple of days. I guess that means we get a break from field work whether we want it or not. Fortunately we have pretty much caught up with planting and cultivating.
This past week we set out the rest of the plants that were ready. This pretty much completes the first planting of everything. We planted flowers, 2nd tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, broccoli, lopes, watermelon, okra, sunflowers, sweet potatoes, lima beans, string beans and probably a few things more that I've forgotten.
Yesterday I cultivated the Smith field which desperately needed it. I finished up in a steady drizzle, but managed to get it done. The broccoli in the bottom of the field is going to be tough to keep clean. Since that is new ground it is full of organic matter that hasn't rotted yet. It is a real mess to cultivate, but I managed to get it done.
Strawberry and plant sales are going well. Cindy has been picking 50- 75 quarts a day. There is a good set on the peas across the road. We will be picking them soon.
We've enjoyed a nice change of weather this week. After the three days of rain, that is. The first part of the week was a washout, literally. The second half of the week has been beautiful. This weekend I actually had two days where my days off and the weather cooperated to allow me to get some work done.
I've been working on cultivating and fertilizing most of what is growing around the farmhouse. Using the Bezzerides spring hoes I've been able to do a remarkably clean cultivation. I also pulled a harrow over the beans and sunflowers which were planted last week.
Everything is growing well. We have seen a visible jump in growth of just about everything. Even the okra which isn't really growing has at least begun to green up. The squash are flowering. I picked a few snap peas today for my parents. We will probably begin picking peas for sale by mid-week.
The strawberries are still coming on, but Cindy says she thinks they have peaked. She picked about 50 quarts today. Plant sales are still going well and probably contributed about a third of today's stand proceeds. We have sold out of many varieties already.
Our bee keeper, Jon Clulow, delivered several cases of honey this weekend. He has about a dozen hives on the farm this year which seem to be doing quite well. Cindy told him of one of the hives swarming this past week. He was disappointed he wasn't able to be there to attempt to capture it.
Things are definitely picking up around the farm. We're now picking strawberries, snap peas, snow peas, shell peas, kale, collards, turnip, kohlrabi, squash, and lettuce. Broccoli and string beans are not far behind. Strawberries are about to poop out.
Cindy is doing a good job of staying ahead of the weeds with hoeing. Of course, my expert cultivation with the tractor helps (Big Grin). I spent most of the weekend trying to get some winter squash and ornamental corn in the ground. What should have been a simple matter turned into an ordeal.
The area where I needed to plant had grown back up in weeds about 2-3 ft. tall. The surface is fairly dry and turning all that organic matter under was a chore. Not to mention breathing dust for several hours. I did finally get things planted. I had to leave one area that just wouldn't turn under. I probably should have just plowed rather than rototilled, but what's done is done.
I finished giving most of what is growing around the house a second cultivation this evening. It was a beautiful evening.
Strawberries are done. The strawberry field smells like a winery. As the strawberries have faded some of the summer crops have come on. We're now picking lots of squash. Today was the first day for string beans. This evening we dug a couple of rows of red pontiac potatoes. Broccoli which is very late, is now being picked daily.
Most of the rains have passed us by this past week, so we have been hustling to get the drip tape down. We've got about half the farm done. As usual we're behind schedule. It seems there are a thousand things to do.
The herbs are all in prime condition. We have quite a variety in 4" pots. We also have about 200 geraniums that are just beginning to bloom. Our cut flower garden is also growing nicely. We're beginning to see blooms on cosmos, sunflower, statice and zinnia. It won't be long and we'll be open for cut-your-own flowers.
We're battling some potato beetle here and there, but otherwise all crops look great. I noticed this evening that the winter squash are up across the road. Morning glories have gotten a head start there too. Cultivating that field will be a priority.
Well, we didn't need to rush on getting the drip tape down. Earlier this week we got enough rain in two days to last the rest of the season. In 48 hours we got almost 11 inches of rain. We took a pretty good hit from all the rain.
Since our ground is so hilly, we had washouts all over the place. In a couple of places the rain created ditches in the field more than a foot deep. Some of the drip tape was washed completely out of the row. The hardest hit area was just below the greenhouses.
Unfortunately that's also where the swimming pool sits. Hence, this weeks latest project was pumping the 27,000 gallons of muddy water out of the pool, scrubbing it and refilling it.
I had to pull the driveway back up out of Mountain Road twice this week. The state road crews were out with loaders and dump trucks scooping our valuable top soil out of Mountain Road and hauling it away.
Crop damage was limited to some lettuce, beans and mums buried under mud at the bottom of the back field. Not too bad considering the flooding we experienced.
Over the weekend things dried out a bit. I was able to turn under the old peas to make room for the second planting of squash, cukes, and melons. Our third planting of tomatoes is also ready to be set out. I noticed the the winter squash is doing well. I never did get in there to cultivate, but I cleaned up what I could with the tiller. The ornamental corn I planted at the same time is just coming up. I was about to give up on it and try to replant. I guess I must have planted it too deep. I think I forgot to reset the planter from the 1.5 inches depth I used for the squash.
This has been a very busy week on the farm. We set out a second planting of cukes, lopes, squash, and melons. We also set out our third planting of Mountain Pride tomato.
With the humidity and more rain I've had to put fungicide spraying up on the list of things to do. Grasses are really taking off too. I've managed to knock things back by cultivating most crops, but our tomatoes may need to be sprayed to get a handle on the grass.
We're still picking broccoli. In fact, we have two plantings we haven't started picking yet. Also on the pick list are squash, cukes, beans, lettuce, kale, turnip, and kohlrabi. We hope to be picking some cabbage soon. We picked a couple more rows of potatoes yesterday.
I've been working on building a cool room for storing summer crops. I've ordered a 10x12 shed and purchased an air conditioner. Once the shed is up I'll have an electrician run some power. I'm hoping we can have it up and running by the time peaches come in.
The produce stand is now open full service from about 11am to 4 pm. For the rest of the evening it is open on self-serve. We usually start closing up about an hour before dusk.
The pace is picking up. We started picking okra, hot peppers, banana peppers, cabbage and eggplant this week. We are still waiting patiently for the first tomatoes. The cut-your-own flower patch is really looking good. Some folks have already began cutting flowers. I talked with Calvin today and he says my corn will be ready by Friday. So I guess I know what I'll be doing every morning from then till frost.
We're still battling weeds everywhere. The grasses are particularly bad this year. I think we're very close to having a handle on things though, so there shouldn't be any major problems.
We still have one more planting of tomatoes to set out. They should go out some time in the coming week. The fall broccoli has germinated and is doing well in the shade-house. Believe it or not, we're still picking broccoli. In fact, we just started a new field and it is beautiful.
I turned under our earliest beans and broccoli this week and planted our last planting of tomatoes in their place. We concentrated on getting ahead of the weeds in our earlier tomatoes this week. It is quite a battle. A spray took care of the grasses, but there are a couple of areas where morning glories are taking over and we're battling them by hand. So far, so good.
The pace of life is non-stop now. Up at dawn for picking and going steady all day till we close the stand around dusk. Throw in a little attention to the kids, taking care of the animals, working at the park, trips to the orchard, tending the stand and an occasional swim in the pool, and you've got one busy family.
Life is good, but for my aching back.
Wew! Time flies. Things are hectic on the farm now. We are up to our ears in tomatoes, lima beans and cukes. At the roadside market we are now offering: sweet corn, lopes, watermelon (3 kinds), herbs, geraniums, potted sunflowers, peppers and hot peppers, kale, onion, potato (red and white), eggplant( classic and white), 3 kinds of squash, zukes, okra, cherry tomato, tomatoes, peaches, plums, honey, cabbage, cut your own flowers and probably a few things I've forgotten.
This past week we had a 10x12 shed built and installed a large air-conditioner. Once the electrician gets it hooked up we hope this will serve well as a cooler to extend the life of some of our stuff, particularly peaches.
We set out our fall broccoli last week. As soon as time permits I will plant another planting of beans, cukes and squash. I've been averaging about 5 hours sleep a night. Up at 5:30 to pick corn, run back and drop off the corn at the farm, run home, shower, go to work at the park, work my shift at the park, change clothes and run to the farm stand to take over for a couple hours, squeeze in a meal here and there, pick a few vegies or fix something that's broke or spray something. You get the point....there is always something to do. How I found time to update this page I'll never know.
Life continues at a hectic pace on the farm. It is a relief that the days are getting shorter. It's like putting the brakes on a little earlier each day. This coming week the kids return to school. This is a mixed blessing. It frees Cindy up during the day, but it adds another logistic to deal with in getting them off to school, picking them up, doing homework, etc.
These last two months can make or break the growing season. The bills are paid, money is finally starting to accumulate, and the more hustling we do in September and October the better off we'll be at season's end. No rest for the weary.
We continue to pick most summer crops right up till the end(frost). There are still several major crops to harvest -- sweet potatoes, late beans, late summer squash, late tomatoes, potatoes, winter squash, sunflowers, broccoli, kale, turnip and all the ornamental stuff like Indian corn, gourds, corn stalks and pumpkins.
This year we had one primary employee, Kris. He has returned to college and will be missed. With shorter days and less help it is always a challenge to get in all this fall stuff.
We're beginning to change gears. The natural slowing of sales and gradual shortening of daylight is a welcome relief from the hectic pace of August. Still plenty to do.
We have begun the harvest of many of the fall ornamental crops as well as the winter squash. The winter squash is very abundant, so we will be wholesaling some of that crop. Considering I only got in one spray on the Indian corn, I'm pleased with how it looks. Not bad.
At the market we are preparing for sales of mums, pumpkins and pansies. The pansies are beautiful. Our cut flower pick-your-own patch is still attracting attention.
Some of the summer crops are still hanging in there, so display space is at a premium. As soon as the watermelons are finished and the lopes fizz we will have room for the ornamentals.
Fall broccoli is looking good as well as the turnip patch. We will soon be picking kale again.
The shorter days are putting a pinch on my productivity. I took delivery of a new rototiller about two weeks ago and it was just this weekend that I managed to find the time to uncrate it and move it from the roadside where we dropped it from the delivery truck.
We just plowed up some sweet potatoes. The clay ground made for some muddy potatoes. They will need to be washed. We also plowed up the last couple rows of regular potatoes. We were pleased to find one row of red pontiacs. We were running short on those at the stand.
This past weekend we began picking the last planting of summer squash. It has been a challenge keeping them alive in this wet weather. Today Cindy picked the first picking of yellow beans from our last planting of beans. There are some green string beans coming on soon.
Cindy mentioned today that she will begin picking broccoli tomorrow. She says the kale doesn't look too good and she's not sure if we'll get anything out of it or not.
Stand sales now include mums, gourds, Indian corn, pumpkins, broom corn, summer squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, apples, tomatoes, peppers, onions, sweet corn, herbs, pansies, okra and more....
We will probably mow down the cut-flower patch this week to make room for another wagon of pumpkins. As usual most of the spent crops still sit fallow. As much as I'd like to see things turned under and seeded with a cover crop, I never quite seem to find the time to get it done.
I finally got the new rototiller put together and tried it out. Boy, is that nice. It is much heavier than the previous one. In fact, if I didn't have the creeper gears on the tractor I doubt that it would even handle it. It has about a foot more width and it's about 300 pounds heavier than the old one.
We are still picking beans, brocolli, and summer squash. This is unusual for this late in the season. Sales at the stand have slowed a bit to the point that we put it on self-serve most of the day now. Cindy and crew have been working on pulling up plastic and drip tape, cleaning out the greenhouses and dumping some bedding plants we know we won't sell.
Cindy's donkey, Edy, has been a little out of sorts this week. The vet came today and "lubed" her with some mineral oil. Never a dull moment.
We are fast approaching the end of the season. We're still picking brocolli, kale, turnip, and radish. Everything else is kaput. We're still sitting on a good supply of fall ornamentals, sweet potato and regular potatoes. There are also a couple of baskets of zuchinni and yellow squash in the shed. That's hard to believe!
Cindy and crew have done a great job of putting the farm to bed for the winter. Other than finishing up turning under and cover cropping there won't be much to do after next week.
One other big job left to do is mowing the Hyde farm and the back section of the Smith property. First I have to find the old John Deere in the weeds. Can't even see it from the road! (Guess I must be a red-neck, I mowed the lawn and found my tractor.)
Edy, the donkey, is still under the weather. We have another rabbit. When will it ever end.
We closed the stand on the evening of Halloween. Hurray! It would be nice to have the money coming in, but not nice enough to drag it on any longer. Sales had slowed dramatically for the last week.
There are still a few details to attend to in wrapping up the season. I still have a couple of acres to till and seed with cover crop. The tractors need to be winterized and put away. There are still a few other things like finding a winter parking spot for the five wagons, putting away baskets and finding a home for the few left-over things like sweet potatoes and winter squash.
I think we're going to let the broccoli go for a bit longer in hopes of getting a picking or two for the freezer. Too bad we don't like turnips. I have enough turnip still growing to feed Pasadena.
Thanks for following the season with us. We hope to see you 'Down on the Farm.'
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