Spring planting season begins

Overview of the main veggie garden, seen from the location of the future forest garden

The main veggie garden, viewed from the location of the future forest garden, 20 March, 2011

This week finally saw the beginning of the direct-seeding planting season, and the first of the field work in earnest.  Even though things have been quite busy at school, with the end of the term, extraordinary feats accomplished by the CMA basketball program, spring break approaching, and Xenia preparing to depart on a Spring Break Mission Trip and such, I’ve still been able to get a fair bit of work done on the farm.  Not enough, of course.  If I weren’t behind, I don’t know what I’d do with my life!

Anyway, I like this time of year.  The farm starts to really look like a “real farm”, in that you see big empty squares of dirt.  That’s rare at Hole in the Woods, for a couple of reasons.  First, of course, is that we’re really on the border between what you could really call a “farm,” as opposed to a “really big market garden, with a bit of livestock on the side” (give us a few more years to expand production, and we’ll be squarely in the “farm” category!).  Second, more deliberate, is our use of green manures, cover crops, and permaculture elements.  We try to avoid bare ground as much as possible, to both preserve and create fertility, so images like the one to the left are rare, and fleeting.

Wow, long intro.  So, here is a rundown of the exciting developments of the week: Continue reading “Spring planting season begins” »

Our Mushroom Experiment Begins

a stack and a half of logs for mushroom cultivation

Our First Mushroom Logs

Last week, a crew hired by REMC cleared the power line right of way along the road, as well as through our woods, and along the driveway.  Unlike anywhere else I’ve lived, the crew called about two weeks prior to coming out to let me know they’d be there, and asked if I had any concerns.  I told them to leave any wood chips, and explained that we were a Certified Naturally Grownfarm, and our concerns that they be as gentle as possible in their work.  They also promised they’d be able to leave the largest stretch of right-of-way through the middle of our property in a state where I could mow it, and thus avoid any need for future visits (much of the tree-of-heaven I clearned in the fall from that area had actually re-grown from stumps from the last time this had been done).

Like everywhere I’ve been before, they were pretty brutal.  They chopped off several ancient trees along the north fence, tearing down about 280 feet of fence in the process, cut down a huge pine tree along the road that wasn’t any closer to the lines than many they left, and apparently, contrary to the legal description of our lot, the REMC right-of-way is apparently about 140 feet wide.  They leveled everything in a swath that wide, in places even wider, with a machine that looked like the illegitimate child of a root grapple and a rotary spader (which they also left parked in our yard for 5 days).  Finally, for no apparent reason, they cut down our sassafras clump.  It’s doubtful they would have ever come close to threatening the power lines.  Of course, they left most of their mess.  About the only thing they chipped was the sassafras, so i couldn’t even make root beer with it!

So, in this busiest of times of year, when we’re also needing to get the place looking great for our wedding, we have many large trees down (some so big then when I tried to drag them with the tractor to more advantageous places to cut ‘em up, I couldn’t even get them to budge!), and a fast swath through the middle of the property that looks like the remains of a clear-cut logging opperation.  Which makes sense, since that’s what it was.

So, what to do? Continue reading “Our Mushroom Experiment Begins” »

The Great Soil Block Experiment – part 2

Just a minor update to the soil block experiment this week…  Sorry, no photos.  But, here’s the status of things:

About 50% of the pepper seedlings started in the 3/4″ cubes have already germinated!  The first pepper germinated in just 5 days.  It seems that not only does using such small cubes maximise the use of the seedling heating mat, but, probably because they’re smaller and heat more efficiently, they also seem to benefit from it even more.

About 20% of the leeks have also germinated.  Also, a mouse got to them and dug a hole through the middle of four of them.  I hate mice…

I received my 4″ x 4″ block maker, but have not yet tried it.  It’s extremely well made, and even our machinist/farmer (and he’s a bit of an artist of a machinist) neighbor was impressed with the quality of its construction.  Which must explain the high price…  The volume of soil it looks like it would need is staggering, so hopefully I’ll only need it for a handful of plants.

I need to pot up the celery and celeriac seedlings, but they’re also VERY weak and spindly.  I think they spent too much time after they germinated and before I got the lights set up, and may not recover.  Ug.  I’ve never grown celery well, but, then again, it’s difficult to get horribly excited by.

The Great Soil Block Experiment – part 1

2x2 inch soil blocks

2x2" soil blocks, freshly planted with 4 leek seeds each

A couple of years ago, I bought a “mini-20″ and a 2″ x 2″ x 4 block soil maker. Seed starting in soil blocks is supposed to prevent transplants from becoming pot-bound, eliminate transplant shock, and avoid the need to store and sterilize a bunch of potting trays all of the time. And, I never used them – until this year.

There’s a great deal of very positive hype about soil blockers for seed starting, but almost all that I have seen comes from either Eliot Coleman (a man I greatly respect, but just one guy, after all) or people selling the things. Since there isn’t a whole lot of info out there from people actually using them, I thought it might be useful to record my results for folks throughout this season here.
Continue reading “The Great Soil Block Experiment – part 1” »

New Family Members!

Two new alpacas we rescued in 5 March, 2011

The two new boys

Last night, we received two new family members - two more rescued alpacas.  These guys, both males, are between a year and a two and a half years old, but have never been named!  The fact that they haven’t been named is, I’m sure, related to why they needed to be rescued (a complicated story I won’t go into now).

Both have gorgeous fiber, though they will never achieve their full size because of their mistreatment.  But, as we are a fiber farm and not trying to breed show animals, they’ll fit in well with our herd. Don’t let the (very bad) photo fool you – they aren’t red.  That’s rust stains from where they were fostered for a couple of weeks before we got them.  One is white and fawn, and the other is white, which will help add a bit of diversity to our color selection.  They’re all wet and pathetic looking in the rain today, but I’ll try to post more photos soon, when the weather is more conducive.

So, we’re looking for names…  Like I said, they’re not really red, so no Viking suggestions like “Leif” or “Eric.” We do have two name candidates: “Lincoln” for the fawn one, because he has Abe Lincoln-esque lamb chops, and “Rooster” for the white, because he is very vocal, and his voice sounds like a young rooster learning to crow.  But, we want suggestions!  There may even be a prize (though we don’t know what yet…). 

So, please suggest names, either via comments here, or via our Facebook page.  I’ll post additional photos on facebook when the weather is better, to help spur your name-creativity.