Saturday, April 5, 2014

And away we go!

Some photos from the past week. FINALLY warm enough to get some work done outside. This has been a long and cold winter so it's a real pleasure to get plants and seed in the ground. Not a moment too soon either, we've been starting to get a little snippy with each other when we're both in the office.


We use an old farmall 140 to disc

Hannah follows up with the grillo walk behind tiller

plants in our small propagation house. We're hoping to upgrade in 2015

This is the completed 30' x 96' high tunnel

the view inside. It's unheated but we're able to grow crops straight through the winter. Note the roll up sides. On sunny days it gets hot fast and we have to vent it


Saturday, March 30, 2013

It's spring already, and we never even posted pictures from last Fall. We ran into some technology issues that kept us from downloading pictures for several months (easily solved by a $6 universal card reader, but still causing months of delay). So here's a quick visual catch up of the past several months:
Late October Market. One of the few times we got to do a market together. Woohoo!


Lower field in November


The great wall of carrots in our cooler in December. (those are 25 lb bags). We just sold the last of them last week (late March).







Luckily they were really excellent carrots.
We got to trial this bike powered root crop washer that our friend Lu Yoder designed and made. Pretty awesome! You can see Lu's Youtube video on it if you want to see it in action.








Real winter hit the farm in February... and stayed till the end of March.
This is the cute little greenhouse we built behind our house to hold seedlings. It's getting pretty full at this point, time to transplant some seedlings into the fields.

But our big project this winter was a much bigger greenhouse. We were hoping to have it up by Thanksgiving. ...ha ha ha... We're just finishing now (late March).



We're pretty excited to have a big covered space. We're also excited to wrap up this project so we can fully focus on growing food again. We're better at farming than we are at construction! And It's planting season again.



Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Chicken Experiment


Ben bringing the box of baby chicks to their new home. Yes, they are shipped in a box through the mail. And yes, the box is in fact labeled baby chicks, and it makes lots of "cheep cheep" noises.
Day one in thier new home. These little fuzz balls are about 48 hours old. So cute! They're running around at full speed already.
Here's one of those fuzz balls about 8 weeks later. They were loving life out on pasture. They were little eating machines, filling up on grass and insects, organic grain, and lots of veggies. Their favorites were tomatoes and melons

     That first bach of birds is done now, turned into meat in our chest freezer.  (Delicious! and for sale. So let us know if you want some). We have a second batch of 50 birds, almost 4 weeks old now, on pasture. Raising chickens has been a fun experiment so far. We've learned a lot including
We're not gonna make much money raising chickens. Chickens grow ridiculously fast! About as fast as a head of lettuce, which seems totally crazy.

We really like having animals around. They're way more entertaining than TV.

(Sorry for the dated post--we had trouble getting this one up and running. That second batch is now also in the freezer, sent off to slaughter just hours before hurricane Sandy came to town. Different breed, different temperament, still delicious.)



Sunday, June 17, 2012

Farmers' Markets getting started

Hannah at the opening day of the Providence Downtown Market


Our Season has just gotten busier. Farmers' Markets are getting started, and, thankfully, we've got some stuff to sell. Salad greens are going strong and we've got really nice head lettuce as well. We also have radishes, hakurei turnips which we market as Japanese Salad turnips, kale, chard, sugar snap peas, garlic scapes and even some flowers. So far so good. People have been showing up and we've finally started to go to the bank to do more than withdraw. We have lots more that it is really close to ready to pick which is important. We try to keep it exciting for folks by always having a few new things to choose from as the season progresses, and it looks like that will be the case so we're pleased with how the marketing season has gotten started.

It's also been our opportunity to unfurl our new logo. This off season Jim Sullivan, who is Jean White's (owner of Holly Hill Farm, dear friend) son in law had some fun with Skinny Dip Farm as his theme and came up with the art you see on the banner behind Hannah in the photo above. We couldn't be more pleased. It still cracks me up when I look at it and fits with the Skinny Dip Farm vibe that we're cultivating perfectly. It's funny, we didn't even talk to Jim about specifics and he just nailed it. Our thanks to him!

A little catch up:

Hannah and I made varsity rock picking this year. It really is a team sport and one that should not be taken on lightly by couples. One of us is up on the tractor using the bucket loader to get in under the big rocks that we're unable to remove by hand, shovel or rock bar. The catch is that the bucket of the tractor totally blocks the view of the person on the tractor, so whoever is on the ground has to communicate the millions of subtle cues that would have the tractor operator inching forward while dropping the height and angle of the bucket all at once. Oh, and the tractor is loud, so all that communication needs to be through hand signals and facial expressions. Luckily the new field that we were getting ready to plant this spring is incredibly rocky so we got lots of practice.

Our biggest achievement of the rock picking season
We started plowing up the lawn at our new house in Little Compton. The idea is to grow cover crops this year to build soil organic matter and fertility so that we can crop it this fall and next year. We're really looking forward to having some of our farming closer to home. Much of our planning is coming straight from the kitchen and goes something like this, "I think we should grow our herbs here next year because this salad dressing could really use some thyme." Whatever we're lacking from the recipe, that's what we want to grow at home next year. We're especially excited to get started with planting perennials and have a long wish list. So far we've probably plowed up over an acre but our list keeps growing so I think it's fair to say that our lawn's days are numbered. It's just a matter of time.

Ben on the Farmall turning over lawn
We turned in quite a lot of cover crop this spring, which feels great. Cover cropping is something that I have been wanting to do more of for a long time. At Holly Hill Farm space was so limited and the fields were so wet that we were not able to cover crop as often as we would have liked. At our new spot we have enough open ground to be able to take big chunks out of production for whole seasons and can grow cover crops on them and really focus on getting them more alive. The smell of the the soil a few weeks after turning in the overwintered rye and vetch was so satisfying. It smelled like finished compost, earthy and rich. All of the soil microbiology populations skyrocketed after getting the special delivery of waist high rye and vetch and really came alive.

Mowing cover crop before spading it in  














Stuff is growing pretty well. We have been continuing to have some pest and fertility issues that have us scratching our heads. The ants are back, but not quite as aggressively. They, unfortunately, really love to do their mischief--chewing on plant stems at soil level--under row cover which we are using to block flea beetle attacks. So it's been a hard choice. Either we leave stuff covered to keep the flea beetles from chewing it full of holes or we leave the row cover on and find major ant damage after we've neglected to check under the cover for too long. Row cover, the white fabric covering rows of crops in the picture on the left above, has a magical tendency to leave stuff out of sight and out of mind, sometimes until it is too late. Like last year though, once soil temperatures got warm enough to think about planting tomatoes, stuff really started to grow better. I wish I could skip ahead and have the biology and fertility at really high levels, but I have to remind myself that we've only been farming this land for a little over a year. Patience.
Peas and Beets looking good
Come see us! We've been doing our part, working hard to grow all these veggies. Now we need folks to come to the markets and buy 'em. Help spread the word about where to buy our vegetables. Our markets are listed and linked to in the "Where We Sell" tab at the top of the page.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Spring already?!

I'm not sure what happened to winter. I feel like I blinked, and suddenly it's planting season again. Our to do list, and our seedlings are growing fast. 
The picture from our last post had summer squash and peppers in it, so I know it's been quite a while since we last wrote.
So where did winter go?
We've been juggling many different projects. A good amount of time was spent doing office work. Planning for our 2012 crops and markets, as well as completing all the paperwork to be certified a organic (we should get the official certification any week now).  Also sourcing equipment, thanks to the MEGA grant that is helping us with capital improvements this year. We recently bought a used fertilizer spreader and are in the process of buying a used walk in cooler! more improvements to come...
On the farm we've been maintaining equipment. (here covered in grease after greasing the many fittings on our spader)
We spent a significant amount of time burning brush piles. We are very pleased to finally be done with the enormous brush pile that was created at the north end of the farm before we signed our lease on the property. I wish I had "before" shots of how huge and ugly it was. It was a mountain of vines, stumps, mud and rocks.  I'm happy to report that it is now cleaned up and the whole area is cover cropped. 
It's been such a mild spring that we started planting in the field earlier than planned, and are about to harvest our first spring salad greens. We just made a big push on Friday and planted over 1/4 acre of potatoes. The big planting push next week will be onions.
This spring has also been extremely dry. The good news is that we put in a well (with help from an NRCS grant), and will soon be set up to irrigate. 
The bad news is that we had to drill 2 wells... the first was dry, ugh! But the second was not too deep, and seems to be very productive. The site of water pouring out of the ground from well number 2 sure was a relief! I'm sure we will soon become intimate with the headaches associated with irrigating... but for now, after essentially dry farming for the past 6 years, we are excited that we will soon be able to irrigate!

 
The other reason our winter was so busy is that we bought a house in Little Compton, RI (13 minutes from the farm). The process of buying it, and moving, as well as beginning to do some work on the house has taken a lot of time. Buying a house has been equally exciting and terrifying. The most exciting part about our new house is that it is on 2.5 acres of flat open land that the USGS soil maps tell us is prime agricultural soil. In the next week or so we'll be plowing up as much of the lawn as possible and planting cover crops, with the intention of growing crops on our own land beginning this winter. We'll keep leasing the farm in Westport and growing there too, but it's exciting to be land owners! We'll be able to put up greenhouses on our property too, which we hope will simplify springtime for us beginning next year. This spring we are very grateful to be borrowing greenhouse space from Northstar Farm again.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Slowing Down

Late fall abundance, pre-frost
 Hard to believe that Thanksgiving is a week from today. Things have simplified considerably, especially after we finally got a killing frost a few weeks back. It was a strange moment before then when we had snow before we had even had a hard frost. We still had sunflowers blooming the morning after the big storm until the next night which was cold, clear and sub-zero. That ended the run for the summer crops. We've been having quite a lot of warm weather since then though and much of what was left in the ground is frost hardy and still chugging away. We are starting to see the end of more and more things though. We just harvested to last of our beets and scallions and there's not much celeriac and cilantro left out there. This weekend we have three Thanksgiving markets which will hopefully take a big dent out of what's left. With our onions, butternut squash and other storage crops it's still a really nice selection and we're hopeful that folks will turn out for these markets and clear us out.
snow capped arugula, morning of October 30th
Some things we still have in abundance. We're tempting fate a little bit with our last planting of carrots. We've only harvested about a quarter of it and guesstimate that we still have about 600 pounds in the ground. The 10 day forecast keeps us patient though. The longer they're in the ground and exposed to cold temps the more sugar they'll store up. Winter carrots are really a treat--so sweet. Washing that many carrots is a daunting task to have on our radar, but it's been going well doing about 200 pounds at a time. When we finally cleared the last of the 'bolero', our late summer variety, there were some real monsters in there. We weighed one in at just over a pound and then had some post carrot washing, slap-happy fun with the camera. 





We got some excellent news this fall from the Mass Dept. of Ag Resources. Back in June we applied for their MEGA grant (matching enterprise grants for agriculture program). It's one of few grants that we've come across that actually seemed like it was designed for us. It is a program to assist new farmers in making capital investments and providing technical and business mentoring. We were selected and have started the process by meeting with our mentors to show them where the farm is now and what improvements we're hoping to make. Eventually we'll work together to plan how best to continue investing in our business and they'll match us dollar for dollar. That's awesome. We're like kids in a candy store: electric fencing, irrigation, spin spreader, wheel track cultivator, potato digger, disc harrow.... We're glad they're going to help us prioritize and decide.
The Van   



One investment we went ahead an made this year was a market truck. It was impossible to get all of our produce, tents, tables, flowers and assorted market necessities into our little pick up come July. We borrowed Steve's minivan (Thanks Northstar Farm!) for a couple of weeks before we bought the Ford cube van pictured above. It was a bit of a desperation move involving a last minute bid on Ebay, but it's proved to be a really solid vehicle and a great investment. It's even diesel, so when we have the time and money we can convert it over to run on waste vegetable oil like our 240D which we converted with my dad several years back. We've always wanted to deliver our veg running on veg, and ideally, get our tractors switched over as well. I know, I know...one step at a time--it's an exciting possibility though.
looking ahead
As we've started to slow down we've been spending a lot of time reviewing the season with an eye towards changes for next year. The picture above is of the lower field, which we did not grow vegetables in this year. We did manage to open up the ground and get a rye/ vetch cover crop planted to start building soil health and vitality for next year. Our hope for a long time now has been to have enough land to use a longer crop rotation. And there it is. A field that was not cropped at all this year ready for next year. It's satisfying to see and has us pondering what mix of crops we want to get into the plan for next season.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Catching our breath

 It's been 6 or 7 weeks since we had a moment to write. Or, truly, since we've had a moment to do just about anything. The farming season is far from over, but finally the pace is a bit more sane. If nothing else it gets dark earlier now, and it's awfully hard to farm in the dark (believe us, we've tried). The picture above was from early in August, when everything was looking a bit greener. By now the winter squash in that picture had died back, and just the other day we got all the winter squash and pumpkins into the shed. They're delicious! We're not sure what exactly is magic about our soil, but everything (carrots, cukes, squash...) is super sweet! We'll take it!
 August and early September were marked by a serious bounty of tomatoes, especially cherry tomatoes. Talk about sweet! We were picking up to 300 lbs of cherry tomatoes a week. Selling most, drying as many as we could on our food dehydrator (dried cherry tomatoes are amazing!)
 Also in the bountiful category has been the flowers. Several weddings' worth, and many farmers markets bouquets coming from the fields. We've been building flower customers. Ben's mom Addie has fully taken on the role of floral arranger, and has been a super help! And the bouquets are beautiful!

 A couple weeks ago we survived hurricane Irene. Overall things weathered the storm fairly well. The flowers particularly took a beating (the picture below is the same patch of sunflowers photographed above after the storm).  A few other things were particularly hard hit by the wind, and perhaps salt spray. It's hard to pin point whether the leaves suffered from wind burn or salt burn. But the hurricane  sped up the decline of our tomatoes.
 ... our tomatoes are pretty well done for the season (which is earlier than expected) ... but that's okay, we were pretty tired of picking them anyway. And replacing them is lots of fall veggies. Bountiful greens,
 Really nice sweet beets, and excellent sweet carrots.
We also have a beautiful crop of onions drying in the barn. And a ton of variety still coming out of the fields. The weather is getting cooler, and we're thrilled. We're loving coming home at the totally civilized hour of 8pm and roasting squash, onions, cabbage, leeks, potatoes, eggplant... mmm. Deliciousness.