02 July 2011

Royal and the Big Hale Bale

We bought some huge round hay bales last week but the cows haven't been very interested in eating them. People say you can feed cows a low quality hay, but ours are a little picky. We supplement with fresh vegetables from the farm and alfalfa and all sorts of treats, so we aren't afraid that they are going hungry or are short of protein or other nutrients. At the same time, we have all this hay and it is has too many seeds to use as mulch and really we prefer to get a couple of uses out of the hay - first as feed then as compost if you get my meaning.

So, Karl thought it would be fun to roll a whole bale into the pasture and see what the cows did with it. We had some idea of how Royal would react - he often plays with his food - so we all gathered around to watch! Luckily Karl Jr had his phone with him to capture some of the fun. 

Some of you have seen these bales in our driveway, but for those who haven't, they are about 6 feet tall and well over 6 feet across. Within about 10 minutes the whole thing was reduced to a messy heap and the cows were happily munching away at it. Even Juno, the calf, had a little taste. You can see her dash off to the right towards the beginning of the video. She is almost one month old now and just starting to try solid foods. She won't be weaned for months yet. As the herd all live together all of the time, she will nurse as long as her mother, Tessie, will allow it or until she moves to another farm.

24 May 2011

Not a fig!

Can you spot the skink? I don't think I have ever seen quite such a colourful one before. His red throat should make him very popular with the ladies!
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22 May 2011

2011 CSA Season Opener!

That's right. The 2011 spring/summer share season (try saying that three times quickly) begins on Tuesday. If you are a subscriber for this season and have not received an email from me this week, please check your spam filters and spam folders. If you still do not see mail from me, please let me know so I can re-send them to you. Farm pick-up people should have received 1 email, delivery people should have received 2.

If you are new to eating lots of fresh, local vegetables you might want to make sure you have the right tools on hand. A knife, fork and plate are the only real essentials, and you could probably get away without those. But if you want to go all the way you will need a good paring knife, a chopping board and a salad spinner. Make some space in your refrigerator and you'll be all set.

02 April 2011

The Rainmaker

Every time I set foot outside today, it rains. Well, perhaps that is an exaggeration - it did hail once and there was that thunderstorm. It is sunny again now (and thundering), but the drill needs recharging. Not the seed drill, though I can see why you might think that. This particular drill is a very picky little battery powered drill-holes-in-the-wall type drill. I am using it to drill holes in oak logs so that I can hammer little wooden plugs into the holes. It's a bit like that toy you had as a small child, hammer in the pegs, then turn it over and hammer them in again. These particular pegs have been inoculated with Shitaake mushroom spores and we are experimenting with them for the first time.

If all goes well we should have Shitaake mushrooms in the fall. Probably not enough to sell this time around, but if it works, we are thinking of expanding into some serious mushroom production. We have the humidity, might as well make it work for us!

The spores came from FungiPerfecti and so did the instructions.

Tools: a 5/16in drill bit, a power drill that works (although I might try the brace drill soon), a small unused paint brush and a rubber mallet.

Materials: logs, mushroom spores, cheese wax.

Method: drill holes, bang in spore plugs, coat holes with melted cheese wax, wait a long time.

Sorry no pictures today - it's raining again!

01 April 2011

Onion Planting

We are planting onions today, lots and lots of onions. We ordered 3600 plants this year, but we didn't count to make sure they were all there!

Most are a little smaller than a pencil.Karl and Dan got half of them planted today, the rest will go in tomorrow. It is backbreaking work and it's cold outside. I am glad I chose the blogging option.

Can you see him?

A Spring Peeper
When I came out to take pictures we spotted a tiny frog hopping along the rows.

That was also when we noticed the wonky rows! I know it is April Fool's Day, but Dan insists they did not do it on purpose!

23 March 2011

Finished Greenhouse

The greenhouse has been just about finished for a while now and is already home to some lovely cabbage and onion seedlings.

There are a few more things to do - install more shelving, paint the inside walls, fix the spot where the rain comes in if the wind is blowing from the south! It's a very specific leak - luckily for us, the weather has been a bit odd of late and we found the problem much more quickly than we anticipated. Not that we anticipated a leak because the wind never, ever blows from the south, especially not while it is raining.

Chinese Cabbage seedlings
Leak or no leak, I love our recycled window greenhouse and it is a nice place to sit and have a coffee when it is just a little too chilly to sit outside.

Cabbage seedlings

Radicchio sprouts

02 March 2011

Soil Test Results

My inner nerd loves to pore over the soil test results. Most farms do not test every year, but we like to keep a very close eye on things. Yearly soil tests mean we never guess at how much lime to apply or exactly which nutrients are needed. Our fertilizer is custom blended - and certified organic - by Countryside Naturals in Waynesboro,Virginia.

Marking the boundaries
Soil testing begins with a walk of the field and a look at our production figures from the previous year. Although everything is grown in one field, the soil and output varies. The southwest corner is sandier and slopes to the west. The northeast corner has been under production for longer - we put our first raised beds here - and as such it has been amended more and usually tests better than other parts of the field. That's right, we test different parts of the field separately.

Hole already filled in!
Once we have decided the boundaries of each testing area, Karl digs a series of holes in a random pattern across the area. He then takes a slice of soil from the side of each hole and mixes those slices together in a clean bucket. A couple of scoops of soil are then taken from the bucket and sent to the lab. Here's where I give a shout out to A&L Eastern Labs in Richmond, Virginia - fantastic job as always and so fast!
Collecting the bagged samples

The next step for us is sending the results to Kevin at Countryside so he can mix individual fertilizers for each of our tested areas. Then comes the road trip fun part - you have not lived until you have met up with a fertilizer delivery truck in a gas station parking lot! Dan from Countryside drives about in his truck and meets up with customers in different parking lots to save us all the drive down to Waynesboro. Unfortunately our usual meet is on the first Thursday of the month at Haymarket, but we needed to place our order a few days in advance - a deadline we obviously missed. Our next chance to meet with Dan is at Warrenton on the 4th Thursday.

06 February 2011

Greenhouse Progress

It is starting to look like a greenhouse. We are using old storm windows that we found on Craigslist. Hopefully it will be warm enough tomorrow to get the frames painted. We still need a few more windows, but will block in the spaces with plywood for now. We have an old storm door that will go next to where Jack is standing and another glass panel that we will use on the back wall to allow light into the barn (which will have walls eventually).
We have clear roof panels ready to install - you can see those resting on the milking stanchion. I would really like to get those on before it rains again.

04 February 2011

Seeds Ordered Early This Year.

I decided to order our seed potatoes today. I don't usually order this early, but something told me today was the day. In retrospect the day should have been about three weeks ago!

Our usual potato supplier - Ronnigers - merged with another farm and is offering fewer varieties than usual. Worse than that - they have already sold out of the best ones! It's ok I can always buy organic seed potatoes from Johnny's Selected Seeds. We buy lots of seed from them, we should be fine. Wrong. They too are sold out of the all blues, or the all reds, I forget which but really what good is a red, white and blue potato salad if one of the good colours is missing?

Moose Tubers! I love Fedco but had never ordered from their "tuber division" before. Thank goodness for Moose Tubers. They didn't have the imaginatively named "All Reds" or the equally creative "All Blues" but they did have a completely red potato and a completely blue potato. I ordered Adirondack Blue, Adirondack Red (it sounded like they would go together well) and a white dutch potato called Bintje (probably means "white with a brown skin" in Dutch).

But the title says seeds ordered, not seed potatoes ordered!
How observant you are. While flitting from catalog to catalog, webpage to webpage, I noticed they all had one thing in common. A lot of things were already sold out. I don't know about you, but I want to buy what I want, not just whatever is left on the shelf somewhere, so it seemed like I should order everything now before the cold war style queues begin.