The weather seems to have stabilized a bit.   We’ve had one full day without rain and today is looking clear.  The predicted 36 deg. low on Wednesday turned into 40 deg. here at the house.  The zucchini transplants were planted in the ground yesterday, and even though the night time lows are staying well above freezing,  I used the heavy row cover to cover the tender plants.

Zuchinni Transplants

The 0.9 -oz/sq.yd. AG 30 feels like a down comforter next to the thin cottony sheet of the AG 19 at 0.55-oz/sq.yd.  The AG 30 is noticeably less permeable to water, and so I’m glad the soil profile was nearly saturated when we covered up the little plants.  Cucurbits are challenging to grow profitably in our cool climate.  Last year we harvested about 6 cucumbers off a 200 ft. row.  The zucchini is not nearly as touchy, but every little degree, especially at night,  makes a difference.

The second succession of peas went in the ground on Monday, twenty five days after the first.  For the first time we are trying tall vine varieties.  The thought is that the coolness of the summer will allow the longer lived vines to produce more per bed foot than the shorter varieties.  Our limited growing space of one acre  has instigated some management decisions like this.  Growing on less acreage also allows time in our schedule for building trellis for the climbers.

Peas on TrellisI’m always amused when I go to nurseries and see plants like peas or carrots being sold as transplants.  I think about the excited gardeners who buy these starts and spend hours transplanting and I cringe.  I have contemplated a meathod of starting peas in the greenhouse in trough-like cells that can be laid out by the foot and my friends at Blue Fox Farm have turned my head concerning corn transplants, but the simple efficiency of direct seeding can not be denied.

The Planet Jr. is one of my favorite tools.  It’s like an old truck that requires 5 simultaneous actions to get the engine started.  It takes time to discover which hole size to use for each variety of seed, which I  slightly alter depending on the soil conditions I encounter in the field.   I record each seeding event and through the years spend less and less time thinning and more time admiring this simple machine.


Frosty Bridge

On my way to feed the goats  this mourning I noticed the distictive sheen of frost at my feet.  The min/max thermometer at the house said the low last night was 38.  It reads the temperature about 10ft above the bridge on the opposit side of the house.  I’ve never seen micro climates so evident as they are here.  Our field sits in a little depression surrounded by large cottonwoods.  This provides some protection from the wind, but the cold air seeps in from the surrounding area and drians right through the meadow following the drainage to the pond and bridge.  This morning was a very lite frost.  Even the dew covered grass on the edge of the bridge was heavy with water drops, not crystals.

As I woke up Monday morning and looked out the window blue sky shown through the trees for the first time in several days.  The last week has been unusually dark and wet.  Only .37” of rain is reported, but 4 days of clouds and sporadic rain is uncommon here.  We took advantage of the break in the weather and put the second round of transplants and seeds in the ground.

As the video above shows, the soil was pleasant to work with.  I am enjoying the sandy loam here more and more.  It is so forgiving and resilient.  The beds are coming out beautiful every time.  The JD 2130 and Maschio B have a role to play in that, too.  We went with the 70″ Maschio against the advice of Market Farm Implement.  They like to till the entire width of the wheel base.  With an outside dimension of 82″ I have 6″ or so on each side that is left untilled.  This allows me to drive a little closer to the previous bed without the rototiller compromising it.  As I drive back over the freshly tilled bed to make walking paths it is helpful to measure off  the tread marks left the soil.

The first round of bulb fennel was on the transplanting schedule.  They look better this year than last.  We left them in the greenhouse a little longer for the roots to develop more.

Fennel Transplanting The next day the rain returned.

Chicks 09-01The first round of broiler chicks arrived last Thursday, Juniper’s third birthday.  100 out of 100 survived the trip from Nebraska by US post and 100 out of 100 are still cheeping.  We are planning three rounds of 100 birds each this year.  Each round will stay in the brooder for about two weeks and then move to the pasture.  The birds will then be on the green grass for another 5-7 weeks scratching and eating in the shade of the moveable shelter.  Then we will set up the processing trailer and get to scalding and plucking.  Last year was our first experience with pastured poultry.  We raised and processed around 200 birds wtih the help of some friends and the great products at Featherman Equipment Company and Premier One.  This year I ordered the birds in March to lock in the dates we wanted.  The plan is to process the first round  right before Rocky Grass weekend and then hightail it to Lyons for a bluegrass gettaway.

Turnips Sprouting

It has been a week and a half since I put the first seeds in the ground.  We are 8 days earlier than last year on the calendar date, but it feels like 2 weeks or more considering the warmth of the land and speed of growth.  Last year the peas waited over 2 weeks just to break the surface and a cold spell in late May kept the growth at a stand still.  This year the peas came up in 10 days and the weather for the next week looks stable and warm.  I was amazed at the turnips this year.  Their seed leaves unfurled under the row cover 6 days after planting.  Since the rush of spring is feeling strong we decided to put the first round of green beans in the ground today.  Last year the first round of beans was lost to a June 13th frost.  Warm weather crops are always a gamble here, but it can be worth it if we are able to get an early harvest.  I’ve never grown such long, perfect, crisp green beans as I have here.  The low pest pressure and mild summer temperatures provide great growing conditions.  I expect I will need to pull out the heavy weight row cover again to buffer another chilly night, but it’s these times of decision and action that make farming ever interesting.Shadow Seeding

My night job is on hold while the renovations to the new building are finished.  It’s nice to have entire days to work on the long project list.  Here are two recent completions.

Garden Carts

We brought three broken down carts with us when we moved from the Front Range.  I’m amazed we  survived the last two seasons without them.  Parts from the three carts, $100, and a little welding transformed them into two solid veggie hauling machines.  Over the past two years of production we used a cart with four small wheels and an expanded metal deck.  The 26” wheels on these beauties will make traveling across irrigation pipe and the uneven pasture much easier.

Caitlin is doing most of the greenhouse work herself this year.  She requested I make a dibbler to speed things up when seeding flats.  We are using black plastic 72 square cell trays.

Greenhouse Dibbler 1

The dibbler makes a 1/4 inch depression in each cell.  The seeds are placed in the depression and then lightly covered with soil mix.  This technique came to us from using a soil blocker that left a similar dibble.  When we have our own greenhouse we want to resume the soil blocks, but for now the plastic is a bit less labor intensive.

Greenhouse Dibbler 2

The base of the dibbler is 1/2″ plywood.  Each dibble is a 1/4″ x 1″ carrige bolt with 1/4″ lock washers and lock nuts.  As you can see in the picture some are 4 washers and a nut, some are 1 plain nut,  1 washer and 1 lock nut,  They are all the same dimension, but you get a little more metal for the money with the nuts.  The two bolts on the edge out of line with the rest are guides.

Greenhouse Dibbler 3

When making the dibbles, the two guide bolts hit the outside of the flat and the edge of the base lines up with the ribs of the flat.  The grid of bolts then is positioned to make the dibbles in the center of each cell.  This project cost about $10.  It was worth every penny in the amount of time it saves and the difference it makes in germinating seed.

onion-planting-09-1We transplanted onions and leeks today.  We are about two weeks ahead of schedule and with plants from Delaware, not the greenhouse.  We started seed ourselves, but formidable pest problems caused us to look for another option.  Earlier this year Cait noticed an ad for a farm that sells transplants in Growing For Market.  I called Deep Grass Nursery and they were able to supply everything we needed.  We aim to start all our own seed, but it is nice to know that there are back up options available.  dibbling-09-01 In the same issue of Growing For Market there is an article about growing perfect leeks, which has a picture of a dibbler.  Here is my prototype.  It worked great, especially compared to our other method,  a 12” stick laid flat on the ground.

The soil in the picture above was perennial grass 13 months ago.  Last year transplanting was difficult and pushing the seeder was nearly impossible.  Multiple passes with the chisel plow, disk and rototiller were unable to break up all the sod.  The difference this year is striking.  There are still some traces of the old sod, but for the most part the dibbler sank to the hilt with out obstruction.  I find good soil much like good sushi, buttery and smooth.  We are not there yet,  but I am excited to see how plant growth will be affected after a year of decompostion and the addition of compost and Planters II.