I've been feeling quite anxious about our salad mix this spring, only because I have been completely overwhelmed with other things (WEDDING!!) and so I have been neglectful and unable to spend the time I wanted to on this project. We've got the wedding out of the way, so this weekend we tackled weeding, big time. Here's a photo that shows our different strengths as farmers:
That's Jon on the tractor, using a tractor-mounted flame weeded to annihilate the weeds in two beds' that have become too weedy to plant into since we tilled. Next to him, notice the solid green strip, and the beets I was rescue weeding. The front of that row is not worth weeding, not only is it solid, but it was the earliest planting and as our lettuce was so slow getting started, its time has passed, anyhow (as in, even if we HAD weeded it, it would be too big to be mixed with the lettuce now anyhow-- so, cut our losses and move on, no harm done!). You wouldn't catch me on a tractor, but I'm happiest harvesting or weeding, luckily there is lots of both to come with this project! I secretly like when the weeds are gigantic because it makes it look like you've made a lot of progress-- except that you don't, and it takes FOREVER. Anyhow, in 4 hours on Sunday we got lots of progress made on the weeds and a game plan for the next rounds of weeding.
We also did some transplanting last week, which generally means that we're starting seeds for more transplants, as this is a continual harvest project. We decided to move our transplants from the greenhouse because we were unhappy with some of the signs of stress on the most recent batch-- They look like they are getting too hot and not being watered evenly, and taking over care of the transplants at the farm would be too much-- Require us to be checking less than 10 trays multiple times a day including if we want a day off. So, we are starting them at home, and have had good success so far-- Germination is about 25% better than the most recent batch, and it's really just getting too hot for lettuce in the greenhouse, so we're glad we decided to bring some farm home with us. Here's the newly germinated lettuce babies on our front porch:
Jon's been keeping up his end of the plan astoundingly well thus far, and I feel like I haven't been keeping up my end of the bargain, so look for much more frequent blog posts from now on!
So, here's a couple more shots of the fields:
Now, to devolve into a stream of gorgeous photos of lettuce (again!!):
--> Farmer Jon inspecting our brassica crop, under row cover to protect from the rampant flea beetle. We will need to replant some. :(
<-- Jon collecting trays for transplanting from the greenhouse
We've run into a rather disappointing cutworm issue. There is a whole section of red butter lettuce that has been munched. Yesterday I replaced all the transplants that had been hammered by cutworms. First, it requires pulling out the dead or damaged transplant and finding the damn worm that feasted on it. After he is squashed, it is safe to put in another transplant. I replaced the holes with a frisee type instead of the butter type lettuce, as they seem to prefer the butter lettuce (so do I, go figure!!). Here's one culprit, shortly before he met his maker. :)
Field view, from the tractor seat (I had to hold my foot on the brake so the tractor wouldn't roll down the hill while Jon got the flame weeder set up). Cheetah, Orina, and Shirley Jr. will have babies at any time, you can see them in their pasture next to the field.
Jon flame weeding in the background, while I transplanted.
Last night we seeded 4 more trays and then I transplanted a tray while Jon direct seeded some arugula and asian greens. By Friday night I am pretty much mush, and so we will head back this morning to put in the rest of the 5 trays. In our initial planning, we had hoped to have production for 20 weeks,but that plan has been revised (we hope to have a nice fall and make up a few weeks later in the year).
It's honestly been really hard to fit this in with my life-- Jon has been doing the lion's share of the work involved so far. I have been wholly consumed with the details of wedding planning, and very focused on making sure that my guests who are spending a lot of money and time to come here have an awesome time. I've had too much on my plate in the volunteer realm, and so have cut down my 4 - 6 hours per week to more like 4 -6 hours per month. It makes me sad that I can't do it all, but most nights I can't keep my eyes open past 9 pm, and I was wasting away due to digestive issues that my lifestyle (as in, not taking care of myself) aggravates. So, I'm just saying No to taking on any new commitments at this point, and it feels really good to say no! :)
For various reasons, Jon and I have a bit of debt that has followed us. Exacerbated by some poor decisions on our part re: income a couple years ago, this year we want it GONE... (Basically, so we can incur more debt!) We've been really feeling the push lately to just go for it and get ourselves a farm; however, the decision of where we want to spend a majority of our lives, growing our business and raising children, is a big one, and not to be entered into lightly. We also want to get some financial things squared away first, and unfortunately despite our frugal lifestyle, we're still slow to get to our goal. In this in-between stage of becoming farmers, we are maintaining a certain lifestyle to support our busy work schedules, and are not able to reap some of the benefits of living ON our own farm (growing our own meat and eggs, putting money into a mortgage rather than renting, etc). I know some farming friends that can live off of $15,000 income each year-- but, they produce nearly all of their food needs on their farm, and they can run a lot of expenses through the business. For Jon and I to eat, have a place to live, have a trip home to visit family each year, maintain and fuel our car, and pay our bills, it takes about 65% of our income-- So, if we want to go out to dinner, or pay off debt, or buy something non-essential-- that 35% goes pretty fast! It's frustrating and there's times I feel like we are just spinning our wheels not going anywhere, which is not a nice feeling, especially as I turn 30 at the end of this year!
<-- Salad mix selfie!
But, on the bright side, each and every day we are getting closer to our goal. And as much as I resent how much time I have wasted on wedding planning this spring, getting married is checking off yet another step in the process towards getting our own farm. For some reason it's important to me-- I see a lot of my peers not bothering to get married, but I can't wait to marry my partner, and couldn't ask for a better one, so I want everyone I love to know that. Jon is literally good at everything that I'm not, and most things I detest doing he loves, and vice versa. As a farming team we are unstoppable, and I can't wait to get moving!
Some qualities that we are looking for in our future farm include:
to be a working farm, and already have some existing infrastructure (buildings, septic, drilled well, house, barn, etc). Waaay more value to Jon and I if we can find someone's gem already in process: starting from scratch is expensive and complicated, and the kind of task we dislike.
Good soil. The Elliot Colemans of the world who are selling you books will tell you all the things that you can do to build up poor soil, and you can do it and even have some success, but there's no substitute for starting with healthy soil in the first place! That way, we don't have to worry about building our business AND building our soil at the same time, when good production is critical.
Ideally, enough land to cultivate about 20 acres and be able to rotate pasture and production land.
A place for goats. I still need to learn to eat & cook goat meat as part of that, but I am certain I can enjoy eating all animals: we have a strict "no pet" policy on the farm, all animals must earn their keep and be part of the system (minus Bear and Maverick who are grandfathered in!)
Within 1 hr of HRM or a similar marketplace. If you're going to have to drive the rest of your life to market your goods, might as well consider having a shorter commute!
This is it! The little piece of land Jon and I have rented to use this season to grow salad mix. Jon has been staying after hours for the past week to get things ready to go: he tilled after the nutriwave (fertilizer) was spread & laid black plastic in preparation for us to transplant last night. We put in 4-1/2 trays, 4 of lettuce (salanova) and 1/2 of the nagoya garnish red kale. Mother nature even watered for us last night!
Jon grew the most gorgeous transplants I've ever seen! We were maybe a week behind in planting them, so some of the varieties were a little big, but that's how she goes with farming-- working in reality, not ideal. In general, we are a couple of weeks behind where we thought we'd be at this point, so our plan is revised to a shorter season (were hoping for 20 weeks of production in the planning stages). Which is fine, because it possibly means I won't be harvesting salad in my wedding dress!