Taking advantage of the mild temperature and lack of muddy conditions, I hooked up the rotary plow to the BCS and began breaking new ground. Two more contours were added to the front growing area. It’s hard to believe that we could have snow on the newly plowed ground by this time tomorrow!
Now that I’ve bored you with repeated images of snow…followed by more snow….and a bunch of funny dogs…I will proceed to begin inundating you with images of new beginnings.
It is always fascinating and thrilling to track the progress of a seed. I hope you will indulge me.
Just think about it….a dry little speck of a thing gets encased in a block of soil, gets spritzed with some water, gets shown some fluorescent lights and wham-mo….a plant emerges.
Miraculous, I tell you.
AND…in several weeks time, this newly emerged plant gets introduced to the sun and wind, gets transplanted into the earth, gets some sips of water from me or from rain, and then BINGO…we are eating deliciousness.
It’s crazy and constantly blows my mind! I love new beginnings!
Now for some technical info in case you are interested…this bit is going to be wordy:
- Using transplants in the garden is a way to have a little control over things (i.e. you KNOW if a seed has germinated…if it doesn’t, you’ve time to try again) and to get a jump-start on the season by putting a (hopefully) healthy plant into the ground, ready to rock and roll.
- For seed starting, I prefer using soil blocks.
- Using soil blocks allows me to avoid plastics (though plastics are reusable and relatively long-lasting)
- Soil blocks seem to give plants an edge by surrounding the seed with nutrients from the get-go (of course you have to start with a good quality growing medium/soil)
- Soil blocks allow for air pruning – as roots grow through the soil, the root tips stop growing when they are exposed to air, causing secondary roots to grow (i.e. a strong root system)
- Soil blocks make for easy transplanting – no popping plants out of plugs or flats…just put the block into the ground! Can’t get much easier than that.
- I use an all-purpose mixing tub (black plastic, about 20″ W x by 28″ L x 6″ H) to prepare my soil and water for making the soil blocks, usually to a cake batter consistency. You can certainly BUY soil block making tubs, but why? A Rubbermaid tub of a size comfortable to the user would work, too.
- The soil block maker I use the most is the 1 1/2″ size (ordered from Johnny’s Selected Seeds). It makes 5 blocks with one press. I do use plastic trays to hold the formed soil blocks – I can fit 84 blocks in one tray. I think I got these trays from Johnny’s, too. 100 pack. Standard greenhouse flat – 11″ x 21″. I also purchased soil block propagation trays (Johnny’s) which are a mesh tray unlike the more solid greenhouse flat. I did not like the mesh trays because the soil blocks dried out too quickly…you do NOT want your soil blocks to dry out. They become concrete. Not good.
- Trays of soil blocks are placed on shelves under fluorescent lights – simple shop lights from Lowes. The lights are suspended on chains from the ceiling and are about 4″ above the trays.
- Seed starts are housed in our Blacksburg basement at the moment. They eventually will have their own growing area at the farm. The temperature in the basement is a constant 63-64 deg F. The temp could be better. I am considering purchasing a little heater for the area. It’s be nice to bump the temps up to 68-70 deg F.
- Most of the seeds I use are ordered from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Seed Saver’s Exchange, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, and Fedco. I also order a few varieties from High Mowing Seeds and Territorial Seed Company. I am using more pelleted seeds for things like onions, carrots and lettuces. The pelleted seeds are a JOY to work with…and well worth the extra dollar or two.
- I am using a new organic growing mix (Black Gold Organic Potting Soil) supplied by Seven Springs Farm out of Floyd, VA. This soil has a much different texture than the growing mix I used last year (more perlite). I think my soil blocks are ok with it so far.
- For the onions, I am starting 3 seeds to a block. That means each tray has 250 seeds. This idea was introduced to me at the recent Virginia Biological Farming Conference by Jean-Martin Fortier and is a method of intensive planting. I will be experimenting with more intensive spacing this year for several things we’ll be growing.
- Things being started in February:
This posting is just to show what a difference a few days can make…
Ok. I am done now. I promise.
Well, it turns out we had a fair piece of snow in Blacksburg – around 20″ or so. I am sure the farm had a similar total (hoping to dig out from here and check out the farm tomorrow). All in all. I’m glad that I took the row covers down and put things away.
So, here are some photos from our snow days in town, some I posted on Facebook.
Tomorrow (or Sunday), we’ll see what the farm looks like, blaze some trails, and do some sledding. Fun!
So the local meteorologists are all hot and bothered, preening and beaming with self-importance over a named winter storm, heading in a northeasterly direction (Pax – a pax on you) with the offerings of a “significant weather event.” Hmmm. I’ve read forecasts if snow ranging from 1″ to greater than 16″! Guess time will tell.
In the meantime, I chose to prepare for significance and spent several hours at the farm yesterday taking down / putting away equipment before the impending crush. All I know is that 4-6″ of wet snow crushed several row cover support rods last year. Destruction costs money. Sixteen inches of wet snow sounded expensive…..
Yes. A strange thing to be prepping for a significant weather event on such a pretty day!
I should also note that I had to do this work because I was sort of lazy….meaning I should’ve taken this equipment down weeks ago. This quarter of the garden where we were overwintering fall plantings got slammed by the subzero temps. The Red Russian and curly kales may recover, but they won’t be marketable. Same for the Sylvette and Dragon’s tongue arugulas. The Brussels Sprouts (Red Ball & Catskills) have done OK – we’ve been harvesting for personal eats. The remaining sprouts should be fine uncovered and under snow (they’ve been delicious by the way). What remains under cover (just laying flat on the plants) are spinach and lettuce varieties still holding on and our fall planted garlic (only the very tips of the leaves look nipped). Here’s hoping the snow insulates!
As a side note – I will be too busy for bread and milk if we see the amount of snow some are predicting? Are you kidding? It will be beautiful!!! And time to play. Bring it on Pax. (Just keep it safe everyone)
Exciting progress (well, to me)…our seed starting spring adventure tour is officially underway.
Tray 2 out of 3…I know, not overwhelming, but it is a start. Two-hundred and fifty organic candy onion seeds per flat, lovingly tucked into their organic soil blocks and ready for pampering. Go germination go!
Candy onions. Yum! More to come of those and several other amazing varieties…it is nice to get started again despite the cold, dreary doldrums that happen about this time of year.
Here’s to spring dreamin’ and garden preparations!
So saying that there will be 6 more weeks of winter just seems like old news and is unsurprising. Sure there are gray days, but ya just gotta make the best of them. Spring is coming. Signs are out there. In the meantime, winter can be pretty, too….like a walk around the neighbor’s pasture with some of the Wonder Dogs….
I posted this image on Facebook the other day. Just thought it was cute…
Ok. So not only are we under a wind advisory, but we are under a wind CHILL advisory. I can hear it howling out there.
Imagine my surprise when I went into the old kitchen space (i.e. sink source) to brush my teeth and saw this…
We bundled up for the last Wonder Dog potty run this time on a snow covered pasture! Fun! How the scenery can change in a short time is amazing. Keep safe and warm everyone.
So, the wonder dogs are at the farm with me this weekend, and we bundled up (well, Franklin, FloJo and I did…Ben and Jett are happy with their thick pelts) and took a stroll around the pasture (one of many).
It always amazes me how you can walk the same ground time after time and yet you can still spot something unique or new.
Here is a rock in the field that I’ve passed many a time….but I never noticed the pretty geometric pattern in it.
Is it natural? Is it man-made (thinking mower blade…oopsy….I have been known to mow things I shouldn’t)?
What do you think?
January 25th and it certainly feels like winter. At the farm, the water pipes are frozen, the ground is frozen, it’s just crazy cold. Oh, and breezy. Can you tell?
Wind advisory. Wind plus cold = subzero temps. Yikes!
Back to garden planning and seed catalog perusing!
Clearly…..is another man’s (or woman’s) treasure.
This post is a representation of good fortune, good timing, or just the simple truth about how lucky we are that there are friends, acquaintances, and colleagues who care about what we do and want to see us succeed.
This photo I am about to share refers back to a brief mention in a previous post about a completed task (erection of a cold room). A cold room. I know….not exciting. But to growers a cold room is a salvation. It is a means of ensuring timely harvests and handling scenarios. The short of it is, that a cold room helps to keep things fresh until items hit the market stand(s). A cold room is a needed luxury…..and…though simple to construct….it can cost $3000 and up. Unless you have good fortune, good timing, and folks who care about what you are doing and want to see you succeed!
So….here is a photo of one man’s trash……and our new treasure……in its new home (ahem…half or more of our garage!):
Ah, the photo caption reveals a perk. This hunk of stuff destined for the dumpster was actually a walk-in cooler AND a walk-in freezer. So – instead of one cold room, we will have TWO cold rooms, allowing us to keep things at different temperatures (some produce prefer warmer storage temps).
What an amazing thing to happen! Relatively easy to rebuild, solid, sanitizable, roomy and essentially ready to roll. Having two rooms already built helps to shift our focus on the next step – air conditioning units and the nifty electronics (CoolBot ™) necessary to tick the A/C units to run at the needed temps. Plus…it saved us a ton of moolah.
Many continued thanks to those who care about us and for our good luck.
We’ve been silent for awhile. Sorry about that…but truthfully, there has been little to report.
We have accomplished a few projects in the farm house, garage and garden areas – yet our to-do list remains full.
We often find ourselves at odds with time and Mother Nature. But we have performed a little re-hab of the house, building of a cool room in the garage, and mulching of a quarter of the garden (small victories).
The recent cold snap last week and the coming rush of starting seeds; however, really have placed an emphasis on our need for more garden infrastructure. What do I mean? Well, here’s a photo to help illustrate…
All of my beautiful, delicious and hardy greens that we were enjoying (to this point) all have melted….how can you blame them?
Last Tuesday’s low was -4 degrees F (wind chill was something like -13 deg F…we shut up the farm house and stayed in town)! Even with two row covers as protection…the wet from earlier rain chased by the seriously sub-zero temps with high winds were too much for these plants to withstand. They froze solid then liquified when they thawed. Not much we could do about it as we didn’t have a plastic cover over them.
It is just proof that we need to try our best to erect some high/low tunnels to help protect our plants. So, stay tuned….construction may be imminent!
For now, records are being reviewed, crop/seed lists are being made, crop plan are being mentally mapped, and seed catalogs are being read from cover to cover…Despite the cold, January is still a fun and exciting month full of anticipate of what is coming! Hope you are keeping snug and enjoying this time of year, too.
Happy Holidays, everyone!
Sorry for the long silence. There has been a brief vacation from….well, all things. Our family had a relaxing, restful and enjoyable break at our second favorite location – Oak Island, NC. This vacation was our first full family vacation in…hmmm…I don’t know how many years. It was a first beach visit for the Wonder Dogs – who became instant beach fanatics and for Marge to this beautiful area.
The weather just got nicer and nicer each day. We ate. And we ate pretty well (including some fresh harvest from the farm). We turned off electronics, the TV. We read books. We walked the beach. We flew a kite. We ate some more. We walked a lot more. And….having nearly the entire OKI beaches (yes, plural) to ourselves, we found treasures galore.
Here’s to hoping we truly make this an annual holiday tradition! It is a highly recommended way to enjoy the coming of winter.
Likewise, we certainly hope that all of you were able to enjoy the season, too, with family, friends and good eats.
The PTHF family and friends wish everyone the best in this coming new year! Speaking of which…time to get planning. But for now….it is fun to share a few photos:
(Back to the ocean with you!)
FloJo might be the one Wonder Dog who had the bestest time at the beach. She ran about 37 marathons in those few days….a constant blur of motion and endless vocal reserves with her yapping (she yaps non-stop when happy or excited, so it was a good thing we had The Point all to ourselves)….that little booger ran and ran, retraced her steps, retraced the other dogs’ steps, sniffed out our steps, and ran some more! Wow. What a happy little thing.
At the same time, the Wonder Dogs all knew how to relax, too.
Back to the ocean with you!
I know that you have heard quite a bit about the recent winter weather that rolled across our nation this weekend. We saw what was going on out West. We heard dire reports from our local weather persons. We diligently prepared for the worst…bought more fuel oil for the furnace, Jordan created a way to run the furnace off of our generator, he also got the generator ready for action, we made coffee ahead of time in case we lost power, we stockpiled water for drinking and toilet flushing, we precooked food to have at the ready, lanterns and oil lamps were gathered along with matches and flashlights….basically…we got ready for ice, snow, sleet and the usual power outage that accompanies such tough, cold weather.
And then….it didn’t really happen. We had rain. We had freezing rain. We had ice. It was definitely cold. But – it wasn’t as bad as forecasted. And – for the first time during such an event, we didn’t lose power. What a nice change! We ate well. We stayed warm. We were able to complete a couple projects in comfort.
Wild. So to those who DID get the brunt of the storm, we can empathize and hope you hang tough.
Still (and I know you have seen oodles of images and such about the weather folks have experienced) it is hard not to find the beauty of the crystalline world that results from a good cold front….
I know this post (and previous ones) have absolutely nothing to do with our farm and, well, lives in general. But I have become completely fascinated with what we humans can do when it comes to building things….and taking them down.
I have posted before about the changes I see on my walks to work….as I pass through the upper (military) quad and the deconstruction of the old dorm, Rasche Hall. Well, here is an update of the progress:
This photo is day 1 – the beginning of the end.
This photo is from this morning and shows the machines now are where a part of the building once stood (i.e. the hull of the building above just beyond the no trespassing sign in the above photo). They have made the turn and are about halfway through.
This building was quite old. I see them shoot plumes of water around the active deconstruction areas. I am sure it is to keep the debris and particles from going airborne. What is fascinating is that these machines have jaws at the end (like a crab claw) and just pinch away at the brick, concrete and steel. They organize the debris into neat and orderly piles according to material type. The construction group working on this project is the same one that redid Shultz dining hall into the new Center for the Arts. We were told that 90% of the materials from that deconstruction project were recycled. I have no doubt that the neat piles of debris are slotted for the same fate. Pretty cool. I do know that a lot of the brick is to be repurposed for the new VT walkway that will be placed in front of Lane Hall after the dorm reconstruction is complete. And that is what I find amazing. That we can build something based on someone’s idea on paper and then take it down later in life…only to rebuild yet again.