2009-APR -> Spring ’09 Farm Journal
Last fall I wrote an October Farm Journal which chronicled a single month of Lynch Creek Farm activity. I thought it would be interesting for you to have a contrasting “seasonal” view as well. Spring for me includes the months of February, March and April. I’ve re-organized the notes from my Daily Farm Journal into “topics” – to provide a more structured sense of what Spring holds – as the busiest season of the farm year.
Winter Re-cap: Has wound-down with its normal load of “maintenance” issues to contend with – fixing things that broke last year or broke because of the cold and wet weather. A decision was made to collaborate with S&L Farm (Linda Maggio) and offer a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) – a “subscription-based” arrangement for twenty North Raleigh families. My first-time, organic hay sales of both square and round bales were strong this winter. A foot injury I sustained has and will continue to hobble me, well into 2009. An occurrence of skin cancer has also slowed me a bit – fortunately recoverable – but it’s been facially distracting.
Heated Greenhouse and Hoop House Preparations: To support my CSA obligations, seedlings must be started early in my Greenhouse for transplant into the Hoop House. Seed types and quantities must be ordered, repairs made to the Greenhouse heating system, soil preparation in the Hoop House (clean-up/out, broadfork-ing, calciferous lime-ing, chicken manure compost-ing, redo drip irrigation layout, cut new plastic interior row covers etc.). As well, devise a new cover setup and emergency heating strategy for growing early tomatoes. Find a new plug tray supplier.
Outdoor Potato Patch Preparations: Significant effort was expended to improve the soil in the potato patch as well as order organic seed stock from Colorado. Incorporate cow hay/manure, add calciferous lime and add chicken manure. Rework my cultivator setup to handle amendments and row hilling. Purchase additional fencing and netting to protect the crop better from the deer this year.
Seeding: Begin seeding plug trays in the Greenhouse for transplant into the Hoop House later this Spring – lettuce, cabbage, spinach, cauliflower, chard, broccoli etc. Seed directly into the soil of the Hoop House – string beans, sugar peas, radishes, carrots etc. Start 5000+ Shallot seeds as well. Plant 100# of Potatoes – Yukon Gold and Austrian Crescent Fingerlings.
Fruit Trees: Prune all Apple, Pear and Fig Trees and Grape Vines.
Chicken Manure Saga: Each year I purchase the manure from an entire commercial chicken house. With the help of Charlie West and Coy Duke we usually complete this in February – but due to the economic downturn – delays, delays, delays. We finally spread manure to our pastures at the end of April. Getting manure in the future may be more difficult (and expensive) because so many of the small chicken house producers are going out-of-business. At a ton-to-the-acre – 40 acres is a lot of manure!
Tractor Repairs and Fuel: Last year it was the saga of the high-pressure diesel pump – this year its hydraulic and clutch issues -expensive, time-consuming and frustrating – much worse than a car that doesn’t run. Diesel fuel costs have finally dropped to $2.50 from the $4.50 peak we paid most of last year.
Bee Hives: Normal Spring cleanup, sugaring, swarms and bee-sitting activities.
Forest Lands: Normal clearing of damaged and rotted trees throughout the property. With 55 acres and a single access driveway, you would think it improbable that trees would choose to principally blow-down on the driveway and fence lines – amazing, they do.
Cattle/Calving: Our herd over-wintered fine – feeding on our first hay crop – no hay purchased this year! – calving will be delayed a bit due to the failure of our artificial insemination efforts last summer and the delayed entry of a pure-bred Angus bull – should be easier this year – last year was overwhelming. Mineral supplement use goes way-up when they begin eating spring grass – Nora Mitchell supplies all of my organic minerals. Begin pasture rotation of cattle.
Pasture Fencing: Extend new fence to a portion of pasture near the Orchard – redo the fence line adjacent to the entrance driveway – check- redo all electric wire – prune all trees adjacent to fence lines. Remove all noxious weeds from pasture. Remove all downed trees in pasture etc. It’s hard work to keep a fence a fence.
Farm Vehicle Ordinaries: 4-WD Pathfinder needs two new tires, leaking oil again, tighten the valve covers – replace start motor – left me stuck in the “boonies” two times.
Chickens: Clean the chicken house (again) and begin selling eggs after production drop-off due to the winter light levels. Start supplementing chicken feed with “greens” from the Hoop House.
Summer Outlook: Yes, Hay Season is coming soon – that means square bales – hay barns and hot weather – end of May, early June. Orchard Grass and Oat Hay with Clover coming along fine so far – we need some more rain though to make a great crop.
It still amazes me how much planning and know-how it takes to keep a small farm operating – the remainder of this year (2009) will be somewhat unique – because I have decided to “focus” upon completing our Cabin and complex of nearby buildings. I believe it is prudent to do so at this time, given the projected state of our national and local economy.