Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Chicken Experiment

Ben bringing the box of baby chicks to their new home. Yes, they are shipped in a box through the mail. And yes, the box is in fact labeled baby chicks, and it makes lots of "cheep cheep" noises.
Day one in thier new home. These little fuzz balls are about 48 hours old. So cute! They're running around at full speed already.
Here's one of those fuzz balls about 8 weeks later. They were loving life out on pasture. They were little eating machines, filling up on grass and insects, organic grain, and lots of veggies. Their favorites were tomatoes and melons

     That first bach of birds is done now, turned into meat in our chest freezer.  (Delicious! and for sale. So let us know if you want some). We have a second batch of 50 birds, almost 4 weeks old now, on pasture. Raising chickens has been a fun experiment so far. We've learned a lot including
We're not gonna make much money raising chickens. Chickens grow ridiculously fast! About as fast as a head of lettuce, which seems totally crazy.

We really like having animals around. They're way more entertaining than TV.

(Sorry for the dated post--we had trouble getting this one up and running. That second batch is now also in the freezer, sent off to slaughter just hours before hurricane Sandy came to town. Different breed, different temperament, still delicious.)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Farmers' Markets getting started

Hannah at the opening day of the Providence Downtown Market

Our Season has just gotten busier. Farmers' Markets are getting started, and, thankfully, we've got some stuff to sell. Salad greens are going strong and we've got really nice head lettuce as well. We also have radishes, hakurei turnips which we market as Japanese Salad turnips, kale, chard, sugar snap peas, garlic scapes and even some flowers. So far so good. People have been showing up and we've finally started to go to the bank to do more than withdraw. We have lots more that it is really close to ready to pick which is important. We try to keep it exciting for folks by always having a few new things to choose from as the season progresses, and it looks like that will be the case so we're pleased with how the marketing season has gotten started.

It's also been our opportunity to unfurl our new logo. This off season Jim Sullivan, who is Jean White's (owner of Holly Hill Farm, dear friend) son in law had some fun with Skinny Dip Farm as his theme and came up with the art you see on the banner behind Hannah in the photo above. We couldn't be more pleased. It still cracks me up when I look at it and fits with the Skinny Dip Farm vibe that we're cultivating perfectly. It's funny, we didn't even talk to Jim about specifics and he just nailed it. Our thanks to him!

A little catch up:

Hannah and I made varsity rock picking this year. It really is a team sport and one that should not be taken on lightly by couples. One of us is up on the tractor using the bucket loader to get in under the big rocks that we're unable to remove by hand, shovel or rock bar. The catch is that the bucket of the tractor totally blocks the view of the person on the tractor, so whoever is on the ground has to communicate the millions of subtle cues that would have the tractor operator inching forward while dropping the height and angle of the bucket all at once. Oh, and the tractor is loud, so all that communication needs to be through hand signals and facial expressions. Luckily the new field that we were getting ready to plant this spring is incredibly rocky so we got lots of practice.

Our biggest achievement of the rock picking season
We started plowing up the lawn at our new house in Little Compton. The idea is to grow cover crops this year to build soil organic matter and fertility so that we can crop it this fall and next year. We're really looking forward to having some of our farming closer to home. Much of our planning is coming straight from the kitchen and goes something like this, "I think we should grow our herbs here next year because this salad dressing could really use some thyme." Whatever we're lacking from the recipe, that's what we want to grow at home next year. We're especially excited to get started with planting perennials and have a long wish list. So far we've probably plowed up over an acre but our list keeps growing so I think it's fair to say that our lawn's days are numbered. It's just a matter of time.

Ben on the Farmall turning over lawn
We turned in quite a lot of cover crop this spring, which feels great. Cover cropping is something that I have been wanting to do more of for a long time. At Holly Hill Farm space was so limited and the fields were so wet that we were not able to cover crop as often as we would have liked. At our new spot we have enough open ground to be able to take big chunks out of production for whole seasons and can grow cover crops on them and really focus on getting them more alive. The smell of the the soil a few weeks after turning in the overwintered rye and vetch was so satisfying. It smelled like finished compost, earthy and rich. All of the soil microbiology populations skyrocketed after getting the special delivery of waist high rye and vetch and really came alive.

Mowing cover crop before spading it in  

Stuff is growing pretty well. We have been continuing to have some pest and fertility issues that have us scratching our heads. The ants are back, but not quite as aggressively. They, unfortunately, really love to do their mischief--chewing on plant stems at soil level--under row cover which we are using to block flea beetle attacks. So it's been a hard choice. Either we leave stuff covered to keep the flea beetles from chewing it full of holes or we leave the row cover on and find major ant damage after we've neglected to check under the cover for too long. Row cover, the white fabric covering rows of crops in the picture on the left above, has a magical tendency to leave stuff out of sight and out of mind, sometimes until it is too late. Like last year though, once soil temperatures got warm enough to think about planting tomatoes, stuff really started to grow better. I wish I could skip ahead and have the biology and fertility at really high levels, but I have to remind myself that we've only been farming this land for a little over a year. Patience.
Peas and Beets looking good
Come see us! We've been doing our part, working hard to grow all these veggies. Now we need folks to come to the markets and buy 'em. Help spread the word about where to buy our vegetables. Our markets are listed and linked to in the "Where We Sell" tab at the top of the page.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Spring already?!

I'm not sure what happened to winter. I feel like I blinked, and suddenly it's planting season again. Our to do list, and our seedlings are growing fast. 
The picture from our last post had summer squash and peppers in it, so I know it's been quite a while since we last wrote.
So where did winter go?
We've been juggling many different projects. A good amount of time was spent doing office work. Planning for our 2012 crops and markets, as well as completing all the paperwork to be certified a organic (we should get the official certification any week now).  Also sourcing equipment, thanks to the MEGA grant that is helping us with capital improvements this year. We recently bought a used fertilizer spreader and are in the process of buying a used walk in cooler! more improvements to come...
On the farm we've been maintaining equipment. (here covered in grease after greasing the many fittings on our spader)
We spent a significant amount of time burning brush piles. We are very pleased to finally be done with the enormous brush pile that was created at the north end of the farm before we signed our lease on the property. I wish I had "before" shots of how huge and ugly it was. It was a mountain of vines, stumps, mud and rocks.  I'm happy to report that it is now cleaned up and the whole area is cover cropped. 
It's been such a mild spring that we started planting in the field earlier than planned, and are about to harvest our first spring salad greens. We just made a big push on Friday and planted over 1/4 acre of potatoes. The big planting push next week will be onions.
This spring has also been extremely dry. The good news is that we put in a well (with help from an NRCS grant), and will soon be set up to irrigate. 
The bad news is that we had to drill 2 wells... the first was dry, ugh! But the second was not too deep, and seems to be very productive. The site of water pouring out of the ground from well number 2 sure was a relief! I'm sure we will soon become intimate with the headaches associated with irrigating... but for now, after essentially dry farming for the past 6 years, we are excited that we will soon be able to irrigate!

The other reason our winter was so busy is that we bought a house in Little Compton, RI (13 minutes from the farm). The process of buying it, and moving, as well as beginning to do some work on the house has taken a lot of time. Buying a house has been equally exciting and terrifying. The most exciting part about our new house is that it is on 2.5 acres of flat open land that the USGS soil maps tell us is prime agricultural soil. In the next week or so we'll be plowing up as much of the lawn as possible and planting cover crops, with the intention of growing crops on our own land beginning this winter. We'll keep leasing the farm in Westport and growing there too, but it's exciting to be land owners! We'll be able to put up greenhouses on our property too, which we hope will simplify springtime for us beginning next year. This spring we are very grateful to be borrowing greenhouse space from Northstar Farm again.