Spring garlic?

Garlic cloves prepped for planting

With the timing of the move to the new farm, there was no fall garlic planting for this year. Very sad—over the last three seasons, we’ve grown 2,000-3,000 bulbs a year, it’s a much-loved crop all around (starting with me!), and it’s been the very first sign of new veggie life as the fields wake up every spring. Oh, well, we should be back to full-on garlic this fall!

Meanwhile, what we have INSTEAD is about 200 of the toughest, most I-will-survive garlic cloves ever, going in today for a really late start, late even for spring planting! After long months of storage, and an accidental total freezing, the loss of garlic I’d been saving was pretty huge, these 200 out of maybe a thousand.

The guys who made it got an overnight cleansing and rejuvenating bath in a mild solution of baking soda (anti-fungal) and kelp extract (boost), and they’ll be quickly rinsed in alcohol just before going in. Especially for this small, late planting, all this prep probably doesn’t matter much, but they deserve it (personify and pamper your seeds and plants when you can, it’s friendly, until you harvest and eat ’em!).

So, it’ll be a first-hand test of whether it’s worth planting spring garlic at all. From what I’ve heard, chances are we’ll get at best smaller, later bulbs, some misfires with no bulbs forming, and the same great garden-grown garlic taste! We shall see…!

First veg in the field: it’s peas!

First peas appear

Another little new-farm-new-field memorable moment: the first direct seeded crops, Sugar Ann snap (edible pod) peas are poking up. They were seeded just over a week ago, I’ve been watching them germinate, and today I first noticed them actually pushing up greenery. Not that I expected anything other than emergence as usual, still…this is cool! :)

Direct seeding

Connor with Planet Jr.

Direct seeding is going ahead at a careful pace. There’s a fair amount of broken up sod in the mix, and it would be nice for it to have more time to settle in and decompose, also for any bits of live grass to start poking up so they can be disrupted again with a light tilling… But we can’t just wait around. Spinach, beets, and radish went in a few days ago, just after the first peas. More peas went in yesterday (Connor for the first time wrestles with the kinda heavy and unwieldy Planet Jr., above, and ends up doing fine on a trial row). Now, the watching and waiting is on for the first plants to emerge in the field…

Seed furrows

Potatoes delivered

Unloading potatoes

Seed potatoes arrived today, all the way from tiny PEI (Canada’s potato province!). It’s still difficult to find certified organic potato stock, especially in more-than-home-garden-less-than-big-farm quantities, so it’s back to Veseys for another 300 super-expensive pounds, from 1,000 miles (1,600 km) away. Not too local, but that’s part of the certified organic game, finding seed… This year, the delivery charge upped the price by 60%—it’s expensive to truck stuff.

Unloading. The lane to the barn is narrow, has an obstructive tree right beside a slight but critical bend, slopes upwards, and falls off on one side—big trucks don’t even try to get in. We have to unload at the side of the not-too-busy 2-lane secondary road. Once again, the Kubota compact tractor makes up the difference, this time standing in as a forklift replacement.

Transport trucks it seems often don’t have elevating tailgates that can handle weight, they’re set up for forklift loading, so if you don’t have a handy farm forklift, you have to unstrap the pallet and hand-bomb everything off by the piece. The truck drivers are usually really helpful. This was just six 50lb sacks, two each of Penta (like Yukon Gold), Chieftain (red), and Gold Rush (russet-type), so we’re done in no time!

Potatoes delivered

Machines can communicate: See ya!

Red cabbage

Red cabbage seedling

Besides the older seedlings, clamoring to get out, we’ve been starting new guys as well, for later planting. Here, a few days after emerging, a baby Cairo (hybrid) red cabbage, for crowded growing (12″ spacing), to produce “baby,” “gourmet” cabbages—basically, small ones! Elsewhere, Brussels sprouts, savoy cabbage, bok choi, and more. And it’s time for a second set of broccoli and cauliflower, to follow up the first wave. In our short May-September main growing season, now’s the time… Tick-tock!

Disc action

Plowing just ahead of the weather

It’s steel in the field… Big machine work was the tiny farm highlight today, not the machinery itself but the intense and much-needed sod-busting action. Peter, a (certified organic) beef and grain farmer on the next two (much bigger) farms down the road,  dropped by just ahead of a bit of a rainstorm, to disc the fields he’d moldboarded in the fall. There was time for two passes on the south field, then the weather hit, bringing plowing to a sudden stop as the ground almost instantly got too slippery and soft.

My experience with big tractor work is limited. Maybe someday I’ll get more involved with heavy machinery—to watch, at least, big machines are fascinating and…cool. Or perhaps I’ll go the other way, d/evolving all the way to Fukuoka-like farming with little more than an intricate method and a stick… Probably stay somewhere in between… :)

In any case, this is all one-time stuff. The double row of discs do some serious pizza-cutter work on the dense, moldboarded strips, so we’ll be able to rototill more easily and effectively, without tearing the little tiller apart. And then, the soil food web can rebuild.

Disc plow in action

Elsewhere, earlier, I direct seeded the first spinach, beets and radish. Following their progress in the new garden ground will be interesting…

Hoophouse end walls

Hoophouse end walls

With the clamoring demand for greenhouse space around here, getting the hoophouse finished now that the frame is up is a PRIORITY. Yet here we are, a week later, framing the end walls and installing the wood along the sides for the roll-up section of the sidewalls. A stretch of wet, cold weather was the main cause for delay. Plus a really long list of other critical things to do at the same time.

For maximum satisfaction on the tiny farm, you want things to effortlessly flow along, from one small task or specific problem, to the next (IMHO, of course!). Right now, there are lots of phone calls to be made, things to follow up on, info to find, bits to write and forms to fill, stuff to source and buy, all sorts of more abstract, open-ended, DISTRACTING activity. Eventually, it will settle down into a more-or-less all-garden flow…

In the pic, Jordan and Lynn work on reassembling the end walls. The ground isn’t absolutely level, there’s a gap to fill underneath the 2×4’s along the bottom (the sill plate). This isn’t a problem as the weight of the hoophouse sits on the 4×4’s running along the sides—they’re firmly anchored, so we’re set.

In this case, we can’t cut the studs longer to extend the wall, because we’re going to reattach the existing, pre-cut plastic. Everything has to come together the way it was. I should’ve numbered and marked each rib and piece of wood as it came apart. I’d usually have thought of that, but in this case, I only marked the main plastic, so that we could reverse it. Now, fitting it back together is a little puzzle… After this, there’s not much more to do, just wait for a windless day to skin with plastic. Onwards!