First winter harvest

First winter harvest: salad greens

Yesterday’s harvest that went to today’s farmers’ market, my earliest market start by almost two months! From the unheated greenhouse: kale, green and red mustard, and lettuce mix times two. Harvest conditions: -2°C outside, a perfect-working-weather 10°C inside. At the end, the sun came out and it started to get sweatingly hot under a T-shirt, shirt and fleece. But, already done! No rinsing, just covered and into a cool room for a 6 a.m. pick-up this morning. It felt a little odd, starting the year’s Saturday markets so early, and indoors—this fall, if all goes as intended, weekly market will cease to end for winter and become instead a fully year-round thing…

Seed shopping

Newly arrived seed

[From 9 May 2015] More seed: Not by the 50 lb bag, but it still adds up. You find a balance between buying smaller quantities that are quickly used so that you always have fresh, vigorous seed that’s ready to pop up at the least sign of moisture and warmth, and the huge savings from the bag that’s two or three times bigger than what you need for the season, and may be around for an extra year or more. Shopping! It’s like a human condition you can’t escape.

Spring begins with the weather!

Two-week weather forecast

There’s official calendar Spring, and then there’s spring in the field, that ignores exact dates and goes by the weather, marking winter as over whenever the freezing temperatures end. If today’s two-week weather forecast is anything to go by—it is, in this case, when being off by ±5-10°C (14-23°F) either way isn’t a big concern—market garden spring starts now. For the moment, I’m mainly concerned about overnight lows in the unheated greenhouse, and whether row cover is necessary. If it stays above -15-20°C, my safe-with-no-cover cutoff, it should be fine to pull back the covers and let the sun shine in (prepared, of course, to put it right back if there’s a sudden severe dip, which we hope doesn’t happen). Nothing complicated, just a little of the gambling that’s called working with the seasons!

Excellent soil building book

Building Soils for Better Crops

A reminder: Building Soils for Better Crops: Sustainable Soil Management is an excellent, book about soil for growers, free to download, or you can buy a hard copy. Follow the link, or read a bit more where I posted about it quite a while ago. The image above is cropped from the cover, a very specific type of old school farm view and set-up, which happens to be the one I’m familiar with; where you are may be totally different, as may be the soil, but the idea of growing is the same, and chances are this book is useful!

Seed catalog, 2016

Seed catalog 2016

Here’s my main seed catalog for this year. Once again, unlike several seasons ago, when I’d receive a dozen catalogs, order from two main suppliers, and pick up a few things from two or three others, lately, I’ve simplified and get everything in one place. This year, though, and for the second year in a row, there was a crop failure on a variety of mustard that I grow, and no close substitute, so I had to look elsewhere. Which, of course, opened up a world I’d kinda forgotten, the wonderful world of price comparison shopping.

The puzzling thing about pricing is the seemingly bizarre differences in price for the same items between different sources (it’s the same in seed as everywhere else). Some suppliers are clearly overall more expensive than others, so if quality and service are fine, it’s easy to go with the savings. But then, on any one item, prices can vary quite dramatically either way.  For example, I found the same variety of mustard at $10 and $17 a pound, and something similar at $50, at three different places, and  that’s expected. Less so is that, for just one common variety of lettuce, it’s $33 at my usual place, where the same amount is only $19 at a usually more expensive other supplier.

Yep, I could’ve gone on and on like this, with multiple lists and endless tabs of online catalog pages, like a full-on coupon clipper, looking for the ultimate bottom line big score. Instead, though, I ordered my mustard and stopped! Maybe not the best every-last-penny business thinking for a tiny farm, and tiny farm definitely does not equal big budget, but sometimes at least, for a few bucks, life is too short! :)

Prepping and seeding…

Prepping and seeding beds

This is exactly what small-scale looks like. Prepping and seeding another 20 or so beds, a couple already seeded with salad greens, the rest with compost lightly scattered—maybe a little more spreading, then tilling, sectioning into 50′ or 100′ by 4 or 5′ beds, smoothing, and seeding with the Planet Jr. Sometimes this tiny farming feels to me like being in a little boat on a big, big ocean. Maybe not that dramatic, but I’m definitely adrift in a deep blue sea! Fun.