A little wood, a little steel, some 6mm UV-stabilized plastic, and simple construction methods come together in the basic walk-in hoophouse, a no-frills structure with its own signature look and quite startling effectiveness when it comes to season extension. What more can you say?!
Tape time again, measuring out this year’s market garden. I’ve come up with various schemes to do away with this step as an annual thing, but end up wanting to move things around, or accidentally tilling under a critical stake or two left from the year before. The method is pretty primitive: walk around with a 200′ reel tape measure, trying to keep things square (the 3-4-5 trick!), staking an outline that can be used later to easily line up smaller sections as needed. That’s Rochelle at the other end, doing this two-person is the preferred way to go. The eventual result: a new garden map.
Ice storm. Some strange, quick mix of rain and freezing cold that puts a thick coating of ice on everything, and creates thick little icicles wherever water drips (like, above, from the 3-point hitch that’s attaching the rototiller to the tiny tractor. Quite amazing, and a little alarming as well when you pass under big trees drooping and sagging under the extra weight. Massive branches falling and whole trees toppling are taking out power lines all over, it’s already been out for 12 hours in places around here, and the radio’s saying it might not be restored for another 24 hours. Back to the Stone Age. The Ice Age. At least, the pre-Electric Era. No Internet at night? Light a candle, or use your long-lasting LED headlamp, and read a book!
Picked up a small shipment of new plug sheets and webbed trays at the post office. I really stretch ’em out, have some going for years—they’re reusable, but not incredibly tough, especially when you take them into the field for transplanting. Handle with care and all that, and replace as needed! These are 72-cell sheets, my basic standby. Bigger is generally better here (my other standby is 38-cells), but there’s only so much room under the lights: if you keep the timing tight, don’t leave things in there too long, they’re fine for just about any small seed. Waste no space!
Yep, the refractometer has arrived by mail! It’s quite exciting. This one is calibrated for the Brix scale—it indicates the amount of sugar and other dissolved solids in water. Drip a couple of drops of juice from the veg of your choice onto the screen, point at light, and peer through eyepiece to find out how nutrient-dense it really is (it’s a tool to see if we can measure results from this season’s remineralization plans). As easy and meaningful as it sounds? Well, we’ll see!
See the growing list of 50 Things I’ve Learned from Tiny Farming:
#8 – Remain calm: In tiny farming, you can indulge WORRY to the max. You can really work yourself into a frenzy. It’s usually about, well, the weather, people, money (specifically, stuff that has to be paid for), time, people, and…the weather. In that order. The big factor in outdoor farming that’s NOT present in a lot of lives, particularly when you’ve been living a largely indoor urban existence, is the DAILY effect of the WEATHER. Or really, Mother Nature in general: bad weather, disease, deer eating all your lettuce, zombies, all of the destructive things that an overwhelming, out-of-your-control force can deliver, just like that! Thinking about the possibilities can be…stressful, and that’s not to mention dealing with a tidal wave of so much to do, so little time. The COOL thing about farming: over time and your share of intense worry, you notice that things come and they go. You plant your crops over and over again, and here and there they get eaten before their time, and people sometimes fail to meet…expectations, money may get tight, deadlines get blown, but it’s all really not terminally terrible. If you’re still there, and the land is still there, you keep moving ahead, because that’s the game! The simple arc of the farming year makes obvious exactly where you are at any time, and what the next step is. Farming is unpredictable, but it is not fuzzy, there is always a clear result, one that you can hopefully, and usually, eat! So really, just keep farming and you will become increasingly calm as it sinks in by example that A) You really don’t have THAT much control, and B) It generally works out anyway. Sooner or later you’ll realize, the easiest thing to do is just…remain calm. :)