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New rack ready to roll!

New grow rack

The new grow rack, lined up with its brothers, ready to go to work. The carpentry’s real rough, but it’s sturdy and tried-and-true functional. The addition of 3″ casters has created an unexpected PLUS: when the racks are rolled together, the overall light from the fluorescents spills across the shelves, giving a little more to the plants on the outer edges of the trays. This is good! There is a fairly big difference in early seedling growth from being even a couple of inches further from the lights. (Before, moving the racks around was a pain, and you need to get at both sides quite regularly for watering, rotating trays, generally checking things out. Yay for wheels!) In the end, most things even out, but you take every edge you can get and…they do add up!

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Raw materials

Grow rack parts

The materials for building a new grow rack just arrived. With this one, there’ll be three in all. It’s a bit a of milestone. I’ve used just two racks, built from ridiculously warped wood, to start literally thousands of seedlings over the last four years. Adding one more means a huge jump in production capacity. Well, 50% more, to be exact… Here we have wood, wheels (casters are a new addition this year for all racks), chain and dowels for hanging the lights. Cut up, screw together, add fluorescents…dead easy! And needed in the next few days when seed starting begins in earnest.

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Lettuce under the lights

Lettuce: true leaves

Checking in with the early lettuce. The seedlings are developing their first true leaves. Fluorescent lighting is inexpensive and does the trick, but it still bothers me how seedlings stretch and strain toward the available light, when what they really want is the Sun.

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Valuable stuff!

Collection of gear

A tableful of useful gear, arrayed for further sorting after the greenhouse clean-up a couple of days ago. If you see this collection as probable junk, the remains of an uninspiring yard sale, anything less than EXCITING, then it may be hard to convey how much small farming involves an intimate, practically passionate, relationship with little tools and devices. At least, for me it does! I’m not into miracle gadgets, but I’ll try anything that looks cleverly useful, time-saving, labor-saving. Many don’t work out (at times because they’re scaled to TOO tiny a garden), but staying in a tight budget avoids much waste. Of course, first and foremost, there are basic tools that simply do what they’re intended to, work well, and don’t break, which is not that common. Each time you find one of those, it’s almost like falling in love! :)

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A beautiful day

End of February

A beautiful day in the snowy field, looking back at the outbuildings from the greenhouse. I used the Kubota (the trusty compact tractor) to clear the path, more to take it out of the shed and give it a little run than because the snow’s too high to trudge through. The temperature’s around zero C, the sun is getting higher in the sky and warmer as she climbs, snow is melting at the edges and through the thin spots wherever you go… Is spring in the air? Sure feels like it!

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Volunteers prep greenhouse!

Volunteers clean greenhouse

Looking a tad paramilitary, brothers I met at the market (they’re studying at the nearby environmental/forestry college) pitch in to clean out the greenhouse and loosen up the soil. The space, used for seedlings in spring and early summer, tends to fill up with odds and ends, and weeds, as the season progresses. Last spring, I tried growing early lettuce in here to get a jump on the weather. This year, an even earlier start is planned. Getting the place sorted and ready to go ahead of sked is great. On the tiny farm, nothing could be better for fieldwork than plentiful, like-minded labor. Especially, volunteers!

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