Spring Dreaming

Whenever the January Thaw drops in it’s hard not to start dreaming of Spring. The warmer days never last and soon enough the next wintry storm moves in and temps drop back to normal.

A few of the chickens start thinking Spring too and tryout laying a few eggs just in case it lasts. And just in case it does last some of these early eggs make it into the incubator. That makes it even harder to forget that true Spring is still a ways off.

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Intensive Cropping

In the past, short season crops were only planted once or twice each season. That meant the crop was harvested, early, just right, and a bit past its prime. While this produced enough to eat and share it really wasn’t even approaching the full potential of the crops.

After reflection, this year Intensive Cropping will be tried out of these short season crops. The basic idea is to plant successively and to crop out (harvest the whole planting) at one time. The strategy is to plant smaller batches on an appropriate schedule and maximize the just right harvest.

In order to manage this spreadsheets will be used to calculate planting and approximate harvest dates. The starting data includes the crop name and days until harvest from the seed package. Based on the frost sensitivity last frost date and first frost date, planting dates are calculated on a two or three week frequency. Corresponding harvest dates are also calculate based upon the days to harvest. While the individual harvest quantities will be smaller, the overall harvest of higher quality harvests will be larger.

It goes without saying that long season crops can still be planted over a short period to increase their length of harvest as Intensive Cropping doesn’t seem viable with the modest growing season. However, this year long season crops will be both field planted and planted in hoop houses to help determine the viability of increasing the long season crop harvest (both quantity and duration of harvest)

Testing this system is one of last preparations to decide if a CSA model can be supported by the Farm. Once this system is tested, individual crops can be identified , and the potential CSA sized be surveyed in preparation for the decision to offer a CSA in the future.

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Cold, Debt and Incubation

The threat of all that snow stayed a bit to the north, but the temps have dipped instead. A few days into the teens and nights into the singles! A bit of snow has fallen but nothing beyond the expected. Every day is one day closer to Spring, warm weather, and the start of all things farm and homestead for the year.

One semi exciting happen has been the final mortgage payment! Fluffy Bottom is no longer a partnership with the bank. The mortgage was left over from the days of very low interest and it was just time to clear the debt from the books. The tractor (at zero %) will be paid off this summer and that will leave just the truck debt still around. Of course the operating costs come up every month but they are within a manageable level.

The Incubations are set up and ready to go to work for the year. A test set of Cochin bantam eggs are in the one to check the incubators operation before the hens get into laying mode. Early chicks are always a lot of extra work but in the end it just needs to be done. Last year the plastic box brooder a worked ok, but required lots of cleaning. This year a new brooder is being built once the weather breaks to better tune that part of chick care. With a little luck, the design will be better and help streamline that enterprise on Fluffy Bottom Farm & Homestead.

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Snowmaggedon – Oh Nooooo!

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With the 7 inches of snow from last night, what is the weatherman thinking? 19 – 29 inches possible! Why can’t it just be summer year round? Sigh, at least the tractor will get a mid Winter workout!

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Beginning the Orchard

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While the front Orchard was one of the first things put in on the Homestead, it’s now time to expand with a proper Tree Orchard. Clearing the area began late last summer and there’s still some work to be done. On the other hand, supplies of available trees are highest right now, so an order was needed to get an interesting collection started.

The plan for the first phase is to put in about a dozen or so Apple trees along with a few other fruit trees. So for the first order, the following trees were selected:

  1. Honeycrisp
  2. Cox Orange Pippin
  3. Winter Banana
  4. Smokehouse
  5. Orleans
  6. Wagener

In addition there are two Goldcot Apricots in the order as well as two types of new Raspberries. To meet the goal of a dozen trees, a few locally available Apples will be added to the planting, most likely Yellow Delicous, Red Delicous, Cortland, Fuji, Jonathan, or Macintosh.

Besides the Goldcots, there are a couple of dozen pits to try and sprout from an unknown Apricot at my mothers.  These are similar to Goldcot but should be well suited to the climate here.

Over in the Soft Fruit Orchard, the new Raspberries are Double Gold and Crimson Night. These will join the Lathams, Anne, Black Hawk, and Royal Purple to make a nice colorful and tasty crop!

The rest of the Soft Fruits include. Few types of Blackberries and three types of Strawberries. Still to be added are the blueberries and other minor fruits as well as the grapes for the grape house.

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Enough already

Just two weeks of Winter and it’s already overstayed its welcome! With temps looking to plunge for a day or two, let the melting begin! Compared to the last two Winters, it really should be hard to complain, but the cabin fever season is gaining a foothold..

Not even more seed catalogs help!

 

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First task of the Day

The first task this morning was a quick path to the Woodshed. Heating with wood is great, that is until the path needs to be shoveled by hand to get to the morning’s refill for the stove!

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So Much for a Delayed Winter!

imageThe weathermen finally got around to Winter with our first real snow of the season. Unfortunately the prediction was only for 3-5 inches. This morning when Lucky went out to check on things, he found something more like 8-10 of heavy wet snow covering his favorite haunts. Looks like it’ll be a day of tractor riding to clear the drive and paths to the animals. Sigh, let the Winter begin!

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Viva El Niño for now!

Kind of hard to believe that it’s the middle of December and temperatures are still above freezing, there’s no snow and no frozen ground. It’s hard to compare to the lady few Winters when they were so cold and so snowy. Even so it’ll do! While some tasks have dragged on longer than planned, it’s nice to be able to continue things outdoors. Now we’ll have to see if we pay for it next Spring!

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Seed Catalogs

It was tradition that as soon as the Christmas guests had left, the seed catalog avalanche began. Today, however, with the increase in seed houses large and small, the onslaught begins even b fore Thanksgivings! While the flood begins with just a trickle, it soon becomes a steady downpour.

There are different approaches to sorting through the horde. The worst is probably to order a fe here and a few there as the “postage and handling” often costs more than the seeds themselves this way. However, when a particular seed house is the only one offering a specific variety, sometimes it can’t bbe avoid.

The second method involves ordering enough to be economical, but still try to spread your order around as much as possible. While that can be good for smaller r final seed houses, there’s a dirty little secret in the seed business. Nearly all of the national, famous, and older houses are all owned by a couple of larger corporations (and often multinational). In looking to spread your order around, it’s likely that many of the seed packets will be sourc d from much fewer companies than you thought.

The last method is to go itch a fororite or at most two. It’s economical, efficient, and safer having just one or two suppliers, especially if they are family owned/sourced and regional.

Regardless of which method you use, start early, make your selection, and take care of ordering before the full rush begins at the start of the Spring season.

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