Oh January. Here we are, already halfway through. Some folk I've talked with think we take a break during the winter. And things are certainly less busy than during peak planting or harvest. But we still do loads. Here's some "behind the scenes" of what's on our agenda for the rest of the month and winter:
FENCING If you stick around long enough, you'll hear me say that farming is 95% fencing. Kind of a jest, but the sentiment is very real. We have three fencing projects to complete before our 2023 season.
First, we're expanding the pasture garden. We're setting up the fence for our "Final Garden Layout." We won't fill it up this year, but we figure if we're going to do this fence, we might as well do it right the first time (second time). We plan to enclose about 16 new fruit trees, develop a U-Pick area for berries, and multiply the current garden area by 4. Again, we're not planning to use it all this year, but we're prepping the ground and tarping the areas so by the time we're ready to plant, we've already prepped the space.
Second, we're enclosing a new flower garden area. Hannah has been developing a new perennial flower garden area to include roses, peonies, bulbs, and other plants that will return year after year. This fencing project isn't as large as the first, but it will be necessary to protect the garden area from deer as well as toddlers.
Third, we're revamping the garden in the Market Garden. This garden is both our and the farm's original garden (or at least original as far back as the 70s. I'm not entirely sure the history beyond that). When we moved in, the existing fence was present, but dilapidated, rusting and falling over. We moved in during the month of March in the middle of planting season and started the garden in April. Because we didn't have time to tear out the existing fence while also planting a garden, we chose to shore up the falling down pieces and use what we could. There's something to be said about working with what we've got; however, after three growing seasons in this space, it became clear we needed to do something different. Other areas of the fence that had previously been fine fell over or wore down and the deer got into our garden at the end of last year's growing season and did a number on our plants. We determined our best plan would be to tear down and build back up from scratch.
MOVING THE FARM STAND If you've been following along with our farm stand journey, you might have heard about some of the theft issues we've had. Our solution is to build a different farm stand on our property that can close at night and have a security camera. We've chosen a location close to the future U-Pick area. It's also where folks will pick up their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) weekly boxes when we get that established. We'll have good signage at the street to point folks down our driveway. We're hoping to open late spring.
BUYING & STARTING SEEDS We start many of our vegetable and flower seeds indoors under grow lights. We use a durable metal shelf and set it up in our loft. This lets us plant out starts right after the last frost and gives us a head start on many plants. We're trying to mix our own seed starting soil and will be learning to soil block this year. Depending on the plants, we start them at different points in relation to our last expected frost date (around April 8th here).
CARDBOARD & TARPING We've been covering garden spaces with cardboard and tarps to keep down the weeds. We never use pesticides/herbicides; we are organic and soil-friendly. Because of this, weeds can be tenacious! Especially because we're using garden spaces that were pasture/not used as garden spaces. Weeds had already taken over and we've been working hard the past couple years to get rid of them naturally, by hand or by covering them with cardboard or tarps. Cardboard is a great option because it's biodegradable. But we also invested in some silage tarps as well, because the amount of ground we needed to cover just wasn't sustainable with just cardboard boxes.
So here we are! So much on the to-do list! Remember to thank your farmers for their hard work, because it's year round even when it doesn't seem like it. =)