Pleasant Valley Farm

  (Tionesta, Pennsylvania)
Real Family Farming in Tionesta, PA
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Baby Time Returns

It's a gloomy, soggy way to end February today.  I'm kind of surprised there are not ducks swimming in the backyard today, as there is enough standing water there (and I've seen them do it before!).  But grey days like this always seem a bit cheerier when there are babies about, and we've gotten the spring baby season underway!

 

Nutmeg was the first mama of the year, and she had this healthy ram lamb.  Her twin sister, Rosa had the most recent lamb, this one a girl.

 

 For some reason, even though they are twin sisters, and both black themselves, Nutmeg virtually always has white lambs, and Rosa's are almost always colorful.  Never all black, quite a few have had white on their head like this girl.  She even had a speckled brown and white lamb one year!  Baby lambs are just about the most adorable  things you'll ever see.  Once they get steady on their feet, they jump and twirl around their mamas in the lambing pens.  (We keep them inside for the first week or two to watch both mama and baby for any health issues, and to keep the lambs out of the cold or wet weather.)

And it's not just the sheep who are multiplying around here, we also have baby rabbits!  Murphette had a litter yesterday.  They are snug and warm in the nest she made from hay and her own fur.  I knew the big day had come when I saw the fluff moving ever so slightly inside her pen.  It's not quite picture time for the bunnies yet...they are born with their eyes closed and are nearly bald, so we'll wait a week or two for their photo shoot! 

We're also beginning to save chicken eggs to set in the incubator this week.  We'll set the eggs at the end of the week, and three weeks later we anticipate chicks! Our Bourbon Red tom turkeys are gobbling and strutting pretty much continuously now, and the hens are starting to pay attention, so turkey breeding season is upon us as well.  I expect to begin getting eggs from the turkeys in 2 weeks or so, and the poults will hatch four weeks later.  The geese are squawking and fighting now as well, but we'll let them make their own nests and hatch the goslings.  Experience has taught us that it is very hard to hatch the goose eggs in the incubator successfully because of the high humidity requirements, so we'll just let nature take its course.

We've got the sprout house completed, and back up fluorescent lighting in the house for the seedlings  in case of cold or gloomy weather.  We've already got flats of tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, eggplant, and a wide variety of herbs planted, and I will be starting more flats of other veggies next week.  We also started dismantling the large greenhouse frames yesterday.  I am so excited to set up our new one!  The old greenhouses were a bit of an eyesore, so I'm happy to get them down at last and recycle the frames into a new 65' growing space for earlier tomatoes, peppers and such.  Between babies and seedlings, it is really starting to feel like spring is here!

 
 

The Sprout House

 

A big projet has been crossed off of our spring to-do list.  The greenhouse we use for starting seeds was really showing its age.  The plastic was in tatters, the inside was filled with skeletons of last year's overgrown weeds, and with all the rain we've seen, you had to walk through a real muddy mess to get to the door.   

 

 

This is what it looked like. Not a friendly space to work or grow.  So, we cleaned up the inside, removed the workbenches, and stripped it down to the wooden frame, which was in great shape due to being built with treated lumber.

 

Halfway there! (As you can see by the snow, this was not a one-day project!)

Once down to the frame, Dan and I moved it about the length of the building and placed it closer to the processing pavilion (in rear of photo). This area is just slightly higher, and therefore drier.  Once the frame was level and in place, we put a floor of underlayment fabric down.  This should shade the weeds and prevent them from taking over every summer!  Then we put new plastic over the frame, inside and out, then replaced the worktables.  This time, we put them slightly lower so they are easier for me to work with.

 

 

I love the new sprout house! It's so much more inviting now. Dan boxed in a corner to use as a raised bed, and after the cold snap over the weekend, we are hoping to direct seed some frost tolerant veggies like radish, lettuce, chard and spinach.  I've also got flats of seed trays here in the house.  I've already started tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and eggplant for our big greenhouse.  This is another project we hope to complete soon.  We'll be taking down the metal frames out in the garden, using the ones in the best shape, and making a 65' greenhouse.  We'll plant these vegetables right in the soil, but we'll be able to do it much earlier and so will be able to offer our customers these veggies earlier and for a longer time during our market season.  I've also started a few flats of herbs, including basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley, catnip and echinecea (purple coneflower) so far.  I hope to have a nice variety of potted herbs for sale when we reopen this year, a new venture for me!  The trays are here in the warm kitchen until the seeds germinate, then we'll be taking them out to the sprouthouse for lots of sun and an early start on the season.  It's good to be growing again!

 

 
 

Sliding towards Spring

It's the halfway day of February already! Winter seems to be just flying by. Although, the fact that it has been warm and snow free for much of the time probably has a lot to do with that feeling. But as we start on the downhill of the month, I can't help but feel like things are going to get crazily busy before I've had a chance to get around to my winter projects!

The cold and snow have kept me inside most of this week, but I'm already thinking spring. I lugged a big bag of potting mix into the kitchen to thaw out, and by tomorrow I should be filling flats with seedlings for early tomato, pepper and cucumber plants for the greenhouse. I should be getting some herbs seeds very soon, and am hoping to be able to offer a few potted herbs when we open for the season.  Plants for the main garden will follow in a few weeks. I'm excited about rehabbing the small greenhouse near the house over the next week or so, and using it to start more of our own plants than we have in the past. I'm also excited about getting a big greenhouse up, and planting the plants right in the ground inside. This will be new for me, although Dan did it for years. We had hoped to last year, but it didn't happen, mostly because of the incredible amount of rain we had last spring. But, we're determined to get it up and operational this time around.

Another thing that has me busy is preparing for the Farm to Table conference in Pittsburgh, March 23 & 24. I'll be speaking once again, this time on Heirloom plants, so I've got an hour long speech & Powerpoint to put together. I'll also have a table in the main hall both days, so I've been planning on how best to fill it. I've bottled some vinegars, made some mustard, and have been working on plenty of feather jewelry too.

In addition to my talk on Heirloom plants, it's looking like I'll be involved in a couple of other educational presentations. The local Lions Club is putting on a walk & educational program about diabetes awareness, and they reached out to us to partner with them. There is a meeting next week to plan it, but I know that usually if someone volunteers, they are put to good use. Also upcoming is to do some education on nutrition, organic foods and shopping local for families in a nearby town in a health & nutrition program. I am looking forward to helping out local groups, but also trying to get a good outline of what I want to say, as well as any handouts I might want to pass out, because I know better than to put off my homework until the middle of spring. It's impossible to stay inside in the spring on a farm, but for now, it's nice to stay warm and dry here in front of the keyboard.

 
 
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