Seasons at Procter Farm

  (London, Ohio)
Procter Farm
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Late Spring Frenzy

Save the date! Procter Farm will be hosting a volunteer day Saturday July 13th for our CSA shareholders and anyone else who is interested in attending. We will work from 9:30am-12pm on a variety of tasks. At 12:00 we will break for lunch and conversation. Afterwards anyone interested may stay for a farm tour. We are very proud of the farm and excited to share it with you. See you there!

garlic scapes

 

 

 

 

 

 

In other news, our barred plymouth rock rooster became ill about a month back and had to be put down. Happily though, we were able to adopt an Americana rooster from a fellow farmer, who had more roosters than she could handle. Our new rooster has blended well with the hens and we hope will soon also accept the golden comet "teenage" hens we added to the flock.

rooster  golden comet chickens  
 potatoes  chicken run field  
 hens    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most of the time on the farm is spent planting. Each spring, usually around the end of May/early June there is a large influx of seedlings that need to be planted. These seedlings set the stage for future harvests of winter and summer squash, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and a multitude of greens and herbs. Though we will continue to plant through the fall each planting is now a bit smaller as we spend more time harvesting for the CSA, Procter kitchen, and North Market.

 
 

Musical Chairs

baby chicks eating spinach

The new chicks, golden comet pullets, have moved into the winter housing in the corn crib. Here they are eating overwintered spinach from the greenhouse. They need to be kept separate from the adults until they are the same size or they'll get bullied too much. The two flocks will be combined in the fall when the adults move back into winter housing.

seasonal pasture set up

All the barred plymouth rock hens and rooster have moved out of winter housing and out onto pasture. They are so happy!

eggmobile

The new eggmobile, complete with 26 nest boxes. Its actually an old trailer. The wheels make it convenient to move.

hen using new nest box

A hen checking out the new nest box.

new eggmobile

An inside view of the eggmobile.

tomatoes

Can you believe its almost time to plant tomatoes?! This first planting will go out on the next dry day.

 
 

Extra! Extra! Read all about our fruit tree planting!

Here are some photos of our fruit orchard planting. They work both as a grand statement as you enter the Procter campus, and soon enough, the bearers of tasty fruit!

apple trees lining the drive

90 apple trees in 3 varieties (Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious, & Zestar) line the drives leading to the upper and lower parking lots

cherry trees frame the chapel

29 cherry trees (stella variety) line the sidewalks leading to the chapel. These will get mulch around thier base as well - just as soon as the ground is a bit firmer. Don't want to leave any tire marks!

wood chips!

This is the mulch we are using to create a "forest floor" around the base of the fruit trees. It was trimed and chiped from trees in Madison County that were getting in the way of power lines. Thank you Ohio Edison for giving us your clippings! Because the chips were made from the tips of trees, where all the growth is happening, they have greater propensity to encourage fungal growth and benefit the root structure of the fruit trees. As with all ground covering, they also help to hold moisture in the soil. This type of mulch is called ramial wood mulch.

daffodils

Daffodils emit a natural odor that warns a variety of pests to "stay away!" because they're toxic to eat. This may be frustrating for all the deer, rodents, and rabbits that would like to dig up and trot off with bulb treats, but its a great way for humans to protect structures or plantings from damage. This fall we'll be receiving 600 mixed variety daffodil bulbs to plant around the base of each of the fruit trees. These early-blooming flowers will not only dazzle all who drive past them but also deter pests from nibbling on the bark and branches of the young fruit trees. Isn't nature great?!

 
 

Outdoor Planting

There's lots happening on the farm now that spring has set in. We've planted over 100 fruit trees (apple and cherry), preped ground for a new high tunnel, put some of the first crops in the ground, and continue to seed in the greenhouse! The baby chicks are about one month old now and flying up on every available perch place. Additionally, one of our volunteers, Pete, had been devoting his time to building some much-needed tables for the greenhouse. You can see them in the photos below.

spinach

Spinach in the background and our first planting of nightshades (eggplant, pepper, tomato) up front.

sunflower seedlings

Sunflowers! - can't wait 'til they bloom!

sunflowers

More sunflowers - they have grown so quickly due to the warm temps

scallions

Our onion, leek, and first scallion planting hardening off (becoming acclimated to the outdoors) before being planted out in the field.

lettuce

First lettuce planting, also hardening off

 
 

Spring Sprouts

 

2013 sproutSpring has definitely sprung here at the farm, (even if the Ohio weather doesn't agree!) In our greenhouse early spring sprouts have already begun to emerge from the cell trays. There are currently alliums (such as onions) and brassicas (such as cabbage) showing their cotolodyeons.

 

Also, last Thursday 50 little chicks arrived! Believe it or not, they arrived at the local post office from the hatchery via overnight shipping. The post office then just calls the number written on their box in order to notify the purchaser that their chicks have arrived. This is the second year that we have received chicks this way and it is still so funny/amazing to me! The chicks are all golden comet pulletts, from Mt. Healthy Hatcheries near Cincinnati, OH. This breed is known for its cold tolerance and is said to be good for farms where chickens are pasture-raised. Currently they are cheeping contentedly and growing rapidly under heat lamps in the shop. Come check them out next time you visit!

Additionally, the farm is blessed to have 2 wonderful new volunteers contributing to the farm this year. Molly Rosati and Sharon Mavis have generously agreed to share one of their weekday mornings helping with various tasks around the farm. Look for their volunteer profiles on the volunteer page of the Procter Center website! 

baby chicks

baby chicks

 
 

Winter Planning and Building

 

procter farm in snowWith the cold, and occasionally snowy, days of winter upon us the farm fields are resting while inside a warm building planning for the upcoming season takes place. This year Procter Farm is working on a number of new ventures, not least of which is our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. We are going to be growing many new and exciting varieties of vegetables including some heirloom tomatoes, sunflowers, and cabbages from Seed Savers, blue fingerling potatoes from Moose Tubers up in Maine, and some super-hot peppers for the bravest among us.

In addition to planning, winter is also a great time to work on building projects in our wonderfully heated shop. This winter the project is an “egg mobile” so the laying hen flock can be increased by 50 birds. When finished the mobile nest box trailer will house 24 individual nest box stations so there shouldn’t be any fighting or crowding. Research says that about 4 hens can share 1 nest box though from my observation nearly all the hens pick the same favorite nest box and fight over it anyway!

nest boxes

 
 

CSA Shares 2013

Procter Farm will be offering CSA (community supported agriculture) shares in 2013. We have spent time talking with churches and individuals about this exciting opportunity and have a brochure in circulation with all the most pertinent information, including a tear-off sign up sheet. Additional information about the CSA, such as share sizes, what vegetables will be included, and frequently asked questions can be found on our CSA page on the Procter Center website. Its been great to be able to offer fresh vegetables to guests when they visit Procter and we are excited to be able to give everyone the opportunity to receive these nutritous vegetables each week starting in June 2013. CSA shares are also an unique and thoughtful gift to give for the holidays!

Have a wonderful Christmas and holiday season. See you in the New Year!

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Seasons End

Right before Thanksgiving I finished "putting the farm to bed" as cleaning up the fields and storing seasonal equiptment is often called. Half of the leeks have been donated and the other half are safely stored in the root cellar, layered between leaves. The same goes for beets and carrots. Layering between leaves is a winter storage technique I learned from a class at the OEFFA conference back in February. Now, with any luck, we will have vegetables well into the winter, if not spring.

Other changes have occured due to the impending cold weather. The chickens have moved into a renovated section of the corn crib, where they will be more protected from wind and snow. They still spend most of the daylight hours outside but meander inside thier well-lit coop to eat and lay eggs. Though I anticipated them enjoying their larger space and additional roost bars, they actually don't pay much attention to them, prefering instead, to sleep in one of the corners on the pine shavings that cover their floor. In addition to a larger coop area, they have an automatic door opener/closer that is set to open at the crack of dawn and close once the sun sets, keeping them safe and warm inside the coop. Because this space is so much darker than their red mobile coop they have an automatic timer which turns on lights when the door opens and then shut off when the sun begins to set - but not after sunset!- because they will stumble around in the dark. I must say, the chickens are moving up in the world - bigger house, fancy electric gagets, pine shaving floor... what more could they ask for!?

Chickens Outdoors

 

happy birds

 

laying eggs

 
 

Season Extension

September 26, 2012

brussels sprouts in greenhouse

With the cool weather of fall arriving on the winds that sweep across SR 38 it comes time for moving the growing plants indoors.

Because the greenhouse size is one that will grow with the farm there is space in the back half of it to plant some hardier crops. These crops will grow slowly until about January, when the daylight hours are at their shortest, then resume growth in February. Most of the winter growing season will allow the plants to maintian more of a "holding pattern" than anything else; getting the majority of thier growing out of the way before temperatures drop and sunlight diminishes. Then as long as the temperature in the greenhosue doesn't fluctuate too much the plants should stay fresh, healthy, and crisp until they are needed.

Some of the crops that will be grown this winter are spinach, braising mix, lettuce, beets, brassicas such as kale and brussels sprouts (shown here), and even early tomatoes!

 
 

Fall Musings

Wow! it’s hard to believe its September already. Even though the temperature continues to be very "summer-y", in my mind September=fall. Luckily I am not the only one to feel such, the broccoli and storage cabbages have begun to arrive and I expect to be harvesting them in the next couple of weeks, with the cauliflower to follow. Additionally, the leeks are ready for harvesting. I spent a part of the morning harvesting for a large dinner here at Procter tomorrow evening and also for the Madison County Farmer's Market. The repetitive action of cutting them out of the ground, stripping the outer leaves, trimming the roots, and cutting the fan into a more manageable shape is a distinctly fall activity; not to mention the smell!

On a separate note, I have to say farmers can be such nice people. I called up an Ohio farmer to see about buying some garlic seed. He didn't have any, which I discovered in the first 5 minutes of the phone conversation. The farmer could have ended the conversation there but instead continued to chat for another 25 minutes, telling me everything from where else to look for garlic, what the pros and cons of other garlic varieties were, to how to make garlic powder from whole garlic cloves. It’s not everyday someone will take time out of their busy lives to simply share knowledge and have a friendly chat with a stranger. It was very nice and I was left with a sense of connectedness, of belonging, and of community. We had chatted, we had shared information, we were "on the same team". Maybe that is how community really starts and grows, by taking the time to say more than what is essential and being willing to offer more than what is asked.

 
 

1,000 lbs of Winter Squash...and counting

The high heat of mid-summer and the rapid cooling of the days as August got into full swing has caused a number of crops to behave as though fall is already here, and I guess, according to the weather, it is!

One of these crops is winter squash. When their leaves begin to die back and expose the crop to direct sunlight it is time to harvest, ripe or not. Partially ripe squash will continue to ripen in storage, like tomatoes and a process called cureing helps the squash develop a sweeter, more complex flavor.

 

Spagetti Squash

Butternut Squash

Delicata Squash: you can eat the entire squash after it has been broiled, even the skin! (that is why they are called delicata)

Baby Bear Sugar Pumpkins: great for pies and soups

Charisma Carving Pumpkins

 
 

Storage Onion Harvest

yellow storage

Storage onions are a full-season crop, meaning they take the majority of the growing season to mature. The onions in the picture above started as 1mm long seeds back in March, when they were started in the greenhouse. It always amazes me that they grow to such mamoth size!

When 20% of the onions' green stalks have flopped over and skins begin to form on the bulbs they are ready to be harvested and dried.

drying onion

Onions need a well ventilated drying space that is out of the direct sunlight. The greenhouse with a shade cloth is the perfect place for these guys!

 

chickens

More and more of the chickens are laying eggs; I believe we are up to 6 hens laying currently! Also, they are rather enjoying the shade of the tree in their new location behind Cabin 6. Come visit them next time you are at Procter!

asina egg.

 

The eggplant are flourishing in the field! The other day I made baba ganoush with some of them and it tastes amazing! There is just something wonderful about these glossy veggies that makes them as fun to harvest as they are to eat. Just watch out for the small (but sharp!) thorns on the crown.

eggies

 
 

Early Layer and Alien Tomatoes

 

egggs

Over the last week one hen has begun to lay eggs!

Her first one was more like a sack than an egg, because the yolk and white were contained but not in a hard shell. After that though she has been consistently laying 1 egg each day, not early in the morning like I would have expected, but rather in the late morning. If you notice in the picture below, the eggs get progressively bigger. The hen's first "real" egg was so small but I am confident that they will end up at the propper size once she gets the hang of it. Hopefully the rest of the hens will follow suite soon!

 

What are those strangely-shaped tomatoes you are seeing at the farm stand and farmer's market? They are an heirloom variety called brandywine and, believe it or not, they are suppose to look like alien fruit! Their ridged exterior is no indication of thier inner flavor though. Johnny's Seed Catalog, where I bought the seeds for this tomato from, describe it as "very rich, loud, and distinctively spicy"!

tomatoesHeirlooms are often sought out for thier rich and robust flavors and the ability farmers have to save the seeds from year to year. Heirlooms, or indeterminant plants, will continue to grow, flower, and produce fruit until the cold kills them off.

So, the next time you are shoping for tomatoes, remember to look past the odd exterior of the heirloom and see if the flavor more than makes up for any difficulties in slicing rings for your sandwich!

 
 

Flower Power!

Check out the beautiful sunflowers growing in the field! I can't believe they are staying in bloom for so long. Also, the zinnias and marigolds are going strong, providing a nice habitat for a variety of insects.

zinnias

sunflowers

With all this hot weather and supplemental water via irrigation the eggplant have been growing very well and were for sale this weekend at the farm stand and farmer's market. Also ready are potatoes and beans - so many beans in fact, that Susie, the kitchen manager, is currently blanching and freezing them for preservation and future use!

 
 

Firsts

I have been reading a book called The Four Season Harvest by Elliot Coleman in which he talks about plant health and pest control. The idea being that healthy plants will have less pests because their actual physical make-up is less desirable to eat than that of a stressed plant. It is so interesting that just because the plant produces the desired crop does not mean that that crop is as healthy and full of nutrients as a similar plant grown in a better environment. I think this is partially where the idea of brix (a measure of the sugar content of a plant) comes from.  If you ever have the chance to read through this book, or even the chapter about pests, it is well worth the time! I find myself now looking around at my plants and seeing ways to lower stress and increase nutrient availability.

On the farm currently many of the heat-loving crops are starting to mature. The other day I ate the first cherry tomato off the vine and the first planting of beans are nearly ready for a first pick. Small peppers are on all the first planting pepper plants and the eggplants have flowers. Also, last week the first harvest of corn took place. I believe Senior High camp got to taste those corn first-fruits with one of their dinners! Speaking of camp, I have had the wonderful opportunity to welcome a handful of camp-goers and counselors throughout each camp week to the farm. For one of their activity times during the afternoon campers are able to come out to the farm and work on a project with me. This past week we spent a couple of nice hours chatting about anything and everything as we picked weeds from a variety of crops.

 
 
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