Seasons at Procter Farm

  (London, Ohio)
Procter Farm
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Photos from the Field

June 18, 2012

Over the last 24 hours the farm has been inundated with rain and thunderstorms. Irrigation from the sky is always my favorite form, not only because I was a passive observer but becasue the veggies always look brighter, bigger, and happier after a shower. The mid-summer storm also afforded me some time to relax and reflect, leading to time for this blog entry. Enjoy the photos and info!

pepper

The first planting of pepper plants are coming along quite nicely. Their early growth was a bit rocky but there are even little flower buds appearing. We'll soon have more tasty peppers than we know what to do with!

chardSwiss Chard is one of those vegetables that I really didn't think much about or know much about, for that matter, until I began to farm. I would always see these wonderfully-colored greens in the store but becasue we never bought them I never really thought of them in relation to food I could eat. Now I can't get enough of these greens. Their vibrant rainbow stems are just the thing to make any meal stand out at a potluck and with all the vitamins and minerals housed in the greens they are always a tasty and healthy option!

chickens

The chickens love napa cabbage!

 

chickenshey have grown so much over the past couple of months too! The roosters now are attempting thier "rooster calls", though they mostly sound like broken car horns. They'll learn!

 

chickens

 

toms

In the nightshade field the tomatoes are growing like crazy! They have already been trellised once and are in need of their second line. To the left of them in the photo are marigolds. I have always heard that marigolds are good to grow near tomatoes and we are using the flowers in salads at the center. They taste amazing!

winter squash

All of the winter squash are in! We will be growing spagetti squash, butternut, pie pumpkins and carving pumpkins to name a few. Also the cantaloupe and watermelon are in this field. I am trying to grow a variety of water melon called Savor, which is a small musk melon. We'll see how it turns out!

flower

Throughout the farm fields I have planted various flowers such as the zinnia's to the left. There are sunflowers and marigolds (previously mentioned) as well. They add a burst of color as well as a source of food for insects. Stop by sometime and have a look!

 
 

A Special Tomato Story

June 1, 2012

Last month I was contacted by a woman interested in giving me a couple of tomatoes. This woman's name was Deanna Douglas, and these weren't just some ordinary tomatoes. She explained to me that these heirloom fruits had been cultivated by her grandfather since WWII. Each year Grampy, as he was affectionately known, would choose 1 or 2 of the best looking tomatoes and save the seeds from them, first by soaking the seeds to remove the surrounding "goo" then by setting time out to dry. The seeds would be stored carefully away until the following March, when he would again begin to cultivate the tomato offspring, if you will.

These very special and historic tomatoes, whose variety name is Grampy's Tomatoes" are now growing in the newly-constructed raised beds at Procter. Deanna said she wanted to make sure some of this variety continued to be grown and what better place than a farm, where other veggies are already being tended. She also told me that the tomatoes are an interesting green striped and very sweet variety. Needless to say, I am excited to watch these special tomatoes grow and to taste the green tomatoes when they are ready.

If you are interested, next time you are at Procter take a couple of minutes to check out these tomato plants, exuding as much health and vigor as they are history.

tomato

Grampy's Tomato on the left and a Brandywine on the right, both given to me by Deanna.

Below are just a couple of snap shots of what has been going on at the farm.

blue greenhouse

I finally got the greenhouse endwalls painted! One thing I learned when buying the paint way back when the greenhouse was first constructed was that I had to wait until the temperature was above 50 degrees F at night and fairly dry, so the paint wouldn't just warp off the wet and cold wood. A couple of weeks ago I got the perfect conditions and went for it. It was a great experience, one, because I love painting, and two, because now I know the wood is protected from the elements and will last longer.

scallions

Some little scallions are making their way in the clay-dirt. With the rain we are getting now they are sure to spring up a couple of inches. Alliums love water!

beet

I am amazed at how well the beets have grown over the past couple of weeks. As I learned from two visiting farmers from California, beets and other root crops do rather well in clay-y soil. This was from a shared observation though none of us really understood the reasoning behind the result; given that the fruit of a root crop grows mostly in the soil has to push its way through the clay in order to expand in size. Any ideas?

 
 

Irrigation Love

I have to say, I love irrigation! Though over the years I have had my fair share of experiences moving drip tape or lugging around lay flat I always sort of resented its existence because of how it clogged the fields or required me to move its hulking mass in order to mow. And yes, I knew that the water was necessary for plant growth and that consistent water availability was even more important for uniform crop development.  Even so, I never really quite got the magic of it until just the other day when I was setting up drip tape for the Tennis 1 field. I had spent all day planting and cultivating amongst many other things. The setting up of the irrigation was my last task of the day and one of my house mates, Sarah, came over to help me get the last lines of drip set down, just as the sun was doing the same. When we were finished I turned to her and expressed, with gleeful exuberance, just how excited I was to turn on the water and walk away; because, really, that’s the point. Irrigation does work - for hours - while I do other work. I can seed in the greenhouse, prepare more beds, or dote on the chickens, all while my plants, swaying gleefully in the wind, soak up the life-giving water into their roots.

True to my hope and expectations, the next day the corn was a deeper green and actually grew - noticeably! The same darkening of the foliage had occurred with the sunflowers and they no longer looked like they resented being planted in pure clay.  Even now as I write this some nightshade starts are happily drinking out in the London 3 field. Ahhh, isn’t water wonderful?

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Veggies for Sale, Early Summer Crops in the Ground

Well! It has been quite the week and weekend. Procter Center held a Food and Faith conference, bringing together many people interested in making a difference in their communities and lives. We had a wonderful weekend of education, conversation, sharing, and learning. Thanks to all who participated!

The farm is certainly picking up in both the amount of planting that happens each week and the amount of weeding and irrigating that is needed. I have planted the first round of cucumbers and summer squash as well as some tomatoes. All are doing fine despite how early in the year it is. Even with the low temperatures at night the plants are continuing to grow. Peppers and Eggplant are going to be planted on Sunday (gotta get them in the ground before the rain!)

Starting next week there will be enough ready veggies for harvest and sale. Keep an eye out on the main page for the opportunity to place orders for and pre-pay for your Procter Farm veggies. The kitchen at Procter will also be serving these first fruits of the farm.

 
 

Procter has Bobolinks!

I know these blackbirds aren't exactly rare, but I was so excited to hear the males singing yesterday and today as I was planting outside. Back in college I took an ornithology class and the boblink was one of the birds we had to know (song and ID) and also tried to see out on one of our field trips. I never saw it though its song was one I really liked b/c of the clever way it can be remembered. The song sounds like R2D2 (from Star Wars)!

Bobolinks make nests on the ground in meadows and fields. In this habitat they can easily hide amongst the long grasses and forage on seeds and insects. Becuase many fields are often mowed or harvested for hay the nestlings don't always have a chance to leave the nest, causing mortality and a decrease in species numbers. Luckily, Procter, in an effort to conserve time and fuel emissions, has decreased the areas that will be mowed this year, leaving the back pastures around the farm uncut. Isn't it great that doing one thing good for the environment has yielded other unforseen benefits as well?

Check out the picture of a boblink on the deer fence below:

bobalink

bobolink

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The Season Underway

Over the past week or so the chickens and I have been trying to work out a routine where I go to shut them in their coop when they are already inside and ready to sleep. Usually I get worried that it is getting too late and too dark and head over there only to find them all scurrying around cheeping contentedly (not in their coop, I might add). Usually I poke around the farm, waiting for it to get darker and for them to all go inside but end up chasing the last few, bent over, arms outstretched, in an attempt to get them inside. Yesterday was the first day of synchrony. I was again worried, seeing as how the sun was nearly set and it was about 9pm, that the chickens were being stalked by predators. My imagination was working overtime as I arrived at their coop, expecting to see little foxes peering at them through the poultry fence, licking their chops. Instead, I looked in the door and to my great satisfaction, found half of my chicks wedged onto the first roosting bar and the rest practically on top of each other on the floor below. Some of the roosting birds were facing backwards. They’ll learn. I think now I know to go out later than feels comfortable and they will be all set to be tucked in for the night. No more chasing them around and feeling bad that I am closing them in when they still want to romp outside.

In other news, major planting is getting underway. I have planted spinach, beets, scallions, leeks, onions, and next week flowers, kale, and parsley will go out. Corn and the nightshades will follow soon after. All of the brassicas (turnips, radishes, cabbage,) are growing excellently and very quickly! The “spring” peas are finally up and I saw the emergence of some potatoes that were gifted to me by Rock Dove Farm in West Jefferson. Have a look at the pictures below!

spring peas

potato

 
 

Chickens in the Coop, Tomatoes Potted Up

tomato1

The Brandywine plant is an heirloom tomato, which means that the flowers are openly pollinated and seeds can be saved from year to year. They produce excellent-tasting fruit and grow indeterminately, which means that there is no set number of flowers and fruits that the plant will produce. They can grow and grow until the frost and winter temps arrive.

tomato2

The sun cherry, as the name indicates, is a nice golden cherry tomato that is known for its sweetness.

tomato3

Pink Beauty is one of my favorite determinate tomatoes. It produces nice pink fruits that are uniform in size and color. These, along with the 2 other varieties above have just been potted up into these 50-cell trays. They came from the 20-rows whose picture was featured a couple of entries ago. Scroll down to see how much they have grown!

hardening off

About a week before seedlings are to be transplanted outside they need to be hardened off, which means they need to be accustomed to wind and temperature fluctuations. While they are making these adjustments consistant watering is still provided. All of these alliums (onions, leeks, scallions) will be planted the week of April 30th. If you are interested in helping out with this activity, please let me know!

dchicks exploring

The chickens are slowly becoming bolder with leaving thier coop. I moved them out last week but we had such cold and windy days lately that they haven't been very interested in going outside until just recently.

no eggs

No eggs yet! It takes about 6 months for chicks to begin to lay eggs, so I am expecting eggs around September or October.

perching

It is very exciting to see the chickens using the roosts! I don't think they actually sleep up there yet but it is exciting to see them growing and doing more "chicken-y" things!

adorable

 
 

Seedling Gallery

Though the little sprigs of green above look more like grass or weeds than a vegetable, they are actually the beginnings of carrots. Carrots take a long time to germinate and it is very exciting to see some coming out of the ground. The early varieties I have planted are Mokum and Nelson, chosen for their good growth in the spring.

All of the nightshades have germinated and on the tomatoes I can already begin to see true leaves. When they all have fully developed first true leaves I will pot them up, meaning that they will be separated out of the 20 rows and put, one per cell, into 50 cell trays to continue growing. If you are interested in potting up any peppers, eggplants, and/or tomatoes and hanging out in the greenhouse, please let me know. This process will be happening thoughout the week of 4/23.

The spinach has germinated and is growing excellently! I can't wait to plant it outside and have even more anticipation of eating it!

Above is Napa Cabbage, a spring and fall crop that is great for stir frying and for making kimchi, a fermented dish which has its origins in Korea. These little cabbages will be covered with row cover like those to their right in the picture in order to keep flea beetles and cabbage root maggots at bay. Root maggots are the larval stage of the cabbage root fly. By covering the plants and securing the edges with soil, the fly can't get to the base of the plant in order to lay its eggs. The same theory goes for the flea beetles, though they will land directly on the plant and begin munching.

 
 

Potato Expressions

Rumbling along on the tractor, ear plugs in my ears and the sun shining in my face, everything seems perfect. The tiller is humming powerfully behind me, creating very fine straight, flat bed tops. I finish the bed and stop the tractor so that I can observe the work of a machine behind me. The bed is perfect. Lightly, gleefully, I hop down from the seat and grab my measuring tape and bag of potatoes. Though slightly disappointed that there is only one bed to plant I begin wheeling out the tape and plopping potatoes at intervals along the center of the bed. Now that the tractor is off and my ear plugs are removed I can hear the birds as they buisily

In life it is easy to become bogged down with tasks, responsibilities, and details. They are like a physical weight. We forget to look up, stand up, see what is around us. But then there comes those moments, rare though they can be, when we suddenly find ourselves slowly standing up straight, looking up at the sky and the earth, our daily cares and worries temporarily sliding off our shoulders and onto the ground with a resounding, though oddly faint thump. We begin to breathe easier, to see goodness and light in all that surrounds us, and to remember what and why it is we  are here.

 
 

And the Season Begins...

Suddenly the weather feels like spring again – real spring, where it is cold and if you stand out of the wind in the sun you can glimpse summer in the distance. I have planted some spring peas and early carrots. The plants in the greenhouse are growing, especially the napa cabbage, which seems to really enjoy the temperature fluctuations that are occurring. I hope to have the heat going in there soon but regardless, even the leeks, scallions, and onions are snapping up their little string-like stalks with increasing rapidity from the soil.

As you will see by the photos below, the chicks are growing quickly. When I sneak up on them they are all sleeping with heads outstretched; their little bodies squeezed next to each other in arcs around the glow of the heat lamp. When they realize that I am there they immediately jump up, begin cheeping, and furiously eat. Adding human motivations to birds, I want to say they are showing off but in reality, I don’t really know why they feel the need for this frenzied activity, just because someone is present. Regardless, it sure is entertaining!

Though I mentioned that the greenhouse plastic had been put on a couple of weeks ago, what was not –but is now-  set up was the blower. This small electric-run device blows air between the 2 layers of the greenhouse and inflates them. This not only creates a warmer interior of the greenhouse, but keeps the 2 layers from whipping around and possibly tearing or catching on rough bolts. No matter how tight the plastic is stretched over the hoops there is always slack. The blower is just such an invaluable finishing touch for the plastic to have a longer life. (the typical lifetime of greenhouse plastic is 4 years)

 
 

The chicks have arrived!

The air was still cool and the ground shrouded in early morning dew when a piercing ring broke through the air, alerting me that 50 Barred Plymouth Rock chicks had arrived at the London Post Office. I had no idea that people were even at the post office so early! Though I had already set up the brooding area in anticipation of the chicks’ arrival, the food and water had yet to be set out and the lights turned on to adequately warm the area. I raced over to the corn crib to set these items up and then off to London to get the little creatures, fearful the whole time that they were going to just drop dead. Chicks are sure resilient animals though. After having been shipped in a little box without food or water the day after they were hatched they are currently scuttling around in their seriously warm brooding area, happily chirping and exploring.

Though it is hard to tell now, these fluffy little chicks are all pullets (female) and of the Barred Rock breed, which are known for their cold tolerance. I had considered getting Buff Orpington chicks but was warned that they were prone to broodiness (wanting to hatch the eggs they lay).

In addition to the excitement of the chicks arriving I have also witnessed the emergence of Procter Farm’s 1st seedling from the soil. This seedling is from the sunflowers that were started last Friday. The onion and scallion sprouts are following quickly.

Last but not least, Jim Gambill, the farmer who leases much of Procter’s farm land, has generously given his time and energy to preparing the fields where the farm will be this year. Just yesterday I saw his tractor toting the most intense disk I have ever seen. I am so grateful that he is willing to help me with these aspects of the farm, from laying fertilizer to this final step of disking the plow furrows. Without his help preparing for the coming growing season would have been much more difficult. Thanks Jim!

 
 

The Plastic is On!

Sunscreen… sunglasses… t-shirts… you’d think I was describing the middle of the summer, right? Usually that would be the case but accompanying our crazy winter weather was a “scorcher” in the middle of March. It was on this bazaar 75 degree day that we succeeded in getting the greenhouse plastic up. Starting at 8am and working until 11am, the process of hoisting and securing the plastic required infinitely less effort than our first attempt - which I made mention of in the last entry. Where we were fighting to keep the plastic and ourselves on the ground that first time but yesterday the plastic sailed smoothly over the bows seemingly of its own accord. It is now time to start seeding. This week some flowers, parsley, scallions, and onions are going to be put into cell trays. The alliums take so long to grow that they have to be started this early.

Of Greenhouses and Chickens

The weather seems to be warming up and a symphony of bird songs can be heard issuing from the treetops, which makes me excited for spring; and spring planting! This coming Friday I am planning to put the plastic over the greenhouse and soon thereafter the shutters and heater will be installed. Just in time for the beginning of seeding everything is falling into place.

In other exciting news, I have ordered 50 Barred Plymouth Rock chicks from Mt. Healthy Hatcheries. They will be arriving at the end of the month and, now that I think of it, just in time for Easter! Through the wonderfully helpful advice of Paul Clever & crew of Good Earth Farm in Athens, I feel more confident about raising the little creatures. I will be putting up pictures for folks to look at when they arrive.

 

 
 
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