Seasons at Procter Farm

  (London, Ohio)
Procter Farm
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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?

 
 

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 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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