Seasons at Procter Farm

  (London, Ohio)
Procter Farm
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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

 
 

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.

 
 

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.

 
 
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