Avalon Farms Premium Homegrown

  (Climax, Michigan)
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What's it's going to be...winter or spring?

Well here it is, mid April, and we just had a couple inches of snow. Can't believe it. Temperatures are running so far below normal that we are still up every night to fill the wood burner so that the tomatoes don't get cold. To add insult to injury, most days have been cloudy and that means that the greenhouses and high tunnels don't warm up from the sunshine. Normally by now the soil in the high tunnels would be warm enough so that we could plant in them. No so this year. Cold, rainy, basically miserable.

Still, we continue to prepare for the summer growing season. I say summer growing season because we also have a "winter" growing season for salad greens and a few other crops. The crew is seeding flats so that we have plants to start in the gardens, as well as the high tunnels. High tunnel soil amendments have been worked in. Supplies have been ordered for the farmers market stalls. We've had way to much rain to do any work outside in the gardens. Wet soil compacts, and that is not a good thing! Besides muddy shoes/boots means mud getting tracked in and that is also not a good thing!! March is usually our "mud season", guess it's just a little longer this year.

Our CSA slots are filling up fast. That's a good thing and helps us feel positive about the coming season. We always look forward to seeing our members, whether they come to the farm to pick up their share or we deliver it to them. With fuel prices steadily increasing, and no end in sight to the increases, we are a bit anxious about how high the prices might get. We waited as long as we could to set Share of the Farm prices, all the while keeping an eye on fuel prices, and kept them as low as possible, but if gas really gets above $5 a gallon, we will probably have to use the ol' "fuel surcharge" method. Really hate to see it come to that! High fuel prices also mean that other prices will increase over the season, including shipping from our suppliers.

Oh, well. Every season is a different set of challenges. Some times it's too wet, too cold, too dry, too hot, too stormy, yadda yadda,yadda,  Sometimes it's all of it in the same growing season. Gotta love it!


Feels Like Spring Today and Other Ramblings

March in Michigan seems to be a month of extremes, weather wise. I call it mud season. It can be cold, snowy one day and sunny with 60 degrees the next. Yesterday and today were very pleasant days when we didn't have to bundle up in order to spend some time outside. The rain will be moving in tonight though.

Most of the snow piles are gone with just a few tiny piles left over from where it was piled when we plowed. Snow storms were heavy early this winter and we did have an actual blizzard. Not the worst I remember, but still a blizzard.

The ground has thawed, allowing the puddles to drain. Now instead of plowing snow out of the driveways, we're fixing the pot holes, a never ending task. The other never ending task is picking up sticks from the yard. Since we had a couple of ice storms recently, there are lots of limbs to clean up, as well as branches. Still just a nuisance, nothing like other areas have seen. We're high enough here not to flood, although there are areas nearby that do, along the rivers. Lakefront properties can flood as well, but that's more of a "high water" issue that pretty much remedies itself. We have some low spots on the farms that will have standing water periodically, but for the most part our soils drain well. We only have one farm that has any tiling on it, but we also have county drains that run through or near the farms. Other parts of Michigan are totally dependent on tiling and drains, and you'll see rather deep ditches along the roads in those areas. If we flood here on the Climax Prairie, we're in a world of hurt, as they say, since we are at a much higher elevation than the communities in the Kalamazoo River valley.

We are still heating the greenhouses and cutting wood this time of year can be a challenge. The cutting crew heads out early in the morning while the ground is still frozen and before everything turns to mud. The wood burner keeps the boiler pumping heated water into the root zone heating in the tomato house. Got to keep those tomato plants nice and warm.

We're just starting to seed flats for the gardens. After ordering seed, it's the next period of excitement for the coming growing season. We start most of the plants for the gardens and high tunnels, however since there is a very large bedding plant industry in the Kalamazoo, Portage and Comstock areas, we know lots of greenhouse operators. A friend who runs one of them will start some of the standards for us. He can do it very cost effectively because they're doing thousands of flats, compared to us doing less than a couple of hundred. We fill flats by hand while they have fillers. They have automatic waterers, compared to us with a hose. There is also a greenhouse co-op and they purchase in bulk. Germinating mix prices have gone up again, so every little cost savings helps.

Just a reminder, that this is National Agriculture Week. You can learn some fun Ag Facts at www.agday.org/education/fun_facts.php





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