Avalon Farms Premium Homegrown

  (Climax, Michigan)
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Spring 2011

Well, no one can say that the spring of 2011 wasn’t interesting. Cold, yes. Wet, yes. Without sunshine, yes. As I am writing this, the sun is shining and the temperature today is expected in the “really hot” range, and with a good southerly breeze blowing, but still, the gardens are too wet to work. Kevin and his friends got them plowed on May 1st, and we haven’t been able to work in them since. If you will recall, it had been rainy the week before that and it just happened that he was able to get in them then, with rain that afternoon. Add insult to injury, another round of thunderstorms is predicted for this afternoon. The bad news is that we’ve planted nothing in the gardens to date. It hasn’t stopped raining long enough to dry out so that we can plant. There are lots of plants waiting for their “forever” homes in the gardens, and wanting to be moved out of the high tunnels, but if we get another round of rain today, they won’t get moved anytime soon. Our soils compact to a cement like substance if they get worked while wet, so we’re careful not to even walk on them while wet, let alone run a tractor and equipment over them. The good news is that Larry and Hank did find a narrow window to plant a couple of batches of sweet corn early on, and the field corn got planted, actually about the time soybeans are usually finished being planted. Not many soybeans are planted yet. Typically, both are totally planted by mid-May. Field crops are a lot less cold sensitive than vegetable crops.

 

Cold? Yes. Wet? Yes. Without sunshine? Yes. Just another day on the farm? Yes. Are we up to the challenge? Yes. We just keep telling ourselves that.

 

 

 
 

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!


 
 

First It's Spring and Then It's Not

It's the second week of May and the thermometer reads 42 degrees. And it's raining! It's a really good day to work in the office, getting caught up on things and perhaps even get a little ahead before the next wave of crazy outdoors (yes, I'm probably dreaming). Fortunately, rainy weather has keep us from working outside in the market gardens planting because two nights of freezing temperatures this week wouldn't have done new plantings much good.

The "tomato house", as we call it, actually the hydroponic greenhouse where 1,660 tomato plants are warm and cozy, is looking good. The bumbles (bumblebees) are busy pollinating. Now these aren't the big, fat bumbles one might find in their backyard, but rather a very docile, smaller variety. They very rarely sting, unless they get pinched under someone's arm or something, and are very efficient at pollination since they know exactly when the blossom is ready. We use bumbles rather than honeybees because unlike honeybees the bumbles orient to their surroundings when they come out of the hive, then fly "low and slow" staying within the canopy of the tomato plants. Honeybees on the other hand would just fly out the roof vents. Hives are replaced about every 6-8 weeks.

The "lettuce house" where we grow salad greens hydroponically is in transition from old crop to new. A good cleaning and it's ready for the summer months.

Both high tunnels (unheated hoop houses) are full. The oldest tunnel is full of salad greens, Swiss chard, collard greens, radishes, salad turnips, broccoli, basil, cilantro, kale, and parsley. Since our Saturday farmers market started the first Saturday in May, we can move some of this product. The second high tunnel, which was built just before the ground froze last year, is full of all the plants we have started for the market gardens. The high tunnels take lots of watering on sunny days, when they warm up very quickly.

Our Friday Farmers Market starts next week Friday. It's a new market in Vicksburg and we are looking forward to it. There is a great core group of vendors and volunteer management from the community. At the beginning of June, all the other farmers markets start so we will be loading trucks on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday until the end of October. Now you know what I meant about the next wave of crazy!



 
 
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