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Let the Fun Begin!!

Thank you Sarah, Ashley, Jordan, Joe, Gauthier and Delaney!!

Thank you Sarah, Ashley, Jordan, Joe, Gauthier and Delaney!!

One of the hardest parts in any business is finding good help. It is rare these days finding people who not only want to work, but don’t mind doing physical labor in sometimes extreme weather conditions. Now that the semester is finished I was lucky enough to have six great people come out to the farm and help me get things back in order and up and running last week. It was amazing to see what was accomplished by last Friday, especially with the unseasonably cooler weather.

Master Joe working irrigation

Irrigation Master Joe laying drip

One of the largest tasks we were able to finish was setting up all of our irrigation for the entire 1.5 acres. This sounds like it would be simple enough but let me tell you….. it never is! There is always a leak somewhere that needs to be fixed or a line that isn’t long enough or more lay flat that needs to be ordered. I talked in last week’s blog about large leaks in the lay flat and how we needed to order new for this growing season. When it came in we needed to reinstall all of our drip line valves for the entire plot. New lay flat is not very stretchy so it was incredibly tough trying to squeeze all of those valves in. Some people are really good at it and some are really bad. Unfortunately I am the latter. I was lucky enough to have Joe and Jordan out in the field with me who popped those things in like they had been assembling irrigation for years.

Delaney putting up tomato trellising

Delaney putting up tomato trellising

We were also able to get all of our trellising assembled for our tomatoes (indeterminate and determinate) and peppers. I am always so excited when this project is complete because it makes the farm look legit. 🙂 Plus, there is nothing like digging one million two foot post holes with a post hole digger. Not really one million but it was enough to make me sore for four days.

Head Romaine

Head Romaine

We also managed to get everything planted!! This is huge! I made a harvest calendar predicting our harvests for each crop and emailed it to each of the chefs that bought from me last year. I have slowly been teaching myself excel, which will be an easier communication between me and the clients and also for record keeping.

All Planted!!!

All Planted!!!

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Oh-Blah-Di Oh-Blah-Da

Holes in the lay flat.

Holes in the lay flat.

Oh-Blah-Di Oh-Blah-Da Life goes on…. Well it wouldn’t be a start up without a few (but manageable) hiccups. Some may ask, “well Ann, why would you plant without checking your irrigation” and my response would be “great question”. Yes, I planted without flushing out my irrigation lines. I was thinking that even if I had a few leaks I could fix them with the connectors. What I didn’t plan for were giant holes in my lay flat. Uuuuuuuggggghhhhh! Well thank goodness there was rain in the forecast and my little plants did not die. Whew! I ordered new lay flat from Indiana Irrigation, a company which I cannot say enough great things about!! If you are looking for quality product with a speedy delivery, and by speedy I mean 1-2 days, then they are the people to call!

SPINACH!!!

SPINACH!!!

Now that school is finally finished I am out at the farm full time. I was able to get my squash, watermelon and spinach in the ground last week and pull my tomatoes out to harden them off. (Hardening off transplants simply means taking them out of the green house to a shady spot to get them acclimated to the outdoor environment so you don’t shock them when they go in the field.)

TOMATOES!!!

TOMATOES!!!

Today I had an army of helpers ready and roaring to go. Not only did we plant over 1/2 our tomatoes today but we also got our indeterminate tomato trellising up, which is a big job. We also got the last of our starts (peppers and herbs) pulled out and hardening off to plant by the end of the week. The farm is starting to look a little familiar now, just on a larger scale. 🙂

Look familiar?!

Look familiar?!

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Life’s a Garden, Dig It?

Squash and Watermelon getting ready to go into the ground this week

Squash and Watermelon getting ready to go into the ground this week

Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the planting and growing I forget to focus on the steps and details in between. For instance, when we are talking transplants…. do I have enough soil to fill flats? Do I have enough flats and trays for all of the transplants, including the replanting and succession planting? Where will I grow them? Where will I harden them off? Will I have access to water? How will I transport them from the greenhouse to the field? Every little thing needs to be planned out in order to save you time and money. Not forgetting the details takes experience and learning from mistakes.

Head Romaine Lettuce and Spinach

Head Romaine Lettuce and Spinach

I started hardening off 1/2 of our transplants this year. The squash, watermelon, spinach and head lettuce are going to be some of the first crop to get in the ground this week. I am interested to see how the squash and watermelon do. This will be my first year growing both. I have a lot of demand for the product but the squash bugs and cucumber beetles have scared me off in the past. Once they are in your field it is an incredible pain to get rid of them. I put my big girl pants on this year, found some courage and hopefully in a month you will not be reading about how much I hate squash bugs.  🙂

UGH, JERKS!!

UGH, JERKS!!

I did not have enough space or help (once we start planting) to harden off all of my transplants at the same time so I will be doing it in waves. Harden off and plant while the second group is hardening off, then planting again. Once the above mentioned are in the ground I will then pull out my tomatoes and peppers from their protected environment and get them ready. I usually harden off my plants 4-5 days but with the rain we have been having the last couple days it may push it back a little. When I mention “protected environment” I use that term loosely. As I was pulling up to water the transplants inside the greenhouse last night and check on my little baby lettuces after the rain storm, I noticed the most horrific sight. Something had eaten the tops of my tomato transplants. Not all of them are gone but a good chunk of the variety that we were collaborating with the researchers were damaged. After speaking with the farmers about it this morning the perp was labeled as a bird, not a deer which is what I initially suspected. Well, pardon my profanity but shit happens. If it isn’t a deer eating the tops of my lettuce transplants last year than it is a bird eating my tomato transplants this year. I’m just going to shrug, cut it as a loss and replant as soon as possible. This stuff happens. Keep on keepin’ on.

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2015 the year of the mowing, not the hoeing!!!

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Whole lotta land!!

Busy week here at the HH farm. We are two weeks a head of where we were last year and the previous year. Good for the farm, not so good for Ann (me) who still has two weeks left cooking for the boys. Things have definitely become a juggling act. Thank goodness for great help, Ben at the farm and Gauthier in the kitchen!!

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Kenny’s reaction to me telling him to drive straight when laying my raised beds 🙂

The weather has been absolutely superb (not to be a pessimist) but I’m sure we will pay for that eventually with some sort of freakish frost in June or a monsoon like last year. Always be prepared is our motto from now on!! 🙂 Because the weather has been so nice, we were able to get all of the plastic laid for the incubator plots. I was able to sneak away from the kitchen and “supervise” the tail end last Friday. I know the farmers were very excited to have my input and critique. 🙂 I have to say it always looks daunting when there is just open land and nothing planted to fill the empty space.

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Jeremy, Ben, Kenny and Jordan laying plastic.

Once the plastic is laid there is a lot of prep work to be done before we can start planting. I chose to divide the 1.5 acres into three 1/2 acres with a 5 foot break in between the plots. I did this to make shorter beds for ease of harvesting, separate vegetable variety for trellising and also to make it seem less daunting. C’mon… a 180ft bed has a faster end point than a 360 ft bed. All about perception 🙂 ! All of the path spaces needed to be leveled out with the BCS tiller. This prevents water from collecting on the sides of the plastic and it will also be easier to walk/ pull a harvest cart up and down the rows when there isn’t a large hump in the middle. Also, the ends needed to be squared up and in certain spots the plastic needed to be reburied. This was about an afternoon’s worth of work on a 1/2 acre. Now it is about 1-2 days worth of work, barring it doesn’t rain like it did today.  We are planting everything on raised beds this year with 5 foot path spacing. This is two feet larger between beds than last year so we can get a tractor up and down the rows. We are planting all the breaks between 1/2 acres and between beds with rye. My weed management plan is to mow mow mow and not hoe hoe hoe! Better for the back and saves time. Labor costs money!

Working on Irrigation

Working on Irrigation

Ben is working with the student farm to get our irrigation set up. Once that is up and running we will be able to start direct seeding and transplanting some of our early vegetables. We have started hardening off our watermelon, squash, lettuce and spinach. This is the first year I have grown squash and watermelon. I wanted to seed them in transplants because I always think they have more of a fighting chance once they are planted in the field. However, these came up so fast they are getting too big for their 32 cell trays. We started hardening them off today and I am hoping they will be in the ground by the end of the week.

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