St. Valentine’s Day was Not Just for Lovers

Have you noticed that the hours of daylight have been increasing?

December 21st is the shortest day with less than 9 hours of daylight. On January 21st this jumped to 9 hours 32 minutes and February 14th increased again to 10 hours 30 minutes. Doing the math, since December 21st we have gained 1 hour 30 minutes and these gains seem more noticeable each day.

The sun even feels much warmer when it decides to make an appearance. The combined longer daylight and warmer sun means it’s time to start planting again in the High Tunnel. Out with the old and in with the new.

This week we finished harvesting one of the beds of Asian Greens and began the process of replanting a new crop for early spring harvest.

We stagger the plantings so we can have a steady supply of greens throughout the spring. After we finished harvesting we used the broad fork to loosen the soil and then clear out the old plants and debris by hand. Just a simple tool that uses muscle to loosen and aerate the soil for the new crop. The goal is to loosen the soil but not disturb it too much and keep all the topsoil on the top layer.

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Now we are almost ready to plant, but there is one more important step.

We need to till the top 2-3 inches to smooth it out and make the perfect seed bed. Keep in mind we are planting very tiny seeds and they need the best conditions as possible. The tool for this is called the tilther and uses a cordless electric drill to power it. A very cool tool that is specifically designed for this purpose.

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Finally we can plant into that perfect seed bed.

I didn’t have to amend the soil for this planting because lettuce and radishes are not big feeders. Also, last fall we added compost to all the beds. For this job I use a little six row push seeder that does a pretty good job. It doesn’t singulate the seeds perfectly but for this job is serves the purpose.

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Half the bed is lettuce mix.

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Other half is red radishes.

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Here are the finished beds and all that is left is to cover them with row cover to keep them warm on the cooler nights.

They are not going to germinate very fast but once they get going they should be ready in early April. Also we are trying an experiment this year and we wrapped the outside walls of the tunnel in a reflective insulated wrap. The goal is the keep it warmer and reflect more of that stippled sunlight to the ground.

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Now I hope you have a new appreciation for St Valentine’s Day and we can’t wait to start harvesting the first new crops of 2019. Also new this week are micro greens and pea shoots. Be sure to stop by the market and give them a try.

Phillip

 

What do Farmers do in the Winter Time?

Fisher Hill Farm in the Winter

It seems like I get that question fairly often and certainly more folks are wondering than are actually asking, so thought I would share a bit about our winter season.

Winter is little different story for us compared to other farms because two of our ‘summer season’ farmers markets continue throughout the winter and I have a local restaurant delivery route all winter long. Between harvesting greens from the high tunnel, washing produce from storage, and taking care of the poultry we stay fairly busy.

Definitely, not summer time busy but steady nonetheless.

The first task of every winter is to order seeds.

Can’t grow vegetables without them! But before you can start placing orders you need to know what to get. I take inventory of what I had left over from the previous year and that gets the ball rolling. Then I have to look at the transplanting and seeding schedules from the previous year to see if I need to make any adjustments. I read through the stack of seed catalogs vying for my attention looking for improved or new offerings. Finally, I have a baseline of what I need and can start ordering.

Did you know that we purchase seeds from four different seed dealers?

One of the dealers is located right here in Rochester, NY. A few tweaks to the order may occur based on seed production availability or talks with the seed company reps and then the boxes start arriving. Funny thing is that even though I mostly place one bulk order with each company, they never send everything at once so it’s a steady trickle of boxes for the next 4-6 weeks, always with a surprise element of what each box actually contains!

This week I was working on getting some fields plowed for early crops.

I usually do this in the fall but it was so wet and muddy I could not get it done. Then after Christmas I started working on it and a part broke on the tractor. By the time the part arrived, Siberia had set in and the ground was frozen. Luckily, we had a February thaw and I got a chance to get back on the tractor. I finished the field that I started and got another one going. Unfortunately now it’s too muddy and I will have to wait till the ground gets a little freeze on it. There is a fine balance between muddy and frozen which can change within a few hours in the mornings and evenings.

Plowing in the Winter
Plowing in the Winter – Fisher Hill Farm

By the time the part arrived, Siberia had set in and the ground was frozen.

Another big winter task is getting all the accounting figured out for 2018 and meeting with the accountant. It usually takes a few weeks to get all the information into QuickBooks, and compile all the reports that the accountant needs to file the taxes. It’s not my favorite job of the year but a very important one.

After the taxes are all done and filed I can start working on machinery maintenance. All the tractors and RTVs need oil changes and service. Usually as you go through the machines you find little issues that need to be fixed. Then we start looking at the other equipment that gets used throughout the season. For the most part these are all tasks that we work in as time permits.

We finalized the plans this week to have a CSA pickup location in Victor, NY.

Victor Central School asked if we would be willing to setup on their campus Tuesday afternoons this market season, June-October. This will be a great opportunity for us to grow the CSA program and provide our products to the Victor area. (We did attend the Victor Farmers Market for several years from around 2005-2012.)

The sure sign of spring is getting the greenhouse ready for the first seeds. Around mid March we start early transplants of beets, chard, and tomatoes. Then every week after that the planting continues until July.

 

Phillip