This Week on the Farm 9/15
We only have two jars of honey left! All of the proceeds from the honey sale are going towards new hives next year. We are hoping to add three more hives next year. Our farm seems to be an ideal home for bees because we have so many different crops that all flower at different times. There is a food source all season long and they don’t have to roam far to find food. In fact our bees are still foraging in our tomatoes and tomatillos when the sun is out and the weather is warm enough. I am so excited for our new hives that I have asked my family to get me a bee suit for Christmas! (I thought it would lead to some pretty awesome holiday pictures!) This way I will be able to help extract the combs from the hives next year and we will be able to harvest the honey more quickly.
It seems like three out of the last four nights we have had temperatures in the upper 30s which has meant interrupted sleep as we check the temperatures every hour to see if we need to go out and fire up the irrigation system. Last Friday we set up the overhead sprinklers in the tomatoes and peppers. These crops are the most frost sensitive of the crops that are growing right now, and we are hoping to have them in the boxes through the end of the month. To protect both crops we have twelve impact sprinklers set up. Each sprinkler has a diameter of about sixty feet, so we can cover a good sized area.
We are able to use overhead irrigation as a frost protectant because as water freezes it releases heat. This keeps the plant tissue right at 32 F. As long as you keep applying water the plant tissue doesn’t fall below freezing and there is no tissue damage. We learned about this method when we were in the Hort department at UW-Madison and we have used it every season since we started farming.
The tricky part about this method of frost protection is that as soon as you start applying water you have to keep applying water until temperatures rise above the freezing point. Any clogs in the line like hose kinks, or nozzles freezing up have to be dealt with immediately or those plants will die. Luckily our irrigation system is now set up so that we can run a feeder line directly from our well house and we don’t have to haul water out to the field on our bulk tank wagon. But, we still have to be out in the field the whole time which is cold, wet work. The worst part about the whole process isn’t that you are awake and outside in cold weather in the middle of the night, but that most times when we have had to do this there has been no moon and all we have to go by is our head lamps. This means that as you are walking the field to inspect each sprinkler, you are spending the whole time dodging water sprays from other sprinklers that you really can’t see because it is so dark. No matter how hard you try you always get nailed by one of the sprinklers. I have learned to recognize when a spray of water is coming based on the sound of water droplets hitting plant leaves, but sometimes you can’t tell what direction that spray is coming from. All in all it is the worst job we have to do all season.
The longest we have had to run the irrigation system in past years was from 2 am to 8 am. If temperatures drop below 27 or 28 F the overhead sprinklers really aren’t enough to keep the plants alive. We are really hoping for a late frost this year, but it has been an extremely cool year so I am not that hopeful. But, we will try our darndest to keep those crops going as long as possible.
This Monday night will be interesting since the forecast has the low at 38. This means we will be checking temps every hour starting around midnight and then waking up at 5am to start harvesting for our Tuesday deliveries. It will be a very long day!
In other news our stop on the Bike the Barns tour went super well! We were an optional stop and only the riders who signed up for the long route (60 miles) visited our farm. We didn’t get to see everyone who biked this year, but all of the people we saw were super pumped to be out riding on a beautiful day. It was a little windy, but the sun came out and warmed everything up nicely. Tyler and I ran around Sunday morning trying to get everything organized before hundreds of bicyclists descended on our farm. On Saturday we tried to get everything ready, but there were some last minute details that got pushed to Sunday morning.
Tyler managed to get enough of the floor done on the west barn to be able to close the main door. He has some tin work left to do and didn’t have time to finish that up before the bikers came, so we decided to just close up the doors so no one would fall through the floor. Along the north side of the barn we have a seamless gutter, but when it really downpours the gutter does overflow right above the door way. Tyler wants to put some flashing over the floor boards in the doorway to shunt water over the boards and away from the floor. This way water won’t leak through the ceiling into the packing shed and will instead be funneled away from the barn. If water does get in it will have had to soak through the fieldstone walls, which is not as big of a deal as leaking through the ceiling.
We also had a mulch pile that needed to get moved so that people could walk from our greenhouses to the packing shed on our farm tour. I was able to get about half of the pile moved Sunday morning with a pitch fork and landscaping rake, but my asthma kicked in and I didn’t have time to move the whole thing before people started arriving. I was able to move enough of it to give a nice walkway. The mulch is to kill the weeds and to help level the area off so that we can eventually come in and gravel the whole area. Normally we would use the loader tractor to move the mulch, but it has been out of commission for the last couple of weeks and we haven’t had time to replace a couple of hydraulic rings that are leaking.
The best news is that we finally got our farm sign installed!! Kay painted the sign last year, but the only time we had to install it there was still frost in the ground! We got the posts in on Saturday, but we had to leave to get to Tyler’s ten year high school reunion so we didn’t get the whole thing put together until Sunday morning. I am very pleased with how it turned out. We even have fall decorations up! If you are in the area you have to drive by to see how nice it looks!!