We have had an unusual amount of rainy weather! However, there are always rainy day jobs that seem to keep us busy. The fire wood for next year is all cut and split thanks to our apprentices for all their hard work. Yes, we did use a mechanical wood splitter and chain saws, but it is still a lot of work. Hopefully, next year we will not need so much wood to keep our green house going. The new green house will have a large thermal mass of rocks under it to store heat. This season has really given us an appreciation for thermal mass to store heat. We have burned a lot of wood to keep the hoop house converted to a greenhouse warm. The good news is that the plants are doing well.
Hoop House Head Lettuce, Pac Choi and Green Onions
Happy Greenhouse Plants
Our hoop houses crops are also growing despite the wet cool weather our dilemma is that the outside gardens aren’t growing as fast as usual. I am thinking that the start of our CSA season may be delayed a week due to the cool, wet weather. We did get some early seeding done and covered it with row cover, but the last time I looked the plants still weren’t up. Time will tell.
Making Potting Soil
We have been mixing potting soil for all the greenhouse plants that we start indoors. The melons have been seeded, but next week we will do another round of brassicas and we will seed our pumpkins, squash and early corn for transplants – that takes a lot of potting soil. We mix it up like a big cake – passing everything through a sieve to get the lumps out.
Electric Fence Instruction
Another rainy day job is getting the electric fence ready for the draft horses to go out on pasture. They are looking forward to the fresh grass. Every year the apprentices learn the art of fixing electric fence. In the winter the wind blows it around and the deer break it as they roam across the ridge.
Transplanting head lettuce and Pac Choi into hoop house
Cultivating the garden with four Suffolk Punches
Welcome to Ryan, our fourth apprentice, who arrived at the beginning of the week. Monday morning we woke to the sound of flapping plastic and realized that our fourth hoop house, that we had just covered with plastic, had come loose in the wind and ripped off during the night! What a disappointment. While Ken and Andy were busy getting ground worked up to plant the early seeds in the outside garden and the oat ground ready to plant, the other apprentices retro fitted the hoop house for plastic reassembly. They put a bottom board down and used U-Bolts to attach it to the hoops then moved one of the ends in by one hoop width. Now we can have enough plastic to re-attach it to the ends and use battens to wrap the side plastic and screw them to the wooden bottom boards. Our CSA members can think of all this effort when they eat their first mesclun – grown in the hoop house.
This week we also took one of our big pigs to be butchered and made into sausage to sell to CSA members. The hens are cranking out about 70 eggs a day so if anyone wants to make the pilgrimage to the farm they can stock up on eggs and sausage for Easter.
We also managed to get the early garden planted and covered with row cover and three of our four oat fields worked up and planted. Now all we need is some warm weather!
On Thursday, we started our three day April Draft Horse Workshop. Participants from Ontario and Quebec as well as three of our new apprentices took the course together. To begin they do some line exercises driving “George the Trike”. Caesar takes on a supervisory job during the workshops and especially enjoys accompanying on the wagon rides. So life continues to be full and busy here at Orchard Hill. As we gear up for the season ahead.
Spring plowing has begun again. Ken and our Suffolk Punch draft horses got a false start in March before the last snow storm and freeze up. Now they are back at it and getting ready to plant oats as soon as possible. We will also be planting the early CSA garden as soon as we can work up our early garden area. We did manage to plant one of our hoop houses this week to have greens for our first CSA pick-ups.
Lisa Unloading Oat Seed
Grahame Servicing Mower
Our full season apprentices have arrived. Andy, from New Zealand, has returned to fill our Senior Apprentice position. It has already been a great help to have a trained teamster to work with the draft horses. He has jumped right in doing some of the spring plowing. Lisa, from Maryland, and Grahame, from B.C., have come to become teamsters and hone their farming skills. We feel privileged to work with such fine young people as we pass on what we have learned over the past 30 plus years farming and look forward to working with them this season.
Arthur Ford Public School Planting Bean Seed
Earlier this week we had a grade two class from Arthur Ford Public School in London come to the farm for a field trip. One of the students is a CSA member and we agreed for the class to come. They enjoyed a wagon ride, egg collecting and bean planting. Normally we are too busy to host school field trips, but we squeezed it in early and were fortunate to have good weather. I am hopeful that it will stir a horticultural bent in some of the students…