March seems to be “going out like a lion” with snow coming down fast and covering everything again. Fortunately, from the looks of the forecast, it won’t be around for long. On the up side it provides a nice opportunity for top seeding with grass seed over our fall planted grains. The snow helps us see where we have spread the seed with the last pass allowing for even seed distribution. It also helps plant the small seeds to germinate when the snow melts.
The first of our apprentices have arrived. Naomi Martz is from B. C. She has already apprenticed on a number of farms and is here to learn our methods with a particular focus on the draft horses. Aden Spurr is originally from a farm in Ontario, but also spent time in B. C. working as a glass blower for seven years. Last year, he apprenticed at Meeting Place Organic Farm using their draft horses and is now interested in honing his teamster skills and learning about CSA farming. Naomi and Aden will be with us for the season.
Rose Bramwell is a horse enthusiast, visiting from Scotland. She will be here for a few weeks now and again in the fall. She is expecting to do some other travelling during the summer months.
It is always a boost to have such fine young people with energy and enthusiasm join us on the farm this time of year. Some years we are already on the land planting by this time. This year, we are still waiting for the snow to go and the ground to thaw. However, there is always firewood to cut and split and some greenhouse work to be done. The greenhouse plants are growing well and the early head lettuce and pac choi transplants for the hoop houses are ready. Now we just need to have the ground thaw so we can move our hoop houses and get the transplants in the ground! We have also enjoyed having time to use up some of our winter stores making kimchi and sauerkraut.
Ken and Jim have been working in the shop building a prototype for a horse drawn no-till drill. It is quite challenging to assemble parts from various sources and to fit and weld it all together. Jim has been keeping up with the sanding and painting along the way.
Our CSA membership is gradually filling up. There are still shares available. We are welcoming new members as well as past members to join for the 2015 CSA season.
We now have and Orchard Hill Farm Facebook page and “Martha Laing – Tweets” – (See Links We Like on side bar if you would like to follow the updates.)
The spring melt has started. Although, there is still lots of snow in the fields and woods it is gradually receding. I managed to get away yesterday, for a look at the Lake Erie ice, before it all melts. It is quite awe inspiring! The snow and ice on the greenhouse roof has melted away and the first seedlings are popping up. Ken has been spending his time divided between working in the shop on his no-till planter, with the help of Jim, and cutting firewood and logs. He and Bill are skidding logs out of the woods today, with the draft horses. The snow is still deep, but once the path is broken it is good to have the snow for the logs to slide on because it helps to keep them clean of dirt. Clean logs mean there will be much less need to sharped the chainsaw and sawmill blades when they are cut up into firewood and lumber! Work in the woods helps to get both the farmers and the horses in shape for the spring field work soon to come.
Every day a few more CSA applications arrive in the mail, but we still have shares available for the 2015 CSA season. It is encouraging to peek inside our hoop houses and see signs of life. I had wondered if, with all the extremely cold weather, all the plants would be dead. We will be moving some of our hoop houses and planting them for the first CSA pick-ups in another month. It is a bit hard to believe, when I still see all the snow!
It is truly a leap of faith, when I start the greenhouse with early seedlings when the nights are still going down to -25 degrees Celsius and the greenhouse roof is covered with a thick layer of snow and ice. After a few days of heating, the snow is gradually receding off the roof and the rock heat sink is slowly heating up again. I have a fan to blow the hot air down into the rocks in the daytime. Ken and Jim built a new incubation chamber for starting the seedlings. Mixing up the potting soil, filling the seedling trays and carefully counting out the number of seeds into each cell has taken most of my time this week. Now I am eagerly awaiting the emergence of the first signs of life!
The “free range” chickens have been peeking out, enjoying the warm sunshine, but they usually don’t venture too far from the chicken coop in the snow. One made it out to the cedar hedge, behind our house, and called to me in the evening when I went out to shut the chicken door on the coop. She hadn’t found her way back. I had to wade through heavy snow sinking up to my thighs to retrieve her and carry her back to the coop to be tucked in for the night. After their winter holiday from laying we are now getting a few eggs every day from our hens.
Our Suffolk Punch horses are happy in the snow with their warm winter coats. Snow is always better than mud for the horses in the winter. Hopefully, once it warms up the snow will all melt in a hurry and it and dry up without too much mud! The warmth in the radiant spring sunshine is always enjoyed by the horses too. Ken has started cutting some lumber and firewood. He has hauled the logs out of the woods with the draft horses, but the snow is so deep this year that it is difficult for the horses to get through the trails in the woods.
Ken has also been busy building another horse drawn no-till planter for field crops. It will be a special small model so the draft horses can pull it. He has salvaged some parts from a tractor no-till implement and is having fun putting it all together. This spring he will give it a test and see if the parts all work as planned. He has until June to get it into working order.
We are looking forward to the arrival of our first interns the end of the month. CSA applications are coming in every day in anticipation of another growing season. We still have lots of spots to fill before our first pick-up in the second half of May. The first head lettuce seeds for transplants into the hoop houses to provide head lettuce for the first CSA pick-up are already planted and so it begins…