Hoop house erected and planted!

Hoop house erected and planted!

Putting on the Hoop house Plastic

Putting on the Hoop house Plastic

Our spring planting has begun. We managed to erect all of our hoop houses and have them planted with lettuce, pac choi and greens for the first pick-ups of the season to go along with our asparagus and rhubarb. We also planted our first seeds outside in the worked up area of the garden and in the zone-till section. We then covered it all with row cover  (a spun polyester sheet that lets in the light and water while keeping the seed bed warm to help get the early seedlings started). If the zone-till rows grow well we could move towards more of a no-till planting in the CSA garden in the future.

Unmulching  Strawberries

Un-mulching Strawberries

Weeding Garlic

Weeding Garlic

Caesar Inspecting the Garlic

Caesar Inspecting the Garlic

We have also been directing our attention to our perennial crops. Keeping weeds under control in the organic production of perennial crops without the use of herbicide requires special attention. The rhubarb is just starting to peek up out of the soil. We will weed it and then mulch it heavily with hay. This year we also planted a new rhubarb patch for future years. We are expecting to harvest from our new asparagus planting for the first time this spring. The asparagus has been disced over before the asparagus starts to grow and then we will hill and weed as the season progresses. At the end of the harvest season, we will plant a winter kill cover crop to keep the ground covered and the weeds at bay. Our strawberries were mulched with straw to protect them over the winter. The straw then helps with weed control and also keeps the berries clean from dirt splash at the same time it provides a nice cushion to kneel on when picking the berries. Our garlic that was planted last fall into an oat/barley/pea cover crop is starting to emerge. The cover crop was killed over the winter and Ken cultivated with the draft horses just beside the garlic to keep the weeds from growing. Naomi also cultivated beside the raspberry plants to narrow up the rows and control the perennial weeds. We will weed and then mulch in the rows with wood chips. Later in the season we will plant a winter kill cover between the rows that we can mow until the fall. Our garden beside the house has gone through some renovation too. We have moved around some of the perennial herbs and flowers to make room for the annual CSA flower cutting garden.

Ploughing the 2014 CSA Garden

Ploughing the 2014 CSA Garden

Our CSA garden from 2014 is being ploughed with the draft horses and then it will be planted to cover crops. It will have a year off as we prepare the soil for the 2016 CSA garden. Ken spread some heavy mulch on part of the garden area to add organic matter to the soil. It provided quite a challenge to our new teamsters as they ploughed over the bumps and clumps of mulch!

Flynn and Sandi Outdoors

Flynn and Sandi Outdoors (Photo Credit: Jim Conrad)

Flynn is growing well and enjoyed being outside for a good romp around the pasture. The first time he went out he did a high stepping prance around the field like a fancy show horse and then jumped around like a little lamb. It is such fun to have a foal around again this spring!

Rose, Aden and Naomi making Potting Soil

Rose, Aden and Naomi making Potting Soil

Our greenhouse plants are growing well and we have to keep on mixing up potting soil as we use up batch after batch with our plantings. Our field peppers, tomatoes and eggplant germinated well and are now potted up into 50 cell trays ready to grow on until they can be transplanted after the danger of frost has past. The onions and leeks are off to a good start and had to be moved out to a hoop house to make room for other plants in the warm greenhouse. It is always nice to work in the greenhouse on cold, wet days in the early spring.

Seth Placing the Fire Brick for Wood Fired Oven

Seth Placing the Fire Brick for Wood Fired Oven

The wood fired oven is progressing well. Seth, with the help of Jim, has been working away with special heat tolerant cement, insulation and fire brick to build the oven. It is quite the project. We decided to build the oven in our old round steel granary. The granary is too big for our current grain storage needs, but makes a nice room for the wood fired stove to keep it out of the weather.

German Waldorf Student Alina Kronmülle

German Waldorf Student Alina Kronmülle

We have Alina Kronmüller, a Waldorf high school student from Germany, visiting until the middle of June. She has been a good sport joining in with various activities, including looking after the laying hens. It is quite a change for her, but hopefully a good experience over all.

IMG_2587 Grayden has been busy painting pictures of produce from the farm and hopes to have  pictures and cards for sale once our CSA Season begins.

Seth Wiggin building wood fired bread oven at Orchard Hill Farm for his new business:  LA HOULETTE de vie BAKERY

Seth Wiggin building wood fired bread oven at Orchard Hill Farm for his new business: LA HOULETTE de vie BAKERY

Our big news is that Seth Wiggin is building a wood fired bake oven here at Orchard Hill Farm and after much planning the construction has begun! Seth is intending to open LA HOULETTE de vie BAKERY with bread for sale to CSA members this spring. Although Seth is originally from Port Stanley, he spent three years in France working at a bakery learning the art of bread baking using whole grain, organically grown flours and natural levain also know as sourdough. The bread he has shared with us so far has been delicious. He will be using grains that we have produced here and plans to do the stone ground milling using our horse powered tread mill. This spring we have spelt for him to mill  and in the late summer will have some wheat and rye for him to use. He will buy other organic grains as needed. I have wanted a wood fired bake oven for years and am excited that one is in process of being built. Ken is very pleased to have Seth take on this project and make use of the milling operation that is already set up with the possibility of using a variety of grains that we can grow here. Stay tuned for updates as the oven progresses and for details about the bread CSA and sales. I am also happily envisioning Saturday night pizza parties and endless other uses for the oven. Seth’s croissants made with natural levain and organic butter are spectacular!

NO-Till Drill Framework and  Seed Box Ready to Assemble

NO-Till Drill Framework and Seed Box Ready to Assemble

Naomi, using Cutting Torch to Cut Steel for No-till Drill

Naomi, using Cutting Torch to Cut Steel for No-till Drill

Ken has been continuing work on the no-till drill. Hopefully it will be able to plant some grain for Seth’s bread in the future. The apprentices have helped with the project around the edges of other farm work. Jim has also continued to do a lot of sanding and painting. The framework is welded together and the gangs of drills assembled. The seed box has been painted red and it is almost ready to try. It needs to be heavy to work well, but we still don’t know how many horses it is going to take to pull it!

Zone-till implement first try...

Zone-till implement first try…

Strip of Ground Prepared for Planting with Zone-till Implement

Strip of Ground Prepared for Planting with Zone-till Implement

We got anxious and took the new zone-till implement down to the field to try earlier this week, before the rain came. The ground was still pretty wet and the disc markers dug in a bit too much, but it did work. Ken opened up a strip in the garden area that was covered with a winter killed oat/barley/pea cover crop planted last fall. We have ordered a new part for our one row push seeder that will push away any remaining trash before planting. We are planning on seeding a row of each of our early crops in an area prepared with the zone-till implement and the rest in an area that is worked up as we usually do to compare. If the zone-till works it will save a lot of preparation work in the field and may help us get the early plantings in sooner. This spring has been too cold and wet yet to get out and plant anything outside yet.

Three Draft Horse Teams going to Plough Tomato Hoop House Plot in Misty Rain

Three Draft Horse Teams going to Plough Tomato Hoop House Plot in Misty Rain

We have prepared the hoop houses where we are going to transplant the early lettuce and pac choi and will start planting this week. We moved the cucumber hoop house and are just waiting for the soil to warm up and dry out before planting some greens around the edges for the first spring pick-ups. We have one big hoop house still to assemble for our hoop house tomato crop.  Yesterday we took down the old tomato hoop houses and the ground for the new tomato hoop house placement was ploughed this morning in the misty rain. We are going to put up the framework later this week ready for the plastic cover, as soon as it arrives. We now have three different styles of hoop houses just to keep life interesting. Planting the tomatoes and cucumbers in hoop houses helps protect them from blight and powdery mildew.

Flynn one Week Old

Flynn one Week Old

Our Suffolk Punch mare, Sandi, had a beautiful stud colt, “Orchard Hill Flynn”, late on March 31. He is a handsome healthy fellow and we are all enjoying having a foal around again. Go to our Facebook page (link on side bar) to see some of Grayden’s beautiful pictures of the new born foal and mother.

We still have shares available in our 2015 CSA Garden. Orchard Hill Farm application 2015