Spring Along

As you are probably aware, spring arrived early this year! According to our notes from last year, the insect and flowering cycles are about 2 weeks ahead, so we’ve been enjoying the sun and taking full advantage of the early heat in the garden.

Before updating you on what we have growing on right now, there are some big things that happened this winter. In December, we got a combine! The tractor-pulled implement harvests cereal grains (wheat, rye, oats, barley, etc.) by cutting, threshing, and cleaning the grain all in one pass. This will allow us to grow 4,000 square feet of wheat this spring, which we will have stone-milled and use in bread-making if all goes according to plan. We are also growing more field corn this year, which we hope to have available in the form of grits, polenta, flour, and cornmeal by the end of the year.

Farmers get bored in the winter time.

In February we got the biggest break from farming since we moved here, and took a road trip around the south. We packed the ducks into crates, carried them though the snow and loaded them into Arden’s Subaru. The stench they created in the car was strong enough to make use promise each other we would never keep animals over the winter again. Who knows if we will follow through with that, but we are very grateful that Matt and Rachel at Restoration Acres were able to take them in for a few weeks this winter!

We stayed with friends and family in Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, and also got to visit a few farms and bakeries along the way. One farm that stood out was Gaia Gardens in Decatur, GA. The urban farm was installed as part of a small co-housing development, and located right next to the neighborhood. The gated community has rented the farm land to various organic growers over the years, and the current grower was very generous to show us around after we trespassed through the back entrance. One of the coolest features was the irrigation, which came from a pond that collected all the runoff from the roofs and pavement within the development.

Returning from these adventures, Arden couldn’t wait to build the biggest investment in the farm to this point: a walk-in cooler! Arden did the research and designed the cooler on a computer program, and we both set to work building the super-insulated room inside of our barn. The cooler is on skids, so (in theory) we can hook it to the truck and drag it to a different location if need-be. The cooler is powered by the “Cool Bot,” a device that alters a regular window A/C unit and turns it into a cooling unit. This is a very low-cost option for do-it-yourselfers, and we are pretty happy with the results of our week of building. Having a cold room will have infinite benefits for us and our customers: vegetables will store longer, our harvest schedule can become more flexible, and the bread dough can be retarded, leading to more intense flavor and a more flexible bake schedule.

Seriously cold room.

The biggest change at the farm over the past few weeks was the addition of pigs, which we are raising to eat at our wedding in the fall. We got them from James Henderson at the Brickhouse of Lilac Hill in Concord, where they spent their first few weeks roaming in the woods and swimming in mud. We were told by pig-raising friends it’s important to get pigs that are used to “free range” conditions if you will be raising them on pasture, and indeed they seemed right at home when we brought them here in early March. They are growing fast, but still seem very youthful and playful, doing laps around their pen when they are hungry or when the ducks come marching by. They are doing an excellent job of tearing up the grass, clearing the way for the patch where we will plant field corn this summer.

Pigs on pasture.
Tilled by the pigs, then seeded with cover crop radishes.

In the garden, we have many spring greens and root crops in the ground right now including beets, carrots, salad mix, spinach, and radishes. With the fair weather we have been able to get way ahead in preparing soil for planting, so almost all 60 of our garden beds are either planted or tilled and awaiting seeds or transplants. The greenhouse is overflowing with baby plant life, and as of this week we have live plants for sale at Health Nut Nutrition in Wyndhurst.

The season is moving fast, and soon we will be knee deep in another summer full of farmers markets, CSA drops, and hoeing. And we wouldn’t have it any other way!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Martha Pillow says:

    Looking good. Sorry about the pigs. (We’re vegetarian.) Otherwise, looking good at your farm. We’ll be there April 30 at the Grandin Market and come by to see you again. Can’t wait for Market season to start. We’re always sad at the end of the season, but that’s life. The seasons they go round and round. . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Martha. We can’t wait either! It will be nice to see the good people of Roanoke again.


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