Saturday, March 26, 2011

Spring has sprung...

March sunrise at the farm
It feels like it has been a long time coming but Spring has officially arrived.  After the dump of snow the next day, and the sudden drop in over night temperatures, I don't think any of us are convinced about Wiarton Willies preditciton of 6 weeks till spring! 
But that is March's temperamental weather patterns and winter not really wanting to let go.

March has seen two more of our Berkshire pigs leave the farm, seeding starting in the greenhouse, a trip to see baby Nigerian dwarf goats, greenhouse workshop, a speech at our local horticultural society and sadly the loss of some of our bees and lots of spring flooding at the farm.

Spring cleaning has started at the farm, even though we clean all the animal housing out during winter we only every remove the top layers as it helps to keep the heat in if we allow a thick bed to develop so this is the time of year when everyone's home gets a good clean and scrub out and we start our manure piles for Fall spreading. There is nothing better than using what the animals create to add fertility back into the growing field.

One of our goals on the farm is to slowly take the land back as we need it and to become more sustainable so this year we are going to be frost seeding one of the paddocks/fields for May and Lily. This will give us hay for the girls but also give them bigger paddocks to graze over on their days off.  Michael and I measured the field. Michael had a good laugh as I managed to walk over the ice and not glide, resulting in me falling through into 12 inches of frozen water. This led to my boots sitting by the stove to dry out  for 4 days!

The CSA vegetable boxes have been reserved at a tremendous rate this year and we are know creating a waiting list for this season.  We always grow more than we need, this allows us to still attend a farmers market and also for any loses that might occur during the season. We will be offering a few additional boxes nearer to the start of the season so please contact the farm if you would like to be placed on the waiting list.  
I attended a great workshop this month on greenhouse extension and offering a Winter CSA. Michael and I are planning to offer a small one this winter 2011-2012 as a trial to allow us to see how well it will work.  We have set up a survey for everyone to fill out to gauge the amount of interest for this.   Click here to take the winter CSA survey.

Seeding has started in the greenhouse but with the sudden drop in temperatures we have spent a few days not going inside.  The greenhouse is solar passive, which means we do not pay for heat, we allow the sun to do all the work.  Even on a cold day like today it  is very warm inside, the raised bed tunnels hold their temperatures really well, but when it does get a bit cooler we tend to leave it all locked up so the heat remains in.  With the sudden thaw and rain we did have several rivers running through the greenhouse this year which made for some interesting digging and drainage.

1.5" soil bocks
This season we are learning to grow in soil blocks.  This is allowing us to reduce our plastic plug tray usage, fingers crossed producing even stronger plants to be transplanted out into the field.  The soil blocks are made from a wetter than normal soil mix and the extra water and roots hold the blocks together.  Once tap roots emerge it is time to place them in the next size block.  It means we have less wastage, the roots never wrap around so it means there is little to no transplant shock and as the roots reach the end of the blocks they send all their engery back into growing stronger plants (called air pruning). We are very excited about this and will keep you updated on how they do.

We can get 300 3/4" blocks in a tray!
3/4" soil blocker.
Sad news on the farm is the loss of some of our hives. This is something that all bee keepers expect but it is always very sad to see.  It can be caused by lots of different things but many are saying it was the early spring last year that has caused some of these losses.  Fall flowers came in summer and the queen bees stopped laying eggs sooner so this meant there where less bees to survive through the winter. We have still been very lucky as we know of other bee keepers in the area who have had greater losses than us.

Nancy Drew and her triplets - 1 Buck and 2 Does
But with death comes birth on a farm and our friend and breeder of Nigerian Dwarf goats invited us to see her new arrivals.  Nancy Drew gave birth to 2 does and a buck.  We are waiting for Velvet to give birth and then we will be choosing a compainion or two for Soren.  Once the little ones are big enough and we have the new housing built they will be moving to the farm.