Farmer Hell Week

| by | farm, garden, goats, sustainability | 2 comments:

You guys, it’s been way too long since we’ve posted anything decent. Our bad, dudes. Frankly, I’m ashamed and a little sad. But we have a good reason why we haven’t had time to chat. You see, every year the month of May is when we basically disappear off the face of the Earth and continuously work long, grueling hours trying to get the garden in and summer projects completed or started. And we also begin a strict farm workout regimen of dirt and sweat. We’re looking like bronzed lobster “after examples” in medical weight loss ads. It’s great. (PS I will never, ever convince myself in January that I should join a gym. That would be silly.) It’s like the entire month of May becomes farmer hell week. So here’s what we were up to during our month of May.

The Garden

This is by far the most time consuming, time sensitive, labor intensive and mind stressful task we’ve had to do all month. The beds have to be mapped out, shaped, walking paths mulched, drip tape stretched and weed cloth laid out. Then plants planted of course. And since we tripled the size of our garden this year, there was A LOT of garden space to tackle.

So first things first, we had to string plot out all of our rows, then mark them with marking paint so Dave would be able to direct the path of his tires when he was on the tractor. We used our new tractor implement, the bed shaper, to form the beds and walking paths. After we finally got it working the way that it was supposed to (it took a lot of tinkering and cursing), it worked like a dream! A dream in which I didn’t have to shovel 1,000’+ of walking paths.

Preparing the garden for summer plantings-Such and Such Farm
After we string plotted the garden we marked out our rows with marking paint. This made it easier for Dave to line up the tractor wheels while he was making the beds.
Bed shaper in vegetable garden
The garden after one pass of the bed shaper!

After we’re finished bed shaping, we have some beautiful and tall raised beds (approximately 3′ wide) and walking paths (approximately 2′ wide). Now it’s time to put our mulch down in the walking paths. Last year we went with a layer of newspaper (since it’s free) and then straw on top. But when you have a really large space, it becomes a super tedious task to lay down individual sheets of newspaper and hope for a non-windy day. And trust me, when the universe hears that you want to lay down a bunch of newspaper, it WILL be windy. And it will suck. So we had to think of something else to do. We hollered at our buddies at ArtMart in St. Louis and they hooked us up with these awesome rolls of paper that are 36″ wide and 1,000 feet long. It took three people about five minutes to roll out an entire row, versus a couple hours with the newspaper. Once the paper was laid down, we added a generous layer of straw on top. And just like that, the walking paths were mulched!

In between each row we have a layer of paper and straw for our walking paths
In between each row we have a layer of paper and straw for our walking paths

Next step is to lay out our drip irrigation lines in each row. Then the weed cloth on top, being sure to secure it down nice and tight! Once we have the weed cloth on top, we can begin marking out the spacing for the plants. We found that it’s best to use marking paint to get the spacing correct, then burn a hole using a propane torch and a metal coffee can with the bottom hollowed out.

On the left you can see where we marked out our spacing. On the right is after we've burned the holes.
On the left you can see where we marked out our spacing. On the right is after we’ve burned the holes.

 

The Planting

So after we got the gardens prepped, it was time to plant EVERYTHING! It took about a week solid of planting, but we were able to get everything in before the end of May (but of course, there’s always more planting to do!). In addition to our spring crops, which we already had planted, we added ten rows for our summer crops. Our total rundown includes… (drumroll please!)

100 Okra Plants (2 varieties)

219 Tomato Plants (11 varieties)

382 Pepper Plants (10 varieties)

92 Cucumber Plants (5 varieties)

88 Summer Squash Plants (4 varieties)

50 Yard Long Bean Plants

100 Spinach Malabar Plants

600 Bush Bean Plants (3 varieties)

60 Melon Plants (3 varieties)

…and then more to come!

The garden in progress: walking paths mulched, weed cloth laid and then plants planted.
The garden in progress: walking paths mulched, weed cloth laid and then plants planted.

 

The Pond Expansion

Our biggest project is probably the new pond expansion. We’ve been working with Jay from Checkered Flag Excavation in DeSoto, MO for the past few weeks and are so amazed by the progress that has been made already! Why expand the pond, you ask? Well, we’re beginning a large project that will essentially turn the entire farm into a aquaponics system. The pond will be used as a large water reservoir, where we’ll use a siphon to pump the nitrated water down into the garden through our drip irrigation system. If all goes well, it will be Missouri’s first energy free irrigation system. No big deal, it’s just something totally awesome and exciting!

But anyway, back to the excavation. We’ve dug out the pond to be three times the size that it originally was. Our buddy, Nice Guy Ted is a fantastic engineer and surveyor and really helped us out with the topography of the expansion. With his help, we were able to figure that we’d be able to have 16 acres draining into our 1 acre pond. Extending from the pond, we made a small “finger” of sorts. We’ll be able to fence this off and raise ducks with access to pasture and the pond. Big pond. Ducks. Fish habitats (coming soon). There’s a lot going on in the top field!

Topography drawings for the expansion, made by hand courtesy of Nice Guy Ted!
Topography drawings for the expansion, made by hand courtesy of Nice Guy Ted!

 

The Walk-In Dead

Since we’ve expanded our garden to the size of a football field, we needed a way to continually harvest and store our vegetables. We were thinking about building a Coolbot, which is a really great way to keep vegetables cool with minimal energy. We figured that it would take about $2,000-$3,000 to build. But then we found the super sweet hook-up on a used walk-in cooler that a restaurant was selling. It was basically the same price as a Coolbot, so we figured why build a replica when we could buy the real deal? So we bought this awesome walk-in that we call “Christopher Walk-in,” “Luke Skywalk-in” or “The Walk-In Dead.”

What’s even better is that it perfectly fit inside a shed that we weren’t using. Now we’re able to make good use out of a shed, keep the cooler super insulated and protected from the weather. Next to the shed, we’ll have storage space and a covered harvest area with power and water capabilities. The Walk-In Dead is almost complete, which is perfect because we’ll have lots and lots of produce coming up just around the corner!

The shed before the walk-in installation and after we cut a huge hole in the front of it.
The shed before the walk-in installation and after we cut a huge hole in the front of it.
And after we installed the walk-in! Not 100% done yet, but it's in there!
And after we installed the walk-in! Not 100% done yet, but it’s in there!

 

The Goat Pasture

It’s been a loooooong time coming (we’ve been working on the goat barn since last October!) but the goat project is finally complete! We finished up the last bit of fencing and gates for their big girl pasture, now they have acres of brush and pasture grasses to roam around and explore! The only thing that’s left to do is to fix up the human area and then make sure Judy and Liza are growing steadily in preparation of being bred this fall!

Oh, and we got a new little Nubian girl a while back… we’re in between names right now but we’re leaning towards either Vivien Leigh or Elizabeth Taylor.

They quickly became great friends
They quickly became great friends!
Judy and Liza out on the girl pasture!
Judy and Liza out on the big girl pasture!

 

We Have Bees! BEES I TELL YOU!

This is something we’ve wanted to do for years! Not only do we want to help the prevention of colony collapse, but the bees would also help pollinate our gardens AND then eventually give us honey. It’s a win-win-win all around. We met Ralph Samples of Four Ridge Apiary through a friend of ours (which just happens to be Ralph’s brother, Bob) and he helped us get set up with a pre-stocked hive.

The few times we’ve worked with Ralph, we’ve already learned so much about beekeeping. Raising bees isn’t as easy as steps 1 through 12, it’s about knowing what the bees are doing, what they want to do, how they want to do it as well as how the seasons and weather can affect them. Then, once you know that, you learn how to help or hinder their progress. So much biology, botany and chemistry goes into beekeeping and we can’t wait to nerd out over some bee hives! Right now, we’re waiting until their deep gets a little more full so we can add on our first super (honey hive). Hopefully they’re enjoying all of the flowers in our herb and vegetable garden as well as the natural flowers and crops we have growing around the farm and will start producing some honey this year!

You can't tell, but under this super sweet apiary coat, I'm wearing a gold lame' Wu-Tang shirt. True Story
You can’t tell, but under this super sweet apiary coat, I’m wearing a gold lame’ Wu-Tang shirt. True Story
Man, they were some angry bees that first day after transportation! And we all only got stung once!
Man, they were some angry bees that first day after transportation! And we all only got stung once!

 

So those are the biggies, we also got our first couple of ducklings (six adorable Pekins) to raise up on the pond for meat and for eggs, our perennial garden is coming along nicely, farmer Dave celebrated his golden birthday (31 years old on the 31st!) and we celebrated by attending a good ol’ fashioned crawfish boil at Farmhaus Restaurant in St. Louis. Oh, and I found $5 in my jeans pocket after I ran it through the wash, so that was equally as exciting!

 


2 Responses

  1. Sheri
    June 5, 2014
    Reply

    Absolutely amazing all the very hard work you have done! I hope you photo journal the pond project and keep us posted on it. The tractor garden work was very impressive. QUESTION: You used standard construction floor paper as your path lay down. It’s made with recycled paper products and when wet it decomposes very fast . Here in WA. State the price per roll is about $13.00. (I live on an island so prices are higher) I can get 2 bales of straw for that. Why bother using it at all? If your straw is thick enough weeds won’t grow and it’s immediately feeding your worms and soil. Just curious and learning here. Cheers!

  2. Gloria
    June 12, 2014
    Reply

    I so envy you folks. We just sold our farm in Tn.(with deep regrets and tears). But at 73 we just can’t keep up. On ours we have had to it all by hand planting,weeding and digging. But have so loved doing it. Now on to true retirement…..this was our first retirement ( the farm). I plan to keep following your blog. Thanks for sharing. Somethin’ To Do Farm on Facebook .

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