Make Hay When The Sun Shines! (and other ways we pivot with the weather...)
Updated: Apr 9
Springtime Is Sprint Time For Farmers
The schedule here at Abraham’s Table Farm each spring is simple – finish your current task and then start the next thing on your list. Then the next thing. Then the next.
You get the picture.
The challenge in farming is to pivot quickly and adjust your plans when something unexpected occurs. Like when last week’s wind storm damaged our high tunnel. If that had happened at almost any other time of the farming season, we would have had to make emergency repairs (while still completing other critical farm chores). Not fun!
But we quickly realized we didn’t need to repair the high tunnel immediately. In fact, a temporary quick fix would keep the chickens protected, and we could pivot and complete the new movable chicken coops. And that is what Daniel is doing this week. Once they are ready, we will move the chickens to the field -- and then the high tunnel repairs can be tackled later!
The new coop frame is built on an old pop-up trailer frame we got from our friend Dave Lilligren. The arches and plastic over top give lightweight weather protection for the birds. Mesh floor means manure drops through to fertilize the pasture beneath--no cleaning!
Bringing In Truckloads Of Rocks – Are We Crazy?
Removing rocks from the garden is a seemingly never-ending task. But this week we had truckloads of gravel brought TO the property. The reason: thanks to several days of dry wind, we finally could extend our driveway.
The extended driveway will pave the way (pun intended) for the delivery of the semi-loads of compost that will be used to upgrade the fertility of our garden soil. More (at the end of the blog past) on how you can get personally involved in that process.
Driveways take a bit more then the hand-tools we rely on...Gotta call in the big boys!
Smells Like Heaven (And You Can Get Some)
Jed, our resident bread baker, is perfecting his technique – and it is marvelous to be guinea pigs for his experiments! Yum! In fact, he has baked and delivered his first batch of 20-or-so loaves this week. They are truly round loaves of sourdough deliciousness!
Now the question is – would you would like to get a “bread share”? If so, then sign up HERE to get more info directly from Jed. He can answer any specific questions you have. If you're ready to add bread to your CSA (or join the CSA generally) you can go HERE.
Freshly baked sourdough is awesome, but our weekly pizza night is the real highlight of having this oven and a dedicated baker!
The Benefits Of Occultation – What Is It?
Like you, we are concerned about protecting our environment, which includes reducing the use of plastics. We do use (and reuse again and again) plastic pots and flats (which are so much easier to carry to the field!).
And from last June until now, we used a proven method to prepare the soil our new property called “occultation” (or more popularly, “tarping”). That involved covering old hay fields (with its exhausted and weedy soil) using large black re-usable plastic sheets (we had 12 of them, each 30’x100’).
Then we let the sun do its work.
For the past eight months, the black tarps have captured the solar energy and kept the soil warm and moist. Over time, it killed all the unwanted vegetation (rough sod that is extremely weedy!). This method is extremely popular in Europe, plus the tarps can be used for other purposes on the farm.
The result: when we pulled off the tarps recently, the new garden area was basically cleared of any grass or weeds! We have since had the soil tested, and followed that by putting down some natural fertilizers and minerals, which will be lightly tilled in.
The final task to get the gardens ready for planting is put down a layer of compost on top. These steps will dramatically reduce the “weed pressure” (since most weed seeds usually only germinate in the top 2” of soil). And by keeping the area surrounding our gardens well mowed, we even keep many weed seeds from blowing in.
That – in a very real sense – is “nipping it in the bud.” Killing the weeds at the bud stage saves us a ton of time and effort over the long haul. Taking time to prepare the soil now makes it possible for us to use less energy and mechanical work (i.e., very little tilling is needed) to keep the soil healthy and nutrient rich, producing better vegetables for everyone.
**Unfortunately, the recent winds caught and scrambled all our tarps...good thing they're coming right about now for garden prep! In a few weeks, that brown bare ground will be pumping out vegetables!
We Are Sleeping Well
Getting outside and working all day feels great – and also helps induce good sleep! In fact, the girls have so enjoyed playing outside (and helping around the farm when they can) that they've been sleeping almost 11 hours each night! And we are grateful that Megan is feeling refreshed and strengthened enough to join us in the greenhouse a few times to help get some plants started!
Thanks so much!
The ATF Team
P.S. Remember, please join us (everyone in the family can take part) for a Family Work Day mentioned in our email! Help prepare the garden and experience how good stewardship of the land is better for everyone! Go HERE to sign up!
P.P.S. If you would like to read a bit more about ways local organic farmers are using common-sense and sustainable farming methods to maintain soil health, you can read a short review of “The Organic No-Till Farming Revolution: High Production Methods for Small-Scale Farmers,” by Andrew Mefford. The author worked at Virginia Tech (Joel’s alma mater) on the Kentland Research Farm.]