“Weather, that is it! I’m telling on you!”, I thought as I looked at the forecast and realized we would welcome the first day of Spring 2023 with a hard freeze. One of only a few that we have had all Winter long and just a few days after the projected last frost for our zone. This is just one of the many goings on since the last time we spoke that have kept us working! Let us get you up to speed.
Spring Plant Got Us Working
We were so excited to have the privilege to share our Clean Start plants with our community again this year. It has been real blessing for us to open this revenue stream. Small although it may be, it does help to offset some farm expenditures. Another benefit is that it also allows us the opportunity to grow our techniques of conveying our understanding of how to grow the plants we sell. Let’s be honest, just because you know something does not mean that you know how to teach people. No matter how skilled one may be at any trade or skill, it is another skill entirely to teach said skill. Since we have homeschooled one child who has graduated from college with an associates degree ( yes, its collar poppin’ time), and are teaching another currently, we like to thing we are pretty adept at teaching. The difference between teaching academics and agriculture for us is we truly love our connection with nature. In conversation you can readily tell we love our jobs as stewards of the earth! We have found that sometimes that passion overwhelms those to whom we are wishing to educate. They only asked for tips to grow a tomato and suddenly we are talking about how well the earth was constructed and how decaying animals feed crops! Sigh… We are learning to dial it back and be objective first, conveying need to know facts, then, if time allows, we gladly find time to express our deep love and respect for the God-given stewardship we have.
Preparing for the plant sale too means planning and planting the proper numbers of plants. Keep in mind that these are all of the SAME PLANTS WE PLANT ON OUR FARM. Hybrid varieties are planted in the high tunnel while heirloom varieties go in field beds and raised beds. So we needed to plant enough to account for losses. We needed to plant enough to sale. We also have friends and family that we usually just share our tomato, pepper, and eggplant seedlings with so we needed to account for that too. Since our hybrid varieties are very costly we do not usually sell them to the public. Those are exclusively for the high tunnel. Some of our seeds average out to be a literal dollar per seed! Our heirlooms on the other hand are more affordable and will not break the bank if we give some away or sell them for a reasonable price. Speaking of “reasonable price”, what do you think a reasonable price is for a plant that was grown from organic seed and is Certified Naturally Grown? This plant will be fertilized with OMRI Listed fertilizer and is planted in OMRI Listed soil. Even the (truly) compostable pots are OMRI Listed. Would it be more reasonable if the farmer could tell you the day the seed went into the soil? What if they could tell you the day it sprouted from the soil? How much would this care be worth to you? Give these things some thought if you find yourself balking at the cost of organic plants in your area.
This year the plant sale started off slow as many had a clue that there would be, what Southern Old Timers call, an Easter Snap. That is the last frost before Easter. Many believe it to have been on March 20, 2023. Ironically that was the first day of Spring. Now that it has passed the plants are flying off the shelves through the online store but also through Facebook Marketplace. We are adding to the current list of tomatoes with heirloom tomatoes. Feel free to pop on over and see what is in stock. The plant sale will remain active until the end of April. If you for some reason think our plants are overpriced then they probably aren’t for you and that is ok. We are not offended.
Hoopty Got Us Working
Let me tell you a thing or two about high tunnels – the heat and humidity can be unbearable! That is normally a late Spring to Summer issue. However, with the unseasonably warm Winter we had, it became a constant issue very early in the year. It was cold nights and really warm days – high tunnel closed at night and opened by mid morning at the latest. Then it was warm days and warm nights – high tunnel left open. Then of course the freezing temperatures we had which meant the high tunnel needed to be closed and we needed to add water to the crock pot to keep the seedling shelves warm so our tomato, pepper, and eggplant seedlings remained cozy. We had great success with the back and forth excluding one freezing night. In a rush to get back to warmth I didn’t not pull the frost blanket down completely over the shelf and we lost 5 or so tomatoes and several others were damaged. Considering there was over 200 seedlings being stored, we think these numbers are acceptable.
Opening and closing the high tunnel is not a difficult task, per se, as much as it is time consuming. It can also be difficult to remember to do these tasks since we are not full time farmers just yet. Most days we try to have farm chores done by 10 a.m. if the weather permits. Many times we are already in pajamas when it occurs to us, “HOOPTY HAS TO BE CLOSED!” It is quite the comedy hour, let me assure you. This is one reason I say Hoopty has had us working!
Another reason is the addition of composted soil. It is not an easy task to do but it is one way we ensure our soil is living and can feed our crops appropriately while limiting use of fertilizers. We just love the smell of a freshly prepared row!
We also needed to prepare a more extensive shelving system for our microgreen production as we have more subscribers this Spring. This included weather resistant shelving and lights. The increased temperatures made it difficult to get things set up but with lots of endurance and sweat we made it happen. As hubby & son were working and our daughter was schooling, it was up to Brian and myself to get it done. Brian distracts easy and I tire easy so imagine that pair! I’m proud of us – we got it done rather quickly. Spring MICROgreens by BHG session begins April 3rd! We are excited to share even more varieties with our BHG family!
Besides the usual work required to maintain the high tunnel the final reason we’ve been putting in overtime hours is preparing a prep area there for cleaning and packaging produce. Season after season we have brought produce indoors to be washed, brining in all kinds of dirt, debris, and BUGS! We knew how to resolve our issue. So Mr. Bain Home Gardener used his great shopping for deals skills and found a restaurant in our area that was closing. From there we were able to secure 1 plastic sink, 1 stainless steel sink, and 1 stainless steel table that would serve our needs perfectly. We are still working on the plumbing for the sink so instead of a prep station the area serves as a temporary potting space as our last area is now occupied by our microgreen shelves. It is all coming together very nicely. This makes it all worth it!
Babies Got Us Working
Our incubator project/experiment is going delightful. At present as I type this blog the 11 chicks that have already hatched are chirping away. There looks to be just 1 more that has pipped. We hope that it will hatch soon. It has been a joy to watch life come into the world by means of the Nurture Right 360 incubator. There is something so special about watching those little prehistoric feet kick of their shells once and for all! As if to say, get off, I have things to do! Right they would be! We hope these chicks (the females anyway) will be our new layers for Spring 2024!
Everything was not perfect. I didn’t know it possible, however, one of the chicks hatched prematurely and nearly drowned in the yolk. We helped him hatch and will be cutting the umbilical cord before days end. This comes as valuable advice from Harmony Farm, one of the two farms we purchased the eggs from. We also had a couple who had some bleeding from the bottom. From our research it is likely because the humidity was to high and the membraned didn’t dry enough to detach properly. One stopped bleeding rather quickly. However, the other one did not. We simply placed some corn starch on a paper towel and dipped his bottom in it to stop the bleeding. He now seems to be doing well. As of this moment we have yet to check the eggs under the broody hen outside. The plan is to sneak these chicks up under her of the course of a few hours in hopes that she will do the hard work for us. You can find out how that went by video over on our YouTube channel. Here’s hoping it all goes to plan!
As we mentioned last month, on February 10th & 11th we welcomed two litters of kits to the farm. Both sets fathered by the same buck. Both of the does had previously lost their entire first litters as commonly occurs. They both seemed to go through a little depression. We gave them lots of love but nothing replaces that desire to mother. So we were so happy for them both with the success of their second litters. Now both litters are nearly ready to hop to new homes. Caring for the grand total of 13 babies, feeding, watering, cleaning behind, and in some cases literally CLEANING BEHINDS, has worn us out! Initially these buns were going to be outside with their mothers. However, with the unpredictable and extreme weather changes we were having , we decided to err on the side of caution and bring them in! This has been quite the job. Sharing living space with any animal will have its challenges and some things we could compromise on. Cleanliness was not one of them. So yes, we have been cleaning morning, noon, and night! The little darlings are so adorable though, one cant be mad for too long. We plan to keep at least one from each litter to add to our breeding selection.
Our other, and oldest baby, Brady Smore is doing well. His training has been a little lax lately with all the planting and other projects. We saw him taking advantage of that and quickly got back on track. So far sit, stay, down, and quiet are understood commands. Brady also has a potty area which is the only area of the property he is allowed to do number two. He learned that area quickly! All we have to to is watch and see whether he goes to the left or the right when he comes off the porch to know what’s about to happen!
Currently in his training we are working on herding the chickens by command rather than for fun. This training is a little early but as Brady’s primary job will be protecting the flocks we think its never too early.
Watching him grow so fast is reminiscent of watching our own children got from newborn to infant to toddler – practically OVERNIGHT!
Fencing Got Us Working
From the moment we decided to buy our property we have wanted to fence it in. Life has made that a challenge for multiple reasons. The two primary reasons are finances and time. We tried to bypass time by outsourcing the job only to find that the first challenge – finances, was more of a challenge than we realized! So the idea has been back tabled for many years now. Only last year did we finally get the top portion of our property covered with the electric fence to protect our chickens from neighboring flocks and predators. With it finally as secure as we can get it we have been able to allow the flocks to free-range under supervision. Now with the addition of our four legged security gaurd in training, we knew we had to make fencing more of the property a priority and we did! The whole family has jumped right in doing whatever needs to be done. So far all we need to do is build the three access gates for the property and the front will be completed! We have added solar string light and landscape lights so at night the property looks like a kind of wonderland. It is very peaceful.
Farmers Markets Got Us Working
We recently attended our first market of the season! It was daunting pulling out all of the tables, chairs, coolers, bags, AND ALL THE THINGS MARKET RELATED! At some point I am bound to say, “Why do I do this to myself?!” The answer is easy. These markets put us in front of the community and helps our community put faces with the name. Hopefully it will create long term relationships that can be mutually beneficial for years to come.
We had a good time at this new market. We were able to network with some new vendors who we will hopefully see this coming market season.
For the remainder of the year we have plans to be at just one market. This is subject to change based on availability of products. On the following dates you can find us at the Poplar Head Farmers Market:
CNG Annual Certification Got Us Working
Most of this work is truthfully encapsuled in our farm framework anyway. This year however we had a particular challenge – finding someone to do our certification. Your can read about the CNG Certification process here.
Finally we were able to find a willing participant to help us from the local extension office. Turns out this was one one of the several extension agents that had been here before doing teaching on pest exclusion systems with the high tunnel! That was such a relief! However, the day before the scheduled inspection however he had a death in his family. To Mr. Micah Johnson and family, we send our condolences. Micah so kindly arranged to send someone in his place and what do you know – he too was familiar with our operation. Mr. Neil Kelly offered us valuable advice to move our farm sustainability forward. We plan to put in place his suggestions as soon as possible. This exchange of information is what grows our community food systems. The free flow of knowledge and information is truly a blessing when used correctly. Our paperwork will be submitted soon to CNG and we look forward to working another year with the CNG family! By the way… some one really should have been recording us taking those photos as it was absolutely HILARIOUS!
April Already Got Us Working
Although we will have no markets in April we will be planting like CRAZY to ensure we have all that our customers have come to expect to see at our booth in May when we begin farmers market season. We are also behind on planting potatoes, a project that really needs to get underway asap but I’m sure it will be April 1st before it actually happens.
As Brady is growing so fast, it is our goal to have the fencing completed in April so he can spend his time doing what he loves – digging and snoring! The month of April is also when we plan to get our okra & roselle planted as these plants really just do not like cool weather! The warm weather also means we have to ramp up our efforts to keep the pest at bay. We also have managed to get behind with our herb garden so that is taking a priority in April as well. More Swiss Chard, Mustards, Spinach, Lettuce, and Radishes need to be planted as well! So if you see the BHG team out and about give us a high five – we deserve it if we must say so ourselves!
Till next time… grow, grow, GROW!