Challenging so-called spring so far

Boy, has life every been busy since I last wrote. Not that farm life is generally known for down time, but each week has been going by in a blur. Marisol started working at the farm at the beginning of May, coming for 1-1.5 days per week. So far, we’ve been prepping beds in the vegetable field for direct seeding and transplanting. I’m so happy to have Marisol working at the farm this season, and looking forward to when school’s done (yes, there’s still online school) so she can come more each week.
Laying down the woven landscape cloth so that all vegetation dies off over a few weeks of occultation (yes, this is a word in no-till circles, which means blocking out the sun;P) has proven more challenging than I had hoped…because it’s so damn windy at the vegetable field! I’ve always appreciated that the field has good airflow, so we don’t end up with some of the plant diseases which come from lack of airflow, and there are fewer mosquitoes to deal with, but in the past few years, it seems that a nice little breeze has turned into an almost constant stiff wind. I need to have the chin strap tight on my sun hat most of the time I’m working down there. And to keep the landscape fabric from blowing off the 125 foot long by 3 foot wide beds, requires 10-12 sandbags per bed, plus rocks or bags of rocks holding down the edges for both long edges of the landscape fabric…that’s 250 feet…for one bed. It’s totally insane.
On a brighter note, we did bring the laying hens and their moveable coop down to the vegetable field once it got warm at the end of April, to help us prepare vegetable beds by scratching things up and eating up most of the green weeds. The chickens have done an amazing job, so that after they’re done with a bed, we can wheel hoe it and it’s ready for seeding/transplanting! We did have to hurriedly bring the chicken coop back off the vegetable field when we had the 10 cm snowstorm last weekend. The winds on the field just felt too frigid for us to leave the coop down there with the poor shivering hens. Skyler had to scramble around at twilight with the tractor to bring them to the shelter of the barnyard, and barely made it up our big hill as the ground was starting to get slick from snow. We’ve only just brought the hen coop back to the field this morning, as it has been too cold until now.
And really, did anyone enjoy that blast of February that we just had to endure? I had an electric heater running full blast in the greenhouse for the whole duration of freezing cold…which was a whole 7 days! This is the first time in 12 seasons of farming that I’ve had to have the heater on in the greenhouse for more than a night or 2 in May…and this year, it wasn’t only on at night, but had to be on during the day too!
Of course, with this frigid spring, the pastures have been growing at a snail’s pace, so the sheep are still in the barn and we’ve had to buy in extra hay to feed them, twice already. They’ve been let out to certain warmer patches of the farm where we can sacrifice the grass, for half days here and there, to get the lambs used to going outside and starting to nibble on grass. So the flock knows the grass is out there, and really don’t want to be in the barn any more. If anyone ever needs a soundbite for zombie hordes, a flock of sheep baaing for fresh pasture sounds just like the movies ;P
Finally, we’ve only been able to get the tractor down to the field twice this year, as the road to the field is still partially submerged in water. Thank goodness I’ve gone no-till or there’s no way any beds could be prepared for planting at all by tractor! We’re currently debating what to do with the road, like bringing in loads of stone and gravel, maybe installing a culvert or drainage pipe…as if I know what I’m talking about 😛 Luckily, we had already delivered a load of compost to the field last fall, so Marisol and I have been plugging away at getting it spread on various beds via wheel barrow and manure fork. If that sounds labour intensive to you, it definitely is. Trying to figure out a form of mechanized compost spreading for the future is definitely a priority, as my back is not happy with me these days. Hence the need to figure out this road business, as mechanized generally means tractor pulled.
The good news is, sugar snap peas have been direct seeded, with salad greens hopefully seeded tomorrow if it doesn’t rain too hard. And there are thousands of seedlings started in the greenhouse, scheduled to be transplanted to the field late May/early June. I definitely enjoy soil blocking and seeding…tons more fun than spreading compost ;P Great arm workout without any back strain 🙂
I’m sure there’s other stuff I should be writing about too, like this pandemic and the anxiety it brings, but if there’s any cure for that, it’s physical farm labour and the sweet sleep that brings at night. Hang in there everyone, as it seems like there is a light at the end of this long tunnel. I’m just happy we still get to eat 😀
This is the story of my journey into sustainable agriculture. From the streets of downtown Toronto, to the farm land of southern Ontario, I hope to discover the techniques and practices that work for me in both mind and heart.

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