Thursday, February 13, 2014

For What It's Worth

One of the benefits (yes, benefits) of the frigid weather that we've been having, is that various bugs that cause significant damage to crops, as well as trees, will not survive. It is doubtful that any particular variety of bug will be wiped out, but the weather will put a dent in their population. An article in the New York Times, 'Celebrating Deep Freeze, Insect Experts See a Chance to Kill Off Invasive Species', provides more details about this. ( While the article is about trees, the basic premise is applicable to organic and conventional farmers. Considering that organic farmers have less resources to combat pests, the extreme cold weather that this area has experienced will be helpful.

Prior to the start of farm season 2013 David received a grant to purchase a high tunnel for the field. A high tunnel is a green house without a heater. The greenhouse, see the earliest posts for pictures of its construction, is where the plants germinate in a warm and controlled environment. A field high tunnel, though not heated, does provide the plants inside to grow in a more controlled environment than they would have in the feild. When the sides are rolled down the inside of the high tunnel provides a few degrees of added warmth. The advantage of this is that certain plants can be planted earlier in the season and others can last longer at the end of the season. The following pictures provides a partial chronicle of the  building of the high tunnel. 

Building the green house required more precision, but even with the high tunnel the posts needed to be aligned and pounded into the soil to a particular depth. The posts for the green house were only a couple of feet long and we were able to use a mallet to push them into the soil. Clearly with longer posts using a mallet was not practical. This picture shows David using the front end loader to pound the posts into the ground. As everything, things did not go as smoothly as hoped- there were some rocks beneath the surface that prevented the posts from going to the desired depth. A sawzall, a toll with a reciprocating blade that cuts through metal, was needed to trim the posts to size. Prior to this step measurements were made to make sure, as best as possible, that the posts were going to be the proper distance apart. All in all, very time consuming.

Once the posts were in the ground, the 'hoops' had to be place on top of the jutting posts. If not properly spaced getting the 'hoops' in place was most difficult. Even when everything was correctly aligned, it was a challenging process. The picture below shows David clamping the 'hoop' to the cross beam. This helps to provide stability to the entire structure.

Another step in providing the high tunnel with stability was bolting the wood to the posts. There were pre-cut  holes in the posts, but we needed to cut through the wood and then push the bolt through the hole and then use a nut to secure the post to the wood. This was done on the bottom as well as along the side. While not technically difficult, the process of doing this is far more time consuming than you would imagine.

The first picture shows the inside of the high tunnel. The second shows the beds that have been made with plastic row cover. On the green house there are wooden walls on the front and back. On the high tunnel plastic is attached to the ends and can be rolled down and up as the weather dictates.

The completed high tunnel.

Beds waiting to be planted. Sadly, this was what David was unable to do as much as desired in the early part of the season due to the wet ground.

As mentioned in the first post in this current sequence, the walk-in cooler wasn't cooling. Needing to keep the harvest cool we used the coolers that are used to bring the produce to market. They are lined up this way, at a slight incline, to allow the melting water to flow out of the coolers. If the water staying in the cooler the produce would turn to mush in the water. Doing this on a daily basis was, to say the least, annoying.

The plan for farm season 2014 is to start seeding by the end of February. The list of things to do in anticipation of seeding is lengthy. Thus we need it to warm up a little bit and to stop snowing. Ah, my first complaint of the season about the weather. I would anticipate a few more before all is said and done.

1 comment:

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