Happy New Year everyone! As I look towards what’s coming up in this next season on the farm, I’m also looking back through old pictures and posts and reflecting on 2015… this past spring feels like 3 years ago, so much has happened.
Before we started even growing anything, we went out to Groveland NY and took down an entire barn last March. Then we hauled the frame up to Victor and stacked it under a dry hoop house, to wait until now. And now we’re putting it up! The ground is leveled and graveled, and the concrete footers are poured. We will have a barn next season.
The spring started out beautiful and warm and dry, and things got off to a great start. Too nice, in fact… we got a little cocky and put our peppers and tomatoes out early, only to have them get zapped by a killer late frost. We had mulched the tomatoes and covered everything with frost cover, but even so it was too cold a frost for them to survive. I put out the word to the small farm community, and everyone was super generous, graciously offering extra plants. We collected our motley crew of tomato and pepper plants and got them into the ground, replacing the ones that died. They didn’t do quite as well as the originals would have done, being planted late, but they saved the day, and we had tomatoes and peppers!
Then the rains came… and didn’t stop for more than a month. We lost a lot of veggies from the big wrench from the sky. Some crops right on the verge of harvest rotted in the ground, while others got choked by weeds. On a farm our scale, there’s too many crops in the ground to weed by hand, it takes too long and we don’t have enough people or time. Instead, we rely on small cultivating tractors to kill weeds mechanically. The problem is that when the field is too wet, you can’t cultivate without getting stuck, or damaging your soil structure. The rain damage frustrated me to no end, not being able to do anything about it. But there’s something I can do to prepare for any future rain events like that. A couple weeks ago I drove out to Penn Yan to Sauder’s Produce and Supply, and ordered a piece of equipment called a “plastic mulch layer.” What it does is form a raised bed, which helps the ground you plant on drain more quickly after rain so the roots don’t drown. On top of that raised bed, the machine lays down a layer of black plastic, burying the sides in dirt. The farmer drives a “dibbler” over the bed, which pokes holes in the plastic where your transplants will go. The plastic helps the soil warm up a little quicker (great for things like tomatoes and melons) and suppresses any weeds that want to come up. That way, even if we get too much rain to cultivate for long stretches of time, our plants won’t be lost in a field of weeds, and they won’t drown as easily with the raised beds. My strategy is this; with global climate change, the only thing I can depend on from the weather is unpredictability… so it makes sense to be prepared for anything.
Once we got past the damage from the rain and it’s aftermath, the shares really started to look great. We had a beautiful late summer and fall, and all the crops planted after the rains grew beautifully. We had a great winter squash harvest, and amazing fall greens and broccoli and cabbage, as well as root vegetables. Such a relief for me!
The crew was amazing this year. Christina worked harder and faster than ever imaginable, and has set a new standard that future employees will have to try and match now. We will miss her next year, and hopefully her and her sweetie will make it back to this neck of the woods someday. Jonny raised his pigs on a piece of field that we have now plowed for next season, and they worked up a bunch of roots and spread a bunch of fertilizer for us. He raised 6 this year; the usual 5 for sale and for himself, and an extra for our first annual Mud Creek Farm Pig Roast. It was a blast, and tasted sooooo good, and we’re already looking forward to the next one.
Greg jumped into his poultry project feet first, and very successfully raised turkeys, ducks and chickens. They all did really well, and tasted great. Eric went in with Greg on his chicken project, and it was a win win to have the chicken tractors passing over harvested beds, the chickens eating weeds and bugs and spreading manure as they went along. Eric plans to raise more chickens on the farm next season, probably in smaller and more frequent batches. Greg was so pleased with his poultry operation last year that he and his wife have bought land and are going to start their own livestock farm! I’m very proud of them. Greg will still work part time at Mud Creek next season, and will still be offering meat to members.
We had an unexpected guest last season as a result of Greg and Eric’s chicken operation… one of their birds never grew as fast as the others, it was the definite runt. While they were slaughtering the chickens, the runt spent most of the day perched on the crate nearby, and near the end of the day they were debating what to do with it; should they slaughter it? It wasn’t worth the time and effort. Should they feed it to the pigs? Then they looked around and she was gone! So they decided to leave it until Monday. On Monday, there she was, perched on a veggie bin, and admiring her tiny tenacious spirit, I gave her an official pardon and named her Chicken Little.
We never fed her, never built her a house, but she stuck around, eating bugs and weeds, perching under the root washer, and became more tame each day. Within a couple weeks, she was hopping up on our laps during lunch, riding our shoulders, and very calmly submitting to all sorts of attention from the many Mud Creek kids who came to distribution with their folks. Once it got super cold out at night, I asked a member with chickens if she would like a very tame addition to her flock, and she and her daughter Avery we happy to take her home. Eric surmises that a chicken smart enough to keep from growing until she had a pardon, a name, and a herd of small fans deserved to survive, and we wish her the best!
We had some cold weather near the end of the CSA season, but afterward it got warm again, and the week of cleanup was very pleasant. And then it stayed warm forever! The result is that our cover crops are a beautiful, lush carpet, and they will contribute greatly to next season’s soils being rich and beautiful, and growing better vegetables. I’m looking forward to the 2016 season, feeling more prepared to meet disasters, and more prepared to take advantage of good luck too! Share membership is open now, we would be honored if you would join us for another year’s adventure.