Busy Bees

Boy oh boy – it’s been a busy year so far! The last time I posted, I posted the invite for the 2012 Onion Planting Party. It was a HUGE success! We managed to plant – not 1,500 but 6,000!!! onion plants! And we did it all in under an hour. We finished so quickly, I was thrown off guard and hurriedly got together the food from inside to put outside under the tents – with the help of mostly the female folk in attendance. The taco salad, burrito/taco bar food theme was also a success. I’ve struggled to try to come up with a good theme that allows me (and others) to easily have food to meet almost everyone’s food preferences (e.g., gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, paleo, etc.). Thanks go to my mom for coming up with the idea! By three o’clock or so, most folks had a chance to plant, party, and were on their way. It was a beautiful, semi-lazy Sunday and we got work done – that’s my kind of Sunday! 
Folks gettin down and dirty with the soil. 

Look at that gorgeous blue sky.

Time to dig in!
Ben and I (with some help from our friend and CSA member, Charlotte) have been doing a lot more planting since then. Just to give you a good idea – those 6,000 onions were planted in 2 ½ beds (240 bed feet each). Since then, we’ve planted almost THIRTY (200-240ft long) more beds of produce that includes, spinach, beets, tat soi, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, scallions, leeks, chard, kale, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, parsley, fennel, carrots, peas, mesclun, arugula, dill, cilantro, and potatoes (I might be forgetting something). And, to tell you the truth, April is going to be our busiest planting month of all – and it just started! We can hardly believe it’s April already. April is not only our busiest planting month, we also do a lot of cultivating and weeding, and getting ready for markets. 
This year, we’ll be attending the Western Wake Farmer’s Market (the Spring/Summer market opens this weekend 8am-noon), the Clayton Community and Farmer’s Market (opening 4/14 9am – 2pm), and, for the first time, the Raleigh Downtown Farmer’s Market (opens 4/25 Wednesdays 10 am – 2pm). We’ve also increased our CSA membership to 59 shares. The small share size and alternating small share pick up weeks has allowed us to do this. We’re happy to see so many folks return and we’re also happy to see new folks join CSA and this CSA more specifically. We will also be continuing our Farm It Forward efforts this year. We hope to have two 6 week long Farm It Forward sessions, providing CSA shares to 12 families.

As you know, we rotate our cover crops and we also plant to encourage beneficial (to the health of the farm) critters. So, we’ve also spent some time taking down the low tunnels, mowing the winter cover crops, prepping beds for the spring crops, and then also mowing down the old winter vegetable crops and prepping ground for spring cover crops to go in. The cover crop that was just mowed consisted of barley, oats, peas, daikon radish and volunteer vetch and crimson clover. Ben planted Dutch white clover, mustard, barley and wild flowers for our beneficial habitat.

Here’s a picture of the beautiful cover crop we just mowed down.
In other news, we applied for and received a NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service – part of the USDA) high tunnel cost share! We currently have three home made high tunnels. We first constructed them in October. Shortly, we will take them down and set them up elsewhere for our use with Spring and Summer crops (mostly, tomatoes). As you can probably imagine, it takes a lot of time and effort to take down and reconstruct these high tunnels – and we’re not complaining! – we’re happy to have them! BUT – let’s just say that the new tunnel we’ll be getting from the NRCS cost share will be A LOT easier to move!!! This one will be on tracks and it will therefore be easily mobile. We’ll just have to slide the hoop house down the tracks (rather than completely taking it down, moving the parts, and then putting them back together again). So, while we’re not complaining about our homemade three high tunnels, we’re very excited to get one that will be more efficient and a lot less work, so that we can focus our efforts on one of the other tasks on our never-ending to do lists (actually, thanks to Ben and Habits of Successful People, we use a to-do quadrant with important/urgent, important/less urgent, less important/urgent, and less important/less urgent as the categories – it took some convincing for me, but it really does work!).  
Of course, in addition to our making preparations for a busy and productive year on the farm, we’re also making preparations for the arrival of our newest family member, Elliott (in late June or early July). The same day we had our (very fun!) baby shower, 50 baby chick-a-dees arrived in the mail. It was a Sunday, so the main Post Office in Raleigh called us at 7am to let us know the chicks had arrived and we could pick them up. So, of course, that’s what we did (well, Ben and my dad went – my mom and I were getting things together for the shower). While my folks were here, we got a lot of our nesting accomplished, with their BIG help including, putting new blinds on all of the windows, putting up new curtains in Elliott’s room and the living room, putting a new sliding glass door that leads out of our kitchen onto the porch, refurnishing the living room with new to us items – including my Oma’s awesome couch from the 1970s, setting up Elliott’s room organizationally and making it a guest room for now, which leads to the biggest deal yet – we got a new KING SIZE BED (and moved our old bed into the guest room – which will be Elliott’s room down the road)!!! Ben sleeps like a crazy person, our bed was old and may as well have been a hammock, and we’re about to have another person in it with us, so we decided (thanks to the help of my folks) to get a new bed. Ben and I are in heaven – we both feel like we’re the luckiest people ever to have a bed so darn comfortable. I’m not sure the thanks I feel every time I get in that bed is ever going to go away – and I’m sure Ben feels the same way. When you’re exhausted after a long day, and place you can lie down will do the trick, but having something you can wake up from rested – well, that’s heaven! Before my folks came, Ben and our neighbors put in wood laminate flooring in the guest room (to replace the old “white” plush carpeting). Ahhh – it is nice to have a cozy home – thanks mom and dad!

Mom, Dad, Ben and I (with Ben’s sister Mary in the background)
What else? Hmmm…there are a lot of other things that have happened out here since the last time I posted – but I’m not sure I can keep them straight. It might be a little easier if I just listed the rest of what I can remember:
·        Ben’s cousin, Roy, designed our new logo.
·        We designed a new banner for market and friend Cyndi hooked us up with a sign maker, Steve, who’s doing the printing for us. We can’t wait to hang the new banner up!
·        We also designed new business cards. We should get them in the mail sometime in the next week or so.
·        We met with our Farm It Forward partners to decide on a plan of action for Farm It Forward 2012.
·        Ben will be a panelist for the “What’s on Your Plate?” screening April 17th.
·        I volunteered for this year’s Dig In! event (it was lots of fun!).
·        We repaired the pick up (it needed a new starter).
·        We’ve been working on getting together our new pole building and walk-in cooler.
·        We finally finished weeding our strawberries just in time to have to do it all over again!
·        We pick up compost weekly from Pullen Place.
·        We’ve done our monthly profit and loss reports and we’re almost finished with our tax paperwork (cutting it close, I know) for 2011.
·        Ben, with the help of a neighbor welder, Jeff, designed and built a custom-made garden cart that’s big enough to wheel with us over the rows. We can also attach the custom built row marker as well (this saves us countless hours overall).
Well, that’s all folks – at least for now! We hope you enjoy our farm updates. We’re looking forward to a fantastic Spring and Summer – see you around!

Wendell Berry

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