farm management

Bachelor Days at the Farm

On our farm, it's like the night before Christmas. Tomorrow is our first CSA day of the season.  The chickens are chortling as I write, chicken tractors - all four of them - are resting in good pasture. Malaya, fresh from a bath in the irrigation ditch, and tired from a day of greeting visitors and digging, is in the cab of the open truck, sleeping and waiting for Mary to get home.  She's been away, with family in Oregon for the past few days, and the farm has been in my hands.  At times, it's been disasterous. My voicemail filled up. All of my electronic communication dwindled and I resorted to texts and people relaying messages to me in other ways. I ran out of food (other than greens, of course) and I one low point in the past few days, I purchased some low-priced, terribly chewy pizza. The next morning, I succumbed to feeding it to our hungry laying flock. It's been an adventure.

Today, for example, in my rush to water plants in our greenhouse, and then get to harvesting, I toppled over a plywood table, spilling dozens of delicate plants. I potted them up, forty five minutes later.  I told Mary that I'd get to digging postholes for a clothesline for the washing machine we just plumbed as soon as she left.  And, while I picked up our shovels to mix potting soil with our own compost, I haven't gotten those holes dug even though it's been on my list for the past several days.

And yesterday, running the quacker through our field, one of our favorite no-till tractor tools, my foot got tangled in bailing twine on my dismount, and I went flying, face-first, right into the soft soil.  But then I tasted a bit of our soil, soil you've all helped build, with compost, and leaves, and I remembered how far we've come.  On these warm spring nights, where summer doesn't seem so far away, and the outdoor kitchen isn't so bad, I feel a great deal of hopefulness. Today, if you are reading this email Tuesday morning, is our first CSA pickup.

This is our early season, filled with abundant greens. We may one or two surprises from the field tomorrow, but most of the bounty comes from our no-till hoophouse, fertilized by our compost, help from the composting operation of Hulls Dairy, and our previous laying flock that moved out early last winter into some of your freezers.

We've been delivering to Bitterroot Brewery, The Western Montana Growers Cooperative, Bouilla, and snuck in one pre-season delivery to the Hamilton Marketplace and the Stock Farm but we cannot wait to get you our food. It's our community that our farm is really about, and it's our mission to get food to you, personally, and we finally have the chance to do it.  I can't wait to harvest our spinach early in the morning, spicy greens, and salad mix.  Mary is a pro at the radish bunching, and she'll be at it with me, early in the morning.

While Mary has been away, spending her last time with family before the market season starts up, I've been up to my own tricks, unsupervised with many unathorized initiatives. In no particular order, here are some highlights:

With our friend Leon, at his farm, I welded up the frame for our giant mobile chicken coop. I've never really helped weld anything, and like putting up a new hoophouse, wiring our greenhouse, and putting together an idler arm on our farm-built chicken plucker, this is yet another new skill that I never thought we'd be getting (or need) a couple of years ago. When Mary goes away, I always try to accomplish something big.  

This new chicken coop is our next step to raising a sustainably and healthy laying flock, and it's a huge step for us.  The frame of a 32 foot long mobile trailer, farm-made and fabricated, sits outside our workshop.  Tomorrow we'll have butcher paper and pencils so the young (or older) can add to the list of features we'd eventually like to have added. As we are still building the deck, design submissions are welcome! You can also find out about joining our flock share, and make arrangements for your first meat chickens which will be available this week. We'll have more information about that at the farm tomorrow and flock shares help make these projects possible.

I planted more potatoes than I should have. We had a workparty with our friends one evening last week, planting a bunch. Then volunteers showed up and we planted more on Sunday. Mary has yet no real idea of the scale of potatoes I've planted. It was a good excuse to mulch a large section of our field, but it's going to mean some careful inside planning, making some new bedspace on areas of our farm animals have been helping build for the past couple of years.  I've excited about this and dream about the possibilities of large quantities of dry corn, big dry bean harvests for soup making parties, but we are worried about the work and it's going to mean at least one - if not more -- calls for help later this spring.

 I washed the dog. This may not sound like a big deal, but Malaya was recently coated in vegetable oil from a spill in our filtering operation -- since we run our Jetta on used fryer oil.  Many of you haven't seen this part of the farm tour, well, because it's a little greasy. All the oil is packed neatly in drums, but we are happy to show you the operation on a farm tour.  It took a full 90 minutes to wash Malaya, and I'm not saying how much shampoo it took. 

And today, I literally watched our field grow. We have nearly 1/4 acre of crops fully under row cover and today, I removed most of that row cover to give the plants additional light and breathing room. By dusk, as I was recovering the plants, a ritual we sometimes spend one hour doing with the full acre in the fall, I could literally measure the growth of spicy mix, arugula, and kale. I started estimating the amounts of pounds we will have for market this Saturday and, my immediate thought was that we'd have to hook up the tractor to the under-construction chicken coop. We like that feeling, it makes a feel rich, plentiful, and like we have more than just ourselves, our stories, and our love to share with one another and our community.

As I was running out of the field to greet our friend Scott, who came to pickup some of our farmer coffee, he saw me running and yelled 'Let's Go Team.' I like that and even if it was just me on the farm today, with the visitors, and with all of the chaos, it felt just like that, just right, with just the right amount of team. For me, who frets about fiances and leaves home -- twice now this spring for outside work - that's a good feeling and one that I will hold on to. And of course today, while I was running around and about to head off on a farm errand, Ed brought me tacos, which in my bachelor routine I had taken on my old ways, eating at odd hours. I added greens and dove on in.