We have been watching the weather with great angst over the past few weeks. The 10-day forecast promised rain every other day...just enough to keep us out of the field. The weekend had other plans, and provided us with the perfect opportunity to work the ground. We spent both days forming almost 100 raised beds in anticipation of the spring planting.
This year we are trying out a few different colors of plastic on our beds. We have black, red, silver, and white, with each color having its own benefit; from insect reduction to soil temperature manipulation.
Another benefit is that we no longer have to wait for perfect conditions to plant our crops. After a storm we only have to wait about a day before resuming work, whereas with bare ground the wait can be as long as 3-5 days. This allows us to keep our plantings on schedule, and thus the harvest, too.
What is mother nature doing? Confusing my fruit trees, that's for sure.
While most fruit buds will tolerate the cold (down to 20F for some), they have a hard time when the temperatures stay that low for a long period of time. However, once they hit the color break stage shown in these first 2 photos, their cold tolerance drops significantly (peach tree is pink, plum is white).
Depending on the type of fruit trees you planted, you may be forced to just suffer a fruit loss because protecting it can be so challenging. I chose semi-dwarf trees so that they would stay a size at which I could easily manage them. It makes putting bird netting, harvesting, pruning, and in the case of this week, applying frost blankets much easier. If you do have full size fruit trees, all hope is not lost. Even at a 90% bud loss, you will still get a decent harvest. In fact, you could think of it like a natural thinning method, which is actually beneficial for fruit development. When the temperatures stay as cold as they have been though, you could lose all of your fruit. There has been a lot of success by constantly spraying cold water onto the trees, though it does not protect below 23-24.
Even with 8 degree frost blankets I still had about 50% loss, especially around the outer edges.
I cut the blankets off this week to find a good majority of flowers remaining. The bees were sure appreciative.
Even though putting the blankets on the trees was a bit of a nightmare (I thought the wind was going to whip me away to Oz), summer peaches will make it worthwhile.
Come on summer, cause I'm sure tired of waiting.
See you next week,
We significantly expanded our herd this year. From 50 cows and 3 bulls, to 161 cows and 10 bulls. After having a closed herd (no new cows brought in) for a long time, we are now seeing new diseases. When was the last time you heard of diphtheria? I remember it killing me on the Oregon Trail in 5th grade...wait, maybe that was dysentery?? Imagine my surprise when the vet diagnosed one of our new calves with it. Despite our very best efforts, she didn't make it.
And that's life on the farm. Luckily, most of the new cows have been very healthy. Despite a short bout of pneumonia that troubled a few of our girls, they have been doing great. They are becoming more docile and easier to handle by the day.
They are also giving us some pretty healthy calves...and some, like this little smoke charolais with a white face, are pretty dang cute too.There's a good chance she's my favorite.
We also ran out of nursery space this week. After planting 140 flats, there just isn't room for another tray. Since we moved to the farm, I've eyeballed this little dilapidated, antique greenhouse that my neighbor has in her backyard.
We finally called her this week to discuss buying and moving the greenhouse over to the farm. She was interested and invited us over to take a look.
It may not look like much, but this is an antique Texas Greenhouse Company classically styled greenhouse, with nearly all of the glass still intact. After negotiating the purchase, our very kind neighbor agreed to let us use it on her property until the spring plant is over, so that we don't lose valuable nursery time for our transplants. Moving it will take at least a week or longer.
First, we had to get a mass of vines out of it. If you never take my advice on anything else, heed this warning: NEVER PLANT VARIEGATED PERIWINKLE. It will take over your life. Or at the very least 2 hours of it...though Thomas doesn't seem to mind:
Seeing it all cleaned out really made us anxious for summer so that we can get it moved. We can't wait to bring it back to life. Hopefully I'll have photos to share next week of it full of seedlings.
Spring is such a wonderful time of year on the farm. The nursery comes to life,
the chickens resume laying,
new calves are being born every day,
the bees have awoken from the winter slumber,
and perhaps my most favorite of all, raised beds have been formed and the first of the spring greens planted.
It just doesn't get any better than this. See you next week!