08.28.11

How Sweet! We skinned a greenhouse for use in fall production.

Posted in Greenhouse Maintenance at 3:25 pm by Farmer

This past Monday we pulled plastic over Greenhouse #5 and are ready to hand dig the beds and amend with vermicompost. Our worms have been making some beautiful compost so our plan is to layoff the rows then add in compost to those rows.
This is my first time trying to document us covering a greenhouse because normally we are much too busy making sure the plastic doesn’t blow away.  We are using a double poly layer for this greenhouse because it insulates the greenhouse better in extreme hot and cold temperatures.  A double poly greenhouse has two layers of plastic using air blown in from the outdoors as insulation between the layers of plastic.  An “Inflation Fan” is used, that constantly runs, keeping air filled in between the layers of plastic.  We tried using a single poly layer on the greenhouse where we are currently growing sweet bell peppers and are noticing a lot of sun scalding that we didn’t have when growing peppers in our other greenhouses with a double poly layer.  We are not certain the problem with our peppers is because of higher summer temperatures due to global warming or because we don’t have a double poly layer on this greenhouse.
The first process of covering our greenhouse is to prep the site and gather all the tools required for covering so we are not hunting for tools or parts once the plastic has been pulled.  Once you pull the plastic it should be secured as quickly as possible because a gust of wind can cause the plastic to end up in the trees. Plastic is a big investment.  We locate all the tools and get the site ready the day prior to skinning the greenhouse because we like to skin the greenhouse early in the morning before the afternoon winds pick up. The tools gathered and ready include: the jig, plastic, rope for pulling the plastic, 1 inch x 3 inch x4 foot for securing the plastic to be pulled, drill with drywall screw bit, drywall screws for securing the boards and plastic, enough kwic-clips for securing the plastic to the greenhouse frame, channel pliers (in case you need to undo the clips, 2 rubber mallets (for ensuring the clips are securely fastened to the greenhouse), push broom for pushing the first layer of plastic along so that it does not drop in-between the bows. Gloves for the folks pulling the plastic, a ladder for the person making sure there is tension on the roll of plastic as it is being pulled, a scaffold at the end for the person pulling the plastic, probably miscellaneous things I am forgetting.
The jig, used for hoisting up the roll of plastic, in front of Greenhouse #5. (The jig broke while raising the roll of plastic for our second layer, and nearly killed Justin, because he was standing underneath the roll of plastic supporting it with his hands as we cranked it up.  The next time, before attempting to cover another greenhouse, we need to be sure the pulleys are lubed and in working condition.)

The jig, used for hoisting up the roll of plastic, in front of Greenhouse #5. (The jig broke while raising the roll of plastic for our second layer, and nearly killed Justin, because he was standing underneath the roll of plastic supporting it with his hands as we cranked it up. The next time, before attempting to cover another greenhouse, we need to be sure the pulleys are lubed and in working condition.)

Positioning the plastic roll before pulling our first layer of greenhouse plastic.  Notice Carl had to climb up the jig because the cranks weren’t working correctly.  We try to get the plastic above the greenhouse so that we can have two people at the opposite end pulling the plastic.

Positioning the plastic roll before pulling our first layer of greenhouse plastic. Notice Carl had to climb up the jig because the cranks weren’t working correctly. We try to get the plastic above the greenhouse so that we can have two people at the opposite end pulling the plastic.

The praying mantis is a beneficial insect for us and we are thankful that they are all over the farm!

The praying mantis is a beneficial insect for us and we are thankful that they chose this farm for their home!

Ready to pull our second layer of plastic.  Danielle on the ladder to keep tension on the roll of plastic as it is being pulled.   I’m holding the ladder for Danielle just so she doesn’t fall because our ground is not very level.  Townes, the tallest of us all, will be using the push broom to keep the plastic from falling in between the bows as it is being pulled, and Tony holding down the plastic so it doesn’t fly away.

Ready to pull our first layer of plastic. Danielle on the ladder to keep tension on the roll of plastic as it is being pulled. I’m holding the ladder for Danielle just so she doesn’t fall because our ground is not very level. Townes, the tallest of us all, will be using the push broom to keep the plastic from falling in between the bows as it is being pulled, and finally Tony holding Danielle and the jig steady while Carl and Justin pull the plastic.

Carl pulling our second layer of plastic.

Carl pulling our second layer of plastic.

Carl and Justin pulling our second layer of plastic.  It takes a lot of strength to pull the plastic over a 96 foot distance so yes; it does take two people to pull the plastic.

Carl and Justin pulling our second layer of plastic. It takes a lot of strength to pull the plastic over a 96 foot distance so yes; it does take two people to pull the plastic.

Townes using the push broom in keeping the plastic moving by pushing it up over the bows so that the plastic doesn’t drop down in between the bows.  Once we begin pulling the plastic, you want to keep momentum up, which is why you don’t want the plastic getting stuck between the bows.

Townes using the push broom in keeping the plastic moving by pushing it up over the bows so that the plastic doesn’t drop down in between the bows. Once we begin pulling the plastic, you want to keep momentum up, which is why you don’t want the plastic getting stuck between the bows.

Tony keeping the jig steady all the while keeping Danielle and her ladder from falling over.  He is a born gymnast!

Tony keeping the jig steady all the while keeping Danielle and her ladder from falling over. He is a born gymnast!

Tony holding the plastic.  Once the plastic is pulled and stretched you don’t want to let go should a gust of wind arise.  We learned that covering G2 almost loosing the plastic with a gust of wind.  We put a few temporary Kwic-Clips along both sides and the ends to hold the first layer of plastic down until the second layer has been pulled.

Tony holding the plastic. Once the plastic is pulled and stretched you don’t want to let go should a gust of wind arise. We learned that covering G2 almost loosing the plastic with a gust of wind. We put a few temporary Kwic-Clips along both sides and the ends to hold the first layer of plastic down until the second layer has been pulled.

Once both layers of plastic are pulled, Kwic-Clips are put in place to secure the layers of plastic to the greenhouse frame. My camera had gone missing while we were installing these but we have a few photographs of this step on Tony’s camera and I hope to upload them soon.
Carl installing a Kwic-Clips to temporary secure the layers of plastic at the end of the greenhouse.  We use 48 Kwic-Clips per side because they are roughly 2 feet long.

Carl installing a Kwic-Clips to secure the layers of plastic at the end of the greenhouse. We use 48 Kwic-Clips per side because they are roughly 2 feet long.

2011 MHO Farm Crew enjoying a beer.  Thanks Marion!  The farm crew helped Marion and Dean put up trusses and sheathing for their roof, so in return, Marion generously gave the farm crew a 6 pack of beer that we enjoyed Friday afternoon. From left to right: Danielle, Julie, Townes, Carl, Tony, Justin

2011 MHO Farm Crew enjoying a beer. Thanks Marion! The farm crew helped Marion and Dean put up trusses and sheathing for their roof, so in return, Marion generously gave the farm crew a 6 pack of beer that we enjoyed Friday afternoon. From left to right: Danielle, Julie, Townes, Carl, Tony, Justin

08.20.11

I had two days off in a row, the first since mid April, and we are makin’ the bacon!

Posted in Nothing in Particular, Pigs, Projects at 4:55 pm by Farmer

Thanks to Danielle and Townes, I had both Saturday and Sunday off last week which was the first since mid April. HOORAY! I mentioned to a couple of our CSA members that I was going to have both Saturday and Sunday off and so Jane Thomas asked something like, “What is it like for you to have a couple days off?”. That is a good question and one I had to think about
Even though my husband and I had both Saturday and Sunday off, we still need to feed and water the pigs, horses, goats and chickens. Check the greenhouse and water our herbs and landscape plants, although most of these plants are nearly dead from neglect, so they could probably go a few days without water.
A day “off” to me is being able to do chores at a leisurely pace. On a normal day we do our AM and PM chores at 8:00; however, on our day off we may do them at 8:30 or 9 just to have a little extra time to read the newspaper.
Normally our day “off” includes making a nice meal out of our seasonal produce or perhaps making some homemade bread. That is what I did on my day off – made eggplant lasagna, bread and a salad – and it was DELICIOUS!
Our day “off” might include a hike around the farm or at Max Patch. Perhaps our day “off” is doing something around our house like cleaning or a home improvement project. Our home improvement projects never make the priority list because there is always something to be done around the farm. So on my day off I cleaned the kitchen while Carl installed our wood burning stove.
Carl so proud of the wood stove!  I am very proud of him and it myself.

Carl so proud of the wood stove! I am very proud of him and it myself.

We also are in the process of making bacon. We are using the side meat from Peter, Paul and Mary. We first thawed the meat, then made a rub using 3/4 cup of Doubletree Sorghum, 1/2 cup of water, 60 grams of pink salt, 250 grams of sugar, and 250 grams of kosher salt. We applied the rub to the surface of the meat and are now curing it for a week. After a week long cure, we will dry it for 24 hours, and then finally smoke it for a few hours. I have not had bacon since I was a youngster, and at that time it was mostly either for breakfast on family camping trips or Sunday’s on BLT Sandwiches, and my memory has fond aromas from those times my family splurged on bacon. Mom made these for us when I was young, then cut it out of our diet after the medical industry did not recommend it for your overall health, so mom wanting her entire family to be healthy quit buying and cooking bacon. My mouth is watering just thinking of a bacon lettuce and tomato sandwich and I am looking forward to the first one in probably over 35 – 40 years.  I certainly hope our bacon tastes just like what is instilled in my memory.  I am glad my mom cut bacon off our diet because I don’t want to be eating that raised and processed by industry in CAFOs.
Sidemeat from Peter, Paul and Mary before prepping it with a rub.  We will cure the sidemeat for about a week in the refrigerator with the rub then smoke it for a few hours hopefully making for some tasty bacon.

Sidemeat from Peter, Paul and Mary before prepping it with a rub. We will cure the sidemeat for about a week in the refrigerator with the rub then smoke it for a few hours hopefully making for some tasty bacon.

Sorghum Rub for bacon: 3/4 cup of Doubletree Sorghum, 1/2 cup of water, 60 grams of pink salt, 250 grams of sugar, and 250 grams of kosher salt

Sorghum Rub for bacon: 3/4 cup of Doubletree Sorghum, 1/2 cup of water, 60 grams of pink salt, 250 grams of sugar, and 250 grams of kosher salt

The best ever sorghum - a local product from Doubletree Farm - found at the North Asheville Tailgate market in the fall.

The best ever sorghum - a local product from Doubletree Farm - found at the North Asheville Tailgate market in the fall.

Carl prepping the meat with the sorghum rub

Carl prepping the meat with the sorghum rub

Makin’ the Bacon.  This will be the only type of bacon we earn on the farm! This photo shows our sidemeat prepped and ready for curing.  We will keep it in the refrigerator then turn it every 2 days.  After curing for roughly 7 days we will smoke it for a few hours..

Makin’ the Bacon. This will be the only type of bacon we earn on the farm! This photo shows our sidemeat prepped and ready for curing. We will keep it in the refrigerator then turn it every 2 days. After curing for roughly 7 days we will smoke it for a few hours..

08.12.11

Such wonderful sleeping weather these past couple nights

Posted in Production Gap, Production Note, Projects, Winter Stash at 9:03 pm by Farmer

This journal entry is for Trace!!!! Yes, finally I am taking the time to write in our journal and let me tell you why… Because here in the mountains we are having cooler weather, with finally the nighttime temperatures dropping, making for some fabulous sleeping. This helps motivate me in completing my nightly chores such as journal entries and freezing pesto for our winter stash.  Otherwise our trailer is just too hot to deal with being indoors and I find myself sitting outside.  (The past few nights we have seen low temperatures around 62 and highs between 85 and 90)
This past Tuesday our neighbor Joe brought over his coon dog because the raccoons wiped out about 50 percent of our sweet corn crop. The coons also ate all the peaches from the peach tree. His dogs didn’t pick up any scent so he will try again Friday or Saturday night. We are hopeful to soon be eating stewed racoons!
The first week of August we transplanted our first succession of fall crops to the field. The plants didn’t look so good because they were being devoured by the cabbage looper so we are praying they survive. Crops transplanted include kale, boc choi, cabbage and lettuce.
After transplanting we covered with floating row cover to keep the flea beetles and harlequin bugs off the crops until they have an established root system. Danielle, Townes, Tony and Justin hauled literally tons of rocks and rolled out a lot of row cover to protect these plants. I got out of the hard work, mostly because I was busy spraying the crops to kill the cabbage loopers, and feel bad that they had to do it all!!! Carl was busy helping our neighbor put up hay.  It is strange having the crops covered because you can’t just look at them to see how they are doing.  Crops underneath row cover are ignored until over a week after they have been transplanted, then they are uncovered and hoed, then recovered for a couple more weeks.  Whereas, crops without row cover can be examined every couple days, and if we visually notice pests or disease, we can be very proactive about dealing with issues as they arise. So who knows what is going on underneath that row cover right now.  Hopefullly not an “All You Can Eat Buffet” for the  cabbage loopers.
Tony and Carl happy about row cover.  Carl just loves floating row cover! Ask him about it one day.

Tony and Carl happy about row cover. Carl just loves floating row cover! Ask him about it one day.

Danielle and Towns unfolding floating row cover.  We were fortunate to have a calm afternoon for covering our plants.  This job is difficult in high winds.

Danielle and Towns unfolding floating row cover. We were fortunate to have a calm afternoon for covering our plants. This job is difficult in high winds.

Danielle and Towns pulling the row cover along the bed of plants that will be covered.

Danielle and Towns pulling the row cover along the bed of plants that will be covered.

Fall plants covered for protection against flea beetles and harlequin bugs.

Fall plants covered for protection against flea beetles and harlequin bugs. Justin took the photographs of row covering. I must leave the camera in the car more often because he did a great job documenting the process.

I love Zinnias and miss making bouquets!  Perhaps we will add these back to our schedule next year.  Hard to believe haven’t sold any bouquets this year.

I love Zinnias and miss making bouquets! Perhaps we will add these back to our schedule next year. Hard to believe we haven’t made or sold any bouquets this year.

I love these two…. Carl and Harmon

I love these two…. Carl and Harmon

Our annual, “Post Peak Season”  picnic celebration at the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Even though we live in the most beautiful place it is still nice to get away from the farm leaving all the undone jobs behind.

Our annual, “Post Peak Season” picnic celebration on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Even though we live in the most beautiful place it is still nice to get away from the farm leaving all the undone jobs behind.

Interesting article about world wide food security.
If Mark Bittman were President, I would probably making a living at growing food, he would probably subsidize my farm a bit; however, I don’t think our country has the money for subsidies!
This American Life has a great radio show about hydrofracking.
PRODUCTION NOTE TO SELF: For the past several years I have been meaning to plant another succession of swiss chard that we would have for sale in the summer. Our existing crop has petered out in growth and flavor. We need to seed it around 5/15. I must say the bugs like the flavor of swiss chard right now. In addition, we need a back-up crop should we loose our corn.  We have had “trellis field peppers” on our task list for several years but never have gotten around to that.  NEXT YEAR is a farmers’ famous saying.  Our tomatoes are not producing which is a first for us.  We are going to try a more leaf mold resistant variety next year and also a later crop.  Need to seed the tomato 4/11 for harvest around August.