19th Century Technology, Today! by Matthew Hunger

Before

Before

What was good for 19th century America is good for 21st century America? Maybe so! Just don't ask our backs, joints, or the various parts of our musculature, which, after a long winter laying dormant , were not quite ready for the season (we're good now). Above, Shayna works a wheel hoe over our land. It was pretty tough.

Taking 5.

Taking 5.

Fortunately we got some friends to help. 

Thanks Channing and Caitlin! 

Thanks Channing and Caitlin! 

For those curious, the pile of cabbage and onion in the background is leftover from the farmer who worked the field last year. We've since moved them into our compost heap (one day we hope to use compost heat, getting to about 160 degrees Fahrenheit in the dead of winter at the pile's center, to help heat our greenhouse.).  

So, it's not all by hand. Our neighboring farmer, Guy from Blooming Hill, did us a solid by running his tractor over the land, significantly loosening most of the soil. It still took us a full day of raking to get the soil into raised beds. 

 

Greenhouse Buildout by Matthew Hunger

Shayna builds out some greenhouse benches. 

Travis Jones (Verdant Common Growers / Blooming Hill) and Shayna work tension into the wire. 

Jane of Let's Get Farming attaching table legs. 

We'll be dividing the greenhouse in half for the early part of the season. The front half is heated for seeding and separated from the back area by plastic.

Bob Bernstein (Chester Agricultural Center) appreciating the collaborative effort. Behind him, Simon (Sunsprout Farm) at the table saw station.

Seeds by Post by Matthew Hunger

So our seeds (those we haven't, or that couldn't, be saved from previous plantings) are arriving in the mail. Pictured above is a selection from Fedco Seeds: Perfection Fennel and Cajun Jewel Okra (both organic). But first we have to finish setting up and partitioning the shared greenhouse with fellow Chester Ag farmers Simon and Travis (to be done on Wednesday), so that in a few weeks we can lay out our heating mats, build our greenhouse-within-a-greenhouse riggings, and shower the propagation trays with water and conversation (Shayna is a big fan of talking to her plants, while I prefer silent affirmation). This dead-of-winter nonsense (it's a degree outside, just the one, with the wind chill) is full-on at the moment, but our season is about to start, so that's pretty exciting. 

Farm not snow by Matthew Hunger

The land (seen above) is snow covered and the ditches frozen. But the greenhouse has a new, working heater-- gotta be ready for that first market date and thus the latitude needs an artificial, southerly bend. 

One day (we hope) we'll be able to utilize alternative sources to hear our greenhouse. Still, our rough, back-of-the-envelope calculations turn out favorably for us re: local heated greenhouse use vs transporting goods from distant locations in heavy vehicles. But we admit our math is weak and that we err on the side of local favoritism.

That said, have you been in a greenhouse in the dead of winter? We met with the Chester Agricultural Center folks (the owners of the land) for a lease discussion on one of the coldest days so far this winter (negative wind chill), and after our propane heater burned for a half hour to take the initial chill out, the greenhouse did as intended. We shed jackets and sweaters, ate falafel (thanks Bob), and were downright cozy in the balmy 92'x36' plastic-covered propagation house. We hope our seedlings will be equally comfortable and grow apace the frost date so we can begin to eat them and/or what they produce.

In the meantime, our seeds are in the mail, our CSA membership is taking shape (inquire within), and our boots are cleaner than we like. 

Sullivan County Exploits by Matthew Hunger

Saw promising land in Sullivan County today. Fenced in for deer and neighbors, surrounded by Goldenrod and stone wall, well-rooted berry bushes and stone fruit trees. We picniced on hard grass, a mowed meadow intended for haying. For all the pinches, by insect and long hay, there was enough quiet to shake a stick at. We found a hammock on a nearby house's porch. But there was no time for lounging and we had to settle on making a pact to return.