Since we started the farm, one of the things I’m looked forward to is planting blueberries. We had a couple of delays putting them in, but now they are finally installed.
My wife Connie, came up with a wonderful idea. She suggested that we plant blueberries in the Hugelkultur mound. This gives the blueberries a wonderfully sunny place that is very well drained. The hugelkultur mound is approximately 85 feet long x 30 feet wide. It is now home to 20 blueberry plans (all rabbiteye), raspberries and goji berries. This area has easy access to drip irrigation and is inside the anti-deer fence. We planted a mixture of blueberries, including Columbus, IRA, Yadkin and Tifblue varieties. The raspberries are Fall Gold from Rabbit Ridge Nursery in Coates, NC. The raspberries are acclimated to this area, so we hope they will do well. We still need to put up the trellis for the raspberries and the goji berries.
Bees on the Farm, means Honey will be Available Later in the Year
We are excited to have bees on the property. We have partnered with a local beekeeper so we can offer honey from our farm later in the year. I’ll post a blog entry when the honey is available. The bees will also help pollinate our berries and crops.
We also plan to bees on your place in the mountains again this summer (www.troublesomegap.com) so we should have sourwood honey available as well.
The flowers are coming up on the farm, so spring isn’t that far away.
We get lots of questions from community farm participants. Here are questions that came up this week.
1) How do you know whether you should plant 1 seed or multiple seeds in the same spot?
If the seed are purchased then the back of the seed packet will usually show planting information that includes desired spacing between plants and the number of seeds to plant in the same spot
Another way to determine how many seeds to plant in each spot is to look at the germination rate listed on package.
If the germination rate is 80% or below I would plant 4 seeds and then thin as needed. Above 80, consider planting 2-3 seeds and thin as needed. A 95% or greater gemination rate means you could try planting one see per site.
2) Is it better to wash produce before or after freezing?
Definitely better to wash before freezing
3) What crops have the best number of calories?
If you are interested in the number of calories per ounce of crop check out:
Eggplant lasts about 5 days in the refrigerator crisper.
5) How many weeks does a fig last on a fig tree?
Figs last just a few days after picking when ripe. Figs don’t store well, so it is best to eat or process them soon after picking. Once the fig is ripe on the tree, it won’t last long. Birds and insects are drawn to ripe fruit left on the tree.
Lets take a walk around the farm and see what is growing!
One of the topics that comes up in the video is the concept of imposing my will on the farm. Planning for the growing season requires creating a calendar of when to do what. Different crops need to go in at different times so that requires planning. We need to have the ground ready to plant. This year is very much a building year so we had infrastructure that had to go in. We put in:
3D anti-deer fences
new beds for planting that were previously pasture
We have also been working to add additional perennials this year
The garden beds are shaping up. They spent the last three months under a silage tarp but are now mostly ready to plant. The elderberries, figs and peaches are growing.
We also did work in the food forest area that we started building in 2021. We added a trellis for the blackberries and covered the hugelkultur mound with a silage tarp for 3 months to help suppress weed growth this summer. We also put down a biodegradeable paper around the bushes and trees and covered it with hay.
These have been great successes. Which would not be possible without everyone that has helped out on the farm. Our farm is structured as a communal community farm. We have another family that helps out. We share the harvest with them. Having their help has made this possible.
One of the challenges of accomplishing these things is timing. It is critical to have materials (hay, biodegradeable paper, plants, hardware and lines for the drip irrigation, and a bunch of various item) in place and ready to install. The next step is to have a plan where the materials and manpower are ready to go. I developed a calendar for the year. Then each week we have a list of items to accomplish. The list makes helps everyone to plan their time and know what tools to bring. It also helps us to work as a group and sometimes to break down in to 2 groups to work on some items in parallel.
Can Impose My Will on the Farm?
Weather is always a factor with outdoor activities like hiking or camping. Weather is an even bigger factor with farming. Not only the weather on the day you plan to work in the fields but also the weather leading up to the days you have planned to work.
If the fields are wet, then you may have to wait for them to dry out before preparing beds or planting. If the soil isn’t warm enough then seeds won’t germinate. A late frost can kill young plants. Maybe the tractor breaks down in the middle of the field (been there).
It takes effort and organization to
make sure the materials and tools you need are ready
make sure any equipment is ready for use
confirm that the people helping are in place and ready
Days and weeks before you
made sure you had budget for anything that needed to be paid for
ordered any materials or equipment and made sure it arrived
So you have all this lined up and on the calendar. But that doesn’t mean it will happen. Weather, equipment issues, or other frustrations can keep your plans from happening.
My desire and my decision to do X,Y, and Z on a certain day doesn’t mean it will happen. My will to accomplish work on the farm is totally subservient to reality of circumstance. There are many things that can delay plans or even cancel them. Its really easy to assume that because I planned something and got everything ready, then it will happen. The life lesson comes when it doesn’t . Farming will teach that life lesson again and again. I’m not able to impose my will on the farm. It works better if I set up goals and plan for success but not get upset if those plans don’t work out. Humility wins. Farming, or even gardening, will definitely teach you humility, patience and the value of a backup plan / rain date.
The last two days have been a blur. We have been busy. Even with 4 people on the farm working hard, we still have more stuff to do before everything is been planted.
We are on still on a rapid learning curve as we work hard. The garden area in the pictures below was pasture for decades so we had to work to plow up the grassy area and then build new beds.
Using the BCS Tractor
The BCS tiller was also a new piece of equipment for us. The biggest challenge we’ve had with the BCS is laying out beds so that the rows come out the width that we want. Our BCS tractor has the 5.5 inch extensions added to the the 749 tractor. This makes the tractor wider by 11 inches.
The vegetable garden beds are on a sloped face. To help minimize any erosion issues during rain events, we kept a 10 foot ribbon of grass between each plot. Each plot was laid out to have 2 rows per plot (30″ wide rows) with an 18″ wide walkway between each row. When I added up 3 walkways plus a quantity of 2 of the 30″ wide rows, then we should need a plot that is 9.5 feet wide. In practice, it just isn’t working out that way. I suspect we’ll have to till and hill a plot and measure to see where I’m off in my estimation of the total width of each 2 row plot. There is definitely a learning curve to becoming a better farmer.
We just installed rows of trellis for pole beans and tromboncino squash. We are using a curved trellis for the tromboncino squash and pole beans. I keep seeing videos and picture of the curved and over trellis configuration, so we wanted to see at try and find out if it works as well as we keep hearing. The curved trellis (when covered with tromboncino squash) should provide provide shade for the young rhubarb.
One of my projects for this summer is to install posts in the field, near the rows, where we can hang the cattle panels (used in the trellis) this fall after we take the trellis down and store it for the winter.
Tagging Each Fruit Bearing Tree and Bush
One of the projects this month was to map and tag each fruit bearing tree and bush. My wife took this project and ran with it. We now have a map that shows the location of each fruit bearing tree and bush, indicated by a unique tag number. The unique tags number are recorded in a spreadsheet. Information about each plant is recoded with the tag number, such as variety and date planted. This will also us to track historical data about each plant. This data is also useful when we propagate cuttings, allowing us to properly identify plants for sale.
Office: Sanford, NC
Pickups: Sanford, NC
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My wife and I love spending time outdoors. Having a farm and garden is a great way to do that. It also means we have more nutritious foods. Many of the people we have met on this journey like similar things and that makes it even better. I’m a mechanical engineer turned weekend farmer, so I’m just smart enough to know that there is a lot that I don’t know especially when it comes to farming, permaculture and food forests. Come on the learning journey with us!
We would love to share what we are learning so that you can grow at least part of your own food. It is within your grasp to grow part of the food that you eat. You can improve your food security and enjoy higher quality food in the process.
We also have limited opportunities for you to camp out on our farm, enjoying the serious peace and quiet. Sometimes we hold classes, usually on Food Preservation. Join us for those too.
Meet the Farmers
I’m a mechanical engineer turned weekend farmer, so I’m just smart enough to know that there is a lot that I don’t know especially when it comes to farming, permaculture and food forests. I’ve been heavily influenced in my love of farming and permaculture by my Mom and Dad and also by people like Jack Spirko (TSP) and Dan (Plant Abundance)
Connie has her certificate in Sustainable Agriculture from CCCC. She really enjoyed the classes at the community college and learned a lot. The program was a mixture of classes and work on the school farm. What she learned has really added to our technical proficiency on the farm.