Sunny Days and Thaws

Sunny days mean the snow is melting.  Two feet of slushy mess makes the walk to the greenhouse a bit treacherous, one mis-step off the path lands you in the snow.  It means we’re replacing our socks multiple times a day but that’s a small price to pay for sunshine.  Everyday more soggy, brown grass shows up along the edge of the greenhouse or the wash and pack shed.  It’s messy but fabulous!

Our greenhouse is up and going, with the heat mat keeping our plants at a nice 77 degrees.  The onions and shallots have been seeded as well as a whole host of herbs.  At night, when it’s 40 degrees, we cover everything up with plastic and a blanket and during the day we open the doors when it’s 90 degrees.  With the greenhouse up and going we begin months of constant monitoring: Running to open windows when a cloudy day suddenly becomes sunny or running to close the windows when a cold wind blows in.  The trials and mishaps of monitoring the greenhouse reminds me of the first coldframe we built.  We found these two 4′ x 4′ windows for free and decided to build a base for them.  They were incredible heavy and curved, so they weren’t the best windows for what we were doing.  When we finally finished our coldframe we were so excited that we immediately put our tender celeriac and onion seedlings inside.  That day turned out to be sunny and cold.  Justin and I were threshing beans and freezing in the shade of the barn.  When I went to check on the seedlings after a couple of hours, I found our plants melted inside a coldframe that had gotten to over 130 degrees inside.  Thinking it was such a cold day, we hadn’t opened the windows at all.  That night I tried to save the onions by meticulously separating them with tweezers.

As long as we make sure not to cook our plants, the heat that the greenhouse can offer is great for growing.  It allows us to grow tomatoes, eggplants and peppers and it’s not a bad place to hang out when we’re cold and missing those summer days.  Today I carried a lawn chair down and made a space for myself to sit and relax.  Now all I have to do is find my sunglasses.


Hey-Zeus prefers to sit outside in the sun while we work in the greenhouse.

What do we do in the winter?

Yes, there’s still snow in our fields.  The greenhouse is chilly and there’s a blockade of snow in the farmyard from the plow.  Yet, this is a major time for farming.  February and March are enormously important times on the Farm for marketing and financial planning.  The Farm makes most of its money in four short months in summer–an incredible task if you think about it.  The only way that is even remotely possible is through careful, thorough planning in the winter.  Before the temperature rises, before the snow melts, we are at the computer, on the telephone and at meetings.

As we near the end of March, we begin to transition from our farm roles as marketers, spreadsheet gurus, and accountants into production managers.  It’s a little rough when the temperatures are still so cold to think about firing up the greenhouse and leaving tender seedlings in there but spring comes on fast when it gets rolling.  The Farm is covered in what we can only assume is 3 feet of compacted snow; pea planting seems a long way off.  We have started the very earliest of our plants in our home and the other day I noticed the seeds germinating, their tiny first leaves, known as cotyledons, opening to the sun.  This miraculous event brings optimism and joy to our house.

In the next weeks, we will be seeding in the greenhouse, shoveling out the barn doors, and making inventories of supplies for the coming season.  It’s incredibly exciting to be starting our second season.