A Sense of Glad Awakening

Maybe summer isn’t quite here yet but it feels awfully close.  All week cars pulling pontoon boats and campers passed the farm.  The sun is shining (though not, technically, at the moment) and the temperatures have been in the upper 70s.  It’s a great time to be outside.

Our big news from last week is that we are now Certified Organic through Vermont Organic Farmers, LLC (VOF).  We received word the day after I wrote that we should be hearing “soon”.   We’re incredibly excited!


My “selfie” with our lovely sign from VOF

We are selling Certified Organic ramp leaves at Hunger Mountain Coop in Montpelier; these are the first products of 2014 for us!  Ramps, also known as Wild Leeks, are a tasty, fresh allium for the spring.  We harvest only the leaves because we want to enjoy the ramp population on our farm for years to come.  In Quebec, ramps have been over-harvested, so much so that it is now illegal to gather them for commercial purposes and even the personal forager cannot harvest more than 50 plants per outing.  We’ve worked with Hunger Mountain to educate people about ramps, which in our forested, wet region are a common spring product at farmers’ markets and stores.  There’s many differing opinions about ramps; some people don’t believe we’re in any danger of over-harvesting while some believe that to sell any form of ramps feeds an unsustainable appetite among consumers.  We see a customer desire for this delicious food and would like to shape that desire by drawing attention to harvesting methods.  Maybe someone reads about “no-dig” ramps at the coop and then has it in their head to ask some questions the next time they see whole ramp bulbs for sale.  This is our hope.  We love to eat ramps in omelets or just lightly stir-fried with rice.  I can always tell when Justin has been around the ramps because he likes to eat them raw.  They are pungent!

For more information on harvesting ramps, check out this interview with Russ Cohen, environmentalist and wild edibles educator.

Justin and I have been busy with what seems like a million on-going projects.  The greenhouse is full: every week I write this and yet every week we add more flats of vegetables to it.


This is what Justin sees through his glasses when he opens the greenhouse door!

I have been building tractors for our rabbits for what seems like weeks now.  I’ll post later about my on-going project to get our rabbits off of pellets completely and hopefully, eventually, certify our rabbit meat organic.  Right now only our produce is certified.  More pictures of the tractor when I’ve actually finished it!

Infrastructure Projects are in full-swing:


We are now three weeks away from the opening of our Farmstand.  I have never been more thankful that May have five weekends this year.  Although we work on the farm all week, we get lots of fantastic help from friends and family on the weekends.  As I think about the next item on my list for today, I think about all the great help I’m getting along the way.  We have supplies from NH, 5 gal buckets from our neighbor, and lots and lots of encouragement!

I only know there came to me/ A fragrance such as never clings/ To aught save happy living things;/ A sound as of some joyous elf/ Singing sweet songs to please himself,/ And, through and over everything,/ A sense of glad awakening.

“Renascence” Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1917


Potatoes in the Half-Moon

Another two weeks come and gone!  My Mondays of computer-work have been hijacked by other (more pressing) farm projects.  We had our organic certification inspection last week, which went well and we’re excited to (hopefully) be getting our certification soon.  Compost was delivered, potting soil picked up, a bolt broke on the tractor and was fixed, peas and greens planted, seeders calibrated…and on and on…


We got some much-needed help on Saturday from my father, who worked with Justin to clear two giant, old piles of guardrail posts that had taken up residence at the farm. With all the field work to be done, clearing piles of junk that have been in place for years wouldn’t seem like a high priority. But we can now turn the tractor around at the end of those beds and drive between the field and the greenhouse.



The plants in the greenhouse, including this chard, look fantastic. We had divided the greenhouse into two sections for heating but yesterday we took down the wall and opened the whole thing up. I was expecting this to open up a whole lot of room but somehow we are still completely full! I’m hoping to move the soon-to-be-transplanted outside after tonight’s low temps.  The forecast has the temperature getting down to 31 tonight.  We’re still running the propane in the greenhouse at night.
















I think that this week has been the first ‘real’ week of the growing season.  Today we finished our projects around 6 and the sun was still fairly high in the sky and the temperatures were warm.  We grabbed a pizza and ate it in the prep area and then planted potatoes until 8:30.  One of the joys of working for yourself is that you can take a break with a couple of slices of ‘Garlic Luv’ from White Rock and go back to work until dark.  It was a beautiful evening, with the birds loud in the copse and the sun slowly setting behind the lake.


This is about all the farm news I can handle for the moment.  Off to bed to dream of potatoes and strawberries!

Bunnies.  The bunnies are wonderful.

Bunnies. The bunnies are (big and) wonderful.


Spring is the fastest season

Two weeks flew by!  Our flywheel farm began turning very fast last week with the rapid melting of snow, the oh-just-kidding snowstorm that followed, the water-water everywhere, the ‘hot’ section of our greenhouse filling up, and the birth of our first batch of meat rabbits…!  Then, of course, the nights turned cold again, getting down to 12 and 15 degrees, thus stalling the progression of spring.  Spring will not be stopped however, something I see clearly in the rapid growth of the baby bunnies and germination of seeds.  Everyday is a marked difference.

I read somewhere that rabbits nurse only once or twice a day and only for about 4 minutes per litter.  I’ve only once caught one of my does jumping out of her nest box, presumably after she finished nursing.  For the litter to grow this much in little more than a week, that rabbit milk must be a real superjuice.  Unsurprising, since everything in spring seems to be powered by some incredibly nutritious, growth-enhancing elixir!

As the fields thaw and the ground dries, Justin and I are looking toward the coming months of infrastructure improvements on the farm.  We will be expanding our wash and pack house to include the walk-in cooler and we’ll be extending electricity into the farmyard.  We will be busting out of the seedling house, prompting another round of discussions about expanding the greenhouse or building another one.

Although everything is moving faster, I am walking the edge of the stream daily to catch the first fiddleheads poking up.  They will likely be our first product for sale this season but they will also be our first farm-ground green meal in a long time.


After a winter in the barn, our little Ford started right up. Justin took the opportunity to do a little pre-season maintenance.

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.