Thanksgiving

This is a good time to reflect on this season.  We slowed our production and sales down in October, leaving just a few orders of winter squash, shallots, and cabbage to remain.  Then we changed the mindset of the season: from the day to day regularity of field work, plant, harvest and sell to the expansive creativity of Projects.  Of course, we have too many projects.  For us, Thanksgiving is the deadline for most of the farm work.  In December the ground freezes and our minds wander between books and drawings and silent, snowy woods.  We have been blessed with warm weather, then wet weather, then cold, then snow, then two 40 degree, sunny days.  It’s been a fun fall.

Our biggest project this fall was the construction of an unheated greenhouse, often called a “high tunnel.”  If you drive by the farm you’ve probably noted our slow progress on this! Here I am driving the groundposts in:

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As we worked on the high tunnel, we also made improvements to other parts of the farm: electrical outlets, putting supplies away in the barn, winterizing refrigeration and water.  In a typical day when we had a few too many things going on, this is what it looked like:

(chickens roaming, random 2x4s, a project to expand our seeding-starting greenhouse unfinished, and a dog making himself comfortable in the middle of it)

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As the air became cooler it stopped being as fun to work with the cold metal frame of the high tunnel.  Still, as the tunnel took shape, it was impossible not to get excited:

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We purchased our tunnel from Ledgewood Farm; it is a kit that comes with hardware, pre-bent and labeled metal pipes and instructions.  For two (slow) people it was amazingly straight-forward.  Especially considering that we worked on it over the course of several weeks.  It was not hard to figure out what step came next and we both appreciated how nicely the pieces fit together!  When we finished the framing, we had a big jungle gym; not just in looks but function as well, since we had to climb all over it to work:

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I don’t have any pictures of the end-wall building project, probably because we started to feel pressed for time and knew from experience how long it takes us to build with wood.  Justin did most of the work on the endwalls, I showed up to hold the plywood in place when he needed it.

One of the last big steps of constructing a high tunnel is putting the plastic on.  Our sheet of plastic is 36′ x 100′ feet long and who knows how heavy (2 people to lift the roll).  It must be centered on the ridgepole of the tunnel and attached so that it is snug and square.  In the past we’ve put on plastic in the spring or summer, often starting very early in the morning before there is any wind.  We sneaked the plastic on yesterday afternoon, before the gusts of 25mph started.   We were incredibly proud of both getting the plastic on with only two people and for getting the tunnel in a good place for Thanksgiving.

The almost-completed tunnel in late afternoon:

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Those to-do lists we made a month ago have long since been trashed.  Many of the tasks were accomplished, some were not.  Such is this time of year.  As we spend the next couple of days thinking about what we are grateful for, we remember that our gratitude is never-ending and supple.  We are thankful for the smallest things and biggest.  We are thankful for this farm, for our community that has supported us; we are thankful for the warmth of yesterday and its gift of calm while we struggled to finish a task;  we are thankful for our health and the health of our families; we are thankful for all the teachers who have made our present moment possible and for all the teachers who will take the present moment forward.

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Happy Thanksgiving

– Justin & Ansel

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Coolers and Caterpillars, O My!

This last week was so busy here at Flywheel Farm that we squeezed in an extra day!  As I type, Justin and his father are wrapping up construction on our insulated box (which will eventually be a walk-in cooler for our produce).

But first things first, on Wednesday we laid down black plastic mulch for our ‘hot’ crops (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and melons).  It was our first time operating this plastic mulch layer, so we put aside the whole day for getting it down right.  Discs open a furrow, then wheels set the edges of a roll of plastic into the furrow and discs in the back close dirt over the edges.  The implement also puts down irrigation lines under the plastic at the same time.  It is a thing of beauty when everything goes well.

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In related news, the black flies are out in full force here in Woodbury.  Justin and I wore bug nets all day while laying down the mulch.

On Friday, my father came up from NH to help us put up our caterpillar tunnel for our tomatoes.  The caterpillar is an economical alternative to the 4-season high tunnels offered through Rimol and Ledgewood.  It is only 3-season, since it cannot handle any snow.  We’re using our caterpillar for tomatoes only, so we will take it down in the fall.

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Putting up the bows.

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Inside the tunnel after we got the plastic on.

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The ‘caterpillar’ from the outside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We did get rained on, though not enough to stop us from putting up the whole tunnel in one day.  I was impressed.

On Sunday, Justin’s dad visited to help with the construction of our walk-in cooler.  He and Justin worked together on that project while I planted tomatoes.

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Our cooler is housed in a building that’s basically a mirror of our wash and pack area.

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The cooler is an insulated box right now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During all this transformative infrastructure-building, we seeded lots of greens, sweet corn, potted up basil plants, and steadily moved plants out of their comfortable greenhouse onto benches outside.  The weather was hot, humid, cold, windy, rainy, dry all week.  I guess spring isn’t completely over!

Oh! And a quick rabbit update:  The babies are outside, on pasture and it is so wonderful that I just bought the supplies for getting our breeding does and buck out there too.  I haven’t finished the hutch that will go on the end of the tractor so for now I’m grabbing a tarp when very heavy rains threaten.  They may be weaned off their mothers but I’m still babying them!

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