Preparations for the 2010 season are in full swing. We are busy completing our warehouse, the cold storage area and our chicken coop. The warehouse is an old barn which we have converted into an all-purpose building, re-cycling old barn planks from the self-same barn to create a cold storage area, a vegetable work area, a washing station, a general purpose workbench and a mezzanine which will serve, among other things, as extra storage space. Building a cold storage room is done in stages to ensure its long-term usefulness. Building materials and techniques are selected to minimize the negative effects of condensation on stored crops. The cooling system has to satisfy peak performance requirements in order to chill large quantities of fresh-picked field vegetables.
On Monday we laid the foundation for the chicken coop – weather permitting, we will raise the walls and complete the inside layout in the next week or two. We expect to house thirty-something layers this summer, along with a few free-range chickens. We’ll let you know as soon as we have organic eggs for sale – once the hens settle in.
While our main focus at Arlington Gardens is organic farming of vegetables for our CSA baskets (or ‘shares’), we would be remiss if we did not draw your attention to our organic fruit plantation plans.
Unlike vegetables, which are, for the most part, sown and harvested yearly, berry crops take a bit more time to grow. This year (2010) is a critical berry year for us, as we will be planting (more) blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries and currants (red and black). Most of these yield fruit in the second year following planting, while blueberries only begin to bear fruit in commercial quantities by year four. So: no berries in 2010, but we hope to have strawberries and raspberries by 2011.
Did we mention our orchard? We will also begin planting apple, pear and plum trees this year, but we’re talking 5 to 7 years… Hey, they say patience is a virtue.
But our pond is nevertheless the sine qua non of our organic farming activities. Plainly put – no water, no veggies. Last summer we had more rain than we wished for, but as Mother Nature offers no guarantees – who’s to say that this summer won’t be a dry one?
Fortunately, our pond is an established one. It served as a watering hole for cows when the farm was a dairy farm, more than a generation ago. As best we can tell, no ‘pond maintenance’ had been done in more than 30 years. So this spring we seized the opportunity to nearly double its capacity as we cleaned it out.
In organic farming, plants are often watered through drip irrigation systems with tubing running along the rows which allows for efficient and effective use of water. Our ‘new and improved’ pond should meet our irrigation needs for the foreseeable future.
Cleaning out a pond is a dirty job – but nature will take its course (with a helping hand) and by summer’s end, our pond should be (almost) Walden-esque again.
Winter may seem long, but it is a welcome respite after three seasons of intense physical activity, and a period of intense planning activity. Beginning in January, your farmer began leafing through seed catalogues and placing orders to reserve vegetable varieties and quantities sufficient to satisfy our partners’ expectations.
March 15 marks the beginning in earnest of the 2010 season – as we begin our greenhouse plantings. Our first seedlings are for vegetables which require a longer greenhouse stay (eggplants, peppers, artichokes, etc.) and/or vegetables which will be transplanted as soon as the soil is frost-free (leeks, onions, celeriac, spinach, herbs, etc.). Next come other vegetables including succession planting crops like lettuce, which are harvested throughout the season.