• Sarah Elizabeth Smith

Welcoming the new Season

Each year, in my farm journal, I write a welcome to the new season. It's a ritual that recognizes the beginning of a new but familiar cycle. Each March, when the Maple buds appear, the snow begins to melt and the Chickadees start to sign, we start to get the hint of Spring. Even though the air is still chilled and warm Earth is many weeks away, the wind has that Spring scent of things starting to stir.

Each season is different for us, with new goals, plant varieties to trial, ambitions to improve just a little bit on the results of our last season. But each year we heed Mother Nature to be our guide and have to check our desires against what we observe as the weather changes and plants and animals awaken all around us to let us know what is happening. This season the raccoons, deer and geese come to the property to remind us that we have so little control over who roams through our gardens. The swallows and bees emerge to remind us that we have to take care of the small creatures that we share the land with. And as perennials start to grow again and trees and bushes begin to bud, we are reminded that we should not interfere too much in the natural rhythm of things.

Still we strive to extend our season, risk our odds against the unsettled Spring weather and grow things like vegetables, which are not native to our soil. The fun and creativity, worries, failures and successes are all wrapped up in the fine balance between stewarding the land and creating a thriving farm business. It's always a dance between the two and we look forward to it every Spring!

This year, due to market closures because of the pandemic and the increased demand for local food, we are expanding our growing space and offering a summer CSA. This means that on top of preparing all of our Winter CSA and Winter market greenhouse & storage crops, we will be growing heat loving vegetables like Eggplant, Peppers, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Basil, Ground Cherries and Beans. Though after last season, we said we'd take it easy on new projects ... it's difficult to decline an opportunity to expand and grow and share food with our cherished community!

Our semi-cooler (where garlic, potatoes, onions and canned goods are stored during the Winter) is transformed into our grow room in early Spring. There are so many methods to follow when it comes to starting seedlings. The current infrastructure on our farm allows us to start seedlings under lights and then transfer them into our greenhouse to harden off before being planted out in the field. There is a lot to be said, however, for starting seedlings with natural light using heat mats or heated coil to keep the soil warm while the air temperature stays cool. We're hoping to move to a system that requires less electricity in the future, but for now, this is where the plants get started!

A few garlic popping up through the straw mulch and beds ready for early cauliflower and broccoli. This is the earliest we've been able to get into this field and it's full of worms, with beautiful, crumbly soil!

Radicchio babies ready to go in the greenhouse in early April

Prepping our greenhouse with straw mulch for the pathways and compost & crabmeal for the beds. We prepare these beds by hand every year, breaking the soil with a garden claw, aerating with the broadfork and then raking in the compost and flattening the beds. Broccoli, radicchio, fennel and beets were transplanted into these beds April 10th.

Chives! They were among the first to appear in April, along with Bee Balm, Phlox, Nettle, Currant buds and Rhubarb

Early Green Magic Broccoli for the greenhouse will be ready to harvest in the first weeks of June.

Setting up our trellises for the first planting of snap peas. Spinach and lettuces are planted along the edges of the pea rows to fill up the beds and they get some added benefit of being shaded by the peas once they have grown up onto the trellises.

This Spring we added 5 new fruit trees to our orchard of Apples, Cherries, Plums & Pears! We now have 25 fruit trees and are looking forward to fruit in the next 2 -3 years!

Jet working the South facing field. This is our 4rth growing season on this farm and we have very clay soil. Though we practice only shallow tilling and use cover cropping and silage tarp to control weeds, we till each of our fields with our walk-behind tractor once in the Spring to keep working the big chunks of clay into crumbly soil. The soil structure has improved tremendously in such a short period of time. I remember barely being able to tuck a transplant into the beds in my first year because the soil was so hard. Now, it's light and fluffy! We hope to till less and less as our permanent raised bed system is developed. Here we are re-making the beds and tilling the soil in the opposite direction to help with drainage and to grade some of the hills and dips in the land.

Newly seeded beets, carrots and spinach in our front field, protected under row cover until the seedlings sprout.

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