Monday, January 7, 2013

First Farm Update of the New Year!

Farm Update: 

So over the first week of 2013 we have not been idle.  Firstly Sara has been very busy finishing the vegetable plan--which includes a CSA calculator, garden layout, and a planting and harvesting schedule. All very useful for farmers, but probably not the most interesting for others. We'll have a separate post for those, going into the details of the spreadsheets so others can use them. Also she has made  more consumer-friendly pdf showing what you will get, everything, based on our projections, can be accessed by the tab at the top of this page labeled "Our CSA."  At the bottom of the page is a link to a PDF we have hosted on Google that lists a week by week breakdown of what Veggies we hope to be offering in our CSA.  (If you have problems accessing it let us know and we can e-mail you a copy.)

We have planned for enough veggies to take care of at least 20 families that eat a lot of veggies, and would want to save some for winter as well.  We are looking forward to exploring a lot of familiar and unfamiliar foods and sharing our experiences and farming methods here on the blog with everyone.

Worf looking after his ladies
Along with planning what we wanted to grow, we have had to plan out where we are putting all these veggies.  We knew in general what spot on the land we wanted to use, our property is very hilly, and some of it too sandy to use yet. But in the southwest corner of the farm, it's relatively flat and easily accessible and already in good pasture with nitrogen fixing plants. What I had not considered is how we would like to lay out as huge of a garden as Sara had planned.  When I have seen farming in the past it is long rows of corn or soybeans, or small gardens, planted with a few various sections and plants, mostly in raised beds.   When you are planning 30+ different crops, enough to feed several families for a whole year, things get a bit more complex.  We have had to decide how we would like to rotate crops to prevent disease and pests, how we want to prepare the land the crops will be on, how big the rows will be and a couple dozen other planning decisions that help Sara estimate out how many veggies our garden should minimally produce, and how to maximize production vs. space while protecting the soil at the same time.

We drew out the problem using a drafting program I have from when I was in school.  We were able to lay out the garden, see what the plant spacing that Sara had planned will actually look like, and before even laying a seed in the ground we can make very precise estimate for seeds required and predicted harvest.

Firstly we found that we would need far less space than we had planned!  This allowed us to expand how much store-able veggies we could add, such as more dry beans, which will make great soups, chilies, and more.

You want me to go out there? Yeah, no. 
Planning out the garden this thoroughly also helped us think about how we would like to do the livestock. Where we have the chickens now, in the brooder hut, is a temporary coop for raising chicks and where we can "quarantine" new livestock and make sure we won't be infecting our other animals with anything our new addition brought with them! They are quickly outgrowing the chicken coop, and though they've shown no inclination to go outside, even on our sunny 35 degree F days, but they will in the spring, and the yard for them is too small. 

We realized that based on what we need of our buildings, the potting shed would be an ideal chicken coop and feed storage place.  It will allow the chickens almost twice the living space indoors, and we won't have to buy a silo. Win-win. The building is also better ventilated and insulated than the brooder hut is.  Most beneficial, the potting shed has nice pasture to the west, where the chickens will be able to graze among the other livestock.  

Before moving the chickens, we have to build a wall dividing the potting shed interior, make new roosts, cut a dogie door to the outside, and construct some nesting boxes. We started by building a frame for a chicken mesh wall and door to segment the potting shed into two areas.  This being one of my first building projects it had some fun obstacles.  

Yay for free wood, reclaimed!

We got almost all the materials we needed by taking out the makeshift wooden floor/platform the previous owners used to hold their beehives in winter.  (We found a few new projects in the process out in the barn, but we'll save those for later.)  We've been lucky though, since the tool shed and potting shed were already here, but we've also used existing materials like branches for roosts, and now reclaimed wood for the coop.  By doing this our infrastructure costs so far for the chickens have been kept minimal, which has been one aspect that has been pretty great about the chickens.  

Well that is all for this big update we'll follow up this week with some more specifics about the many projects we have been working on.

Here's some links to some of the files we mentioned above.   And more information should follow in some more blogs soon.

Weekly Share Breakdown

CSA Calculator

Garden Layout

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