Dark Days of Winter

These last few weeks have been the kind of weeks that really test a young farmer’s mettle. For starters, the weather has been terrible recently. It’s my first winter in Birmingham but by all accounts it’s been unusually cold and snowy. It’s obvious why the cold can be tough to deal with; especially when you’re doing laborious work outside. We hit the point a few weeks ago where a lot of monotonous work had to be done…this isn’t the fun, innovative, and “green” work that is easy to get into. This is just hours of pulling up dormant poison oak in the cold, windy weather. Just me and Kat; nobody to validate our work, or even to see it. Not that there’s much to see, we pulled for hours and sometimes it’s hard to tell we had any effect at all. We didn’t think the snow would be much of a problem for us. It’s cold anyway and we don’t have much in the ground so we figured the snow could only hurt us if it shut the roads down. At least it’s pretty right? Wrong. Our hoop house wasn’t meant to handle the snow and we found it broken today. I guess it must have accumulated on the roof and brought it down. I’m kind of surprised it didn’t happen during the last snow storm but I guess our time finally ran out. Surprisingly only 3 PVC pipes broke (two of which were schedule 80, not 40) but that was enough to bring the structure down. All things considered it’s not that big a deal: our seedlings can still sit in the standing structure, it’s <$500 to fix it, etc. If we had crashed our car or something that would have been financially much worse, but for morale losing the hoop house wasn’t good.

Anyway, I don’t want to sound all down. We have an important meeting next week which will hopefully finally decide whether we can stay and farm this land. If all goes well, we should be set from most every angle next week. Just putting my head down and trying to stay strong until then

Winter is Here

I wanted to address two things in this post: what we actually do in the winter, and secondly I just wanted to write about bok choy.

The number one question we’ve been getting asked recently is, “What do you guys do in the winter?” Admittedly, last year we didn’t have as much to do in the winter and a lot of it was spent simply planning how to improve this year. Now that we’ve got a small plot of our own though, things have changed. It’s also worth pointing out that Alabama doesn’t have a terribly long winter which means there’s less time available than people may think; for example we’ve already started planting Spring 2015 seedlings despite the fact that it’s only early January! We should be able to have that stuff in the ground by early March and from there we’re hoping to get a quick harvest before moving onto the summer stuff which we will begin seeding in a few weeks. So while most people think of winter as ranging 3-4 months, our slow time is really only 1-2.

We’ve also been doing a lot of catching up from the summer. There’s been a lot we’ve been meaning to do which we’ve finally got around to. We cleaned and repainted both the downstairs and upstairs of the building we’re using, we’ve moved the grow lights to our own buildings and constructed several tables to hold seedlings, we’ve almost finished tilling the rest of the plot (we’ve now got 90%+ in bed form), we cleaned up the greenhouse and added more usable tables, built several flower beds along the farm perimeter, fertilized most beds, etc. Also, QuickBooks takes a lot longer than you might think when you’re not particularly savvy with computers. All in all we’ve had much more work to do this year than last year which is definitely a good thing. We’re prepping for the upcoming year and I’m optimistic about our aim to double production. Last year we were able to greatly increase production at Stewart Perry (our main client) from year 1-year 2 which I think mostly had to do with just getting to know the growing space a little better. We certainly know our land a little better this time around and I’m confident we’ll get more out of it this year.