This week we worked from 8am until about 6pm every day with an hour lunch around noon or 1. These hours are likely to get longer as things really start to produce. Once the summer hits we will start earlier and work later with a longer break during the heat of the afternoon.
I’ve decided to break these weekly posts into sections to give a sense of what is happening on the farm. These sections will be Harvest, Planting, Maintenance and Life. I may add or change these as the week progress and I get a better feel for life on the farm.
|Asparagus Sprout- This will be 8" or taller in a day|
We are harvesting Asparagus every day. Our plants are between 3 and 5 years old. It takes a couple of years for them to establish so this is the first year really harvesting the 3 year old plants. We get between one and two dozen bunches (about 1 pound each) every day.
|Kathy and I with bunched Asparagus|
|Strawberries in Pasture Field|
We are harvesting Strawberries every day or two and usually getting between 50 and 80 pints. Strawberries that are too ripe we freeze and sell to a popsicle maker in Atlanta. (Or else we just eat them)
|Cleaning and culling strawberries|
Other crops being harvested now are Kale, Spring Onions, the last of the over wintered fingerling potatoes and carrots, Easter radishes, hakurei turnips, and golden beets.
We planted 2 really big crops this week, Potatoes in Pasture Field and Tomatoes in the Lower Fields. We also planted a bunch of smaller crops in the hoop houses at Pasture Field including carrots, arugula, and green beans.
|Moving the tomato plants from the green house to the Field|
First step was to bring the tomato plants from the greenhouse to the field. This took several trips being careful not to mix varieties. We must have planted 20 different varieties including cherries, goldens, indigos and heirlooms. From there we loaded them up onto the transplanter which is towed behind the tractor.
|Jason and Kathy on the transplanter. We rotated out.|
This is the transplanter. It holds trays of small plants in biodegradable pots. Those two big barrels are full of fertilizer which contains liquified fish guts. The transplanter pokes holes in the ground and fills the holes with water/fertilizer. We ride behind on those seats and put a plant in each hole. This means we get to put our hands in a hole full of fish gut water. By the end of a row you're pretty much covered in it. It's great for the transplants, not so pleasant for us.
|Transplanter in action|
You will notice we plant the tomatoes in rows covered with plastic. This helps to control weeds and keep the plants warm and water in the soil. There is drip irrigation that runs along each row under the plastic so that we can water when we don't have enough rain. Tomatoes are thirsty plants especially when they start fruiting. At this point in the process it had started to rain which helped dilute the fishy smell and was a nice break from the blazing Georgia sun.
Our other big crop of the week was potatoes. We order seed potatoes which are good stock that are already sprouted. The tractor made rows of furrows and we drove the truck across, straddling the furrows and throwing the seed potatoes in 3 rows each pass. We planted 4 big bags of 2 different varieties of fingerling potatoes. We already have some big potatoes growing in another field and more to plant next week. We should have no shortage of potatoes in a few months.
|Truck Bed full of Seed Potatoes|
|Using the tractor to cover the seed potatoes|
Some of the work we did this week was to turn the farm over from overwintered crops to spring plantings. This involved removing plastic row covers with pitch forks, weeding and clearing out the hoop houses and pulling up old drip irrigation tape. None of these tasks are particularly fun but when they are finished you can see the potential for the next crop which is pretty cool.
This is what I looked like after one particularly dirty morning of pulling up plastic row covers that had over wintered and been largely reclaimed by the beautiful Georgia clay.
Here is a Hoop House full of an old crop and weeds. Within a few hours we would pull everything out and prep the beds for new spring planting.
Here is a hoop house cleaned out (except the right side walkway) and planted with carrots, arugula and green beans. And there's Lane, Farmer for a day, helping lay drip tape. The cloth is a row cover over the carrot seeds to keep them warm and help them germinate. It will be removed when they start to sprout.
Other maintenance tasks we did were to help the plants that were already in the ground continue to grow healthfully. We sunk a bunch of T-post which we will use to trellis the peas and tomatoes. We also installed floating row covers over the cucurbits to protect them from pests and cross pollination.
Here I am with the T-Post sinker. It's basically a heavy weight on a tube with handles. You put it over the post and lift it up, letting it fall onto the post and its weight pushes it into the ground. This is in a hoop house full of tomato plants. These are protected from the weather and hopefully will fruit a little early so that we can be early to market with these tomatoes. It's always an advantage to have a crop before anyone else, or after it's gone. The hoop houses help you do that by giving you lots of land in a pretty controlled environment.
This job is a total body workout.
Here are those floating row covers I was talking about. They consists of fiberglass poles (like tent poles) and an agricultural cloth that allows light and water to pass through. These two rows in the hoop house are squash and another cucurbit, either cucumber or zucchini (I forget). We also covered a row of cucumbers in another field. On that row we discovered the dreaded Cucumber Beetle.
This guy is bad news. He can spread bacterial wilt which will take out your entire crop. It seems the bugs are all early this year because we had such a mild winter. Because this disease is so devastating we decided to use our deadliest weapon. Pyrethrum is an organic broad spectrum pesticide derived from Chrysanthemum plants. We use it very judiciously because it kills all insects, including the beneficial ones. In organics a lot of weight is given to promoting beneficial insects as a form of controlling the very few harmful ones. However, in this case it was worth applying to the cucumbers who would otherwise probably have all perished from wilt.
Country living means that our house is right next to a horse pasture. This is awesome because I sometimes get to watch them out the kitchen window while doing dishes. It's also a bummer when their pasture is sprayed with chicken manure and we get to smell it for 5 days straight every time we come home. We also got to deal with mice living in the walls and coming out at night for midnight snacks and leaving droppings around the house. Kathy and I chose the poison route which should drive them outside looking for water.
Part of our every day is how we get around the farm. We have a big white cargo van and we are often a part of the cargo of tools, plants and fertilizer all bouncing around in the back together. My favorite though is our truck with no door. We sit in the front or the back, either way we are out in the elements.
|Farm Manager Cory with his youngest daughter enjoying strawberry pasta|
On Friday we started a new tradition at Burge where one of the farm staff prepares lunch for everyone else and we all eat together. I volunteered to cook first because I was excited about the strawberries and asparagus. I made a strawberry/tomato pasta sauce with spaghetti, sauteed asparagus, Kale salad and a loaf a fresh bread. I think it was a hit.
|Lane helped with lunch and then volunteered for the rest of the day.|
This week was definitely tough physically. It's a lot of lifting, pulling, standing, kneeling, and crawling. Each day leaves me feeling physically tired, mentally stimulated and emotionally fulfilled. There is so much potential in each empty field, each new planting, and each seed sprouting in the greenhouses.
Next week will be our first farmer's market of the year at The Peachtree Road Farmer's Market . If you're in town you should come out and say hi and buy some food.