5 Steps to Start the Season

{Anne & Clint trialing the pop-ability of various popcorn varieties!}

It’s springtime through and through! Rain, sun, heat, and cold, we’ve got it all right now. We’ve settled into our rhythm of regularly seeding lots of plants – a couple thousand chard plants are next! In just a couple weeks we’ll be inundating our greenhouse with tomatoes. Which will be a little dicey because we’re running out of room – the greenhouse is already over half full! And really, not so much changes week to week in March. We’re still waiting for the ground to dry out and the weather to warm up before planting anything in the field. But in the spaces between doing stuff that is immediately recognizable as “farm work,” we are doing tons of tidying up from whatever mess we left behind in the fall and during the winter. So with that, a magazine-worthy how-to of what we do to get the farm in ship shape for the growing season.

1. Clean It

Before you can do anything, you have to scrub. Dust, dirt, grime, and whatever else has settled on containers, crates, and tools over the past many months needs to be cleaned off. Sometimes it just needs a quick spray down, other times it needs a solid scrubbing. We just did this yesterday – and our harvest crates and storage totes look shiny and new! For tools, we give them a quick once over with some sandpaper to take off any rust. Sharpen and given them a light coat of oil, and they’re ready to be put into service.

2. Organize It

Now that things are clean, they can be stacked, sorted, stored, and shelved wherever they belong. It never ceases to amaze that the same number of items can take up less than half the space when they’re organized in some sensible way. Disheveled, precarious piles of random stuff stacked haphazardly seem to vanish in the organization. Now we can walk through the space without tripping or knocking things over! This is major progress. Big piles of recyclables generally appear, as do some things we can throw onto the bonfire pile. Pro-tip: Waxed cardboard boxes that have reached the end of their useful life are fantastic firestarters!

3. Some Assembly Required

Every year we dismantle various elements of the farm. Our irrigation system has to be drained and disassembled a bit every winter to protect the pricey parts from freezing. We often buy at least one new toy for the farm each year – this season we’ll be using a new cultivator attachment for the walk-behind tractor! We’re excited to be able to control weeds and prep beds without a rotavator (the thing with spinning tines). Rotavators are nice for making a smooth, fluffy bed to plant into, but repeated stirring of the soil wreaks havoc on soil life and soil structure. All those happy little clumps of soil that facilitate aeration, drainage, and root growth get pulverized into a fine powder. Alternately, if you rotavate when the soil is too wet, you create a solid, impenetrable plow pan that does not make for happy plants. Needless to say, these things have lots of parts and make for fun tinkering in the workshop.


4. A Surfeit of Spreadsheets

Our farm has so many moving parts. Crops are grown for wholesale, CSA, farmers’ market, personal use, and figuring out how much to grow, when to seed and plant it, how to price it, and everything else depends on some seriously solid record keeping. We’ve got harvest records, seeding records, sales records, and sitting down with a calculator to plunk out some best guesses as to what we ought to do to make the farm work out the way we want. Maybe most importantly, we do weekly walks throughout the season and write down lessons learned. Things to do better, or not do at all, in the year to come.

5. Stretch & Strengthen

The growing season isn’t that long around here, but it’s plenty intense, and the workload can be a real bear. Staying limber and staying in shape are incredibly important. The season starts full force pretty much immediately and if you’re not ready, it’s hard to get the body to catch up. It’s easy to hurt yourself lifting and bending for hours and days on end. Whether it’s doing pull-ups or downward-facing dog (see Anne’s recent post on yoga), every bit helps keep our bodies intact all the way through the first fall frost which will, believe it or not, be here before we know it.

-Dennis 3/30/17