Sunday, January 31, 2010

Snow Work

After we finished our pot-washing project (see previous post), Tom got restless and decided to go out and see how hard it was going to be to clear our driveway of snow.  Or, maybe he sensed that I was psyching myself up to start a painting project I'd been putting off for a while and was afraid he was going to be conscripted to help.  Whatever the case, he put on his Yak Trax  and ventured out in the snow to survey the situation.  Yak Trax are devices that you put on your shoes to help you have more traction in the snow and ice.  They look like a cross between a sling-shot and a couple of cris-crossed springs. 

There was a lot less wind with this snow storm than with the Christmas Eve storm, so there wasn't as much drifting and Tom decided he could shovel the snow off the driveway this time.  The last time he had to use the front-end loader on the tractor to clear it off.  It was hard going and took about an hour, but he got the driveway cleared to the top of the incline leading down to the carport.  That was good enough to allow us to get out.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Snowy Day on the Farm

My office is closed today because of the snow storm.  Nice to sleep in for a change.  But, just because it is snowing doesn't mean there is nothing related to the farm to do.   We are avid recyclers.  We habitually recycle plastic, aluminum, steel cans and glass.  We also recycle the plastic pots that we used for bedding plants last year.  We grow our tomato, pepper and basil plants from seed. (More to come on that in a few weeks).  We sell many of these at the Farmers Market and the rest we set out in our garden.  Instead of throwing away the pots after the plants have been set out, we save them to be reused.

This year we had a couple of years accumulation of used pots.  Several hundred, in fact. 
Below is a picture of some pots stacked to dry after they were washed.
We have a small bathroom with a tiny shower just off the laundry room.  The shower is just big enough for one person to take a shower in and has one of those detachable shower heads that is attached to a long hose.  But, it works great for our pot washing project. 

First I put a large plastic tub in the floor of the shower and fill it with warm water, add dish detergent and also bleach (for sterilization).   About 30 pots at a time go in to soak for a few minutes before being washed.  Tom has already dumped out any excess potting soil left over from previous use.  We learned the hard way that this was an important step!  The floor of the shower is sunken into the concrete floor of the bathroom a few inches, so it is easy to sit on the floor and put one's feet in the shower while doing the actually pot washing.  I use a long-handled kitchen brush for this.  There is enough room in the floor of the shower to put about 20 washed pots while they wait to be rinsed.  Once I get about 20 pots washed, I take the shower head and rinse them good, put them on a towel where they await Tom's expertise in stacking them into the pyramids that you see above.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lettuce Transplants

Tom has been busy today.  He transplanted lettuce plants into a bed in the hoop house.  A couple of weeks ago he started lettuce seed in "plug" trays.  These trays are made of plastic and look a lot like egg cartons, only for tiny eggs, like robin eggs.  The indentations (where the eggs would go) are called "plugs".  You can get plug trays of varying sizes.  The ones he used had 12 rows each with 6 plugs.  So, each tray contained 72 plugs. You fill the trays with potting soil and deposit 2 - 3 lettuce seeds in each "plug".  Tom has a lot more patience than I do.  When I do this, I end up with 10-12 seed in each plug.  Once the seed are planted, you keep them watered and when the lettuce plants are an inch or so tall, then you can transplant them into the garden.  Below is a picture of the bed after Tom was finished transplanting.

It is still January.   So, even though lettuce plants are fairly cold-tolerant, we cover them with a "row cover".  This is a very thin, light and airy fabric that is put over the bed. 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Winter Gardening

Many people assume after the first frost in the fall our gardening activities cease.  However, there are several things that will continue to grow right though the winter, especially if protected from the elements.  Lettuce and spinach are the ones we've had the most success with.  We grow these in our hoophouse and also in "cold frames".  Tom constructed our cold frames out of used storm doors that he bought from our local Habitat ReStore.  To be successful, you need to plant the seeds in September to give the plants time to get well rooted before cold weather sets in.  This can be tricky in Oklahoma since it can still be pretty hot in September and you have to be vigilant to keep the little plants well watered.  We were late this year and didn't get this spinach planted until late October.  But, since we had a mild fall, it has survived and is doing well.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How We Got Our Name

One of the first things we wanted to do after we purchased our land was to build a small "hoop" house (basically an unheated greenhouse).  We had built a small one out of PVC pipe and plastic in our back yard in town.  It was relatively easy to build and inexpensive.  So, naturally, we thought we'd mimic our success and build the same type of structure out here on the farm.  

What we hadn't counted on, however, was the fact that our back yard in town was fairly well protected from the wind by a privacy fence and the surrounding houses.   The farm, on the other hand, is wide-open except for a few large trees down by the house.  The new structure lasted about a week in the Oklahoma wind.   Tom had been referring to the farm as "Headquarters", but after this, it became known as "Windy Acres".  And, the next year, we purchased a commercial steel frame that has been set in concrete!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A New Year

In 2009, I gave a lot of thought to starting a blog about our Farmers Market business and Windy Acres Natural Farm.  But 2009 was a year of transition for us in which we moved from our home in town to our 5-acre farm.  I never realized how difficult it would be to sort through 25 years of possessions and get them all moved just 6 miles across town to our new abode.  And, getting them moved was only half the chore because then I had to figure out where to PUT them.  Needless to say, many things just did not fit and we ended up selling and giving away a lot of things.  It was a BIG job and I am just now beginning to feel like I have things under control enough to start a blog.  So, here I am.

First, maybe I should give some background of how we got to this point in our lives.  Tom is 62 and I am 59.  I still work full time, but Tom retired from OSU several years ago.  After a few months of retirement, he got bored and took over most of the gardening and composting that we had going in our back yard at our house in town.  It flourished under his hand and I somewhat jokingly suggested we join the local Farmers Market.   We ended up doing exactly that! 

The next year a friend who lived in the country offered to let us use an old garden spot that his dad worked before he fell into ill health.  That worked out great and our Farmers Market business did well.  So, we started looking for some land of our own.  After a couple of years, the perfect place came up for sale, 5 acres of land close to town with 2 large out buildings and a house, and Windy Acres Natural Farm was born. 

Having been long time readers of Organic Gardening, we wanted to offer our customers good produce grown without pesticides and artificial fertilizers.  This is sometimes a challenge, we win some and lose some.  But, we've found it is a journey that we want to share with our customers and anyone else who is interested.  So, stay tuned.  My hope is that I can keep this blog updated at least weekly, if not daily, with our daily struggles and triumphs here on Windy Acres Natural Farm.