Thursday, February 4, 2016

Unity Farm Journal - First Week of February 2016

The germination station I built last week has worked fabulously.  500 sprouts of romaine, bibb, boston, greenhouse, and red lettuce are growing rapidly in the heated, moisture retaining, and light controlled spaces.   Here’s what lettuce looks like 3 days after planting!

 I’ll cold harden these plants starting the week of February 14 and I’ll plant them in the hoop house beds the week of February 21.   We have a succession planting schedule for three rounds of planting in 2016 - early lettuce/greens, warm weather vegetables, and late lettuce/greens.

I’ve prepped all the beds in the greenhouse using a 36 inch field rake with 2 inch tines to break up the soil and a flat edge to smooth it for seeding.

 Some have asked how I have learned the various skills needed to run a farm.  My approach to any new field is a mixture of reading, practical experience, and constant iterative improvement.    In 1972 when I was 10 years old, my parents went to law school and I had free time after school.    I went to the Henderson Public Library in Torrance, California  (about a block from our apartment) and started reading at Dewey Decimal 600 and read through to Dewey Decimal 700 (600-699 is Applied Sciences and Technology).   My favorite range was 621.0-621.9 which covers electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and tools.  Using several of those books, I built devices using parts I scavenged from surplus stores in Torrance.   I learned to manage analog modules, digital integrated circuits, and early microprocessor concepts.

Farming is similar.  My farm office contains  books on everything from managing an alpaca in labor to fermenting sauerkraut.   After reading all these books, Kathy and I built infrastructure and began managing the farm operations.

 I made many mistakes and gained the experience that books could not teach.    For example, last weekend I had to trim the pig's toenails.    I used my experience with llamas (and the same tools), but had to master pig relaxation techniques (it involves belly rubs and sleeping in the sun) in order hold and do precision cutting of a pig trotter.    I did cut a little too deeply on one of Tofu’s nails and drew a few drops of blood, but he did not seem to mind.   Lessons learned for next time.

This week we adopted another rooster (our 5th) from  a local family who thought they had a hen but when it started to crow, they knew their neighborhood would object and did not want to surrender the rooster the someone who would eat it.  At our vegan farm, we’re going to run a skilled nursing facility for chickens - they will all live 15 years.    The new rooster has established himself in the pecking order (he’s docile and submits to the alpha rooster) and has his own spot in the coop where he returns every night.

Thus far the snow has been light in 2016.   The Terex snowblower moves 10 tons/hour.  I feel that buying it last year had the same effect as washing your car.   If you wash your car it will rain.  If you buy snow removal gear, it will not snow.  At least the pigs are happy - they do not like snow!

This weekend will be inoculating more mushroom logs, rebuilding some of our pond circulation infrastructure to be more robust in winter, and harvesting carrots/lettuces.  Here’s what the hoop house lettuce beds look like today - fresh greens daily in the middle of winter.

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