Last summer we had a really tough time with the rice. Transplants being eaten, unfinished irrigation and lack of nutrients lead to a crop failure. During the summer we were able to help control the chipmunks and laid out our irrigation lines so those two problems should be taken care of for next year. The next challenge was the soil.
When we built our rice paddies we removed the topsoil and had to dig down into subsoil. Because of our budget we were limited in the amount of material we could move, so we were not able to spread it back onto the new built paddies. Our hope was that through the nutrients in the pond water as well as some supplemental compost and manure from the animals we would be able to get a decent yield. This turned out to not be the case. We were not able to supply all the nutrients that were needed and the plants suffered for it.
To get our soils back on track we new we had to do some supplementation from outside sources. Once we had a good base line of nutrients we could work with the system to eliminate the need for outside inputs. But how would we know what we would need to add? Thats where the lab at Umaine came in. I collected soil samples from two paddies and sent them off. 2 weeks later we had the results and started making a plan.
The Umaine test is nice for visual folks because they give you a nice graph that shows what your levels are compared to what you would want for the given crop you are growing. The first item on the chart is soil pH. This one blew us away. We thought we were way off given what had been growing on the site before we made the paddies. It turns out we are exactly were we wanted to be. Meadow’s father thinks that there is a marble vein that may interact with our spring aquifer. This would lead to the nice pH and the high calcium levels you can see on the chart.
Organic matter(OM) is a real problem as you can see. 1% is far to low especially for our rice paddies. This we expected since we had gone down into the subsoil. All sorts of things happen as you increase your OM. The biggest noticable change is the soils ability to hold water. There is more than a hundred percent increase in water holding potential from increasing OM from 1% to 2%. The increase diminishes as you get to higher percentages but it is still well worth it. Nutrient retention, soil and plant health are the other two major benefits from higher OM levels.
We will be employing two strategies for increases the OM levels of the soil. One is adding compost to the paddies on a yearly basis. Compost is very high in OM and by integrating it into the soil every year we will be increasing our nutrients and OM. The second strategy is cover cropping and grazing. Our plan for the next few years is to have two paddies out of rice and into a oats clover mix and a sudangrass/sorgum clover mix. The cover crops will increase our OM by shedding there roots during the growing season and then by their top growth die back in the winter. During the summer we also will be running our animals through the cover cropped paddies to graze and to spread their manure. Adding nutrients and increasing OM again.
After organic matter, phosphorus was the next problem child on the list. We were wondering why our azolla(the water fern we were trying to grow for nitrogen fixation) was doing so poorly. Its limiting nutrient is phosphorus. It loves the stuff and with out it, the fern just sits there. The chart says we are at 1.4 pounds per acre. Ideally that number would be between 20 and 40. We’ve got some major catching up to do. The cover crop and grazing will help a great deal but since that is only happening in two paddies we needed to add some phosphorus in the other 5 paddies. Some will come from compost, a the rest will come from Bone Char. It is an organically certified form of phosphorus that is a mix between quick and slow release. The recommendation on the test result is for 40lbs of blood meal per 1000 sqft. The smaller number of 4.9 lb is how much phosphorus is needed for the 1000 sqft. That means in 40 lbs of Bone meal there is 4.9 lbs of phosphorus available. I made up a spread sheet that calculates how much each paddy would need based on that recommendation and then we were able to figure out how much we had to order. About a thousand pounds to do every paddy.
We were also low in Potassium(K) but we will be able to take care of that with the alfalfa meal we get for the nitrogen.
The nitrogen recommendation was 50 lbs of alfalfa meal per 1000 sqft. For other crops the recommendation was 100lbs. When growing a small grain you have to be careful with how much nitrogen you have in the soil. To much N leads to tall weak growth that can make the plants susceptible to lodging(plants falling over due to wind or heavy rains). The nice thing about alfalfa meal is that is also contains Potassium and with the amount we need for the N we more then cover our K needs. Thanks to my handy spreadsheet we found that we will need 1600 pounds of alfalfa meal to do the job.
That does the major nutrients and the major problems we faced this year. The micro-nutrients will be helped with compost and a few foliar sprays we will apply throughout the summer. Without the soil test we would be blindly guessing what we needed to do to improve the soil. Because we had it done we can make smart choices on amendments and how we can change our rotations to better suite what our soil needs. The soil test from Umaine is $25 dollars and is well worth it.
Plastic is everywhere on the modern farm. We have two high tunnels and a greenhouse that are covered in plastic. The high tunnel plastic will stay on the tunnels for 5 or 6 years then will be used for winter protection on low tunnels for a few more years. The greenhouse plastic will last 15 years or so. We use reemay to protect the crops in the cold weather. It lasts a few years if taken care of correctly. Where we find the most waste of plastic is in seedling trays. They are fragile. They rip, crack, get smashed and when its cold they get even more delicate. Last year we started using soil blocks for many of our transplants. Soil blocks are compressed block of potting soil that we make with a special tool.
Last year we used a mix between the normal plastic transplant trays and the soil blocks, but the soil blocks still sat in the flat plastic trays. They tend to bend and break if you only have one so often times we doubled them up. The result was we were still using a lot of plastic and having many break and then we would have to give them the old heave hoe. I decided to build some wood trays to replace the flimsy plastic trays. The big question was to see how fast I could build them. I ended up buying a few bundles of 8′ strapping to start with.
I based the design of the trays on the layout in the New Organic grower. I went slightly larger then what he recommended. 9”x19”x2”. That ended up being four sections of the strapping cut at 20 or so inches, then two side walls at 9 inches and a back wall of 19”. I used screws for the first batch because I had some already, but I moved to nails to reduce the cost and speed up the process. I haved to pre-drill holes for the screws which added some time for each tray. I also don’t have a chop saw so making the cuts with a circular saw takes more time. I timed myself during the first batch and I could make a completed tray in 9 minutes. With labor cost included that means each tray comes out to around 4.50-5.00. With a few tweaks I will be able to get the cost a little bit lower to the 3.75-4 dollar range. They will always cost more than the plastic trays but the life expectancy of them should be much longer. And the ease of use will make us more efficient while seeding and transplanting.
I started our first seeds in the season using the blocks and the wooden trays out in the new heated greenhouse. They work really well so far. They stack nicely when they are full of blocks and when empty they can be stacked in pairs that are nested together. When loaded with blocks they are heavier then the plastic trays. I bough strapping from two different places and one group was significantly lighter then the other. The extra weight is the only downside I have seen so far. I’m sure we will have to tweak the trays as we build more and as I learn what is working and whats not.
CSA Shares are still available follow the link to the CSA PagePosted in Farming Tech, Growing Food, Seeds | 2 Comments February 10, 2013
To heat our greenhouse we knew we wanted to use wood from our property. Normal wood stoves are a pain because you have to burn them for a long time and you lose a large amount of the woods potential heat out the chimney. Wood Boilers can work a bit better but suck electrons from the batteries. As well as not burning very cleanly.
Enter the Rocket Mass Heater(RMH). RMHs work on a simple principle. A super hot fire will burn off all the violates(the stuff that can combust) removing the risk of creosote buildup in the chimney. With the risk of creosote gone, cooling of the combustion gas in the chimney is possible without the fear of chimney fires.
The RMH is made of two parts. The stove and the mass. The stove is shaped like a J. The wood is put in vertically in the shorter of the two vertical sections. It wood burns from the bottom up but instead of the fire and smoke coming out where you put the wood in it gets pulled through the horizontal chamber by the chimney effect created by the larger vertical riser. It is the same effect that keeps your house from filling with smoke when you light up your wood stove. So far there isn’t much that is different from a normal stove. Beside the sideways fire.
The first change from norm is insulating the whole of the burn chamber and vertical risers. With the insulation around the chamber we go from normal wood stove temps of 300-600 F to 1200-1800F. And with the 1200-1800F we get a complete burn of the violates in the wood achieving a very clean burn.
Might as well keep making it different. The heat riser is surrounded by a 55 gallon drum. The hot gases come out of the riser hit the top of the 55 gallon drum and are channeled down the space between the insulated riser and the drum. At this point the temperature of the gas much lower. The drum radiates heat off like a wood stove normally does.
The gas is then collected at the bottom of the drum and funneled into an 8 inch stove pipe. It runs 25ft horizontally and then out of the greenhouse and up a chimney. The horizontal run is buried in a bench of dirt sand and rocks. As the hot gas flows through the pipe, heat is pulled off into the bench. The bench will then slowly radiate off the heat well after the fire is done burning. This is why the RMH uses significantly less wood then a normal wood stove. You don’t have to keep burning to keep the heat up. A few hours of burning will let you coast with a slow release of heat over time. The temperature of the exit gases will be around 100-200f which means we have captured a much higher percentage of the BTUs in the wood then with traditional wood stove. That means less burning, less felling, less splitting, less C02 going up into the atmosphere.
If you want to learn how to build a RMH you can purchase the book here. Check out permies wood burning forum for others doing projects and there is also a video that was just kickstarted coming out this summer.
You can find more photos in the gallery
This afternoon we had a class from Green Mountain College come out to the farm. After a quick tour around the farm we headed down to the rice paddy to do some harvesting. They didn’t have much time so we only had time to cut the top paddy. It was amazing how fast the rice was cut and bundled when 26 people were going at it. The variety we are growing stays on the stalk while it’s drying so I strung strung up some lines in the greenhouse to hang. After a week or too it will be dry enough to start hulling. We are working on a bike powered huller that should be ready by the end of the month.
We are going to try and cut as much as we can before the rain comes tomorrow. It should take us a couple of days to harvest and hang them ourselves. It’s nicer to harvest in the cooler weather. Rice is quite an itchy plant and long sleeves and pants make for a much nicer time.
Posted in Growing Food, Rice, Seeds |
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June 16, 2012
Chipmunks! You think their just so cute don’t you? I mean who wouldn’t. With their fluffy tails, big puffy cheeks, and their spunky attitude. Last year I would have agreed with you. Meadow was slightly annoyed with them because they got to her sunflower seed heads before she could. This past winter was a warm one by all standards. We plowed the road all of zero times and the snow never really took hold in the fields. I am assuming this is the main reason the wave of chipmunks that hit us this year was so much higher then last year. On the positive side we are probably having less predation because the predators have more of these furry little critters to eat. But after a boom year comes the high predator year, so we are most likely going to see some more attempts next year.
Scarcity is the root of conflict. Real or perceived scarcity leads to fights when one party wants more because they don’t think they have enough. Thats why I now see chipmunks for what they really are. Rats that have evolved to look cute and fluffy purely as a PR stunt. They knew their cuteness would give them a good reputation so that when the time was right they could strike. Chipmunks see the early spring and summer as a time to stretch out and find that special chipmunk to bunk with. Then the race is on for gathering food for the winter when they will hideout in their dark caves. The woods and fields have a bounty of yummy treats for them but they have to work hard to run about and collect what they need. The new greenhouse on the other hand is like a all you can eat buffet. Flats full of seeds as far as their tiny eyes can see. In our case rice seeds painstakingly seeded just days or hours before. Scarcity. In the Chipmunks eyes the outside world has nothing compared to this bounty. In our eyes these rice trays represent thousands of pounds of rice, but are so few in number now. The chipmunk gains the upper hand. Pulling little green shoots from the soil to nimble on the remains of the seeds. Because of the threat I feel to my meager amount of rice starts I strike back. Traps are set and fail to work. The chips keep gorging themselves going flat to flat. We kick it up a notch like any good waring nation would. We bring out the ultimate but brutal trap the bucket trap which does the job where other traps had failed. The population drops a bit and our new rice starts have a chance. We took out 25 or 30 chips in 2 weeks most of which were on the first week. They were still around but were no longer a major threat. I relented in setting traps. A truce was set. We both could meet our needs with out harming the other. I’m sure in the chipmunk history books I will be depicted as an evil war monger stopping the helpless little creatures from fulfilling their god given right to feed. It’s all about perspective of scarcity.
All was right in the world. Our truce held strong. For a few weeks. Then; Scarcity. The second breeding of the eastern chipmunk happens in early summer. The breeding session lead to another large pulse in the Chipmunk population. The outside world was not big enough for these tiny spruced up rats. They thought if Meadow and I can come invade the great outdoors they should be able to return the push and head to the not quite as great indoors. Thats when the home incursions began. Scarcity. We believed that inside the confines of our four walls we should not be subject to the high pitched warning calls of are little rat in fluffy clothes. They disagreed and quite frequently. Scurrying in to the house then suggesting loudly that we should give them some space. Scarcity. New bucket traps. Balanced restored. With a slight addition to the arms race. A ferious new predator.
In the door yard, Meadow planted hundreds of bulbs and many perennials. The chips said thanks for the new garden bed to dig and make a new home in. They built burrows almost immediately. As long as they didn’t cause to much trouble we would leave them be. Scarcity. We had not given them enough space apparently. Chipmunks unlike squirrels create one large cache of food and they remain in this cache during the winter. Next to our new garden is where we park our cars. One adventurous chip decided a great place for a winter home would be our air filter. I disagree strongly but was not aware of it until a few scrapes of filter went into the engine making the engine jump and jive for a bit till it could cough it out. New buckets in place. New balance restored?
My last tale(well hopefully last tale this year) comes full circle. Our new paddies are basically subsoil. They are in need of some organic matter and some nutrients. We supplied some in the form of compost and manure teas but it wasn’t enough to really overcome our deficiencies. As the years go by well will be improving the soil and that will result in higher and higher yields. This year though we are sensing some scarcity. I walk the paddies almost every morning. In mid August I noticed a disturbing new trend. Piles of rice hulls laying next to stalks of the rice plants. Stalks that had been felled by a quick snip from some very sharp small teeth. It happened only along edge of the paddy where the water was a bit shallower. Right around that time the dry summer got a bit dryer. We hadn’t used the pond in awhile because it was to low, and the brook had slowed to a trickle. The paddies began to dry up. The day after the water left I went to inspect the rice. I went to the best spot in the best paddy. What I saw made me raise my fists in to the air and scream ChipmunKKKSSSS!!! Alright I didn’t do that but it did do the Seinfeld Newman line. Which is a quick clench of the fist with a slight upturning motion while hostilely whispering chipmunk! They had taken out a good chunk of our best patch. Enter buckets for yet another battle over what we see as a limited resource. We’ve lowered the numbers again but collateral damage may soon appear. The buckets in the paddy have become a feeding ground for raccoons. Solving our problem with the chipmunks while creating a potentially new and more severe problem, I am starting to feel like a real war monger now
Another week has streaked by us here at Breezy Meadows. The days are still getting longer but there is never enough sunlight to get everything done. This week more then most because after a day of rice planting Meadow’s wrists gave out. It’s an old injury that flares up from time to time. She is heading for a checkup next week and hopefully we can find out what’s going on.
Even with the set back lots of things are happening on the hill. We castrated our four boy piglets last week. It all went as smoothly as these things go. Their momma was not a big fan of us taking her little ones. It is a quick transition from happy go lucky mom to crazed protector. She managed to break through our plywood and pallet coral we made for her, even with meadow giving her a bucket full of grain.
The goats are heading off the pasture and into the brush. They are the first wave then the pigs will follow. After a few years we will have a terraced mix of pasture and orchard thanks to their hard work.
Our veggies are really enjoying the sunshine and warmer weather. It is amazing how fast they start growing. The tomatoes are setting fruit, the cucumbers and eggplants are flowering and the peas are starting to crank out their sweet pods. We have planted out 5 of the 7 paddies of rice around 30,000 sqft. The other two will be used to grow rice straw that we will be able to use as mulch in the garden next year.
We did our first canning on Tuesday. We went hunting for ramps for the last time this year. We had a tougher time then we normally do because we were so late that even the flowers had died back. We transformed ourselves into ramp whispers searching the fallen leaves for any hint of them. We will store these until we head off to the winter market in Rutland.
Well it was cold and rainy all week. We did have a few lovely moments of sunshine but they were pretty fleeting and usually followed by rain, thunder, lightening, hail or all of the above. We did not necessarily lose any plants to the weather but we lost growth. The eggplant and zucchinis seem to be the exact same size from when I put them in a week ago and the carrots and beets are just moving at such an infuriatingly slow pace. I have been trying to keep my cool around them thinking maybe they would pick-up on my anxiety and stop growing all together.
We are excited to welcome two new members to the CSA this week! One in Tinmouth and one in Poultney we are glad to have them onboard and look forward to sharing the rest of the season with them!
We castrated our piglets this week which was not as eventful as it could have been. Gregina only broke out of her pallet pen when one of the girl piglets got caught in the netting after we had gotten the boys out and were trying to get the girls back in with her. She cut one of her nipples but she seems to be fine. The boys are all doing just fine as well. I stayed behind to make sure momma didn’t get out and that the fence was good and hot. Despite a few cut fingers and lack of practice the castration went well and the only person who was bleeding at the end was my dad who got nicked when josh was trying get the last one done….as I said lack of practice. If you or anyone you know is interested in raising their own pig let us know. They are electric fence trained, and come from strong forage and pasture genetics. They are $125 each and we are taking $25 deposits on them since we expect them to go pretty fast.
Our goat herd is doing very well and enjoying the addition of trees into their diets as they begin to reclaim the now overgrown clear-cut from three years ago. We have two new ones well they arrived in April but to the website they are new. One is a doeling from Tangled Roots Farm and the other will be our Buck this fall and he is from Evening Song Farm.There are more pictures on our facebook page. Click here to see them.
We are almost finished with planting the paddies. We aren’t going to have a full acre due to our chipmunk problem but we should still have a good amount. So far we have four paddies planted and we expect to get another half a paddy out of what we have left.
Hope you are all getting out in the sun and planting your gardens!
It is warming up here, we have many baby animals at the farm and more to come in the next couple weeks, Gregina is definitely pregnant and looking it more and more very day. We will be selling piglets once they are weaned, we will let you know once they are born.
We are working on a new portable chicken coop so we can move our ladies and gent out into the back pasture, it will hopefully be much lighter then the goat house I built.
Once the chickens are out back we will be able to transplant all our greens outside, they are really ready to be in the ground and not in little blocks anymore.
Our CSA has started which is exciting and it is fun to be transitioning from the winter market into the summer season. Last Saturday was the last winter market and we are not going to be at the summer market. We are feeling a bit behind on infrastructure at the farm so we are going to focus on that so we can be more prepared for the winter market. This summer we will be putting up another high-tunnel near the one we have now to grow greens in all winter as well as setting up a compost system to heat them with. We will miss our market community but we will be back in the fall with a full harvest of rice in tow.
Boy and a Girl born 4:00am monday morning.Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments March 8, 2012
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment February 15, 2012
It is too warm here.
Josh and I spent the weekend in Burlington where they at least got a dusting of snow but we returned to the lovely brown landscape that is what we’ve looked at all winter. My goats were getting so restless in their pen that I moved them out into the old garden to eat down the left over beet tops kale trees and grass.
I’m concerned that it will continue on this freeze thaw cycle and then all of a sudden get really warm like it did last spring. If it did that than our sugaring season would be very short. The weather we’ve been having has been perfect for sugaring but nobody is quite ready to believe that the season is going to jump a whole month back…..but maybe next year we’ll start tapping on valentines day! The warm weather was been good for building projects. This picture is from a few days ago when josh was putting on the purlains, today he is getting the plastic on and then on to the side walls and interior and we’ll be ready to start seeds!
We soaked some field peas in water for a few days and I just planted them in our high tunnel last week. We have an unruly number of rodents in our tunnel. I planted renunculous in it in October and they have started to come up which is very exciting! Unfortunately the mice apparently love renunculous and ate down most of my happy little shoots. My friend had a mouse problem once and made a spray with peppermint oil and water that she put around her room, I did a similar solution using organic peppermint soap and so far they’ve left them alone! I’m afraid the peas are more what is protecting them though a fair amount of pea seeds have been devoured so when I get home I plan another dosing of peppermint in hopes that it will deter them…..
We cooked up some pork-chops for my grandparents when we were in Burlington and they were very delicious, apples, cranberries, onions, honey and cider baked for 1 1/2 hours. My cousin was appalled that we would eat our own pigs and the more Josh or I tried to explain it to her the less she listened. I can see why she feels that way, the only animals she has any experience with are pets and she couldn’t imagine eating a pet, most people can’t. It is just so sad that our kids don’t know the difference now, that they don’t associate meat with a living animal, they have no connection to the fact that even though it comes smoked, BBQ, wrapped in plastic or from a can, it originally was a living, breathing, feeling animal. It wasn’t even that long ago that kids her age in this country were expected to help with the killing, skinning, smoking, cooking of the family pig, cow, chickens or what have you. Anyone remember Laura Ingalls Wilder? How excited she was about smoking the pig, the brain cheese, and how they played with it’s bladder? Now it grosses kids out to the point of retching to think about eating the animal which is the best part!
It is just so sad that we as a society have allowed our kids to feel that way, and to not understand what it means to eat meat, whether it is local or not, your own pig or someone else’s, if everyone truly understood that by eating meat you are eating something that once had eyes, a nose, wiggled it’s ears and loved to be scratched right above the tail we would be a little more respectful of the meat isle in the supermarket. And how sad is it that we deprive our kids of the kind of fun that Laura and her sisters had! It was a long time ago that I read those books but I still remember the part about the pig and just how much fun the whole process sounded!
How do you look at meat? Did you grow up with a family pig? Does anyone remember Little house in the Big Woods differently? Thoughts about the ethics of eating your own animals?
Don’t forget to sign up for our CSA if you want to get the early-bird discount! Check out the CSA page to get more information
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January 29, 2012
It is squishy and brown here in Tinmouth. We have been seeding places that need it this week, and plan to put some peas in the ground for shoots later this week. It is so strange to not have snow and to have above freezing temperatures consistently. I’m not complaining, although it could stop raining.
We hope to get the hydro pump set up for this stream running this summer to give us a little more electricity.
This is where most of our/my whole families fire wood came from this winter. We are going to chip the smaller brush and send the animals through it this summer. This will eventually be silvopasture the hope is that the coyotes won’t be too big of a problem. They used to use this area as a major highway to get from one den to another…we haven’t heard them all winter and from what I’m told they seem to be marshaling in the valley’s this year.
The cloud break just before dark…..it was very beautiful.
Still no snow, but it’s been great for building projects. It rained/sleeted/iced thursday/friday so we spent those days inside working on our seed orders. We are using Richard Wiswall’s data sheets to figure out our CSA shares and planting schedules. It took awhile but now that we have it mostly done it is such a relief and I think it will be very rewarding. The propagation tunnel is still under construction but we are getting closer to being done!
I talked about bending the pipe in a previous post(here) and now I’ll go over how we did the rest of the tunnel. I designed the tunnel based on the professional manufactured tunnels from a few different companies. SketchUp helped a lot and I would recommend folks who are designing building projects to check it out. Its not to hard to pick up an there are lots of tutorials on the web and classes offered through community colleges and other institutions like Yestermorrow. So I designed it and bent the pipe now what?
Here are a few terms that I’ll be using.
Tube or Pipe – Technically what we are using is tube not pipe. Generally piping is using in moving a fluid and tubes are used for building. When you are giving a diameter of a pipe it is the internal diameter. Tube’s diameter are given in the Outside diameter. That is why a Pipe bender doesn’t quite work with a tube because they maybe both 1” diameter they are measured in different places. I use them interchangeably because its the general concept thats important. Just remember if your looking to build a greenhouse, high tunnel or anything else with metal cylinders its tubes you are looking for.
Bows – These are the two side pipes plus the top connection pipe all put together. In total we have 13 bows made up of 26 pipes + the ridge connector.
Purlin- These are the pipe that run the length of the tunnel that connect to each bow stabilizing the structure.
Cross-braces- Each bow will have a pipe that runs from one side to the other parallel to the ground which will help keep the bow’s shape.
Ground posts an runner pipe- In a traditional tunnel ground posts would be driven into the ground to hold the tunnel in place. In our case our ground posts are attached to a runner pipe that is the length of the tunnel. The runner pipe is what our wheels will attach to.
Lucky for us my dad decided to come spend a week vacation helping us build the tunnel. With him he brought 4 drill presses, a new hand held band saw and some handy tools to make the work move quickly. We had a spot next to the tunnel location where we created a level work area using a few small custom built plywood and 2×3 tables. On the tables we built a jig where the bent pipes would be placed so we could drill holes accurately with each bow. The two sides are connected to a ridge pipe that is the same diameter as they are. A small section of 1.99 pipe will slip over the pipes and then bolted on. This means there will be four holes at the top, two on each side. We initially had 4 drills set up, one for each hole. It worked well for a bit but then one of our drill presses broke. We were able to pivot the other press that was next to the broken one to drill both holes on one side.
While we had the bow in the jig we fitted a cross-brace using the smaller pipe that is also used for the purlins. When the bow left the jig it was ready to be put up. We didn’t have the runner pipe and ground posts ready yet so we just stacked them up for later. To make the runner pipe we had to connect two full length 1.66” pipe by sliding them into a short piece of 1.99” pipe. The toughest part of making the running pipe is creating a straight series of holes that run the whole length. If you have two drill presses life is much easier. You set up the drill press at the distance you want. In our case it was 4 feet on center. After you drill the first hole you slide it down to the next press. You then slide the drill bit of second press through the hole you just made. Now when you drill the next hole with the first press it will be in line and at the right distance. This went very fast and after trying to do some other holes on our greenhouse with out the second press I would say its the best way. You could build a jig that works the same way with out the need to have a second press.
The ground posts are made of a short section of 1.99” tube. We drilled one set of holes to connect to the runner pipe and a second set of holes 90 degrees around the tube and a bit higher. The end of the bows end up sitting on the bolt that goes into the runner pipe and then the second hole set bolts them together. We drilled the bow holes free hand after they had been set into the ground posts. Its tough to make two separate drill holes line up so doing it after the fact made it go faster. If you are really good you could have a jig or skill to predrill everything.
We didn’t quite know how we were going to set up the wheels. We went back and forth on a few ideas so we put all the bows up next. With a normal tunnel this part is pretty simple. You just go along sticking the bows into the ground posts into the ground and they stay put for the most part. We had two independent rails that had ground posts that could swivel. So if you just stuck the bow in it would quickly fall down. We were also building the tunnel over growing crops so that add extra headaches. We had previously squared up the ends of rows where our runner pipes would sit so that part was easy. We laid out the pipes at the right distance and lined them up with our square marks. Each end of the tunnel was going to have diagonal supports on the first and second bows. This would do two things. It would stabilize the structure while we were building it and also would keep the tunnel from falling one way or another when it was sitting or moving. It would have been straight forward if we had 3 people. Two people could hold the bow and the other could set up the diagonal support. We only had 2 people, which meant we had to build some temporary support which consisted of some 2×4′s and duct tape.
The diagonal supports need two bows to be up to work. So once we had that we could start making sure the bows were plum. Once the third bow was up and there were stabilizers between the second and third bow we attached a temporary purlin. There are clamps that you can get that wrap around the bow pipe then around the purlin and then are bolted closed. These are quick and easy to use. As we added new bows we would attach the purlin to hold it up. We were also attaching the ridge line purlin while we were adding bows. We started running out of light so we stopped doing the ridge line and it still was plenty stable. Then the light faded and we just kept going. We brought down lamps and worked by them and headlamps. Then it starting raining and we had to put the lights away but we kept on going. By 10 or 11 I can’t remember we had the last bow up and almost all the diagonal supports in place. With three people you could have the bows up and all the purlins in place in a day. We had to do an extra half day to finish the purlins.
Our basic skeleton was done, we still needed end walls, wheels and to put the plastic up. The end walls are the same as a normal high tunnel except they do not go all the way to the ground. The wheels that we are using are the one that are normal found on riding lawnmowers. They can handle decent amount of weight and they are cheap. You can find them at northern supplies from 5 to 10 dollars depending on the sales. When the tunnel is in place on the ground the wheels are not on. They are only on for the move. This allows you to have one set of wheels for multiple tunnels. With the rimol greenhouse kit and what Elliot Coleman talks about in his book this is not possible. The rail+wheel system that they use needs to be set up for each tunnel. It also costs more. The wheels they use are around 13 dollars per piece not so bad but the shipping cost get you because they are really heavy. When I looked at ordering them I was going to have to pay an extra 250 dollars just for shipping. The other nice thing about our system is that the pipe sits directly on the ground when not moving. The rail system has space that you have to cover with plastic and some sort of weight. I can not find a single picture of our wheel setup. I will make sure to take photos and a video the next time we move it.
For the axles we used bolts that would go through the runner pipe. We did not want to drill to big of a hole because we were worried about the structure of the pipe so we had to have a filler inside the wheel. We made this from an oak dowel with a hole drilled through its center axis. The runner pipe gets jacked up. We used scissor jacks the first time then just lifted it with 2×4′s for the second move. We are also working on another technique that I’ll update later. We have 7 wheels on each side and next spring we will be adding 1 or 2 more on each side. A few of the first bolts we used ended up bending a little bit. We bought some higher quality boats which have held up much better. The extra wheels will take even more weight off the new bolts. Once the wheels were on we were able to move it very easily. We had two people on each side one pulling one pushing. When it was moved back to its winter spot in the fall is was really muddy and the wheels didn’t roll nearly as well. Plywood strips in the tracks made it so three of us could move it. Im pretty sure we can do it with two people once we have it down.
The last thing that is very important is the anchor system. High tunnels have two big threats being crushed from snow or being blown away. The snow load is managed in our design by the gothic shape and the heavy duty tubing. This is the same as a none mobile tunnel. Blowing away in a normal tunnel is taken care of by sinking ground posts in our area at least 2 feet into the ground. Since we don’t have ground posts in the traditional sense we have to do something else. My dad found some heavy duty anchors that can hold 1300 pounds when sunk into the ground completely. There is a disc at the bottom of a long rod. With our soil we were able to spin them down into the ground the full 3 feet but it was a struggle. Right now we have a straight pipe bolted from the anchor to a bow. There are three on each side. I’ve had some sleepless nights worrying about our tunnel while the wind howled and knocked our log house hard enough to shake it. Last night we had winds gusting over 30 mphs our wind mill was howling and the house was shaking but still our tunnel stands strong. But our anchors have held strong. We also built our tunnel in a sheltered area that helps greatly. If we were in a more exposed area we might add another anchor or two.
I think thats a good overview of how we did our hight tunnel. I’m not an expert builder or engineer but I think we have made a quality tunnel that will last a very long time. I tried to take photos of everything important but some times we were just to into it to remember to grab a shot.
I have posted more pictures in our high tunnel gallery that show more steps in detail.
See you folks next time,
.Posted in Farming Tech, Growing Food, Uncategorized | 1 Comment January 9, 2012
I didn’t want to write about how we are having a snow-less winter since maybe it would jinx us into getting 18 feet like Alaska, but it’s so bizarre I have to say something about it. It is now January 9th 2012 and so far we have not even gotten a real foot of snow, let alone two feet. I think I’ve worn my super insulated overalls 6 times? Long underwear hasn’t even become habit yet, it is just too weird. However we did have a cold spell last week and our greens even under the remay did get too cold to grow or harvest. It was just a fluke occurrence though and had we been able to harvest 48 hours later it would have been fine since it was in the 40′s and ridiculously sunny.
Despite the crazy whether we are continuing to do everything according to plan. The week after christmas we butchered Porkchop. I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about slaughtering our own pigs. At first I tried organize my emotions so I could walk past her hanging carcass without thinking about how cute she was as a piglet. But by pretending she was an inanimate object I felt like I was in some way disrespecting her. I know she’s just a pig and there will be many more of them but for me, as a person who had pet house flies as a kid, I can’t pretend that the live pig and the dead pig are two separate things. I’ve decided I’m not going to resist loving our pigs because I do anyway, and as hard as it is to see them go, walk past their carcass, or the bucket of feet, or the head still hanging frozen in the mudroom, I’m just going to have to go through it every time and I’m ok with that. When I decided this in my mind a week or so ago it was almost a relief, I think pretending like I didn’t care about them was actually harder than excepting their death. I’m not sure how to explain it exactly and I’m sure I’ll feel differently every time, but this is how I’m feeling after this first one.
Don’t worry all you people wondering about on farm slaughtering Josh will write a post about it sometime soon. Josh did a great job with the whole process, he killed her instantly, got her tied up, scalded, and even butchered her into gourmet cuts. All from watching a video and reading a book. I do love that man.
Above he is working on our solar greenhouse. This picture is from this morning when it was snowing the next picture is from this afternoon when it was bright, warm and sunny. The weather just can’t make up its mind.
Our greenhouse is the big project on the list for this month I am very excited to have all the space to start our plants in! The possibilities it creates in the amount of plants we can grow, the better potential for us to be organized about early planting, and the fact that we will have a space to start all our 35,000 rice plants is pretty great.
How has this non-winter been treating all of you? Anyone else have experience with home slaughtering they want to share? Anyone have a winter project they are really excited about?
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December 1, 2011
We are into the second week of december and I am still tracking in great globs of mud whenever I enter the house. It seems to strange to still be working the soil and getting in posts so far into winter. I know the snow is coming but the radio just predicts a chance of rain and sunshine. The mud has been great for all the projects we need to finish and the lack of snow has made working outside much more pleasant. The paddies are done which is a huge relief and we just got the ground posts in for our solar greenhouse which is another big item scratched of the list.
The pigs are in their winter spot now, we put them in my mom’s old round pen. When my dad built it, it was a beautiful wood walled pen where she could run her wild horses around without fear of them jumping out. In the years since she moved her horses down to the McNamara farm the boards and posts have been salvaged for miscellaneous projects here and there. The round shape still remains held together by the few posts and side boards left. The pigs have made a race-track of it and tear around their pen snorting and spinning their heinies in the air.
I just got the goat fence up today. Josh and I had to pound the crowbar for a while to make a hole anywhere big enough for the posts to go down in. They are all in now and I just need to make them some kind of shelter and it will be goat ready.
The chickens have started laying at long last. As far as I can tell we have seven of the 22 young hens laying. So far we have white, green, and brown eggs, no chocolate ones yet. We may have more but they are laying them somewhere else. For the last two weeks there’s been a black hen that goes off on her own over by the icebox I’d searched but couldn’t find anything. I’d given up thinking she was laying eggs but the other morning she was out over by the shed before we’d milked and I got motivated agin to go looking. It took me ten minutes to find her stash she’d hidden them under a pile of plastic and an old screen door there were ten eggs there total, all but the one she’d laid that morning was frozen so solid that when I tripped on my way inside they didn’t so much as crack when they hit the ground. The pigs enjoyed those frozen morsels and since then she’s started laying them in hay bales we keep under the solar panels. Hopefully when the snows come and we get them in their winter home they will all conform to the egg boxes. As troublesome as it may be to have hens laying eggs willy nilly I do love finding them.
Our greens are growing and looking wonderful in the high-tunnel harvesting and washing is getting to be less and less pleasant but so far we have been able to continue picking and washing outside.
I know I keep saying I’m going to be better about updating the blog, I’m not sure what has happened for the last few months or why I’ve been so unmotivated to be in front of my computer. Ok, maybe I have some idea, Josh teases me about being stressed out over nothing but somehow no matter how many times he says “everything will get done” I don’t feel any more certain. Now that the ground posts are in the ground I am feeling a little less stress, I still can’t believe it was the second week of december when we put them in the ground. In theory I should have more time to write these updates especially now that the ground is freezing and the wreath orders have stopped coming in.
I Hope you have all been able accomplish your fall goals and are settling in with a full woodshed and a hot fire.
The collapsed yurt you see in the background has since been dismantled and I’ll have you know it was snowing when this picture was taken, my hands were very cold.
We have been working up to this day for quite a while now. The survey stakes are out. The sides of the field have been cleared back a bit and our giant white pine Christmas tree in the middle has been taken down. Now that all the prep work is done we finally were able to break ground on the paddies.
This morning we spent figuring out exactly how we were going to build the paddies and clearing the sod out of the way. Once we had the ground cleared we realized that the elevation change was to much for the first paddy because we had made it so wide. We ended up splitting it in half to make two paddies instead of one. There is another paddy that we will have to do this to as well. We will have to sacrifice some growing space for the extra walls but its not to much lost.
More Pictures Here
.Posted in Farming Tech, Growing Food, Rice, Uncategorized | Leave a comment November 21, 2011
The snow from my last post has long since melted and the weather has been balmy and sunny for the most part. I planted all my bulbs and put some ranunculus in our high-tunnel to see what it will do. Josh got all the small trees cut down from the hedgerow around our paddies and now we are waiting for my dad to come take out the larger ones and push them into a pile for later firewood. On the 28th is when the excavation crew comes out to break ground on the paddies!
Esther and Isla went to visit a local nubian buck so we will hopefully have some little nuberhaslis running around here come spring.
The Tinmouth Fire Department had its annual game supper fundraiser yesterday and it was a great success. It is a truly amazing event, they fed almost 600 people with game brought in by the game wardens, most of which was hit by vehicles. Bear, moose, venison in three to four different forms was available to dinner goers. Plates were mounded with wild game root vegetables and rolls, as they walked the long tables trying to find a place to sit. Servers walked among the tables holding jugs of milk and cider pouring for anyone who raised a glass. It was quite the feast!
Gregina has been making nests, so far she has made five that we know of. She spends her first few days in a new place collecting brush, leaves, twigs, in her mouth and carrying them to a sunny location. She then pushes them about with her snout until she has created a round nest-like structure. All four pigs enjoy these nests but Gregina gets the best spot, the bottom of the pig pile. On cold mornings you can see the steam rising from where they have been sleeping.
We had great article about us in the Tuesday Rutland Herald. Sharon Parquette-Nimtz came up and visited us last week on a gorgeous november day and we were able to show her the farm and all the projects we have in the works, or already done. It is nice to have some publicity about our farm in a place where many of our customers will read it. It is so hard to convey all we are doing and all that we want to do in the few short minutes it takes to make a transaction at the farmer’s market. Our farm requires a more hands-on description and it is nice to have been able to have someone put to words some of what we do.
As December gets closer and closer and as much as I hate to bring up christmas before i’ve stuffed myself with turkey, Josh and I have taken on the Wilds of Tinmouth Wreath Business and will be making Christmas wreaths for the holiday season. Our wreaths are made with our local balsam boughs from the farm, rose hips and dogs wood from the old pastures, and pine cones from our woods. We will have our wreaths at the Farmer’s market starting this saturday but if you know you want one you can pre-order one by calling: 802-235-2025. I’ll have pictures of our wreaths coming soon! Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment October 27, 2011
The brilliance of fall has come and gone since I’ve written last. I apologize for my absence from the blog, but all we have decided to accomplish this fall and all the little things I wish I could have done before the snow falls has consumed me. First I just want to say how amazed I am at our incredible support for our Rice project on kickstarter. We raised over $6,000, which puts us well over our goal and closer to building our storage space next year. It is such a relief and an excitement to be able to hire someone to do the construction for us. When we got the original estimate from the company they thought it could be done in just a few days which means maybe as soon as next week our paddies and paddy systems will be in place and ready for planting next spring! I feel confident in saying we have created a bit of a buzz about growing rice in Vermont and I hope it continues. I think rice growing could be the beginning of a new agricultural era in Vermont, not just based around rice but about looking at different agricultural practices and how they can produce for our communities, keep our land fertile and our animals healthy.
There is only one summer market left in Rutland and then it moves into the old theatre behind the Rutland Food Co-op. As our tomatoes dwindle and peppers stay green people often comment how it is the end of the growing season. It is for many things, all the tender annual vegetables that we’ve imported to our harsh Vermont climate from their tropical native lands have died back as the days get shorter and the nights colder.
This is our first fall preparing for a spring harvest. It is truly our first fall on the farm. We spent most weekends here in October and November last year but we were only able to build the garden beds for this year. Now we have growing space created and seven days a week to prepare everything. There are big projects like getting the paddies surveyed and built, designing and building our propagation tunnel, making a bigger winter coop for all our hens, painting and fixing the ice-house, planting garlic, and keeping up with all the seeding and transplanting we have to do before Christmas. Then there are all the smaller things I want to accomplish, not as high in the priority list but still goals, planting my 612 perennial bulbs along our overgrown driveway, weeding out the old orchard and sheet mulching it for next year, terracing our side hill, planting our paw paw and building proper steps down to the garden so that my grandparents don’t have to stand by our laundry line to see what we are doing and so that I don’t fall on my butt while carrying water to the pigs. In reality all these things can get done and most of them won’t even take very long it’s just that there are way too many things on the list that it is hard to start. I’m not complaining, it is exciting to have the time and space to accomplish all these goals just wish it didn’t get dark at 6:30 and that it wasn’t so cold when I am trying to get out of bed in the morning.
I actually wrote the above post two weeks ago; rereading it seems strange how in just a few short weeks already so much has changed. They say we lose 3 minutes of daylight every day that’s 21 minutes of light every week……I can feel it. Today it is snowing for the first time, and for the first time in a long time I left our house and went to Rutland to use the internet in the quiet of the Rutland Free Library. When I went to milk this morning there were only little tiny balls of ice falling almost indistinguishable from rain, by the time I had walked back up to the house they were turning into flakes melting on our flats of still waiting transplants. By the time I left there were great patches of white on the forest floor as the snow has begun to cover the upturned faces of the fallen leaves.
I might be foolish or crazy but the snow excites me, I know it means the end of growing things outside, the end of lush grass and soft green leaves, the end of flowers and all the colors they bring. But I love the snow, I love the quiet it brings and how the air feels thick like good stew or wool socks. I imagine I will be wishing for summer soon enough but I am looking forward to winter. Somehow even as it gets below freezing and the wind blows snowflakes through the cracks of our cabin walls I still feel cozier in the wintertime than I do in the summer. As much as Josh will scoff in disbelief I would rather be cold than hot, you can fix being cold, you can’t help being too hot. Plus there is something invigorating about working up a sweat when your face is cold, when you work up a sweat in the summer you just feel sweaty and hot and not invigorated.
I am sorry for the old pictures the cold grey clouds seem to be keeping even the wind from moving and our electricity levels have been too low to charge our cameras. These photos are from last spring and I thought they would be a fitting image of what is to come.
Frost has finally reached us. It is amazingly beautiful, all the grass coated with silver, and the clover looks like something you would find in a china cabinet. Although it does mean the end of the green season and the beginning of brown I can’t help but love the way it looks even as it ends the life of my melons and flowers.
With the help of Josh’s mom we were able to get all our winter squash picked, dry beans, field tomatoes, and melons yesterday. Our winter-squash harvest was pretty pathetic, we left them to do their squashy thing in the orchard but the brambles and golden rod proved to be the stronger plants and they grew a bit scrawny and produced only a few tiny fruits. Thankfully all our tender plants have our high-tunnel over them and we were able to get the walls on last night before it got dark.
It was such a relief to come down this morning and find all our tomatoes and peppers not coated with frost and still green and vibrant.
We have also started our wood-stove. My dad took the forwarder out in the woods monday and brought back a mass of trees for us to burn. We have to work on a shed for our wood, but since we still have a few weeks before the snow really becomes a problem we will focus on rice paddies and propagation tunnels.
Our Rice paddy project is going REALLY well on kickstarter. We are now 85% funded! We’ve been stopped by several people now who recognize us as “the people growing rice.” This is such a thrill because this is exactly what we hoped to accomplish with is project, growing enthusiasm for this great grain potential in Vermont and getting more people harvesting it from their own backyards!
Just an image to leave you with, this was a rainbow that appeared at 7:30 in the morning as the sun was coming up, it was one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever experienced.
Here is a guest post from my dad who designed us a homemade garden cart.
We’re passing along how we recently built a heavy duty garden cart. This homemade garden cart can be built using two bicycle wheels, angle iron, 2x4s and plywood. This cart will carry at least 200 pounds, has a large box, and the wheels work independently. We got the basic design from carts made in 3rd world countries.
We asked our friends if they had old wheels from mountain bikes we could have. So the wheels were free and we used them without any modifications. In fact we left the gears on the back wheel.
What you’ll need: two – mountain bike wheels, four- 36 inch long 1”x1” (or 2”x2”) pieces of angle iron, one- 4 ft x 8ft x ½” thick plywood sheet (exterior grade), two 2”x4” x8ft and a box of exterior wood screws 1/12” long.
Step 1: for each wheel drill matching holes in the angle iron. Take your time to figure out the size hole you need to make even if it means taking the wheels into the store and ask for help to get a drill that will create a hole that the axle snugly slides through. These holes need to match end to end and up and down. If you make a mistake, use the other side of the angle iron.
Step 2: Mount the angle iron onto the wheels ( we had to add a washer on one of the wheels to get the axle to lock down correctly) so you’ll get a feel for how you’ll be assembling the cart. The angle irons should be sticking out on both ends of the wheels. 2x4s will be attached at each end of the angle iron. The inside width of the cart should be 24 inches (the distance between outside edges of the two inside angle irons).
Step 3: Determine the length of the 2x4s at the ends of the cart by getting the outside edges of the inside angle irons placed at 24inches then measure from the outside edges of the two outside angle irons. Cut the 2x4s to length. Place the cut 2x4s on the ends of the angle iron to figure out where to drill the holes in the angle iron for the screws or if you’d like a sturdier cart use nuts and bolts. You’ll need at least two holes at each end in each angle iron. Attach a 2×4 at one end of the cart using only one screw in the outer angle iron.
Step 4: Next you’ll be attaching a 2×4 to the other end of the cart but you must make sure the wheels are aligned. Attach one screw to either of the outside angle irons. Make the distance between the front and back of the wheels equal before attaching the other angle iron to the 2×4. Attach the other two angle irons with one screw and check the wheel alignment by rolling the cart. Screw in screws at the other holes.
Step 5: Drill holes along the top of the angle iron, cut 2x4s which will fit between 2x4s at the ends of the cart and screw them into place on top of the angle irons.
Step 6: Cut a piece from the plywood which matches the dimensions of the 2×4 cart base, with no overhang. Attach the plywood to the 2x4s. Cut pieces of plywood for the two sides and front end of the cart, these will go down below the top surface and are attached to the 2x4s with screws. At each front inside corner place a piece of 2×4 which extends from the floor of the cart to the top of the walls and screw the plywood and 2x4s together.
Step 7: To make a removable back end of the cart instead of a fixed end, rip down a 2×4 to make 4 thinner pieces. Attach two at each end with a space between them for the back wall to slide into. Cut the wall so it easily slides between the two side walls. We attached a piece of flat right angle to the top of our back wall so that each one stuck out on the ends and would slide over the outside of the side walls to help hold the sidewalls in place.
Now you need to attach a method for pulling and pushing the cart, plus legs. You can construct something from wood or use piping. In the electrical section of the hardware store is cheap metal conduit which bends easily or you can use pipe, but you’ll need some strong arms to bend it or use a pipe bender. We added extra 2x4s at the bottom of the front of the cart for attaching the bent pipe. Check out the pictures in the gallery for more details on what we did at each step.
Good luck and Happy Gardening
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September 17, 2011
Putting on socks and sweaters has already become a habit in the morning here. I also put on a shallow pot of water to heat up Esther’s udder wash, which she seems to appreciate. Part of me can’t believe its already autumn and is confused as to where all the summer time went, but the other part of me is giddy with the excitement of fall and all that it brings. Everyone keeps saying “oh things must be winding down for you that must be nice” and I keep responding with “well…not really, but it’s still nice.” We have been planning and planting our fall, winter and early spring crops. Our calender is covered with ink scribbles as we plan and re-plan and try to remember with big bold letters what we have to do and when.
Having limited growing space makes this particularly stressful because some of the things we are growing we aren’t sure what the results will be so we have to be careful with the risks we take and make sure we have something definitely hardy to make up for it if it fails. Claytonia and Mache are our go-to for winter growing, we are also growing beet greens, arugula, a mix of mustards and asian greens as well as lettuce mix and spinach. We have turnips and radishes coming up for a fall harvest and we are going to plant a mix of roots in the tomato beds once they are done to see if we can over winter them with quick-hoops and have an early harvest next spring. Besides trying to have things growing and started we are planning our rice paddy construction for October which we are hoping to hire someone to do for us so we can focus on building our second high-tunnel before it gets too cold.
The rice has now been hanging for a week out in our addition. When we first harvested it, it’s aroma filled the room and spilled into our house and the barn on the other side. It wasn’t quite like the smell of drying hay it had a sharper more pronounced aroma, the kind that coats your taste buds until they think they are tasting it. Now its smell is beginning to fade or I am getting used to it, either way, it isn’t quite as intense when you first walk in the door. In another five weeks we will try to thresh and hull it! At the farmer’s market I brought a sheaf of rice and was amazed by how many people tried to eat it, clearly people are eager for Vermont rice if they are trying to eat it unhulled and uncooked. I have to say though I am going to put it in a less accessible spot next time, I can’t have all the seed eaten before it has a chance to make rice that can be cooked and eaten in an enjoyable, non tooth cracking manner.
Our kick-starter project is going really well thanks to all you supporters! If this is successful we will be able to hire our neighbor across town and get the job done quickly. Which as I said before would enable us to focus on our second high-tunnel which would be great for us during the winter but also for starting all our transplants in the spring, no more trays covering all the flat surfaces in the house! It is very rewarding to see all the enthusiasm in the community for this project, I am not sure who is more excited about growing rice at this point. The more support we receive whether it is through a contribution, sharing with friends or through commenting about it in person or on the net, I am beginning to see this rice project as more the community effort we hoped it to be and can’t wait to share the bounty with everyone.
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September 12, 2011
Our Kickstarter project has been launched!! We have 30 days to make out goal of $5,500 for building our paddy systems. Go to www.kickstarter.com to view our project description, rewards for funders, and our awesome video!
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September 4, 2011
Our high-tunnel has skin! Just in time as the weather begins to dip down into the 40′s at night. Our tomatoes will now hopefully last a bit longer with their new house over them. We got it rolling a week ago thanks again to Josh’s dad for all his hard work in getting this put together and up before the frost! It took a bit longer than planned, as things always do, but being that the task was to take a pile of pipe and turn it into a high-tunnel I for one am very impressed. Now for number 2! This high-tunnel will stay over the tomatoes until they are finished. We will then roll it back to its original position over the southern beds where we have begun to seed claytonia, beet greens, and have starts of spinach, chard, lettuce.
We’ve spent the last few dry days planting turnips, radishes and different greens. Our fall broccoli starts are being devoured by earwigs but we hope they will come back once they are put in the ground. We are going to try to experiment with some compost heat for our high-tunnels this winter. We have begun building smaller piles to make compost for our garden beds. This design of compost pile heats up quickly and turns quickly, ideal for making quick rich soil, but not as good for a heat source.
Our rice is ready to harvest. The birds have begun eating the seeds so we are going to hopefully harvest it this afternoon and begin drying it in our barn. We are getting geared up to plan for our paddies next year. Our Kickstarter project should be online by the end of this week and we are hoping to have the construction completed by the end of october if not sooner.
Our chickens are getting bigger and bigger and in about a month they should begin laying which is very exciting. By November we should be bringing eggs to market they won’t be certified organic but we feed them only organic grain, and they eat plenty of bugs, seeds and green things. I am a bit confused as to the gender of some of them, I have 8 that look like roosters but not a single one of them has crowed or acted rooster-like so I’m hopeful that I just have some masculine hens or feminine roosters.
We at Breezy Meadows weathered the storm with little to no disasters. Thankfully for us my father put a tarp over the bottom of our driveway. Although the Poultney River did flood over the road, thanks to the plastic we didn’t loose the culvert and were able to drive over it monday morning.
Saturday before the hurricane Josh and his dad were working on our high-tunnel. When I left them to go to a wedding at 4:00pm they were still fiddling with pipe, drilling holes and mumbling about purlines, fittings, and bolts. When I returned at 11:00pm to a dark house I proceeded to go to bed only to find no on was inside. After a brief moment of worry I soon thought to go check the garden. As I walked down the path I heard their voices and saw little flashes of light as their head lamps flashed across 10 bows of pipe standing up in the air. It was drizzling and I was already in my pajamas but was too curious to go back in and get something more appropriate on. There they were wet, tired and hungry finishing up the last bow to our new high-tunnel. We put the last few up and bracketed them in place just in time for the rain to begin coming down harder.
Sunday the rain came and we worked inside hoping that our new plantings of arugula, mustards and cilantro were not getting washed away with our topdressing of compost. Although the weather was such that we wanted to curl up with hot chocolate and watch a movie we still had things to do in and out. When I went out to milk at 5:30 the rain had stopped and the wind was beginning to blow it was spectacular to listen to it whipping through the trees and see the clouds moving low and fast overhead. My goats were shaking with cold as the wind blew the cold air through their wet coats. I was already planning to get them dry hay for bedding when the roof blew off the wagon. It took both Josh and I to move the roof out of the pen only made harder by isla wanting nothing more than to play on the upside down roof now with exposed screws and sharp tin sticking out everywhere. I made them a nest of hay under the wagon and screwed down the plastic to keep the rain out. In the morning they were dry and warm and nonplussed by the weather from the day before.
Our garden was intact the seedlings having managed to root into our hard clay enough to stay put and our new shiny high-tunnel still standing and looking like a beacon of triumph over the weather.
That monday was Josh’s 27th birthday, he spent the day working at Boardman Hill Farm like he does every monday. In the evening I had a Beginner Bee workshop that had had to be rescheduled to monday due to the weather. When we finally sat down to dinner feeling all too unaffected by the storm we began to think about those who might have been in wetter locations. We even had power and internet to follow-up on our concerns by looking up the farm’s websites. Some were lucky only a bit of sogginess in one corner field, no damage at all, then we clicked on Eveningsongcsa.com and immediately there was a picture of mud, rocks trees and water where fields, greenhouses and rows of ripening vegetables should have been. I was the one with the computer and it took me a second to take in the fact that this was real. Everyone immediately was crowding around the little screen as we began to slowly go through the pictures of the Mill River taking out first all the crops, then their greenhouse, their tomatoes, their irrigation system but most impressively their land. The river had just swallowed all of their delicious topsoil and taken it away, moved on, not looking back on the path it left behind. When I got there on Tuesday morning with hay bales and Josh’s untouched birthday cake the river was quiet, flowing seemingly oblivious to the fact that the bed it was flowing over wasn’t the same one it had been flowing in the week before. It seemed so unfair that the water could just move on like that, not having to face up to its destruction or watch the tears shed over the losses it created. I wondered though if the water that runs down our cheeks after this storm isn’t the same water that caused more tears in another. And just like water we have to be able to move on and return, rebuild and rethink. Kara and Ryan from Evening Song Farm have begun this long process with help from this community that can’t stand the thought of losing them to the water as well. You can visit their website to read more about how they are responding to this event and how you can help. Others have also lost crops and land visit the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link to see how you can support them as well.
As devastating and saddening as the events of this flood have been I find myself a little excited about what these tragedies will do for our communities in Vermont. As we begin to rebuild we are not only repairing roads and bridges, clearing away mud and debris, but also rebuilding relationships, repairing community spirit, and clearing away the mess of our daily lives to make way for others in need, making a future for ourselves with stronger bonds than we had before.