If anyone is following this blog on a regular basis you may have noticed a lack of posts lately. What can I say its summer, the sun is shining, the plants are growing, and the chickens are proving to be adept escape artists. But thanks to a visit from my sister I now have some photos of the new farm. Check them out around the website and in the photo gallery. Want to the see the farm in person? Northcroft Farm will be hosting an open house in late September so keep keep posted for more information
After a couple year of searching, I'm happy to announce that late last fall Northcroft Farm found a new and permanent location near Moquah,WI.
Thank you to Chris and Autumn of Great Oak Farm, who have hosted me for the last 4 year. This year I will begin the transition to the new location. A few things will still be grown at Great Oak Farm including some early crops, beans,carrots, and winter squash. Early spring at the new farm will focus on field prep for later season crops, and perennial fruit crops to be planted in 2015.
Northcroft Farm will also move into some meat production with the addition of meat chickens and turkeys arriving in late July. To that end one of the barns is being renovated to be the turkey and chicken house.
keep posted for more exciting news and photos, spring is just around the corner, (I promise).
This winter the Chequamegon Food Co-op offered a grant opportunity to farmers in the Chequamegon Bay area for projects that would improve their businesses. In conjunction with several other farms, Northcroft Farm applied for and received a new vegetable seeder. In the above photo you can see me seeding carrots.
This seeder has, dare I say, revolutionized, seeding for me. I'll explain how, prior, the way I seeded most things was by hand. Carrots for example were seeded by prepping a bed with the rototiller, running the handle of a shovel up and down the bed to make 5 narrow furrows, sprinkling seeds from a packet into the furrow, and then gently going along and brushing soil over the seeds in every furrow.
This technique has several problems with it. First the five rows were not always very straight. This led to problems hoeing when the rows got too close together and the hoe would not fit between the rows. The furrows were not always of an even depth and when I brushed soil over the top of the seeds it was not always an even covering. Carrots, in particular, are very fussy about how deep they are planted(1/8-1/4 inch). When placing the seed in the furrows, the seed often came out irregularly, sometimes the seeds were too close together, sometimes too far apart, and sometimes the wind blew and the carrot seeds flew all over the place.
The new seeder allows for several improvements. The seeds are put into seed hoppers( clear plastic container with a yellow tag in the middle of the seeder). At the seeder moves along the seeds move over a "roller" at the bottom if the hopper. The roller has holes exactly the size of the desired seed and adjustable gears allow for adjustable and even spacing of seeds. As the seeds move over the roller they fall one by one into the roller, where they are picked up and deposited in a chute that leads to the furrow. The furrow is created by the seeder and the furrower can be adjusted up and down to control depth. After the seed falls into the hole a shovel shaped paddle come and brushes soil over the furrow burying the seeds at a even depth. Lastly a roller moves over the bed smoothing the bed out.
The seeder also allows me to sow 2 rows of carrots at once(3 for radishes and spring turnips) making the spacing between rows more even. The improved spacing also allows me to plant 6 rows in a bed instead of five, in other words I can plant 20% more in the same space. The new seeding technique is so slick I can sow carrots now in 1/4 the time, with 20% more rows, and with more reliable spacing and germination.
Efficiency is Multiplied
Monday high 65 with a 70% chance of thunderstorms, Tuesday high 70 with an 80% chance of Thunder storms, Wednesday high of 67 with a 70% chance of showers and thunderstorms. So says the weather report as I pack up my car for farmers' market dressed in flannel lined pants and a winter coat.
After last year's lack of rain and intense heat I though I would be glad to have some cooler and wetter weather. As it turns out cool wet weather brings its own challenges, namely slow growth and flooded fields. Turns out you can always add water, but removing it is a lot more difficult.
The cool weather has not been good for the heat-loving plants like peppers, tomatoes, and melons. That's not all bad news; the cool season plants like scallions, lettuce, and radishes have been thriving. The ground water and lakes are being replenished after years of drought. The cool weather has also been a blessing in disguise for weed control. I've never been on top of the weeds as well as I have this year.
That's the great thing about vegetable farming. Every year is a little different, some years you have really great tomatoes, some years great potatoes. I spread myself out with a large number of crops so while every year there are a few crops I loose I can always adjust what I plant and there are always a few things that do very well. As they say, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket."
I seemed to have jumped the gun. For anyone not aware, we got a lovely May 2nd snow storm of 18-24 inches, depending on your location. My low tunnels got rather crushed by the snow, but a the plants that have emerged, as the snow melts, seem to be doing OK. With any luck the snow will melt off quickly as the scallions, parsley and lettuce are getting a little big for their soil blocks.
This morning I seeded 900 soil blocks with cabbage for Spirit Creek Farm. Not sure what a soil block is? Check out the new pictures in the photo gallery to see me making them. Basically they are compressed cubes of potting soil mix with little holes pre-made for putting seeds in. The cube form gives them more room than a plastic pot, which is tapered at the bottom. They also sit side by side supporting themselves so the only plastic needed is a reusable tray to hold the blocks in.
Total Soil Blocks this year: 5540
Its April 28th, the snow has melted off, and the first plants are in the ground!!! This morning I planted kohlrabi, kale, chard, Napa cabbage and radishes. Pending good weather I plan on planting scallion onions and parsley later this week.
The transplants are building up in my house and I've started to move the cold hardy plants like onions, kohlrabi, lettuce, and beets outside to harden off. The warm season plants are just coming up in their trays. Look for some potted tomato and basil plants at the first farmers' market. Total starts so far this season: 4480.
The potato seed has also arrive I'm looking forward to getting them in the ground mid-May. Kennebek and Dark Red Norlands will be the varieties this year. For anyone looking for the Adirondack Blue potatoes I grew last year, I will not be growing them this year. Due to the drought, my seed source had a crop failure for that variety but, look for them in future years. Thank you to Landis and Steve of Hermit Creek Farm for storing my potato seed.
The Northcroft Farm website is officially up. We're still building new pages, making changes to what we have already and adding new information, but all the basics are here.
Soon we'll have recipes available for download and some ideas on what to do with all that food you canned in preparation for winter!