Spending a Day with Nettle
Monthly Summary – October 2012
Posted By: KG Date: 10/08/2012
General Observations: For the most part October 2012 continued the smooth sailing of September, our cold-weather fall crops yielded well and gave us a nice boost in marketable product that helped soften the effect of the tomatoes tapering off. Looking at the data and writing this summary in October 2013 I can see some interesting comparisons. In 2012 tomato harvest ran from 7/13-10/5 (roughly 80 day harvest period), while our 2013 tomato harvest is running 7/24-present (75 days and counting). As of the time of writing it looks like we could get another week or so of yield.
By October last year most of the planting was finished, so we had the time to accomplish most of our fall tasks including crop care, cover-cropping and other end of season preparation and clean up tasks, while keeping up with regular harvests and markets. As the weather became colder with frequent rain we had opportunities for catching up on administrative duties and working on summarizing the data we collect throughout the season.
The rough patch came at the end of the month, with Hurricane Sandy making landfall and colliding with a Nor’easter over New Jersey. Considering the destruction wrought by the storm across the state and region, the farm came through relatively unscathed. The tally of damage was a broken window in the office, part of the walk-in cooler unit blown off, loosing the plastic on the FHG high-tunnel and damaged plastic on RH that blew off in a wind storm later that year. We also lost power, and subsequently our well water, for more than two weeks. Numerous trees were blown down, but incredibly none falling on any structures or equipment. A large branch from a willow tree that fell on the baby chick pen miraculously did not cause damage or injure any birds. Compared to others around the state, we were lucky. However our growing season was severely crippled following the storm. Already saturated fields were inundated by inches more rain and crops were damaged and lost. The lack of power and clean water meant no washing or refrigerating what we could still harvest and the widespread destruction across the state meant even when we were able to get to our markets (after many detours) we found many fewer customers who were able to attend and/or had electricity to be able to store the perishable vegetables we sell. A big thanks to those who could and did attend even as they themselves were dealing with their own part of the aftermath of the storm. It was a great morale boost and emotional support to see all the regulars, exchange stories of the storm and trade complaints about the aftermath.
Equipment 20hrs: Less time on the machines this month. This is a function of less planting and other field work as well as the saturated reality of much of last October. There was some equipment used on 10/11 as part of some final cover crop seeding. RR and KG received training on working in seed using IH265 with the Williams Tool Bar cultivator’s spring tines and the Ford towing the disc cultivator, then used ATV with roller to compress soil over the seed. On 10/24 the box truck had a minor accident in Hopewell when it collided with a lamp post. The accident was reported promptly and without issue.
Administration 101.5hrs: Time spent on administrative tasks tripled from September, but was roughly the same as October 2011. As the season is winding down and days growing shorter, darker, colder, and wetter the appeal of spending time in the office tabulating data and summarizing the season increases.
10/2- “Payroll, Email, Website updates”
10/4- BY posts October 2011 Summary, discussion on how to organize and date photos
10/9- Staff Meeting at Farmhouse w/ coffee! Agenda for meeting is to engage crew to brainstorm task list and priorities. Notes:
10/16- Data entry: MR on oversight, payroll, accounting/bills; RR on greenhouse summary; KG on financial data entry into Quicken. Also our organic certification inspection took place on this day. Our inspector was kind enough to let 2nd year apprentices KG and RR take part and get some experience of the process. Notes:
10/17- MR interviewing potential candidate for program next year
10/20- MR receives ‘BFF’ Award from NOFA-NJ for “Contribution and Support for NOFA’s Beginning Farmer Program”. BFF stands for Beginning Farmer Friend. Congratulations MR!
Infrastructure 104.5hrs: General clean-up jobs typically fall under the infrastructure element. In October that means a lot of things coming out of the fields to prepare for winter; used drip tape, tomato stakes and trellising string, etc. The ongoing wood splitting also falls under this element.
10/3- Tomato field clean-up, ½ field finished.
10/3 to 10/5- Cleaning out adolescent chicken pen in preparation for them moving in. A concrete block floor was installed. Chix moved in.
10/29 to 10/31- Various hurricane clean-up jobs. Much of our Remay was ruined; a note in the log reads “wet, muddy, ripped, tangled!”
Greenhouse 12hrs: By this time of the year there is not too much left to do in the greenhouses. The few hours logged were mostly clean-up although an entry on 10/2 reports that the FHG tomatoes were “pimped out”, pruned, clipped, and cleaned-up.
As the hurricane approached we opted to leave the plastic on the greenhouses and secure them as best we could. During the hurricane we observed some serious bending and racking of the Farmhouse Gothic greenhouse as the plastic was catching a lot of wind. The call was made to cut the plastic in the hope of preventing the loss of the structure. It made for an exciting time in the middle of the storm! We were able to cut the plastic using an improvised tool (harvest knife taped to a long pole) to cut along the ridge line and secure the two halves. The structure survived and the plastic was replaced the following spring.
Composting 12hrs: Some of RR home-made compost tea was applied to GH tomatoes. Also regular compost applications prior to direct seeding in the BGBs and garlic planting.
Planting 39.5 hrs: There was not much planting going on in October. The BGBs were seeded a final time on 10/13; 2 beds of salad and 1 bed spinach. 4 BGBs where also cover cropped in a rye, pea, vetch mix. On 10/18 we got our garlic planted. MR, TH, BY, RR, KG were crew for the planting. Notes remark on the beautiful weather and the increase in efficiency from the previous year. Four beds with two rows each were planted. Below is our planting sheet which contains some of the calculations we used.
The space we had available was:
4 Beds X 2 Rows X 2640 inches (220ft bed length) / by our spacing of 5 inches.
This means we need 4224 garlic cloves to fill the space, rounded up to 4500 to give us a buffer.
We had 48# of our own garlic saved; on average we get 46 cloves per pound of garlic yielding 2208 cloves. From 15# of our own small garlic, yielding 88 cloves per pound, we got 1320 cloves. Together 3528 cloves of our own seed stock.
We also had 12# purchased seed garlic, at an average 42 cloves per pound yielding 504 cloves.
Final total of available garlic for planting was 4032 cloves, which was 200-500 less than we calculated for, however since the field in which the garlic was planted is prone to flooding on it’s ends it was not necessarily a bad thing to shorten the beds up.
Crop Care 117 hrs: As fall deepens the cold temperatures become more common and frosts more frequent and severe. This can give us a bit of a break with the weeds, as certain varieties will not survive the cold and everything is growing slower, but it means another crop care job moves to the forefront; Remay. Remay is a lightweight fabric row cover we use in conjunction with metal hoops to protect our crops from cold damage. It can be frustrating to handle, especially if there is any wind. This past year we started using wider sections to cover more beds with one length, and it makes the job a lot easier. Instead of using 6 pieces for 6 rows, we can use 1 piece for 6 rows. On 10/11 the log notes “First Serious Frost Warning, Cover Crops!!!”
Harvesting 277hrs: Regular Wednesday (for Hopewell), Thursday and Friday (WWCFM and Summit) harvests continued. Notes:
Handling 121.5 hrs: Regular Wednesday, Thursday and Friday rinse and sorting continued. In addition, on 10/10 sorting, stripping, and breaking cloves apart of seed garlic was completed.
Marketing 165 hrs: In addition to our regular markets, CH attended the market at Gravity Hill Farm with an offering of specialty dried herb teas.
Special Projects 9 hrs: Most of the special project hours this month logged by KG for the Micro Green project. Thanks to RR for helping with another late night harvest by flashlight on 10/13.
On 10/15 North Slope hosted a NOFA-NJ incubator interview and social dinner for NOFA Beginning Farmers Tom, Jonathan, and Taylor. The log reads “excellent evening, nice energy and enthusiasm” and I must agree, it was a fun time.
Weather: October was wet, and then Hurricane Sandy hit on the 29th.
Week 1: Humid and Rainy
Week 2: Rain transitioning to cold and dry. “Hard frost warning”
Week 3: Wet, strong winds and cold nights. “No hard freeze yet”
Week 4: “Sweet and mild” then “Forecast Darkening” and “Super Storm Approaching”
Monthly Summary – October 2011
Logs reviewed and summary prepared by BY September 27th, 2012
Rainy conditions from late summer rolled into October leaving behind saturated conditions. First week saw clear skies but that led to continued rain through the second week. Mid month saw the planting of the BGB’s with fennel, scallions, kale and beets as well as winter cover crops. Special projects included a newly built loft in the seed shed and harvesting throughout the month included tomatoes, carrots, salad mix, arugula, tot soi, scallions, peppers, tea and parsley. The month came to a close with an unprecedented snow storm that dropped about twelve inches of snow and took the power out for three days as a result of snow covered tree branches falling on power lines.
Equipment 37 hrs:
Most of these hours were dedicated to trying to fix the Kabota which was difficult to start at the beginning of the month and by the third week it wouldn’t start at all. The crew backblew the fuel line, bled air successfully, but it still would not work.
Administration 97 hrs:
Normal payroll duties and filing of 3rd quarter payroll tax returns. $30,000 balance in bank account seems to indicate above break even cash position and potential exists for full payment of 2011 liabilities. Crew worked on element focus for next year and created new map folder. End of month crew meeting to discuss remainder of season and markets also took place. Plan discussed regarding the coming cold weather strategy to cover beds with plastic and remay.
Infrastructure 92 hrs:
Chickens moved to new locations along with other normal chores. Identified need to find winter housing for chickens and the 2011’s are getting too big for their coop. Location still unidentified at end of month, but future logs indicate the 2011’s ended up spending the winter in the farmhouse gothic. Cleaning and stowing equipment for winter was part of normal cold weather preparation. The power went out in the farmhouse due to snow storm for two and a half days. The basement flooded and was pumped out with a gas powered water pump.
Greenhouse 16 hrs:
I assume winter production seedlings were tended to but no log entries to verify that.
Composting 12 hrs:
Cleaned piles and received horse manure and shavings from Charlie Gilbert on 10/6 and one load of piled on heavy base of woodchips. On 10/18 the crew composted garlic beds plus seven others, nine total beds composted.
Planting 69 hrs:
On 10/11 the crew weed wacked, broad forked and fertilized BGB’s in order to plant fennel, scallions, kale & beets. Planted winter cover crop-triticale rye, hairy vetch and Austrian winter pea at five times recommended rate due to late seeding and rough manner of seeding including disking to cover the seed and forecast of lots of rain. Germinated well, chickens began eating it but figured it was ok as a result of the heavy seeding. End of month saw the preparation of field beds for garlic, 3 beds planted on 10/25. The crew forked the old basil bed in corner garden, seeding with spinach to overwinter, saw good germination 30 days later.
Crop Care 102 hrs:
10 Entries for irrigation during the month, mostly Ralphs house and Farmhouse Gothic. On10/5 hoed new salad mix in the west beds and on 10/6 hand weeded the BGB’s. Cleaned up tomato fields starting mid month. Set up rebar and remay on beds in preparation for cold days ahead.
Harvesting 119 hrs:
Harvested carrots, salad mix, arugula, tot soi and scallions and parsley throughout the month. Tomatoes harvested until mid month then cleanup of tomato fields began. Tea was harvested successfully and included Hyssop, Comfrey and Nettle. On 10/12, 220 pounds of winter squash was harvested: Butternut, Acorn, Delicate and Kabotcha from one fifth acre. The assessment is this would mean a price of $18 per pound to meet $20,000 per acre requirement. Farm manager is reluctant to sell the squash and would prefer to utilize it on the farm. Recognized a need for a solid assignment of the true value in order to determine if it can be considered a “cash crop”
Handling 96 hrs:
Normal handling of salad mix, kale, chard and carrots took place. The crew came up with the “swirling bucket” technique for washing carrots, presumably to make cold weather washing more bearable.
Marketing 207 hrs:
West Windsor: 10/1- $1,588, 10/8 – $1,247, 10/15 – $1,429, 10/22 – $1,226, 10/29 – $724.25 Average sales for month=$1,243
Summit: 10/2 – $3,370, 10/9 – $2,500, 10/16 – $2,865, 10/23 – $2,780, 10/30 – $565 Average sales for month= $2,416
Hopewell: 10/5 – $616.50, 10/12 – $393, 10/19 – $240, 10/26 – $476.50 Average sales for month= $431.50
Total October 2011 Market Income: $20,020.25
NOFA NJ requested veggies for their winter conference, no word on whether any were delivered.
There was some discussion of viability of Hopewell market through November considering low customer base and high rent.
Special Projects 58 hrs:
Cutting Hay in Veg D led to getting stuck as soil was too wet to pull implement. On 10/10 39 hay bales were harvested. Lots of wood splitting for the farmhouse, and a new loft was built in the seed shed. Total cost was $560 and completed with 10 worker hours.
Week 1: lots of rain, saturated conditions.
Week 2: Heavy rain
Week 3: Dropping temperatures but clear skies.
Week 4: First frost and a Halloween blizzard to end the month.