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Monthly Summary May 2010

May 18th, 2011 | Posted by Kyle in Monthly Summary - (105 Comments)

Monthly Summary – May 2010
Prepared by KG May 16th 2011
Mowing 

 General Observations: May was a very busy month. In worker hours it was the second highest of the year with a total of 1051 hours. Spring is in full swing, the vegetation around the farm is growing heartily and the weather is getting warm enough for outdoor planting to proceed as the risk of frost diminishes. With increased production comes an increased need for maintenance. Crop care, harvesting, handling and all the other elements are affected as more is being grown. May marks a shift in priority tasks, crop care and keeping on target with succession planting must take precedence while basic operations cannot be neglected. The result of this is a busier time as the farm shakes off the last of winter’s sleep and launches fully into the season’s production.

 
Administration 59hrs: The regular tasks of accounting and paying bills were attended to, as was payroll. A rainy morning was a good time for a crew meeting to discuss priorities for the month. MR reviewed by-laws and vendor regulations in preparation for a Hopewell Market Meeting. On 5/19 an accident report was made, the Hay Rake was crashed into and severely damaged by a car/truck.

 
Infrastructure 150 hrs: Lots of infrastructure work this month, by worker hours May was the heaviest of the year for infrastructure. Moving and caring for the poultry was a weekly chore with the chickens out in the field. Having the chickens in the field certainly improves their quality of life, but also exposes them to danger as was seen twice this month in fox attacks. On the 11th 7 of the ’08 chickens were lost, and on the 22nd 9 more were lost.

With everything now green and growing, maintenance of pathways and waterways became a larger task. In addition to maintaining the key arteries of the farm, beds needed to be mowed in preparation for planting.

Also in May, the pool was swept and prepared for use.

On 5/23 a problem with the farm water system was discovered, a burnt wire was found in the well pump control unit. Resetting the system frequently proved ineffective, and on 6/2 a repairman came and repaired the well. In the mean time the farmhouse water system was used to fill in as best as possible, but with some inconvenience.

Equiptment 90hrs: Lots of equipment training this month, second year interns SJ ST and RCM were trained on various equipment/practices including rototilling, tilling, disking and cultivating with a tractor.

The Kubota was serviced on 5/13, problems with the starter were troubleshot. A note in the log suggests the blades be replaced by this time next year.

JD received new application of Teflon tape which leaked at first but then held after tightening.

 
Greenhouse 69.5 hrs: With so much of the farm activity shifting to planting and crop care there was much less going on the in greenhouses this month compared to the last. By mid-month only one bed of Swiss Chard from last fall remained in Ralph’s house, the rest of the winter production was cleared.

Tomatoes were potted on and more plants seeded for seedling sales. On 5/30 the need to prepare for the seeding the next succession was mentioned in the log.

 
Composting 43hrs: Plenty of composting as field beds were being prepared for planting. BGBs and field beds being readied for planting received one trailer load per bed. Blackberries received a covering of mulch.

 
Planting 116 hrs: Lots of planting this month, with a heavy focus in the Big Garden Beds. There were two plantings of salad mix in May, as well as the planting of mixed beds of radishes with carrots and turnips with carrots. On 5/21 tomatoes were planted, in one long day of hard work all the available varieties were planted out in the field. About 100 each of Sungold, Brandywine, and Striped German as well as smaller numbers of Arbason, Crimson Sprinter, Corsalo, Cheroke Purple, and Green Zebra made it out into the field for the first time in their cowpots. On 5/25 some of the second succession was planted; Squash, Chard, and Zinnias in Veg B north.

 

Crop Care 215 hrs: With spring here and having crops out in the field weeding became a major part of the daily activity at North Slope Farm. Hand-weeding, scuffle hoeing, weed-wacking, mowing and tractor cultivating were all used to clear weeds. Strawberries were weeded and peas were trellised. A note in the log warns that “crop care could consume us all…”

 
Harvesting 129 hrs: May marked a change in harvesting as the greenhouse production came to an end and was replaced by crops from the field. Salad mix, Arugala, and Chard were harvested from the BGBs at first, with Kale left to grow larger. By the end of the month kale, garlic scapes and turnips were being harvested for market.

 
Handling 48.5hrs: Regular washing for markets, eggs washed for Bent Spoon. Strawberry plants potted on 3 to a container for sale at market along with other seedlings.

 
Market 118hrs: May 1st was the first of the Saturday markets at West Windsor, which meant now North Slope Farm was harvesting, preparing, and attending two markets a week. Seedlings helped to bolster market revenue and notes about selling out in the log indicate that overall markets this month went well. CH also set up a farm-stand file and spreadsheet to track deliveries, the farm-stand was cleaned up and display cooler turned on.

 
Special Projects 29hrs: Hay cutting in 579 field.

Cost calculations for poultry production were made comparing Winter and April feed costs to eggs produced. The cost per dozen eggs of WP was calculated to be $2.39 vs AP costs of $1.57 per dozen eggs.

 
Weather:
Week 1: May started off hot, 90* on the first of the month. By the end of the week however the weather had changed and conditions were windy and cold.
Week 2: Much colder, with some rain. Frosts overnight on the 9th and 10th caused some crop damage, loss of 50 pepinos noted in log.
Week 3: Continued cold this week, with some days of heavy rain. By the end of the week conditions were sunny and warm again.
Week 4: Warm and sunny for most of the week, conditions allowing for the tractors to get into the fields. Some heavy rainfall arrived at the end of the month, just in time to prevent the need for irrigation being used.

Winter Production – Introduction

October 19th, 2010 | Posted by steven in Special Projects | Winter Production - (Comments Off on Winter Production – Introduction)

Winter Production
Introduction, prepared by ST

October 19, 2010

Intent: To extend the growing season of leafy greens, lettuce, and root crops to serve our existing outlets such as Hopewell Farmers Market, Nomad Pizza, and Zone 7.

Parameters:

• Capital Investment; North Slope Farm

• Daily management; RCM and ST

• Site Details; infrastructure and fields managed by North Slope Farm
        o 6 outdoor low tunnels 5’ W X 40’ L
        o 2 unheated green houses
                  Farmhouse Gothic; 28’ X 84’ w/ 4 beds @ 48” wide
                  Ralph’s House; 27’ X 76’ w/ 4 beds @ 48” wide
        o 1 heated Greenhouse for table top production

• Outdoor low tunnels will cover crops such as tatsoi, spinach, and arugula. Two cuttings are expected for harvest. The hoops are constructed of 3/8” X 12’ rebar covered in recycled drip tube. The outer skin is 6 mil plastic that is 13’ W X 50’ W. A layer of remay may be added to the interior for extra warmth and reduced temperature fluctuation.

• One hoop house will be used for direct seeded crops such as spinach, arugula, tatsoi, and salad mix. The other hoop house will be used for transplanted crops such as kale, scallions, leeks, swiss chard, fennel, and beets. Carrots and radishes have been direct seeded into one open bed early, as the other beds are currently occupied by late planted tomatoes.

• .The heated greenhouse will be used for table top production of salad mix. Potted herbs such as parsley and basil will also be grown.

• Regular records will be kept of costs and production. Worker hours and market income will be tracked. The materials purchased should be able to be reused, improving profit margins in future seasons.
          o $385.60 for seed costs
          o $370 for plastic and remey over three years
          o $90.80 for rebar and sand over ten years
          o $108 for plastic sandbags over three year
                      Total $954.40 for one year

• Workers will have to be mindful of temperature to open and close the low tunnels or remove remey in the hoop houses. The difficulty of winter weather will be a challenge in harvesting, handling, and marketing. Costs will be calculated against profit to see if this is a viable operation for North Slope Farm.

• The inspiration for winter production at North Slope Farm came from a lecture at the NOFA summer conference. A Connecticut grower, in zone 3, presented a low tech option of covering field crops to produce a nutritious and profitable product for his customers during the winter time. This inspired me to keep producing local organic food through the winter. I hope that having a consistent presence through the winter will support existing customers and win over new customers. Winter production also keeps workers on the farm and in constant dialogue with agriculture. Some challenges we have already faced have been 30mph winds blowing off our outdoor low tunnels. Did we cut the plastic too short? Are the sandbags not filled enough? Do the tunnels need to be smaller? At what temperature should we open and close the tunnels? These are questions that have already risen and in the middle of the winter I am sure there will be many more. To supply fresh local organic food is the main goal and we will need support from our community to make it a reality.

Winter

Equipment – Special Focus

October 19th, 2010 | Posted by steven in Equipment | Training - (Comments Off on Equipment – Special Focus)

Equipment – Special Focus

 10/19/2010

 Summary

       My focus this year was equipment. The first task I had was to make a list and identify every piece of equipment on the farm. My list will need to be modified and added to because as the season rolled on more equipment emerged out of overgrown grass and other equipment never worked in the first place. Troubleshooting was eminent from all of the challenges we had with equipment failure this year. In the beginning of the season our main work horse, the ATV, would no longer start. After checking loose cables, gas lines, and the spark plug we realized that there was a more serious problem going on. I checked the internet with the ATV’s make, year, and model and all signs pointed to a problem with the electronic motor start system. This was further backed up when a proper electrical test determined it needed a new starter system. The ATV spent over a month and half in the shop and we were left to improvise with the equipment we had working to spread compost, assist in planting, and move vegetables and materials around the farm. We were very happy when the ATV came back from the shop.

            I started the season with retrofitting a trailer top to a new chassis. This was a great exercise in simple metal work and structural design. Out of tube stock and bolts I was able to customize an attachment point that has held strong all season with a lot of use.  General maintenance started with locating and greasing zerks (nozzles that the grease gun attaches to) on all of the machines so they were ready for the field. A procedure was placed when operating all machinery that entailed checking the fuel, coolant, and oil levels. Even though we tried to do this before each use, the hectic frenzy of trying to get things done when time allows led to some mistakes. We ran out of gas in the field and towed the tractor in with MR’s Volvo to only realize the tractor needed gas. Gasoline was put in the Kubota mower instead of diesel, something that was done several times in the past years as well. For the most part machines were fixed and we made do with what was available.

 Here are some notes from the maintenance log:

 John Deer 2240: Hydraulic hose leaked and it seems to be because of the new fitting attachment. We put Teflon tape and liquid rubber that created a gasket to solve the problem.

 Maschio Rototiller: Gear box set to medium low. This caused the Ford 4600 to overheat after two passes of rototilling. We set the gearbox to low and the overheating has stopped.

 Bachtold Mower: Blade would not engage when the lever was pressed. Everything seemed to work mechanically. The nut at the bottom of the mower was tightened and allowed the blade to be engaged.

 Spring Hoe tires: After pulling the implement out of overgrown grass we discovered the tires were rotted. MR found a local dealer for new tires, but we lost valuable hours to get into the field before the rain began

       The reality of farming is that not everything works when you need it to. Also, farming is dependent on weather and field conditions so failed equipment can be very disruptive. This season I had the opportunity to use all of the field implements to turn new ground, which require minimal maintenance and a working tractor. I also was able to trouble shoot small engine machines, which are critical in bed preparation and field care. I have learned that we need to have a station that is organized and in a central location to fix our small machines and tractors.  We need to label our fuel clearly as well. Our hand tools we use in the field can also be reorganized for better care and clarity for potential newcomers. As the season slows down I am looking forward to placing some procedures in place dealing with equipment and finally doing the much needed oil change on all of the tractors.

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