Last Saturday, I celebrated one year at the Heart of Virginia Farmer’s Market. It’s been a wild ride and quite frankly I was rather surprised when the other vendors told me they were sure from the outset that I’d make it. A year ago, I wasn’t so sure. Having product every week was a huge challenge. There were times over the winter that I had nothing but eggs, jam and garlic for sale. But I had something. Every week. For me that is a huge accomplishment. There’s still tweaking to do with the grow plan so I can avoid those minimal offerings in the depths of winter. I’m using homemade bread to bulk up my offerings now and it’s selling well. I try to stuff as much wholesome vegetable goodness into the breads as I can – Beet Bread, Kale Pesto bread, Potato Rye, etc. You get the idea. Apriori Farm Bread – a gateway drug to get you to eat your vegetables.
My latest problem is the lack of a real spring. We had January cold in February and February cold in March. After a few mild weeks in April, we’re back to the pattern, with March cold in April. The result of the unseasonable cold is the spring brassicas got transplanted according to the grow plan, then the cold convinced nearly all of it that winter had come. With the first hint of warmth, any plants that survived the cold bolted. I have no kale! How is that possible? Kale is so cold hardy. There is no cabbage, no broccoli, no cauliflower. The garden is such a sad place right now. This time last year, it was bursting with life. February sown carrots sprouted just last week. The beets haven’t even considered germinating. The other vendors at market are advising me to just rip it all out and plant summer veg. Um, yeah. Low temperatures this week are forecast to be in the lower 40’s. Not exactly squash, bean and tomato weather.
I do have tomatoes in the hoophouse, but they’ve been reluctant to get going. Not big enough to trellis, but still short enough to easily cover from the threat of frost we had a few nights ago.
Out in the riding ring, 90’ of peas grew 3” and stopped. I guess the horse manure we put down wasn’t finished enough for peas. Some experimental corn transplants (Trinity F1) languished for a while, but had started growing pretty well during the brief spell of April warmth. Don’t know if it will make it past this current run of cold and nasty. Turnips and horse radish never sprouted, but the onion sets I put out last week are started to establish themselves. Mostly though, that area of the grow space is in a holding pattern, waiting for warmth.
One bright spot right now is the hoophouse, where I have more lettuce than I can sell and the chard is producing enough harvestable leaves to keep chard lovers happy. I’ve been interplanting onions among the lettuce heads and chard and the aphid infestation has backed down considerably since the onions got established.
It’s been a bad spring for web worms in the fruit trees, but most of the orchard crammed its blossom into the mild first weeks of April and thus dodged the frosts. There might actually be tree fruit this year!
I installed two new bee packages on April 4th and their first round of larvae should be hatching this weekend (it took a week for the queens to get loose from their cages.) There’s plenty of pollen and nectar about for them since everything that blooms late winter to early spring all came in at once. Even the maples, normally a February bloomer, waited until April.
All over the farm, life is finding a way around the bizarre lack of spring time. The major plants we put in the new hedgerow last spring survived well, despite total neglect. Same for a surprising number of the wee tree seedlings we set out to get new wind breaks going. And the goldfish we dumped in the pond several years ago have survived and multiplied. We had written them off a long time ago and were delighted to discover them still clinging to life in our tiny little pond.
I’ve begun harvesting asparagus for the first time only to discover when I have asparagus so does EVERYONE else. Tough to sell.
Last week, I became a vendor for Buckingham Berkshire Pork and that is going to take some clever marketing to move. But having to store it here on the farm, forced me to go out and buy a couple of extra refrigerators. That’s been on “the list” for a long time. I knew I would need them come summer.
In short, it’s been non-stop activity for about two months now without a lot to show for my efforts, save experience that will dictate yet more changes for next year’s grow plan – small sowings of cool season crops transplanted weekly instead of large plantings scheduled a couple of weeks apart.