1.3.2016 Birthing a Baby

Back in October, I made a rather rash decision. I needed more indoor grow space to overwinter things like kale and spinach, and maybe provide room to get an early start on carrots. So I purchased the parts I needed from Lar-Lyn Farms, good people in Buckingham county who have been mentors and cheerleaders.

As soon as it was delivered though, I knew I had planned to put it in the wrong place. In my north/south kitchen garden, siting the hoophouse on the east side would put the rest of the garden into morning shade. The same type of morning shade that caused so much trouble in the 2014 growing season when I had eight foot pole beans shading all the squash.

You see, I do learn from my mistakes. Sort of. We built the new hoophouse in the garden expansion in the former riding ring. Everything I tried to grow in the riding ring in 2015, failed. The manure I used wasn’t properly composted and was too hot and the high level of pine shavings in it made the soil dry out very quickly. For the 2015 grow season, I put down heavy cardboard, spread the bad manure on top and planted directly into that, relying on soil life to do the job of tilling. Weeds grew great in this mix, garden plants, beans and tomatoes mostly didn’t care for the site at all.

But the remaining pile of bad manure has had a whole year to age and decompose, and hopefully that improved it. I spread that on the new hoophouse site and reluctantly tilled it in, with an actual tiller. Then it started raining. Around Thanksgiving, we started actual construction, pounding in ground posts, affixing arches, hanging purlins. Then Thanksgiving, Christmas parades, college graduation, band concerts, holiday get togethers, and market days happened. And rain. So much rain. I didn’t keep good records, but I suspect we got nearly 10 inches for the month and rarely saw the sun. On Christmas Eve, we got 3 inches and had a fair-sized creek running through the normally dry bottoms. Hard to use power tools outside in such conditions.

Yesterday, my husband and I put in a full day, mostly fitting plastic on the end walls and making doors and windows. I checked the weather frequently, looking for some slack in the wind forecast. It’s nearly impossible to manage a 24’x50’ piece of plastic in any sort of wind. No calm days in the forecast. Bitter cold due by Monday evening. I decided to risk it yesterday, with an intermittent 4-7 mph, but when we opened the box of greenhouse film, it was the wrong material. So we finished doors instead while we waited on Lar-Lynn Farms to bring us the correct covering.

It was nearly dark, by the time Larry and Lynn drove up with the replacement. The wind was finally dead calm and my husband and I were just too tired to keep working. And hungry. In our eagerness to have it done, we rolled right out of bed and went to work. No stopping for breakfast or lunch. After we finally ate dinner, (thank goodness for left overs) I still had to make a trip to town for a third pack of furring strips.

Same story, different day. This morning we finished up the transom windows, and were about to prep the roll bars but couldn’t figure out how to work the hand crank that came with the kit. 48 feet of 12 gauge steel is heavy. Too heavy for me. So we altered our plans for the roll bars and that required another trip to town for electrical conduit. Finally, around 2:00, we were ready to put the film on. My husband, daughter, son and I got it done, despite the slight breeze. We got so lucky. As I write this, the wind has come around from the southwest to the north and is holding steady at 5, with 15 mph gusts. We could never have covered the hoophouse with that sort of breeze. But it’s done now. Just a few holes to plug around the doors.IMG_1643 IMG_1644

All during the construction, when things didn’t quite line up like they ought to, I kept telling my husband we weren’t building a pyramid that had to come together in a perfect point. We have one door and one window opening that are strong with the Dr. Seuss side of the force and are more trapezoid than rectangle. One side of the hoophouse is 48 feet 2” long and the other side is 48 feet 8”. Can’t explain that. We measured very carefully. However, hoophouses are very forgiving and little oddities like that are easy to compensate for. It’s going to get a lot harder to do that once we start construction on the packing shed/carport/emergency animal shelter/windbreak for the new hoop house. Who knew rectangles were so hard.

I am so sore in the quads from all the squatting involved in hoophouse construction. My husband says our Quonset steel barn has birthed yet another baby. Um, no. He and I birthed this baby and this one hurt more than all other babies combined. Age will do that to you.

Tomorrow, I am moving my daughter to Raleigh and somewhere in the day, I have to find time to seal up my other hoophouse and add low tunnels inside it to protect the lettuce, chard and beets. Plus I’ve got cabbage, kohlrabi and kale growing outside without protection. Don’t think that’ll survive the teens. All that will need to be either heavily mulched or picked. Going to be a very long day.

The Christmas break was wonderfully refreshing, but it sure feels good to be back at work. And, three days into the year, I can cross one major project off the list. Oh, happy day!

Other Farm Happenings this week:

  • The horses passed their semi-annual inspection
  • One of my laying hens just up and died, for unknown reasons
  • Ordered a new batch of chicks in hopes they’ll be laying before the rest of my existing flock disappears
  • We got an estimate and lined up a contractor to put a new roof on the house
  • I purchased 16 new Italian Stone Pines to replace some of the dead trees that didn’t make it in our windbreaks.  Italian Stone Pines really like life on Apriori Farm.  White pines, Concolor Fir, Serbian Spruce and Scotch pine, not so much.
  • We spent New Year’s Eve with very good friends and ended up doing a lot of 1980’s reminiscing due to the big hair sported by many of the entertainers in Times Square. Is big hair back?  I didn’t get the memo.
  • And finally, we managed to get our Black Eyed Peas on New Year’s Day in this super yummy recipe (Just left out all that cilantro stuff and substituted about a tablespoon of dried parsley.  Perfect!):  Black Eyed Pea Cakes with Chipotle Mayonnaise

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