I am now putting updates on our Facebook page, check in and "like" us.
Just a couple quick notes...
Heirloom Seed Workshop
Door prizes, free seed samples, etc...
Friday March 6th
Harrison Co. Extension Office
668 New Lair Rd
You must sign up ahead of time by calling 859-234-5510
Appalachian Seed Swap
Saturday April 4th
9:00 a.m. to noon
Pike Central High School
100 Winner Circle Drive
Cold morning! We are at 5 degrees this morning. This is our third single digit morning this month. We did not get our first frost last fall until November 1st. I can never remember a late frost like that. By November 18, we were at 18 degrees. What a fast change. I am hoping we don't get too many single digit mornings this winter as this is hard on everything: people, animals and plants. We are busy pulling, packing and shipping seed orders. We ship twice a week, every Thursday and Saturday. We use the USPS and have always been very happy with their service. We also still have some beans to shell and art slowing getting these finished up.
We have been asked about progress on the barn renovations. It is a slow project. In the winter, I do not even try to work outside so the barn work is usually early spring and late fall. One part of the barn had a corner post completely rotted away along with extensive roof damage. The corner post was replaced with a salvage post from a local barn of similar age that was torn down. Reconstruction of that part of the barn was finished complete with new rafters, skylight and new storage loft.
We are slowly working on the next section. All the footings on the barn are stacked rock and have sunk over the past 115 years. I am jacking up the posts to their proper height, cutting off the rotten bottoms, digging and pouring new footings and building a raised block above ground to complete the height difference. Since all of the original spans are 12 foot, I am adding additional support posts. Finally, much of the barn is getting new stringers and barn siding (local sawn oak). I will have the south side of the barn finished this year and will start on the north end this coming fall.
To my surprise, we have not had a frost yet this year. The morning of October 5th was cold, down to 39 degrees and so far that is the coldest morning yet. Things are going to sleep anyway, nature knows it is time for a winter nap. We have all of our crops harvested with the exception of the winter squash which I will finish this week. Saturday we picked the last of the beans and a small bucket of peppers. We have most of the beds mowed off and ready for the raked leaves, lime, manure and maybe planting some wheat if the weather cooperates some this fall.
I am about half way thru shelling and sorting the beans and most of the corn is shelled. Over the next few weeks, we will be updating the site with some more new items. We are several weeks ahead of last year. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange has received most of their contracted seed for Aunt Mary's Sweet Corn and Cherokee Greasy Beans and we should have their balance shipped to them yet this month.
Once again, summer has come and almost gone. What a busy summer it has been! The bean and corn crops did quite well, July was cooler than normal and there were quite a few rain showers to help things along. For anyone not familiar with our growing practices, we are "dry farmed", that is no irrigation. This really makes the crops work for their moisture and nutrient take up. This also shows us which crops do well and which ones struggle in various conditions. At this point, over half of the beans are picked and are drying in the greenhouse. I have about 2/3 of the Aunt Mary's Sweet Corn crop picked and drying down with about a dozen or so rows to finish this week. We also grew out a small crop of an old dent corn from Bryson City, North Carolina area named "Freeman Strain" White Capped Yellow Dent. It is an old "Southern Derived Dent", a few stalks have tillers and most stalks have 2 full sized ears. Kernels are a dark orange with a white or light colored cap, very much like "candy corn". Stalks on this variety are pretty tall, about 10-12' tall. White Capped Yellow Dents were once very common but are quite rare today. I also have a very late planted old dent corn from southern Ohio coming along and should be mature enough to harvest in early October.
On a slightly different front...we planted 300 grape vines this summer! What a learning curve too! I want to thank everyone that came out and helped to get these all planted. Most are doing well and hopefully this coming winter isn't to harsh. I have started to construct the trellis with a lot more posts yet to be bought and set. This is something we have wanted to do for years and we finally jumped in.
Remember...we are 1 month away from the seed swap at Bill Best's in Berea Kentucky. This is scheduled for October 4th, starting at 9:00 a.m. and going until everyone leaves, usually between 1:00 and 2:00. hope to see everyone there!
May has been on the wet side but in the last few days, many gardens have been tilled and planted. Plant sales have been brisk and we have moved out quite a few tomato plants in the past 2 weekends. We still have a very good selection and we have only sold out of one variety so far. A rough estimate is we still have over 800 plants available. Best sellers this year are Black Mountain Pink, Vinson Watts, Kentucky Beefsteak, Old German and Hillbilly. I also have some small seedlings just now getting transplanted so these will be ready mid June and we will have plants available until the end of June this year. We have drawn plant buyers from as far away as Dayton and Washington Courthouse this year.
As we predicted, we had a very late frost this spring. I talked to several people that had frost on the mornings of May 16 and May 18. We planted Aunt Mary's sweet corn on May 8 and side dressed fertilizer last week just before the rains. On May 26 we planted 19 different types of pole beans and still have about 12 more pole bean varieties to get planted. Sometime in June we will plant our bush beans. Getting planted out into the beds this week are the balance of tomato plants, pepper plants, eggplants, tomatillos along with direct sowing okra, cucumbers and winter squash. Overall we are getting planted on a timely manner this year.
Barn renovations are continuing. One original corner post had slid off it's original stacked rock footing over the past 100 years. This post was raised over 12", the bottom trimmed off, new concrete footing installed and the post reset. Additional load bearing posts and new girts are being installed. A new sliding door and entry door are also being installed on the greenhouse facing end. Local 1" thick rough sawn oak siding will be installed to finish off this end of the barn's exterior.
We added two new pieces of equipment this spring. We upgraded our worn out, light weight 56" Caroni tiller to a King Kutter II 72" tiller and what a huge difference. This piece is much better built and made here in Ohio. We also upgraded our 1950's five foot "bush hog" to a new six foot Frontier RC2072 rotary cutter. Both pieces should be a lifetime purchase.
Spring is finally here. I have been evaluating things around the farm and things overall made it thru the winter pretty good. The blueberry bushes need some dead wood trimmed out but overall look decent. Our small strawberry patch is almost a total loss. Our one and only seedless blackberry though was killed down to the crown but there are lots of new buds coming up so it is not a total loss. This past winter didn't seem to bother the wild blackberries at all. Garlic is all looking good. Potatoes are just pushing up as are onion sets. To my surprise, we had quite a few gladiolus survive the winter! Last fall turned off cold and wet early and we never got them dug up. I had already bought a new bag of bulbs to replace what we lost. What a surprise.
Earlier this month, I spent several hours with the tractor and tiller reworking a couple areas to improve drainage. With all the rain we had this week, I was able to see how things did and I am happy with the reworked areas. Much, much more drainage work needs done and actually a lot of tile work actually needs done. I will continue drainage improvements as I have time.
Most of the beds have received a quick tilling, enough to chop up crop residue. I put down 450 pounds of powdered lime along with some boron last week. I still need about another 1,000 pounds of lime spread yet this spring along with some gypsum (great source of sulfur without changing soil PH). Soil tests are needed before making adjustments and I send all of my soil samples to Spectrum Analytic in Washington Courthouse. Soil sampling is easy and cheap and really takes the guess work out of your gardens and farmland.
We have been transplanting tomatoes in the greenhouse and have over 1,000 done so far with more yet to come. This year we stepped up to larger pots for the tomatoes, going from a 3-1/2" pot to a 4" pot. We will start selling these this coming weekend. Selection is good and we try to have plants the right size to put out mid May. It is still too early to plant tender crops like tomatoes out yet. The long range forecast looks safe so far as for frost but it is still early and the soil temperature is too low. A week ago, soil temperature was still 49 degrees at less than 2" below the surface. Crops like tomatoes will not grow in soil this cold, they will not root out into it.
This is the perfect time to finish cleaning out the gardens and flower beds.
Early spring...finally. What a winter we had! We ended up with about 48" of total snow this winter, in the top 3 snowiest years ever recorded for our area. It is good to see clean ground after such a harsh winter. Long range outlook from O.S.U. is saying slightly below normal temps for the next month and our final "freeze" will be later than normal. I suspect our final frost will also be later than normal. We have been having a final frost most years around May 10-12 but I have seen it as late as May 19 in recent years and this spring may follow this same path. I recommend not setting out tender plants too early this year.
Once the ground is dry enough to work, it is time to plant potatoes and onions. It is time to start cabbage, lettuce and other cold crops too. It is also time to start pepper and tomato seeds indoors. Remember, once they emerge, they need lots of strong direct light. A grow light works great but a window sill is not enough light and plants will stretch trying to gather all the light they can.
So far, all our equipment has checked out good. We are slowly getting all the maintenance done so when the time comes, we can get to tilling and planting. This year's major corn seed growout will be "Aunt Mary's Sweet Corn", an heirloom variety from here in Ohio. We are planning on between 1/4 and 1/2 acre to be planted for the sole purpose of a seed crop, much of it has already been contracted by Southern Exposure in Virginia. We are planning on at least 36 different bean varieties to be grown for seed along with a couple squash and a cucumber. It looks like we will have between 35 and 40 varieties of tomato seedlings available this spring. Plants will not be available until the first weekend of May.
We were featured in the current issue of Salt magazine. The two page article was good exposure for the farm and has created more interest in what we do. You can view this issue online at www.thesaltmagazine.com for the next 30 days.
Mid winter...and what a winter is has been so far. December and the holidays came and went without any problems, but January was a bear. By the end of January, we ended up at about 10" above normal snowfall for the entire winter season and way below normal temperatures with eight mornings below -0- and 7 mornings in the single digits. The coldest morning I recorded was -8. The last few days of January, temperatures moderated and snow melted. On a good note, carry over insects will be reduced. On a bad note, many of the fruit crops were damaged. Ohio's Grape industry was badly damaged from the severe cold. Concorde grapes show a 20% to 30% primary and secondary bud kill. Hybrid grapes are showing from 20% to 80% bud kill depending on the variety. Vinifera grapes are showing a 100% primary and secondary bud kill. What does this mean? Huge fruit losses in Ohio. Early samples also show various cane damage but it will be spring before we know how bad the plant losses really are. It possibly will take up to 3 to 5 years for Ohio's grape industry to recover from the severe cold of this winter.
On Groundhog Day, Punxsutawney Phil predicted another 6 weeks of winter while here in Ohio, Buckeye Chuck is predicting an early spring. We'll see... but this morning as I am writing this, I am looking out at 7" of fresh snow. Luckily, most of the previous snow was already melted and gone before this batch came. With this new snowfall, the roof of the greenhouse is at it's limit and is sagging over 12" and needs cleaned off before tomorrows predicted snow and freezing rain comes. Again...what a winter. Although it doesn't compare to the blizzard of 1977, it is the worse winter since that time.
Today we changed our website over to the new format and hopefully things will go smoothly. We have added quite a few new items this year and many items have pictures that we took during the growing season. I try to add historical information for each items if I have it.
The seed swap at Bill Best's on October 5th was a huge success. There were around 300 people that attended from at least 6 states. A huge amount of seed was traded, bought and sold. I came home with 9 new bean varieties. We were all so busy that most of us really didn't get to visit with old friends. Mary and I did get to have dinner with Rodger and Karen Winn along with Karen's brother and sister-in-law, Dean and Louanne. The evening went so fast, it's hard to catch up a years worth in such a short time. All of us need to take more time to get together and visit with friends more often.
We finally finished harvesting the Cherokee White Flour corn a couple weeks ago and have been busy getting this shelled off and run thru the seed cleaner. At this point, we probably still have 1,500 ears to finish. We have also started to shell out the dry bean seed. I shelled out about 50 pounds of seed last Saturday with our new Taylor Manufacturing Little Pea Sheller. This little machine does wonders on dry beans even though the company doesn't sell it for that purpose. We should have the beans done in the next week or so but the corn will take much longer as it is all shelled by hand. I find that a corn sheller is just too hard on the seed and chips and nicks too much of the seed. Hand shelling is much, much slower but the resulting seed is much better quality. I have already delivered 135 pounds of the Cherokee White Flour corn seed to Southern Exposure Seed Exchange for their catalog. S.E.S.E. also received 15 pounds of Cherokee Greasy Bean seed as well.
I am slowly cutting up winter squash for the seed but don't worry, the fruit does not go to waist. I cook down the squash, blend it smooth, measure it out and freeze it for future baking use. I have already made some pies, always a favorite this time of year as we approach the holidays.