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Monday, May 15, 2017

May 16th and 19th

E-Z Seeding

As I mentioned in last week's blog, most of your vegetables come from plants that are transplanted into the fields.  That means at some point they are seeded into containers, or "flats", in the greenhouse, grown to a large enough size, transplanted into a larger container and then transplanted into the field. Although transplanting has a multitude of benefits (as mentioned in the previous blog), it takes much more time than just direct seeding into the field.  The first thing I plant when I fire up the greenhouse in March is onions.  We plant near 20,000 a year and this task has taken me over 3 days to complete.  A long grueling 3 days in which I have lured in family and friends to help...who have never asked to help again.  It takes precision, good eye sight and patience, most of which humans do not have.  So late last summer I invested in an E-Z seeder.  It's a small, very inventive machine created by a farmer couple in Wisconsin.  The machine itself (basically a vacuum cleaner that is set in reverse) is not expensive.  But the metal plates, that are hand crafted specifically for each farms' use are.  Near $200 each and although I could use 5 or 6, I settled to start with 3.

The first step is to sprinkle the seed onto the plate. (As seen above).

Next I play "roll balls into a hole" game.  (After a google search I think technically that is what the game is called.)  You have all played it, I am sure.  A game found in prize gift bags and Happy Meals alike.  I roll the seeds along the plate until the suction (from the vacuum on reverse) holds a seed onto each hole which is precision drilled into the plate.  (In this picture shown above, there are actually 3 holes drilled close to each other so that 3 seeds drop into each "cell" in the "flat".)

Next, I dump any excess seed into a cup and then tip the tray upside down over the "flat" I want to seed.  (Do not worry! The reverse vacuum is holding the seeds in place in their respective holes.)

Finally, I cut the air from the vacuum (the big red lever), releasing the seeds from their holes and dropping them onto the "flat" by gently tapping the backside of the tray to make sure any stray seeds fall into place.  

And, voila!  I have a full "flat" seeded in near 10 seconds, rather than 10 minutes!

Lastly, I cover the seed with soil and then water each flat.  And then praise the E-Z seeder, a worth while investment!

Cheers to seeds, time saving inventions and locally grown food!!! ....and to those who appreciate it, of course : )

This week's Bounty: spinach, lettuce mix, scallions (transplanted late last summer and overwinter in the filed), over wintered parsnips (oh! so sweet!!), storage carrots and more!

The Farmer's Table:
parsnip/celeriac/beet slaw ... all shredded and blessed with vinegar and oil

the most amazing Baby Back ribs (from our pork):

spinach salad

sauteed spinach

Monday, May 1, 2017

May 2nd and 5th

It all Starts with a Tiny Seed

I could go on and on about how the rain keeps going on and on, but I will save that for another day in hopes that the weather will settle soon.  Instead I will focus on the "growings" on in the greenhouse. Beginning in March, this house is heated with a propane heater, set to about 50 degrees.  There is no soil in here, only tables and it is where most of your food starts growing.  Some seeds we plant directly into the field soil (direct seeding).  These are usually plants that can be spaced together quite close and transplanting would be a daunting task.  (dill, carrots, peas....)  Although technically you can direct seed every vegetable, with our wacky climate and short growing season, the majority of our crops get a head start in the greenhouse and are then transplanted from pots to the field.  Starting here allows a controlled environment for hard to germinate seeds and a warm environment for plants to start growing when planting them outside would be too cold (tomatoes, peppers...).  It also protects seedlings from getting eaten by crows or insects (corn, cucumbers, broccoli...). The photo above is of broccoli seeds just starting to germinate (emerge from their seed).

Once the plants in those tiny celled trays reach a certain size, we transplant them to larger pots where they have more soil and nutrients.  They continue to grow in the comfort of the greenhouse until they mature to a big enough size that they can hopefully withstand crow or insect pressure and the outdoor environment.  We then transplant them into the field.  Depending on the vegetable, plants stay in the greenhouse from 2-8 weeks.  Inka makes sure I do everything right in there.

I love working in the green house!  Especially in the late winter and early spring.  (It gets pretty darn hot in there mid summer!)  I am also protected from the outdoor elements and although the fields are too cold or too wet to work, the greenhouse is full of life and smells of earth. ...not to mention the kaleidoscope of lush growth is beautiful to look at.

Jean and I spent most of this drizzly day harvesting spinach under the protection of the hoop house.  But its description will be for another blog : )

Thank you for joining us for another season of wacky weather, hopefully blogs not too complainy and awesome vegetables from Little Ridge Farm!!!!

This week's harvest: carrots, onions/shallots, celeriac, beets, potatoes and turnips from the root cellar.  Freshly dug parsnips and fresh spinach!

Click on the veggie list on the right for our favorite recipes!