Wednesday, November 27, 2013

November 27th: Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving week is always my "button up" week.  Mulching strawberries and parsnips, putting the last of the tools away (big and small), tightening up the hoop house and making sure the cooler is set to go for cold winter nights.  In my 13 years of farming, I have planted onions in the spring during a snowstorm, but never have I mulched strawberries in the snow.  I don't think any of us were expecting the couple inches of snow that fell.  I must say, however, it was MUCH easier spreading straw while it was snowing verses the day before in 20 mph wind!  Simon loves straw because he knows it is where mice like to hide.  He is a way better mouser than the cats and he is already policing the strawberry patch.  I am thankful for Simon!
Spending money is easy.  Knowing what to spend your money on is hard.  Running a small farm, I am constantly weighing what to buy--everything is expensive and I must make sure that in the end the extra cost is worth it.  When it comes to tools, I am usually weighing the labor (time and its effect on the body) that is involved if I don't have the tool.  Starting off, I told myself I was willing to spend a little extra on equipment so I could spend more time running the farm efficiently.  A few years ago I decided to spend on building a small straw barn....and I am sooooo glad.  Prior to the straw barn, I would stack newly purchased straw under tarps near the crop that would need mulching.  Despite the fact that the tarps were new, by the time it came to spread the mulch the straw would be wet and moldy, making it tough to spread and hard to breath.  As some of you may know, straw is not cheap, so that added heartache to pain.  But now!  Oh now, this little barn keeps my straw dry and fluffy.  I can mulch the berries in half the amount of time with no black boogers or lung pain and I get to use any extra space in there to store equipment and fertilizer.  I am thankful for my straw barn!

This year was a bountiful year!  The weather is always a challenge, but fall, I think, is when the weather is the most challenging.  Some crops like winter squash and sweet potatoes need to some out before the first frost and then stored a warm place.  Other crops like rutabagas and cabbage enjoy fall frosts and their flavor gets sweeter afterward.  Many crops can freeze and thaw several times in the field, but once they are harvested freezing temps will ruin them.  So for me, I am constantly watching the temps, shifting, covering, insulating, venting, stacking, restacking heavy crates looking for space and the ideal location.  Finally I have enough room in the cooler to squeeze the last of the crates in.  (Winter squash and sweet potatoes are stored in my basement)  This insulated box keeps the crops at about 30 degrees with 60-70% humidity.  Some crops like it even more humid (carrots, beets, parsnips...) so I keep them or cover them in plastic.  I have a fan that is set on a thermostat and if the temperature inside the cooler drops below 29, the fan will kick on to circulate the air above freezing.  For five years this system has worked and has allowed us to enjoy crisp veggies well in to May.  I am thankful for my cooler!
May you have a flavorful and happy filled Thanksgiving!