Saturday, March 27, 2010

It's Finished! Finally!

We did it! We finished the high tunnel! Bryan, our extension agent, is amazing. There is no way this would be done without him. His motto? "We'll make it work." And we did...through all types of weather, low funds, and severe lack of experience. He made it work!
The last step was putting on the plastic. It was faster than we expected, but definitely a challenge. It is ideal to find a day with zero wind to put on the plastic. Well - they were calling for 20 to 30 mile-an-hour winds. I emailed Bryan in a panic: "Should we reschedule? We don't have another free day for weeks!" Bryan: "Are you feeling lucky?"

We decided we were feeling lucky and - luckily - the wind didn't pick up until after lunch! The top and the back cooperated pretty well. We had a few moments where we thought we may all sail away, Dave and Linda came out to help and we were able to keep it under control.
The hardest part was the front, which we did after lunch. At one point we had two people on either side just keeping it from blowing away! Shawn was 16 feet in the air on a ladder...suddenly we weren't feeling so lucky. But Bryan to the rescue! He got us all organized holding on to the right places and we got it on there, injury free! (With the exception of really sore forearms.)
By the time we got the front stapled and wiggle-wired and cut the door out, it was already hot and humid inside!
It's pretty amazing, the sun heats it up almost immediately. We walked in for the first time - so satisfying. I can't believe we built this! Ourselves!
Thanks again Bryan, Dave and Linda!! We couldn't have done it without you. And, it was really fun! I'm not sure how anyone does it with only two people. (They probably choose a day that isn't windy...)

Check out all the pictures on the Photos page!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Starting the Garden

With beautiful weather and most of the garden finally drying out, we were able to till and plant yesterday! Dave tilled up two plots, one down in the "main garden" by the driveway, and one up by the chicken coop. We dug out five beds using a raised bed and trench technique. By digging out the walkways between the rows and placing the dirt on top of the beds, you end up with low trenches between beds.
This helps with moisture level and drainage, and also keeps you from walking through any of the beds. We mulch the trenches with straw to keep weed levels down, this helps with drainage too. Once the beds are formed, we add compost. We mix it in with a rake, which helps break up clumps and form a nice flat top to the bed. Linda helped us with all the trench digging, raking, and planting - boy is it fast with three people!

We planted a bed of peas (two rows), two beds of broccoli (two rows), a bed of beets (three rows), and a bed of cabbage (two rows). The rain came with perfect timing; knowing we would be getting lots of rain today we only had to water a little yesterday. Hopefully in a couple of days we can get in there and get all the other stuff planted - kale, more cabbage, turnips, radishes, lettuce, etc. After months of prep and planning, it's so nice to finally be getting things into the ground!

Check out the What's Growing photo gallery to see more pictures of our first plantings!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Getting some real work done!

It has been beautiful outside for a few days and we have been taking advantage. We started building the ends on the high tunnel on Monday - we have made a ton of progress! It was way more work than we thought it would be, partly because the structure is so tall. It is almost 14 feet at the peak! We tightened all the nuts and bolts and then covered them in duct tape so the plastic won't catch when we pull it over. We built the ends, added baseboards and hipboards, and attached the wiggle wire channel. What is wiggle wire, you ask? Great question. It starts with a channel which you screw around the ends and the sides of the high tunnel, then you pull the plastic tight, and send two zigzag wires through that compress and hold the plastic with tension. It helps keep the plastic nice and tight. It looks like this:

Shawn had the daunting task of attaching the wiggle wire channel and the "studs" to the top peak of the last hoops. It was fine when we could use the van, but when we did the front, he had to use a ladder. It was pretty scary.
We pre-drilled the channel and attached it down the rest of the end hoops and along the hipboards.Our local UMD Extension agent, Bryan, has been advising us along the way since when we started we had NO idea what we were doing. He has helped so much with showing us different ways to build the ends, letting us know which suppliers have the best prices, etc. At one point, our clamps weren't working very well to hold up the 2x4s where we needed them, so Bryan stepped in - helpful as usual.
Here it is after we attached the baseboards and hipboards and built the back. And here it is after we built the front!
Gotta build the door and then it will be ready for plastic! It's been a lot of work, but has turned out to be a really fun project.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Local Dinner in March

Last night we had dinner with Kim and Jackie. We met them last summer when we started working on Jackie's farm. We always enjoy our time with them and we have created a great support system between the four of us. We all have similar goals and they have really helped us get started with Truffula Seed Produce. Kim is working on using permaculture to create a self-sufficient food system on her property. Jackie runs De La Tierra Gardens through which she participates in farmers' markets, runs a successful CSA program (LINK) and distributes milk and meat from other local farms. Our dinner was at Kim's house and the menu included: pasta with tomato sauce, salad, and fresh bread.
The pasta: Using eggs from our farm and flour, we made fresh pasta. Kim's son, Ethan, helped roll it out. We just used a simple pasta maker to roll and cut the dough. The sauce: Jackie made it using cherry tomatoes she had in the freezer from last summer. The tomatoes were mostly orange which made the sauce a beautiful color.The Salad: Kim made a salad which included spinach she over-wintered in her garden.
The Bread: Kim made oatmeal bread from scratch, it finished baking just as we cooked the pasta. Warm and fresh!
The meal was delicious! We ate so much there was no room for dessert. It was the perfect comfort food for a cold evening.