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May 2021 on the Farm

May can be summed up in one word, busy. We have been busy planting, maintaining and picking.

This year we had the new experience of planting tomatoes and then row covering them to protect them from the frost that night.

Groovy, one of our cats, helping plant flowers

It’s very difficult to get time away from the farm with all the animals and plants that need care, but thanks to our amazing neighbor we were able to take a weekend away to see our son graduate from college. While our family had a great weekend together, a fox had a great weekend too. With no one being around on the farm a fox was able to drag off several of our chickens. Once we got back we immediately moved the chickens very close to the house in hopes of keeping the fox away but that rascally fox even came up by our house. So far, however, the chickens have been safe.

Chickens love last year’s compost pile

Our summer CSA started on the 26th, which was later than we had originally planned because of our son’s graduation. This actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The much cooler than average temperatures in early May had slowed down plant growth so we were glad for the later start date. Despite the slow start, the warm weather from the latter part of May has the plants really growing. We had a variety of vegetables ready for the first CSA including lettuce, beets, broccoli, asparagus, and other equally yummy vegetables.

Week of May 26th CSA share

Weeding is one of the jobs most hated by the farm crew (a.k.a. my children), so we have chosen to use hay as mulch in the walkways. The hay suppresses weeds, conserves moisture and adds organic matter to the soil. We were able to get the hay down in the permanent beds by the end of May, which means minimal weeding for the rest of the summer. Hay mulch is definitely a win!

The tomatoes and cucumbers in the high tunnel are trellised. The first year we grew tomatoes in the high tunnel we trellised them on wooden stakes like we trellis the tomatoes in the field. The tomato plants grow so much bigger in the high tunnel that they needed something taller. So to trellis we use tomahooks, which are hooks with twine hanging down from the top of the high tunnel. The tomatoes will grow to the top of the trellis, which is about 10 feet tall, and then we will start to lean and lower the tomatoes but more about that later in the season.

As an organic farm we don’t use insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, or synthetic fertilizers and this allows pollinators, beneficial insects that eat the bad bugs, and toads to thrive on our farm. In the photo below you can see a ladybug larva searching for aphids to eat. Also in the photo on the okra leaf is a small, round brown object. That is an aphid mummy. Aphid mummies are formed by a small parasitic wasp (these are tiny and do not harm people) that lays an egg inside a live aphid. The wasp egg hatches and the larva lives inside the aphid and eats it. The parasitized aphid dies and dries up to this aphid mummy. These aphid mummies are good to see because it shows there are the tiny, parasitic wasp around since the wasp are too small to see easily.

ladybug larva searching for an aphid to snack on

Calendulas are blooming! Calendula are edible flowers that attract pollinators like honeybees and hummingbirds. The flowers have many uses but we are trying to dry the flowers this year so we can make tea. We also use the fresh ones in flower arrangements.

Despite the busyness of May, we have enjoyed seeing the plants grow and particularly enjoyed having the fresh produce, both for ourselves and for others.

April 2021

April has been a crazy month. I couldn’t believe we had snow flurries and temperatures in the 20’s on April 1st, and it got even crazier on April 21st when we had a snow shower! It was bizarre to see the snow on leaves and flowers. My kids made snowmen and snow cream. The snowmen looked a little unusual because they were green from all the cut grass from when we mowed the day before. Well that’s Kentucky weather.

April 1st Snow
April 21st Snow

The chickens moved from their winter quarters to their mobile coop. The chickens were very excited to be out on the grass and to scratch for bugs. They also took some long dust baths.

We finished planting the high tunnel but not without some drama. The aphid populations really grow when the weather turns warm. There are natural aphid enemies also living in the high tunnel that will eat the aphids but unfortunately the aphids were producing much faster than the predators. I watched anxiously and checked the aphids daily but there were more aphids every day. I needed to plant the tomato and pepper transplants but they could be severly stunted or even killed if they get too many aphids on them. So finally I decided to spray an organic insect spray (OMRI approved of course) even though it goes against my farming philosophy. I believe in letting insect predators and insect pests develop a natural balance. I had the spray all mixed up but as I looked at my plants I could see my good insects mixed in with the aphids. I just couldn’t spray. Instead I ordered some back up, minute pirate bugs. By the time the minute pirate bugs arrived the aphid predators that were already in the high tunnel had gotten the aphids under control. I’m so glad I made the decision NOT to spray but I did have some anxious moments wondering if I made the right decision.

Potatoes are in the ground and I have visions of eating creamed potatoes, which I try to make like my grandmother’s. (They taste pretty good but still not as good as Granny’s) All the cold hardy crops and flowers are in the ground. We are trying to get ready for the big planting when all the frost sensative plants, like tomatoes, can be planted outside. The green house is really full of transplants.

Tiger Supervising Our Work

It’s always exciting to see the perennials grow back in the spring. I grow a lot of perennial herbs as well as many other perennial plants like asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries and raspberries. We have gotten to enjoy asparagus for dinner a few times so far and the strawberries and raspberries are starting to leaf out.

April also brought one of the saddest days on the farm when we sold our lambs. I always hate to see the lambs go but we can’t keep them all.

The First Lamb as a new born

Just for fun we experimented with the violets that grow wild on our farm. We made violet syrup and tried drying violets for tea. The syrup was very sweet and had a deep, grassy flavor. I’m still not entirely sure what to do with it but it does tast good mixed in a lighter tea, like green tea.

April has been a month of ups and downs: warm days and cold days, blooming flowers and snow showers, the joys of new plants growing and the sending off of our lambs. Every month brings new challenges and April was no exception.

March 2021

Lenton Rose

It’s wonderful to have spring here after a rough February. With all the ice we had to use a torch to melt enough ice just to get into the high tunnel. We had to break ice off gates and handles to get to our animals. Thankfully we didn’t have any damage and it just made the chores more difficult.

Our last two ewes lambed so our lambing season is over. Our first lambs were born in early December when we prefer to have our lambs. It seems like the lambs born earlier in the winter are healthier than those born in early spring.

There has been a lot going on in the greenhouse with seeding and transplanting.

tomato transplant in high tunnel

The first transplants are already in the ground and growing. The cool season crops are being planted out into our permanent beds and the heat loving plants are going into the high tunnel. The high tunnel looks very different now that we have pulled out all the lettuce and kale that grew over the winter.

Our chicks arrived in early March during a cold spell and spent a few days in our mudroom since we just couldn’t keep them warm enough in the barn with just the heat lamp. Both the chicks and my family were glad when the chicks could go out into the brooder and have more room.

The garlic we planted last fall is really growing. At the beginning of the month just little green shoots were showing and now the garlic leaves are three to four inches long.

Another new crop planted last fall, Anemone

We like to grow something new every year. This year one of our new crops is baby ginger. The ginger roots are on the heat mat presprouting until the soil temperature is warm enough in the high tunnel to plant the ginger.

honey bee on turnip flower

We are already seeing pollinators on the farm. I imagine they are as excited about spring as I am.

Building the New High Tunnel

Fresh veggies all year!  Does this seem like an impossible dream?  Well, it’s not anymore thanks to the development of high tunnels.  What are high tunnels you might ask?  A high tunnel is very similar to a greenhouse, but with a few differences.  In a high tunnel plants are grown in the soil verses growing into pots or a hydroponic system in a greenhouse. A second major difference is no heat in the high tunnel.  While this doesn’t allow for growing tomatoes all year, cold hardy plants like carrots or spinach can be grown through out the winter.  We are very excited to build our first high tunnel so we can extend our growing season.

Site of the new hoophouse
Site of the new hoophouse

A bee visiting a buckwheat flower
A bee visiting a buckwheat flower

A mixture of buckwheat and oats were grown as a cover crop during the  summer of 2016 on our high tunnel site to prepare the soil.

Renegade running through the buckwheat and oats cover crop
Renegade running through the buckwheat and oats cover crop

In November 2016 we made a road trip to pick up the high tunnel which came in a lot of pieces.

What are we going to do with all those pieces?
This should be more fun than a jig saw puzzle.

hoophouse parts
That’s a lot of pipes!

Once we had all those pieces the fun really starts.  After laying out the site, it was time to start digging the holes for the ground posts.

Drilling holes for the ground posts
Drilling holes for the ground posts


About a month later this is the exciting day that we are finally covering the roof with plastic.


In December of 2016, we finally finished the high tunnel.  We grew a cover crop of winter wheat to protect the soil and keep living roots for the soil microbes until we were able to plant our first crops.

March of 2017 we planted our first crops in the high tunnel:  tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash and zucchini.

We had a great first crop in the high tunnel.  The high tunnel provides so many benefits for our crops.  The first benefit is that is keeps the rain off the crops and soil.  Keeping moisture off the plant’s leaves helps prevent diseases.  The rain can also splash soil onto the plant’s leaves and the soil can carry plant disease causing microbes   (fyi plant diseases don’t make people sick, only plants).  Since we grow with organic methods, we add compost and natural fertilizers to help our plants grow.  The rain can leach out nutrients and wash them away.  Without the rain our nutrients stay were we put them and we don’t have to add as much fertilizer.

The bad thing about not having rain on the plants is that aphid populations can really build up.  The rain can wash the aphids off the plants.  Aphids are tiny insects that like to suck juices out of plants.  Since we don’t spray synthetic chemicals we had to find another way to get rid of the aphids.  We released lady bugs and they did a good job eating the aphids.  Lady bugs don’t get rid of the aphid immediately like a toxic spray.  You have to patient and let the lady bugs eat.  We also got a bonus of lacewings, another insect that likes to eat aphids.  We didn’t release the lacewings, they just flew into the high tunnel on their own.

carrots can with stand  cold temperatures

Swiss Chard  

green onions

Skyphos butterhead lettuceRed Russian Kale

In October we started planting the winter crops in the high tunnel.  We direct seeded carrots and spinach and transplanted lettuce and kale.  Since the tomatoes were still producing into October we tried to keep the plants as long as possible.  It was really hard emotionally to pull out those tomato plants that were still producing, but we had to get the winter plants in the ground so they had time to grow before the cold weather set in.  We left a few tomato plants just to see how long they would live and they survived to mid-November.   We have been enjoying fresh lettuce, kale, spinach, and carrots all winter.

Its amazing the huge temperature differences between the outdoor temperatures and the high tunnel temperatures.  Outside it can below freezing with snow and on sunny days it will be 60 degrees in the high  tunnel.