The fields: The week started with quite a bit more rain that was forecasted which helped the weeds in the new plantings germinate and the cover crops and vegetation in the drive lanes grow like crazy. Once weeding and mowing tasks are added to the docket, as they have been this week, we say goodbye to being on top of everything that needs to be done.
We were able to finish planting the onions and shallots and were able to squeeze in an extra bed of shallots for a total of 11,000 plants. It was still pretty wet in the fields, but by Tuesday afternoon we were able to drive the tractor in the field to transplant with the crew. We wanted to take advantage of the fact that the soil was wet because our well still wasn’t up and running due to more delays from We Energies, so we were not able to put water in our water wheel transplanter or water in the seedlings with the sprinklers. By the end of the day on Thursday we were finally able to get all of our first succession of broccoli, kohlrabi, kale, swiss chard, cabbage, scallions, lettuce, fennel, and leeks planted.
We cover the broccoli, kale, kohlrabi and cabbage with a woven fabric that is secured with sandbags because if we don’t there is a little beetle called a flea beetle that shows up in the spring that really likes these crops and will decimate them in one day. The downside of the fabric is that it has to be removed to weed the plants, and since it traps warmth and moisture-the weeds germinate and grow abundantly under this fabric. By the end of the week we already had to take the fabric off to weed the cabbage and broccoli.
The peas finally came up and they look great. We planted 5 250’ rows this year…2 more rows than last year! Clark and Kelly had fun pounding in oak stakes every five feet in row for the pea trellis.
We did a lot of wheel hoeing of our first direct seeded crops and the garlic. The wheel hoe is exactly what it sounds like…a hoe with two handles and a wheel that we push along in row to uproot weeds.
The bees came this week and Anna installed them into their hives. One of the queens didn’t make it and so she had to troubleshoot that problem.
In 2019 we planted 500 semi-dwarf fruit trees. Jeff and I along with our friends Ken, Adrian, Joseph and Cory have volunteered our time to care for the trees. The trees are blooming this week which is a welcome sight. Right now the trees bring nothing but delight.
We were in the running this spring for a grant from the Fronterra Farmer Foundation, that we were hoping to receive to help us upgrade to a newer tractor. We recently found out that while we had a strong application our grant was not awarded. So we had to find a different path to make this a reality. This week with the help of our amazing loan officer at the Farm Service Agency we secured financing. Now we just have to find the right tractor at the right price!
And finally, the well saga finally came to a close! We Energies finally completed our electrical installation. However, when we tried to fire up the well on Tuesday night we were dismayed to find that nothing happened. I’m usually pretty optimistic, but this was a heavy blow. We NEED that well to operate our business effectively. We called up the electrician who installed the meter pedestal. He graciously came out after his shift that very night. After receiving such poor customer service from We Energies it meant a lot that the electrician went out of his way, coming after hours. At first he told us that he figured out the problem and could solve it. I actually cried a little bit because I was so happy. After two hours and a couple of smokes, he tried his best to figure out what was wrong with the wiring but thought that the problem was with the well components. We had already experience a 8 month delay because of the unavailability of necessary parts-so this put me on edge.
The next morning we called the well drillers who put the well and pump system in for us in the spring of 2019. Paul, one of the drillers and a man who probably could have retired 10 years ago, showed up that afternoon with grease up to his elbows and dried concrete on his arms from whatever he was doing earlier that day. His hearing aids are visible, and I imagine he lost his hearing from working on a well rig that drills through hundreds of feet of bedrock. In the back of my mind I’m bracing myself for the worse-case-scenario that he will need a part that isn’t available.
I want to watch him work because he is my last hope for getting this well up and running. But I become aware of the fact that he’s opening a really complicated box of electrical wires and I figure he just needs to focus so I go back to wheel hoeing, but not before I get the sense that there is nothing wrong with the well, but that he is dismayed at the wiring job the electrician who installed the pedestal did-which to him was obviously incorrect and the reason the well was not working. So within an hour he was able to fix the wiring and get the well working for us–for just $160. To me Paul is a hero. He is honest, hard working and knows how to do really important, dangerous and complicated things. His red work truck says “24 hour service” and I know it's true!
The hi-tunnels: This week we planted the warm weather crops-eggplant, tomatoes and cucumbers. The hi-tunnels are officially completely planted. We also gave the carrots and beets their second hand weeding.
The seedling greenhouse: We start peppers and tomatoes in open flats so that we can germinate them on a heat mat. They don’t germinate well unless the temperatures are at least 80 degrees. This week, the plants were all up and Renee used a butter knife to pry up each individual plant and transfer it into trays with individual cells to give the plants more growing space. We started about 3,000 pepper plants and several hundred canning tomatoes and cherry tomato plants for the fields.
Usually the greenhouse is packed full, but we got so many plants in the ground this week that there is actually some extra space, at least until next week when we start our 3rd big succession of plants and microgreens.
The packing area: On Tuesday the Wisconsin Food Hub came to the farm and picked up 1020 pounds of carrots and delivered them on Thursday for us to Feeding America.