It is planning season, and shortly we will be starting seeds here at Small Wheel Farm. The new season has us excited about all the growth our farm has seen in the last year. We both expanded production and made some needed infrastructure upgrades. Our barn is finally coming together thanks to some hard-core contractors who showed up to work during the polar vortex: attaching the greenhouse framing and starting work on interior walls during negative 20 degree weather. While we will have to start the earliest seeds in the house again this year, I expect we will have the greenhouse finished and water available in early spring--when there simply isn't room downstairs for any more plants.
Other new things include plans to break open new fields this summer, and most exciting of all--hiring an employee and some CSA worker shares. The business is getting big enough that it is more than just I can handle--which is exciting. I crave the company of another human during the farm season, and I am finally confident that the farm can afford it. Check out our employment page if you are interested!
We are anxious here at Small Wheel Farm to get moving with the cultivating and planting. Being a new farm, without any hoop houses yet, this snow has been a real bummer—we just can’t do anything in our fields; it’s a waiting game. So, for now, we continue our lives as basement farmers—tending to the beautiful seedlings under our grow lights, dreaming, and tackling projects.
As for projects, we have some exciting news as drawings for our barn/studio/greenhouse renovation have come back from our architect and it is likely that this summer we will start construction on the multifunctional building. I am looking forward to having a space this time of year to work on my pottery, do some seed starting and grow in a greenhouse. Increasing productivity during the shoulder season will help me get an earlier start at market and make mud season more bearable. If we get a hoop house grant this summer then we’ll really be in business for next season (as well as have some serious building projects on the farm this summer). The extra work will be worth it though: I have serious hoop house envy.
Let’s all say it. More sun, please! And if that is too much to ask, at least no more snow!
The farmer’s market is closed for the season and our farm is once again covered in snow. The clean white landscape certainly brings finality to the season—even if there are a few projects I need to wrap up before I can officially call it the end.
Hello everyone, and sorry for the long delay in updating you about the farm.
Things have been going very well here at Small Wheel Farm. We have had several successful farmer's markets and tomorrow's promises to be good too. The produce keeps coming out of the fields, with new things ready every week. Tomorrow's market will feature peas (everyone's favorite), herbs, rainbow chard, mini romaine, and a pint of cherry tomatoes for one lucky person!
As you can probably imagine, things have gotten rather busy around here as we are harvesting regularly as well as attempting to stay caught up with our planting schedule and ontop of all the weeds. ...And the weeds are prolific this time of year. I feel like every spare moment is being spent picking quack grass rhizomes out of the beds and making sure the lambs quarter doesn't go to seed. Overall, we are winning, but oh, do the fields want to turn back to pasture. It sounds weird, but I am grateful for plastic and being able to tarp large areas of our fields--smothering weeds while I work on something else. So far this season, bugs haven't been much of a problem. Besides a few potato bugs that munched the eggplant, the gardens have been pest free.
This last weekend we had another visitor. My mom came and helped harvest, plant and work the farmers market booth. It was nice having a second pair of hands to get the harvest done quickly. I don't think that I would have gotten to the planting if it weren't for her help, and our mini greenhouse is bursting at the seams, with brassicas, lettuce, herbs and other vegetables that are waiting to get into the fields. I am thankful to finally be harvesting the last of some things so that I can plant out new vegetables for later in the season. This weekend we will be planting some of those brassicas where our romaine was. Tarping off future fields is also on the schedule. We are expanding next year!
It is really starting to look like spring here at Small Wheel Farm. Hardy vegetables have been planted out--with kale, bok choi, onions and spinach all looking happy and unfazed by the change in setting. Seeds for our mustard greens mix and turnips have sprouted as well, and if all goes according to plan, we will have a good mix of vegetables for our first market on July 1.
Peter picked out some blueberry and honeyberry plants for the farm and planted them this past week with the help of his dad and stepmom who were here visiting. On Saturday, he endured rain and wind to get several apple trees and some cherry and apricot trees planted in the beginning orchard. I stayed inside making chili and getting the place ready for friends who were coming over to celebrate the occasion.
Projects have been chugging along at the farm. We have set up the irrigation line and run it once after setting out transplants. The fence is up with nice big homemade gates for access. Up next is building caterpillar tunnels for the fields and setting up processing facilities and a cold storage room for the summer.
If there is any struggle at this moment it is understanding the contour of our land and why water collects where it does. We have a few wet spots that we did not anticipate and are watching the land carefully and strategizing how we might do some land shaping to help mitigate the situation and allow for earlier field access on certain parts of the farm. Hopefully, once the weather really starts getting warm much of the moisture will go away, but for now it is a frustration and an area we are realizing we need to learn more about. We are excited, like other aspects of farming to tackle this and continue improving our land and its productivity.
Yesterday was Peter's birthday. It was snowy and sort of gross, so I took the day mostly off--planning a good dinner in celebration of the big day, making some Guinness chocolate ice-cream, and reading a new farm book--Teaming with Nutrients--which is all about how plants eat. Today it is still cold and there is still snow out on the fields, so I have been spending the day doing work inside. I thinned the chard plants, finished ordering soil amendments/fertilizer and have been struggling with my irrigation equipment parts trying to get the fittings to get into the hose--gosh it is harder than it seems like it should be!
Peter and I have both been thinking a lot about our soil and what we need to accomplish in order to get our plants in the ground with the conditions and fertility they need to thrive. We started working the soil and at this point have done an initial till on all the beds. When it warms and dries up a bit I will get back out and use the power harrow to create permanent beds. Then, all there will be do is add soil amendments and put the seeds and plants in the ground.
It was an interesting puzzle deciding what soil amendments to purchase in order to give our soil what it needs and avoid what it is already high in. We had our soil tested so that we knew what we were starting with and found we were low in a few key nutrients, and high in a couple others. Anyways, there is a lot to consider and I am oh-so-greatful to experienced growers who have published all of their knowledge so that beginners like us can look up recommendations about what soil composition you should strive for in order to optimize fertility. I have relied heavily on Gary Zimmer's book Advancing Biological Farming and Peter has referenced Michael Phillips, guru of the apple-growing world, for many recommendations. After researching recommendations, doing some math, looking at different products and problem solving, I came up with a set of products that I think will work for us--lime, humates and micronutrients mix, calphos, chicken crumbles and a balanced organic fertilizer blend--and that should help us correct the soil's deficiencies as well as feed this year's plants.
As I wrap up writing today, I want to say how excited we are to get the soil ready and start getting plants outside. Hopefully it warms up soon!! After getting a taste for the Duluth Farmer's Market last weekend, I am anxious to be back there selling all our veggies. What a great space and community.
Well, thanks for reading! I need to get going and clean up the kitchen. The farm has taken over in there!!
We have been making big strides this week at Small Wheel Farm. Infrastructure is starting to come together and we are spending more and more time outdoors actually doing farming--not just planning and preparing.
Seeding has finally started here at Small Wheel Farm. We are doing it in the basement under grow lights, and I'm pretty pleased with the setup. I have a homemade potting bench where I can sift and mix soil as well as a table for creating soil blocks and seeding. I am grateful for the indoor setup as it means Peter and I didn't have to figure out the logistics of heating a greenhouse this year, nor did we have to madly repair our hoop house after it blew down at the beginning of March--days before our first seeds were scheduled to be planted. We have managed to cat-proof the seedlings (important, as Lopi loves to eat potted plants), and the fact that the seeding area doubles as Peter's weight room means that I have incentive to keep it tidy.
Farm logistics continue to get ironed out as the farm season gets started. The hoop house was definitely an unexpected setback, but regardless, we are rolling ahead. Rolls of eight foot deer fence arrived in the mail this week, and just today I unload eleven boxes of fence posts---heavier than hell, and managing to carry them into our garage by myself by making my arm into a teeter-totter fulcrum. Our new garage is starting to collect a nice collection of farm supplies--including two sizable garden carts that I assembled earlier in the month.
Able to move things around the farm? Check.
Able to start seeds? Check.
Protection from Deer and neighborhood dogs? Check.
Some days it seems like the farm is moving in slow motion toward the summer growing season. We are making progress, however, and before we know it beds will be formed and we will be planting our fields.