24Feb2009

Planning, New Directions, and Battle Royale!

I can’t believe that I haven’t written since January!!  What happened?  You know – I think my blog posting schedule has been ruined by Facebook!  I feel like I’ve been writing nearly everyday, but really what’s going on is that I’m sucked in to Facebook to update my status!  Lame.  From now on, it’s only meaningful blogposts for me!  Well…maybe I’ll only sneak onto Facebook to check on my friends’ status updates…  

Besides getting sucked into Facebook, things have been busy here at Half Pint Farm.  Our days have been replete with my daily trips to the gym to get into shape for the farming season (transplanting requires about 500+ bad-form squats each day in the Spring!), walks with the dogs to try and keep the cabin fever from getting too out of control, discovering new recipes, organizing a new Slow Food Chapter here in Burlington, AND (of course!) we are busy planning our farm season everyday.  

We’re busy in the sense that we’ve been doing a lot of the cerebral work of our farm for 2009.  Our main goal during every growing season is to completely avoid any thinking.  I know this sounds crazy, but it is a system that we’ve been using since we started our farm, and will continue to use; it works extremely well for us.  What we do is we make up tons of spreadsheets that function as field seeding schedules, farm maps, lists, order sheets, greenhouse seeding schedules, etc.  What we do once we’ve made all of our seed selections is to list them all, and then look at our maps and see where everything fits in.  Spencer is very good at this job, and
 really does most of the initial work pencil-ing in the various crops and their rotations on printouts of our farm layout that are detailed down to each bed that is available on our farm.  We are able to pencil in every rotation of every crop that we grow.  Once this job is done, I sit down and transcribe it into our computer spreadsheets.  We then go over it together to make sure there’s no mistakes.  We do the same kind of detailed sheets for the greenhouse seedings.  What they enable us to do is to look at the week of seeding in the greenhouse at a glance, and we will immediately know how many trays we’ll need to fill with soil and what seeds need to be with us that day.  They make our seeding life effortless – it really helps to concentrate that kind of detailed thinking process to the time of year when we have time – the winter.  These sheets are our bible through the season, and we consult them every Monday morning while we walk around the farm making the “to do” list for the week.  What all of this slightly obsessive planning does for us ultimately is free our minds during the season to make decisions about day-to-day things that come up, not crucial seeding issues that should have been thought out already.  We also find ourselves being a lot less stressed out about our day-to-day farming lives, because all the major things have been thought of already – we can spend our time concentrating on the growing part (how to make a better trellis system, what needs to be staked?, how about mulch?  should we weed today?, etc.), which requires so much of our attention during the season that we honestly don’t need to be thinking about what should be going in the ground this week – we can just follow our plan for the week that we laid out in March!  A nice system, if I do say so myself, and one that we’ll be talking about at the Farmer to Farmer conference next week in Saratoga Springs, NY.

We’ve got some exciting new directions that Half Pint Farm is implementing for 2009!  We have decided to expand our Food Club CSA this year to accommodate more hungry Burlingtonians!  Be looking for our brochure in upcoming posts!  Also, we have decided to add some animals to the mix!  Last year we experimented with some heritage breed chickens, and really enjoyed it.  We’ll be doing many more this year, along with some cornish game hens and some quail!  Another pretty exciting development is that we’ll be getting some new employees – they come in sixes and will be 6 pigs (rototillers), 6 geese (weeders), and 6 ducks (insect eaters)!  This is a new direction that we’re going in to try and close the nutrient cycle loop on our farm.  We have been researching how best to manage and house these critters, and think they’ll fit quite nicely on Half Pint Farm.  More as we move in that direction – Christmas goose, anyone?  
I can’t end without mentioning the palpable battle royale currently being waged between Mother Nature and the gigantic axis our world spins on.  With daylight savings time coming and the recently beautiful sunny mornings making it feel like Spring, we remember how quickly things can change – just started hearing the sparrows in our hedges last week, I’m beginning to think I’ve shoveled the driveway for the last time this winter, there’s more grass than snow showing, and there’s more of a trend towards rain than snowflakes.  I didn’t wear a coat at all today, and kept thinking…Spring?  I can dig it!

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