Spring is Here!

Looking back on the posting dates of my farm blogs, I’ve noticed a correlation between rising temperature and decline in blog frequency.  This doesn’t bode well for summertime blogging.  It’s hard to bring myself to sit down and blog when the weather is great, but today is cloudy, cold, and wet, so here is the next installment from down on Foggy Hollow Farm:

Critter Fencing

Last year in our vegetable garden, I took the approach of not fortifying my garden’s defenses unless I had proof that there was a need.  It didn’t seem nice or neighborly to the animals to fence them out when they had done nothing to me.  Plus, putting up a fence is work.  “Oh, you’re going to need a deer fence,” was the advice offered from our neighbor who has lived in the holler for over 30 years.  As a holdover from my teenage years, I have trouble taking advice that I didn’t ask for.  So, I planted peas, spinach, carrots, and beans with nothing to protect them but my goodwill to the animals.  Needless to say the deer were very gracious of my goodwill, but apparently have no honor at all, as they demolished most of what I planted early that spring.  

Up went the electric deer fence. 

I installed an electric fence around the garden powered by a solar panel and battery.  I put electric wires at 2 feet and 4 feet high.  It worked great, no more deer and my vegetables grew unmolested, until summer.  That was when Mr. Groundhog moved in.  I didn’t know anything about the metabolism of groundhogs, but I quickly learned about their appetite.  In two nights, the groundhogs wiped out my beans, two fifty foot rows of beans.  About the same time, the raccoons found the corn.  Apparently, raccoons will push over the stalk, peel back the husk and eat the corn right off the ear.  They don’t eat the whole ear, either, they’ll take a few bites off of one, then another, then another.  What started as pretty rows of corn looked like a crime scene.

Up went the electric netting.

They make plastic netting fence that has electric wires weaved in it that is very effective at keeping small four-legged creatures out of the garden.  I had it up within a week.  After that, I had no more critter problems.

After learning my lesson last year, I was proactive with installing my fence this year.  I currently have 2 acres fenced in where I will be growing vegetables.  I used cedar posts I bought from a man clearing his lot in Lebanon, TN (another craigslist purchase) and have tried to design a fence that will keep everything out.  It is also an electric fence, but has wires spaced every few inches at the bottom to keep the small critters out and spaced every 18 inches or so toward the top to keep the deer out.

New Critter Fence

New Critter Fence

So, far I haven’t seen any deer or animal tracks in my freshly tilled garden plots.  I just hope the deer don’t remember they can jump 8 feet high.

Irrigation

We are very fortunate on our farm to have a year-round spring coming out of the side of the hill.  There is a spring house with a pump, and I plan to use this to irrigate my crops.  I will use trickle irrigation, which uses small plastic tubes with tiny holes spaced every foot to slowly water the crops.  The trickle irrigation tubing runs along the rows of vegetables and places the water right where you need it, around the root zone of the plants.

Foggy Hollow Farm Springhouse

Foggy Hollow Farm Springhouse

I traveled to Elkton, KY to purchase my irrigation supplies with another local farmer last week.  The supply house was located in the middle of Amish/Mennonite country in Southern Kentucky.  It was a beautiful drive through farming country and we actually passed a horse-drawn carriage on our way back.  I picked up everything I needed to install my irrigation system and hopefully I’ll be able to install it over the next couple of weeks.

Farmer’s Markets

I have signed up to sell at the Franklin Farmer’s Market this year.  It is, in my opinion, the best farmer’s market in Middle Tennessee and one we have shopped at for the past 5 years.  The farmers must sell only product that they have raised, and the farm must be located within the region.  The local community is very supportive of the market and local farmers.  It will be a great place to “learn the ropes” of direct marketing my vegetables.

The market will open the first Saturday in May. 

What’s Growing

Most of the work I have been doing for the past two months has been clearing the land where I will be growing vegetables.

Growing Fields

Growing Fields

I have also started to seed the early spring crops of sugar snap peas and spinach outdoors.  I finally received a small reward for that effort as the sugar peas poked up through the ground.  It is always exciting to see the first thing growing in the garden.

We have Peas!

We have Peas!

Me and the boys went down to the creek and spent an afternoon cutting down some river cane to use as a trellis for the peas.  I did most of the cutting while the boys built a small fort next to the creek out of the tops of the cane poles that I had cut off.  When we were done, each of the boys took one end of a bunch of canes and helped me carry them back up to the garden.  I was whistling the theme song to “The Andy Griffith Show” as we walked back.
The hoophouse is full of fresh greens and I have continued to sell a little bit to friends.  Over the past week I set out the early tomatoes in the hoophouse.  At the moment they are covered with an additional layer of light fabric to help keep them warm enough at night.  Hopefully, I can get to market with early tomatoes this year.  They are always a big hit.

Spring in the Hoophouse

Spring in the Hoophouse

The greenhouse is packed to the brim.  Once you enter, there is barely enough room to turn around.  Broccoli, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, onions, heirloom tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and herbs are all growing slowly in the tiny space.  This winter’s project will be to build a larger greenhouse.  I will need more space next year.

Greenhouse Capacity: 1

Greenhouse Capacity: 1

 

 

That’s the news from the farm.  I’m staying pretty busy, but it has been great to watch the spring blooms and listen to the birds singing again.  The bees have come back out and I’ve even seen a few snakes around.  The farm is coming back to life again!