Monthly Archives: April 2011

Grand (re)opening this Friday!

The planets (and plants) are aligning; it looks like we’ll be opening up the farm stand on Friday and attending the Saturday market this week.  Our plant starts are looking really good and plentiful, we’ve saved up several dozen eggs, we have some finely aged jellies and we may even have a couple of veggies.   Oh, and freshly baked bread, of chorus!  Farmstand hours are 11-5 but check all the details including the full list of different plants we’re selling on the links bar right above the frog graphic
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I’ve been told that the weather so far this season has been the coldest on record.  Local gardening expert, Linda Gilkeson (whose new book is really good), figures we’re 3-4 weeks behind schedule, and this sentiment is echoed by every grower I’ve spoken to. 
The value of the transplant tunnel really becomes apparent in conditions like these.  It’s easy to get the tunnel up to 20C with the sun just dimly visible through cloud (and easier yet to bake sensitive new seedlings when the sun comes out fully and no one’s around to open the door and upper ventilation window.)  A few days ago, the daily 40% chance of showers forecast manifested itself in a deluge of water between 2 and 4pm.  The area around the new tunnel, already wet and muddy, accumulated large areas of standing water.which, happily, dissipated a day later.  Now it’s back to its usual wet and muddy.
Good reason to get the polyethylene cover installed on the big tunnel.  The tunnel has been my focus this week as I’ve built both end walls, installed a vertical post at each hoop and attached full length polytrack bases on each side of the tunnel.   Once the cover is on, the soil underneath has a much better chance of drying out.  As it dries out, rototilling the soil has more effect on killing the grasses that lurk just beneath the surface.  Another positive effect – hopefully – will be to send the wireworms further down and away from the seedling roots we plan to plant there in a month.  
Wireworms were our nemesis two years ago at Haliburton Farm and we’re determined to not be victimized by them again.  I might even get the chickens in the tunnel once its covered and tilled up.  I’ll have to watch what they eat though; if they take too many earthworms, I might have to kick them out.
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And, due to a long delay with this post (things have gotten a little -er- busy recently) I can happily say that with a little help from my friends, the poly is now on the tunnel.  Pictures for now, explanation another day.  Or possibly not 🙂

A sore tricep is the mother of invention

I had a good idea recently, one born of necessity.  In constructing the second high tunnel, I am slipping a length and half of 1.25″ PVC pipe over a 4′ length of .75″ galvanized pipe which, after being pounded into the ground, sticks out 2′ above it.  When the PVC is covered with polyethylene, the whole shebang could very well act like a very large sail, capturing wayward gusts and potentially lifting the PVC off the galvanized anchors and flying away.  To keep the PVC affixed to the anchors, I’m using #12 screws. 

But this first requires pre-drilling holes through the thick-walled galvanized pipe.  For the transplant tunnel, Dad and I took turns on the drill (after finding the right drill bit for this heavy duty job).  There were only 22 holes to drill so, although hard work, it wasn’t all that bad.  The big tunnel has over twice as many post holes to drill and I’m by myself so, after completing one whole side, I was sore and a little frustrated at how annoying this aspect is.

Hopefully without belabouring the point, I have to describe the job in more detail.  The holes/screws are installed 4-6″ about ground which means that the installer is working on his knees the whole time.  I used a board to keep out of the wet but my knees got a little more sore because of it.  The drill speed has to be kept slow to reduce the drill tip polishing effect that going fast would create.  At the same time, maximum pressure has to be applied to the bit otherwise the job would take even longer than the 2+ minutes each hole took.  Simply pushing hard sends the operator sliding backward since there’s nothing to brace against.  To counteract that force, I ended up using one hand on the post to pull my body – and the drill – toward it.  My right hand (holding the drill) and left tricep (straining to pull me) became quite sore.

At this point I realized that I would not want to build these structures for anyone else because of this one particular aspect.  I then thought that a reasonably competent handyperson would probably find a way to do this automatically or at least semi-automatically.  It was then that I thought of the diamond drills that cut holes through concrete foundations.  The operator simply attaches it to the wall (not sure how exactly) and stands back while the machine does its thing.

If only I could clamp the drill to the post…using a…FURNITURE clamp!  Years ago I inherited a few large clamps from Dad’s collection of unneeded tools but had never really used them for anything.  Turns out it was just what I needed.  A clamp, a board and a cable tie to lock the drill trigger on very slow speed.  Then just line it up and keep maximum pressure on the bit using the almost effortless periodic tightening of the clamp handle.  Both hands are still required to keep the forces aligned and the pressure on but it’s waaaay easier…and way faster than doing it without the clamp.

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I haven’t done a darned thing with the big tunnel since finishing the screw operation.  We moved our home from one part of the island to another (thanks  again to all our friends for making that happen).  We also have our hands full with a transplant tunnel full of plants that increasingly need water, nutrients and potting on.  Then there’s the original plot from last year in which we recently used one bed to direct seed arugula, lettuce mix, radish mix, hakurei turnips and spinach.  The day before we moved, we moved our seed potatoes from the living room and planted up 400 bed-feet of garden.  Our strawberry starts also arrived that day and Pauline began by potting up over 100 for use as plant starts.  The rest need to go into the field ASAP.  Our fennel starts are quite willing and able to be set out as are the alliums and peas.  Probably 2 full 8-hour work days would have us mostly caught up but getting such days has been difficult.

And then it’s back to the big tunnel for which I need to resume construction hopefully in time to let the soil really warm up and dry out so that I can continue beating on it with the rototiller to kill all the grasses that have lived there for many years.

Or I could sit on the balconey and enjoy the view.