The Pen is Mightier (and other updates)

I’ve blinked and two weeks have passed.  Since my last post, my dad has arrived from Calgary .  Turns out that keeping him busy keeps me busy:  Plus, as usual, every completed job spawns two others, hence the paucity of writing (I’ll make up for not having written by using words like paucity; nevermind, I almost used ‘dearth’).  But stuff is definitely getting done.  We replaced all the various portable and make-shift tables with my el-cheapo spruce stands.  For about $100, we build enough surface area to hold 140+ trays of plant starts.  We also installed another level of shelving above the existing counterheight level to create room for a couple dozen more.  Despite all this extra capacity, the tunnel is beyond full. 

 The big tunnel is now nearly done: the rollups on both sides and one upper ventilation window has been installed (both windows will eventually get heat-activated opener pistons).  Funny (IMHO) story: I was thinking that the 3″ PVC sewer pipe acting as the ridge purlin (top spine) would be good for collecting extra-hot air that has risen to the top of the tunnel.  While bouncing this idea off of friends Paul and Ron and asking whether they had seen a 3″ exhaust fan on-island, Paul walked away for a moment and returned with pretty much the perfect item, lightly used on one of his previous projects.  I figure I can drill a bunch of holes in the bottom of the pipe and use the fan to suck air out to the atmosphere for perhaps 50 cents per day of hydro in peak summer. 

We are adding to our chicken flock little by little.  The 5 chicks we picked up a little over a month ago have outgrown their indoor cardboard pen so it’s time to get them out to the farm.  Dad’s been busy the last few days constructing a maximum security pen-within-the-big pen to house smaller birds and keep them from getting mauled by raptors and by the mature birds in our flock.  To accomplish this, he installed a combination of T-posts, lumber and plastic deer fencing to make an overhead barrier.  The question that will remain unanswered until perhaps December is whether wet snow will fall through the 2 inch grid or accumulate and bring the whole structure down.   Despite this question mark, someone driving by actually stopped in today to take a closer look and said he would copy the design for his own farm.  Dad said I should have told him it was patented.

 We have opened the market stand a number of times with generally decent results and have attended two Saturday markets, one really good and one not so much.  We’re still experimenting with market stand hours and considering opening the stand on Saturdays, particularly if the weather is good.  I think some people like the idea of the Saturday market but don’t actually like going there themselves.  We might even consider opening on Sunday now and again.

The weather is definitely improving but it’s been weeks since we’ve had an above normal temperature day.  It’s hard to put a value on having had the transplant tunnel to increase day time temperatures on many of the days this “spring”, but suffice it to say that it has enabled us to grow thousands of dollars worth of plant starts we would not otherwise have been able to.  We got up to about 16C last Saturday, just as Dad and I quickly installed our freshly received greenhouse misters from the irrigation store.  Opening the valve for about two minutes drops enough finely misted water to make the interior climate a lot more comfortable.  Of course, it’s not about the people in it but the plants.  Probably in a few weeks we’ll take the ends off for the summer but right now the night lows are low enough that keeping the ends on is a good idea.

 Any day now our sweet potato slips should arrive from New Brunswick.  I plowed in the wheat/pea/vetch cover crop a few days ago in preparation.  Perhaps another quick rototill the day they arrive to kill the few remaining strands of cover crop and in they go.  I want to use a polyethylene cover to increase the heat but I’ve grown weary of it constantly blowing away and I can’t seem to figure out a way to keep it on.  I may just use reemay to increase the temps, particularly night temps, a little higher.

I’ve begun planting tomatoes in the big tunnel.  Covering the tunnel with poly has had little effect on soil moisture or, in any case, it is simply a mud bath in certain places.  You’re really not supposed to work wet soil but I just had to rototill in order to kill the orchard grass and canary reeds that used to live there.  Then I used the rotary plow to make (relatively dry) hills and (relatively wet) furrows.  A more recent photo would show lots of puddles in the furrows.  I really wasn’t planning on doing this but it really needed to be done.  The tomatoes don’t like wet feet (few veggies do) and they need to be planted out soon (or put into larger containers).  The tomato planting is actually pretty complicated so I may do a whole post on that.

But for now, you’re mostly up to date!


One response to “The Pen is Mightier (and other updates)

  1. these posts are so well writ and very informative

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