What does this farmer do in the off-season? Sadly, it won’t be vacationing in Hawaii. With the BC teacher’s strike claiming three of next week’s 4-day school-week, it’s tempting to go somewhere, perhaps a couple of days in Victoria. Our fate, though, is to end up at The Treehouse for lunch.
Meanwhile, since things slowed down in November, it’s mainly been a combination of desktop farming and infrastructure construction. I started planning for this year’s crops half way through last season when our unprofitable errors were starting to flash red but it’s only been a few weeks since I received most of the seed I’ll use for this year. Although I was early buying seed this year (which can sometimes mean getting the previous year’s seed), at least it’s one thing off the list and I don’t have to substitute sold out varieties.
A couple of weeks ago I borrowed my friend Brandon’s big green Mitsubishi truck to transport 3.5 cubic yards of potting soil from Central Saanich to just outside the propagation tunnel on Rainbow. This is not only about one third the cost of buying an equivalent volume of 3.8 cubic feet bales before mixing in water, organic fertilizer and sea soil, it’ll be a lot less labour intensive. Plus I won’t have 40+ plastic bags to landfill.
After Dad did such a nice job building snow supports and shelving in my cheapo plastic garage, I let it pile up with stuff of all kinds. Recently, I’ve been on an anti-hoarding campaign. This summer, when I really need that 7″ length of half inch copper pipe? At least I’ll remember that, after transporting it from St. Francois Xavier, MB to Winnipeg to Ottawa to Victoria to Salt Spring, I finally recycled it in my winter cleanup.
I’ve also been spiffing up the high tunnel on Rainbow. Its low spots had become extremely wet so I spent a couple of hours deepening the ditches Dad made over the summer. I was pleasantly surprised that the problem was solved practically overnight. I also installed an 18″ skirt around the base of the tunnel to shield young pepper plants on the sides from the cool air required for ventilation on any given sunny spring day. I’ll have to open the ventilation wide on not-so-hot days just to compensate for the lower third being blocked and be prepared to remove the skirt entirely when summer hits (which last year was shortly after Julyuary 16).
I’ve also modified the trellis system in the tunnel in an effort to keep tomatoes and cukes a little lower to the ground. Last year, some cherry tomatoes grew to 10′ and I gave up trying to harvest them in the amongst the tight, rock-hard hills and furrows which prevented safely standing on anything. I’ve now moved my horizontal trellis wires – from on top of the hoops out of reach – to about the 7′ level where I can easily reach up and slide the top of a plant’s vertical trellis string laterally along its wire a few feet, allowing the bottom of the stalk, where the fruit has already been harvested, to rest on the ground for some distance before curving upward.
Oh yeah, when I was feeling a little slack some weeks ago, I went on a volunteering binge. In addition to being the Treasurer of the Salt Spring Seed Sanctuary, I’m now also a co-chair of the Island Natural Growers, and a director on the Farmlands Trust.
The slack feeling is wearing off.