May 29

Ray brought the first ripe strawberries to me today.  They came from the rows we  planted upon the black plastic, but it surprised me none the less because the spring has been pretty cool thus far with the exception of a couple of scorchers back in  April. We may have a few to pick by next weekend, but I don’t see us wading in them for a couple of weeks. We got lots of things planted out this week, thanks in part to the arrival of our two Jamaican workers, and the arrival of the college help. This is their eighth year they have come and they pretty well know the ropes at this point, such that they can work with the green college kids. Despite getting a frost three nights ago we were able to put out the  peppers, tomatoes, cukes, and summer squash. We cultivated and hand-hoed  the onions (about an acre’s worth) this week, but up until two days ago irrigation was a major activity. Thanks to the 2″ of rain that we got, we can focus on weeding, which will really pop up  once we get some heat after this rain. Field preparation is still an ongoing activity, but the initial heat of getting land prepared is behind us and George Cilley, our tractor operator who does the lion’s share of it, can take a well deserved break to mow his lawn and do a few things on the list that has been growing while he has been up here the last month or so playing in the dirt and manure.

Memorial Day is behind us, and the weather has been kind to us, such that greenhouse starter sales have been pretty good despite the dimmed economy. It hardly looks like we sold much at all when you walk through the greenhouses, but Sarah assures me that the  plants that remain are just spaced a bit more apart because they are larger. The stuff looks really good, so if you are in need of  ornamentals please come down and give us a look as the selection is still very good.  We haven’t set a date to open the Route 12A farm stand yet…but I am sure Mike will tell us when we get close to harvesting greens and lettuce and berries.

May 16

It never ceases to amaze me at how entitled customers think  they are or perhaps it is the depth of their  lack of knowledge concerning things remotely horticultural.  This  years best story to date is about a customer who came in and bought some rhubarb roots that  were still dormant. The  pot  contained the dormant root, it was the 23rd  of April and there was no foliage yet showing.  I  heard his  somewhat indignant voice on the message  machine about a week later (May 4) saying that there was no  harvestable rhubarb yet and what were we going to do to make it  right. I think my wife politely informed him  that we would make it right if something turned out to be wrong with the  product, but that he should be a bit more patience.  This was probably the correct way to handle this…not the way I would have approached it had I called the indignant fellow back when I first heard  his message.

I understand that we are a society that has come to  expect to get everything we  want, and that  we want it now. Fast food, wide screen televison, hi speed internet–whatever.  Gardening demands a bit more patience and a bit of knowledge. As far as the knowledge goes,  a recent interview was done of us in a local paper, and one of the angles the reporter was charged with was  to get  simple steps to guarantee  success with heirloom tomatoes. I had to inform the reporter that in my neighborhood their were no gurantees to having a successful gardening experience  year in and year out.  If was all that easy to be successful in farming  wouldn’t I have a 2nd home in some exotic locale to which  I could fly my plane  after thirty five years in business?  I tried to give her a list of things that were important to do to be  susccessful with growing heirloom tomatoes,  but that phrase  –guarantee success”— seemed to smack of more of entitlement. The reporter got a story, I guess….probably just not the story the editor wanted.

Me, I currently feel that I am entitled to no more frost until fall  and I would like about an inch of good soaking rain in the  next 48 hours. It would surely simplify my life as it it is very dry and difficult to get things transplanted out  in these conditions.  Mike was harrowing up some ground yesterday and it was surprising how dusty it was. Last spring was  verymuch like this until the middle of June when  the rains came and took a month to go away. Hopefully we will not experience that again, but that would be  a better choice than to continue on thiis dry spell that we are on.  Not too far south of hear they are getting more than adaquate rainfall (Bellows Falls/ Brattleboro) and I have  a friend in Rhode Island whose back teeth are floating because of all the rain he is getting.  But despite  the dryness, the potatoes are bounding up out of the ground, looks like a good stand of 1st planted carrots and so far the deer have stayed out of the lettuce. Nobody’s sick or hurt and the machinery currently is running like a  Swiss watch.  And these are the signs of good things  that  we can take heart in.

May 2

Interesting weather we had last week. We hit 90 or very close to it for four days running, and a couple of those high-temp days were accompanied by a 30 MPH wind. It was pretty tough on trying to  transplant anything–in the greenhouse or field—and we spent a lot of time watering. As a result, the dogwood blooms are gone by (they bloomed for about 20 minutes in that heat) and the daffodils are on the downside of their display. Even the maple leaves (which usually don’t make their appearance until the 15th-20th of May) are unfurling. Welcome to New England.

Now that we are back to more seasonal temps the work continues at a more measured pace. The onion transplants are in, some lettuce and beet transplants out, and carrots, beet greens, and greens like arugula have been seeded in the field. We are trying to nurse the strawberries along with supplemental fertilizer and extra water (we are pretty dry here and haven’t gotten the showers that our other farming friends have gotten) by irrigation. The winter was pretty tough on them and it puzzled us until my brother-in-law, Pat McNamara, revealed to me that they lost every stitch of alfalfa in their fields, that the same went for other dairy farmers up and down the valley. We  went out to field dig some field-grown perennial delphiniums for sale at the greenhouse and found that very few survived the winter. Best we can figure is that although we had good snow cover early in the winter (open winters can raise hell with perennial crops) we  experienced an ice and heavy rain storm back around Christmas and must have caused some problems at that time.

The greenhouses are filling up and we are struggling to find places for things. It’s too dicey to  start leaving displays up at night outside the greenhouses, as there is still a high incidence of frost for us for the next 3-4 weeks. So a lot of moving of plants (we have a fairly inefficient layout of greenhouses and space) in and  out. When somebody transplants something and the call goes out on the radio as to where the transplants might be located, there are often voices coming back that say “Don’t bring it over here, I have NO Room in my greenhouse…”  Hopefully, after Mothers Day some space will open up.