Monday, November 24, 2008

Sealing the Deal

Sunday was a cold day for us on the farm, but we got a lot accomplished! This is Ben and I wearing our oober stylish safety goggles before building the ends for the hoop house out of 2x4's. The end closest to the field has a door frame we made and the side closest to the barn has a window frame. We will install those at a later date.

Here is Ben working on the door frame...

As we've been working on the hoop house, we've been getting to know Sunny better. In the past Sunny has been a little grumpy with me, so Ben thought it'd be good to bridge the gap and perhaps win him over... he just happened to have a 2x4 over his shoulder when he tried to forge that friendship. Sunny didn't seem to excited... we're going to keep working on him. We'll keep you posted.

Once we got the ends framed in it was time to get the hoop house grade plastic out of the ridiculous amounts of packaging it came in! You know what a pain it is to get a CD player out of the crazy thick plastic casing that surrounds it? Well, take that and multiply it by 10... I suggest taking a good hot relaxing bath before hand and turning on some soothing music when you start in on it. Go to your Zen place...

Once I got the plastic out of the tube of danger and mess that it came in, it was time to roll it out on the ground so it could go up on the frame..

Getting the plastic on the ends was a little challenging because there was this sneaky little wind that would creep up at the most inconvenient times and test our hand/arm strength... but we did it. The ends looked great.

After the ends were up and we had pulled the plastic over the top of the frame, mom and dad came out to hold the plastic in place while we secured it to the frame with this nifty little wire and channel combination called "wirelock".

Here's Ben putting the finishing touches on the hoop house as the sun was going down...

Overall it was a freezing, productive day! Now the hoop house is at least equipped to deal with the snow that I hear we're supposed to get this week. There's still more that needs to be done with it, but the awkward hard parts are over! Thank goodness!

Thursday, November 13, 2008


This past Sunday Ben and I ventured down to the farm to get a little more work done on the hoop house... Things are coming along slowly because there is a lot of trial and error, but we are making progress!

Since it was a nice day outside, Ben and I carried the table saw outside for ease of moving around. Ben cut all the 2x6's into correct sizes for the baseboards of the house while I pre-drilled and screwed the boards together.

We also raided the barn for doors and windows to put on the hoop house, and we came across the old mudroom door from the old part of the house. So we will be using that as our door. We decided to put the door end closest to the field so we can easily carry things in and out when we're transplanting.

At the end of the day the baseboards looked like this.

It really does take a long time to measure, cut, and connect these boards together but we are taking our time to make sure we do it right the first time... we're hoping to come back down on the 23rd to get the ends built and maybe even get the plastic on! Snow is on it's way and we need to get this covered before it arrives!!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Cold Metal

After a 2 week absence full of entymology projects and other homework we were happy to steal away from Burlington and spend some time with the hoop house! It's always refreshing to leave the busy bustle of the city and get back to the fresh air of our farm. We can't wait til we can be there everyday...

Yesterday we started putting up the arches after dealing with the remaining four ground posts that we struggled with during our last visit. Two of them went into the ground fairly easily after some careful manipulation of the rocky soil, but two of them refused to go down any further. So, being the resourceful efficient guy that he is, Ben decided that it would just be easier and a lot less of a pain to saw off the tops of the poles instead of frustrating ourselves any further... I supported him 100%. So that's him above, getting ready to saw off the tops of the two poles to get them down to the right height.

This is Jake(my brother) and I trying to push one of the arches into the ground post... it's a lot harder than it looks. Trying to get a curved end into a straight pole is not impossible, but we found that it's certainly a lot easier with two people.

I have to mention, that after struggling immensely with different methods of trying to get the ground posts in the ground and finally succeeding, I was looking through the bag of hardware that came with the hoop house, and found a huge bolt with a large washer on it... it was included for us to put on top of the poles to separate the hammer from the poles when we were
hammering, and I didn't notice it!! I said, "Oh no, Ben, look!" And he knew right away that I had failed to notice the one apparatus that would have made getting the poles in the ground 100 times simpler for us. He playfully put his hood up and curled up in a ball on the ground with his hands on his head... "Ben, I'm so sorry!" I laughed hysterically "I didn't see this til just now!!" "Don't talk to me right now" he smiled. One of my less intelligent moments, but Ben was so good about laughing it off instead of getting mad at me. I'm confident that after that situation we are going to be a great farming pair. Being able to laugh at ourselves when we make a ridiculous error like that gives me confidence that we can do anything together.

Once we got the poles into the ground we were able to put up the straight center pole that connects each of the arches together. Next Sunday we'll be buying lumber to frame in the base of the greenhouse as well as build the ends and a door. Hopefully, if all goes well, we can get the plastic on too. We'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Rocky Start

The field was covered in frost when we awoke on Sunday morning, and it was beautiful. Yes it meant that we needed to wait a little bit before seeding winter rye in the field and it also meant that we needed work gloves in order to prevent sticking to the stainless steel piping that will eventually be the hoop house, but we were happy to be greeted by it anyway. It really was gorgeous.

Most of the day was spent trying to get the hoop house in order. (below is a picture of what the hoop house looked like when it arrived on the farm)We had to measure out the dimensions of the hoop house and set out the piping to be driven 24 inches into the ground before we started the long process of actually hammering the pipes in... and when I say long process, I mean that it took us the rest of the day to get 10 of the 14 pipes into the ground. This was because our soil is extremely rocky and we couldn't hit the piping with the sledge hammer directly for fear of warping the steel. We used 2x4's as a barrier between the piping and the hammer, but those kept splitting, then we used a hockey puck but that kept flying off of the pipes and eventually broke... there were other attempts, but in the end we just stuck with the splitting 2x4's.

Somehow in the process of hoophousing, Ben and I both ended up hurting our right index fingers doing completely different things. I mildly cut mine on the side of one of the steel pipes while trying to twist it into place, and Ben got his pretty good with a sledge hammer... after some jumping up and down and a quick sprint into the house, we were able to get him washed up and bandaged. Don't worry, he's okay. His finger is a little bloody and swollen, but we're pretty sure that's the extent of the damage... the moral of the story here kids, is don't put your hands anywhere near where you're about to hammer. It's likely to end in tears... and/or jumping up and down.

Ben decided to take a break from hammering and seed the winter rye after lunch . You can see him in the picture below bending down to refill his seeder with seeds...

At 4:00pm, 4 of the posts were part of the way into the ground, but were hitting a huge layer of rock that prevented them from going any further into the ground, so we gave up on those for the day and decided to screw together the arches instead. That way next weekend we can get the arches up and secured before framing the hoop house in with lumber and covering it in plastic.

So, what's the difference between a hoop house and a green house? Well, according to me, a greenhouse has a thermostat and a heating mechanism, and a hoop house is just an insulated structure without an added heat source. This particular hoop house will be used as a protective light environment for our seedlings to be started in. We might also grow some tomatoes in part of it. When it's all put together it will be 16ftx24ft and 8 ft tall... a sizable greenhouse indeed. We're really excited to get it up before there's snow on the ground!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Breaking Ground

This is the story of two new farmers starting a Community Supported Agriculture(CSA) venture in Randolph, Vermont this spring. Let's get acquainted...

This is Ben. He's a Sustainable Landscape Horticulture major at the University of Vermont who has been working with the apple orchards up at the UVM Horticulture Research Center for the past two years. He graduates this spring.

On our farm he's the tractor man, the tinker, and the woodsman. He's the technical brains and the brute strength of the operation. He makes a mean tofu stir fry and loves live music more than monkeys love bananas.

And I'm Claire... an Ecological Agriculture major with a minor in Community International Development who will also be graduating from UVM this spring. For the past two summers I've worked on veggie farms, in 2007 I worked on Old Shaw Farm and this summer I worked on Common Ground Student Run Farm up at the UVM Horticulture Research Center. This will be my first time running a CSA of my own, and I couldn't be more excited!

On our farm I'm the business coordinator, overall organization guru, and veggie mastermind. I'll be the one organizing the CSA shareholders and developing crop rotation and planting schedules. I LOVE carrot cake and my favorite word is
zesty. I also enjoy finger painting and contra dancing.

So, what is Sundora Farm? Well, Sundora Farm is a mixed vegetable farm that will be offering 20 CSA shares to anyone who is interested in being a shareholder for the 2009 growing season. And what does it mean to be a shareholder? It means that before the season begins you make a payment to the farm in exchange for 17 weeks of fresh, pesticide-free, local produce that you pick up at the farm once a week on CSA Pick Up Day(we haven't figured out what day yet). It also means that you (and your children if you have them) have a farm to visit as often as you like to learn about agriculture and what it means to be sustainable. As new farmers, we are excited to put our collegiate knowledge to good use, and we want to share as much as we can with you! The more we know about how our food is grown and where it comes from, the more equipped we are to make responsible, healthy decisions for both ourselves and the environment.

And, how did we get the name Sundora Farm? Well, there are two animals on our farm that we love, and wanted to include in this new business...
This is Sunny. He's the 27 year old Morgan that my parents have had for the past few years. He's a grounds keeper of sorts, you know, he mows the grass behind the barn and keeps an eye on the perimeter. He'll be keeping us company as we work right next to his paddock this spring.

And this is Dora. She's our 5 year old Briard that acts as a watch dog and frisbee catching machine. In the summer she likes to swim in the pond and run in figure 8's around Sunny despite his lack of excitement at her shenanigans.
So we took Dora and Sunny and fused them to become Sundora. We plan to design a Dora-Sunny hybrid creature soon which I'm sure will appear on numerous T-shirts and other things as the season begins.

Right now on the farm, certain things have to happen before the winter arrives, so Ben and I come down to Randolph from Burlington on the weekends as often as we can. Yesterday we planted garlic.

Garlic is a crop that should be planted right about now, in mid October, and mulched with some sort of mulch hay or straw to be left in the ground during the winter months and into the spring(if you look back up at the picture of Ben, he's spreading mulch on the freshly planted garlic). We decided to plant just a little bit of German Extra Hardy garlic to see how it does in our soil.

We also need to plow the 1/2 acre where our veggies will be, just to break up the sod and start working on soil aeration. We tried cultivating it with the rototiller that my parents own, but it just wasn't
doing the trick since this soil hasn't been tilled in 20 to 30 years. We need some help since we don't have the equipment we need to get the job done, so a man by the name of Fred is going to come over this week with his plow to turn the soil. That way next week when we come back to the farm we can plant winter rye as a cover crop. Winter rye adds organic matter to the soil and covers it to prevent erosion from happening. This is a picture of the land that will eventually be vegetables come spring... we'll call this the before picture.

Yesterday we also took a soil sample to give to the soil lab up at UVM to see what kind of nutrients, pH, organic matter, and nutrient holding capacity our soil has. Once we have that information we'll know how much compost we'll need to incorporate into the soil.

Next weekend, in addition to seeding the winter rye, we'll start the process of erecting a hoop house for starting seedlings in, so keep an eye out for that!

Til next week, enjoy the fall colors and remember to support local farmers!!