Tag Archives: carrots

And… Away We Go!


First, a shot of the small hoophouse in its new position where it was moved on Sunday. The carrots underneath the hoops are recovering nicely from the compost burning, thank goodness! The house was closed up and black plastic was spread over the soil to warm it in preparation for the next crops to be planted soon: artichokes and hot peppers!DSC_0959

Last night, the large hoophouse was moved into its new position. It will house tomatoes, ginger, basil and parsley.

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See the tractor in the distance? Two 200 foot lengths of cable are attached to the back of the tractor. The cables run through pulleys screwed into two short posts that have been put at either end. This keeps the greenhouse on an even plane as its pulled by the tractor.DSC_0949

And there it goes! The preparation to make the move took longer than the actual move itself…DSC_0950

Which was, literally, over in seconds…DSC_0952

Like buttah…DSC_0954

Afterwards, the hoops and reemay cloth were replaced over the crops, since our nights are still hovering in the 40s. They are probably fine without this protection now, but we don’t want to take any chances of a freeze. Plus, the crops underneath will be hardened off to the direct sun over a period of days. DSC_0962

Spinach and lettuce has already been planted in the rows alongside the greenhouse, and here, Mike is preparing a few more beds so we can plant beets and turnips today.DSC_0965

As the sun goes down, a parting shot of the whole picture.DSC_0966

As I went home, here’s the new view from my house.

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Filed under Four Season Gardening, Greenhouse, Planting, Spring, Tractor

Burned carrots and many lessons learned…


This is a cautionary tale, which may help someone else, and which may yet have a happy ending. There is so much to learn, and we, humbly, are still learning. So stay tuned…

This is a story that unfolded over a period of days, put in perspective by the horror unfolding with the Boston Marathon bombings, and the weeklong manhunt to catch the perpetrators. (Lesson 1: It’s only carrots, after all…)

Last week, we took delivery of about 20 yards of compost from a local facility where its made. With our hearts in Boston, and one ear tuned to the horrific news reports, we kept to our regular work routines and began applying the new compost. We used it to top dress the carrots in our two hoophouses. These, if you remember, are the carrots planted in February and March. The first plantings were coming along nicely, and had grown to about 3 inches.

Once I began working in the small greenhouse, I became concerned about a strong odor from the compost, which I described to Richie, doing the same thing in our larger greenhouse, as “animal,” of urine, or ammonia. Did we get the wrong stuff? I called the trucking company that had delivered it and was told they had already been in touch with the head of the compost company after a previous query about the same odor. He had reassured them that the compost was completely safe to use. The compost was still working, they had been told, but it was ok. Ok to use in an open field, and to be tilled under before planting, I now realize in hindsight. My application to tender baby carrots was another use entirely. (Lesson 2: The “experts” don’t always know everything. Go with your gut.)

However, allowing myself to be reassured, I covered the carrots with a layer of reemay cloth, and closed the greenhouse up tight for the night as we are still getting below freezing  temps at night, and must still protect the beds.

Here is what the carrots looked like when I put them to bed:

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Here is what they looked like the next day:

DSC_0920Severely burned carrot plants…Ouch! It looked like we had sprayed the crop with Agent Orange! And there was a definite line of demarcation of healthy plants remaining where I had left off the previous day. I immediately called the trucking company and they promised to follow up.

I don’t mean to indict compost with this story. In fact, the compost we were delivered IS perfectly fine and we will use it with great confidence on our fields. To gardeners, compost is “black gold” because of its many benefits in the garden. Compost is a great material for garden soil. Adding compost to clay soils makes them easier to work and plant. In sandy soils, the addition of compost improves the water holding capacity of the soil. By adding organic matter to the soil, compost can help improve plant growth and health. Composting is a most important tool for an organic gardener.

(Lesson 3: Compost is not compost, is not compost.) Too much green matter in relation to brown in a compost pile can result in excess nitrogen as the bacteria consumes the green matter, which results in the formation of ammonia gas when the compost is new. This eventually dissipates, harmlessly, into the air. The resulting compost is fine and safe to use. It is safe even to use while it has this smell, as long as it is being tilled into the ground. In fact, it may add some benefits in the short term. But it is not so good to use on tender plants in a closed environment. This I now understand in hindsight…

I definitely compounded my first mistake in using the unseasoned compost on beds which I then covered with cloth inside a tightly closed greenhouse. I inadvertently captured and concentrated ammonia fumes around the baby plants. Once this had been discovered, we began ventilating, and watered heavily, which stopped the ongoing damage.

In our big greenhouse, where we had also top dressed with the same stuff, the carrots are fine. Why? We have since come to the conclusion that there is more air circulation in the larger house, and the compost had been applied a little more thinly.

This really feels like a significant setback. Here we have a crop with potential worth of several thousand dollars. Part of that worth is centered around producing locally grown carrots weeks ahead of anyone planting them outside, and for which we can charge a premium price at the markets where we sell them.

This morning, we were paid a visit by the head of the compost facility, who I am pleased to say, came out here to see what I was talking about. I think he learned a few things from me. He was surprised to see carrots growing in an unheated greenhouse. He hadn’t heard of Eliot Coleman and was not familiar with the concept of moveable hoophouses. I told him: “You will soon be seeing more of this, hopefully, as more farmers learn how to extend the season using this method. I want you to be able to warn others so they don’t make the same mistake that I did.”

As for the carrots, “Wait and see,” he said. “You will probably be surprised. We see this when the compost is applied to broadgrass.” (Turf. I am not suprised that his biggest customers are landscapers applying this product to lawns.)

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This morning, I am slightly encouraged about the carrots. There does seem to be vibrant healthy growth coming from the middle of each plant which survived. The smallest plants, however, did not make it, so there has been loss. But it is not the end of the world. This is farming. We will replant.

To repeat Lesson 1: Its only April. There will be carrots. And no carrot is important, really, when compared to what we lost in Boston last week.

Keep calm and plant on!

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Filed under Four Season Gardening, Greenhouse, Lessons Learned, Planting, Spring

Maine Town Declares Food Sovereignty


I am sharing an important post today from the blog “Food Renegade,” about a town in Maine that has declared Food Sovereignty.

To quote the first paragraph: “Sedgwick, Maine has done what no other town in the United States has done. The town unanimously passed an ordinance giving its citizens the right “to produce, process, sell, purchase, and consume local foods of their choosing.” This includes raw milk, locally slaughtered meats, and just about anything else you can imagine. It’s also a decided bucking of state and federal laws. Read the whole article here: http://www.foodrenegade.com/maine-town-declares-food-sovereignty/. Please come back and share what you think about this after reading…

Meanwhile, here on our own farm…

Yesterday's rain melted away most of the snow cover.

Yesterday’s rain has melted away most of the snow cover.

Inside the large hoophouse, all but one bed is planted.

Inside the large hoophouse, all but one bed is planted.

Emerging mesclun mix.

Emerging mesclun mix.

Michael is working on a cold frame where we will experiment with propagating some starts this year.

Michael is working on a cold frame where we will experiment with propagating some starts this year.

It is hard to imagine, but soon these rows will be brimming with life.

It is hard to imagine, but soon these rows will be brimming with life.

Inside the small hoophouse, the first bed of carrots has emerged.

Inside the small hoophouse, the first bed of carrots has emerged.

We will harvest full-grown carrots by the time we give out our first shares in June.

We will harvest full-grown carrots by the time we give out our first shares in June.

The same view of the barn as yesterday's post so you can see how much snow has melted!

The same view of the barn as yesterday’s post so you can see how much snow has melted!

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Filed under CSA Shares, Farming and the Laws, Four Season Gardening, Greenhouse, Planting, Spring

More Greenhouse Planting Means Spring Can’t Be Far Behind!


DSC_0519Come, take a walk through the snow with Shelby to find out what happened in the large hoophouse Saturday!

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The snow was over her froggy boots!

DSC_0522Inside, things were very different!

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She found that everyone was working on something. Richie was using the broadfork to loosen and aerate the compacted soil…

DSC_0513Then, papa worked with the broadfork and Uncle Mike pulled weeds from the onion bed…

The remaining spinach, red lettuce, mache and bunching onions had been harvested. Most of these crops had been harvested for shareholders before Christmas, sold at the last farmer’s market in December, and fed our family during the winter months. Time now to clean it all out so we can plant again! This time: carrots, more lettuce, bunching onions, and spinach for spring!

DSC_0527Ok, I can do this. I remember the rake! Mimi taught me how to use it last summer!

DSC_0529See? You use it to make a path on the dirt!

DSC_0531 And break up clumps, like this!

DSC_0532And then we use this stirrup thingie to get out the weeds!

DSC_0533See? It makes a real nice path on the dirt too!

DSC_0534So many weeds we need to dig out! I can definitely help with that!

DSC_0537We get down to our shirtsleeves and the real work begins. The temperature is a perfectly comfortable 72 inside, while outside its in the low 40s.

DSC_0539We are putting all the weeds into the crate to give them to the chickens. Yay!

DSC_0542A little minute of rest first please…Whew!

DSC_0543Look how many weeds the chickens are going to get!

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Good dirt to grow things in!

DSC_0550Now, me and Papa bring the weeds to the chickens.

A whole bed of bunching onions is growing nicely. We planted them outdoors in September with the other crops before the greenhouse was moved over them in November. On this day, we planted a second bed of carrots, and a large bed of mesclun mix. Soon, we will also put in more spinach here, and a third bed of carrots in the small hoophouse.

A very productive weekend indeed, thanks to everyone’s help!

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Filed under Four Season Gardening, Greenhouse, Planting, Spring

Hoophouse Planting — First Carrot Crop of 2013


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After last week’s nearly three foot dump of snow, and this weekend’s additional 4 inches, Spring seems just a rumor. DSC_0397

But not inside the hoophouse, where it reached a high of 90.6, stayed there for almost an hour and then began to drop. DSC_0398

Earlier, the beds in half the hoophouse had been turned over with the broadfork. This day, we raked out clumps of dirt and roots and smoothed the beds to prepare… DSC_0401

The hoppers of the six-row seeder were filled with pelleted seed…

DSC_0405The beds must be fairly smooth for the seeder to operate correctly. We use a short handle on the seeder that helps avoid any damage to the hoophouse walls.

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A small amount of moisture is added to the planted beds.DSC_0432As the sun begins to go down, the temperature drops rapidly, but the humidity has risen.  This is good!

DSC_0429We hurry to cover it all with a layer of black plastic. This keeps in the moisture, and helps promote even germination.DSC_0435

We install hoops over the two rows, topped with a layer of agricultural fabric. Each layer gives the advantage of a zone further south of added warmth. Since the hoophouse is unheated, this is necessary for successful germination. The carrots will come up anywhere from two to three weeks. Once they’re up, the black plastic will be removed, and we will plant a second succession of carrots. By the time we move this hoophouse in April, there will be two well-established crops for harvesting well into July!

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Filed under CSA Shares, Four Season Gardening, Greenhouse, Planting, Spring, Uncategorized

Winter Carrots — A Sweet Treat!


This is the second winter we’ve stored carrots underground. The winter carrots are definitely the sweetest and tastiest of all. Something about the cold temperatures concentrates the sugars and flavor.

Here is how we do it…

One last planting of Rainbow and Napoli carrots went in the garden behind my house near the end of the summer, where they grew to full-size.DSC_0204

We sold some at market, gave some to shares which ended in December, and used quite a few in our soups and stews.

Before the ground froze, a trench about 18 inches deep was dug alongside the carrot patch. The remaining carrots were dug out and laid in the trench with the greens still on. Enough dirt was sprinkled in around them to hold them upright. A thick layer of salt hay was mounded on top to prevent the ground from freezing underneath.DSC_0207

Yesterday’s temps were in the 40s, and I went out back to replenish my supply. Moving aside the hay, I groped around in the wet earth and pulled them out one at a time. They were still fresh, firm, and rendolent with that unique carrotty fragrance.DSC_0208

Food? Doesn’t look like much until they come inside for a rinse…DSC_0203

Yummy, sweet and gorgeous! I wish you could taste how different these are from the ones you get in the supermarket!

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Filed under Canning and Preserving, Cooking with Fresh Vegetables, CSA Shares, Four Season Gardening

Moving the Hoop House – An annual spring rite at Mehaffey Farm


“Is it moving?” “Nope.” “Yep.” The carrots are uncovered and soon we will plant baby ginger under the hoops. Turn on the sound to hear the peepers. Love Charger’s reaction.

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April 25, 2012 · 9:26 am