The Minute Details of Farming

Recent trends indicate that more younger people want to get into farming or become farmers but might be discouraged by initial capital outlay, lack of resources, or a bevy of other challenges.  FiveDollarFarm started with an older couple that just flat out wanted to do something different and make a change in their own lives.  Purchasing the land to farm was not so much an issue as the knowledge of how to farm which seemed to be wanting.  By sheer determination we decided to reclaim the knowledge that almost everyone in the world before us had known and utilized.  And what we couldn’t we would learn by trial and error.

One of the first important lessons we learned was about timing and we still don’t have it down completely but are much better off than we were originally.  It is obvious to most people that there are certain seasons when food can be grown and when it cannot.  By most don’t know how long the “shoulder” seasons are and variety of crops that can be grown within them.  Crops such as cabbage, carrots, lettuces, beets, Brussels sprouts, and others can be grown the weather doesn’t instinctively seem conducive to do so.  In our opinion, many of these crops taste better having been grown in a colder season that includes a frost or two.

 

A Winter Garden

 

We are attempting to manage our timing for planting and harvesting as well as caring for our crops with the use of technology through calendars and such, a benefit our grandparents never had.  They also did not have the distractions of answering phone calls and texts messages either.  We do utilize hand written notes and notebooks for records but use the Google calendar mostly for remainders of upcoming events.

Another issue we have had to deal with is quantity.  I have a tendency to plant a much greater quantity of each vegetable than we will ever consume or sell as seedlings.  For example, this year many plants were discarded because we did not have the field space to put them in once the seedlings were ready to be transplanted.  We are utilizing spreadsheets to plan quantities more effectively so that we are not nearly as wasteful.  An added benefit is that this process helps us to manage our space in the greenhouse better.  As an aside, it was a personal growth experience for me as I realized I had issue from my youth on wasting resources that was anathema to me.  I determined I had to let this go and instead made a neuro-association to observe all the abundance that God has given us.  We also attempt to charitably contribute any excess we generate to local organizations or our church.  Thank you Tony Robbins for the guidance.  You can read about him here.

At some times during this fall we had counters full of tomatoes that we had difficulty consuming or finding the time to process by canning.  We did end up putting aside a significant amount of tomatoes and sauces from home canning.  We did not get a chance to make pickles as we normally do but we expect to be able to do that next year.

 

Canning Tomatoes

 

So as you see there are many challenges to be a new farmer.  That does not stop us here at FiveDollarFarm.  We are determined to provide for ourselves and our family and be able to assist those in need in our community.  If you a new to farming or live a rural lifestyle and have some advice for anyone, please leave a message below.  We would love to hear what you think.

End of Year Farm Report

Here it is in mid-October and I find myself online looking at all the many of varieties of tomatoes that are available for sale.  I quickly became frustrated and literally had to walk away from the computer and get myself a cup of coffee.  I did get back to it eventually after giving some thought to what I had learned this year about all the different things we did successfully and also the challenges we faced whilst growing our tomatoes and other crops.

First I will list some of the expectations I had for the tomatoes that we grew and what actually ended up happening to that particular concern or area of focus.  I must tell you that it was a difficult summer for our family as your patriarch and author had some difficult health challenges to deal with.  That in itself was a challenge and was definitely unexpected but thankfully my beautiful bride stepped in to save the day again. (She always does)  The reason I point this out is for a gentle reminder to all that “We plan and God laughs.”

 

Weeding and Watering

— Last year we recognized quite early that most of our disappointment came from two main areas that we did not focus on in particular.  Watering.  This was not just with our tomatoes but with all of our plants, mostly vegetables but some landscape perennials as well.  Weeding was the other.  How we dealt with it was not that extraordinary.  We created an infrastructure plan to provide water to our newly built greenhouse and growing area with plans to enhance it later on by drilling a well out in the growth area as we expect to grow and thrive in the future. For the weeding, we dedicated time to actually get out there and pull some weeds.  Also we learned of multiple efforts of some like Curtis Stone to grow in such a manner as to prohibit weeds from overtaking areas by methods I call “gang-cropping.”

The results while initially seeming unspectacular were actually quite good.  We had such a blessed abundance of items for consumption and even managed to sell some to our close friends.  The water project is not totally completed but is well on it’s way to making next year more successful.  We laid a polyethylene pipe from our surface well into a trench that runs to the greenhouse.  Both ends need to be plumbed, one with a shallow well jet pump and the other with a pressure tank  and piping needed for greenhouse and field.

Plant Spacing

— In the greenhouse we utilized boxes constructed of 2″ x 12″ lumber to grow in.  We bought 2 of these that were 12 feet long and cut off a 4 foot piece for the ends resulting in a 4′ x 8′ box.  We filled each with our special soil mixture of peat moss, decomposed double-ground  hardwood bark mulch, and composted horse manure.  However, in the box where the cucumbers were grown we put too many plants in one area and it quickly became overwhelming.  We pruned back the plants significantly but they may have made them grow even faster.  In the end we generated quite a large harvest but our technique is not recommended.  In the field the spacing seemed to work to our advantage as the close proximity of the plants blocked the sun so that weeds could not overtake the area.

A note about spacing as well in the greenhouse is worth mentioning here.  We haven’t had the greenhouse that long.  We are still learning how to best utilize the space in that resource as well.  We also added a heat source being a “Warm Morning” coal heater that we found for sale cheaply.  We haven’t decided if we will heat the greenhouse all winter or just extend the shoulder seasons.  Stay tuned to see how it works out for us.

Variety Selection

–Another challenge we faced was my personal ambition to do too much all the time.  I wanted to grow a large variety of plants to have available for our own use as well as to sell to others.  Unfortunately, our learning curve reminded us that we are not that experienced with growing certain varieties.  This year some of our crops did very well and we learned how to grow them successfully.  For example, our tomatoes came our very well and we put up about 100 pints of tomatoes in a variety of forms such as pizza sauce.  I think our sauce came out much better than last year mostly because of the  way we processed it and secondly because of the variety we selected.  It is very satisfying to put food away for use later.  It gives me a great sense of independence.  We did have to deal with the cursed “tomato hornworm.”

By focusing on a smaller variety and learning them well we did much better with those particular plants like red beets, carrots, spinach, romaine lettuce, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts.  To think all that our grandparents knew how to do that we forgot in a mere two generations.

One other note on variety selection is that we were very successful with some tomato varieties.  I have gathered many seeds from the tomatoes that we successfully grew this year for use in our operation next year.  It doesn’t take much effort and your cost savings can end up being significant if you maintain your own varieties.  Eventually we may do some experimentation with plant genetics.

 

 

As we approach our downtime and off season now in the winter that is usually our planning time, I am thinking more about what needs to be done and how we should do it next year.  I remain very humbled knowing I am blessed with all the gifts that God has given to us.  Working on our farm is a priceless treasure that I would not trade for any item or any amount of money.

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God bless.

 

 

Fall on a Farm

So many things happen when autumn arrives on a farm even a small one like ours.  We have been blessed to learn so many new and improved concepts this growing season.  Our tomatoes have been outstanding this year and we have made a great quantity of sauces by canning tomatoes.  We have had to deal with some tomato pests such as the tomato hornworm also known as the big green caterpillar.  We kept to our self-made promise to not use any chemical sprays on or near the food we intend to consume.

 

Fall on A Farm

 

The children had a fun summer that included swimming almost every day.  Some days we had a difficult time getting them out of the pool for supper.  I have a great relief that the children can swim and I won’t feel uneasy about them being around or in the water.  I spent quite a bit of time with them myself in the pool.

We did not get away for vacation this year as we have decided previously that we would stay here and prepare for our wedding celebration on the farm in October.  Friends and family will arrive mid-month to help us celebrate John and Michelle’s matrimony on a special fall day.  We are also having a gathering the next day following the reception before our families leave to head home.  It will be a nice fall time on the farm.

 

Pumpkins

 

The days are getting shorter and the temperatures are going lower at night but still get quite warm in the middle of the day.  Plants put in the last great effort to store energy for winter dormancy.  It is a transition time that we love and stop to reflect on what we have accomplished and how to make constant and never-ending improvements in our farm and live personally.

Enjoy the Fall.

 

Information on Tomato Hornworm

New page with information on the tomato hornworm also lovingly refereed to as the big green caterpillar or tomato worms.

 

See it here;

Tomato Hornworm

 

Also for a picture of what the perfect tomatoes look like, click here:

 

The Perfect Tomato