If The Flowers Can, Then I Can Too!


Brrrrrrr, it has been a frigidly cold winter (for us southerners) with temperatures in single digits, inches of snow, ice and so on and so forth. The snow caved in the hoop-house and the ice knocked over trees onto our deer fence.  The deer are STILL getting into our fence, so we beefed up the brush around the garden to deter them.  The brush might be a bit unsightly, but it seems to be working.

Tree down on fence

Jonathan and I planted a whole bed of flowers in October to winter over until early spring blooming.  We covered the bed with 2 layers of frost cover and left them for the winter.  I have been worrying about our little flowers for months on end.  With such unusual temperatures and heavy snow and ice making the hoops cave in on top of the flowers, I thought that surely the flowers were dead or suffocated.  But no!  We opened up the bed the other day when the row cover had defrosted enough to not tear when removed.  The flowers were not only alive they were thriving!  They love the cold!  In fact, more learning has taught us that some cannot even bloom properly without the cold.  We gave the bed a good weeding and left it uncovered to get more sun and rain.  This bed of flowers includes larkspur, nigella, bachelors buttons, agrostemma, bupleurum, red sail poppies, tulips, and matricaria (a flower in the chamomile family).

Will I continue to worry about the flowers even though they clearly love the cold?  Yes indeed. I can’t help it. I want them to succeed. I want us to succeed.  Yet in the darkest and coldest times of the year, the flowers are happy and thriving, promising a lovely spring crop.  I take heart in that realization.

These past few weeks I got started on seeding for our spring flower crops.  I seeded over 1000 flower starts into trays including snapdragons, lavendar, ammi majus, dianthus electron, flowering kale, black-eyed susans, zinnias, gomphrena, herbs, and more, plus some vegetables for us.  The “gardner” at Orchard Hill Children’s School has been helpful in watering the starts with me as part of their rotating weekly job.  Today I managed to work in the garden beds, seeding carrots, turnips, beets, onions, lettuce, and arugula.  Just as I was finishing it started to rain, sometimes the timing is just perfect!!

Flower seeds are tiny

The recent warm weather has left the taste of spring in my heart, but with nighttime temps back in the mid 20’s my hopes aren’t too high yet. Sigh… I guess we have a little bit of winter left.  Maybe it will leave our little farm alone.

But I know that if the flowers can survive this cold and busy winter… then I can too.

SFF Fall 2013 Update

Spring Forth Farm is slowly taking shape. Since we got back from vacation, we’ve made a lot of progress getting the land ready for growing. We finished building beds, we put up three-strand deer fencing (more on that in a future post), and the flowers for our first wedding are growing splendidly. Sowing fall-planted flowers and cover crops are our next big projects.

We did plant some fall vegetables, but the reality is that we counted our chickens before they hatched, or perhaps our collards before they were bunched. Like many North Carolina farmers, summer rains set us back 5-6 weeks and we’re having to rethink our plan for this fall. We’re sorry we won’t be selling any vegetable boxes this fall as we had planned.

Like all farmers must do, we are adjusting our plans and moving forward. We will be applying to local farmers markets for 2014. Stay tuned to our blog for farm updates, including where we will be selling next year. Thank you for your encouraging words through this rocky start and we can’t wait to see you at market.

The farm, with deer fence and beds.
The farm, with deer fence and beds.
Zinnia, "Queen Anne Red."
Zinnia, “Queen Anne Red.”

Breaking Ground

This summer has presented many unexpected challenges and many opportunities to roll with it as farmers must, while we get Spring Forth Farm off the ground (or into it). After the record June rainfall, the ground finally dried out enough for the equipment to be able to get in to pull stumps, the day before we left on a 2 1/2 week vacation months in the making. Once the stumps were carried off, we started breaking sod with a tiller we rented… until it developed a fuel problem and conked out on us.  We will be ready to tackle the tiller again after a much-needed getaway, and we are excited about bringing you beautiful cut flowers and fresh veggies as soon as we’re able.

Here is how the land looked earlier in the clearing process:

To prepare for clearing, we had to mow:

Finally, the stumps were knocked over…

…And carried away, leaving the land clear:

We were able to do a first pass with the tiller before it conked out:

And we’re ready and excited to get back to work as soon as we get back!

Rain, Rain.

This summer has been the wettest in memory. May was cool and damp. Then June thunderstorms dumped ten inches of rain – seven more than normal. And the rain has not let up in the first weeks of July. Severe thunderstorms have caused damaging flash floods, and the wet weather has hit NC farmers hard, causing major crop losses.

Farmers must just make make the best of the weather, and we’re no different. Clearing land for Spring Forth Farm has been set back. The trees that grew in or next to the field are gone, but their stumps remain. It was too wet for the tractor last week, and it is too wet again tomorrow. So for now the land looks like this, empty but not clear. We’re praying for dry weather so we can get to work. In the meantime, we’ve ordered some of the seed, we’re collecting materials and equipment, and we’re continuing to work out some of the business details that are part of the start-up process.

The land, mostly cleared, with a few stumps to pull out and some tilling to do.
The land, mostly cleared, with a few stumps to pull out and some tilling to do.

Clearing Land

Jonathan and I are in the process of cleaning up the land that we will start growing on this fall.  Clearing is a joint effort between us and the owners of the property.  We are cutting down saplings and tulip poplars around the edge of the garden to increase the amount of light the garden gets throughout the day.  This is hard work and sure puts clearing land by hand in perspective.  Here are some pictures of the clearing in process.  Somehow, projects always “look” worse right before they get better.  After clearing, the stumps will be pulled out, then we are planning to till with a roto-tiller.  Then we will build beds, plant the fall garden and winter cover crops, and plan for the 2014 season.

Clearing land at Orchard Hill Children's School.
Clearing land at Orchard Hill Children’s School.
Clearing land at Orchard Hill Children's School.
Clearing land at Orchard Hill Children’s School.