As we wrap up the we farming season for the winter, it is fun to look back on some of the highlights of the past year. One we never shared with you was our photo session with Bethany Cubino of Chasing Skies Photography.
Bethany is a talented wedding photography, and you can see her great work on her website. She took lots of great photos of us as a couple around the farm and house.
Bethany also got a few of us in with the flowers.
She also did a great job of capturing Frolic life:
And of course, no family photo shoot would be complete without some photos of Mr. Bingley!
Jonathan and I work very hard to research and learn about every aspect of anything new we introduce into our farm systems whether it is a new kind of flower or a new system of managing our permanent raised beds. But there is no way around it: we are young and inexperienced flower growers and we have made several mistakes over the season that have taught us invaluable lessons.
We are currently in the process of transitioning our farm over to “No-Till” management. We created permanent raised beds on the farm and we believe that the fastest way to return tilth, health and life to our soil is to never till the beds. This was an idea that I (Megan) had been thinking about for a while but simply had no idea where to start. What is “no-till” farming you might be wondering? Well, it is a method of farming that does not disturb the soil life and the soil layers with a tiller. It is more of a natural process of farming that is less invasive to the soil. It relies heavily on cover cropping and it also helps to reduce weed pressure on the farm by not turning over new weed seeds with the tiller. This year we ran across 2 different resources to help us get started.
Bare Mountain Farm in the Willamette Valley in Oregon runs a 2.5 acre cut flower farm using no-till methods. They have been posting their trials and what they have learned on their blog. We stumbled across their blog and I instantly felt that we had found a gold mine of information for how to begin this unusual method of farming. They are willing to answer any of our questions and are such an inspiration for Jonathan and I as we start out figuring out what No-till means on Spring Forth Farm. Thank you Tony and Denise!
The second resource we found was an organic farmer in Quebec who uses a no-till system on his farm in conjunction with silage tarps. His name is Jean-Martin Fortier and he wrote a book called The Market Gardner where he details a lot of his farming practices. He uses an old European method called “occultation.” This method uses large black silage tarps to kill weeds and speed up decomposition of organic matter on beds instead of tillage.
Well, we jumped off the deep end! We bought a silage tarp, stopped tilling and started tarping. Here is a photographic journey of what to do and what not to do!
(Above) We learned that we have to mow down everything before we put on the tarps or it doesn’t work. We felt a bit sheepish that we didn’t mow first. We will from now on!
(Above) When we bought the land in Nov 2013, it was formerly in tobacco and was left as a bare dirt field. We hastily seeded fescue and clover to prevent soil erosion. We made a rookie mistake and let them all go to seed! Fescue became a terrible weed in our new beds and we will be dealing with it for a while to come. So, we tarped the beds to see if it works when done properly.
(Above) Wow! after 4 weeks, the tarps killed the initial flush of weeds. There is a much smaller flush coming back, but it is more manageable. See the tarps in the left-hand part of the photo? That is what they should look like on the beds. Found earthworms for the first time in our beds too.
(Above) One of the biggest hurdles we are trying to figure out with the no-till system is how to get cover crop seed to germinate in beds that have crop residue in it, without tilling the seed in to get good soil contact. We tried putting a straw mulch down over the newly seeded beds this year. We will let you know if it works.
This past week we rushed about seeding beds of onions, garlic, and flowers before more rain came. In the process of doing this I gasped as I realized that we had a whole box of ranunculus corms (bulbs) that we had not planted yet. We ordered this flower in a fever of excitement over the summer even though we had never grown it before and knew that our soils were less than ideal for this flower. We would also need to build a temporary greenhouse tunnel over the bed for the crop to survive the winter and bloom in May. We decided this past Saturday, after much back and forth and tears (on my part!), to nix the crop and cut our losses. It was simply too overwhelming to figure out how to build a greenhouse tunnel this winter. We had taken on too much this year on the farm and with the home building in the mix, something had to go. This was yet another reminder to grow our business slowly and to carefully weigh each new crop or farming system before we add it.
Even though we have made lots of mistakes this year, we have had lots of successes too. We are already looking forward to improving and fine-tuning the management of Spring Forth Farm for the 2016 season!
Stay tuned for more updates on the no-till experiment.
This season has just been a blur. All flower farmers lament how hard it is to keep their websites and blogs up to date during the flower season, which for us is May through October. The constant rhythm of cutting, sowing, and weeding overwhelms other aspect of the business to the extent that by autumn we anticipate frost with guilty excitement. We always resolve not to let our website stagnate till winter, but we haven’t yet found a way to keep up. Add on top of that our life in the camper while we build our house and no Internet access at home, and it often feels like one ball too many to juggle.
Now, however, it has been raining for almost two weeks straight, with as much as six more inches expected this weekend. Our fields are too wet to work, and we are waiting on the HVAC subcontractors to finish in our house. So it’s perfect weather to sit with a steaming mug of coffee and give some attention to the blog.
First, we are excited to share this “Friday Feature” that Jenna DiPrima of DiPrima Photography posted today. The Friday Feature highlights female creative small business owners, and this week’s post features Megan.
We met Jenna a few months ago when she collaborated with Megan and several other women on a styled shoot organized by Randi Russell of Carry Your Heart Events. We’ll be posting photos from the styled shoot here once they become available. We’re also working on a post sharing our exciting progress on our home and our farm, which we’ll be posting soon.
Our first wedding of the year was for a childhood friend of Jonathan’s. We were so happy to provide flowers for Emily and Mike’s wedding in late April. They bought a bridal bouquet and DIY buckets, and asked for a wildflower look. After the wedding, Emily gave us this really kind feedback:
Our flowers from Spring Forth Farm were great. We really wanted to have locally grown flowers for our wedding. The buckets were a great deal and the bridal bouquet was beautiful.
Thank you to the wedding photographers Rob + Kristen for letting us use the photo. Rob + Kristen did a beautiful job on the photography. You can check out more of their photos from the wedding at The Knot.Congratulations again to Emily and Mike. We wish you all the best of life and love together.
Over the past 7 weeks, Jonathan and I have put together 4 different orders for wedding flowers. We love filling buckets and bouquets with gorgeous blooms, so fresh they almost have an essence that they are still growing on even after being picked. We love to see our clients faces light up with big smiles when they see their flowers. Last weekend we were delighted to design all the wedding flowers for Clarissa and Matt. They held their wedding at Iron Horse Events, a lovely venue in Cedar Grove, NC. What a magical place and just a perfect feel for our flowers, we highly recommend them to anyone in need of a outdoor, farm venue. Enjoy the photos below of the work in progress and the finished product.
Jonathan, Mr Bingley and I here at Spring Forth Farm want to wish Clarissa and Matt heartfelt congratulations and many happy years together!
“We are the only blue house on the street!” This is our new way of telling folks how to find our farm in Hurdle Mills. Over a year ago Jonathan and I walked down the road during a snowstorm and met Jamey Tippens and Nettie Lassiter. A friend of ours had told us that we should know them because we have so much in common. They built their own house in downtown Hillsborough, have a beautiful garden and play music. When we first saw their house, we gasped in delight and surprise! They had gorgeous green metal for the siding on their house. How smart we thought! Quick installation, maintenance free and beautiful. We hadn’t even received our house plans yet, but right then and there we decided to do the metal siding on our house too. Jamey and Nettie have become some of our dearest friends and every time we go in their house we are always inspired by something new that we notice in how they built and finished the house. Over the past year they have been incredible mentors to us answering questions and teaching us new skills.
In January, Jonathan and I decided to try and put up the siding on our house the first week of April, which was my spring break from school. Jamey agreed to spend a weekend teaching us how to put it up, and we also hired my cousin Tara Nathan to spend the week with us helping with the siding, and boy I don’t know what we would have done without her incredible arm reach and help and support! The siding on the house is the only part of the house so far that has been under budget and has taken less time than anticipated! With Jamey’s help on the weekend and with Tara here for the week, we got the siding up in 5 days!!!!!! It then took us another month to finish the trim work and get the gutters on. The exterior is done! Hooray! We have taken the month of May off from working on the house because we are trying to keep our head above water with farm work, flower sales, weddings and those other jobs we have like teaching and firefighting. We are both looking forward to a change in pace when school gets out for the summer.
Enjoy the photo gallery of the siding project! Stay tuned as we take you on a tour of our flower garden in our next blog post.
We are so grateful to Jamey and Nettie and to Tara for helping us get to this amazing point in our house project. We really couldn’t have done it without you all.
April showers bring a lot more than flowers, they also bring a host of weeds that thrive on the disturbed soils of a farm. We have long-term plans for weed control that include no-till practices (which keep weed seeds buried and minimizes the soil disturbance that weeds love) and burned landscape fabric mulch.
However, we can’t implement either of these strategies immediately and we have a noxious perennial weed that we just can’t kill: nut sedge. Nut sedge grows from an underground tuber, which inconveniently stays in the ground when you try to pull it up. It just regrows in a few days.
While we save up to buy landscape fabric for our annual beds and search for other permanent solutions, we are grateful to the good folks at Counter Culture Coffee in Durham for providing us with the poor farmers’ alternative: burlap coffee sacks.
We are spreading burlap around our perennials such as these willows. We like burlap because it is a natural fiber that will ultimately decompose, meaning we can just pile mulches on top of it, and it is reusing what would otherwise be a waste product. We are hopeful this will greatly reduce our nut sedge problem in the willows, where it was worst last year.
Jonathan and I are scratching our heads a bit as to how exactly we managed this past winter in our 77 sq ft Folic camper. I thought I would share a few accounts of what it has been like to live in the Frolic this winter.
Living in the camper was quite nice and we adjusted to the colder weather. We played games, watched movies, read a lot and in general rested up. We did continue to work on the house and farm throughout the winter though not without our handy portable tea kettle (thanks to my Mom!) with us so we could make hot tea wherever we were working that day. The winter sun flooded the camper each morning and on into the afternoon. Now that it is mid-march, the sun is barely even reaching inside the Frolic at all.
Amazingly our plants grew through the winter putting on very strong root systems. The above picture was taken in January during one of our coldest weeks. Hard to believe that there is any green at all to be found at that time of year!
We had several snow storms, but the storm 2 weeks ago takes the cake! We were landed with 8 inches of perfect snow making for snow days from school and snow hiking. We had to go out in the night every couple of hours to sweep the snow off of our hoop house. They can collapse from the weight of a heavy snow like the one we had.
Heating: Mr Bingley was a very necessary part of our heating system. We used a small space heater for the camper this winter and it managed to keep the Frolic in the range of 48-55 degrees. Yes, that is Fahrenheit! Mr Bingley slept with us many night to help keep us warm (though we all know that all three of us thoroughly enjoyed him snuggling up with us). It is amazing how well we adjusted to living in lower temperatures. We still spent a lot of time outside when it wasn’t too cold. One of new favorite winter pastimes is to make a campfire, eat dinner and listen to a couple podcasts by the fire. The stars are amazing in the winter too, though a warm drink is essential to staying our long enough to stargaze.
We had temperatures reach to 0 degrees here a few nights. We stayed in town those nights because it was so cold. However, when we returned home everything was frozen! My list of things that will freeze solid has grown quite long and here a few items for your enjoyment: wine, apple cider and balsamic vinegar, olive oil, mouth wash, soy sauce, eggs, face lotion, and of course all the canned goods outside on the shelf. Quite amazing actually.
All in all, it was a great winter and I would do it again (that’s good since I will have to:). Now that the promise of spring is in the air it makes those cold nights and mad dashes to the outhouse seem far away. I love the winter season for its tawny beauty, quietness of soul and life and the warmth felt by fires and hot tea, but I am always ready for spring!
We are making a big push right now to get everything done to put on our siding in a few weeks! Stay tuned for more.
Have you been wondering what it is like to work with Spring Forth Farm for your wedding? Wonder no more! Check out the comments and reviews from our past wedding clients.
We are already booked for several weekends this summer. If you would like our fresh flowers for your wedding or event, please contact us to reserve your date.