Wednesday, March 30, 2011

deeply rooted

Always a silver lining... 
When the little creature who has been feasting in the greenhouse destroyed some seedlings, I was mad. Really mad. But after I took some deep breaths, I started exploring and thinking about this situation from a few different angles:
  • It is spring. And all of the little creatures who have been quietly living in nests and dens all winter, eating what they stored away and patiently waiting for the snow to melt. This particular creature, and others like him, are hungry.
  • All of the seedlings this creature ate are early. And having him eat them now means I know that he is around and can catch him before the really important "true" seedlings are growing- these were "baitlings".
  •  This is a learning/exploration opportunity.
Lesson: root (rhymes with "brute") strength! 
This spinach, only one week old, has some roots. Even though the green, sun-absorbing, "edible" part of the minuscule plant is, well, minuscule, the roots are three to four times as long! 
It reminds me of a critical rule of architecture: when cantilevering, for every 1/3 unit of cantilever, 2/3 units of hidden length has to be anchored to allow for support. 

spring fair seeding

It is time to start planning for the Spring Fair! Though it is 1 1/2 months away (May 15th), planning starts now - and so does seeding!

We are going to transition away from plastic trays and towards soil blocks for farm-use seedlings. (Hence the huge "need more cow bell" contraption on the right). But since soil blocks don't quite make sense for the seedling sale, I will be using the seed 'em, split 'em, pot 'em up method for those plants. Above are some recently seeded snap dragons, straw flowers, and petunias.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

feeding nature

With longer days, many of which have been sunny, albeit cold, greenhouse seedlings have been growing and growing. 
Until Thursday night. Something ate my seedlings! 
78 two-week old kale plants: gone. 
60+ one-week old spinach plants: gone
about 100 two-week old flower plants: gone. 

At least all of these were "early" seedings and I have plenty of time to recover... and hunt!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Beans and peas

According to the calendar, spring has sprung. 
And I almost would have believed it on Sunday: it was in the high 40s, there was a slight breeze and the sun couldn't have shined brighter. 
But not lately: Monday's temps barely rose above 30, and a cold, wet snow fell from the gray sky for hours... today wasn't much better... there was some sun. But brrrrr! And tonight's projected low is 15!
Regardless of the weather, I am pumped about the coming season. I am anxious to shift into high seeding gear. To quell some of my energy I seeded some snow peas (appropriate) and some runner beans into one of the small hoop houses. 

And the little baby seedlings in the big greenhouse don't care what the sky is throwing at them:
Grow spring grow!

Hi, Tunnel

When they asked the quite contrary Mary "how does your garden grow?" she might have answered "under a high tunnel" if she lived where I do now. I mean, mid-winter fresh produce in New Hampshire sounds pretty contrary to me...

High tunnels, or hoop houses - but don't call them greenhouses - are large structures build of metal framing and covered in plastic under which you plant in the ground. This allows for more control of the environment - temperature, light, water - and for longer growing seasons. They make eating local in the winter possible even for people who live above the Mason Dixon and east of, well, California. 

This past weekend I went to a high tunnel workshop in Unity, Maine. 

 On the drive home it was hard not to see high tunnels... It was one of those phenomenons of once you are 'tuned in' to an idea, you see it everywhere... this is one of the roadside attractions somewhere in Maine.  

This spring we are building one here at The Community School. We are getting ours from Ledgewood Farms, so I went over to see for myself what they look like, what size I might want - basically to "talk shop" with the guys in the shop.

At first I was skeptical that a high tunnel was the right thing for the TCS farm this year. But after talking to Rob at Ledgewood, and attending a GREAT workshop, I am sold! I can't wait for this new structure and to grow beneath it.

Monday, March 14, 2011


There is a general rule when it comes to what not to talk about amongst friends: no politics, no religion... YES music! This one might get weird, but hear me out, and take from it what you will.

I was graciously treated to some live music this past weekend. Hailey Niswanger, a current student at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, was in town on Saturday and one of our CSA members reserved a ticket for me + 1. It was great to get some live music coursing through the veins. Jazz is a genre that I need to be in the mood for; Sunday mornings seems like the best time for it in my life... but if it is live, I'll take it whenever I get it.

From Jazz to Jigga. I just sat down to dinner and a movie with the cat. Tonight's feature:  Fade To Black. There is nothing, nothing like Jay-Z and this docu walks us through the making of the Black Album and Hova's "sellin' out the Garden". He pulls out all of the stops and a whole lot of music stars from Missy Elliot to Mike D. He also pays tribute to people who have made hip hop what it is today from Biggie to Pac, to L.L. and Mary J. 

Which brings me to the Band. When I was watching Fade, I frequently thought about The Last Waltz.  After 16 years on the road, the Band decides to call it quits. When "fading away" was part of the idea, the Band faded in much the same way Jay did (or rather Jay fades like the Band). Guest galore: Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Dr. John, and the Neils - Young and Diamond. It's great in the only that way a docu about the Band can be!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


With all of this snow, there isn't a whole lot of color happening in outdoor life (mostly whites, grays, browns - although the birds are making rounds, so we are getting reds and blues...) But the one color I have been missing is green.

Not any more!

The onions have sprouted. I feel like a proud mother, really. I am tempted to carry around photos of them in my pocket

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

parsnip sprouts!

I have a bunch of old parsnip seed left over from what Brady had last year... a lot of it! And I was told by a number of people that parsnip seed is picky, delicate, cannot be kept for more than one season... but I don't want to buy more, I have so much.
"To the Germinator!" (read like "To the Batcave!")
I did a germination test of my geriatric seeds:

The old seed done did it!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mechanics, live free or die

I feel like I could almost start a series about life up here in the mountains:
X-C skiing, live free or die;
"shopping" at the town dump, live free or die;
pumping gas, live free or die.
In fact, I think I will start a series.
Episode One - Mechanics, you guessed it live free. or. die.

Unfortunately, this post doesn't have an accompanying photo, yet.

Last Tuesday night my truck started acting up. I turned the key and "VARROOOOM" it purred like it never purred before. Actually, more like a terrifying growl. Then it continued to purr... all the way home, idling WAY to high - to the point where I feared I might lose control of it.
The next morning I called up a friend who owns a NAPA store and told him all about it. He suggested that I take it to my closest mechanic, about 1/2 a mile down the road.
"He might not be the guy who will be your mainstay mechanic, but he is GREAT in a pinch, and knows engines".
Turns out this guy is great. He ended up keeping my truck for a couple of days... and only charging me twenty bucks!
But did he fix it...
The high idle was at first attributed to a clogged IAC valve, which controls the amount of air the engine is sucking in, controlling the idle. If the IAC is not running - controlling - properly, the RPM of the engine gets out of whack.
So, this guy, the kind of mechanic who will tinker to find the cause, the kind of mechanic who will re-build rather than re-place, the kind of mechanic whose hands have been black for years, cleaned out the IAC valve.

No luck.
He then went out into his "yard" and pulled an old IAC off of a truck that same age- though not aging well - as mine and put it into my truck.

No luck.
At the end of day two, he called. Excited to pick up my fixed truck, I headed over and started 'er up. She started, then died. Started. Died. I walked back into the shop shouting over the welding torch "IT IS ME!?!?"
He came back out to my truck with me...
"Oh, right. you need to start it with your foot on the gas... hold the gas down for a while, then you're good"
"Well, I couldn't get the idle down... so I just ripped the IAC out completely."
"Right. Huh?"

In case you are as confused as I was, I'll break it own as I understand it: your IAC is your intake air control valve. Without a valve to control air intake, there is no control. There is still air intake, and lots of it, with no control. So, upon starting, when the engine wants air, you've gotta give it to it, lay on the gas!

Figuring this was not a long-term solution to the problem, I thanked him, told him I'd feed him when I had food, and drove home. Today I called who I think will be my mainstay mechanic and explained the past week.

"So, there isn't an IAC on it now?" he asked... "That's gonna mean a lot of air! You should bring it in..."
Wanting to live free and NOT die, I asked if it was okay for me to drive it over - about 15 miles.
His response: "Oh, you should be fine... just drive with both feet. One on the gas, one on the brake!"
I never imagined this would be my life. Driving a 1995 Ford F150 (with both feet) down the winding, frost heaved roads of New Hampshire. Live Free or Die.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Fridgerminator - "I'll grow back!"

A few weeks ago, I set off on a mission of electricity. I needed a germination chamber and - based on experience at Four Winds, I investigated the circuitry of a no-longer-working refrigerator and tinkered with the interior light a bit.

The goal: to make a germination chamber for seeding
The tools: an old fridge, some wire snips, a new thermostat, a partner in crime (Ned), and a 7th grade knowledge of how a circuit works
The outcome: success! okay, admittedly, there was a lot of tinkering and mis-wiring... but no one got hurt and in the end, I have a functioning fridgerminator.

clockwise from top left: Ned in the bottom 'freezer' portion of the fridge - snipping wires,
the empty fridge - testing to make sure a seed tray fits well,

the re-wired light, the thermostat - keeping things at a balmy 67 degrees!

With some extra seeds from last year, I seeded up a couple of the condiment trays
(with holes drilled in the bottom for drainage) - for fun, and to use "all parts of the animal"
Update: I just checked on my little seedlings - they are starting to sprout!!!