A Look Back - Our First Month Farming

Vegetable Seed Packets

Khori and I started our first month farming as organic farm internships the first day of March. On that cold morning we woke up in the weebee, and attended a meeting in the farmhouse to discuss our farm duties. Projects and plans were explained and discussed, priorities were set, and the livestock care was shown by example. That first Sunday in March was cold with snow still covering the ground, so we had an easy start.

March 2015 InfographicThe rest of the month we were busy weeding, preparing and sowing planting beds, tending to livestock, attending markets, and performing some minor repairs. Experience was gained assassinating weeds with an arsenal of hoes, and even killing them with our bare hands like savages! The weed problem was prevalent when we arrived in late winter, but as the month progressed with warmth the seemingly manageable weed problem turned into a weed explosion just days before the Spring Equinox on March 20th. Researching methods of weed control has become a tier one priority for Khori and I.

The farm tiller would not start, so we managed to get all of our spring crop planting, for our first month farming, accomplished by employing the use of shovels, several types of hoes, metal rakes, pitch forks, a cart, wheel barrels and plenty of buckets to create planting beds or improve upon existing beds. One fine day, we received 170 raspberry plants via FedEx. Knowing the plants were on the way, we spent the day creating long rows for the future raspberry patch, and the plants arrived with perfect timing to get planted the same day. When the weather allowed we spent our time on the farm creating beds for direct seeding and fixing up existing beds by removing weeds and direct seeding gaps between existing crops. The weather cooperated well enough for us to create and sow 57 beds for the month of March, in addition to the existing planted beds we managed to seed. We planted vegetables in varieties, and we are hoping to identify varieties growing best in our conditions, and those selling best at market. By varieties, we planted multiple types of every vegetable planted; There were six types of carrots, five types of lettuce, and multiple types of Asian greens, beets, peas, radishes, turnips and spinaches directly seeded into the field.

Late Night Visitor

Late Night Visitor

Daily chores consist of providing fresh feed and water for the free ranging chickens and ducks on the organic farm, daily egg hunts, and attempting to mend predator related issues. Every morning we wake up to provide fresh feed for the chickens and ducks. The chickens get fed one portion to last the day, but the ducks are fed first thing in the morning and at night when we put them in their coop for safety from predators stealing from the farm at night. In addition to feeding, we provide fresh water for drinking, but we also fill several pools and large containers for the ducks since they do not have access to a pond on the land here. Khori and I are convinced ducks hate clean water because they manage to muddy their pools immediately after they are freshly filled, every time! The first week or so, we thought the chickens were not producing many eggs, but we found eggs hidden all over the garage area, where the chickens had been sleeping, when we cleared the garage out to apply chicken wire to keep them out of the rafters. After that we became more serious about our daily egg hunting, and have been collecting a dozen eggs almost daily. The eggs on the farm are a variety of colors, from brown, to white, green, or speckled, and the ducks lay black eggs sometimes, but they wash white. Our egg business is not complete with the daily egg hunt, as we also have to wash the eggs before they can be refrigerated, and candle them to check for imperfections during the night. The predators have been robbing us of egg layers all month, and a little scouting with game cameras provided pictures of raccoons and a large red fox harassing the birds on the property. Several chickens, roosters, and a couple of ducks have been nabbed in the middle of the night. Legally, there is not much we can do right now because trapping season is out on these fur-bearing animals due to the timing of their reproductive seasons. The state of North Carolina does allow for these animals to be shot when caught in the act of damaging property, but we're not too crazy about killing animals trying to eek out their existence in a country that suffers from lack of animal habitat. The owners of the farm did manage to catch one poor raccoon in the act, but the fox has been elusive. The ducks seem to be safe now that we are putting them in a coop nightly, but the chickens are roosting in the garage in a section we left open for their use. The chickens seem to come down a little too early, around 4:30 in the morning, and the fox and raccoons are still finding easy chicken dinners around the farm. We will continue to attempt to make the chickens safer and hope lacking easy meals will ward off the predators.

Bed Preparation: Before, During and After

Bed Preparation: Before, During and After

This past month we attended two farmer's markets, and performed some minor repairs, but this type of work should increase as the year progresses providing more products to sell at market, and more time to put into different repairs on the farm. The market experience was a fun eye opener that provided a break from heavy physical labor. We sold half-pound bags of freshly harvested spinach for $4 each, and sold about 30 pounds worth. A dozen full sized eggs were selling for $6 each, and $3.50 for a dozen of the pee-wee sized eggs. We also sold half-pound sized bags of mixed lettuce and bundles of collard greens for $4 each. A heavy snow fell late in February tearing down the huge netting structure covering the blueberry orchard to prevent birds from grazing. That repair has been started, but not completed. We're in the process of fixing gaps in the net by securing the openings together with fishing line when time allows. The chicken wire applied in the garage area took quite a bit of time, but was an easy task overall. We also mended a small chicken coop for our batch of chicks, and had to adjust a water spigot a couple of times.

April Fools' Day completed our first month farming as organic farm interns.  We attempted to track the time we invested in labor, and our mileage for farm related activities. On average we, each, worked 6.15 hours per day or 190.7 total hours per person for March, but often we forget to track the time for daily chores. A total of 226.2 miles were used for farm related chores. This month we have had to play a lot of catch up on the farm, but we're hoping to increase our posting activities with weekly plans and reflections.