Friday, January 28, 2011

Marketing Ideas - Can You Help?

We are working on coming up with simple and easy marketing tools for the farm. You know, little things that don't cost much but get your name and image out there.

We came up with a t-shirt that I think portrays our farm.

Here are a few questions that I would love for you to help me answer:

1. Is it a good design?
2. Does it have any resale value as an extra product that we offer?
3. Would you wear this shirt?

I know these are objective questions and that everyone's opinion can be different. But any help that you can give me in critiquing the design will be helpful.

So what do you think?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Farmer's Dance

Being a farmer is kind of like doing a line dance.  Two steps forward, one step back. It doesn't always seem like you're getting anywhere, but eventually somehow you've ended up on the other side of the room.

I've shared here a little about the seeds we've already started.  Of those intended for our Spring garden, we're batting .500 so far.  The flowers are coming along nicely, the herbs are right on schedule and the peas are looking great and ready to be transplanted.  For whatever reason, though, our broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages did so poorly I ended up re-seeding.  The seedlings intended for our Summer garden are having a little better track record.  The squash looks gorgeous and the tomatoes should be ready for transplant in 4 weeks, but the peppers had to be started over.  Like the song says, two out of three ain't bad.

Anyone who's ever tried their hand at growing any kind of plants knows that things like that are par for the course.  Sometimes, seeds take off and amaze you. Sometimes, not so much.  You take your chances when starting from scratch, and you come to expect those kinds of things.

What you don't expect are mechanical breakdowns.

Over the course of the last week, we have spread over 1000 cubic feet of turkey manure on the gardens.  It was hard, arduous (and smelly) work made a little easier by the help of Wendy and the girls and I was really pleased to get the work done in relatively good time.This week's task is to get it "turned in" so those all-important nutrients have time to get into the soil, ready to nourish the crops.  A good roto-tiller makes it a fairly easy job.

Until this morning, our tiller has started faithfully on the first pull.  Today?  Nothing.  So, I called a good friend of mine that works on small engines to come take a look at it, and when we tried again to start it the pull cord broke in my hand.  I guess it just wasn't ready to come off vacation yet.  Until its (hopeful) return, I'll be out there for as long as it takes, turning over the beds with a good old-fashioned shovel. It's kind of ironic in a way, since I have written on my business cards "Fresh produce grown the old-fashioned way." I wonder how long it will take me to turn over a 1/2 acre of planting beds with a shovel? Only time will tell.

All this reminds me of a saying that my wife stumbled across online the other day and shared with me. It goes something like this:

Don't grumble that roses have thorns...be thankful that thorns have roses!

When thing keep going wrong in rapid succession, it can be so easy to forget the things that make this farming life so enjoyable. To step outside and smell the fresh air, to see life springing up everywhere you look, and knowing that God has given it to you to raise and nurture, and in return supply your needs.

When things aren't going right, remember to look for the roses.

Enough about me, how was your day?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Ups and downs

January is almost over now, and there is still a lot to do yet. The weather this past week has been nice and warm, giving us the chance to get some much needed work done outside. But even with the nice weather, things have been moving painfully slow.

The manure delivery finally got here this week. It was a couple weeks later than was expected, so now I'm feeling rushed getting it taken care of. We finished spreading it out on all but the last 3 beds today. Now I need to get it turned in so it will compost itself. The seeds we started for a bunch of those beds have already sprouted, so I am feeling the time crunch to get the beds ready.

We finished planting the seeds for the remainder of our early season crops tonight, with tomorrow promising to be a very busy day. First, I have to get some wood cut for our heat.  Then, I'll be planting some more carrots, and putting in the initial radish bed for the season.

Just to keep you updated on some other areas of the farm, we have two sides of the pig-house closed in so far. I have one side to finish framing up and then put the wood-siding on the remaining two. There won't be too much that needs to be done yet on the interior, with the exception of building a feeding trough.

I think that about covers it for the moment. Come back and visit often for updates on our projects, as well as seeing how the garden grows.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Time To Plant

As I mentioned the other day, we've started our seeds indoors.

They are finally coming up and starting to look good. Since we are using our sun-room this year as a dining room/greenhouse, dinner time can be interesting. These photos represent about 1/3 of the seeds we currently have started. So you can imagine sitting down to dinner surrounded by flats of seedlings and seeds.

These are Broccoli and Cabbage plants in the picture.

I am so excited about these little guys growing and the prospect of getting them into the ground. We are pushing it just a little this year. We are using low hoop house for our cool season crops and helping our summer crops get a good head start. Our goal is to have fresh produce ready for our customers by the first week of April. That's about a full month sooner than I was ready last year.

Now if only this snow would finish melting so I can get in the planting beds to work.

The time out of the garden is being spent as well as it can though, We've been steadily planting more seeds, and it's time to do some re-potting of Tea herbs so they can keep growing.

More to come on this and other progress here on the farm.  We'll keep you posted.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Snow Day - What's a farmer to do?

Greetings from snowy South Carolina. That's right, I said South Carolina. This is our first snow fall of the year and the second for the season. We had out first snow Christmas weekend, and now here we are in the second week of January and more snow. So far we've gotten 5 1/2 inches and it's still coming down. This is South Carolina, it's not supposed to snow like this here!

I do love the snow, always have.  It reminds me of my years growing up in Pennsylvania.

It's put a lot of things on hold for a few days though (work that really needs to be done.) But that's alright, it will give me a chance to do some other things I haven't had time for, like this blog, updating our website and Facebook page...things like that.

There has been a lot going on here for being in the dead of winter, so I'll just give a few highlights right now, and then go into more detail after another cup of coffee or two.

  • We've gotten about 21 varieties of plants started in our temporary greenhouse. This is about half of what we need to be starting this winter. We are planning on selling not only produce this year, but are adding herbs (fresh, dried, and plants), cut and potted flowers, and herbal tea mixes. So there are a lot of plants to start. The goal here at the farm is to have fresh produce available for sale by the first week of April this year.
  • We will be adding pigs to the farm soon. We have a number of fence posts cut, and have fencing ready to put up. We have a lean-to shed that we are converting to the "pig-house". This was one of the things I had originally planned to do this morning, until I found that deep blanket of snow outside.
  • We will be continuing with our chickens this year. We already are selling eggs and whole chicken. We will be expanding the operation by selling hatching eggs for our Heritage chickens.
As you can see there is plenty to do here on the farm. Like all things worthwhile, it's taking a lot of planning, thinking and changing the way we do things.

So here's to a snow day. A good day to play with the kids, and do a little planning and thinking along the way.

Monday, January 3, 2011

January 3, 2011 A New Year

The New Year has really gotten off to a rough start. We are just recovering from the stomach flu that started New Years Eve day and ran through Sunday. It affected 6 out of 7 of us, including Wendy and I at the same time.

Now that we have that behind us, it's time to start the new farming year.

Today, the girls and I are going to be starting the seeds for the garden (family and market garden). It's a balmy 50 degrees here in the South today, and there is still cold weather ahead over the next couple of months, but it's time to get started. Our goal is to have produce ready to sell at least 2 weeks ahead of everyone else this year.

I do need your help with something though. I have been thinking hard about starting a CSA here on the farm. Have you ever thought about using one?  I would love to hear your thoughts about it.  Anything you'd care to share, from what produce you would like to receive to thoughts on cost. All input would be great.

Gotta keep this short...it's time to start planting.  We've got about 400 seeds to start today. I'll let you know tonight how we made out.

Happy Farming!