What Do Farmers Do In The Winter – reblog

January 24, 2018

Guest written by Elaina from Wicklow Way

Winter at Wicklow Way is more quiet than during the eight to ten months of twelve to fourteen hour days. This we generally accept as our ‘break’ though time is advancing much too quickly. Already the days are getting longer and our time is running out.

The greenhouse heats up at the end of February. We try to leave it ready to go at the end of December so we can move right in when the time comes. So lots of cleaning, organizing, and making sure the heat is ready to turn on happen in December. We have learned over the years that those cute little mice like to nest in the propane heater, the germination chamber, between the flats under the hot table…anywhere they can stay warm and safe. It drives our dogs bananas.

We start reviewing seed catalogues prior to Christmas. All seed from the current year is counted and weighed and determined if it is usable for a second year. This involves germination testing, research and discarding some. Did you know that it’s best to get new parsley, lettuces and onion seed, including leeks, shallots, etc. each year as the seed loses germination ability in its’ second season?

In the workshop all the tools get sharpened, tractors get an oil-change, carburetors cleaned and adjustments made, new cultivating tools are imagined and created, and repairs to hoop-houses are in the works. These structures settle during the season so the doors may no longer seal, the windows often won’t shut. Care must be taken during the changing weather conditions, clearing snow from hoop-houses so they don’t collapse with the weight.

In the house the organic certification application is under way. This must be submitted by the end of March. This involves reviewing the past 7-8 years of field diagrams and rotating crops to the best possible locations. You don’t want to keep planting crops of the same families in the same area otherwise an increase in pest and soil bacterias can occur. Since we don’t use any herbicides or pesticides we must ensure our crop rotation is adequate. I keep charts showing everything that we ever planted in every field. Because we grow such a wide variety of crops this process takes quite a long time to complete.

We are planting pretty much the same amount – 6 acres – of vegetables, though minor adjustments will be made with items such as kale (downsizing) due to the change in customer purchases. Believe it or not, tomatoes no longer sell as well as they used to and red tomatoes are in higher demand. We used to grow upwards of 1,400 tomato plants and now we grow about 200 plants.

In the meantime we are enjoying some extra personal time with our two dogs, taking them for walks through the forest on our cross-country skiis and participating in and enjoying this lovely winter weather. And of course, we live in hope and optimism that 2018 will be our best year yet. We are looking forward to May when our farmers markets start up and we get to catch up with our fabulous customers again for another season.

Hugs, Elaina

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