Planning for Change

 

One of the many things I learned as an apprentice is that change is constant in farming.  While planning is important, things may not always go as planned and sometimes the only constant is change.  There are weather systems, pest issues, machinery repairs, fading daylight hours, varying soil conditions, and that’s just a regular day on a farm.  It’s part of farming to plan for change, and then adjust as needed when the situation arises, but always keep moving forward.

Like many farmers, I have a job off of the farm and balancing the two became a challenge this past year.  Running our farm, and now a construction company, I soon took on more responsibility than originally planned; and while managing the company has been beneficial for business, it has pushed my full time plans for the farm back a little.

I will admit, I felt discouraged and defeated at times.  Spending more days in the office or on a job site meant being away from the farm.

But, there were those glorious days in which I was able to put my hands in the earth.  Every day on the farm is a breath of fresh air as I come up to the surface.”

Despite the change in schedule, I still had a great season with many firsts, learning opportunities, and continued growth at our farm.  After all, every step forward is still a step forward as I live my farmDREAM!

A few of my farming firsts and successes this season…

  • Growing tomatillos, lavender, and rainbow carrots
  • Attended the Illinois State Grange session and brought home ribbons for our produce!
  • Made grape juice with Grandma Bossler’s recipe, Yummy!
  • Found and purchased two very needed tractor implements
  • Moved the chicken coop
  • Cooked with rhubarb, who knew? I LOVE RHUBARB!

And yes, I started planning for the upcoming season after one week of being off for winter break.

Planting Asparagus

Asparagus spears peeking through the earth are one of the first signs that spring is here! A farm favorite, and an early perennial, it is the gift that keeps on giving.

When we purchased the farm in early spring of 2013 we were lucky to have a few surprise plants, still left by the garden, to get us by until our new plants were established and well on their way. Once planted, and if cared for, asparagus plants will produce for 15-20 years.

planting asparagus

Selection
It is important to choose asparagus crowns that are from a reputable distributor or trusted local producer. Invest in healthy plants and you’ll be rewarded for years to come. Asparagus plants take 2-3 seasons before full production but 2-3 year old crowns are available to purchase if you are eager to get a head start. I have had success with planting both younger crowns and 2-3 year old crowns.

I purchased my crowns through Nourse Farms. The varieties we chose were Jersey Night, Mary Washington, and Purple Passion. When selecting your asparagus choose varieties that are well suited for your area. Online information is plentiful depending on which zone you live in or you can check with your local extension office.

Soil Location and Preparation
Select a location that has good drainage and plenty of sunlight. Asparagus prefers a pH range of 6.5 -7.5. You can amend the soil by applying lime if too acidic or sulfur if the soil is too alkaline. Prepare the soil by removing any weeds, as asparagus does not do well when competing. I suggest mulching to keep the weeds at bay.

Planting
When you receive your crowns make sure to keep asparagus roots dry and do not soak them. The sooner you can plant them the better, but remember it is springtime and Mother Nature does not always cooperate. Store the crowns in a cool dark place like a basement, root cellar, or garage until you are able to plant.

planting asparagus placing asparagus in trench asparagus crowns in trench

When you are ready to plant furrow 8” – 10” and spread compost in the bottom of the trench. Separate the asparagus roots like a mustache, spacing 10” – 12” apart, with the crown facing upwards. Make sure the roots have plenty of room to spread out and flourish. Cover the crown with 2” – 4” of soil. As the asparagus plant grows you will continue to add earth to the trench until it is filled, allowing the fern to stay above the soil. The ferns will dry and wither as fall approaches and after winter you will cut back and discard. If all goes well you will be able to harvest that spring and the following season you can enjoy the full abundance of your asparagus.

Next week I will be cooking with Chef Natalie to share a delicious recipe with asparagus, fresh from the farm and straight to your inbox!

farmDREAM – Winter Hibernation Update

fallwinter14It was only a week after completion of my first season as a farm apprentice that I needed to get back in the dirt. Worn and tired, we were all looking forward to a short reprieve, but a girl can only organize so many closets.

Winter has been long and my hibernation is drawing to a close. Each hint of warmth from an abnormally high temp mid February awakens the soul and I am ready for planting.

Farm magazines are sprawled out and circling me as I sit in my office picking and choosing my spring line-up of seeds.  There are many varieties that I am excited about and some new ones I am looking forward to trying.  I order seeds and products from two locations; Johnny’s and Hummert International.

We added a “new” tractor to our fleet.  New for me, but gently used, and it will help me accomplish everything I need to on the farm.  I think Uncle Glenn would be proud, as our tractor shed is filled with mostly red (Massey Ferguson).  I also have a new tiller attachment and looking for a furrower as we speak.  I will need this to plant more asparagus crowns, rhubarb and potatoes this spring.

I am very excited about our greenhouse and hope to have it put up within a month.  We spent a long weekend at a local winery labeling with care and taking it apart.  Special thanks to my fellow apprentices from Riverbend Roots Farm and my parents for coming to the rescue and helping us.  Our next step is to prep and level the ground so we can start to assemble the gothic style greenhouse.

A large compost pile has been constructed near the greenhouse site.  Compost minimizes household food waste and green debris throughout the farm. Compost is being incorporated into the soil as the conventional farm ground is readied for growing produce.

There is still a lot of planning and work going into this next season.  I will continue to work as a farmer-in-training and earn my official status as a farmer.  I am also designing our farmstand, which will be located at the edge of our property.  We’ve been making way on restoration plans for the house and slowly but surely we will get there.  At the end of each day there is a smile on my face and my partner through life right by my side! #followingthefarmdream

 

Follow the farmDREAM

What is the farmDREAM? The farmDREAM is a metaphor and inspiration to follow your journey and follow your dream! Our farmDREAM began with a wish to preserve the farm and make it a place for generations to enjoy. Our farmDREAM is everything about the farm; growing great food, harvesting fruit from Uncle Glenn’s trees then turning them into a delicious recipe, relaxing on the front porch swing with a glass of good wine, and creating and sharing memorable events. I am so truly blessed to have a partner along the way and together we are making each other’s dreams come true.

I must say, along the way of our adventures, we have always had critics or naysayers. Doing something different is taking the path less traveled, “and that has made all the difference” – Robert Frost. The feeling of following your own path, or dream, is uplifting and freeing. It isn’t always ideal and sometimes there have been sacrifices, but it is worth it.

The next step is exchanging my stiletto pumps for a pair of farm boots and an office with a view – fresh dirt and blue sky overhead. I am happy to announce my apprenticeship at RiverBend Roots Farm starting this spring! It’s official; I am a farmer-in-training!

Stay tuned for more, and follow our farmDREAM to see how the story unfolds …