The strawberries are starting to change colors but we are still at least a week away for the U-Pick to start. The weather looks halfway decent for the next several days. Stay tuned.
May 25, 2012
One week from Monday is the last day for the birds. The lettuce looks like it’s going to need a bit more time than that. The weather for the next week or so looks pretty good so the lettuce will really pick up speed. Here are the pics:
May 21, 2012
Here’s the latest. The birds look like chickens and are really starting to eat and put on weight. The lettuce looks good after transplanting and is starting to gain size/weight, too.
May 18, 2012
The strawberries are putting on size and will be ripening in the next few weeks. Check back here for regular updates and, during U-Pick season, for daily instructions on hours of operations.
May 14, 2012
The story of week is the weather – a long, sustained dry spell allowed the ground to be worked and the lettuce got planted! Dry weather was also appreciated by the chickens who, when the ground is dry and the sun is shining, can dedicate calories to gaining weight instead of to staying warm. Over Amy’s objection, I have included a pic of the lettuce in the flat yesterday because, according to the official schedule of this little blogging project, that’s when the picture should have been taken. However, ANOTHER picture of lettuce in a flat would be boring at this point so I’ve also included a pic of the plants in the ground this morning, Sunday. The actual transplanting happened yesterday afternoon. Following are the pics:
The birds are now well feathered out and look like real chickens. The are gaining weight pretty quickly with live weights in the 3ish lb range.
Here’s the lettuce in the harvest area where it has spent the last week transitioning from the ideal climate of the greenhouse to the rigors of the great outdoors. This process is called “hardening off.” The shady harvest area is covered with a steel roof, closed to eastern exposure, and open on the other three sides. Notice the rightward lean of every plant in the flat – they were growing towards the south and west in search of direct sunlight. As mentioned in a previous post, Little gems is a romain-type lettuce which make long, almost tubular heads. Notice the leaves are really lengthening and, the bend for the sunlight notwithstanding, are starting to form that romaine shape.
Here is the lettuce in an outdoor bed about 24 hours after transplanting.
Here is what a 240 foot long bed of lettuce looks like. The green Little Gems are in the foreground, halfway down the bed Amy planted the redleafed Brunia that was pictured in an earlier post. The end of the bed is filled with more Little Gems that were seeded a week later than the batch we have been following in this series of posts. Succession planting of lettuce will continue like this throughout the summer and fall. Along each row of lettuce is a piece of drip tape which is an irrigation device that precisely delivers water at a slow, even rate along its entire length. We use drip for all of our produce because it saves water, Earth’s most precious resource, and because it doesn’t feed water to the weed seeds waiting to germinate in every corner of the bed. Notice the empty bed to the left of the lettuce bed – it has been tilled and marked for planting. The bed marking provides a furrow for catching manually added fertilizer before seeding or transplanting as well as a guide for placing the seeds or transplants. Putting the plants in a particular location in every bed makes tractor cultivation much easier to do, allowing for a single set-up of cultivating tools to be properly adjusted to work for multiple beds. This is particularly important for crops like this lettuce with two rows in the same bed. Having the two rows indexed to each other – the same distance apart along the entire length of the bed – is critical to effective cultivation without trashing one row or the other of the crop with the cultivators.
Here is a sneak peek at our next batch of chickens which are different genetics from those we’ve been following so far. These birds are two weeks old and got moved to this range shelter on Sunday. They will be given access to the pasture on Monday.
May 7, 2012
Week 5 was a big week. The birds got moved onto the pasture in their newly built “chicken tractor” and the lettuce got moved out of the greenhouse to “harden off” in anticipation of being planted. The lettuce is actually overdue to be transplanted outside and is therefore not looking too good. Notice the yellow leaves. Continued wet weather has prevented us from working up the soil which would allow the lettuce, and a lot of other stuff, to get planted. The chickens have not been super happy with the continued cold/wet, either. Amy contacted the butcher to reschedule their slaughter date one week later – now the 4th of June.
Sorry for the dark pic – as I mentioned it has been rainy lately. Notice the size difference between the bird in the center of the front line and the birds to the right and left. It seems that the dramatically different sizes are traceable to the hen who laid the eggs. Young hens, called pullets, lay small eggs which lead to small chicks. Old hens lay very large eggs which tend to make huge chicks. The problem is that these huge chicks from old hens grow at widely inconsistent rates. Probably we have a mix of chicks from new hens, old hens, and those in their prime. According to some friends who also raise meat birds, the size inconsistency lessens as the season progresses. Perhaps back at the hatchery the old birds are being culled and the pullets are maturing into hens.
Here’s the lettuce looking a little worse for wear. When compared to last week’s pic it appears that these plants haven’t gotten any bigger. They have maxed out their root space in their respective cell and won’t gain anymore size until their roots have some room to grow. The good news is that the weather has broken and these plants should be in the ground in time for the next weekly update!
Here’s the beautiful Brunia, ready to be transplanted, too. Can’t wait to eat the first head of this stuff!