We've been working in the field nearly three weeks now, and we're making lots of progress. We started out by staking out our beds, and making our first ten raised beds by hand - shoveling out aisles. This was our plan for all 50 of our raised beds, but Collin, the North Farm manager, told us he thought he could put together a makeshift bed shaper for the BCS (a pretty incredible two wheel tractor, check it out here).
The bed shaper, a couple of disks clamped to a cultivating bar, worked great. We spent about a day shoveling those first ten beds together, and the BCS finished the other 40 beds in about a day and a half. It saved us so much time that we were able to focus on some other things we hadn't thought we'd have time for. We laid out tarps over 10 beds that will remain covered for 4-6 weeks, enough time that weed seeds will germinate and grow and then die when they can't find sunlight. We also had extra time to seed plant starts for market, something we'd decided not to do this year. So, thanks Collin!
Getting our transplants out and direct seeding crops has been so gratifying - we're really seeing our farm take shape. We have about 45% of our field planted so far, and sometime in the next two weeks we'll be switching our tunnel beds from spring crops to summer crops. Little things, like putting together a sprinkler setup and experimenting with different ways to prepare beds (meaning the steps we take after shaping the bed and before planting), are just as satisfying and rewarding as seeing our first round of veggies grow.
We knew in theory coming into this season that the first year would be filled with learning opportunities (a more optimistic way to say that we knew we'd run into a lot of unexpected challenges) - every plot of land acts differently, with different soils, different drainage, different weeds, etc. We spent the last two years on heavy clay soils in Vermont, so we hadn't put a whole lot of thought into irrigation. Our half acre is really sandy, and drains so fast that after we turn off sprinklers we can actually hear the ground sucking up the water. It's been ultra dry and windy since the snow melted, so we move our sprinkler setup around three or four times a day to keep our plants happy. We've got lots of quack grass, which is challenging our intention to only minimally work the soil. We're working in the North Farm's greenhouse to seed our transplants, and it's always at least 65 degrees in there; the heat combined with the long days we enjoy at such a high latitude mean our transplants grow about twice as fast as expected.
As I said, these are learning opportunities, and even though my hair has a lot more gray in it than when we moved here (seriously), we keep reminding each other that we're just going to get better and better, and with every hurdle we'll dial in our systems a little bit more. And despite the challenges, maybe even partly because of them, we're loving what we're doing and still can't quite believe we get to go out and do it every day.
This weekend we start going to market, and we'll be at the Downtown Marquette Farmer's Market from 9-1! The spring crops we planted in our tunnel are thriving - we'll have baby lettuce, beet greens, mesclun, cilantro, and pea shoots, plus a variety of vegetable and flower plants for sale. Going to market is always so fun, and now that it's our own farm, and we'll be meeting our very own customers, it's just that much more exciting. Next Tuesday we'll be at the Munising Farmer's Market from 4-7, and then every Saturday and Tuesday until winter that's where we'll be.