Farm Blog
16 Jun 2013

"Still the rain kept pourin', fallin' on my ears 
And I wonder, still I wonder who'll stop the rain" - John Foggerty

Ah, the early morning sun is rising in the east, the farm is quiet, and the hounds are still not up from their midnight slumber.  After a long week of very wet, soggy, and depressing farming weather we can at least enjoy a  weekend and dry out before the rains come again early this upcoming week.  Connecticut is close to a record for June rain fall and the crops are starting to show signs of fatigue.  We need some sun, and fast!  Its a little too early to start crying foul on Mother Nature but shades of '09 are starting to emerge and, like Fight Club, we don't talk about '09...

A lot of people wonder what us worse, rain or drought?  Obviously both are an issue but most veggie growers are active users of irrigation systems - though for those big commodity growers out in the plains (and west), its a little more tricky, they rely on rain a lot.  We would much rather it be dry then wet.  After all, who in their right minds likes to sit in water day after day?  Who likes to sink up to their knees in mud when harvesting kale or radishes?  What plant encourages slugs to come en masse to wallow on their leaves?  Exactly.  

Most damaging to the farm in the past two weeks of rain is the fact that for every day we cannot get our big machinery into the fields, its another day we CANNOT plant.  Every day lost is a day later in the season where we don't have a crop yet.  Its all a matter of timing right now and time is not on our side.  October is a mere 100 plus days away and we gotta get stuff in the ground!  We still have half our tomato crop to get in (around 10,000 more plants for those keeping score at home) as well as the next wave of direct seedings like salad greens and beets, and all our fall winter squashes and pumpkins, too.  Ugh.  

Funny, over the weekend at market, where it was sunny and beautiful way too many people asked if the water was "bad" for the crops?  It's amazing to us that the disconnect is so complete between the growing life and the consumer regarding this issue.  Yes, too much rain is bad, plain and simple.  Next topic please...

Author Patrick Horan in Farm Blog Read 9391 times Read more...
05 Jun 2013

The week has been, and continues to be, a very busy one for all of us at the farm.  Major tomato and potato plantings, a bus load of 5th grade school children from NYC, and the raising of the new barn.  The story of the new barn is one which like many things revolving around Waldingfield has a lot to do with history, family, and luck.  And so, come to think of it, does the connection between the Allen Stevenson School annual field trip.  All that plus the start of the 24th year of our CSA program!  

We will start with the barn and some history.  Back in 1920-21 our great-grandfather, grandfather and his brother (Mr C.B. Smith and his sons, Carlton and Alexander) planted the white and red pine forrest which sits along the western side of our property along East Street.  In what was once pastured hill side they planted several thousand trees with the idea of it being harvested in the future years and sold.   A simple, long term, farm plan to help bring in extra revenue to what was then a dairy farm.  

Fast forward to the 1970's, the dairy having been long disbanded and Waaldingfield serving as a country home for our grandparents, we boys used to wander through these now mighty pines collecting cones and the needles which fell onto the forrest floor.  Then in late 1979 the white  and red pines were hit with a major blight and we lost more then half of the forrest.  Within a few years the once mighty trees were snapping like matchsticks and down below new hard woods emerged. 

However, seeing an opportunity to make good one the years earlier plan to do something with the remaining timber, Quincy (grandson) and John Horan (son in law to Carlton Smith, father of the boys, and current owner of the farm) devised a plan to build a new barn for the now thriving organic Waldingfield Farm.  The original barns - a woodshed from the 1770's and the main barn from the 1830's - we in need of some relief after years of use.  So a plan was devised to cut the timber, mill it locally, and then hire a true post and beam architect to erect and new barn.  And so it has been done.  Ninety years, three generations, and as luck would have it, the same alma mater as our grandfather was there to see it rise... sweet!

After much waiting for the milling to happen the logs began to come back as cut timber, the foundation was built (by Lenny Manz) and the date was set for May 31st to start building the structure.  There would be help from the farm crew, as well as a crane to come and lift the massive beams.  It was indeed a sight to behold!  On the 4th of June the Allen Stevenson School - both Patrick Horan and his grandfather Carlton Smith attended - came for their annual 5th grade field trip to the farm.  Who would have thought that roughly 90 years after Carton Smith had left Alleen Stevenson, and planted the trees, that there would be forty four school children from his alma mater there to watch it go up?  Indeed, a little luck there for sure.  The kids really enjoyed the afternoon planting potatoes but the crane lifting up the massive beams was what really held their attention. 

So, a barn was raised, spuds were planted, and now the beginning of the CSA program.  With well over one hundred families investing in the season, we look forward to the harvest to come.  It will be hard work but as our grandfather proved, there is glory in planting and harvesting, only this will take ninety days, not ninety years...

Author Patrick Horan in Farm Blog Read 7326 times Read more...
26 May 2013

Well, after a spring which has been devoid of any moisture (or so it seemed), the past few days have brought record rain here in Litchfield County.  Thursday was four to five inches depending on where in the state you reside and it was close to being too much.  Thankfully the air has been swirling heavily, winds of up t0 thirty miles and hour are helping pick the moisture up off the over saturated ground.  Our fields which are relatively high (900 feet) tend to drain well - though our farm stand field has a lot of clay in it which makes for a bit more water logged soil then on other parts of the farm.   Now, on top of all this is the very cool temperatures all around new England.  There talk of snow flurries in Norfolk (nope), hail in Cornwall (yes), and people were scrambling to cover their newly planted tomatoes from frost (some towns did have some).  Most of the talk was just that, talk, but it was very cold for the late May date - twenty degrees below the average.  Thankfully, except for some row cover and plastic mulch which came undone, Waldingfield has had no real damage from the past three days of weather.  

So what does all this weather mean?  The salad greens, sugar snap peas, and hearty cooking greens love cool air and rain and are thriving today as the sun is now shining on them.  Later this week when the temps hit the 80's they are going to explode.  Already we have broccoli raab, tat soi, radishes, leaf lettuce, and braising mix, all of which will be available for much of the next six weeks.  We should get off to a strong start when the CSA program starts in two weeks and the markets are starting to bring in strong revenues.  The summer plantings of early squashes, cucumbers, etc.,  are all fine, if a tad chilly. If there is a draw back to the rain and cold is that we may have had to delay the tomato planting for a few days.  We were set to start last week but the cool air and rain prevented us from taking the chance on frost.  Now the ground is too wet to get the tractor and transplanter into the fields.  Same for a big potato planting.  Everything else we can do with the crew by hand if need be.  The picture above was all planted by hand during the rains on Thursday...

The market season is finally getting going (two down and three more to start in next two weeks) and though the rains on Saturday put a damper on what is historically a big weekend for us at the farm, we are bullish onn a big season of market sales. Our increased inventory and crop variety will all but ensure we have plenty of supply for all our CSAs and our five farmers markets.  Of course, weather and desease permitting.  We are looking for a record year... sweet!!

As the season is rolling now and we look back on the spring that never seemed to begin,  it is also time to turn inward for some reflection.  Memorial Day is a time for family gatherings, summer homes being opened for the season, kids getting ready to leave school.  Most importantly a time to remember those who bravely served our country.  In fact, it is our duty as citizens to remember and honor all who serve, despite ones politics, and we at Waldingfield say thanks to all those who served our country.  

Have a great holiday weekend.

Author Patrick Horan in Farm Blog Read 6425 times Read more...
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