Thursday, January 13, 2011

Colvin Family Farm--Week 18

We've had a delicious taste of Fall over the past week--definitely my favorite season, Fall is refreshingly crisp, cool, sweet smelling--I look forward to it coming in full strength later this month (I can't believe that it's already September)!
When writing this newsletter each week I use words and pictures to send out a "slice" of the farm out to you all keeping you up to date with weekly activities, challenges, surprises and joys, but it is often frustrating that I can't capture the feel, sounds and smells of the farm--walking outside in the morning, dew still covering everything--feeling the crisp refreshing chill of another new day, complemented by the warm touch of fresh sunshine--hearing the early morning sounds--thousands of insects chirping, screeching and buzzing, dozens of birds singing, and smelling the fresh (it's what air fresheners try [and miserably fail] to copy) morning air, smelling of fresh earth here, a tomato patch, and just recently we've started to smell Fall leaves--I love the thousands (or even millions) of smells around the farm--way too many, and way too subtle to list--I've created a veritable monster of a run-on sentence here--better end it.
I like to think that all of these smells, sounds and sensations are packed into each vegetable--maybe we express ourselves best through our vegetables!

I hope you enjoy this late catchup of last weeks activities!

Adam Colvin

Colvin Family Farm Update: Week 18
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We've been battling a really dry season--we started this season not very well equipped for the challenge, but over the season we've gradually enlarged our "arsenal" and are able to do some serious combat now. This picture shows Noah watering a kale bed from a tank in the back of our truck.

The Small Pump

This little pump will run good pressure through more than 300 feet of 5/8 inch hose.

The Water Truck

This is the watering rig. We use a 5 horsepower pump to fill the tank from a lake, then haul it to the field. We then hitch the small pump to the hose on this blue reel, and run it down the path of a bed and water going up and down. One tank per 3 foot wide bed is the equivalent of 1/2 inch of rain.

Lay-flat to Drip-tape

We did break down and do some drip irrigation on our crops like cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and snap peas--this will definitely be the way we work next year as it is super simple and super easy! The little pump hitches up to the blue hose (known as lay-flat), we poke holes in the lay-flat and push a piece of "spaghetti" pipe through it that by aid of the little orange and black fitting hitches up to the drip tape.

Closeup of Drip Tape

This is a close-up of drip tape. It has two blue strips on the side with holes--if you look close in between my fingers you can see the minuscule slit that will emit a drop every couple of seconds (which is why they name it drip-tape). These slits are spaced every 12 inches, and will emit a gallon every hour--the beauty of drip tape is that the minuscule drips work their way down to where the roots of a plant are--we're watering deep with it, not just making the top couple of inches wet.

The Result

The drip tape is then placed next to the row of plants (in this case cucumbers).

Starting Lettuce

Another new method we've started using is lettuce starting. We've always longed for flats of beautiful lettuce plants all the same size all ready to go out at the same time (when you sow lettuce in containers as we have previously done you get all kinds of different sizes, and an unknown amount of plants, wimpy seedlings etc...). With this method we've finally achieved it!

 Letttuce Flats

As you could see in the first photo we use 288 cell flats--these are filled with high-quality Johnny's 512 Organic seed starting media. Then we push down on each cell so it is about 2/3 of the way full and sow 2-4 lettuce seed in each cell. we then cover them with a medium coarse grind of vermiculite, put them under a shade tree and water them daily.

Lettuce Plugs

This is the result (after spending time with tweezers thinning of course)--full flats of beautiful lettuce starts ready to go out!

Morning Glory

Even if it is a pestiferous weed, this morning glory is pretty!

Tomato Flowers

These tomato flowers are a whole lot prettier to me though!


I love how we have so many bumblebees and honey bees pollinating our cucumbers for us--we've never had to pay for pollination services yet!

Cucumbers Comin' On!

The cucumbers are really about to start crankin' them out! They are covered with flowers and have cucumbers in various stages all over!

Oriental Cucumbers

These are the oriental, burpless cucumbers--a little slower but they're still coming on!

Cucumber Patch

The rows of cucumbers.

Tomato Patch

The late tomato patch

Peppers w/Caleb

Caleb poses in the pepper patch with the first real yellow pepper of the year.


We've had some questions about how we stake our tomato patch, so I thought this newsletter I'd show you folks how it's done! We drive 5 foot tomato stakes every 2-3 plants.

Stringin' Tomatoes

We take a spool of "tomato twine" (in the box on Isaac's belt) and run it through some holes on the top and bottom of a specially "modified" tomato stake.

Stringin' 3

This is the close-up of the bottom hole--this handy "stringin' stick" makes it possible to wrap strings around the tomato stakes without having to bend over!

Stringin' #2

A shot showing Isaac stringing--you can pretty much walk right through the patch once you get the hang of it.

Stringin' 4

This closeup shows how you wrap the string around each stake. You keep tension on the twine as it runs down your stringin' stick and pull it tight wrapping it once or twice around the stake. Once you get to the end of the row, you walk back down doing it on the other side.

Stringin' 5

This creates a double sided restraint that holds tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers...

Snap Peas

...and snap peas up off of the ground, increasing marketable yield dramatically!

Okra Flowers

Okra blossom--thought I'd add this as they are so pretty! Okra is actually placed in the Hibiscus family!

Fall's Comin'!

Coming back to the beginning of the newsletter--Fall colors are already showing--it will be an early, short Fall because of the dry Summer, Tulip Poplars and Walnuts have already lost most of their leaves!

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