This year we're very excited to have Raj and Jakop be part of our farm crew. Raj worked for us last Fall and didn't learn his lesson and came back for more punishment this Spring. Raj is a print maker by trade and has some amazing artwork. He also teaches print making at Duke University. Check out his kick ass artwork on his website. Jakop has a background in advertising and photography and is now working on farms with the hope of starting his own operation one day. Check out his kick ass work as well on his website. Both this guys are super hard workers and I'm very lucky to have them helping me out for the season. In the picture above, they are using a Hatfield transplanter to plant cauliflower into white plastic mulch. We really like this transplanter on the farm because it helps me achieve my number one goal which is to bent over as little as possible! The the person running the transplanter punches the hole in the plastic while the other person places a plant into the transplanter shoot. The plant slides down the shoot and lands exactly where it's supposed to be. After that step, someone comes behind the transplanter crew and quickly pulls soil up to the base of the plant to set it in place. We can really move quickly with this thing and can usually plant about 2000 to 3000 plants in half a day. Fingers crossed the cauliflower actually produces heads this season. We totally suck at growing cauliflower but I still plant it ever year for some reason. Cauliflower is very picky and likes to grow in cool conditions, around 65 degrees, which generally don't exist in North Carolina.
This past week we had below freezing temperatures on Tuesday and Saturday. The above picture is of strawberry blossoms that have been damaged by frost on Tuesday night. Even though we covered the berries with a frost protecting blanket, they still suffered some damage. We also had significant damage on a row of cabbage! Cabbage! I was shocked. Cabbage is supposed to be one of the most frost tolerant veggies out there. Saturday we were prepared to cover all the crops again in preparation of a night time low of 28. As if putting down almost one acre of row cover wasn't crappy enough, the wind was howling Saturday afternoon. I did sometime smart for once in my life and had Ross stay home while I went to market and take all the row cover down before the wind started. With all the row covered removed before the wind came, we didn't have a giant knotty mess to clean up when we came home from market. The wind didn't die down until about 7pm on Saturday which is went we started covering everything. We spent all of Saturday night getting up every three hours to check on the greenhouse and the row cover. Definitely not the most fun task but we watched movies and couldn't help but laugh at ourselves at the purely insane life we lead as we're driving out to the field at 3 in the morning. Overall, we were faired pretty well in the frost and didn't lose too much. The damage on the strawberries is spotty, so I'm hoping we still get a decent crop. The weather in the early spring is so uncertain and we're taking a gamble with every plant we try to get into the ground a little earlier than we probably should.
Often when I'm walking back to the house from the fields, I'm taken aback by the beauty of our farm house. We bought our property in December 2013 as a land purchase only. The house was free with purchase. It sounds too good to be true right? Well the house was a total wreck. Everyone thought we were crazy for thinking we could renovate the house and eventually live in it. The house was full to the top with rotting furniture, clothes, paperwork and food. But once we pulled all the garbage out, the bones of the house were not so bad. My uncle Jeffrey so kindly agreed to renovate the house for us and within 6 months we were moving in. My uncle and his crew and Ross did such a good job and we love our house so much. The house was built in 1913 and we able to save the original bead board ceilings and hardwood floors. It's a small house but is the perfect size for me and Ross (and the cats and the dog and the fish). Our property is 43 acres total which is more land than we ever imagined we would own. We were able to afford the land because it was (and still is in many ways) in rough shape. The pastures are grown over with saplings and many parts of the farm aren't easily accessed because of overgrown trees, downed fences and mud holes. But for all the issues, we are beyond lucky to have land in such a wonderful farming community. We've only been here for 1.5 years and have already gotten so much done. We are slowly but surely whipping this place into shape. If you'd like to visit the farm, we're on the 21st Annual CFSA Farm Tour for the second time this year. One $30 button gives you access to 38 farms in the area. The farm tour is so much fun and it's a great way to see farms in the area, ask questions about growing practices and often buy some awesome farm products. Definitely consider stopping by and checking out our beautiful/messy/crazy farm.
Ross and Jillian Mickens are the owners and operators of Open Door Farm located in the North Carolina Piedmont.