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Haven Valley Farm BLOG

 What we're up to on the farm!

Life @Haven Valley

July 16, 2021

Construction related activities has taken up a lot of my time. The high temps and dry weather affected our direct seeded crops very badly. But our beets survived and are doing well. We did not have our well yet for most of that time either. So this year we are focusing on our transplant crops. Weed management lessons have been ongoing. With limited labor available it is critical to find ways to suppress weed growth. That the velvet weed appears to be very attractive to Japanese beetles and so far they are leaving our vegetable plants alone. For that reason we are leaving the velvet weeds where we can do so.

We have been picking zucchinis, pumpkins are on the vine and we are looking forward to melons and squashes. Our sweet corn and strawberry popcorn seems to be doing well. The peppers and tomatoes have had a much harder time.

As soon as we have produce for sale we will post what is available.

May 23, 2021

I took a break from the website and blog for longer than I realized to focus on getting the barn and house moving as well as a little R&R in Florida.

So far one thing that has been cemented in my head, is that developing a small farm consists of planning and replanning. I suppose that is nothing new for a lot of businesses. What works for one person might not work for another. There are so many variables such as micro climates on and within each farm that dictate what grows well and what not so much. What is popular in a given community and what is not as I learned last year with yellow crookneck squash and beets. Beets were hugely popular and people kept asking me if you don't bake the yellow squash how do you cook it. I realized the southern trio of sautéed, grilled or roasted yellow summer squash, zucchini and onion was not northern thing.

We are making progress with the barn, well, electric power and housing. I have not given up on my idea of a wind generator for the farm. I am told our land is a good place for one.

For those of us who like doing this, and who would if they did not like it a lot, there is a constant tug between the profitable and the, wouldn't this be fun to try and the personal favorites to grow. I planted a few of the latter last year. I found while I had amazing green beans as confirmed by purchasers, they were huge money losers. Those heirloom beans with their stiff stems required hand snipping a few at a time to avoid breaking the bean in half and/or damaging the plant. I did a quick calc last summer and found to break even, I'd need $16 per lb. to recover all the cost and thats without a return to the farm. Since no matter how good my green beans were, I am convinced the market will not bear $20/lb. green beans. So this year we are going to try a u pick for certain items.

The farmers markets were great and we enjoyed participating in them. We are going to try making deliveries once a week to Rochester this year. More information about that to follow.

Lastly, on costs. As we know, everything seems to be going up. Equipment, lumber, electrical, fuel, fertilizer, you name it, it seems to be climbing in price. Even very well used equipment is bringing stunningly high prices. I am concerned about what that is going to do to this years vegetable prices. Please bear in mind, few if any of us small farmers are becoming wealthy market gardening alone. There are a few who have done exceptional well and most of us hope to learn from them. The truth is I believe most market gardeners do this because we love it and and believe in it. Fresh food, not processed. Locally grown, not trucked 1,000's of miles. Please continue to support your local growers so we can continue to grow your local food in the coming years. 

November 20, 2020

I took a break from the website and blog to focus on getting the barn and house moving as well as a little R&R in Florida.

While our season is over for this year, work begins on planning for next year. It feels like sports when the season is over and after a short break planning begins for the next season. Our future barn is going through the permitting process and our future home is almost ready for permitting. Driveways will be going in and power has been installed on the property. We hope to get one high tunnel up for the 2020 season.

If the test plot of alfalfa will grow in our soil, I am considering planting about 30 acres of alfalfa instead of renting out the land to a farmer. For those of you who follow the farm or our customers of Haven Valley, you can help decide what we plant next year. Please send us your choices for vegetables for next year. Repeats and new things you would like to purchase. A few things we are considering adding are: Dill, various Hot/savory Peppers, Dent corn for whole grain corn flour and grits. Also we are considering adding a you pick area for high labor veggies like green beans.

Thanks to all of you who supported our efforts in many different ways. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas season however you celebrate the winter holidays. 

October 12, 2020

What a year! A market garden started in a studio apartment, no running water or electric power. No hoop houses or plastic mulch and yet we had a great garden and we were able to sell produce at a farmers market and give some away to a community meal group. It's amazing what can be done if one doesn't worry about doing it a certain way, perfection and can adapt to what is available. It was a learning experience for sure. But right now as the colder fall temps and freezes are on the horizon, I am going to enjoy what we have accomplished. We have bales of chemical free hay and we provided chemical free organically raised produce for our community. We were able enjoy the sunshine and appreciate the rain. We met some neighbors who were willing to do work for us that we could not due because we lack equipment. We had friends who voluntered their help to keep us going. We were blessed in so many ways.

We are planning a 2021 market garden. Thanks to all who have encouraged us, supported us and bought our product. Your purchases help keep the farm going. Without our Customers we would be one and done.

Best wishes for a wonderful fall season.

September 23, 2020

Fall is here, leaves are changing and winter squash are on the vine. I am hoping the butternut squash will be ready to harvest this week. The beets are gone for this year. I cut the cornstalks down and they will go in the compost pile. There are still an amazing amount of tomatoes on the vines. My order of tomato stakes arrived, albeit a bit too late to be useful!

Do you love fall? I do. Fall color, apple cider with spices, pumpkins. 

September 12, 2020 Post

I said I would keep this post real and it is but that involves the successes and the struggles of a beginning small farmer. There is a phrase about summer burn out as the heat and difficulties of the season build. So here goes my attempt at this installment. 

Wow!! Where has the summer gone! Someone flipped a switch and fall arrived! At least it feels that way to this Floridian in Minnesota. 

Since my last post I have moved into a new apartment, continued development of a barn for the farm and a house to live in. Winter is on the horizon and the building process may be slowed down. I thought *I* would be one of those people who would keep up with the regular posts even in the heart of the season. Another lesson learned. 

The garden has grown amazingly well. My kale was a sacrificial crop for the garden to help control the cabbage moths. Tomatoes, green and wax beans this year have grown so well. All of this on chemical free soil, natural irrigation [rain :) ] and hand tools.

Tomatoes were supposed to help the farm financially. They are a profitable item for small farmers I was told but, everyone is swimming in tomatoes this year. I don't have controlled irrigation so with the heavy rains the past week they split. Half the farm is in tomatoes which are doing great but not selling. 

I was told beans are time consuming but I was determined to plant them. Maybe I wanted to connect to my parents as they were always a summer staple in my parents house. Do you ever get over missing your parents? I haven't.

I was told small farmers can't profitably grow beans. And I found that to be true. That said, I have wonderful bean plants and beans this year. And they have that taste I remember from my childhood. So if you want that old time green bean or wax bean flavor get them this year. 

My idea of making hay out of the oats did not go well. The baler broke and we had to get someone else to bale it into round bales so it could be stored in the field.

The MN Midget cantaloupes have an amazing aroma, tender flesh and very mild flavor. We now have the Honey Rock and Hale Jumbo cantaloupe. Frances took one of the Hale/Honey Rocks back to Florida with her said it was the best melon she ever ate. That is high praise coming from Fran.

I will be harvesting Butternut Squash soon. 

With all of the struggles of starting a small produce farm, the bright spot is that the crops grew amazingly well.  We had a natural area around the garden and I believe that also helped control the garden "pests" as there were other natural sources of food for them. 

As I think about the coming frosts, I will miss my plants and the garden. I could hardly have anticipated that my garden would grow so well with so little help from me. The garden will become compost for future gardens and so the cycle goes.

August 22nd, 2020 Post

Another week draws to an end. The garden looks great but for the cabbage moths and Japanese beetles hanging are a worry. We cut the oats this week to make oat hay and that seems to have concentrated those cabbage moths in our garden! Garden needed rain. Hay needed dry weather. Garden won!

We have been to 2 farmers markets and are learning how that works. Beets seem to be our biggest seller and were almost an afterthought planting. Many people ask for peppers and tomatoes but ours will be late due to when we were able to plant them.

The tomato plants are amazing and full of tomatoes. Wee are doing our best to stake them up. But I ran out of stakes and there are none to be had locally so I ordered 50 more.

The beans are amazing as well also. Plants and beans are looking great.

Thank you to all of you who have purchased our produce and viewed our website. You encourage us to continue our efforts. 

August 13th, 2020 Post

Frances made a surprise visit this week and we have been working away. The garden looks better. We needed rain and we got it just in time before we had to hand water. We have made some produce sales and we are getting positive feedback about our produce. That is what it is all about, happy customers! We are halfway through August almost! Where has the summer gone! The farm has kept me so busy I almost "forgot" about the covid crisis. The new normal is putting on a mask on before getting out of the car.

The beans are blooming, green tomatoes are on the vines, melons are growing and the silks are emerging from the ears of corn with full tassels atop the stalk. I am dreaming about one of those old fashioned beefsteak tomatoes with the taste I remember from my childhood. So good! I want to can some of them for winter. We did that last year with a friend and the jars of fresh bright red tomatoes looked so good.

This Burpee Brittle wax bean freezes very well with a tasted and texture when thawed and cooked almost like fresh. Sadly green beans

We got at a new garden tool. A grass and brush blade for our trimmer. That helped enormously with clearing the area for a deer fence. I found a haybine, baler, bale wagon and an old combine at an auction. So our neighbor is going to use our equipment and his tractor and bale our oats. That was an unplanned but hopefully helps this years sales.

I understand now, first hand, why blogs come and go. I've been so busy with the farm that I have not been able to keep up with the blog.

Thank you to all of you who have purchased our produce and viewed our website. You encourage us to continue our efforts. 

July 27th, 2020 Post

We thinned beets yesterday and will continue to thin them this week. They looked so nice and while researching thinning I found they are VERY edible. So the baby beets will be our very first crop we offer for sale. Please let us know if you would like to reserve an order. They will be best if we pick them just before you pick them up. {how many times can I use pick in a sentence?] Since we lack on farm water these beets will be au-natural, aka direct from the ground, and will require a thorough washing at home prior to eating. After drying, store them in the fridge in a perforated bag. I knew I should have bought that salad spinner at SIFT. Never been to SIFT? Its worth the drive to Kenyon. :)

We are pricing the Baby Beets @$2 per bunch, 6 beet plants per bunch.

I have been AWOL from the blog posts due to the farm start up and the market garden. The regular rains have kept the farm going. I did the calcs to hand water and found the amount of water needed was more than I thought. We can supplement but not replace the needed rainfall.

Ok, my intention here was to be brutally honest about the farm. So with that in mind, the plants I thought were soybeans in their early stages turned out to be a weed commonly referred to as elephant ear. And because of the soil tilling we have lots and lots and lots of them. We are making a lot of compost out of those weeds! I feel a bit embarrassed that I thought they were soybeans. Oh well city girl turned farmer what can you expect!

The farm is calling. 

Life @Haven Valley

July 7, 2020

Since we do not have on farm water we could not use plastic mulch so that means, weeds, weeds and more weeds. And mixed in with those weeds are scattered areas of soybeans and corn from previous planting years. We have been busy figuring out how to best weed this years garden. Supplies are in short supply (sorry I could not resist) and it will be a couple of weeks before we can get a flame weeder.   

We are looking for a rototiller but those too are hard to find this summer, at least the ones we want. In the mean time, we are using our trusty hoop hoe which, although small, works amazingly well.

Besides watering and weeding we are trying to get our farm registered with the FSA, a well installed, driveway and parking area and a desperately needed storage container until we get the barn built. Then there is the barn and home. We hoped to move in the house by December but realize that may not happen.

The tomatoes seem to be very happy and with just water have really jumped. I bought a 4-way rapid tester and checked the soil for fertility, moisture and ph. Everything looks good. With the continued hi temps, almost 90 daily, the top layer of soil is getting dry. So a round of watering is in store if we don't get rain soon. The plants are due for a happy hour soon!

We have so many soybean volunteers it was hard to tell the soybeans and from the bush beans we planted. Then I realized the bush beans were in a straight line and are what I planted......;-)

Even with all the challenges of trying to farm with 100 year plus old practices, it is still a joy to hear the birds and see a deer pop out from the corn field to see what is going on.

Speaking of deer, I need to get busy finishing the deer fence for the garden. :)

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