Week One: May 11-16

Summer came quickly all across New England, bringing bright green bud break, yellow, purple and pink flowers, and swimming weather only 4 weeks after all the snow melted! Luna Bleu Farm is nestled up in the green Vermont hills, surrounded by chirping birds and calm winds. We have been busy planting, seeding, and getting our markets going, but also having lots of fun getting to know the farmers and the area.

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This first week on the farm was full of introductions, learning how things work here at Luna Bleu, and most of all, getting in the ground. We started with a brief farm tour, and got to meet the Freedom Ranger broiler chickens, the laying hens, the chicks, and the cows. Freedom Rangers are bred to gain wait at a moderate speed (~10 weeks to full size) and to do well in outdoor, free-range environments. There are about 50 rangers penned under the orchard, as well as another batch that started this week in the cow barn. The laying hens are penned out at the end of the main vegetable field right now, and they are producing around 4 dozen eggs every day, which are eaten here on the farm and also go to the farmer’s market. The farm also raises Red Devon beef cattle, who are still on their ‘winter’ yard attached to the barn, but who will soon be out on pasture for the summer and fall. On Monday afternoon, we were joined by the newest member of the herd, which was born right around the end of the work day. The whole crew pulled up buckets and watched as new life was brought into the world. Sidney was so excited to be present at a birth for the first time, and a cow at that! (Her favorite animal) Another calf was also born early Saturday morning, and several more of the cows are pregnant and will give birth in the coming weeks. There are also two dog-polar bear hybrids and two black cats that come and go as they please. (The dogs are Maremmas, an Italian shepherd breed that weighs easily over 110 pounds).

Freedom Rangers ranging  free in the orchard

Freedom Rangers ranging free in the orchard

laying hens

Laying hens

gradient of cow butts

Gradient of cow butts

Freya the guard dog

Freya the guard dog

Brian and Freya

Brian and Freya

Outside of animal chores, we spent most of our time this week transplanting from the cold frame into the field. The cold frame is where plants that have been started in the propagation greenhouse (in plugs or soil blocks) are exposed and hardened against colder weather. Tim tilled several beds, and laid down plastic mulch on a few of them. In the main field, the beds are 360 feet long and 4 feet wide, and we planted out six and a half beds of onions (4 rows per bed and 9 inches between plants ….so a *lot* of onions),  a bed of celeriac, half a bed of basil, a bed of brussels sprouts, as well as broccoli, kale, chard, lettuce, and spinach. Planting is a lot of work, but it is great to look forwards to the huge amounts of produce that we will be bringing in later in the season.

eggplant babies!

Eggplant babies!

Brian walking out of Onionland

Brian walking out of Onionland

We also did some work seeding squash, pumpkins, and other later-season veggies, and potting up tomatoes and broccoli that will be transplanted once it gets a little bit bigger. Additionally, we strung up and pruned all of the tomatoes that are in two of the greenhouses. Sidney found she could apply some plant physiology and tree pruning knowledge to the tomato pruning process, thinking about hormone manipulation while pinching suckers.

Propagation Greenhouse in full swing

Propagation Greenhouse in full swing

Sid getting ready to string up toms

Sid getting ready to string up toms

tomatoes strung up in the greenhouse

Tomatoes strung up in the greenhouse

This week we have had 2 WWOOFers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms– farm work in exchange for room & board) helping out and it’s been a lot of fun to hang out with them, both in the field and doing crossword puzzles during meals. Natalie is from Philadelphia and goes to McGill University and Christie is from Brisbane, Australia and has spent her 20’s all over the world.

On Saturday, Sid went back down to Hampshire for her best friend Abigail’s commencement ceremony, which was characteristically lacking in planning/organization/formality of any kind but chock full of personality and color. On Sunday she spent the day with cousins Rachel, Dave, and Ely in Southern Vermont and went biking and kayaking.

Sid, Abi, and Matthew at Hampshire Commencement

Sid, Abi, and Matthew at Hampshire Commencement

The farm has a winter CSA share that delivers through the winter, and they have also been going the Norwich, VT market for all of May. I went to my first market on Saturday. We brought spinach, salad mix, kale, chard, and broccolini from the greenhouses, as well as beets and onions that have been in the walk-in cooler since the fall. We also sold fresh eggs and potted tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants for people to put in their own gardens. There were about 30 vendors selling produce, meats and cheeses, pickles and preserves, bread, and handmade artisanal goods. Market was a little slow because of low clouds and threatening rain, but we sold most of our produce and about half of our live plants. Most of the folks at market were retirement age when we first opened the stall, though more and more young families with kids came through as the day progressed. It was great to get a chance to see more of the greater area and see what the local market is all about. With Sidney still in Mass on Sunday, I also got a chance to go on a beautiful bike ride through Sharon, Strafford, and Tunbridge [ https://goo.gl/maps/RxlcP ].

-Brian

 

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