There's no question now – everything's dead. A few cold nights and all survival has stopped; at least for the plants. I didn't get my beets or mangels harvested and now I don't have to worry about them. The Brussels sprouts are still out there; I'll harvest them if I get around to it.
Johnny's pond froze over last weekend as did several other local ponds. I don't know if the ice will stay or melt off and refreeze later; time will tell. A little light snow here and there has made things brighter as the light reflects off the snow and it seems a bit lighter than before the snow. The cold weeks between fall and the arrival of snow always seem downright dark. Go to work in the dark and go home in the dark. Great!
On the farm, we're wrapping up the final few seed cleaning projects from the 2008 growing season. Nick is picking over the last of the stockseed increases and Jeff's doing some tractor and equipment maintenance before we settle in on some winter projects. I'm working on projects like the financial wrap up for 2008, plans for 2009 and some projects I have been wanting to do but haven't had the time. Elisa's working with Hillary putting seeds away and Susie's doing some last minute greenhouse projects. Greenhouse projects can be worked on, on sunny days in the winter. Sunny days mean warm temperatures in the greenhouse; almost tropical. Cloudy days are cold, warmer than outside, but still cold.
Projects I've got lined up for winter include cost accounting; how much each crop we grew cost us. Things like tomato stakes, plastic, compost, row covers and of course labor all contribute to the overall cost of planting and taking care of a trial. Tomato stakes come to mind quickly as we had a large tomato workshop this year and there were thousands of tomato stakes out there. We can use these figures to determine how much it's going to cost us next year for our trials and seed productions and also what supplies we're going to need. We've already got our compost and our IRT plastic on site and I'm working on organic fertilizer.
Lots of cover crop stuff – potential new crops, research on some of the ones we carry, new vendors, and trial sheets to better track information on that elusive cover crop trial. For the past couple of years I have wanted to have a cover crop trial similar to what the other Product Managers have but on a larger scale. When setting up a cover crop trial, bedfeet requirements are replaced with acreages. Because we own or rent 55 acres of tillable land but only use 12 or 15 acres for crops we can cover crop the rest of the acreage. Having that many acres is an important part of our rotation plan and cover crops play an important part of that plan. It takes a fair amount of planning to have a successful trial and that's a goal of mine this winter.
If you've been reading my articles for any amount of time, you'll know we use a fair amount of mulch hay on our squash and pumpkin fields each year. Last year we raked off a fair amount of the hay amid concerns of the nitrogen tie up once the mulch started breaking down. We had that problem last year: we plowed down the mulch with a liberal amount of compost and planted the field to tomatoes. The tomatoes were shorter than usual in part to the mulch tying up the nitrogen during the breakdown process and keeping it from the tomato crop. I think this spring we'll apply 50-75 lbs of nitrogen to the mulch prior to plowing it under. I plan on using pelletized chicken manure. This will not only add some nitrogen to the soil but lots of organic matter. I'd like to take full credit for this idea, but I must thank Rob for his originally planting the seed of thought in my brain.
Until next week, Brian