Squash Seelings

A year at the farm month by month

Young Cinderella pumpkin
Young Cinderella pumpkin

Each month on the farm has its own character and feel. After a few years, you start to feel the cycle turn. Every year is different, but much remains similar year after year. As the weather changes so do our tasks and workload. As our crops are planted, tended, and harvested, the population of staff and visitors on the farm ebbs and flows. I enjoy each month as it comes, and anticipate the events of the next.

I have selected one photograph from each month in 2014 to symbolize that month. Each year shares the same themes, but the details change. I chose the photograph of the Cinderella pumpkin as a reminder that all the vining crops matured very early in 2014. I was quite surprised to see orange in the field in mid-July. Other year bring their own surprises. I look forward to seeing which photographs I choose to represent the months of 2015.

It was windy last night
It was windy last night

January starts the calendar year, but on the farm it blends together with December. I do outside work when I can, but mostly I am reading, thinking, and working at the desk. We push hard to complete our planning for the year. I don’t expect to get a lot of work done outside. We may see some beautiful days, but the rains continue and the fields remain full of standing water Occasionally we see a particularly strong windstorm. This overturned HoneyBucket is evidence of a wild windy night. After storms we tour the farm, looking for damage that we need to repair. January is a good time to get away from the farm to attend workshops and meetings.

Ordering seeds
Ordering seeds

February continues the rainy / damp / gloomy theme, but by then I am deep into actually initiating some of my plans and checking off items on my lists. My goal is to have ordered all our seeds by the beginning of February, but there always seems to be more choices to consider. At this time I’m still considering new activities for the Farmyard. February is the last good chance to get out of town for a last break before the season starts in earnest.

Checking in the seeds
Checking in the seeds

In March I can feel the season shifting. I have received all the seeds and checked them to see if I have missed anything. I am purchasing other supplies; dripline for irrigation, fertilizer, any new equipment, and the like. I try to do a couple of small building projects in March. The Giant Chair and the Human Sundial were both March projects.

Change of the Seasons
Change of the Seasons

Things really start happening around the farm at the beginning of April. The field crew is back at the farm again. The fields are still wet, but there is building to do and repairs to complete. We set up the big seedling greenhouse and start planting seed for later transplant.  When we can, we work the fields, preparing them for planting in May. And some time in April the weather breaks for a while and I mark the occasion by swapping the felt hat for the straw hat.

Tillie on fresh grass
Tillie on fresh grass

May is the month where plants and planting really take off. The grass is growing like crazy and the goats think they are in heaven. In May the starts greenhouse is full of pumpkin seedlings. For a couple of weeks we are pushing to plant out seedlings so we have room to start more. We work hard to prepare the fields for planting before the seedlings get too big and lose their growth momentum. All the winter squash, the gourds, and most of the pumpkins must be in the field by the end of the month.

The corn seedlings are up!
The corn seedlings are up!

We schedule to complete all the outdoor planting by early June. We transplant most of our plants from the starts house out into the field,. We plant the Sunflower-Corn Maze directly in the soil, so it is always a treat to see the first corn seedlings appear in the big field. Within a day or two the whole field fills with rows of tiny corn and sunflower seedlings. We enjoy the view for a few days and then start noticing the weeds popping up. The Weeding Season has arrived. We spend much of the hot summertime controlling weeds.

Grooming the field for the Lavender Celebration
Grooming the field for the Lavender Celebration

Some time in June we notice the lavender plants have gained a purple haze. By mid July, the lavender is in full bloom. We put on two weekends of lavender celebrations at the farm with cooking demos, pick your own lavender, lavender classes, lavender crafts, lavender tea, lavender body products, essential oil experiences. and essential oil distillation demos. We grow five varieties of lavender. In 2014 we sold three different lavender essential oils. I hope to have four, or even five, in 2015. Watch for our 2015 Lavender Celebration announcements, coming up in mid-July.

Designing the corn maze
Designing the corn maze

By August we have a good idea of how well the pumpkins are producing, and how tall the corn will grow in the big maze. In an ideal world, I would cut the paths in the big Sunflower-Corn Maze when the plants are still short, but I cannot cut the maze without a design. It does seem that for me nothing stimulates creativity as well as a deadline so I usually find myself cutting tall corn. I was pleased with the chicken design I created in 2014. I have actually already started thinking about this year’s design. No hints; I have had to toss out too many first ideas as non-workable in the end.

There is lots to see if you stop and look
There is a lot to see if you stop and look

September brings some storms and bad weather, but much of September is a beautiful time at the farm. This is my favorite time to stroll through the Sunflower-Corn Maze. The soil still drains quickly after the rains. The sunflowers are still full and vibrant. The corn is still green, and had not been whipped about by the wind. In September we start harvest of the vine crops. We usually start with winter squash, followed by gourds and miniature pumpkins. We anxiously monitor the Jack o Lantern pumpkins. Will they turn orange by opening day of the Pumpkin Patch, the last weekend of September?

Creative pumpkin decoration
Creative pumpkin decoration

October is pumpkin month here at the farm. Visitors flock to the farm to choose pumpkins, take a hayride, stroll the big Sunflower-Corn Maze, see the animals, solve our mini-mazes, meet up with neighbors, and enjoy a day at the farm. Groups of kids and teachers come to learn about growing pumpkins. And we work hard to make sure that everyone goes home with a smile and a fond memory of their visit to the farm. While all this is going on we have already started planning and preparing for the next pumpkin season. And so the cycle continues.

Frosty shadow, warm fleece
Frosty shadow, warm fleece

In November we prepare the fields for winter. We prefer to have something growing in the fields, rather than leaving the soil open to the rain, which can wash nutrients away. The first two weeks of November are a hard push to prepare the fields while we still can drive the tractor around without getting stuck in the mud. We often see frosts in October, but November is when we usually see the first longer spells of frigid weather. A gradual transition to the freezing weather is easier on the over-wintering plants and animals, allowing them time to adapt to the cold. Our Angora goats are well insulated.

Sundial Selfie on a sunny morning
Sundial Selfie on a sunny morning

December is a time to pause and reflect on the year. I get some outdoor tasks done on sunny days, but there is plenty of record-keeping, list-making. and planning to do. The holidays invite slowing down and sitting back a bit. This is a good time to dream up wild ideas for projects and improvements at the farm. December is also a good time to get out of town and away from the farm. This year we took a week back in Ohio, visiting family.

It is easy to point out some of the highlights of the year.The field of lavender in full bloom in July and the field packed with orange pumpkins in the October morning sun are two, but every month brings its own rewards. Each month at the farm has its own sources of anxiety, moments of exhilaration,  episodes of unpleasantness, and times of splendor. There is always more to anticipate.

In this entry I have attempted to convey the passing of a year. I have also written longer entries on each month, starting with July of 2014. Check out that entry and my entries for, August, September & October, and November & December.  And watch for my upcoming entries for 2015. I am expecting great things on the farm this year.