This past month I have had the true joy of taking care of my new granddaughter, Emma-Grace. It brings back memories of when I was caring for my own newborn: those sleepless nights, the unsolvable puzzle of why they are crying, every sound from the baby monitor triggering a “better get up and go see” until of course, you begin to figure a few things out and relax as a new parent. It seems to me that Jay and Michaela got this figured out pretty quick and are blessed to have a newborn that sleeps through the night already. As most grandparents had told me, one of the many benefits of being a grandparent is you can get the few hours of cuddling in, the baby goes home and you don’t have the sleepless night part anymore.
Any long term customer knows that this is the time of year around the farm where it feels like we have a newborn. A 3000 square foot newborn, full of thousands of “baby” tomato plants, with sleepless nights and constant worrying in tow.
We have Schram’s Nursery in Portage start our plants every year, and we decided this was the week to bring them to the farm. We picked Tuesday, which was supposed to be one of the warmest in the ten-day window. It turned out to be pretty doggone cold, never getting above 22 degrees, with wicked windchill. Add the bad weather to some Tuesday morning discoveries: frozen water lines to the greenhouse, fried thermostats, and a few other issues.
And yes, we plan and prepare every year and things STILL go wrong! We have discovered that when you go to start up something that hasn’t been touched in a year, expect there to be problems and rejoice when there is not. This is why problem solving and patience is a highly valued skill set here. Rest assured, through the teamwork we got it done.
First Becca picked up the flats from Schram’s, carrying trays on her lap, putting them under her feet, stacking them on the dashboard, and balancing them across cup holders to get them all here in one trip, with the heat on high pouring out of every vent. While she was doing that, David and Jay were climbing in well pits, unfreezing pipes, plowing snow, and changing out thermostats. Tom and Nichol had worked all day to get the soil ready and setting up pots. Becca pulled the van as close to the greenhouse door as possible and everyone available, ran the plants as fast as we could into the greenhouse to keep them warm. And they all lived! Today, each plant was transplanted to its own pot and watered, they look beautiful.
The main concern through the next several weeks, especially with these below zero nights coming, will be to make sure the heat keeps going. We have layers of back up systems in place along with some sophisticated alarm systems which let us know when things go wrong, but at the end of the day, we still need someone to check the temperature several times a night and react if need be. So, thank you to Becca who has got the “greenhouse” monitor by her bedside and is the first responder! The BLT timeline is on track and we hope to have our first tomato in about 75 days!
The bone chilling days of late has also kept us up worrying about the fruit. We simply don’t know yet, the weather person is predicting some more very cold nights before we will even think about making an assessment.
Maintenance is in full swing with every tractor, vehicle and implement coming in and out of the shop for an intimate “look-see” and fix. Cousin David Hubbard is in the shop daily pushing through this important work. As he provides information on what needs to be fixed and what may/may not make it through another season, it gives us something else to worry about at night!
What else have we been doing?
Michaela, Patti, and Becca all participated in A Chocolate Affair, a bake-off featuring fair-trade chocolate and local talent in downtown Three Rivers. In the true spirit of winter, there was a snowstorm complete with white-outs the morning of the event, so we appreciate everyone who made it down to World Fare to sample all the wonderful baked goods! Michaela and Patti made decorated Chocolate Coca Cola Cupcakes, while Becca made Brandy Brownies. Michaela and Patti won the Best Presentation award! A big congratulations to all of the other winners.
We want to give a huge “THANK YOU” to everyone who participated in our 2015 customer survey. With feedback from over 200 people, we really feel like we got valuable information to improve our operation and your orchard experience! It’s an opportunity for us to hear both the good and the bad parts of your experiences here, anonymously. 2015 planning meetings are underway as we take to heart your feedback. We wanted to share a few comments people made, just as a small sample of all the information we’re taking to heart.
“Love the orchard!” “Love the updates on email & Facebook” “The cinnamon bread is too dense and needs to be lighter.” “The pies and fresh donuts are both delicious!” “I have been looking for a cherry pie like yours since my grandmother passed away over three years ago– thank you!!!” “Peach pies need more peach.” “The cut flowers are so nice, especially the sunflowers.” “Please try to keep prices affordable for local customers.”
As we’ve said, this is really our opportunity to do better so that you enjoy your time here more. We feel our farm is one of the most heavenly places on earth and it’s a privilege to share it with you all.
With our greenhouse now open–providing us the chance to put our hands in real dirt while working in 80+ degree air–we can almost feel spring coming! We have yet to finish the hoophouse – we can’t put the bottom boards in until the snow melts back a little more. But there is a patch of grass showing in Becca’s front yard right now. All that stands between us and spring is the month of March. We’re going to make it, people!
We hope you are sleeping well!
-Beth, Becca, and everyone else at Corey Lake Orchards