12147 Corey Lake Road, Three Rivers, Michigan (269) 244-5690

Monthly Archive: March 2015

Spring: Our Very Own March Madness!

The farm is waking up….and with that, we have our own version of March Madness going on as we shift into a higher gear with all that we have to get done. What a difference a few warm days have made, especially in melting the snow piles. And while we enjoy those “no-coat”days as much as the rest of you, we’re frankly a little relieved it has cooled back down. We are scrambling to finish tying the grape vines before they start budding out. We have a crew of seven people moving through the vineyards now that the snow has melted. The UPS man has become a daily regular dropping off seed orders. We are cleaning up orchards and picking up spring start up supplies and needs.

George bringing in the seed potatoes to plant

George bringing in the seed potatoes to plant

Getting dead cherry trees and pruned branches out of the orchard

Getting dead cherry trees and pruned branches out of the orchard

Our orchards are not ready to wake up yet.  You may be surprised to learn that fruit trees have a chilling requirement between 500 to 1500 hours depending on the type of tree.  The temperature required for them to “chill” has to be above freezing and ideally between 40 and 50 degrees. With the extreme cold in February, surprisingly that didn’t count towards their chilling needs….so these 40-ish degree days have been helping them finish up.

Anyone ready for strawberries yet?  Today we did our annual job of getting the straw on the strawberries–which we do because it helps protect the tender little crowns as the cool nights prevail.  But as important, it helps keep weeds from growing up right in the way of someone trying to pick berries (how annoying!) and provides a nice clean surface for the berry plants to grow over to keep the berries clean.

Blowing straw down on the strawberry rows.  We finished in one morning.

Blowing straw down on the strawberry rows. We finished in one morning.

Our version of "march madness" confetti!

Our version of March Madness confetti!

Denim does the  final inspection to make sure everything is covered well

Denim does the final inspection to make sure everything is covered well

One of our new acquisitions for our very small customers is a baby slide.  We hope this will help with the problem of those small toddlers who want to go down the really big slide and just aren’t quite ready!  We are planning a few more surprises for our small customers, but you’ll have to wait until we finish them.

We have more surprises like this coming for our small customers!

Tyler tries out our new baby slide to make sure it slides well (it does!)

The greenhouse is absolutely thriving–the plants are loving the sun (and we are loving that the furnaces have not had to run as much!).

The long cucumbers that everyone loves so much are up and we can transplant in a few weeks!

The long cucumbers that everyone loves so much are up and we can transplant in a few weeks!

New for  this year, we are growing bell peppers in the greenhouse!

New for this year, we are growing bell peppers in the greenhouse!

The tomatoes are blooming and we are about 60 days away from that first BLT!

The tomatoes are blooming and we are about 60 days away from that first BLT!

From Becca: My hoop house is progressing, but of course I would rather have it finished with lettuce and turnips already planted inside. With everyone else tied up in other projects, I’ve been working alone which has been slow, educational, tiring, and fun! Most of the materials for this project came used from a greenhouse that got taken down a few years ago (the farmers retired, nothing wrong with it structurally) and I’ve literally had no instructions whatsoever to follow.

Luckily I’ve had very good advice/resources, but of course, I ask the same question to five farmers and three greenhouse technicians and get eleven different answers each time. All I really want is for someone to promise the hoop house will not blow away. Which, no one can promise. On that note, perhaps I should go pour more cement… In any case, I should be done this week.

Young lettuce hardening off outside next to one of the remaining snow piles

Young lettuce hardening off outside next to one of the remaining snow piles

Finally beginning to look like a real hoop house

Finally beginning to look like a real hoop house, with some rafters yet to put up inside and end walls to build.

The bakery staff has been busy with planning for some new products which we hope you will love. We are in process of rearranging the bakery to fit in another oven so we can bake more items–especially bread!

Here’s wishing you a happy spring and hoping that your chosen basketball teams are doing well!

-Beth and everyone at Corey Lake Orchards

Grandpa’s Greenhouse

Friends, family and loyal customers, as we worked in the greenhouse this week, the memory of Dayton Hubbard loomed large. Grandpa passed away one year ago this week and of course we all miss him terribly. Not a day goes by that we don’t run into someone who has another favorite story or memory of him. We love hearing these to add to our own memories. No matter what we are doing around the farm on a daily basis: ordering seeds or new apple varieties for the next year, fixing one of his tractors, tending to greenhouse tomatoes, planning where to plant the sweet corn, we round ourselves into a discussion on how he did things. We are grateful for his mentorship of all of us and for the legacy he left.

As we mentioned last week, the greenhouse is a thing that must be carefully tended. Tomatoes require that the air temperature stay above 40 degrees or they start to die, so we have two furnaces to keep it warm inside. On a sunny, calm day, the furnaces might not run. On a windy night, both furnaces run constantly. Last night I woke up around 2 a.m., checked the greenhouse temperature, and saw it was at 42 degrees. Not good.

Today the greenhouse temperature has stayed around 85 without any help from the furnaces!

Today the greenhouse temperature has stayed around 85 without any help from the furnaces!

Boots and coat on, guard dog at my side, I went out and found the temperature was actually below 45, closer to 40. The flame in the west furnace had gone out and the fan was blowing freezing air into the greenhouse while the furnace on the east end was blasting hot air trying to keep up.

I called Cousin David, who pulled in a few minutes later. We fiddled with the furnace for ten minutes and got it working. An easy fix…if only it weren’t 2:15 a.m. I stayed up until 3:30 watching the thermometer, making sure the air temperature made it into the 50s before I finally went to sleep. A restive night, but worth it in the pursuit of the year’s first BLT sandwich.

It’s more than tomatoes that we’re guarding – it’s weeks of time and labor and love that have already been spent on the tomato plants, and more weeks of labor to come. It’s the trays of leeks, basil, lettuce, kale, peppers, eggplant, and more I’ve seeded that will be kept in the greenhouse for just one short month more. Spring is coming…

My guard dog Odin helping George transplant tomatoes in a thankfully warm greenhouse.

Becca’s guard dog Odin helping employee George move tomatoes in a (thankfully) warm greenhouse.

Today, my leeks began sprouting.

Today, my leeks began sprouting.

Kale seedlings developing their first true leaves.

Kale seedlings developing their first true leaves.

This year, I’m dedicating all the beds in the yard to herbs: annual rows of parsley, cilantro, leaf dill, dill flowers, lemon balm, chamomile, and more. Perennial plots of mint, sage, rosemary, and chives. Several beds in my new schoolhouse plot and hoophouse will be dedicated to sweet basil. What herbs would you like to see in our garden? Give suggestions, and I’ll try to make sure I grow them!

Next week, I’ll be at the Michigan Farm Market Association conference learning about new ways to manage the market and connecting with farm market managers and growers like me. And shortly after that, Corey Lake Orchards farm will be back in the swing of the season – we’ve got the fields planned out, and with a partial thaw this next week I think we’ll get a few projects wrapped up (like the hoophouse) and perhaps even some seeds for early vegetables in the ground, ready to grow.

I can remember when my grandpa built the greenhouse. I can remember my grandma teaching me to pollinate each flower by hand, to identify the extra stems (“suckers”), and to prune the suckers off so that the plants would spend their energy growing fruit. And the feeling I get when I walk into the warm, humid greenhouse on a sunny day during the coldest time of the year is incomparable, a feeling that feels fresh year after year after year. Lee Hawkins, a dear friend of the farm, also passed away this year and I can remember many conversations with both him and my grandpa, conversations wrapped in the fragrance of soil and glow of green tomato plants.

Now that I’m back on the farm, it’s easy for me to compare taking care of his greenhouse with my memories of taking care of my grandfather as he got older. As we look to the future, we remember the past.

-Becca and all of us at Corey Lake Orchards

Dayton making his morning check of the greenhouse tomatoes, 3-30-13

Dayton making his morning check of the greenhouse tomatoes, 3-30-13.