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

Green, and the Long Spring To-Do List…

Straw for sale: We didn’t use all of our straw in the strawberry fields this year, so we are selling what is left if you need any. $6/bale, 4 bales/$20 dollars. Call us at 269-244-5690 and make an appointment.

Around the farm: We can smell the color green now here at the farm and you may be smelling it too. The smell of green is both intense and simple, a fresh combination of earth and sky. As we pull winter mulch off perennials and plantings, we can smell it before we even see those bright sprouts. The scent is so strong in the greenhouse now that when anyone walks in, it is the first thing they sense. The calendar page turning over to April has put us into a higher gear and we are into the long list of spring tasks.

Yes....we have baby tomatoes coming!

Yes….we have baby tomatoes coming!

Readying plants for us and you:  Just a reminder, you can get your garden and bedding plants here soon. While we know these sunny days has everyone ready to plant a garden, it really is too early to be planting most things with the chance of frost. We have seeded extra vegetables, tomatoes, flowers and herbs. Our onion sets arrived this week and we will sell those as well. Next week we will put out a list of what will be available as you work up your garden plans. Last year we had a wide variety of flowers and herbs, as well as cauliflower, kohlrabi, lettuce, kale, spinach, melons, peppers, tomatoes, and other vegetables. This year should be similar.

Aunt Marie helping me open the onion bundles and lay them out to keep dry for planting.  Yes, this is what 45,000 onion sets looks like.

Aunt Marie helping me open the onion bundles and lay them out to keep dry for planting. Yes, this is what 45,000 onion sets looks like.

Mother’s Day:  Our greenhouse is bursting at the seams right now with everything we have planted to be ready for Mother’s Day. Once again, we will feature our lettuce bowls (seeded lettuce pots which can be picked and grows back for your weekly salads), specialty tomato plants for your patio (cherry, yellow-pear, tomato-berry, grape, and others) and basil plants. A combination of all three of these and some salad dressing and you have the perfect gift.

Tyler filling pots for the special tomato plants

Tyler filling pots for the special tomato plants

Cathy planting lettuce bowls in the greenhouse that will be ready by Mother's Day!

Cathy planting lettuce bowls in the greenhouse that will be ready by Mother’s Day!

Asparagus and Bakery Opening: When asked when we will open for the year, our answer is when asparagus is ready. The answer to that lies in the weather forecast for the next few weeks.  It is looking like the end of April. We are as anxious for this special spring vegetable as you are since it has been one long year since any of us had fresh asparagus on our plates. And, for those of you who have been awaiting a Corey Lake Orchard’s donut, pie, cookie or bread, the bakery will open when we officially open for the season.

David lightly disking the asparagus to loosen the soil.

David lightly disking the asparagus to loosen the soil.

From Becca: The hoop house construction is finally done. This has raised a new FAQ, “How is this structure different than the greenhouse you already have?”

1. We haven’t put a heater in and are depending on solar energy exclusively for heating.

2. We are planting straight into the ground, which will allow us to plant kale, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, bok choi, and more to harvest greens all winter long.

3. Since I’m managing this, there will be no use of synthetic chemicals (such as weed killers or fertilizers). We put it on an empty space we had between two vineyards and let the soil drain through the winter so the ground should be pretty ‘clean’ there. We’ll be closing up the doors and side walls whenever we spray the grapes (which on the one side are only about thirty feet away) in order to keep it chemical free in there.

As of right now, compost has been spread, beds have been formed, green beans have been seeded, and lettuce and tomatoes have been transplanted. Soon I’ll also put in peppers, basil, and some other herbs. Whew! A lot of work but it’s all paying off. It’s hard getting emotionally invested in a hoophouse because it is essentially a large tent that seems ready to blow away in any wind storm, but with the 45 mph gusts this past week it was okay so I’m feeling better.

Freshly delivered compost -- which gets shoveled into place

Freshly delivered compost — which gets shoveled into place

Beds formed in hoophouse pre-planting.

Beds formed in hoophouse pre-planting.

The Schoolhouse (still Becca): I spent every spare moment I had last week transplanting and seeding: lettuce, cabbage, kohlrabi, kale, and leeks; spinach, turnips, carrots, peas, and radishes. As I haven’t put up the electric fence I’ve covered most beds with fabric for the time being (I’d prefer our customers eat the greens, as opposed to the rabbits and deer). Plenty more work remains over the next few weeks but it’s been nice getting into the swing of sowing and planting again.

My activity here at the corner has caused another FAQ, “Why are you planting here?” Answer: we haven’t farmed it in about ten years. It’s far enough away from both ground-sprayed crops on AL Jones and aerial-sprayed peaches on dCorey Lake Road that I don’t worry about it and it’s a really pretty, rustic location. Was the optimal spot to put a large chemical-free garden. I have no plans to get this plot certified organic because it would drive the cost of produce up but I am following all the guidelines. Some of you may notice I am using old grape posts for parts of the fence; as these have been outside and in use for more than five years they are approved for use by the National Organic Program.

happydance4_2_15becca

Ignore all the mud caked to my boot. Instead look at my lettuce transplants.

In the news: Yeah, this is stillBecca writing. You may have read in the paper that we were awarded a Value-Added Program Grant from the Michigan Department of Agriculture. We have envisioned expanding operations at our winery and distillery for a while, and the grant should help us do that. I spent a lot of time this winter writing the proposal for it (in fact, anyone who saw me in December/January probably noticed I could have used a drink or two) and it’s surreal that we actually got it. With all the projects I already have going on, it’s hard to imagine how I’m going to take on more work…but then I look at the earth changing around me, sense the energy bursting through the ground and sky, feel the tide of spring wash over the farm, and I think, well, everything else is working hard right now. I guess I’ll go with it.

A final note from Beth: We remain grateful we are for the many hands which have been in motion on our farm in the past few weeks. John Heyward, an English writer from the early 1500’s has a famous quote that my parents used often: “Many hands make light work.” My Dad in particular was known for pressing any available hand into action. (If you came up the driveway–you might soon get put to work!)

So a huge thanks to: Aunt Marie and Cathy who made the job of separating 45,000 onion sets a doable task, to the group of high school students on spring break who helped us tie the remaining 30 acres of grapes, to everyone who helped us fill pots and plant in the greenhouse, especially six-year-old Tyler and to Cousin David whose hands touched every tractor and implement this week while getting them organized for the season.

A very special thank you goes to Becca, part of our next generation of family, for having the vision and motivation to bring new features to our family farm. Without her perseverance, we would not have a grant that will help us add new products. And we could not be prouder of the hoophouse that she designed and constructed with her own two hands.

John Heyward also said “Rome was not built in a day.” This farm has been 54 years in the making and we’re still trying to build it!