Monday, October 29, 2012

Flowers in the House

It is the last Monday in October and Jane is hosting a fith (flowers in the house) party.  Normally, I would not be participating because we would have no flowers as we are mostly a field grown flower operation.  However we have built season extension low tunnels and hoopty do high tunnels and are now able to have a few flowers earlier and later in our season.  So for late October we have dahlias, dianthus, a few more lilies, snapdragons and gladiolas still blooming.  Here are a few vases of flowers we have in our house this week.

Our goal is to provide more flowers to our designers longer in the season with Thanksgiving being our target date.  We have not ever done this without being wiped out by a heavy frost which hasn't happened yet.  But we are keeping the cold Oregon rains off our flowers which is a HUGE help so the last component will be, will the flowers keep blooming as the light levels keep going down.  We shall see.....

Join the party and see what others are doing in their homes.  Hop on over to smallbutcharming.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Quotable Sunday 10/28/2012

Inside versus Outside

From our windows, it looks like we still have flowers, lots of flowers.  So why did we end our market for the year?  There is a ton of stuff to do but shouldn't we still be cutting for market because it looks like there is a lot of flowers out there!

Armed with clippers and a camera, I take a closer look.   Well... there are flowers down there but boy you have to look for the nice ones.  It seems like there should be a ton of blooms but the damage is there from the wind, the rain, the bugs and a slight frost here and there.

Most of the flowers are in the field where the weather has been unkind or they have given their all to the cause and are completely spent.   However....The flowers we put in undercover in our hoopty do houses are doing very well.

These dahlias were planted very late with the idea that we want to know how far they will bloom in to the fall.  We are cutting them for our designers to use in Autumn arrangements and I am playing with the rest of them.  
              We also have a little patch of snapdragons and the very last of our gladiolas.

Building these hoopty do houses has been a great improvement for our flower selections and it will help us bring flowers to our markets earlier next spring.  Wish we had built some of these when we first started this enterprise... at least we have a few now, with more next year.    

          With the flowers inside, I hope to offer you a Sunday bouquet for a few more weeks.

"October gave a party;
The leaves by hundreds came-
The Chestnuts, Oaks, and Maples,
And leaves of every name.
The Sunshine spread a carpet,
And everything was grand,
Miss Weather led the dancing,
Professor Wind the band."
-   George Cooper, October's Party

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Quotable Sunday 10/21/2012

Planting Ranunculus

It is hard to believe we are already working on our next flower season.  We just finished up planting 1800 ranunculus bulbs.  They went into one of our new hoopty do houses. Before the plastic skins went on, we amended the soil with compost.  

Farmer Tony is unloading the compost as I try my hand at loading the bucket up and bringing it over to him.  A couple of tries and I get a bucket load.  Kind of tricky to do and take photos.

The ranunculus bulbs are delivered early in the fall and we store them for a few weeks in moisten wood shavings and peat moss and hope that they will presprout.

                                 Next is to sift the bulbs away from the shavings.

            While I sift the different colors, Farmer Tony starts planting the bulbs.  We are supervised by Calla the flower dog.

While we are planting, we are experiencing a major rain storm.  We have had weeks of dry weather and in a just couple of days we have made up the rain totals for October.  All the while, we are warm and dry working in our hoopty do.

By next late March we will have some pretty ranunculus, with the help of Mother Nature.

A whole house of pretty ranunculus

A vase of  pretty ranunculus.

The fact that I can plant a seed and it becomes a flower, share a bit of knowledge and it becomes another's, smile at someone and receive a smile in return, are to me continual spiritual exercises.
Leo Buscaglia

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Quotable Sunday 10/14/2012

Building to the Future and Taking a Risk.

One hoopty do hoop house worked out so well for us this year that we decided to build two more. Actually we wanted four more but there was only time to build two so next year we will build two more.  There are several reasons why we build this type of hoop house.  Oregon has been slow on the the hoop house grant program and when we talked about getting a grant with the USDA, there were just too many hoops (pun intended) to jump through.  Second we are using a field that is not that fertile. For years it has grown grass seed and so the tilth and fertility must be improved.  By building a more temporary hoop structure, when the plastic(Skin) needs replacing, we can move the Hoopty Do over new beds that have been prepped for several years. Sort of our own M.A.S.H units (Mobile Agricultural Sustainable Hoop-Houses).  And the final reason is that these hoop houses are much more inexpensive to build.  We can build 4 or 5 of these houses for the cost of 1 permanent structure 30X98 High Tunnel.  Our primary concern is keeping the 40 degree Oregon rains off the beds and plants, snow is not as much of an issue for us.  However last year we did have a major snow storm on the first day of Spring, but we were able to scrap the snow off and the hoop houses came through just fine.  Our snow event only lasted a couple of days, had it gone on for a week or so, we are not sure how they would have fared.  But a major snow event is not the usual around here.

First the square steel pipe  is bent.

Its critical to use a level surface to bend the pipe on otherwise the pipe can twist and your bends will not be straight.

Then it is placed on re-bar stakes that are placed in the ground.

We also paint the pipe to coat the metal and prevent rust from occurring and damaging the plastic.

The plastic skin is attached to a post hanging on a chain from our tractor's bucket and then  rolled out like toilet paper.
We layout the hold down ropes so that thy are under the plastic as we roll it out.

Then the plastic skin is unfold and pulled over the hoop ribs.  Sorry no photos, takes all hands on deck to pull it over and unfold it down in place.

The skin is pulled even on the sides and very tightly to the ends. A channel is attached at the ends that holds the wiggle wire in place which holds the plastic to the end.

Farmer Tony is smiling because it is a nice cool foggy day with no wind, so the whole process is going much faster and smoother than we had planned.

Next comes the tossing of the ropes that cinch down the plastic to the ribs.

It is tied off at the bottom with a loop.

The ends are secured to the bottom and the guy wires that extend out are tightened down with an in-line ratchet to pull the ends out square and hold the whole structure tight. We want to give credit where credit is due.  The basic design and name for these hoop-houses was originally develop by Jamie & Tod Hanley of Trebuchet Gardens in Norman, Oklahoma (see the Kerr Center article for more details)  We put a couple of our own twists in the design by beefing up the end walls, use of 3/32" steel cable for guy wires and the in-line ratchet for tension adjustment. We also spaced our ribs at 4 foot apart to give greater strength for any snow load however, rare we may get.

This Fall we are experimenting to see if we can keep our last planting of dahlias growing until Thanksgiving.  Although we are no longer selling in our Farmers' Market, we are hoping we can continue to offer our dahlias to florists and designers for as long as possible.  We planted these dahlias very late so these are some of the very first blossoms.  The unknown is, will our dahlias continue to bloom even though light levels will continue to decrease or will it be necessary to provide additional light.  As long as there is no killing frost and the plants are protected from the cool rains, will they keep blooming?

We had considered covering them when we had a close call for freezing temps. but it was more damaging to the plants so the hoop house went up as fast as we were ready.  

Hopefully, we will have a whole hoop house of these beauties for the next several weeks. We are taking a risk with these flowers but that is what farming is all about, taking a risk, building for something in the future that can be wonderful.

Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down.
Ray Bradbury

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