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Mid – January Crop report and Science Project

Hello Global Warming Fans,  

This morning I received an e-mail from my friend Roger in Moscow, Idaho.  He reports below 0 F wintry weather.  I remember mid-January weather like that there in the 1970’s and early 1980’s.  I also heard a report on NPR’s Morning Edition that Moscow,Russia has had no snow and is the same ‘mid-fifties’ that we are having.  Climate is sure a complicated thing, and I guess when you go messing around with it, “if you break it you own it!“  Stay tuned for the future!

As for our own experience with neo-winter gardening, I am really astounded!   When we moved here, in 1983, we were used to below zero nights, with many feet of snow each winter.  By the late 1980’s we were starting to notice our autumn killing frost dates were creeping  from the around the Autumnal equinox, back into mid-October.  Then the two vocanic ash  produced”Pinotuvo Winters” came in the mid- 1990’s, from that Phillipine Island eruption.  These were the last really hard and long winters we have seen.  This is also when our “drought proof” microclimate began to have alternating droughty spells, and rainy spells.  We built our first cold frames in 1997, and learned how to stretch our delivery season to eight months.  We were not able to, back then, keep the overwintered greens from freezing past mid-January.  Now 2/3 of our winter raided beds are not only overwintering, but the plants are growing.  We are harvesting our arugula today, so we can get it to our winter CSA -XTREME, before it bolts.

This year, we are already entering our ninth month of deliveries, and are trying to figure out if we can direct plant seeds and bulbs into our two coldframes’ raised beds, in January, to get them to sprout. A decade ago we start the seeds in flats, in early February, in our passive solar greenspace  attached to the south side our log house.  This way on cold nights, we could open the door from the kitchen, and bleed off some heat from the wood stove, to keep the seed flats warm.

So this year, after we had harvested some beds in each of our 17′X50′ coldframes, I direct planted some of last year’s small onion and garlic bulbs, as well as some radish and turnip seeds, directly into the newly composted raised beds.  The bulbs were planted on January 4, and the seeds on January 8.  After a brief cold snap (18F), when we tucked the seed beds in each night (under doubled up ReMay over 2′ high hoops) ; the soil temp never got below 42F, and in the following sunny days, warmed up to 52F.  As of this morning the onion shoots are 3″ high, the garlic is 1″, and the root crop seeds are sprouting.  Will these test beds be ready for early April harvest?  We have never had our first babysalad before the fourth week of April.

Our other growth factors: we are at Latitude 40N, at 1100ft elevation, with 8-15%  north slope.  We were Climate Zone 5 in 1983 – and are now in CZ 6 (+). Fortunately, in 1995, when we began seriously planting our orchard, we posited that climate change would appoximate our farm being ‘teleported’ to Piedmont Virginia = 120 miles to the SE.  In the last couple years we figure we have actually been ‘beamed down’ to Piedmont North Carolina.  We’re sure glad we planted southern variety apples!

I wish you were all here to sample these fresh greens.  They sure are tasty, but as I eat them, I keep getting the feeling that there is going to be some real nasty downsides to global climate change, too.  Be adaptable!                                      

                                                                                              Thank You

                                                                                               Thom Marti

Welcome to Broad Valley Orchard

Hello, all,  

This is my first attempt to post on our new website.  I welcome you all to Broad Valley Orchard, our 3 Acre Sustainable Microfarm, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Pennsylvania.  My wife, Judy and I started this place from a dream that we had when we were a poor young hippie family wandering around America in the early 1970’s.  It took us a decade to get the stake together to buy our dream farm, and another decade to fix it up, and get it working – all the while learning as we went.  We began our farm business twelve years ago, and have been surviving off our efforts.  Luckily our business plan did not require “Getting Rich”; we settled for “Gettin’ By” !

Now we are in our mid-fifties, and should be getting set in our ways. Fate seems to have pulled another practical joke on us, though.  When we started out here 25 years ago, we had a short growing season, and bitterly cold winters.  We perfected a method of growing Certified Naturally Grown fruit and vegetables, taking advantage of this micro-climate.

Well, about twelve years ago, the climate started to change.  Our 5 1/2 month frost-free growing season has stretched out to 7 1/2 (+) months.  This winter, we have had no snow, and more days in the 60Fs, than below freezing. Now we are having a series of ’spring rains’.  What I am calling this, is El Nino, on top of rapid Global Climate Change! We are now trying to figure out how to use this new edition of our micro-climate:

 Perhaps the most interesting experiment started when we built two 17′X50 hoop houses in the mid-Nineties.  For the first several years these uninsulated structures were giving our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) customers salads until New Year’s, and spring salads by May Day.  This year we are planning on delivering greens until the end of February, and are already re-planting a few cold hardy bulbs and seeds to start deliveries again in April.

As soon as I figure out how to start using the right page, I will begin the Broad Valley Orchard Farm Journal, and Almanac, to write a weekly entry describing our efforts to adapt in this rapidly changing world.  And since there are not very many small adaptable farms like this left, I advise all of you to be looking around for a plot of land, and start building your own garden.  I do not think large scale global corporate agribusiness is going to be able to adapt, fast enough.  And I don’t know about you, but I like to eat!

Thank You

Thom Marti

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