Sunday, April 29, 2012

New planting at someone else's farm.....

After months of preparation, we finally have some new plants to talk about.  That's a portion of them up above taking the 6 mile ride (in the back of my car) to their new home, a vacant greenhouse that was once set up to grow tomatoes and then sweet potato plants.

The borrowed greenhouse belongs to a fellow farmer, Andrew Tyson, who grows tobacco, sweet potatoes, soybeans, wheat, and cotton.  Andrew rents our farmland and a number of other farms in Nash and Edgecombe Counties.  During the fall, Tim drives a cotton picker for Andrew.  Tim spends about 12 to 15 hours a day sitting in (and/or working on) a cotton picker and calls that time of year his vacation.  (I don't get it....he's working....oh, it's a vacation from me and tomatoes!)

When we started the project, Jonathan and Daniel were sent over to clean and take down the unnecessary pieces and parts, move poles and supports and anything else that Tim saw necessary to do.  There were lots of trips to the dumpster and an ongoing battle with "fire ants".  They aren't necessarily attracted to the tomato plants (we hope), but who wants to share an enclosed space with fire ants? 

After what seemed like weeks of cleaning, the blank slate was left for the coconut fiber bags, the water lines and drippers, and then the new plastic cover.  We waited to put the cover on after most of the work was done inside.  The reason for that is that with the winter and early spring were so warm that the temperature would have soared inside the space causing the fans to run unnecessarily to cool the area.  For Jonathan and Daniel, being exposed to sustained winds and gusts on some of those blustery cool days, made them especially thankful for the comfort of our near tropical climate inside our existing covered structures back here on our farm.
Jonathan running a weed eater inside the greenshouse, trying not to disturb the ants
Bare bones greenhouse 
Daniel handling trash and more trash
New cover is finally on, plants set inside the bags and......
Lights inside the greenhouse so we can work at night....woohoo!

Tiny little baby plants

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The honeybees are back in the "Warnup Tree"

That's great news!  We have a nice old "black walnut tree" in our yard with a natural hollow in it about 20 feet up.  It's perfect for wild honeybees.  In fact we've had wild hives in that hollow for at least seven years.  About two times a spring, a swarm will leave the comfort of that tree with their new queen and look for a new home.  (I'm definitely not an expert on anything, particularly honeybee swarms, so go to this link, for some really fascinating reading.)
The pictures we took with our "point and shoot" camera do not show how
 truly magnificent this phenomenon truly is.
A queen and her workers always remain back in the hive year after year.  This fall and winter, we noticed no activity outside the hive and were a bit concerned.  We had no idea as to whether or not there were any bees left in the warnup tree.

This Easter Sunday, as I walked out of the packhouse, I noticed the familiar sound of the buzz that seems to echo across the yard.  I yelled out to Tim, and then we saw the cloud of bees across the yard.  It is amazing to see this phenomenom!  Seeing a few thousand bees leaving the tree with a new queen to start their own hive is quite a day at a living science museum.  Better still, we then noticed that the bees were not swarming to leave, but returning to the vacated tree!  About that time, Jonathan, Joy and the boys drove up just in time to see the bees going into their new home, the "warnup tree".   We are so excited to once again have a natural hive of bees in our yard, just feet away from our back door.

Since you're wondering why I keep calling the tree a "warnup" not "walnut" tree, it's because that's what Tim's late father called it.  Precious!  We always affectionately refer to it as that.  It's a cultural thing. You never correct your elders.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Not only do we have to leave home before daylight.....

......but it's still dark when we arrive at our markets!  Tim has the privilege of driving an hour away to Morrisville, NC to the Western Wake Farmers Market.  When he arrives, it's a bit before 7:00 a.m.  He finds his pre-assigned parking space, backs his truck in, drags out his tent, then his tables, his scales and bags, and begins setting up.  After his space is beautified (complete with the table cloths I make him use), he begins to place our lovely, delicious tomatoes out on the table.  When everything is in place, he pulls out his chair and waits for the cowbell to ring at 8:00 sharp.  Let the sales begin!  Not so fast, Cary does not get up that early on Saturdays.  He continues to wait and relax while catching up with the other growers and bakers.

Let's go east.  I'm Nancy, and I have the privilege of driving less than 30 minutes away to my hometown of Rocky Mount.  Leaving home at 6:00 a.m. seems like a crazy time for a 8:00 opening so just bear with me.  I arrive at 6:30 and back into my permanent spot at the Nash County Farmers Market.  My tables, complete with table cloths, are already sitting there waiting for me.  I unload my boxes of tomatoes and begin to put the closed boxes on the table.  I set up two scales and ponder as to when I might put out my bags for use by the customers. 

Since the Nash County market really rocks, it's necessary to have two people work.  At 7:00, Jonathan arrives with biscuits in hand.  I don't eat that early, so I set mine aside.  I try to politely ignore the customers who are milling around my table at 7:00 a.m. (I don't make eye contact.)  It's 7:15 and we have another 45 minutes until we open. We can no longer ignore the folks, so we open the boxes, put out the bags, and start selling tomatoes.  I don't even know if  our market manager has a cowbell to ring at the start.  I cannot hear anything but customer chatter around my table.  Suddenly, it's 10:00 a.m.  I'm starving and we're nearly out of tomatoes. 

Over at the Western Wake Market, Tim is having a different kind of day.  The Cary folks arrive much later than 7, 8, or 9 am.  Tim's day doesn't pick up at around 10:00 a.m.  The market closes at 12 noon sharp (when the cowbell rings).  He starts taking down his display while customers are still getting out of their cars and running over to shop with whomever may have product left on their tables. 

Back in Rocky Mount, we don't close until 1:00 p.m. even though the crowd always disperses between 11 and 11:30. At that point, I have to apologize about having sold out of tomatoes and promise to bring more next week.

We enjoy serving the folks at Cary and Rocky Mount.  The difference in the two places is that RM has a building and Cary does not.  Just wait until next year when Cary gets its permanent structure!

I said all that to let anyone who's interested  know that both markets open this Saturday, April 7.  We'd love to see you at either place. 

P.S.  If you come to Rocky Mount at 7 a.m. and I don't make eye contact with you, call me out on it!