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Welcome to the Jungle

The first time we set eyes upon the 200 ft high tunnel at SLGNW (aka the Middlefield property) our thoughts turned to something of the tune,”how in the world could we ever grow in here”. Thorny wild rose, sumac ready to poke through the roof, thistle, perennial grasses. You name it chances are that tough to handle perennial weed was in the high tunnel we have affectionately named “The Jungle”. Built by the previous owner, an organic veg farmer turned greenhouse builder. The Jungle was constructed to show a potential buyer as well as themselves, that they could in fact construct a 200 ft high tunnel. The Jungle sat mostly unattended, allowing the weeds to take over and creating the daunting task of trying to grow crops within. Thankfully we have some friends who have a taste for thistle berries, rose thorns, sumac, and most of all grasses; Willi, Betty, Bo, Kanga, and Sunny, of course. Once it was cool enough last fall our oldest 5 Jacobs sheep were deployed to The Jungle, where the spent a couple weeks chomping away. Even with their help it took several long and difficult clear out sessions, squeezed in when we could find the time over the past 18 months, to get us to a place where maybe we could plant into half of it. In a very New England (and farmer) manor, we could not let things from the former residents go to waste, like landscape fabric. An excellent tool for weed suppression the fabric would be just what we needed to get a first crop going in the Jungle. All that remained is the task of freeing the fabric that was half buried from it’s overgrown corners of the farm, a fun couple of days to say the least.

Flash forward 6 months and there are sunflowers growing as tall as the sumac and rows of heirloom tomatoes that aren’t far behind. There have even been ambitions for a last crop of cucumbers on the eastern edge, but we’ll have to see where that goes. There is still a lot to be done, like finishing the end walls before winter, getting the solar powered ridge vent operating, not to mention the challenge that awaits converting that first 100ft from summer to winter production. It is the future for the latter 100ft that has us the most excited though. Today we will mow it and tomorrow with the help of our excellent farm crew cover it with a tarp. We’ll leave it tarped for 2 weeks before we remove the tarp, prep the beds as best we can and plant some peas and oats. With any luck and proper irrigation this will turn not only into a lush grove of cover crop but also lush winter pasture for the sheep, all seven of them. For now we’ll get it covered and keep harvesting flowers and tomatoes, with an eye on the future.

Enough about the future(sort of) lets get into the now. We have done a good job of adapting to new pest like the allium leaf miner, evident in the abundance of this year’s onion crop in an arguably wet year. We have similar hopes for our potato plantings which from the benefit of an excellent cover cropping are still looking big and lush, so much so we can’t yet bring ourselves to harvest. The last carrot seeding (besides those for overwintering) will happen this week, beets the next and it’s prep, plant, transplant outside for the next month plus. We are keeping the inside conversion from summer to winter in the back of our minds and will more than likely be direct seeding the first round of spinach this week. It’s funny how fast the seasons really can change so we better all get out there and enjoy what the day has to offer.

Have a great week

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