Luke with Chucho, our 1995 Ford Econoline turbodiesel. This was at the end of day #1 of troubleshooting. We're near day #5 with no improvements. Yay farming!
We bought a van a little over a week ago. Luke has been researching for a year and a half and knew that we wanted an extended Ford Econoline with the 7.3 Powerstroke diesel. I’m not the captain of the motorized purchases, but I can give you a detailed list of our van buying priories.
So we looked around and we found the van we thought was right for us--or at least the right price and passable: ran like a clock, great records, a new transmission, extra tires and a knowledgeable owner. Driving it home it started to run very rough as if half of the engine was pooping out. Then, without prodding, the rest of the engine kicked back in and our van drove home like a champ. However, when we started it again, we were back on only 4 cylinders. For the last 4 days, Luke has been working on the van in the snow. He has found and solved problems, but hasn’t yet been able to make the van run correctly. This morning I sat by the window listening as he troubleshot—hearing the van chug and chock unhappily. Each time it stalled my heart sank, not just that our delivery vehicle isn’t running, but that my sweetheart is involved in such a frustrating project.
We’ve looked on the bright side of this van issue. It is winter, when Luke has the time to work on it. In the summer, we would depend on these wheels to take our vegetables to market. Luke is experienced with mechanical issues and has the ability to work on this van himself, saving us money. Also on the bright side, we are able to buy a delivery vehicle our first year and a hearty diesel one at that.
But this is what farming looks like… we’re lucky to have a budget that will allow us to buy things like a van, tractor, irrigation equipment. Many young farmers that we know start with little more than their strong backs, some hand-me-downs and the car they already own. As new farmers, when we buy things, we almost always need to buy them used. Then they break. And then we fix them, often with few resources and then they break again, and so on. Part of farming is being a mechanic, welder, carpenter, repurposer, plumber, electrician, MacGyver.
Cross your fingers for our van. We named him Chucho.
Thank you craigslist (and Jim and John) for some new-to-us folding tables! These will make great, sturdy farmers market tables.
In the first week of the new year, we tackled the task that I always thought would be the most exciting winter farming task. We ordered seeds. Through a group of growers in our new area, we found out about the opportunity to buy seeds collectively, getting a discount. And our order needed to be in pronto.
You may do this in your house, too. When the seed catalogs arrive, you pour over them, sitting in bed with the lamp on, reading the descriptions of voluptuous eggplants and spicy peppers, thumbing through pages of richly rainbow colored carrots, even envisioning how you might use the tools on the last pages.
So it seemed exciting to choose our varieties. We’ll be growing for farmers market these first years, so having more variety in the types of items grown seems important.
In order to plan which seeds we needed to buy, we had to first plan exactly what vegetables and how much of each we wanted to grow. This planning started our long week of excel worksheet building. We both have a little experience with excel, both from other jobs and from our business planning that has been taking place since last winter. This new spreadsheet, aptly titled “Master Plan” has more than 50 columns and will help us to know when to break new ground for planting, when to seed in the greenhouse, how much nitrogen a specific bed needs, etc. Of course, it also tabulated how much of each type of seed we needed. We’re both happy to have some of our favorite seeds in stock, including Mountain Magic tomatoes (at Roxbury we call them Ping Pong), Caraflex cabbage and Carmen peppers. I’m looking forward to some more exciting stuff, like Thai green eggplant, heirloom tomatoes, lemon basil and dandelion greens!
I think that we’re both pretty happy with the spreadsheet that we created. However, we would like to continue to work on it so that we can ask it plan our season based on what we ask to harvest each week. At Roxbury, Jean Paul and Jody have been working with one of their members to create a program that will calculate this. We are looking forward to the time when that program is available to the public.
And after all of that spreadsheeting, we are many steps closer to having a good plan for next year. In just a week or two, our seeds arrived!
We've finally updated our webpage to reflect our new farm! We'll be using this blog to post pictures and tell the story of our life and our farm. Leave us comments, tell your friends, like us on facebook, and check back frequently!