Monday, October 12, 2009

An Independent life: vegetable growing

I am a market farmer. Small-scale, but with so many concerns over food security and food miles, it is good to know your farmer. That would be me and hundreds of other small-scale farmers just like me who are making a major come-back in America.

I grow in the Rocky Mountain West on the highest part of the great plains at over 7100 ft. elevation. If you live here, you know how hard it is to grow here. I raise small crops as I don't have acres and acres of land, I do everything myself with a few helpers, mostly my 12 year old son, and don't have tons of mechanical help. Just one small tiller. We combat high winds, severe hail (we receive some of the most severe and most frequent hail storms in North America, just ask our insurance adjuster), cold nights, late frosts, scorching sunshine, etc. So why bother? It's a passion.

For a couple short essays on getting started on your own vegetable growing journey, check out So You Want to Grow Vegetables.

I am moving into winter now, and with that change in seasons, thought it might be nice to write about what I've learned and mistakes I've made. And there have been plenty! oh well, the learning process you know :)

To help me combat my severe weather I put up a high tunnel for growing. And no, not by myself, heehee, I sort of roped my teenage kids and husband into that job. And what a job it was, let me tell you! But now that it is up, we absolutely love it. If you need helpful tips or suggestions on putting up a Farm-Tek tunnel, email me please. I'd love to see if I could help you avoid some of the mistakes we made. But now that it is up, it is turning out to be indispensable as a season extender.

Here is a photo diary of our journey. We started last winter, Feb. 09 with the ground posts:

That is my 12yo son swinging that sledge hammer. Good work out for him, not sure his father was as enthusiastic about the labor.

screwing the parts of the rafters together

going up!

Frame complete, end walls up, baseboard up and runner boards going up for the U channels.

Putting in earth anchors. These are three feet in the ground and every other one in concrete.

Building end walls, these posts are 6x6x12' and sunk 3' in the ground. This will add stability.

And it's up! Labor Day weekend, 2009. Took us seven months and we lost the cover once before we built end walls and did away with roll up sides. Too much wind here.

We put in TWO wiggle wires in every U channel, added strength.

And those straps are 2 3/4" polypropylene straps used as anti-billow straps, to make sure we don't have enough loft to lose the cover....again.

Inside! A jungle of humid, windless, lovely growing space. I think I want another if I could just find someone to build me one.

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