winter update

Happy winter to all! Just checking in. We’ve been attempting to hibernate during the offseason, but is there really ever an offseason with farming? :-p Activity is certainly reduced, but we’re not 100% dormant… we’ve continued to grow lettuce inside in a grow tent and get batches over to Hidden Julles each week. And we’ve also been working on our new experimental hydroponic greenhouse that we’ve affectionately dubbed the “Nerd House”…

Our latest greenhouse for hydroponic baby lettuce.
Floating plug trays (called “speedling” trays).

With this system, we have a shallow pool of water (about 6″ deep) with added nutrient solution. Floating on top of the water are trays of baby lettuce. The pool is sized such that we’re hoping to 100% replace last year’s in-ground lettuce output with this new hydroponic baby lettuce. We’re anticipating either a 3 or 4 -week grow time, depending on how finely we can tune the growing conditions. So that involves maintaining consistent air temperature and humidity, water temperature, light, water pH, and proper quantities of nutrient vs. water in the pool. And then at harvest time, we can run the trays through a mechanical harvester (specifically the Quick Cut Greens Harvester). Big picture, we’re hoping that we can do as much, if not more lettuce production this year vs. last… but with less labor.

On the egg front, we suffered fairly significant bird losses to predators back in November/December (lost about half of our flock over a 3-4 week period). We scrambled and tried a number of solutions, but what has seemed to be the answer is to lock the birds up at night in a coop, and then let them out in the morning. Up until this, we had just left the coops open to allow the birds free entry / exit… and our fencing arrangement had seemed a sufficient defense. We’re learning and responding as we go. We plan to replace the lost birds with ready-to-lay birds in early March so that we can ramp up production for the farmer’s market season.

And speaking of farmer’s market… Looking at the calendar, our current plan is to return to the Manassas farmer’s market Saturday, March 11. We’ll keep you posted as we approach that date.

Hope everyone is doing well! Looking forward to seeing you all again soon.

Leave a Reply