May has come in like some sort of energetic animal that seems to need so sleep-a shark perhaps. oh that's right that's March that comes in like some sort of animal-lions, sheep, lorises, etc..
But so far may has been one busy and energetic month. May is my favorite month, not just because I was born on May 11th but because it is the best month of spring-everything is in bloom, the trees are pretty much leafed out by mid May, the grass is green for real, the garden kicks into high gear production wise (you should see the lettuce crop-spectacular!) and our markets start up again which means steady income and not living from savings any longer.
This year May started on a Thursday and I spent May Day morning harvesting greens for our markets (our farm store and the Saturday FM in Oxford) and the afternoon dealing with the packaging for the green (I like to have labels on bags and it takes time to print labels, cut the printed labels to size and than adhere them to the bags. Especially when I am using sheets of labels that are not exactly compatible with my new laser printer-if anyone reading this knows what labels work best with a Samsung CLP-300 let me know. It sure ain't the ones I am using currently). Generally I wash the greens ASAP after harvesting but by 10 am Thursday morning we had 25 mph winds and since my "packing shed" consists of a table, a wash tub and a salad spinner and no shelter of any kind around all this stuff I decided it would be better to put the unwashed greens right into the fridge in an unclean state and get out early on Friday morning and get them washed and re-hydrated than.
So after harvesting 5 kinds of heirloom lettuces (Amish Deer Tongue, Cracoviensis, Marvel of 4 Seasons, Red Sails leaf lettuce and Green Oakleaf) arugula, spring mix, baby lettuce and cilantro I opened the store and than went inside to watch the Price is Right (something Eugene and I have done for the past 15 years or so because we can most days because of our work schedule. We love the almost mindless competition, the blatant commercialism and Drew Carey).
Had several customers drop by the store to buy asparagus, spinach, lettuce, seeds, herb plants between 11 am and 5pm. I found after running the numbers that our sales are up 10,000% so far this year over last. of course last year there were a lot of weeks where the store generated less than $20 a week gross income. Which is something we expected because it seems to take people about 3 years to figure out you are here without an expensive and aggressive marketing campaign.
Since we do not have $50K to spend on marketing and a lot of time on our hands we have opted to go cheap with the marketing and allow our on farm business to slowly develop and flower. My web based marketing (website and email list, which you can subscribe to by going to the Boulder Belt website and following the instructions there) has really taken off in the past 4 or 5 months. All I can say to that is, Finally! The Boulder Belt Eco-Farm website is about 13 years old and it has taken a long time for it to get noticed by the right crowd (that would be people in Ohio/Indiana). It also has taken that long for it to evolve into a really nice website that is both useful to me and to you the www public. I also have made a very nice brochure (another bit of work that has been evolving over the past 10+ years). I have a background in art and the person who introduced my to computers, my late friend Ann Bell, was a DTP person who was also a classically trained artist as well as having a lot of experience in printing using movable type. She trained me to use computers for graphics and nothing else. So, to this day I can barely use a spread sheet (and do not keep any records on the computer. That's all done by hand with paper and pen/pencil) but give me a drawing/paint program or word processing app and I am good to go.
Any Hoo, Got through Thursday and Friday came. In the past Friday has always been a bear of a day. Lots of harvesting and cleaning and bagging/bunching to do for the Saturday farmers' market. But I hope, this year, to have my act together to start harvesting Thursday or even Wednesday for the weekend (and I believe if things continue as they have, I will have to do quite of harvesting on Wed. to keep the store stocked) so that Friday becomes a day of light harvest and lots of selling. It sure was nice this past Friday not to have to work 14 hours getting ready for market.
So Friday morning arrived and I got breakfast early and started to work on washing the greens picked the day before. I was hoping to get done before the high winds redeveloped but did not. I was able to get through all the crates of lettuce before the 25mph+ winds kicked and started blowing by baby lettuce and arugula all over the place. Got everything clean, re-hydrated and back in the fridge by 10 am. Harvested asparagus and took lunch. After lunch started in on bagging the greens, bunching radishes and asparagus and waiting on the occasional customer. Wyatt came by for a visit and kept me company as I bagged up stuff (Eugene was mowing). It started storming which pretty much put a kibosh on business for the afternoon. Around 5 pm the rain stopped for a few hours and we decided we needed more asparagus than we had so the 3 of us grabbed knives and piled into the van and took a trip over to the Crubaugh Rd farm and did our annual raid on the asparagus we planted there 5 or 6 years ago. Got just over 5 pounds and noticed that about 1/4 of the row is not producing any longer. We decided this was probably the last time we would go over to get the stuff. The farm looked pretty good. The apple trees there are in amazing bloom and beautiful. Went back home cleaned up and bunched the asparagus than went out to eat at Fiesta Charro in Eaton (our second favorite eatery in Eaton, which has few decent choices. Our favorite place is Adam's Rib but since we had Wyatt, a vegetarian, and Adam's rib is a BBQ shop with no real veg choices we opted for the Mexican place). went back home and to bed before 11pm.
Saturday dawned stormily. We were up by 4am. Did coffee got the last few details finished for the farmers market, ate breakfast, packed the van and got on the road about 1/2 later than we should. Somehow when working with Eugene we both get stuck in some sort of time sucker and can rarely get anywhere on time. But since I am one of those people than tends to be early to things most of the time we are not very late (on our first date he was 4 hours late and I found this was not a fluke. The boy is very time challenged) and more and more often we are on time.
So we leave the farm later than we should in a driving rain storm and hydroplane our way down to Oxford. get to the market and park the van in our spot and the rain stops. Hooray! We do not have to set up in pouring rain. We get set up about 15 minutes after the market has started. But because of the wet weather few people are there to buy so no big deal we are running late. we get set up and we start selling asparagus. By 9 am we are out of the stuff. Val Taylor, the Locavore Queen of SW Ohio (join her list at cincilocavores) had put in an order for all our remaining leeks and arrived for those around 8:30am. It was nice to be done with the leeks after 9 months of harvesting and selling them. They were a wonderful crop but it was time they were sold. By 10 am the market was getting fairly busy, though not as busy as I would have like to see. the Oxford Gourd and Drum Ensemble set up and played for a couple of hours which was fun. The weather got quite windy and peoples shelters started doing bad things and had to be secured (we tie ours to our van). The market extended its' hours of operation this year from 11:30 to noon. It was dead from 11:30 to noon. We did sell a few things as we were packing up but i do not like the new hours. They will likely not be profitable for us and mean we get home a half hour later than in the past. This means things could go wrong on the farm. As an example, this past Saturday because it was storming when we left home we left all the hoop houses and cold frmes closed up. It got sunny around 11:30 or noon but since we had to tarry in Oxford for an additional half hour, plus run to the the Striets to pick up raw milk for ourselves and the Cox's and than drop that milk off at Adam's Rib, The Cox's restaurant, we were worried that when we got home around 1:30pm many things might be roasted to death (fortunately, they were not) in the hot houses.
Ate lunch, took a 45 minute nap got up and went to a Derby day party at Jules' and Rosie's house. because of life we were an hour late to that and forgot to bring salad (and we had a lot of salad greens left over from market-stupid, stupid, stupid) but did get the brisket from Adam's Rib (which I want to develop a religion around, it is that good. By far the best brisket I have ever eaten. Pete Cox is a master at brisket, the ribs are also excellent.) Got to the party got a mint Julep and put in my bets for the race just in time. watched the race and for about 2 minutes were were all jubilant about Big Brown winning in such fashion and the impressive run of the filly Eight Belles with her second place finish. And than just like that Eight belles is dead. Such a tragedy but that's racing luck (know that I spent a lot of my life working with horses both show and race horses and have seen some them die in competition or because of competition. Death happens but 99% of time death does not touch these animals when in their youth and at the top of their game). This event will not be good for American horse racing as there are simply too many sentimental people who will be permanently offended by this.
Got home from the party around 1am, which meant we had been awake for 21 hours (less the 45 minute nap). Went to bed and because I cannot sleep past 6 am no matter how late I go to bed, I got 4 hours of sleep and spent Sunday feeling hung over (and from two not very strong mint Juleps). Harvested asparagus for the store and set up the store for business and spent the early afternoon dealing with customers. but by 3pm I was spent and Eugene took over sales. I am happy to say we had quite a bit of business that day. Not enough to support the farm yet (which is why we still go to the Oxford farmers markets Saturdays and Tuesdays) but things are picking up, a lot, over the past 2 years and it looks like this year the store will be close to self supporting and when the store becomes self supporting we can stop breaking our humps doing farmers markets and stay home.
At 5pm I closed up the store and started making a big salad for dinner that was full of yummy things from the garden while Eugene mowed the grass that is growing at a scary rate. At 8pm we ate and by 9pm I was asleep on the couch, utterly exhausted.
That was our week.