Baffling. Snow? Hail? Going about mid-Summer in thick jacket? In agriculture, one would expect one bad year every five year. This is the fifth year. A discussion with Grant the other day, I asked, if all the farmers are going to get out of agriculture because there’s no virtually no money in it, then who is going to feed the world?

I was doing something on Friday that I believe no one has been doing in this business for quite a number of years. I was trying to map the cost input to crop output and revenue. This is a crucial exercise to determine which variety is a star, which is a cash cow, and which is just a dud. Gathering the cost data is a major challenge as it involved a year long continuous process, and at the same time, ensuring that data provided by field supervisors are to the point. With some luck, I’ve got most of the data for Season 2012, and the rest with some guesstimate, I’ll be able to come up with some concrete numbers and conclusion instead of drawing out speculations from the air. My guess is, cherries being the star, apricots being the cash cow, and a big question mark on peaches, nectarines, and wine grapes. Will finish doing the numbers on Monday.

Back at the Valley House, the wildflowers meadow is still at its amazing display. The white alyssum is starting to fade out as they only grow about 10cm tall while the rest are simply, tall. Those purple flower phacelia lacy are still going at it attracting tons of native bees everyday! These guys are working even when its cold! The poppies too, are going for it, I didn’t see any red shirley poppies in the field yesterday evening, but this morning, new buds blossom and the meadow is covered in red again! Now, there’s more mix to that with some blue cornflowers, some other flowers in yellow, white, pink, and orange! And borage too!

The wildflowers meadow is the one that is doing really well at the Valley House. Apart from that, my herb patch are doing fine too, except the amount of rosemary that germinate into seedlings are few, just a handful despite sowing a whole packet. I transplanted them into a corner and make room for some brussels sprouts. As for the tucker patch, there seems to be a nitrogen deficiency, obvious sign being the yellow leafs of the corn plants and peach tree. I’m not going to do much about it except some compost dressing for now. In the autumn I am going to bring in 6 cubic meters of organic compost to layer the area up to 10cm, fork them in and sow blue lupin to over winter. At the same time, get some Preparation 500 and Cow Pat Pit and sprinkle them on top to bring live back into the soil again.

That’s my new greenhouse. This is the third greenhouse I have purchased in my pursuit to provide an optimal environment to germinate and grow seedlings. I started with trays on the kitchen counter by the window. The seedlings either got fried or grow too leggy due to lack of sunlight. Then I got a 3-tier greenhouse which I sat on the patio without securing it down, one day the northerlies blew it down and wreck my lot of seedlings. I secured it to the wall after that, but I start to hatch a plan to deal with the still lack of sunlight (it only get the morning sun), and the northerlies. Come my second greenhouse, a 5-tier unit, same as the first one but taller. I locate it at the same location as above, the back against the north, anchor down with 4 pieces of aluminium angle post. Dealt with the wind, but one hot day, I came back and my plants at the top tier are fried. At the same time, the jiffy pellets dried are too quickly I have to water them almost everyday. The problem here is that with these cheap greenhouse that only has a flap, it overheats with the flaps down, but does not conserve moisture and maintain humidity with the flap up. One with a proper door and ventilation will cost from $700 while the walk-in greenhouse in the picture above cost me only $99. The solution to the flap problem? I build a door over it, the materials cost me $150. The top half of the door features windbreak for ventilation while the lower half is covered with plastic sheet to help conserve heat and humidity. As for the flap, I rolled it up halfway and secure it as that so that when the weather is too cold, I just need to drop the flap and it will block off the windbreak. On normal day, I just roll it up from the halfway point instead of all the way to from the ground. I anchor it with just 4 pieces of aluminium angle post at each corner, hammered into the ground, which I believe is enough to withstand gale force northerlies. I am going to plant some dwarf lavender around the outside of the greenhouse and some rue inside to deter pests.

That’s it for this week. My advise, forget about those small greenhouse that you can’t walk into, they just don’t have enough air volume to sustain a stable environment. They market that with the flap up, the greenhouse help to harden out your seedlings, but what was learned only by experience is that, with the flap up, you have to water your plants almost everyday, which is really not good for root development, not to mention, creating a very conducive environment for fungal disease. Keep the flap down? Oven-baked seedlings anyone?

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