Fans of Greek mythology know Persephone as the Queen of the underworld, the dead, and of Spring. Farmers understand the Persephone period to be the days when the period from sunrise to sunset is less than ten hours, causing vegetables to struggle to grow. (And farmers to struggle with seasonal depressive disorder).
Sadly, at our latitude, the Persephone period has begun. We will count the days until Februrary 8, when we emerge from Persephone and our veg commence to thrive.
Construction of our new 30′ x 96′ high tunnel is now essentially complete, and USDA NRCS just inspected it, and certified that it meets their specs, so they will be wiring funds into our account from the grant they awarded us.
After some thought we decided to build our new high tunnel with 4′ hoop spacing, instead of 5′, for added strength, so the planned dimensions are now 30′ x 96′. A big unexpected roadblock is that we cannot perform site leveling or post installation until an archaeologist assesses the site, and NRCS has no idea when the archaeologist can visit, as they employ only one to cover the whole state. WTF?
The hoophouse kit arrived on June 5. 7000 lbs of steel. Today we are in the middle of assembling 25 hoops with trusses. The hoops weigh about 200 lbs each, so muscling them around in 85 degree heat ain’t a lot of fun. We are a little more than half done.
Updated progress report
Grant contract signed -Done
Rototill site – Done
Fed approval of contract – Done
Set position of 4 corner posts and check for square – Done
Order high tunnel kit from Oregon Valley Greenhouse – Done
Site visit by archeologist and NCRS Cultural Resources approval – Sept.5 Done
Preassemble bow assemblies – Done.
Rent stump grinder to remove 3 stumps – Done
Roughly level site (1.5% grade allowed) and sculp drainage channels along sides – Done
Our USDA EQIP high tunnel grant application didn’t get funded initially, but then USDA found some loose change behind their sofa cushions and belatedly awarded the grant to us. Follow us as we race to get our 30’x95′ veg cathedral completed soon enuf for a Fall crop.
Here is a list of some project milestones:
Grant contract signed -Done
Rototill site – Done
Fed approval of contract – Pending
Set position of 4 corner posts and check for square
Order high tunnel kit from Oregon Valley Greenhouse
Site visit by archeologist and NCRS Cultural Resources approval.
Preassemble bow assemblies.
Rent stump grinder to remove 3 stumps
Roughly level site (max 5% incline allowed) and sculp drainage channels along sides
Making progress. The site has been leveled and forms put into place to pour a concrete foundation. Our trusty farm truck has hauled big loads of construction materials. The base and 4 walls for the walk-in cooler have been constructed and await assembling on the concrete foundation when it is complete.
This was our first experiment in dry (non-irrigated) farming. And what a test it was! This was one of the driest summers in recorded history, with a total of 0.7″ inch of rain-fall July through September. Yet a single 100′ row produced 150 lbs of winter squash! The key, I expect, was that we had one of the wettest Junes in history, creating a reserve of soil moisture that lasted all summer.
Our request to the Washington State Department of Agriculture, for a Local Food System Infrastructure Grant in the amount of $26,416.00 was awarded in full. This will allow us to upgrade our vegetable wash station and install a walk-in cooler for food storage.
In northern (or southern) latitudes, vegetable growth virtually ceases when day-length becomes less than ten hours. Days are shorter than ten hours for at least a few days any place on the globe above latitude 30 or below latitude -30. This includes almost all the United States except the most southern parts of Texas, Louisiana and Florida. The calendar months during which there are fewer than ten hours between sunrise and sunset have been dubbed the “Persephone period” by Eliot Coleman. Although plants grow little during the Persephone period, mature plants may remain healthy. Thus, winter harvest of many salad greens is possible if they are planted in Fall, allowing enough time for them to reach maturity before the beginning of Persephone.
Johnny’s Select Seeds has published a chart that helps chose, depending on the date at which Persephone begins at your latitude, the best Fall planting date for various salad greens to allow winter harvest. However, the chart is awkward to use. Based on this chart, I have created a free database that automatically calculates the best Fall planting dates for your location. To use it, sign up for a free Airtable account here. Once you have signed up, download a copy of the Fall Planting for Winter Harvest to your Airtable account here.