Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The produce stand

A few years ago I set up a little table by the road, just to sell the extra zucchini from the garden. It was either that or start dropping it at my neighbors door steps and running away. Hubby even built me a little shed for my table (which also doubles as a bus stop for the kids in the winter) Over time I started adding a few more things: some eggs from the chickens, other veggies,,,whatever extras we had that I wasn't already canning, freezing, or drying. 


This year we started thinking about making into a real market stand. If we're lucky, even a part time job. Our location is good. Even though we live in a very rural area, there are a lot of lakes with summer homes around them, so May through September we get a lot of tourist traffic.

We made up a bunch of signs. Just some 1 x 6's painted, with hook and eyes to hang them, and stenciled with the different veggies on them. Whatever is available at the stand is hung up.

I still have more signs to make. I seem to be painting them as the crops are ripening. They're done with an exterior gloss paint so they're fine getting wet. With some old storm windows I made a few dry erase boards by painting the back side of the glass white. One is my price list on the back wall of the stand. The other is my open sign and also for notes like products that are coming soon, or things I haven't painted a sign for if I'm not planning to sell a lot of it. 

As we've added more things to the stand I've been surprised what the big sellers have been. At first I added a few beets just to give me more variety and make the table look good. After selling 40 beets I'm starting to think people like them, and maybe I should plant more next year. The wild blueberries are always a good seller, a lot of work to pick, but worth it. Green beans sell well. My zucchini and patty pans have just started coming, but now they should be on the table every day. I keep a cooler with ice in it for things that won't do well out in the heat like eggs, and bags of lettuce and spinach. 

One of my biggest problems was figuring out what prices to sell our vegetables for. Hubby found this web page for the "USDA Agricultural Marketing Service".
You can search a particular vegetable, even by variety. It will give you an average price for that item with more detailed statistics below that. You can select nation or regional prices, and the dates you want prices for. It's a really great tool.

So I guess this year is a bit of an experiment, we'll put out a bit of everything, see what the good sellers are so we know what to plant more of next year. Hubby wants to put up a few big hoop houses, it addition to our little hoop, so we can grow a lot more. I think we could do well with this!

my cute little produce stand

Time to cut hay...

It's time to make hay for the goats winter feed. A couple of weeks ago I thought I would have a good opportunity to cut a bunch. Then, after only three days of cutting, it started raining. And it rained, and rained, and rained. The last bit that I had cut didn't get to dry fully, so it ended up in the goat's shed for bedding.

Now last year I thought we had stored a ton of hay but it only lasted 2 months and we had to buy some bales to last the rest of the winter. I'm hoping to get even more dried this year.

We don't have a big farm, so we don't have large tractors, or big haying equipment. All of our hay is cut by hand with a scythe, dryed, and piled into our hay shed to store. My husband bought his scythe at: https://scythesupply.com It's an american company, located in Maine. They custom make the snath (handle) for your height and have a big selection of blades.
Hubby made this video a fews years ago showing the scythe in use. It's a little tougher for me to use because I'm much shorter than he is. One day I'll get one made for me.

I cut a couple rows each day, cutting for about an hour each time. The same amount probably takes hubby half the time. After it dries for a day the rows are flipped. A few hours to a day later (depending on how warm and dry it is) I rake the rows into piles. To dry it even quicker the rows can be spread out evenly across the ground and then raked back into rows once dry. We've done it both ways. 

 We use our UTV to transport the piles to our hay shed and stack it as high as we can, using some boards to retain the edge of the pile. 

We even get the kids in on the fun (fun?). After each layer is added the kids get to climb on top to stomp everything down well, making room for more hay and, essentially, making one big bale of hay. This video was made over 5 years ago before our youngest was born. I love looking back at these old videos!

To feed this loose hay to the goats I use a pitch fork to grab hay and load it into a large storage tote. You know, those big plastic ones:
It gives me something to carry it in without just walking around with a huge pile of hay in front of my face, leaving a trail as I walk :P