Hoop house

Hoop houses are valuable means to extend the growing season.

By Becky Nelson

Summer seems to be whirring by at an alarming rate. I realize it is just the second week of July, but the days are double-packed here at the farm as we are beginning to harvest a few crops at the same time we are haying and finishing up planting. Yes, planting. The very cool, very wet spring set us back at least two weeks, and for some crops almost a month. We are praying for a very long summer that stretches into the fall in order to harvest many of the things we just planted. We are hopeful that we have enough time.

We are planning to erect another hoop-house here at the farm. Designed to be easily dismantled and moved around, the structures are a simple metal frame with a plastic cover than lets in light, retains heat when the doors are closed and sides are down and helps us to protect crops from some animal pressure, hail, serious wind, and downpours. We have drip-irrigation set up in the houses so we can fill a barrel with rainwater or water from the well and gently send the life-giving liquid directly to the roots of the plants. This helps keep some molds, mildews and rots from both the soil and the surface and gives us a better crop.

We raise all sorts of things in the houses. While our raspberry field, blueberry patch and corn, squash and pumpkin plantings are too big to cover and are planted traditionally, and the second pickings of beans and peas and other crops that take up a lot of room are outside, we plant all of our tomatoes and peppers in the houses and experimented with first plantings of beans, peas, beets, radishes and all manner of greens under the hoops, most of which were a grand success.

As we farmers age and generations next decide what they want to do with the place, this is a huge boon. We have cut back on the amount of planting we are tending this year, with what seems to be a smaller demand at our retail store and a break-even at best market for wholesale vegetables after factoring in hired labor and struggles with the natural order of weather, pests and time. Weeding has been easier, crops have been productive, picking has been easier and we have worked a lot of the hired labor and back-breaking personal labor out of the picture as we hope to slow down a bit as we have toppled over the hill. Whether or not we can take a breather and a trip or two has not been in the cards thus far, but we hope.

Hope springs eternal, so I am told. We seem to be hoping about a lot in our daily lives, and I see struggles in the family, in our friends’ lives and most especially in our neighborhoods, towns, cities, states and nations around the world. Without hope, we wouldn’t be planting the seeds that may come to fruition and offer us a crop. Without hope, we wouldn’t be working to make the lives of others better, as well. We need a whole lot more hope in the world as we look around us and try to make our daily lives and the lives of others better.

Keep up the faith. Keep up the hope. Keep planting. And when a great idea like a hoop house presents itself, give it a try. It just might work out.

Becky Nelson is co-owner of Beaver Pond Farm in Newport.

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