If you haven’t already done so, please read the FFY Introduction.
December Farm Tasks Overview
Here’s a breakdown of what we’re covering in May:
- Slow Down
- High Tunnel
- Business & Taxes: Keeping up with bookkeeping
December is the slowest month on the farm. As our business grows, I hope to do more for the holidays (hello, planted 800 Christmas trees this spring). However, at this stage, it’s nice to have a slower month. For us, December is more about getting caught up on things that have been neglected the rest of the year. For example, re-organizing and deep cleaning. This might sound lame (because it is), but there won’t be as much time for such things once the season is back into full swing. It’s also the time of year where we focus on spending time with family and friends.
We’re not planting anything yet, but I figured I’d call out that December is a great time to start lisianthus if you are growing from seed. Read more about lisianthus here. I just prefer to hold off on planting anything until the new year.
One of my favorite things to do during December and January is starting to dream about next year and make wishlists for what I plan to order! Social media is a wonderful tool for finding new varieties and inspiration. You can create a collection and save all the ones you come across during the year, which is what I do.
While I haven’t done so yet, I’ll be taking inventory of seeds and ordering soon. I order the majority of our seeds from Johnny’s, Baker Creek, Ball, Tomatofest, and Floret for anything I cannot get wholesale. If you’re new to growing cut flowers and want to know how I plan the farm (which informs what seeds I order), be sure to check out January’s Farm Tasks. It’s a deep dive on my thought process. Now, my plan is second nature, so I can typically order what I need without having the plan finalized.
I will also be getting in my bulb order. If that sounds insane, it is. It seems that you need to get your wholesale orders in earlier and earlier each year. After hearing that fellow growers were putting in their orders this early, I asked our wholesaler if it was necessary or it created any problems for them. She said it did not cause any issues for them, so I just get it done. I order through Ball and Onings. With Ball, I order through a variety of the wholesalers, as my rep has recommended “not putting all eggs in one basket” as there are almost always cancellations.
Pretty much all winter, I am working on a dahlia wishlist. Once again, I’m looking back at social media posts I saved. Then, I refine my list down into a spreadsheet. I like to list the variety, include a photo, and then use Dahlia Addict and Google to find sellers. When evaluating sellers, I’m usually looking to see if they are experienced in growing dahlias. I visit their website and social media to see if the pictures of their plants look healthy. I’m looking to see what their policies are, what their field management looks like, and if they seem knowledgeable about dahlia diseases like virus and gall. Once I decide I’d like to purchase, I sign up for their newsletter. Once a sale date and time is announced, I make a Google calendar reminder. A day or so before the sale, I review their inventory and create a new tab on my browser with each variety I’d like to purchase. Then, I set an alarm a few minutes for the sale. Finally, I do my finger exercises (lol, jk, but boy do you have to go fast sometimes).
Speaking of dahlias, they are a year-round love affair for us. We outgrew our cooler this year, which we convert into a heater over the winter (you can read more about that here). So, we are now leaving the cooler door open and heating the entire shop area. We keep it set around 45F. So far, it’s still staying around 70% humidity, which has historically been just fine for us. I do have a backup humidifier and thermostat if we need it. To keep it dark, we covered the windows with blankets (also helped with condenscenation).
We also *finally* set up a temperature and humidity monitor that gives automatic updates on our phones. This has been a HUGE peace of mind for me, because I was always so worried about power failure or someone accidentally leaving a door open, or WHATEVER. There are so many variables when it comes to storing dahlia tubers over the winter. In our cold climate, I highly recommend installing a monitor if you’ve invested a significant amount of time and money into your collection.
There are numerous monitors that run on wifi, but we don’t have wifi down in our shop. So, our only option was to find a monitor that connects to a cellular network. I wasn’t sure if this would even work because cell service can be spotty down in the shop, but so far so good. I ordered the MarCELL Cellular Temperature, Humidity & Power Monitor, which runs on Verizon’s network.
Once you purchase the monitor, you then need to purchase the service. However, you don’t need to have service every month. You can either purchase by month or get a seasonal subscription (which is a minimum of 4 months, but it’s at a discounted rate, I think $12 / month). After purchase of the monitor (about $200), it’s less than $50 / year for monitor the temps during storage, which is totally worth it if you ask me.
Once you purchase the service, the device walks you through how to set it up, which is super simple. Then, you can choose how and when you get alerts (we chose text and email if the temps drop below 40F or the humidity drops below 60%). It will also send an alert if the power is disconnected (as it has some backup). It provides temp and humidity reads every 8 hours or so, which you can view on your phone (but any time the temp or humidity goes below or above the ranges you’ve set, you will get an immediate alert). You can also pay a few bucks to add immediate updates if you wanted them. Pretty cool!
After the holidays, we’ll begin dividing (read more about that here).
The biggest thing in the high tunnel is venting when the days are super sunny and temps are above 40F. I’m also still cleaning it out, oy!! I’m also cutting back the roses to about waist height and removing all leaves for their overwinter nap. Matt dumped a tractor bucket of compost in the tunnel . . . now, I just need to shovel it onto the roses and give them a deep mulch of hay!
Business & Taxes
I originally removed this so as not to be redundant each month, but I’m thinking it’s important to keep it in:
Every month, I review our income and expenses and apply the profit first method (at least, that’s my goal). If you haven’t read the book, I highly suggest it, but basically for everything that comes in (revenue) you are making target allocation percentages for things like profit, owner’s comp, taxes, and expenses.
It’s actually recommended to do this twice a month, but I honestly consider it a win if I do it once and bonus twice. If those terms are foreign, that’s OK (they were for me too). He breaks it all down in a simple (and even entertaining) way. My only regret with this method is not starting it sooner. It’s given me more confidence as a business owner, especially as I do not come from an entrepreneurial family. If you’re not ready to dive on into the book, it’s important to understand your income and expenses. I don’t even use a fancy system like quickbooks, just a spreadsheet!
OK, my friend, that is IT for December. Pretty slow compared to other times of year, but I hope you’re also having a slowdown.