Ferme du Vieux Chêne

With the grass sown in our new field we pressed on with the plan to start market gardening. We asked Jacques if he built greenhouses for other farms. “Non.. But I prepare the ground and I assemble some pre-made assembly kits in the past.” I had a chat with Claude over coffee – “Where can we get greenhouses to assemble?” “Pop into the farmers market next time you pass by – we have brochures for garden sheds, greenhouses and all sorts… You should find something in those.” “Aren’t they for peoples gardens?” I asked. “Some are, but we have commercial ones too.” he said.

I visited a couple of days later and scanned through the brochures. There were actually a selection of commercial greenhouses. Many were assembled on site by the manufacturers but some were also available to build yourself. I rang Jacques to ask if he could prepare our proposed greenhouse plot in the middle 2 weeks of March. There was some shuffling of papers in the background and I thought some chin scratching too before he came back and said “Oui! I can prepare the ground. Send me a plan of the area you require.” “Would you be able to assemble a large greenhouse too?” More chin scratching… Oui, Have you ordered it? If you have, then send me the diagrams.” I promised that I’d do that – without telling him I hadn’t ordered it yet! I went back to the brochures and rang up the company supplying the greenhouse Mark and I had chosen. They had it in stock and, yes they could deliver at the beginning of the third week of March. They promised to email us the floor plan and the diagrams for assembly. We paid with the farm credit card – another dent in the bank balance.

Jacques arrived at the farm on the Monday – clutching the floor plan that he’d printed out. “Where am I building this greenhouse?” he asked looking around the yard and scratching his head. “Not here, we have an area further up the valley.” and I guided him up to our new field and showed him the grassland alongside the track beside the field. “Is that area flat enough for this to be done?” I asked. “This is fine!” Jacques said, positively beaming, “The last time we were building into a hillside for a barn – that was a bad time.” I told him the greenhouse should be arriving the following Monday. “We’ll be ready by then.” He said. I left him and his Son unloading a small digger.

There was another issue that we had to attend to. How to get water to our greenhouse when it was built. There was no supply to the land up there and a phone call to the water company produced a prohibitively expensive answer for piping and storage on site. The local plumber said he could provide a standpipe at the farmhouse. That was much cheaper but then we’d still have to transport the water up to the greenhouse. Mark also pointed out the charges for water use – It was something I hadn’t thought about but I should have – “Oh my God! It’s going to cost us a fortune in water rates!” That cast a shadow over the viability of market gardening. Should I cancel the greenhouse and pay Jacques off? Mark shook his head – “We can make this work, it’ll just take a bit longer.” He said and he suggested I go and look at water tankers as we would need one if we went for a standpipe in the yard. I guess it was my turn to feel a little despondent, so I took up his suggestion and drove down to Armand Moteurs in the tractor.

Jean had tankers in stock – some way too large for our needs and most of them of the wrong type – we didn’t need a slurry tank for example! As we kicked stones around the yard and wandered amidst the machinery I talked about our project and the water cost issue. Jean looked a bit perplexed “Why is there an issue? Why not take water straight out of the river for free? It’s what everybody else does!” He explained that there were a few areas where the riverbank was accessible for the collection of water – the nearest such point for our farm was by the marina in town. That was a gamechanger – the water would only cost what it took in fuel to collect it! And the cost of a trailer was not that different to the quote from the water company to pipe and store it on site. I left Jean’s shop with a nice modern plastic tanker fitted with all the necessary pieces to siphon water from rivers or lakes!

The greenhouse arrived and Jacques assembled it in time for planting during the last week of March. We decided to plant it with Tomatoes. Here’s our greenhouse…


…with the first Tomato plants growing inside. Initially I had to do three runs to collect water for the greenhouse’s storage system…


…6000l of water is a lot of weight for our tractor and it was really chugging up the steeper hills. We got the job done but we may need to think about a larger tractor soon. By the end of the first week of April we had our first load of Tomatoes…


…and, in a symbolic gesture, I drove them down to the farmers market immediately in the Sidekick…


Other news around the farm – the grass in the field by the greenhouse is growing well…


…and our Barley crop now has healthy ears and looks on course for a good harvest in June…


…Not sure what we’re going to harvest it with though! We’ll probably have to hire a combine and harvesting head. Fortunately, the silo is just across the yard so we won’t need a trailer! This first crop has chicken feed written all over it! Talking of Chickens, our first home-hatched batch have come of age so I sold 8 of our oldest birds back to the animal dealer…


…meaning that we now had 92 laying birds and another 50 that will mature in 6 months. Things are looking up on the Chicken front 🙂

Much of this work was done before the recent Trucking event and this post brings you up to date on progress at Ferme du Vieux Chêne. I hope to get some more work on the farm done over the next week or so now things have quietened down – although I am currently trying out a new hunting game which I will report on soon.

The greenhouses produce Tomatoes at an alarming rate – it has been suggested that greenhouses are goldmines in some of the games reviews. Given how hard it is to make a farm pay when playing on the hardest settings I’ll view that as a big bonus. I expect to expand the market gardening with a second large greenhouse growing Lettuce in the future and possibly a small greenhouse might be added to the farm near the house to grow Strawberries 🙂

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