Last year at Open Heart our capital improvements were a wheel hoe and an earthway seeder, the latter of which was provided used and free by Digger's Mirth (thank you!), so it might not count as a capital improvement. The wheel hoe and attachments finally cost about four hundred. This is about two orders of magnitude below a larger farms capital improvements (hereafter CI). Those two devices did in fact help us streamline cultivation and production in order to produce more stuff for more families. Look back to last years posts for an in depth report on how those things work . . .
This year's CI's are: drip irrigation, electric deer fence, and tomato cages. Drip irrigation is something I have not used before so I've been reluctant to try it. Does that make me conservative? But I was convinced by last years more dry weather and having a little bit more land that it would be helpful; and the more I look into it the less hard it seems to actually set up, i.e. fear's based on ignorance. Drip irrigation works by setting up lines of "drip tape" down each row, and the water just slowly goes right into the ground. Some advantages over traditional overhead irrigation (which is what we would use at Quail Hill) are less water use (both because there is no evaporation and because you are not watering the aisles), and less weed growth in the aisles because of aforesaid not watering them. It also hopefully will mean alot less time running around trying to set up hoses and using garden sprinklers which is what rachel and I did last year. Our little farm is just getting slightly too big for that to be practical (2 acres).
The deer fence I am less excited about but it seems the two year trend in deer pressure is up, and if it goes up anymore . . . we want to be protected. So why the hesitation. Also from experience at Quail Hill, in Long Island, where deer pressure was immense, we found the fences to not stop the deer if they really really wanted in. That said, I am hoping that here in semi-woodsy Vermont they will only require a mild deterrent. Last year Rachel and I lost a lot of time and lettuce covering it up each night with remay, and carrots I now remember.
The Tomato cages are a no brainer. We had our first thirty gotten pretty cheap last year, and used them primarily on the brandywines. This year we will see what another few hundred dollars can get us and continue expanding them to other larger tomatoes that we do. This is something we never used at quail hill (to continue a theme), because the scale was simply too large, probably a half acre or more of tomatoes (just for the CSA, not counting paste). As long as we continue having all of our tomatoes be field tomatoes, the cages seem to extend the life, productivity and appearance of the fruit pretty well.
Speaking so much of Quail Hill, let me share one picture of the tomatoes the last year we were there. They have a Tomato taste off every year there. It might not be a bad idea for Open Heart too, seeing as how this year we are going to have 25 varieties.