Let us have lettuce

The first CSA shares have been distributed!  Whoopee!

Green is queen this early in the season, but especially this year, when it has been cold and rainy continuously since forever.

 

Lettuce loves this weather.lettuce 1.JPGlettuce 4.JPGlettuce 3.JPGlettuce 2.JPG

First share:  first share 17.JPG

hakurei turnips

romaine

leaf lettuce (a mix of the lettuces above-from Frank Morton‘s Freedom Mix)

perennial leeks

mixed hardy greens (kale/collards/chard-I like a mix of colors shapes and textures)

herb bunch (mint, lemon thyme, savory, oregano, lemon balm, chive flower)-so fun to make these again!

fava tops

basil start

It is good to be back in the swing! Happy eating everyone.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements
Posted in farm shares, Small farms | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Making Amends

When it comes to annual vegetable production, we ask a lot of our soils.  This is the time of year when we give back, in the form of amendments and compost, and also cover cropping.  This is also the time of year to till up the beds, creating a fluffy, well fertilized medium with lots of organic matter, oxygen and the right pH for baby plants to thrive and grow.  Soil structure is a fragile thing that tillage destroys, so finding ways to reduce the amount of soil that gets flipped during bed prep is always a goal of intensive gardening.  I have taken a few beds out of production, at least for the spring, and seeded them up with cover crop.  Other beds got cover cropped last fall, and are now being prepped and planted.  This winter for the first time I tried using occultation, where you cover the soil with a water proof and light proof tarp-this warms the soil, dries it out, and encourages weed seeds to germinate.  They and any cover crop then die due to lack of sunlight, and are broken down by the microfauna and bacteria that live in the soil.  This was the perfect winter to try this, as it has rained nonstop basically since last October-the tarps help protect the soil from getting beat up by the rain and keep them relatively dry. IMG_0607.JPGHere is a good picture of how the process works.  At the left is a fully amended terrace that is being planted up with early crops like lettuce, dill, cilantro, turnips, kale, and spring onions.  The middle terrace has been amended with lime to adjust the pH, kelp meal and stone dust to add micronutrients, zinc, gypsum for sulfur and more calcium and feather meal for nitrogen.  This blend and the amounts added per bed is all determined by an annual soil test I have done in January.  At the end of the row you can see a pile of compost that gets added next.  If the soil stays dry enough, I would then pass over this with my rotary harrow-which instead of flipping the soil stirs it more like an egg beater.  I set the harrow at a shallow depth so I am also not turning up any more weed seeds from below the area that was germinated and then shaded out.  IMG_0612.JPGThe third terrace here has just had its tarp removed, and then I ran over it with the rotary harrow to help break up any plant residue that was left and incorporate that into the soil.  You can see how the plant matter that remains is all dead and brown-this is going to be a game changer in terms of weed management later in the season.  This even gets most of the really challenging things like rhizome grasses and deep rooted thistles.  I’ll still have weeds but I expect to have less of them, and the first flush is already dead and gone-giving my baby plants a chance to establish themselves before having to compete.  The tarps are heavy but mine are 10′ wide by 50′ long-just the right size for me to move without too much effort.  The tarps also kept the soil dry enough for me to work-though I learned the hard way that if the headland soils are still wet you can get the tractor stuck at the End of the bed…. proceed with caution.  To further fluff up the soil, since I didn’t till very deeply, right before I plant I pass over the bed with the broadfork-this lifts the soil and adds oxygen, all without flipping it upside down.  The dogs help me when I move the tarp by catching any voles that have camped out under there.  This is big fun for dogs.  The fourth and fifth terrace have been mowed and just covered with the tarps.  They should be ready for amending in 3 weeks or so, depending on weather (the warmer it is, the faster weeds germinate, plants die and break down).

IMG_0624.jpgI did cover crop these terraces in the fall-not all terraces established a good cover but this is an example of what you’d like to see in the spring:  this is a mix of cereal rye, vetch, and clover.  Vetch and clover fix nitrogen, rye gives you better biomass and good structure for the vetch to climb.  When I look at this bed at least, I feel like the farm is turning a corner in terms of getting the soil in balance and to a good level of fertility.  It feels good. These plants are also discouraging any weeds by crowding them out.  Mwahahaha!IMG_0614.jpgHere is some cover crop starting to germinate-peas, oats, vetch, and I threw in some flowers for pollinators since I will leave these terraces most of the summer-phacelia, borage, poppies, sunflowers, and buckwheat are all great for the bees.  It can be hard for a microfarm like mine to incorporate cover crops into the mix-as my soil improves I can plant more intensively-actually using less space, which opens up some opportunities to take soil out of veggie production at least for part of the summer-and the tarps I think will also help especially for bed prep early in the year when things are often still really, really wet.

So, this feels like good progress against weeds and towards fertile soils!  The battle against rodents continues…I have a new gopher trap that seems to be pretty effective, and I also replanted my garlic in a gopher proof raised bed, but we are still at war.  I am seriously considering gopher snakes.  I mean, I should have twice as much garlic as this.  At Least.  IMG_0626.jpgAnd then there is the chipmunk in my greenhouse.  I don’t mind her, except for the fact that she buries oats in my tomato starts, waits for them to germinate, and then digs them and the tomato starts, up.  She is a farmer too, and cute as a button, but I need those tomatoes! The intelligence of animals is pretty remarkable-she knows those seeds are at their most nutritious right when they sprout (the same reason sprouts are so good for you).  Maybe I can train her to use empty pots.  This is also how I have learned that my rodent proof cover crop storage cabinet is not rodent proof.

Hope you are getting a chance to get into your garden-looks like May may give us spring at last.  Here’s hoping…..

 

Posted in fertility, Rural life, Small farms, weed management | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Spring has sprung, the grass is riz

I wonders where the birdies is?

Well it has been a year since I blogged last-let’s just say 2016 threw some serious curveballs, and I am not just talking about the election.  But, we survived, and here we are, heading into year three of farming.

Lots to learn still, but we continue to find the right tools for the job (including my new awesome Stihl weedwacker-that thing eats blackberries for breakfast), the right systems for what we are trying to do, and enough balance to spend some time enjoying where we are. The beauty of the farm never ceases to amaze, even as we find new dumps under the blackberries….like this one.

dump.JPG

Once again the dingo was indispensable-here we are using it to pull a drum full of unidentified liquid up out of the creek bed.  My husband built a custom cushioned cradle/sled for the drum so we didn’t rupture it dragging it up through the blackberries.drum removal.JPG

My husband has been relentless in his quest to clean up the farm-I am so grateful to him.  I am often so busy trying to figure out what I am doing on the vegetable and animal end that I fear I don’t help him as much as I should.

Osprey the mustang is feeling her oats-green grass goes to her head apparently.  I am starting to think seriously about finding her an equine or goaty companion.  She deserves a herd.  But we continue to enjoy each other and occasionally we even get off the farm for an adventure (I recommend wine tasting by mustang-very fun).  She has made it clear she has had enough rain-and I couldn’t agree more.  Napping in the sun is much nicer.P3257850.JPG

The greenhouse is planted up, starts are piling up on the tables waiting for some dry weather to get planted out-

P3257843.jpg

And I have been experimenting with occultation fabric on some of the beds using old billboard sign material-so far I am happy with how it is working-the beds under these tarps are clean of weeds (except for some wan yellow thistles), and dry enough that I will work them up with the rotary harrow today (for those of you not in W Oregon, it has been raining pretty much daily since October).  My first compost delivery is next week-I should be able to start planting these beds up as soon as they are amended!  There were some critters living under there-the dogs got one, and I saw another, but not too bad. I imagine timing with these will be critical-too warm and the voles will multiply-too cool and it will take longer to germinate and kill the weed seeds in the beds.  These collect water but are small enough (10X50′) that I can easily dump them out and move them by myself.  The water they collect also seems to drown a fair amount of slugs-gross, but another benefit.  And once they get rained on, they really don’t blow around at all. I put this tarp on about a month ago, maybe a little less.  Sure seems easier and nicer than tilling-and I am hopeful it will reduce weed pressure in the beds as well. Seems like a good way to prep early beds for spring planting-I’ll get back to you on how well they work during the spring and summer months.P3257852.jpg

Off to harrow… happy spring everyone!

P3257840.JPG

 

Posted in Rural life, Small farms | Leave a comment

Spring forward

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Planting season has begun!  In addition to the 300 daffodils, apples, quince, mulberry, kiwi, plums, cherries, pears, grapes and herbs that have been planted, the annual seeding of the annuals has also begun.  We used to do all that in this tiny greenhouse I built last year:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

greenhouse guard services provided by Sancho

That will now be the ‘house garden’ greenhouse (and I may even try to stuff a dwarf peach tree in there….I mean who wouldn’t)?  This year we got a little more serious and built a new 20’x40′ prophouse which will also house tomatoes and other warm season veg in summer and greens in the fall and winter. Eventually we will have two….mwhahahaha.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mmmmmm, ribs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

yep, this is what my spring break looks like

Once the skin was on and the ends sealed up-I can walk to Mexico from my front door.  Cold and nasty outside?  Warm and balmy inside-it is so nice to have a place to work out of the rain and wind.  The germination station (aka the sweatbox) also got a new plastic skin and heater and is now busy cranking out germinating seeds of all stripes, from Artichoke to Tomato.  It works fabulously-though I have to be careful not to overcook things on sunny days-so far not too many of those!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

eeks! leeks!

I am also enjoying that brief season before the field voles find me…. and my germinating seeds.  I am slowly prepping the non-propagation side into garden beds-the first bed of peas is in and up-favas and carrots soon to follow.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

peas? please.

Outside the overwintering vegetables are happy to provide after such a mild winter, this is the season for kale and kale raab. The raab roasted with olive oil and salt and pepper….omg.  After a winter of squash and root vegetables it is all I want to eat.  Even better with eggs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

egg rainbow

Otherwise the ducks are also laying-I am experimenting with giving some duck eggs to a broody hen to see if I can add to the Ancona flock. And I have lots of fat bunnies-expecting baby rabbits starting next week, will order the meat birds very soon, also some replacement layers…..here comes the growing season.

I lost one swarm I caught last spring, but looks like the 2 main hives and the other swarm all have made it through winter so far.  Fingers crossed for some fair flying weather for the bees in the coming days (and so I can get into the gardens and do some field prep!)

Look for me next weekend at the PACSAC CSA ‘share fair’ in SE Portland-I’ll be there with eggs and greens and a sign up list!  Last year’s members, if you intend to renew let me know so I don’t give up your space to someone else.  And don’t forget to set your clocks and your faces forward-here comes spring.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

stare into this romanesco….you will eat your vegetables, you will eat your vegetables..

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in chickens, Rural life, Small farms | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where does the time go…..?

Hmmm, I turn around and suddenly it is November.  The CSA and markets ended (for me) in September but we have had plenty to keep us busy.  The big fall farm project has been getting the orchard terraces planted up:  so far I have planted apples, pears, apricots (an experiment) and figs, plus cover crop/pasture grass on the terraces.  Still have some filberts, kiwi, plums and quince to go…..but those will probably wait until spring.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The rains have started in earnest but it continues to be warm-we still have not had a killing frost so I can still find peppers and tomatoes as well as the usual greens and alliums in the garden. I have a better sense of what will grow and hold late into the season for future CSA shares.

late season harvest

late season harvest

The garlic and shallots are in for next season, and the rest of the beds are oversown with cover crop which for the most part is coming in nicely.  Time to get my books in shape and start planning for next year!  Looking forward to a longer better season next year, hopefully a summer that is not quite so brutally hot, and having a few more infrastructure projects in place like some water catchment, and a real prop/greenhouse to play in.  More soon!

Posted in Small farms | Leave a comment

Establishing Boundaries

The elk fence is up.  We are not finished attaching it to the 10 foot t posts but the actual, physical barrier is there.  Such a load off!  And kudos to the dogs who have kept all the hungry and curious beasts at bay until we were able to get it in place.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It is amazing how the terraces suddenly feel manageable, now that they are delineated.  And it will be fun to trellis things on the fence-marionberries? grapes? kiwis?….I have 600 feet of permanent trellis to play with…..mwahahahaha.

The bird situation is calming down-the ducks are growing fast and in their own field pen which gets moved every couple of days to fresh grass.  Ducks are very messy birds!  They are also more flock oriented than the pullets, smarter, and much flightier.  They are still not sure about me even though I bring water and food every day-as I also bring the dogs which cause them lots of anxiety.  They are beautiful though, and very fun.  On the verge of feathering out, and quacking instead of peeping.  The only one I have named so far is the dark one in front-the runt who needed some medical attention in his/her first days, named Spot Foot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The meat birds are still in the henhouse, and eating like, well, little velociraptors.  They are very vigorous and active for meat birds, I have been very pleased with the Freedom Rangers.  Once they get a little bigger they will be out on grass too.  Here’s what the field pens look like:  tall enough that I can stand up inside, and light enough (at least the latest model) that I can move it by myself without the dingo.  I should buy stock in livestock panel-I use that for everything (well, except fencing) :).  The meat birds and the ducks will most likely get yards in addition to their field pens so they have more space.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The veg keeps growing, we have another heat wave looming on the horizon for the end of the week, so weeding and watering will be the order of the week after I get the rest of my seeds in.  Happy Solstice!

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

more mesclun

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

fava beans

red chard

red chard

Posted in chickens, Rural life | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Firsts

Went to my first Farmer’s Market ever on Wednesday, and am heading into week four of the CSA-so far response has been good and the vegetables look and taste great!   A few of my mustards have been gnawed by flea beetles and I have been having a heck of a time getting the carrots to germinate in any kind of uniform stand-really tough in my rough terrace beds that were formerly pasture.  I am experimenting with fluid drilling and following the cut and come again greens so they have cleaner beds to germinate in.  But the weather has been all over the place:  midwestern style gullywashers, a week of ‘normal’ early june weather (cool and rainy) and now-a week in the 90’s.  Not sure I will have enough veg for the farmers market this week-I’ll try to make the call today or tomorrow, but for the CSA the share continues to be green green green.  The big hit from the early season shares-pesto made with fava tops!  Just make pesto as if you were using basil, with nuts, cheese, lots of garlic, olive oil, salt pepper and a squeeze of lemon.  Fava top pesto I find is best the day it is made-it can get a little bitter if it sits around too long.  Here are some glamour shots of the veg from a recent share:

cherry belle

cherry belle

 

garlic scapes

garlic scapes

salad mix

salad mix

green garlic

green garlic

shuksan strawberries from Square Peg Farm!

shuksan strawberries from Square Peg Farm!

Since my farm is new and orchards and berries are not yet in-I supplement the vegetables with fruit from other local farms as I am able.  Hoping for some raspberries this week!

The elk have been curious but not destructive so far, and the fence is going in whenever we can find a few hours-I look forward to not worrying so much about my tomato plants at night.  I am heading out now to water and cheer on the new potatoes and beets and peas (I didn’t plant enough peas-I am so sad about that) and coax the romaine lettuce into staying sweet and not bolting for at least one more day……  Squash, cukes, corn and beans are up-summer veg is just around the corner!

Enjoy the sun, and stay cool!

 

Posted in Rural life, Small farms | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The season is upon us…

Between getting ready for the season and seeding, planting, weeding, watering the veg and keeping the animals fed and watered and getting our Portland house ready for market I have been busier than a one armed paper hanger.  But here are some pictures of what has been happening on the farm:

Terracing!  We got the terraces in and they look great.  Now to get the beds built, amended, and planted up.

upper beds terracing

We borrowed a tractor and D tilled all the terraces up, after ripping them with the Dingo.  Now it is my job to build the beds (which I am doing with a hoe by hand), add compost and amendments, and plant them up!  Some day I’ll have a BCS with a rotary hoe which will make this job much faster.

tilled terraces

tilled terraces

hand built raised beds with compost

hand built raised beds with compost

amendments and compost mixed in and beds shaped

amendments and compost mixed in and beds shaped

We need elk fence!

We need elk fence! That is a herd of 20-30 cows up there….

Of course once we terraced the hill the elk that we haven’t seen in months have been through every couple of days.  They walked on every single one before I started building the beds.  The dogs do a pretty good job of keeping them off the property, but at night when we are sleeping all bets are off.  The fencing contractor I am talking to is currently booked through June, so we may end up building it ourselves or I may have to sleep out there.  At the least I will put up an electric fence to try to deter them in the interim.  Not much stops a determined elk though, the fence we need is 8 feet tall and super stout.

The lower garden is cranking along-hopefully with enough mature veg in two weeks to get me through my first couple of CSA deliveries!  Less critter pressure here but this garden will need elk and deer fence too.

lower garden

lower garden

arugula

arugula

baby shuksans!

baby shuksans!

And in other big news:  we put the Portland house on the market.  This project has been eating several days a week out of my schedule, but we are really close to done with prepping and sprucing.  I pretty much repainted the entire interior.  It looks better than it ever did when we lived there-ain’t that always the way.

house frontCan’t wait until it is sold and done, my elk fence is in, and I can focus on the other 10 thousand things…..happy May!

 

Posted in old house renovation, Rural life, Small farms | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fair weather

Not making hay while the sun shone, but at least getting some land prep done with the kind help of my tractor owning neighbor Ron.

raising the raised beds

raising the raised beds

And then amending them with the help of my Six Strong Men-aka the Dingo.

spreading compost is a breeze with a Dingo!

spreading compost is a breeze with a Dingo!

My SSM also helped me dig postholes and set corner posts for the deer fence, using the forks and auger.

Osprey continues to excel as an employee, here she is waiting to start her mowing and fertilizing project for the day:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And…the chickens say that it may Look like Tuesday, but in terms of egg production this is more of a saturday.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Posted in chickens, Rural life, Small farms | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Getting real in 2015

We have been awfully busy on the farm-the house is mostly put back together.  Such a sweet house!  What isn’t done can mostly wait, and we have the city house to work on next.  And now that we have cords and cords of hardwood firewood the weather has been unseasonably warm and dry.  Still, firewood in the shed is like money in the bank, and I am not going to complain about sunny and 60 degrees in February.  Especially when Boston is under 7 feet of snow and it is -15 in Kentucky!

lovely locust

lovely locust

And I finally finished the prop house, just in time to start those tomatoes, onions and peppers, plus some early greens.

first this

first this

then this...

then this…

now this!

now this!

The house is 8×16, made out of livestock panels and 2x4s, total cost @$300.  Plus I can repurpose it when I get some real hoop houses for moveable critter housing.

I planted the shuksan strawberries and purple and green asparagus during this batch of amazing weather, and I also got the little pie cherry orchard in.  And the garlic and leeks look incredible for February!  Now if I can just keep the gophers,deer and elk at bay….

walking onions stretching their 'legs'

walking onions stretching their ‘legs’

Look for your marketing CSA email very very soon.  If you would like to sign up for a share you can use the form below or contact me via email (see sidebar).  2015 shares will be $410 for 17 weeks, or usable over the course of the growing season for whatever we have available.  Members will get emails and I will also post what is getting harvested on the farm here on Mondays. I am also super excited to include with the vouchers a membership to Cook With What You Have, a deep, versatile and local resource for recipes using the veggies in your weekly farm share.

 

business card size

Posted in old house renovation, Rural life, Small farms | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment