The Home Grown September Challenge


This blog by cuts right to the heart of the matter. My friend Celi is attempting to eat only off the farm during the month of September.

thekitchensgarden

The Home Grown September Challenge is going splendidly. Though when you get really down to it there is not enough food out there so I am not sure how Long the challenge will last.

grim-007

grim-008

It is very dry now and  I am going to have to do some serious watering lest my greens give up on me. Not being able to reach for a bag of frozen peas as an easy  green addition to a meal makes life interesting.

grim-005

Though this is an excellent way to ensure that the list for next years gardens is thorough. I am already running out of potatoes and onions. So  MORE is a recurrent word in the list.

grim-009

I have plenty of tomatoes, aubergine, sweet capsicums, beets, celery, zuchinni and jalapenos. There are two  cabbages left and a stand of swiss chard that is taking a beating as I eat it every day.  But…

View original post 869 more words

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Suddenly Summer–Time for Bees and More Planting


DSC_0003

The sun sets over the farm. The rows are laid out with drip tape and plastic, using our “new” bed layer, all ready for planting melons, cabbages, and eggplants. We will slowly convert all of our irrigation to this system which saves water and reduces weeding. We will wait another week to plant the heat-loving melons, eggplants, tomatoes and peppers though, as nights here still hover just above 40. We need nights in the mid-50s for these plantings. It is so hard to be patient!

In the meantime, several successions of cold-loving crops have gone in, such as onions, (more than 3800 of the sweet Walla Walla variety, plus more bunching onions) spinach, kale, chard, beets, turnips, lettuces and greens. All this on top of the protected plantings of carrots greens and onions started in February and March in the two hoophouses, which were moved last month. The two houses are already filled with their summer crops.

DSC_0030

Artichokes, a new crop we’re trying out this year, have been planted inside the small hoophouse. Since this photo, a row and a half of cayenne peppers also got put in. You can see the garlic growing on the other side of the hoophouse.DSC_0013Rosie was game to try out the new two seater planter we got on loan. Our maiden voyage was to plant 600 strawberry plants for next season.

DSC_0022

Rosie and Bill took their positions on the back while Mike drove.

DSC_0019

After a lot of trial and error they got it done. We still need to learn how to set up and use this tool properly!

DSC_0014

Each person alternatively drops a plant between two revolving discs which open up the ground and put the plant in the proper position. It was a little bit daunting, but in the end, much kinder on the knees! We hope to use this planter to get all the broccoli and cauliflower in.

DSC_0009Meanwhile, in the large hoophouse, the tomatoes are growing very well. We’ve also planted a bed of ginger along one side, and will grow pickling cucumbers on a trellis along the other side. We are working to maximize valuable growing space inside the hoophouses.

DSC_0008The mesclun mix is ready for its third cutting! Romaine heads are getting bigger, in time for our first CSA shares which begin June 10. Bunching onions will make a delicious addition to our first shares, along with baby spinach, radishes, and fully grown sweet winter carrots!

DSC_0081And in the middle of all this activity, the bees arrived! We lost all four of our hives last winter. One we knew had a weak queen. We knew we had at least two swarms,  maybe three, last summer. Two of the hives hung on until nearly spring, but didn’t make it. We were left with two broodboxes full of honey, which we will put on the hives in September to help get our bees through next winter. We are about a month late getting the two bee packages in. However, we have enough hive equipment to give these new bees fully built out comb in two deep boxes, which should help them along. If you are starting from scratch, it takes the bees quite awhile to just build comb on all the frames, so we are hopeful that the bees will have an advantage this year. Our main intention is to get these bees pollinating our crops. Some honey at the end of the season is really a bonus for us!

DSC_0056Two of our interns, Rosie and Alisha (doing a great job as photographer, which is why she is not in the photos! Thanks Lish!) helped install the packages. It was a first for both of them, and quite exciting!

DSC_0034This was a first for me, as well, installing packages without Mike and Bill’s input. But we did ok.  The queens must be accepted by the hive (by smell,) so they come protected in little cages that you hang inside the hive. They chew their way out through a candy plug. By the time they get out, usually, the hive has accepted her. We will check in 7 days, and hopefully remove the empty queen cages. In another 7 days after that, we check once more to determine that the queen is laying capped brood. Fingers crossed!

DSC_0031

Rocking that bee-hoodie Rosie!

2 Comments

Filed under Bees, CSA Shares, Four Season Gardening, Greenhouse, Planting, Spring, Uncategorized

Another Person’s Lie


Another very good post by our friend Ben Hewitt. His new book “Saved” about our relationship to money will be out soon, and we are really looking forward to reading it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

And… Away We Go!


First, a shot of the small hoophouse in its new position where it was moved on Sunday. The carrots underneath the hoops are recovering nicely from the compost burning, thank goodness! The house was closed up and black plastic was spread over the soil to warm it in preparation for the next crops to be planted soon: artichokes and hot peppers!DSC_0959

Last night, the large hoophouse was moved into its new position. It will house tomatoes, ginger, basil and parsley.

DSC_0947

See the tractor in the distance? Two 200 foot lengths of cable are attached to the back of the tractor. The cables run through pulleys screwed into two short posts that have been put at either end. This keeps the greenhouse on an even plane as its pulled by the tractor.DSC_0949

And there it goes! The preparation to make the move took longer than the actual move itself…DSC_0950

Which was, literally, over in seconds…DSC_0952

Like buttah…DSC_0954

Afterwards, the hoops and reemay cloth were replaced over the crops, since our nights are still hovering in the 40s. They are probably fine without this protection now, but we don’t want to take any chances of a freeze. Plus, the crops underneath will be hardened off to the direct sun over a period of days. DSC_0962

Spinach and lettuce has already been planted in the rows alongside the greenhouse, and here, Mike is preparing a few more beds so we can plant beets and turnips today.DSC_0965

As the sun goes down, a parting shot of the whole picture.DSC_0966

As I went home, here’s the new view from my house.

3 Comments

Filed under Four Season Gardening, Greenhouse, Planting, Spring, Tractor

Burned carrots and many lessons learned…


This is a cautionary tale, which may help someone else, and which may yet have a happy ending. There is so much to learn, and we, humbly, are still learning. So stay tuned…

This is a story that unfolded over a period of days, put in perspective by the horror unfolding with the Boston Marathon bombings, and the weeklong manhunt to catch the perpetrators. (Lesson 1: It’s only carrots, after all…)

Last week, we took delivery of about 20 yards of compost from a local facility where its made. With our hearts in Boston, and one ear tuned to the horrific news reports, we kept to our regular work routines and began applying the new compost. We used it to top dress the carrots in our two hoophouses. These, if you remember, are the carrots planted in February and March. The first plantings were coming along nicely, and had grown to about 3 inches.

Once I began working in the small greenhouse, I became concerned about a strong odor from the compost, which I described to Richie, doing the same thing in our larger greenhouse, as “animal,” of urine, or ammonia. Did we get the wrong stuff? I called the trucking company that had delivered it and was told they had already been in touch with the head of the compost company after a previous query about the same odor. He had reassured them that the compost was completely safe to use. The compost was still working, they had been told, but it was ok. Ok to use in an open field, and to be tilled under before planting, I now realize in hindsight. My application to tender baby carrots was another use entirely. (Lesson 2: The “experts” don’t always know everything. Go with your gut.)

However, allowing myself to be reassured, I covered the carrots with a layer of reemay cloth, and closed the greenhouse up tight for the night as we are still getting below freezing  temps at night, and must still protect the beds.

Here is what the carrots looked like when I put them to bed:

DSC_0919

Here is what they looked like the next day:

DSC_0920Severely burned carrot plants…Ouch! It looked like we had sprayed the crop with Agent Orange! And there was a definite line of demarcation of healthy plants remaining where I had left off the previous day. I immediately called the trucking company and they promised to follow up.

I don’t mean to indict compost with this story. In fact, the compost we were delivered IS perfectly fine and we will use it with great confidence on our fields. To gardeners, compost is “black gold” because of its many benefits in the garden. Compost is a great material for garden soil. Adding compost to clay soils makes them easier to work and plant. In sandy soils, the addition of compost improves the water holding capacity of the soil. By adding organic matter to the soil, compost can help improve plant growth and health. Composting is a most important tool for an organic gardener.

(Lesson 3: Compost is not compost, is not compost.) Too much green matter in relation to brown in a compost pile can result in excess nitrogen as the bacteria consumes the green matter, which results in the formation of ammonia gas when the compost is new. This eventually dissipates, harmlessly, into the air. The resulting compost is fine and safe to use. It is safe even to use while it has this smell, as long as it is being tilled into the ground. In fact, it may add some benefits in the short term. But it is not so good to use on tender plants in a closed environment. This I now understand in hindsight…

I definitely compounded my first mistake in using the unseasoned compost on beds which I then covered with cloth inside a tightly closed greenhouse. I inadvertently captured and concentrated ammonia fumes around the baby plants. Once this had been discovered, we began ventilating, and watered heavily, which stopped the ongoing damage.

In our big greenhouse, where we had also top dressed with the same stuff, the carrots are fine. Why? We have since come to the conclusion that there is more air circulation in the larger house, and the compost had been applied a little more thinly.

This really feels like a significant setback. Here we have a crop with potential worth of several thousand dollars. Part of that worth is centered around producing locally grown carrots weeks ahead of anyone planting them outside, and for which we can charge a premium price at the markets where we sell them.

This morning, we were paid a visit by the head of the compost facility, who I am pleased to say, came out here to see what I was talking about. I think he learned a few things from me. He was surprised to see carrots growing in an unheated greenhouse. He hadn’t heard of Eliot Coleman and was not familiar with the concept of moveable hoophouses. I told him: “You will soon be seeing more of this, hopefully, as more farmers learn how to extend the season using this method. I want you to be able to warn others so they don’t make the same mistake that I did.”

As for the carrots, “Wait and see,” he said. “You will probably be surprised. We see this when the compost is applied to broadgrass.” (Turf. I am not suprised that his biggest customers are landscapers applying this product to lawns.)

DSC_0935

This morning, I am slightly encouraged about the carrots. There does seem to be vibrant healthy growth coming from the middle of each plant which survived. The smallest plants, however, did not make it, so there has been loss. But it is not the end of the world. This is farming. We will replant.

To repeat Lesson 1: Its only April. There will be carrots. And no carrot is important, really, when compared to what we lost in Boston last week.

Keep calm and plant on!

1 Comment

Filed under Four Season Gardening, Greenhouse, Lessons Learned, Planting, Spring

Nursery Greenhouse Phase I


Every spring without fail, we make lists of all the things we want or need to do on the farm. Our lists always contain more items than any of us can accomplish in any given year, let alone the short couple of months we get once the snow starts retreating, and before the temperatures warm up enough for planting. Once that occurs, the hectic life of farming swings into full gear and some of our intentions fall by the wayside or get put off until next year. Over time, we have begun to learn how to assign priority to these tasks and choose one or two important projects each year. We are also learning to work in phases. DSC_0870

Phase 1 of our new fixed nursery greenhouse began last week. Unlike the other two, this greenhouse will be heated to start our seeds. We will also use it to raise potted plants for sale, and perhaps microgreens in the off-season. We have not even begun to figure out everything we will use it for! Very exciting! The north wall will have the composting facility behind it to help to insulate the greenhouse. We also plan to use barrels painted black inside, filled with water for a heat sink. Initally, we will heat with a propane heater, but eventually Mike hopes to build a rocket heater with a cobb, a masonry structure formed around the vent pipe of the stove which will run down the length of the greenhouse. The idea is to build one fire to heat the cobb, which in turn, gives off heat throughout the night. The propane then becomes the backup…

DSC_0802

The giant rock at the corner is here to stay. Made a good footing! DSC_0803 DSC_0826

Seeing Todd in shorts, you wouldn’t know that it was a blustery 40 degrees all week. The wind never stopped blowing!DSC_0804  DSC_0809

Crushed stone and then a poured footing… DSC_0840

Then the wall building began. DSC_0838

Phase 2 will involve building knee walls and anchoring the other corner pipes. We hope to have the plastic on before long, and we will have a staging area for hardening off plants. We will still use the Sanderson greenhouse for the next few weeks to get our babies growing!

A few more new things on the farm…

DSC_0819 DSC_0862

Meet Wyatt, Mike and Desi’s new farm dog — a rescue mutt with a really sweet personality. He’s an awesome buddy for Charger, and even Grammie likes him!

DSC_0863

Also, a new paddock for Prudance and Ruby.  They are very excited about their new space to roam! DSC_0865And last but not least, I uncovered the garlic today. Looking good!

2 Comments

Filed under Antique Barn, CSA Shares, Farm Animals, Four Season Gardening, Greenhouse, Uncategorized


Had to share this. It encapsulates so much of what we’re about here!

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized