News and Blog
Spring time! Onions, Shallots, Leeks, Oh Yes! These lovely individuals were tucked by hand into this rich Earth mid-April to flourish throughout the summer and enjoy year round. They are usually the first vegetables to be planted outdoors.
Indoors, under the protection of a layer of plastic and with the help of some Spring Sunshine, other vegetables are much further along in their growth cycle.
Misty morning dream time in late Spring.
The following three pictures involve a rye photo shoot. One of the most beautiful crops in our opinion, its sometimes very blue-green iridescent seed head and stalk dance and delight with anyone choosing to stop and notice.
Rye is planted as a cover crop, adding nutrients back into soil as a "green" compost.
If you have opportunity to grow even a small bit of rye, you may experience its beauty in person. This picture captures only a fraction of its enrapturing qualities. If possible visit your patch daily as it is always changing in color and quality.
This soil hosted a lusciously diverse entanglement of vetch, clover, rye, oats and peas as cover crop mimicking Life’s natural diversity. These cover crop fields are all turned back into Earth and provide the nutrients for future vegetable crops.
This is the first time that we’ve planted popcorn. We’ll begin bringing it to market in January.
The first ripening of heirlooms. Joy of Summer Joys!
These are the same French and Cherry Vanilla Quinoa filmed in the video below, but aged a month.
Check out this quinoa bud! Each one morphed into fantastically unique colors and shapes as its life-cycle waned into the reproductive stage.
Interns and life partners Kathryn and Doug grew at Nature’s Pace April through December. Thank you immensely for the Love and intentions you brought to the farm.
In route to seed a bed of salad mix using the electric powered Allis Chalmers G before a possible shower, Jacob continues his flow of seeding, weeding, harvesting, and about a thousand other little tasks to keep the farm the Light that it is. Thanks Jacob.
Another Thanks shout out goes to past intern, Anina, who cycled in and visited for a week. While here, she welded farm art from old tools and scrap metal.
Can you guess what old tools were used to create this fun friend hanging around the kids’ treehouse?
Thank you also to Learntern, Hannah, who joined us for a couple months and focused on organizing the creation of a hugelkultur bed on the farm.
Living trees that needed to be thinned from the woods and dead ash that needed to come down filled the trough seen in the previous picture. The mounds of soil and woodchips seen to the left will layer on top and throughout the trees seen laying horizontal in this picture. As the trees slowly decompose, new life and nutrients will be added to the soil.
One of my favorite memories of late summer with Freeda was shading ourselves in the rows of the sunflower patch and sharing stories with each other.
With flavors transitioning along with the Autumn, kale and broccoli sweeten ever more with each cool night and day.
Here's another beautiful Life sweetening with each changing season. Here, he's pricing spoons and knives that he's carved by hand for the next day's market. He's just celebrating his tenth birthday as well, which coincides with the start of our farming adventure.
These ten years of growing have been an absolute Love Labor, and we have learned SO much from the Land, from all of You and from each Other. <3 xoxo
Here's a video of the farm taken in August. It's low-tech, slow, and windy at times, but it still gives a nice view of the farm and our growing practices :-).
Friends, another beautiful growing season is winding down. Here's an attempt to share some of its joys in non-linear fashion. Captions will all be below the photos.
Five days after the fire. With benches and tunnel rebuilt, flats that had spent the previous three days in our cooler made into a makeshift germination chamber, are ready for bench life in the prop house.
One month after the fire plants are growing beautifully. Thankfully the fire happened April 2nd instead of May 2nd! In spite of all the time it took to rebuild and replant (A LOT OF TIME INDEED!!!), we didn't end up being behind in the fields with any of the crops : )
Plastic going on the 1/2 acre Haygrove tunnel during a foggy, windless morning.
I couldn't help but add two picture of plastic going up. It was such a magical morning!
Jacob in ACTION putting the Haygrove up.
Intern Leslie making dibble holes into tilled strip of soils, which soon would be home to the field tomatoes. In between each strip of tilled soil is established clover that served as a living mulch and weed control. Jacob mowed the clover down every few weeks, which kept the isle between the tomatoes low and added fertility to the soil.
Tomatoes being planted in the field shown above.
Building soil fertility with green cover crops is an important part of our farm's fertility. We plant over a third of our fields in cover crop each year. Here Leslie is undersowing clover in the rye field with a hand broadcaster.
Fun in the rye field : )
Buckwheat cover crop mines phosphorous from deep down for future fertility of the soil.
I so love that buckwheat flowers birth delicious buckwheat flour ; )
Our favorite cover crop thus far! Neighbors commented how much they loved driving down the road while the sunflowers were in bloom!
Forrest deciding which sunflower he should dig up...so many to choose from!
We had so much fun with the sunflower patch. A joyous mother I am, indeed.
Grew our own hay this year too!
Jacob and Forrest combining oats a few days back. We'll use the seeds for cover crop fields next year.
At times this summer, the corn knife was an extension of Forrest's arm!
The first bloomed sunflower of the year...and the corn knife. Even with a broken arm, Forrest didn't stop blazen trails and clearing brush.
A man, his son and a beloved Allis Chalmers G Tractor. The Celery is beginning to size up a little in the background.
A visitor a few days back saw the Farmall M and innocently asked if it worked. Yes! That tractor has been so good to us! The half-built SQuOT seen to the left and behind the M is a new addition the farm this year. It's used for storing winter SQuash, Onions and Tomatoes, which all require dryer storage conditions that potatoes and other root crops.
Preparing the onions for storage are some of the many hands that hands that contributed to this season. BIG THANKS TO Monica, Dad, James, Melissa, Cameron, Nathan, Drake, Kerri, Steve, Dane, Leah, Omar and LESLIE!
And of course, we can't forget our dear friends, the bees, without whom our efforts would yield fruitless.
The results of so much effort from so many hands! This is one of our few pictured shares. Every year we say we're going to take a photo every week, but when we're in the moment, it falls low on the priority list. Radishes, beets, salad mix, eggplant, swiss chard, garlic, tomato, tropea onions, celery and summer squash are featured in the half share photoed above.
Evening picnics with meals haphazardly created. A tomato, roughly ripped apart kale (unwashed!, Yes!), quinoa and feta cheese.
Speaking of quinoa, this year was our first attempt growing the plant which looks almost identical to lamb's quarter. The thicker buds that top the plant define the plant from its weedy relative.
Quinoa plants in mid-September. Almost time to harvest. The heads are now drying on a bench in the prop house waiting to be winnowed.
Dirty hands and fresh garlic, a necessary combination : )
Grape tomatoes in the tunnel!
Peppers in the tunnel!
Young Italian Kale.
Deer damage to the carrots. Happens every year.
Leslie harvesting celeriac for the last week of shares. Take note of the solar powered, electric fence surrounding the carrot bed to the left of the celery field.
Arugula, salad mix and more!
Field of beautiful color!
Getting ready for the cold!
It's difficult not to marvel at the majestic vistas of Autumn!
Routine field walks are sooo important to growing organically.
Routine runs by energetic children are even more important.
So much magical energy is spread onto the fields, which increases soil fertility in our opinions : )
Finding balance in a field of green. We've come a loong way in the past five years with our ability to find balance in farm and family life.
Our very small and very young orchard of fruit trees.
The last of the sunflowers from Forrest's little garden. One of the many reminders that cooler days lie ahead.
A little spiritual sugar for us to revere in before slumbering the satisfying day of work, learn and love away.
A fire on the evening of April 2nd destroyed most of the propagation hoophouse where we germinate and tend to the plant seedlings. We’ve used a propane heater for the past four years now to create a mini-greenhouse effect inside a smaller hooped structure within the prop house, and its set up is pretty safe. We’re perplexed about how the actual fire began, which is the only part of this experience that super frustrates us. Anyhow, start it did, and along next to that fire was a newly filled 100 lb propane tank. The explosion was heard for miles around and the neighbors windows rattled when the boom resounded. The househoop adjacent to the prop house also caught fire and the seedlings we had ready to plant in the hoophouses for early season sales at the farmers market were toasted as well. All in all though, the only crops that are really going to be affected for the CSA are the shallots and leeks. About 60% of those seedlings were lost. Everything else can be reseeded. It might turn out to be a blessing in disguise if this cool spring brings late frost and restarting the seeds mean they end up being planted in the fields a week or two later than originally planned. MSU connected us with some local organic growers with extra starts that we purchase replacement plants from. All and all the fire could have been much worse (they always can it seems), and we’re just relieved that no one was hurt. It’s been almost a week since the fire, and thanks to work shares, friends and intern, Leah, all the plants have been reseeded, the immediately important aspects of the prop house rebuilt and most farm tasks are back on schedule.
This has been an unexpected, large financial hit, in the tens of thousands, and thankfully the insurance agent has been sympathetic. We should receive funds to cover the actual hoop structures themselves, but the electrical damage, irrigation damage, compost tea aerator, germination chamber, propagation benches, propane tanks and heater, thousands of seedlings, and miscellaneous tools were not covered.
If you feel like you’d like to help in some way, simply sending in your share money would be extremely helpful in relieving some of these sudden, unanticipated costs. Also, you could help spread the word about the CSA.
Top left: Seedlings for early farmer market sales before the fire. Top right: Flats of seeds reseeded the day after the fire. We used the walk-in cooler as a temporary germination chamber while the prop house was being repaired. Bottom left: Putting on plastic when it's windy is never a good idea, but the seeds in the temporary holding chamber had sprouted and we needed to get them into the tunnel that evening. Bottom right: Ahhh, the basics of the prop house repaired aside from the electrical.
We always have a semi-determined intention to blog as much as possible throughout the growing season to keep everyone up to snuff on all the farm happenings. That doesn't happen. Time escapes all notions within reality in the farm world of sun up to beyond sun down. A newborn and a homeschooling, self-proclaimed man-boy (Forrest not Jacob!) kept us all the busier this past year! We did discover the ease of using facebook to quickly update our "likers" on farm happenings, and this year we'll hopefully be hosting an intern who enjoys posting on the book of faces. Like us if you haven't already for those more regular, shorter, less detailed updates. Here's our effort to fill in the blog gap : )
Our family: Jacob, Katie, Forrest, Freeda (above) at the Birmingham Farmers' Market. We regret to announce that we will not be selling at the market for the 2013 season. The market hours have been extended to a time that trumps the limit on what our family can give of itself. Our super, beyond organic, nutritious vegetables can still be found at the Royal Oak Market year round on Saturdays 7 a.m.-1 p.m. Thank you dearly for all your support and friendship over the past four years B-Hammers!
SO MUCH happens in preparation for CSA distribution and farmers' markets. We have had the incredibly fortunate of great dedicated interns and reliable CSA working shares to help us make it happen every week. Interns Rose (bottom left) and Renee (right) were with us from the beginning of the season last year helping to seed, transplant, plant, weed, harvest and so much more. We're incredibly grateful to them and the other dedicated souls who shared their enthusiasm interning on the farm in 2012. Laura, Nate, Marisa, Allison, Evan, Rose, Renee, Joe and Anina...THANK YOU!! Adrian and Steve - Most reliable work shares ever!! Thank you!!
Jacob and Rose transplanting basil plants in to the field (above right). Filing her hoe blade to sharpen Renee intends to make the most of every arm swing in the chard field (above left). Check out how beautiful that chard stand is three weeks later (below)!
The brassica field was breathtakingingly healthy in 2012. The family of vegetables, which includes cabbage (above left), kohlrabi and kale (above right) among others like broccoli were all planted in same field. The year before, that same field grew buckwheat and rye in preparation for the heavy nutrient feeding brassicas. We rotate families of crop every year to help minimize pest possibilities. Adjacent to the brassicas was the past season's cover crop field of rye (bottom left) and clover. The seed heads (bottom right) of the rye shimmer iridescent blue and green depending on where they are in their growth. Truly a stunning plant.
Below Jacob combines harvests of rye seed and and rye stalk (straw) with the 1962 Allis-Gleaner Combine harvester. Seeing the hopper fill up with seed for 2013 cover crops and hay fields was incredibly gratifying as it meant that we would be able to have one less off farm input for our soil fertility.
The thick mat of red clover above blankets the same ground where the rye was harvested from. Clover is a perennial that is also builds soil fertility by fixing nitrogen from the air into the soil. This season we will experiment with planting tomatoes and other crops in strips into the clover patch. The established roots of this "living mulch" and the shade cover provided by the leaves will help conserve moisture in the fields and prevent weed seeds from germinating. Another way we build fertility is with the use of worm or vermicomposting. Below Jacob is digging for red worms to show some of the group that came out for our first potluck of the season.
Despite the intense drought onions were fully bountiful last season. Water conservation is extremely important to us, so we use drip irrigation in the fields to bring water directly to the roots of the crop we're nurturing. At the end of the season we take all the drip tape out of the fields and store them for the winter until the following spring. The black tape can be seen to the left of the onions (above right) and to the right of the base of the celery (below left). The large pond below is used to irrigate the fields when needed. The contraption of pipes seen below is the irrigation pump. The water level of the spring fed pond went down quite a bit with last season drought, but the pond is almost fully replenished now.
The lifestyle of farming entails a fair amount of vulnerability. Our entire income (we've never supplemented farm income with off farm work) is completely dependent of the quality of our crops. When plants become stressed from lack of water, they become susceptible to pests and diseases. Our definition of organic does not include the use of organic approved pesticides and fungicides, so proper soil nutrition and adequate water are all the more important for preventing crops from succumbing to illness. One can imagine how relieving a much needed rain feels to us! The photos from above and below are from one of those much needed rains, and did it ever rain! The ditches on the farm fill to the brim sometimes (above), keeping the fields from flooding. The best part after a much needed rain is a much desired rainbow!
We love the signs that intern Anina created for the tomato rows. Cosmonaut Volkov and Moskovich are both Russian heirlooms. Anina took ownership over the nightshade field observations during her stay at the farm. Every week after our communal meal she had a full report ready of any signs of plant distress that needed to be addressed. Below Jacob leads the midsummer farm tour with Freeda sleeping in her favorite position.
We had some beautiful tomato harvests last season though this photo was taken admittedly the year before by intern Lance who really has an eye and a great camera for capturing the moment. Here's his website if anyone is interested to see more of his beautiful photos.
There's so much physical exertion that goes into growing nutritious food! Take the above tomatoes for instance: After being seeded into small soil cells or blocks and provided proper warmth and water, the plants outgrow their original space and need to be transplanted into larger cells like what Renee is doing in one of the first pictures of this blog. That process may happen again if the plants outgrow that space. Then each tomato needs to be planted by hand in the field. Mulch that was grown the season before is spread around the plants and in the rows to moderate soil temperatures, conserve moisture and repress weeds. Stakes are pounded into the soil and trellising wire is put up. The plants are pruned at least once during the season. The stems of the tomatoes are clipped to the trellising wire 3-4 times during the season to keep foliage from touching the soil which reduces the chances of fungal disease. THOROUGH pest observation and consequent hand picking is essential if any pest issues arise. Harvesting and sorting is a daily task. Of course, at the end of the season all the tomato clips need to be taken off, the trellis wire undone and the stakes uprooted. There's A LOT that goes into growing organically that isn't always thought off initially. It's a hard discipline, but be assured that when the bounty is coming in fast and in abundance, farm meals are all the more satiating with a fuller sense of appreciation to boot! Below is a photo from one of the weekly meals, though all the food has already been ravenously devoured by these hard farming souls : ).
We're not all farm and no play. Forrest is inspiration to us all of the creative energies that we can explore once out of the fields. Above is an ever-more elaborate raft that Forrest constructed during the season to take out on the pond. Below Forrest is using the spoke shave to make the peg of a chair. The child size schnitzelbank (shaving horse) seen to the right was made by Forrest and Jacob the previous winter.
We also stopped along the way to marvel at all surrounding us. The photo above was taken the day of my father's sudden heart attack. As he laid in coma I felt at peace with the abundance of life and beauty in our space. Thank you a thousand times over to all at Genesys who nurtured him throughout his recovery.
Below we are giddy and fascinated with our first sneak peak of the ginger growing trial. The taste was simply incomparable to anything we can find in these parts. Though we just received word of a partial crop loss from our organic seed supply we will be still be receiving half our initial order, and we're excited to grow enough this season for both CSA distribution and hopefully market sales as well.
One can never stop for too long when nurturing crops along their growth cycle, as many challenges and competitors are always in stride. We had this super huge, healthy planting of carrots for the last few weeks of CSA distribution. Unfortunately, deer also found the patch appealing and nightly went into the patch to decimate the greens from the tops of the roots (top left). The plant first grows healthy greens, and then pulls energy from them to further develop its roots. We finally put a solar powered electric fence around them, which did the trick, though the carrots were never quite able to get to a good size from that set back (top right). This year the fencing is going up first!
Leeks, however, sized up beautifully for the end of the season (bottom left). Their bluish green, bladed leaves sprawls carelessly over the soil that hill up around their base to "blanch" or whiten the bottoms. The leek patch was always a safe option for Freeda to play in as there aren't any spines on the plants, the leaves aren't toxic and she can't damage them in any way!
After the first hard frosts have laid to rest some of the more tender crops of the season, salad greens and other crops are at their sweetest. So as tomato trellis stakes come out of the field, hoops and row cover are going into the fields for frost protection. These beds of greens are some of our first successes with working out the kinks of our new seeder, the Jang. Now that we've got down the system, lettuce and salad mixes will, thankfully, be much easier.
Below is the finished pavilion that we introduced in previous blog posts. Having a consistent, sheltered space to wash and pack veggies has been an enormously well received changed in our lives. The drain for the wash basin (bottom right) flows into the pond so when we're done washing those greens that get dunked and dried before being bagged, the water just drains into the irrigation pond.
November can be tough days on the farm. Most of the interns have fled the colder temperatures and are writing update letters to us from sunny, warmer places of their choosing. But there is still PLENTY that needs done before the grounds freeze from the REAL cold temps. Above (left) Jacob is loading straw, most of which was grown in the rye cover crop field pictured earlier in the blog, to be used as mulch for garlic. This will be our first season with garlic for CSA distribution and market sales - a full 1/4 acre worth (below)!! Interns Nate, Allison and Forrest are in route to the garlic field (above right). Both Nate and Allison shivered with us through the entire month of November before moving on. Currently Nate is somewhere in South America continuing on a bicycle voyage from Alaska to Argentina.
So now, an update from the previous blog post about turkey breeding. This grey slate turkey (top left picture in the left lower corner) was really determined to hatch out some of her eggs, and since her sister had been killed while roosting inside the perceived safety of the fenced in area, she decided to nestle in the tall grasses next to our home. She left only to eat and drink, which is when I snagged the picture of the eggs that she was sitting on (top right). Unfortunately, I woke up one night to hear the sickening crunch of an animal eating eggs outside the window. We scared it off, but all but four were already eaten. She persisted to want to sit there, so we put the solar powered, portable electric fence around her at night, but a few nights later it was the same sad story. We forced her back into the fenced in area to recover emotionally.
Ok, I admit, we're not typically a muffin making family, but when forced to trial out kale recipes in the name of the CSA, then we happily welcome exceptions :). Wow! The recipe is from the 365 days of kale website, involves only 1/3 Cup of honey and is straight up yum. I think I quadrupled the kale in the recipe without any taste protests. If it wasn't for the odd farm duty of finding palatable ways for meat and potato eaters to enjoy their greens, I never would have trialed and shared this! Thank you world! Speaking of honey, as of last week our hive has survived the winter! We piled straw bales around it and didn't harvest any honey for ourselves as the hive was just starting out (top left).
Well, spring is almost here. The plants in the tunnel are beginning to regrow with the added daylength and warmth. We all have the fever to be outside as much as possible and nourish that which grows around and within us. Above (left) Forrest is helping by weeding a young planting of spinach. Freeda is mostly popping in and out from under the row covers in a delightful game of hide and go seek, but here she poises nicely in farm girl style with a trowel in hand : ). This is also the time for seeding to start. Towards the end of the third week in February Monica, a long time super farm supporter and former neighbor of the leased farm property of the past, came over with my dad (recovering splendidly from his heart attack btw), and we all began seeding the almost 100,000 shallot, onion and leek seeds (top right). Remember that $360 bag of shallots mentioned in the last newsletter? Fate chose that bag to be the one spilled in the tunnel during seeding. C'est la vie : )
Sprouts of napa cabbage and kohlrabi for early hoophouse growing (bottom left). Spinach seedlings sprouted in soil blocks (bottom right). This is our first year trialing this propagation method.
Spring is still teasing us with its arrival as we've recorded only a handful of days above 30 degrees recently. The photo above was taken March 9th, and we recorded a temperature reading of almost zero degrees a week before that!! What a difference from last year's 80 degree warm up during the third week in March! We welcome these lingering days of cold for additional fine tuning of the edible forest garden that we're currently designing where the roughly 20 fruit trees were planted two springs ago. Ramial mulch (low ratio Carbon to Nitrogen wood chips) awaits the adventure (above)!!! And so do we!!!!!!!
Last season we grew a few turkeys in support our bodies’ energy needs. They are very enjoyable animals to have around the farm. Jacob developed such a deep relationship with the rafter of turkeys that the internal debate about whether he could slaughter them actually ensued…briefly. We did decide to keep six turkeys back for breeding: two toms and four hens. Three are a heritage cross of Bourbon Reds and sweet grass, two are an absolutely beautiful breed called Blue Slates and the remaining solo is the traditional broad-breasted white, fatty. We converted an old corn crib into a functional turkey house for the turkeys to roost in at night and to stay warm throughout the winter, but they wildly choose to sleep and roost outdoors in trees, even throughout the winter. We created three nesting boxes for the hens to lay their eggs. We collected the first few dozens and incubated them for a controlled hatching. The hens have since begun loyally sitting on their eggs, three hens sharing one nesting box. We are excited to see if any sit to hatch them out. A quick update before posting this…one of the nesting Bourbons Rds was killed last night. It had been sitting on over 20 eggs. Only four remained after whatever animal had had its fill…there possibly are some coyote tracks nearby. The Grey Slate hen is still loyally sitting on the remaining four eggs.
Above are two turkeys nesting. The grey slate in on the outside and the Bourbon Red is closer towards the wall. Since we're talking animals here, below are two pictures we took from the back tree line on the farm. Our neighbor has a herd of buffalo. Often they come close to the fence that separates our property. It's always a welcomed presence when they hang around while we're harvesting, weeding or planting in that field.
It’s hard finding economical, certified organic hay or straw for mulching the fields. As for supplemental poultry feed that’s certified organic, it’s an hours drive, and we’re lucky at that as there’s only two distributors in the state of Michigan for certified organic poultry that we know of. Even selling eggs at $5 per dozen, we are still selling at a monetary loss when the cost of raising chicks to adult hens on expensive certified grain, and that’s not even factoring in our labor time of rotating chickens in fields, feeding, watering, raising chicks, and collecting eggs. However, our farm does benefit from the chicken manure fertilizing the field as we rotate hens from pasture to pasture, and the nostalgic farm feeling does grow leaps and bounds with the picturesque chicken tractor in the farm’s forefront. A partial solution to the high monetary expense of raising chickens will be growing much of our own grain for chicken feed. Our neighbor agreed to lease us 17 acres of clean, healthy soil that we will use for growing flax, camelina, oats, peas, buckwheat, sorghum and sunflower. We currently purchase soy-free poultry feed from Raub Rae farm, and we will be attempting to grow and supplement the diet of our laying hens with a wheat, soy and corn-free mix. Besides growing feed for the chickens, we’re going to use the leftover stalks of the grain, which is called straw, to mulch the fields. Additionally, we’ll be using the field space to grow and save seed for our cover crops.
Above are 15 acres of newly plowed up sod that we're leasing. After spending an entire day doing absolutely nothing but using the tractor, Jacob has an entire new respect for farmers that used to plow 40 acres at a time wtih horses.
Below is a picture of the new culvert we put in to cross one of the ditches with ease. The entire farm is lined with ditches and crossing from field to field can become quite a challenge during wet times. Culverts and bridges drastically increase our happy factor.
Onions planting commenced this grey, Wednesday morning - a whole month earlier than last year! Next to go in the ground will be kales, broccoli, cabbage and chard. Monday’s rain was much needed as we haven’t seen much of it these past months. We were fortunate not to get the really heavy downpours that were received more toward the Flint, Grand Blanc area as that would have delayed planting in the fields. Jacob, Forrest and apprentice Anina, finished seeding the cover crop and poultry feed fields by moonlight late Sunday night assuring that at least four acres of time-sensitive seeds where in the soil before the rains fell. Over the past 16 months of living here we’ve experienced the trend of precipitation clouds separating just west of us, dowsing areas north and south of us as our fields quench their thirsts with the edges of the front. When a farm has irrigation, which thankfully we do now, it is usually better to receive too little rain than too much. If fields are continuously wet, their long term health can be jeopardized by agricultural processes. When fields are too dry, they can at least be irrigated so long as there’s a sustained water source nearby. We are grateful our pond is constantly being replenished by a natural spring. A healthy balance of rains is the most desired option, however, so here’s to a season of well balanced rainfalls for farms across the world!
Seedling to go into the fields this week. Above in the forefront are kales and below are flats of swiss chard.
As I held Freeda after Monday’s freshly fallen needed rain, spring’s marvel was reawakened with each continuously deeper inhalation I took. Dusk set in, and I was reminded of holding Forrest five years previous at the organic, educational farm we served our Americorp VISTA internships at, and thinking what a gift it was to be able to provide such pure, natural living to a child. Sweetly singing robins surveying the soils in the majestically misted glow of the evening with the simple song of Freeda’s coos accentuated all my gratitude for having purpose in a life outside of the enclosed walls I had been accustomed to in a previous life. Staring in reverence at the onions and their vibrancy after the fallen rain, Freeda and I stood together as queens as the realization of the moment Now sunk deeper into my psyche and Thoreau’s words from Walden reverberated from within:
If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
The definitive dream has yet to be established by our family, but the journey has been amazing. Thank you to all that have supported our travels thus far, and thank you for your continuous words of gratitude for the efforts we make in sharing the glories harvested by the many hands that pass through these soils.
Before we began our farming adventure drastic changes in weather temperatures were simply that. However, since we’ve become parents to big sheets of plastic, forecasts with a substantial weather shift means possible heavy winds as the new front enters our region. Such was the case three days ago as winds blew nearly 60 miles per hour across the fields. Protocol for such weather has us opening all doors and sides to the hoophouses allowing the wind to blow through and not against the plastic. Our bodies can not help but tense up as we watch the plastic concaving in from the force of the wind dancing the unsettling image of sails. Even though row cover is held down with sand bags in the fields, they usually manage to free themselves amidst such intense winds and are quite the bear to put back on. Windy days can be very stressful on the farm. The new front that just arrived April 16th was bringing tidings of cooler temperatures and possible frosts for the evening. So, amidst the winds, Jacob and interns were scurrying to replace mangled row covers on the fields when suddenly one side of a hoophouse’s plastic ripped clean and straight across the top edge, while the other side held strong creating an enormous sail vertically. Jacob ran across the field as the poles of the hoophouse being lifted into the air cried for his help. He grabbed his pocketknife and began cutting the sheet of plastic free from the other edge to deaden the sail affect. He worked quickly and with intensity as Forrest followed him from cutting point to cutting point chattering away “happy as a lark” about the windy day and all the drama involved in farm winds. When the plastic had unveiled itself the frost sensitive cucumber seedlings along with many other newly planted and sprouted seedlings had experienced a sudden harsh exposure to wind – not the gradual “hardening off” initiation that young seedlings are carefully afforded.
With possible frost projections still forecasted the crew needed to move quickly to ensure the survival of the many seedlings of life they are responsible for protecting. Against the winds they gathered the cleanly ripped sheet of plastic, positioned themselves for an opportune wind moment and wrestled the massive plastic sheet down over the low hoops securing them with sandbags. With the seedlings now protected from wind, they army crawled under the plastic and tucked row cover (blankets) over the plants as added protection from the possible frosts.
The frost was gentle that night and no lives were lost, though there was a little damage from the winds. By early afternoon the next day the roughly thousand dollars in damage had all been repaired. Just one of the reasons why early cucumbers and tomatoes have a higher dollar value…
Normally, the winter chill is the signal we need to slow down and allow our bodies to relax, rebuild and begin again renewed, but Jack Frost seemed to skip daintily around us the whole season. At first we felt it only made good sense to take advantage of the “last nice days of winter” before the cold hit, but after months of playing into that mindset we realized it just wasn’t going to happen. We don’t know whether to feel cheated of our “down time” or grateful for the chance to catch up on projects that will help make our summer growing more relaxed.
Discerning as it may have felt at times, we have thoroughly enjoyed 2012’s early warmth! Eleven week old Freeda went on her first tractor ride with her papa, Forrest recruited (unwillingly, no doubt) 20 frogs and 2 painted turtles simultaneously to volunteer for his 48 hour personal observation, and the herbs are growing back after the turkeys took them for every polyphenolic compound they could get during their winter free roaming extravaganza . The chicken tractor has been moved to this year’s plot of cover crop, which is sown in rye shining so lusciously green that we felt compelled to buy a refractometer to measure its sugar content. A hundred tomato seedlings were transplanted into the hoophouse complete with trellising string above, heat holding milk jug beside, drip tape irrigation below and warmth and water filled black pipe around. Thankfully, the turkeys fence has undergone serious improvements so that the winter herb garden is never again (hopefully) devoured in a day.
Here are some pictures from our current beautiful week of warmth.
We never would have thought it'd be short-sleeved onesie weather in Mid-March!
More healthy, new life on the farm with these cucumber seedlings that will be planted in the hoophouse for early cucumber treats.
With propagation benches already full, onions will need to be relocated to make room for newly seeded tomatoes, eggplant and peppers.
June tomatoes? Oh please say yes.
Pardoned by mild winter weather, swiss chard in the tunnels thrived and sugared deeply to bring added excitement to our green addicted lives (above). Field spinach even survived with the help of a simple thin blanket or row cover as it's commonly called (below).
Moving pastures space week to week will provide fresh grubs and greens for the laying hens to enjoy. The green pastures seen vertical to the movable chicken tractor is all cover crop field for this year. Not only will this be a time to build a "green manure," but also the chicken manure will add organic matter as well as nitrogen back into the soil. Check out how much green the chickens ate in one week in the picture below.
RIP Jefferson. The victim of a neighbor dog attack, this rooster will be remembered for his upstanding posture and consistently fertilized eggs (right).