News and Blog
We have a baby girl! Freeda Grace Bach was born in the evening on January 5th one day before her due date, weighing 9 lb 4 oz. She’s an absolute beauty.
Jacob, Forrest and I were scheduled to distribute vegetables for the winter CSA at my parent’s house, 45 minutes south of our home, from 4-7:30 on the 5th. At 1 p.m. I had my first contractions for the day. By 2 p.m. contractions had been timed at 7 minutes apart and were getting to a point where soon I would not be able to talk through them, so we decided to send Forrest with our intern, Evan, to distribute the shares. By 6:20 p.m. we were holding little Freeda in our arms on the floor of our living room.
We are so grateful to our friend Robin for assisting in the birth and being an invaluable friend and mentor. We are also fortunate to have had all your thoughts and positive energy along our journey. Many of your faces and the experiences you shared with me passed through my mind before, during and after the labor. Thank you for your friendship.
A few images from that which is growing...
Basil in front, fennel bulb behind, unable-to-be-seen parsley behind the fennel and tomatoes trellised up along the stakes. Drip tape beneath basil and fennel for irrigation .
Radish seedlings to the far right, green beans plants with drip tape beneath in the center and the onion, shallot and leek patch to the far left.
All the leeks, onions and shallots were planted two rows close next to each other. We use a tractor implement to "hill" the soil up over the base of the leeks. With sunlight unable to reach the base, they become blanched, which is what allows leeks to have more white along their base. The onions and shallots (not-photoed) have a line of drip tape between each row.
The celery and celeriac patch. With so many plants spaced so closely, we're using overhead sprinklers to water in dry times.
Our precious water source for irrigating the fields, and our precious little Forrest who loves to look for fish and snapper turtles within. 60,000 ft of drip tape lining the fields total.
Did I mention he was precious? Here's a bouquet of wildflowers Forrest surprised me with last week.
Spaghetti squash plants also benefiting from the water source. Beneath these masses of leaves at the base of each plant drip tape is laid (above). The discoloration of yellow seen is some of the above plants is caused by squash bugs nymphs, but thanks to the nematodes, hardly a cucumber beetle to be found in the lot. Below Forrest is holding two mating adult squash bugs next to an immature spaghetti squash plant(below).
All this rain has finally given us time to work on building the pavilion, which is where the "new" cooler will be and where we will wash and pack vegetables for distribution. The structure is geographically close to the pond, so water used for washing will be directed to flow into the pond.
The Nightshade Field...
Included in the nightshade family are tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, tomatillos and potatoes. All the nightshades are planted in the same field to make crop rotation manageable. Because species in the same families are often inflicted with the same pathogens, it helps not to plant anything from the same family in the same field within a four-year period. Next year nightshades will be planted where the alliums and curcubits are planted this year.
Tomatoes in the very front, two rows of eggplant in front of that, peppers beyond there and potatoes plants until the woodline.
Do you see the eggplant nestled in waiting to be harvested? We are so grateful that we had drip tape laid beneath these plants as it helped to water just the eggplant during dry times and the not the spaces between. With the eggplant being such as large leaved plant and the close spacing we used, the leaves served as great shading to prevent lots of weed seed germination. We only had to do an initial hoeing when the plants were small and hand weed a few later on and the field is weed free.
Forrest between a row of peppers and eggplant. He's about 2/3rd up the field with the nightshades which extends to the woodline.
Forrest was given his own 10 x 10 space to grow as he pleased. One day as Jacob and I were both working up fields before a rain in early spring, Forrest was snagging heat-loving plants from the germination high tunnel and planting them in his space. As part of our philosophy on child-rearing we did not advise to remove the plants even though it seemed too early in the season and the plants risked succumbing to frost. We feel it's his experiment and opportunity for discovery to see what lives and dies and why. However, we did not receive any frosts thereafter and he ended up with this little garden of very early tomatoes, green beans and basil (sporadic though the plants were :) Above are a few plants Forrest transplanted into containers he rounded up from somewhere (I have no idea) which had been close to death. In the yellow lug is soil he transferred from a different garden bed for his experiment of transportable carrots. He planted the seeds before a rain and they actually germinated quite well. Lamb's ear is the plant to the far right, which he chose to keep to use as bandages.
What a successful grower he is! This photo is proof to my father that we harvested a two-pound tomato. This is from the variety "Italian Tree" which can supposedly grow up 15'. Sorry you won't get these in shares as Forrest and I just planted 2 seeds in an experimental garden. This tomato ripened so early because of the crevice that's seen to on the right side of the tomato. Tomatoes with damage will ripen early, so the first tomatoes to come from field are not always the best.
Tomatoes from the early tomato plants Forrest planted. We're so grateful he took that risk : ) Also pictured is a version of eggplant parmesan dish - recipe included in this week's newsletter.
The difference between the last two years and this year are immense for us. Our first two years we were flying by the seat of our pants trying to keep up with everything by ourselves (and our work shares :) without actually living at the farm or being able to put anything permanent in place. Now with three interns, work shares and our own property we are able to accomplish so much more in such shorter amounts of time without being absolutely exhausted. Last year it took us over a month to accomplish the same feats that the current farm crew is kicking out in a week. It's all so reassuring. Check out some of these pics from the past week and half's love labor.
Planted just after Memorial Day, these aspargaus plants are zipping up nice and dense promising a solid 1/4 acre supply of delicious spears for spring 2013.
Heavily mulched blueberry plants were established for the farm's future eating enjoyment.
Lots and lots and lots of onions, shallots and leeks. These along with the brassicas were all put in using the transplanter and tractor. Below Samantha is womyning the tractor. This portion of the blog is proof to some non-believing friends and family of hers that yes, she is running show.
Our newest and very experienced intern, Christina, not only helped put the onions in (above), but she also cultivated (weeded) them (below) with a hand push cultivator with multiple tines.
The rest of the vegetables that were not transplanted with the tracotr or seeded directly into the soil were planted by hand, such as these beautiful red romaine (above). More plants can fit into a smaller space with this planting style, and it uses less diesel and tracor hours. However, it entails a the weeding method that is not enjoyed by all: hoeing. Intern Vicki (below) is a speed hoer and super hard worker. The weedy baby lettuce seen above is weed free now thanks to Vicki, Samantha and work share Bill. THANK YOU!!
Hand planted celery and celeriac (above). Hand-planted peppers, eggplant and tomatoes (below). The stakes will be used to trellis the tomatoes upright. As this is being written a mulch of hay is being laid down at the base of each tomato plant to keep weeds out, supply the soil with a steady supply of added nutrients and keep the soil moist and more even tempered.
A few projects were accomplished as well with the many hands that grace our farm daily. A cement slab was made for the base of our worm-composting bin (above). This will prevent nutrients from running into the soil and provide a level base for the tractor bucket to scrape up the compost. Below is the luxurious new chicken home on wheels to house the two dozen chickens we'll be picking up tonight. The tractor will pull the house to a new space every few days so the chickens will have fresh access to new bugs, grubs and grass. This is a great pest control. If you can't tell, we really make us of the slab wood from the sawmill 1 1/2 miles down the road.
It may look like we're working really hard, but one of us manages to find plenty of time for play. Can you imagine the weekly laundry that goes through this place! Thankfully, this love labour rewards us with plenty of sunshine, time for meditation and delicious, nourishing food. No vegetables rewards our family's heart more than a delicious kohlrabi (below).
Oh, we feel like farmers again. Plants arefinally going into the ground in large quantity instead of being watered ceaselessly in flats. Over the weekend we were able to put in a quarter acre of asparagus crowns, 600 lbs of potatoes and tens of thousands of onion, shallot and leek plants that we grew from seed. With these 90 degree days, it doesn't quite feel like spring planting : -), but we'll take it!
Above: Intern Vicki and Forrest are tucking in plants that the transplanter didn't quite put down well enough. Note that Vicki is wearing heals for this farming task, though by day 2 she had transitioned into bare feet. Below: A hose connects the front water tank mounted to the tractor to the transplanter and waters exactly the area where the plant is laid. Intern Samantha is pulling each plant from its cell in the flat and dropping it into a rotating cup that opens from beneath and drops the plant in the soil as the angled discs tuck the soil down (95% of the time anyways).
Yep, it's been one wet spring, but merciful May has brought us plenty of sun to dry the fields. There's always the temptation to start working up fields too early to get an early start on growing, but it actually does more harm than good. Nutrients are lost when fields are plowed when still wet, the soil is compacted and the soil drains more slowly. We chisel plowed our first field yesterday and went over that area again today with a shallow rotovasion of an inch or two to create a level seeding area. Before those steps though, the fields are prepared in other ways. Depending on the fields' needs, aged manure or compost is spread onto the fields. In our case, because we are working up new land that previously served as grazing ground for horses, we needed to shallowing work up the top three inches of sod and flip it over so their roots would dry out in the sun and lessen our weed pressure which is typical of first year growing soil.
Difficult for most to believe but Forrest is swimming in pure earthy gold. That little pile of compost cost over $3,000. The contents of that compost are formulated specifically to our soil's needs. We're extremely excited for our first growing season with really nutrient-balanced soil. (Pictured left). The picture to the right is intern Persephone heading out to spread yet another load of manure on the fields. We had major pressure to get the fields manure spread and the top sod flipped before more possible rains came, and with Persephone's help we were able to get it accomplished. THANK YOU Persephone!
It's been a BUSY 4 months since we've moved into our farm in early January. Jacob has been constructing and establishing infrastructure while I've been taking care of the plants. The health and vigor of the plants has been wonderful thus far.
Along with a few lettuces we have in the ground, this plastic hoop houses cold-hardy and well established seedlings that were started in the germinating hoophouse beginning in February.
This is the germinating hoophouse. These two benches have a plastic skirt along their perimeter along with platic that goes over top the hoops for added protection from night time cold. Additionally, when temperatures dip below freezing, we have propane tanks underneath the benches to create a temprary greenhouse.
These celery seedlings look gorgeous lined on the bench.
Tomatoes galore! All so healhty!!
This is the hoophouse that is 150 foot long. A series of hoops keeps the light weight, light penetrating row cover from touching the tops of the plants. Lots of green under those tunnels as well!
So peaceful went the day. This beautiful weather of mid-seventies with breezy, humids fluff of air flowed with us as work shares Kevin and Toni helped us with farm projects. Toni and I, along with our helpers Forrest and Toni & Kevin's daughter, Scarlett, transplanted tomatoes into larger pots, while Jacob and Kevin put the frame up for the 4th tunnel to go up on our new property. Along with the surreal beauty of the weather we received the good fortune of two bald eagle circling low directly overhead for a solid few minutes. Everyone was enchanted. Beyond high tunnels and transplanting a lot of field prep was accomplished with our soils drying up a bit, seedling flats rotated from germination high tunnel to transitional high tunnel, and kohlrabi flats seeded. Everyone was so busy working and playing that we never stopped to eat until late evening. Fruit was munched on along the way, of course. Forrest approached me at one point later in the evening with both his hands full and a triumphant look on his face. In one hand was a dead painted turtle he'd found and in the other a live fish he had caught with his bare hands. The fish was dead by this point, which brought about a dissolved oxygen learning opportunity. Later with a bucket in hand he caught more minnows, and with great excitement he brought over a frog that he'd caught. "I'm going to go let him go back in the pond so he can live," he said as we began to make his way down the steps of the front deck. About two steps into his decent he tripped over the bucket and fell head first down the remaining few steps. He's lived a life of good balance and, thankfully, I've witnessed very few falls. This one didn't look too serious - a shoulder to stair direct hit and a ground tumble, but I didn't know what his reaction would be. There wasn't one. When he hit the ground he leapt towards the frog that had been in the bucket frantically searching it out and asking if it was ok. "Are you OK frog? Let me get you so I can take you back home." He was off before I had the chance to ask if HE was OK. This is a family and a life that I love.
The landscape out our front window has undergone a major change throughout the
past week as Scott Schlicht and crew from Pondperfection.com used an excavator and
bulldozer to push, pile and mold Earth into our business’s needs. Top soil was set aside
to later be spread of the fields, rocky soil was laid flat and made into a much needed
road between driveway and field and the remainder of soil was carefully piled around
the layout of our future root cellar. We are extremely happy with the results and the
precision work of Scott and his crew. We extend a huge thank you to everyone who
worked on that project.
As CSA members from last year are already aware, our little pocket of growing space on
Earth was repeatedly side-stepped when dark, luminous clouds seemingly promised much
needed rain. The energy needed to creatively maintain adequate water supply to field
crops drained us and stressed the immunity and health of field crops and farmers alike.
We knew that a dependable, accessible water supply for our future land was an absolute
must. Ponds are much more ecologically and economically friendly than using ground
water to irrigate. Large monoculture operations pump water up from aquifers at a rate
greater than the water can be recharged. Even though a 150’ x 50’ pond already existed
on the new property, low water levels evidenced throughout last year’s dry season.
Even though we will be using drip irrigation on the fields to conserve as much water as
possible, a larger pond was needed to absolutely ensure quality vegetables for the season.
The pond is now twice as large and much deeper.
Below is the layout for the root cellar. The ground is all really level on the property, so instead of digging into Earth in search of cool, dry space, we're having to dig Earth up and over.
When we leased property in Grand Blanc, we met the challenge of accessing water
without electricity or a well. When Jacob updated his grandfather on the farm’s
happenings and some of the issues we were facing, grandpa delved into his agricultural
past to share valuable cultural knowledge that affordably eased the stress of our obstacle.
If you are fortunate enough to sit with Grandpa and listen to the slow draw of history
flood out his mouth, a colorful, lively picture of life in rural Fulton County, Ohio from
his and his father’s days of youth are fully illustrated. The knowledge grandpa shares is
invaluable to ourselves and to our culture as many are realizing that what we consider to be progress has been damaging our soul and bodies in direct and indirect ways.
But back to the agricultural well part…Grandpa said it was common for a shallow hole to
be dug roughly 15’ x 15’ and as deep as one had the energy to go. A few inches of gravel
and a horizontal pipe with a well point lay down at its bottom. Then more gravel was
poured on top. The gravel lets the water flow to the point but filters out well plugging
sediment. The rest of the hole is filled with soil along with a vertical pipe to connect to a
pump. We enacted the oral history and succeeded in making an inexpensive, shallow well
for our watering needs throughout most of our first year of growing.
With the pond being dug and an excavator on the property, we took advantage of the
situation. The excavator made short work of the hole, a good 11 feet down, 15 feet long
and six feet wide. Using our tractor loader we surrounded a 7’ 3” well point with 24 tons
of pea gravel, delivered from the local gravel pit. We also laid a four inch sock covered
drain tile down into the gravel. This tile connects to the drainage ditches surrounding the
fields bringing water directly to the well while draining the fields so we can plant earlier
If all went well, there should be adequate water for any irrigation needs in the early
spring including high tunnels, seedlings in the propagation high tunnel and early field
crops. As summer’s heat dries the land, we will fall back on the pond as our main source
of irrigation water.
High Tunnels are structures that look and behave like greenhouses. The difference,
however, is that high tunnels only use the sun for a heat source. They’re great for
extending the growing season in Michigan and even allow for winter harvest of greens.
This year we’ll be focusing on early greens, which will be for sale through the farmers
market and through the website’s Farm Store with distribution at Katie’s mom’s house in
While interning at an organic farm in Pennsylvania four years back, we had our first
experience putting up high tunnels when we helped a neighboring farmer put one up.
With five adults helping, just putting the frame up took the majority of the day. Since
then, we (mostly Jacob) have repeated that process 7 more times as high tunnels were put
up and brought done from three different properties. Now that we’re property owners,
we’re hoping this is the last time we’ll be moving the structures. Jacob practically has the
process down to a science. He’s able to put the frame up all by himself in an afternoon.
Building the end walls (the frames for the door and vents) and securing the plastic is
another couple of days project. Two high tunnels are already up on our new property and three more will be added.