News and Blog
Hopefully for the last time, our portable home has been moved. Normally when one is relocating to a new home, the home does not come with them. Ours does – piece
by piece. First, the huge sheets of outer canvas are removed and rolled up. Then, the
cardboard and burlap insulation come down. Roof rafter and center ring (the tono)
come next. The lattice walls are then collapsed down like a baby gate, and the door and
windows removed. Each floor board is stacked efficiently into the moving trailer counter-
balanced with weight from the concrete block foundation. After the entire yurt is loaded
and secured down, a dicey travel to its new location follows as we focus on a positive trip
and quell any fears of tires blowing out from the weight of our home.
The yurt will now be home to individuals seeking the experience and understanding
of the management of organic growing. We’re very excited about our first season with
interns on the farm. We want to provide a learning experience every bit as helpful as
our own internships. Two interns will stay with us throughout the season. The first
intern will be joining us this week! Even though we’ve doubled the number of hands for
sowing, growing and picking, we have no plans of increasing the CSA size. Instead we
plan on focusing time beyond the field to projects and family time.
Well, this is it – the last CSA pick-up from the first-ever NPO Winter CSA. All in all, we’re proud of the season. The first half was extremely bountiful with a variety of greens completely sweet and delicious after some hard frosts. The second half provided root crops and precious greens that allowed for experimentation and the feeling of self-sufficiency in the winter.
We definitely learned some new ways to prepare winter greens and root crops this winter. When we interned at Eaters’ Guild Farm on the west side of the state a few years back, there was an abundance of celeriac throughout the winter season. Unfortunately I had no idea what to do with them at the time. Providing recipes for each newsletter is the gentle push I need sometimes to try out new recipes. Celeriac and Roasted Garlic Soup, Shredded Celeriac with Turnips and Spinach, Roasted Celeriac and Turnips, Mashed Potatoes and Celeriac, raw as sticks…I never understood the versatility and many flavors of this undervalued root crop until this winter. Beyond the tomato, pepper, cucumber trio, the same could be said with just about every vegetable to come across a CSA box. I am grateful for the experience.
Our gratitude extends to each and every one of the farm’s members who engages in this same challenge while supporting our efforts and the efforts of a movement across the country demanding real food, clean water, healthy soils and healthy children.
Here's to fun, creative, nourishing cooking (and uncooking)!
There are major changes underway for our family and farm amidst this cold season. After 2 years of living with our parents and leasing vacant land in Grand Blanc to grow veggies, our farm is relocating to Mayville, Michigan. Four months after submitting a short-sale offer to the Bank of America for a 20 acre property with a small log cabin, we signed and closed on the deal officially early in December. In addition to the cabin, the property includes a MUCH need pole barn (weld away, Jacob and no more rusting away, farm equipment), a 50‘ x 150‘ pond fed by an artisan well, 15 acres of horse pasture, woods surrounding the property on all sides, no conventional agriculture in the vicinity (an extremely important criteria for us), no major power lines anywhere nearby and a perfect place to relocate our yurt for intern quarters (our bodies can’t physically live through another season without them!). We are relieved to finally be able to give our growing soil the full spectrum of long term, nutritional amendments needed for healthier growth and are grateful for the rich content of organic matter waiting to accept those nutrients.
Without the support of CSA members and market patrons over the past two years this purchase this move would not be possible. Because of you, our family is able to move towards are more sustainable future. In addition, we now have the opportunity to work towards expanding our offerings to include perennial vegetables, fruit, meat and eggs for and with our community. Our gratitude to all of you runs deep. We look forward to sharing the dark night with abundant stars. Thank you.
A few years back we switched from buying our detergents to making them at home. I used recipes found on the internet at the time, but many of them required boiling this and that and letting the mixture gel, which I never seemed to be successful at. I stumbled upon Moon Works laundry soap at a small store in Holland, MI. Moon Works in a small company based out of Suttons Bay, MI. 80 loads for $25 is the price on thre container seen below. At the time Forrest was still wearing cloth diapers, so I found a similar recipe as the Moon Works concoction and store it in the original container I got. To refill the container using the ingredients seen below it costs roughly $6-8, the bar soap being the majority of the cost.
Beyond cost savings, it's worth noting that this blend is very gentle on the skin. Regular detergents increase the permeability of the skin and can often lead to skin reactions. We have been very fortunate over the years to have had a steady supply of hand-me-downs for Forrest to wear (size 4-5 coming up!). Recently we were given some beautiful clothes from a friend that had a strong detergent smell. I rinsed them and meant to rinse them again when they were ready to be worn in a few months. Jacob inadvertently put a shirt on Forrest, and for the next 3 weeks Forrest had a contact dermatitus (eczama looking) rash - just from one evening of wearing a detergent washed shirt. I did 12 rinse cycles on the clothes, but the smell was still there. In the end, the clothes were passed on.
If you don't want to take the time to make it yourself, you can still buy Michigan made clothes soap at local natural health stores. Check here for stores that carry their product.
2 Cups Washing Soda
2 Cups Borax
1 Bar of non-toxic soap, shredded.
Mix together. Use 1/8 Cup mix per load.
The onion rows begin from camera and extend to the tree line in the back. There are 5 rows. We are soooo very greatful to all who came out and helped make this a pleasant, quick weeding task. Dutch white clover was seeded the night the weeding was finished, so a low growing living mulch will fill the spaces between the onions.
One of our work shares brings their 9 year old with them every week. Last week, Jacob assigned him the task of walking around the farm and taking photos. Beautiful pictures, Luke! Above is a patch of broccoli and the teepee that Jacob and Forrest built. Pole beans are planted at the base. They will vine up and create a shady, beany get-a-way.
Below is an up-close of the broccoli patch above. We planted close together to minimize weed growth and to retain as much moisture as possible from the broccoli leaves shading the soil.
Tomatoes in the high-tunnel. Sungold tomoatoes have been ripening for the past week, but the hardest creature to control, our 3 year old, keeps sneaking into the high-tunnels and picking anything with the slightest tinge of ripeness.
Tomato plants in the field... lots of them!
More of Luke's artsy photography. Tomatillos..yum...
Yet to be weeded onions in the front, collards behind, swiss chard behind, salad mix and kale in the background. It's growing...
We got the rain we were asking for today!!! Thank you Thank you Thank you
We cannot begin to describe how happy we are about the progress in the fields to date. Mid-May of last year, we had just signed a lease to farm the property, and we were just beginning to turn the first pieces of soil in. This year at May's begging we have over 80% of the fields chisel plowed, a method of plowing that loosens the subsoil without mixing soil layers, and broccoli, chard, collards, cabbage kale, onions, peas, parsley, cilantro and thyme plants are already in the soil. Even though these brassicas are hardy to cold temperatures, we had some frost damage after the hard frosts last night, but all is well. Salad mix and spinach from seed are fully mature. Parsnips, carrots, beets, radishes and kohlrabi have all been seeded. Celery, celariac and cauliflower are all going in this week. It's nice starting the year on a happy foot.
Here, Jacob and Forrest are preparing beds by rotovating the top layers of the soil for a smooth, even planting surface.
The dibbler (yellow contraption at right) is attached to the back of the rotavator, so fields are rotavated and dibbed on the same pass with the tractor. The dibbler makes holes 12 inches apart on the prepared bed. This saves a lot of time when planting. When pulling the plant plugs out of the cells and laying them where we want to plant, we don't have to mentally think about where we will be placing each plant, the dibbler has the space already marked. By the way, the dibbler is a Jacob creation. Jacob is about as happy in a scrap metal yard as bunnies are in a kale field. He is always thinking of more ways to increase efficiency on the farm. He simply welds up the answer to his needs, and the rest of us sit back and think, wow, that is one handy man.
So, after the holes are marked, compost is placed at every space we intend to plant in. Keep this in mind volunteers. This could be you. Really though, it's quite pleasant. Shoulders back and breathe.
Check it out. To the left are about 30,000 onions that were planted in about 1 1/2 days (only 1/3 are pictured), in the middle are carrots and parsnips sprouts just emerging and to right are collards. How do all those plants get into the soil? We get down on our knees or bend from the waist or squat and tuck each plant in with our hands. Also, very enjoyable and pleasant if one remembers to breathe and use good posture. Free yoga for all you interested volunteers!
Here are some broccoli plants and radish sprouts.
Lettuces and pok choi in the front of the field. I'm always amazed at how fast these grow.
The smaller high tunnel has been used for experimentation of growing early greens. The longer high tunnel (H2) has been used to start seeds in and transplant heat loving plants into the soil to extend their season after first fall frost.
Work share member, Marilyn, and Forrest are seeding winter squash together. When seeding with a small child, one's patience can wear pretty thin, pretty fast, but Marilyn held out beautifully against the persistent "help" of a three year old. Thanks Marilyn!
Seedlings are placed on the bench to germinate and grow. Plastic is placed over the mini-hoops for another layer of warmth at night. In the forefront are zucchini plants.
Four row of plants span from the back of H2 to 1/3 the way to the front. From left to right the rows are eggplant, green beans intercropped with cilantro, fennel bulb and parsley, cucumbers and pepper intercropped with basil. 240 cucumber plants in one bed! They'll all be trellised up to save space. In front of these rows are more rows of zucchini, tomatoes and basil.
As most of you have probably gathered by now, we love the idea of using high tunnels for season extension. We weren't able to start last fall for a winter harvest, but we were able to start work in the high tunnel in mid-March to experiment and set up veggie harvest for the 1st farmers market on May 2nd.
This first pic is taken the 3rd week in April. Some produce we had ready way before the first farmer's market, others we're still waiting to come to fruition.
Radishes were ready at the beginning of April - way too early for the first market. I've never been a radish lover, but I soon discovered the fresh, mildly spicy flavor of the spring radish. 30-50 radishes eaten in a day was common place when these beauties were ready for harvest. I never EVER would have believed that radishes would have been the absolute desire of palate by all in the household, but oh joy of joys!
We were so excited to have chard to bring to the first market!
We were the only vendors to have a full display of produce for 1st week. On the table is butterhead lettuce, romaine, pak choi, scallions, spinach, lettuce mix, napa cabbage, swiss chard and lilacs from the aromatic bushes that have cheered us along this warm spring.
This question comes up a lot when trying we're trying to explain why we chisel plow and disc with a shallow rotavasion. Here's a short answer to why it's important to keep soil layers as intact as possible when preparing soil for planting.
A teaspoon of productive soil generally contains between 100 million and 1 billion bacteria. The relationship between these bacteria and other microbes in the soil and the impact of the soil structure within these relationships are in their infant stages of exploration.
Within these relationships is complete interdependence among species that benefit the overall health of the soil. All of these microbes together are performing necessary chemical reactions to break down and release nutrients that are bound in form insoluble for plant uptake and for other microbes to use. Some bacteria fix nitrogen from the air into the soil, for example, which fertilizes or feeds the soil of this necessary nutrient that stimulates leaf growth.
When a plant makes sugar through photosynthesis, that energy is used not only to grow the plant up, but also down through the roots. The roots “exude” out amino acids, proteins and other compounds into the soil that attract different microbes. These compounds are called exudates. One type of hormone exudate may attract one type of beneficial bacterial when released and another amino acid exudate may attract a different microbe, depending on the plant’s needs.
Much like our digestive tract, plants build a biological shied of immunity around their root stock with a dominating beneficial bacteria and a fungal held minority. In gardens it is bacteria that rule the top layers of soil, and in forests it is fungus that dominates the top layers. Tilling the soil and careless double-digging reverses the soil layers that plants create as a defense mechanism against pathogens. This illustrates why blanket-spraying pesticides that destroy the biological shield of beneficial microbes weakens plant defense against biological attacks, creating more “need” for future poison-spraying and fertilizing.
Strong biological root defense systems also account for the higher antioxidant content in organic vegetables. When Forrest and I nurse together, he is receiving additional antibodies through the milk from that to which I was exposed. It is similar with plants. When exposed to pests and microbes the plant responds by producing more antibodies, which present as antioxidants, and essential oils that possess anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties. If fungicide is sprayed on a regular basis, the plant has little need to produce anti-fungal oils and anti-oxidants.
This is the foundation of growing food organically. The symbiotic relationships that exist in nature are respected and revered for its innate intelligence and wisdom.