If it is still Thursday.

18 04 2010

This has been a pretty crazy week for farming. It began with my continuing demonstration as a terrible carpenter. I got one wall of the greenhouse up and covered with plastic. The other wall is made of straw bales. Laziness is only part of the reason I did this. The greenhouse needs to be opened up in mid summer anyway to let the wind pass through to cool it down. I can just deconstruct the straw bale wall when I need it to be cooler in the greenhouse. The straw is local and no-spray, and it will also be used as mulch over the course of the summer. I need to be adding as much organic material to the soil as possible anyway. This straw will be used as mulch to prevent water evaporation from the soil surface.

With one wood and plastic wall and another made of straw this greenhouse can finally hold some heat. For a little extra oomph I am putting a couple of heat sinks in the greenhouse to maintain temperature for better germination for all the summer crops. With the greenhouse all sealed up, it was time to plant hard. Ten styles of tomatoes went in, about 144 total starts. This will add to the 150 tomato starts started some 3 weeks ago. One of the tomatoes, Big Red Italian, I am growing for seed for Baker’s Creek Heirloom seeds. MarketMore 80 cucumbers, Peppers (sweet, spicy, and hot), heirloom Melons, Watermelons, Winter Squash (Marina Di Chiogga, Delicata, and Georgia Candy Roaster), Summer Squash, basil, summer savory, and lettuce of course.  Eggplants have been started indoors, and the primary variety is Millionaire.

Somewhere in between all the greenhouse action I was inspected for my organic certification from Tilth. This actually took place on Thursday afternoon.  It went well, I learned a little about the vagueness in the system, and because of said vagueness I would probably be issued a non-compliance.  The inspector told me I would just have to comply.  I would not lose my certification and it would not mark against me on the great big bureaucratic board.  The inspector actually told me that I was more organized than most.  Stunned and always feeling like I am wading in disorganization, I did a doubletake, said, “really?”, and thanked the man.  I must throw in a proper thank you to the Small Farms Extension at OSU.  If not for their countless classes, I would have never have been adequately prepared for my certification.

As I saw it, Friday looked like a fine day.  The whole weekend was shaping up. I gave a quick call to my new friend Michael.  He is a very nice man that we met at a Small Farms class,  a neighbor to the field that I am farming, and he is also the owner of a tractor.  A tractor is becoming a very important tool to have available.  Until I work hard enough to earn the money to buy my own tractor, I currently have to beg, barter, or work harder to be able to borrow someone’s equipment.  As it happened, Michael was home, he agreed to some work trade, some starts, and some wine, and then we got the tractor up and running.  Having this tractor at my disposal allowed me to turn the compost pile, move the drum fish fertilizer closer to the injector, and till.  I tilled about  1/2 acre that over the next week will be planted in kales, cabbages, broccoli, bok choy, carrots, onions, lettuce, raab, and potatoes.

While all this is being managed with systematic and strategic organization and forethought, I enjoy spending many a day making sure I get my allowance of chaos.  Watching two two year old does just the trick.  Oy Vey is an understatement.

Where the farm is as of today


Joys and Sorrow

25 03 2010

Finally, the tractor support came in the middle of the month. The soil at the new place is really sandy, and in a super sunny location. It drys out quickly, and there was a window this month to carve a couple rows. My friend Ted, who has a tractor, drove it down from his property up the road. Three hours later I was returning the tractor and tiller. I was overjoyed with efficiency. They were right, tractors were made for a reason.

.First tilling
The tractor carved 5 ft wide beds. I have 4 ft wide beds in my farm plan, but I will have to work with what I have. I immediately planted the beds with rows of spinach, beets, turnips, carrots, radishes. There were enough beds carved in this first tillage for this first round of direct seeding, then a second similar round of direct seeding, as well as a large round of brassica and lettuce transplants.

This Earthway seeder is nice, but not very precise.

I have a greenhouse full of the second and third round of seedlings, and I am about ready to start on the fourth round of lettuce. I am keeping up the schedule of planting lettuce every twoish weeks for the rest of the year.  I got to make some green.  I planted the first round of tomatoes and peppers in the greenhouse.  Even though it still doesn’t have any endcaps on it,  the field gets so warm in the mornings, and it should be enough to germinate these warm weather crops.  Those transplants were then covered with another round of plastic to help insulate them from the cold and heat them up even quicker in the morning.

After the event of direct seeding my first round, I made bet on mother nature providing some moisture.  I lost.  The irrigation had to be lined up on the field, the pump in the river reset,  and the water inlet cleared of debris so I could water the seeds in.  All of this was new to me. But after a days worth of work we had water flowing to the field again.  Everything seemed happy.  The next day I came out and turned the irrigation on, and it started up right away.  Upon walking up the field I noticed a river making its way over the remay covering the peas, and across all the rows I direct seeded.  A line had popped out in the middle of field and cut a foot deep trench in my peas, sprayed dirt all over the remay, and destroyed a bunch of my rows beyond that.  I quit farming for the rest of the day. A 10 hp pump can do a lot of damage.

I came back and cleaned up the mess.  Moved the remay, replanted as best as I could, and fixed the pipe.  I check the joints everyday now before I start the pump.  Good ole trial by fire.  Then just today, I noticed the gophers; they have been eating my garlic.  This is not going to be easy.  I must rid the farm of them.

There were peas planted there.

End of Peas.

25 06 2009

There are lots of items taking the pea’s place.  The change will be gradual, maybe sad, but pea’s substitutes are acceptable.

We started all our fall crops in this little aluminum greenhouse last week.  It fell down yesterday taking most of our starts with it.  The greenhouse was quickly rebuilt out of wood, and all the starts of lettuce, celery root, cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage were replanted.  It makes a wonderful addition to our shanty town that is taking form in the middle of our field.  Next to our shanty town there is some raised beds of yellow raspberries, and then a non-celestially aligned wooden representation of Stonehenge that was here when we got here.

On Monday we planted about 50 tomatillo plants.  We are attempting to seed save for FedCo this year for a little extra loot.

Garlic! What’s not to love.

A bucket of chicken heads from our chicken killing sessions last week.

There is an overhead picture of our tomatoes that are trellised on barbed wire, and inter-planted with buckwheat.  There will be a glorious haul of tomatoes this year.

Week 2, Peas are the best

12 06 2009

Both shelling and snap varieties are coming off the vine in abundance.  Both are equally sweet and delicious, and provide an awesome snack when working in the field.  Now they provide us with energy to swing our new chainsaw;  for fire prevention, firewood, and just general property maintenance.

The kale is ready to cut finally.  In the picture in a Rogue brand hoe.  My god, this hoe is amazing.  Great construction.  Anyway, this spring the curly and red kale varieties seemed to grow a lot faster than the flat leaf green varieties.   There is no good explanation, they just grew better, and we have to role with it.

The potatoes are interplanted with bush beans.  There are wax, green, dragon tongue, garbanzo, and tiger eye beans planted between our potato rows.  The potatoes all have names too.  Robert Paulsen?

Crimson clover tints the whole field red, and feeds the soil with nitrogen.  We are just letting go to seed, and have undersown buckwheat with other crops.


23 02 2009

We have found a new outlet to sell our eggs. Unknowingly, they seem to have their own advertisement.

We are bringing them to the cooler at Runnymede Farm in Rouge River to be sold.  Every Friday we go there anyway to get our gallon of delicious raw cow’s milk. The egg milk tango makes everybody custard, preferably rum flan.

Finally Planting.

16 02 2009

The North Field with peas plantedWe all got together for the first round of planting. The soil blocker is a  must have small farm instrument for seed starting. Our soil mix could be a little better.
So last year we purchased a pallet of potting soil mix. This year we want to use it as seed starting mix with our soil blocker. There are several recipes for seed starting and soil blocking mixes and the ingredients are very similar to the potting mix we have. The problems with the potting mix is it has bigger chunks of organic matter, mostly woodchips. We working on amending the potting mix to be a finer texture. With a finer textured mixture the soil blocks would also adhere together better.
No matter though, we planted a good amount of seeds today. What was planted constitutes most of our first succession for spring planting. Succession planting seems pretty scientific and thorough, but right now it is equally guess work. There is a pretty good idea of how much we need to plant to make this year work: but still.
So in two-ish weeks we have to plant all over again with more variety and increased frequency.
We planted Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Bak Choy, Leeks, Escarole, herbs, and flowers. We put 35 row feet of peas. We are planning for a total of 140 row ft of peas.
Of the peas planted outside today, we covered them with plastic. The plastic was scrap from our greenhouse, and the hoops that the plastic was on was scavanged from pvc and irrigation line.

Here are pictures of the first round of planting, and of the field.  In the picture above, where the plastic row cover is, is where we planted the peas.

Soup Dinner

13 02 2009

We were not able to concern ourselves with seed starting today. It is true what they say, there is always tomorrow.
A friend told me today that it is going to be a long season. He too has noticed that has already been significantly warmer; sooner this year. He was gearing up.
This means that we need to get our shit together.
We need checks to arrive, and seeds need to be started.
While we procrastinate, we eat.
We had a meal this evening that adequately represent how well we eat.
Simple, and without waste.

Sweet Potato Soup
3 large Sweet Potatoes, whole roasted
5 Carrots. med. dice
3 yellow onions, med dice
1/4 bulb fennel, I just actually used one thick stalk, small dice
1 head garlic, chopped
1-10# fresh ham
1.5 c. long grain white rice
2 c. veg stock
1 magnum chardonnay
1 c of tomato sauce.
1-16 oz can unsweetended coconut milk
3. bay leaf
6 Tbl Mustard Seed
2 Cinnamon Sticks
10 Cloves
Black Peppercorns
1/2 c brown sugar
3 Tbl Ginger Juice

1 Tbl tumeric
1 tsp nutmeg.

This may seem like a lot. It is. It took about a 4 days.
1. Toast  5 tbl Mustard, the Cinnamon, Clove, and bay leaf.
2. I forget the total amount of liquid. The total amount of liquid will be enough to completely submerge the 10# fresh ham. I used a 1 cup to 1 gallon ratio to make brining solution. Pour brining solution over toasting spice. Add Brown sugar and bring to boil to dissolve salt completely. Cool. Add ham.
2. I brined it for 2 days. I read somewhere that you could do it up for three days. Brine the ham at least overnight.
3. Remove the ham from the brining solution and drain. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
4. Pan sear entire ham. Place in braising dish.
5. Deglaze pan with some of the white wine. Add liquid to braising dish with ham. Hard Sautee about half onions and carrots.  Quickly sweat about 5 cloves of garlic in the same pan and deglaze with the rest of the wine. Add this to the braising dish with pork in it.Adding water, bring the liquid to covering the pork by 2/3s.  Add bay leaf.  Cover and placeS in the oven overnight.
6. Remove pork. Toss it to scoundrels. Take braising liquid, bring it to simmer, and skim off crud.
7. Meanwhile make rice with the veg stock and the tomato sauce in a pilaf style.
8. Take the last of the onions, carrots, and the fennel. Sautee until very tender. Sweat garlic, then add the last of the mustard seed, the nutmeg, and tumeric.  Cover with ham jus.  Add Ginger juice.  Simmer together for a while.

9.  Scoop roasted sweet potatoes out of their skin and add to soup.  Add coconut milk.  Use and immersion blender to make soup more or less homogeneous.  Then add cooked rice.   Add water to adjust thickness.  Cook together for 5 minutes.

It is even better the next day.  It is good to share with Sadie too.  Could it be our inspiration to get our asses in gear and start planting?

The ham, carrots, onions, garlic, and tomato sauce were obtained directly from the producer.  The ham local to southern Oregon and USDA cerifitied.  Finding USDA certified meat around here is hard because there are no local processing facalities.  The pork has to be shipped as live wieght to a government approved facility few hours away, and then has to be shipped back to be sold in local marketplaces.  The prices this ham, and products like it are reflected in its cost.  The bureaucratic hoops that have to be jumped through are many.  And the overhead cost are sustaintial.  Too large for smalls producers to own, run, or operate, or cooperate.  It is undermining local production of meats here in Southern Oregon.  Non-USDA meat cannot be sold to the general public by way of stores or restaurants.  Therefore, the market for non-USDA meats has to be out of public view.

Lets put it like this.  Consumers are taught to go to the store to get stuff.  If that stuff is food related items, especially meats, it has to go through USDA inspection and regulation.   The overhead costs of having USDA inspected meats are most affordable to larger meat produtions.  This also goes for restaurants.  High costs make it difficult for small producers to get food on market shelves.  People shop at markets and eat out at restaurants.  Local food is not featured, and people have no other choice but to buy non-local.  Here is a disconnect between producer and consumer that is an issue affecting small meat producers.

We got this ham locally from Willow Witt Rance in Ashland.  It did good.