Hot Hot Heat

28 07 2009

Man, it is super hot here at the Mud Puddle (the car thermometer said 105 yesterday). No puddles to speak of right now. We are working hard to make sure that the plants and animals, and us, get enough shade and water throughout these long days of intense heat. Lucky for us, we can go and jump in the river to cool off. Not so for these poor plants…

Anyway, we weeded this morning around the brassicas that were planted a few weeks ago. In this particular row, we have a ton of volunteer tomatillos and peppers coming up, so they had to be pulled out gently enough not to disturb the kale and chard sprouts. While the adults worked on that, Sadie chased Cornelius ’round and ’round, and trampled some lettuce. We hope it grows stronger due to encountering some baby delivered adversity. God decided to lay in the shady patch of lettuce as well despite the “No dogs in the field” rule. What’re you gonna do? At least he didn’t tear it out of the ground, I guess.

I am done with my Saturday rotation at the winery, so I will be back to doing markets again, which I am excited about. I can’t wait to see how much stuff we have been producing recently, and to check in with all our CSA members and make sure everyone’s expectations are being met. We already have ideas on how to improve for next year, but I want to hear what the paying customers think, too.





Post-Ides

18 03 2009

All the chickens have been consolidated in the coop in the field.  No more having to collect eggs from two different places.  Soon we are going to get another 25 pullets to add to this chicken palace after they grow into hens.  Somehow, we managed to lose 3 chickens when combining the two coops.  Well, shit.

The field is looking sandy.  But good nonetheless.  The drip irrigation lines are being laid down in their respective spots.  A flawless irrigation set up this year would be a blessing.  It is only a slightly more educated guess than last year.  It really looks like we could grow stuff well here.

Got some big lights to get a jump on our tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers.  We need to get our tomatillo seeds in the mail soon so we can plant them for transplant.

More drip line action.  More sandy ass soil.

BEAR CRAWL.  Hope she does the crab next!

Also, hailing from the Greater Chicagoland area, Tim has joined our outfit this growing season.  He lives in the garage.  Don’t get us started about the garage.





Yesterday when I woke up I thought it was March

28 02 2009

On Wednesday, our friend Shelley came over and helped me plant some peas.  We planted most of the sugar snap peas.  It was nice to have some one else in the field helping out.  My friend Tim, is coming pretty soon to help me out for the season.  I cannot wait to have someone dependable to regularly assist me with this season’s mayhem.  Progress will be swift.

Then on Thursday we had some friends over.  It sometimes is a little overwhelming here, and a couple hours of forgetting about it all was needed.  We ate and drank, and got a small dose of socialization.

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We need to get more crocus bulbs.  Although it seems like March, it is not even spring.  With more crocuses we could give spring the welcome it deserves.

Once again the subsoiler sneaks its way into a picture.  It helped work the first onion bed we amended.  The soil looks kinda nice, but it is still really sandy.

OK.  We are feeling very accomplished, yet there are mountains of work to be done.  The planting of the onion sets lasted most of this week.  We were not as prepared as we thought to be able to plant them out with efficiency.

It was too wet out for the mechanized tiller to work properly, and the shovel worked beautifully.  A 4×40 bed was double dug extending our allium bed to a total of 120 ft.  This took about two days .  Then composted manure was hauled by wheelbarrow from our neighbor’s house down the drive.   This activity took another two days to finish.  The actual planting of the onions took minimal time compared to building and amending the soil.

All of our brassicas are germinating really well in the greenhouse.  They enjoy the warm dampness; it has also encouraged the growth of some yet unknown insect pest.  The pest seems to have a taste for only brassica seedlings.  The second picture shows only little green stems of decapitated seedlings.  This is clearly insect damage, and there seems to be a few possible culprits: slugs, snails, aphids, earwigs.

Sadie, what a lovely lady you will become.  She was in the field with us rocking out to The Stooges, and eating horse manure.  We dress her real good in overalls and John Deere apparel.

Gabrielle went to the grower’s market and food safety meeting.  She returned with some interesting information about maintaining food safety on the farm for produce to be sold at market.  Most of the information we already know from working in kitchens, but somethings can be easily overlooked when you are outside and in the dirt.  Somethings that we need to keep in mind for farm food handling is keeping as many animals as possible as far away from the produce as possible.  This means dogs, cats, and all wildlife.  Another is having labeled food handling bins only for food.  We cleaned all our bins thoroughly last year, but we used them for several purposes.

It is called the Grower’s Market in Grants Pass instead of the Farmer’s Market because there is already a store by that name.  We are going to sign up to be at market this year to be able to have another available outlet to sell our vegetables.  There are still some CSA memberships that are waiting to be filled, so sign up now.

Lastly, we started planting our second round of brassicas, onions, flowers, and tomatoes in the greenhouse.  We ran out of our plastic flats for our soil blocker during the first succession.  We thought we could easily scrape together some more flats from local nurseries, but they all return them to the supplier.  These plastic flats are not cheap, and they cost well over a dollar even if you buy a hundred of them.  Instead, after much debate whether to buy some or not, I just started cutting all the extra plywood around the place to the exact size to fit 98 soil blocks.  They are just boards now, and maybe they will get some sides.  They work pretty well so far.  That is some bitchin thriftiness.





Taking Time out.

9 11 2008

Lately, we are resting our bones.  We are still piled up to our necks with ideas, current projects, and prospects for next year.  Yet we need to simmer down a bit even before we start rethinking our strategies for the coming years.

Two weeks ago we wrapped up our 1st growing season here in Southern Oregon.  Hectic barely describes what we endured, but no pain no gain.  Between the annual growing of vegetables for sale to our CSA members, caring for new and old animals, working outside the house, moving into a new (used) home, and RAISING A NEWBORN CHILD time quickly evaded us.  Starting with limited experience in all these fields, we rolled with it.  Ben’s arrival proved invaluable, it could not have been accomplished without his hard work. Ben is currently on a vacation back to Chicago, and we are planning to return there after Thanksgiving.

Just because we are resting, we are not wasting a terrible amount of time.  Things that need to get accomplished are getting done, we just hindered the rate that they are getting done.  To start out with, we have been getting the property winterized.  As much as we do not have a winter around here compared to Chicago, it does freeze occasionally.  Therefore, we need to pull hoses and irrigation systems inside, as well as attempt to bring the greenhouse up to speed.  We have brought some of our potted plants into the greenhouse for protection.  We have layed down mulch around the trees and shrubs, and the chickens that were in the chicken tractor were moved into the nicest chicken shack this side of the  Cascades (thanks Tracy!).

For all our loyal customers, we can not express enough, our joy that you joined us in this experiment in farming.  We are excited to work with you in years to come and supplying the best (meaning better than this year), freshest produce to you.  We are also anticipating enlarging the community participation in our CSA next year.  We are struggling to get next year’s brochure out because there are some inconsistencies that need to be addressed. We are almost ready to release it, but there is an internal debate amongst ourselves here at Mud Puddle.  We are concerned over the method of pick up and delivery of vegetables for next year.

Last year, we gave everyone the option of where they could pick up.  Although having one of several options for pick up might have been more convenient for the customer, it complicated our situation here at the farm.  First, having multiple days for pick up complicated the efficiency of picking and delivering, as well as compromised the freshness of the vegetables.  Since we do not yet have large amounts of refrigerated storage space at our farm, the food is always freshest when it is just picked.  And since we only had enough time and labor to make one large pick once a week (before our first pick up on Fridays), the people that forgot, picked up the following days, or were delivered on a later day always seemed to have vegetables of a lesser quality.

Secondly, because we had options and not a set guideline on pick up and delivery, a break down of communication occasionally occured.  We therefore missed and were not always clear on where the food was going.  This food just sat around and diminished in quality till a new time was sorted out.  We just want to make sure that everyone gets the same great product.  We could only hope that freshness lasted for ever.

Lastly, we want to interact more with you, the customer.  Yes, many you have came to our parties, and we see your faces upon pick up and delivery.  But rarely enough to capture input since our minds are always on delivering food both cooked and fresh to you.  We know most of you, but closer association and even some dialogue with you would make our job more pleasant and resourceful.

This then leads us to our current problem of the best way to get produce to you.  We do not necessarily want to write it in stone on the brochure yet.  Not until we have a better grasp of the proper solution.  One solution we came up with for next year would be to go to Grants Pass Growers’ Market, and to possibly have a one day on farm pick up between selected hours.  These would hopefully solve the quality issue by having a more certain time frame to deliver the freshest vegetables from our hands to yours and then into your fridge.  Previously they just sat in the office, or at our house till they were taken away.  Giving you a window to retrieve you vegetables gives us a better opportunity to keep them the freshest.

The hours that market is open, and the unselected hours that our farm will be open for pick up will allow no room for confusion.  We will happily hand you your CSA box, with no sad looking veggies in it.  And seeing you at market for CSA pick up will provide the perfect backdrop to engage in conversation with you. At market we are also hoping to have extra and experimental vegetables for sale.  We want to meet more of the community that support locally grown foods.

So this is what we are dwelling on.  Input from everyone would be helpful to find a practical solution for all parties involved.  Then, without haste we will get the brochure out to everyone.

Other happenings on the farm are general maintenance, cleaning up our tool shed, doing our research, and we also completed our chicken shack.   Our new chicken shack is friggin sweet.  It can house many more chickens than we have in it, double as dry storage for feed and tools, and allow the chickens to free range among our vegetables and trees.

We are still recieving limited eggs from our chickens.  There are still some for sale at 4 dollars a dozen if anybody is still interested.

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Sadie in a pond with goats and chickens

1 10 2008

So it turns out that animals are awesome.  Without delay we have added some sweet new additions to our farm. Animals are an integral part of a small farm.  Besides promoting biodiversity, adding to the closed cycle of land stewardship, they also provide heightened vitality to the entire farming experience and to the purposefulness of the land itself.  We combine animals with plants in a crop rotation to ensure that we are responsibly using our soil.  The feeding practices of our animals will provide nutrients through manure, and with keep the land from being overrun by unwanted plants and pests.

We already have chickens as you know.  They provide us and our customers eggs, and are now producing at about capacity.  Their manure, after composting, is the highest in nutrients and most beneficial for our vegetables.  If the are free ranged a little better, they will also consume bugs and weeds.

Well we just upgraded beyond chickens.  Getting meat rabbits and goats.  Their poop that the rabbits provide us are also extremely nutritious for our plants, and it can be added uncomposted.  It is not a hot manure like most others, and added fresh it will not burn our plants.  We just bred them with the help of some local rabbit fanciers, so we can start producing them for meat production.  These same fanciers will return to show us how to humanely process (kill) the rabbits for meat production.   Killing animals brings food consumption in a full circle.  We are no longer alienated from our food, we are the producers and the consumers.

Then we brought in the goats.  Their names are Blossom and Rodeo.  They are Nubian and Boer breed respectively.  We are using them as lawnmowers.  Damn goats eat anything.  So we are allowing them to do their work.  We are overrun by poison oak and blackberries on our property, and the goats are more than happy to clear these away for us.  Besides water and little shelter they do not need much else to happily co-exist with us.  They are actually very friendly and enjoy being petted.

I am also lining our now dry pond with bentonite clay.  This particular type of clay has properties which allow it seal pond bottoms to minimize water drainage.  Our pond is completely dry now, but the rainy season will be soon upon us.  I just got the clay free because it is  tailings left over from a local ceramic company.  Otherwise it would have cost me like 300 dollars.  Now that I have the clay it needs to go into the pond before it starts raining, otherwise it will be very difficult to work with when the pond begins filling again.

Lastly, Sadie continues to excel at living. Check it out.





Nature Runs Riot

23 09 2008

I know I have the excuse of having had a baby a few months ago, so no one blames me for the little amount of time I spent in the field from the beginning of June until now. But I have a confession to make. I kind of didn’t LIKE being in the field in the height of growing season. At first, I thought maybe it was weird post-birth hormones, or the fact that I didn’t want Sadie in the dirt and pollen, but today I read something that totally clicked for me. It suddenly made sense why I was reluctant to be as hardy of a farm-hand as I was in the beginning of the year.

I am just now reading Botany of Desire. I know, I know; I talk about Michael Pollan like he is my best friend, and I have read everything else he has written, but I somehow skipped the one that made him famous. Well, now I am reading it (and if you are like me and have managed to get through the past few years without reading it, do yourselves a favor and don’t let another year go by–READ THIS BOOK. It is fantastic!). I am almost done with it, in fact. I sped through the beginning section on apples, made particularly poignant by the fact that it is apple season around here and when we go on our morning walks, Chad and I are sampling fruit off all the trees in the neighborhood. The second section is on tulips, which was interesting to think about why we find some flowers more beautiful than others. The third section is on marijuana, and was fascinating in its discussion of why animals of all types search out consciousness altering substances. And now I am reading about potatoes.

Potatoes were one of my favorite crops here at Mud Puddle Farm this year. They were fun to plant, they were exciting to watch grow, the flowers are beautiful, and the crop was delicious. We planted 4 different types of spud, all funky heirloom varieties, all gone now (they were all smaller sizes, so harvested quicker than big potatoes, and we didn’t plant any storage varieties. We know what to do for next year, but it is depressing to have to buy boring grocery store potatoes until next July…). So it is cool to be reading about how the potato has changed and co-mingled with humans since the beginning of its cultivation. Pollan also discusses Monsanto’s genetically altered potatoes that are pest resistant. But his musings than struck closest to home with me were right at the beginning of the section when he talks about our attempts to reign in Nature. He says,

“It is only the suspension of disbelief that allows him to plant again every spring, to wade out in the season’s uncertainties. Before long, the pests will come, the storms and droughts and blights, as if to remind him just how imperfect the human power implied by those pristine rows really is.”

Before Sadie’s birth, my rows were, well, not pristine, but not overrun, either. And the plants were still “cute”–that is, they were on the small size and still needed nurturing in the hope that they would produce for us. And then I disappeared from the garden for 6 weeks. Yes, I would walk through to see what was going on, but I was more focused on the perfection I held in my arms than I was on the state of the rows. And then, when I could be back on the team, I found I really didn’t want to be.

These giant plants bore little resemblance to my “cute” plants which I started from seed. Yes, they were producing, but they were producing quantities I had no idea what to do with (even after we gave away a ton to our CSA), and the weeds and the bugs and the sun were unlike anything I had dealt with in the cooler spring weather. So, I did as little as I needed to to get by for the rest of the season. I knew I was dragging my feet, but I had this great little excuse.

Now that the weather is cooling off, and the season’s end is in sight, I find myself wanting to be out there again. And next year, I plan to be out there every step of the way, so it won’t ever feel like I am stepping back on to foreign territory. There will once again come a time when the weeds and bugs and heat will over-power us, but next year, the rows (even in their non-pristine state) will be mine.





This is just out of Control

24 06 2008

And we love it, every damn bit of it.
Baby in Bed

this is my new daughter Sadie. She is absolutely amazing. With her arrival, she is the beginning, and everything else is following suit. Our farm, after much patience and slow growing has taken off. Everything is green, everything is growing. We are fulfilling, although haphazardly, what we came to do. And just in time for Sadie. She is an awesome person. YEAH.
Even though Sadie cannot see the best in her infancy, what we are doing is for her, cause she is us. But this is what We see.
HOps

These are our hops. Along with barley, they will make beer. As of now we have not planted barley, but it will take until next year for our hops to reach production size. Even though we lost some, the ones that are growing are growing with vigor. But for hops, vigorousness comes with vertical growth. And boy howdy do we need to get stable trellising to support our hops. Baby needs beer, damnit.

peas

Our peas, after much calamity with Pea Leaf Weevil (asshole), the struggle for the survival of our peas have produced delicious results. We could have had more peas if it was not for pests, but what we do have is enough, and we are happy with the flavor. So sweet. We tried to put these is our CSA boxes but we forgot. Oops. Our members will get their comeuppance this week.
Speaking of our CSA, this Friday will mark the 3rd, count it 3rd, week of our CSA. Our members are happy, and they are going to get it (vegetable-wise) pretty soon here.

Because
tom row

this here is around 150 plants of tomatoes, between 15 and 20 varieties. Can you say, “Oh Snap!” Hooray for local production. Take that you salmonella laden, mono culture, corporate agribusiness piece of shit tomatoes.
and peppers, oh my
peppers

puppy
Finally if there was not enough birthing between babies, and vegetables. PUPPY!