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


February Chaos.

10 02 2009

So on Friday I met up with local farmer, Chris Jagger, owner/operator of Blue Fox Farm in the Applegate Valley. I spoke with him briefly about the greenhouse that he was installing. This is his fifth greenhouse that he has erected, and with contractor background he has a lot more practical experience with this sort of thing.
Since the debacle of putting up my greenhouse last year, and this year’s major corrections to it, I used this chance to learn and relate my mistakes to someone with expertise. Chris and I chatted it up, and it was relieving to hear that he had dealt with a lot of the problems that I encountered. Problems such as the baseboards on the greenhouse, endcaps, leveling, why the prefabricated holes never line up, and just the general process of getting the greenhouse structurally sound.
Now I just need to get my hands on another greenhouse frame so I can practice what I have learned.
After this pleasant chat, I went to the Enchanted Forest. Oolala. It was actually a really nice old growth forest. Luckily it was near the vineyards. After a brief hike, I met Gabrielle at her place of work for a nip of port. I watched Sadie till Gabrielle was ready to leave.

It was actually oh so nice on Saturday, as compared to right now. It is snowing. Lee helped me get the tiller working. We really need a bigger tiller, but all we have is a 5hp walk behind. It struggles with the fescue grass that grows in very tight clumps. We really need a tractor to get this initial till underway this year, but this small one is all we have at the moment. We are creating a new flower bed, a wildflower/cover crop bed, and extending all our rows from last year by at least 20 ft. Some rows will be extended up to 40 ft just to even things out a bit.
It has been extremely dry this winter, and that gave me the opportunity to till up a new 4ft wide by 130ft long bed for tomatoes. After a painfully slow process with our small tiller, I limed the soil to add calcium and balance the pH, and then I planted more crimson clover.
The soil that I tilled up looked really good. It is closer to a big pine in the middle of our field and there is a more noticeable amount of organic matter in the soil. It has a darker richer color than the soil in other parts of our field.
We really need to start planting. We just haven’t had the mojo yet. Sadie doesn’t want to sleep. And on Sunday shit went a little bit crazy to say the least.
So Sunday was nice. Gabe was at work, I was watching Sadie the whole day. Sadie sleeps seldom, and it takes incredible patience to get her down for a reasonable amount of time. As she slept I handed the monitor over to Kirby, and went out to do some chores. When I checked on the goats, something was terribly wrong with Rodeo, our male Boer goat.
He was twitching, shaking, and could barely stand. I really did not know what to do. No friggin idea. I am generally kind to animals, and this poor goat was no exception. He was in bad shape, and if it was up to me, and I owned a gun, or I knew of a humane way to kill a goat I would have done that immediately. I do not own a gun, and I do not know how to painlessly euthanize a goat.
However, it was WAY more complicated than that. I have on many occasions wished death upon our two goats because of their annoying behavior, and the focus of the farm was not coherent with adequate care of these goats. The goats under no conditions were to be killed because when Gabe and Ben obtained them from a rescue, they signed a contract not to kill them. I did not sign it, but I honored that contract.
Before the shit went down over the weekend, and after much internal debate we decided to return the goats to their previous owners. We would not get our money refunded, but we learned a valuable lesson that we had no time for large animals on our farm (yet). The owners were going to find a new home for the goat pair. They were going to pick the pair up today and deliver to a new owner. One side note, goats are easier to sell/give as a pair because a herd mentality promotes good health among them.
Back to Sunday; I really had no experience in goat health, and I did not know what my next options were because I was required not to kill this goat. I got a hold of Ben and Gabe to ask for ideas on what to do. They had little to no help for me. I proceeded to call the previous owners about the status of the goat they were rehoming for us. The were alarmed about his health, but I do not think that they understood what was actually happening. Rodeo was dying.
He went from being healthy on Saturday, to barely able to stand on Sunday. I kept the previous owners in the loop about his health, but know one knew what was really going on. They were sure he would snap out the state he was in, but both Dr. Calvert and I had serious doubts. We both saw that Rodeo needed to be put down.
Sunday night I tried calling emergency vets to no avail. I carried Rodeo’s unstable body up to the covered porch so he would not get rained on. He was in pain, and barely conscious. At this point I think that was inhumane to keep him alive. But we wanted to return the two healthy goats. By the look of things that was just not going to happen.

We woke up Monday, Rodeo was still alive.  He was worse.  He looked like he wanted to die.  I avoided him all day, and made Gabrielle check on him.  The optimism of the previous owners was hard to combat over the phone,  they said, “he will just snap out of it, goats can go from looking really bad to fine in no time.  All they need sometimes is a shot or two.”  The goat was miserable.  Dr. Calvert said he was seizuring more.  All from being perfectly normal on Saturday.  All Monday we looked for  a vet to treat him.  We finally got a local vet who had a good knowledge of goats, our appointment was at 5:20.  Until then, Rodeo suffered, and I sympathized.  It seemed like I should have done more.  During all of Sunday and Monday Sadie screamed and would not sleep.  It was extremely stressful.

When the time came  around to go to the vet, we had to pick Rodeo’s seizuring body up and put it in the back of our station wagon.  On the way there Rodeo had a nice rain shower, a rainbow, and beautiful sky over the mountains.  His seizures were long and frequent.  The vet advised us to put him to sleep.  We did just that.  We communicated to the previous owners of Rodeo and Blossom that Rodeo was put down, and they were in complete shock.  Gabrielle and I were beat.

We don’t know what happened to Rodeo, but the onset was so quick.  We didn’t know how to treat him, and we had to draw the line somewhere on whether to save him.  He was not our pet, he was just a goat to us.  Now we need to regroup, put Sadie to bed, receive our soil blocker in the mail, and start bringing plants to life.