Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wrapping up 2010 & Looking to 2011

Last week I finally accepted the fact that yes, the ground will freeze once again, and soon.  We had a nice couple of weeks of cold then warm and the ground was vacillating between an inch or so of mud and frosty crust.  I wrapped up the last of the hoses, Sheryl blew them out, and we finished buttoning up the new hoop.  The doors are now on, baseboards secure, and the trenches along both sides are filled.  We have beautiful chard, kale, lettuce and collard plants and greens along with seedlings of spinach, mache, lettuce, mustard, radishes and cilantro.  I still intend to transplant some parsley and maybe a few celery plants to the large hoop - I think I can chisel it out of the ground.  The small hoop still needs new ends but we'll get to that, hopefully soon.  When the sun is shining, it's really quite lovely to spend a bit of time in the hoop.


We've had a much-enjoyed lull in action here over the past few weeks.  The extended season ended the 1st week in November, the Thanksgiving boxes went out the third week in November, the turkeys were processed and distributed that same week, and Thanksgiving came and we celebrated.  We generally have a large gathering for this holiday as both families come together, along with friends who are near by.  This year we had 27 gathered around our tables to enjoy each other's company and a meal that we all participated in preparing.  We all have much to be thankful for.

It's now time to get back to business and here's what we're up to:

  • Ann Arbor Farmer's Market - Dec. 10 - 7 a.m. - 1? - Molly, the market manager for the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market, came out last Friday to check out the farm.  New vendors apply to participate in the market.  In November, the board accepted our application and Molly's visit was the last step in the process.  So, this Saturday I intend to be at the market with a few veggies.  There is still choi that I can sell.  It has frozen but I picked it yesterday and let it thaw before cooking - still crunchy and tasty! In addition, a few of the brussels sprouts grew over the past month so I now have something to harvest.  Maybe a few bunches of kale or collards from the hoop, maybe some carrots.  Not a lot, but it's what we have and it would be good to sell it rather than leave it for the deer.  I'll stay until it's sold so if you're in the area, stop in and say hi.  I probably won't have a large sign so you might need to search a little.
  • Planning the CSA season (seasons!) for next year.  I'm going to break it up as follows:
    1. A spring share for 10 weeks.  This will run between the weeks of March 23 and May 23 and will cost $250.  I will limit this to 20 shares and will offer first to those who indicated interest in a winter share.    Pick up will be here, at the farm, on Wednesday evenings only (4 - 6:30). I still need to plan for what will be in the box but it will most likely be heavy on greens along with some onions and maybe spring garlic, etc.  A few herbs may also be available.
    2. A summer CSA for 20 weeks.  This will run from May 30 through October 10 and will be $600.  The summer shares include veggies, herbs and flowers, as available.  I will offer 3 pick ups this year - Monday and Wed. from 3 - 6:30 and Saturday from 10 - 12:30.  All pick ups are here, on the farm, unless you hear otherwise.
    3. An extended season for 3 weeks the weeks of October 17, 24 31.  Price and # of spaces will be subject to what's available in the field at the time.
    4. A holiday box the week prior to Thanksgiving.  Again, pricing and # of boxes will be determined a month or so before the distribution.
    5. Next winter I might offer the winter boxes in January, Feb & March.  For this year (2011), I'll sell items through the AA Farmer's Market, assuming we have enough to sell.  A booth costs $25/trip so, in order to participate, I need to have enough bunches of greens to cover the cost of the booth plus and any other expenses such as labor that goes into going to market.
  • Planning the crops for next year - the seed catalogs are starting to come in.  I've received catalogs from both Seeds of Change and Johnny's and am starting to pour through them.  My new crop this year will be fava beans - based on a request from a member last year.  Would you like to see an additional veggie or a certain variety of a veggie?  Please let me know.  Things I won't plant are any invasive species or sweet corn.  The first for obvious reasons and the second because the corn just goes to the raccoons.
  • Planning what will be in the box for next year.  This winter I'm going to try to set up a menu, per se.  I'm going to try for a more varied veggie offering for next year so you don't get 6 weeks of the same thing in a row.  No matter what you'll still receive a core group of veggies but I'm going to try to alternate root crops more along with fruiting veggies so maybe you'll have beets and summer squash one week and carrots and eggplant or okra the next.  The only challenge with this is that half members might miss a week of something but in the end, it always seems to even out.  (Please remember, we don't prepare half a box.  If you're a half share member, you either pick up a full box every other week or figure out how to split your box with your share partner).
  • Working toward certification - I still have the idea to submit the paper work for Organic Certification.  I like the idea of it but need to make the time to compile a lot of paper work.
  • Working on the books - It's been a while since I spent any time on the accounting for the business so I need to get back to that.  I am curious to find out the bottom line re. turkeys.
  • Preparing for various winter conferences.  Washtenaw Community College will have another career fair this winter and I plan to participate in that.  Hopefully I'll get lucky and meet a few future employees.  We generally also attend the Local Food Summit and MOFFA  and FSEP conferences along with local gatherings.  I heard there's an annual organic veggie conference on the west side of the state.  If you hear of another conference that sounds interesting, please let me know.  These are great venues for me to meet other growers and learn of various techniques and strategies.
  • Thinking about a new distribution shed - maybe you'll pick up again from the front porch or maybe there will be a new building near the hoops.  We'll see.
  • Volunteering at Bates Elementary and UUAA for various committees and in the classroom.
  • Playing a bit of tennis through AA Rec and Ed.  How fun.
  • Chasing Hannah around - also fun.
Until next time, stay warm, enjoy the holidays, and let me know if you have early spring fever and would like to pull a few weeds in the hoop or plant a few seeds.

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    Nearing the End of the Season

    It's already October 20.  It seems as though the season has been one deadline after another - planting, harvesting, distributing, transplanting, weeding, tilling, planting.  It's been one big circle.  But, in between the deadlines we have so many great memories for the season.  This was my second full season as a CSA farmer and it was jam-packed.  We started early with planting of the seedlings in February, erecting of the small hoop (in the mud) in March, transplanting the seedlings and moving to the small barn in march, planting in the small hoop in April, and planting in the field in April, May, and every few weeks since.  We've had a lot of activity here over the season.  New members, our first and most-excellent employee, Sheryl, our also excellent intern, Kristina, some great part-time workers, other customers. 

    Our children get so excited when they see a member on the porch picking up their veggies.  Often-times, Nathan (7) would guide a tour around the farm.  Hannah (3) was very excited to pick basil and cherry tomatoes and bag them (or anything else) up for members or "for the peoples".  Allie (5) was very serious about tending to the flowers and picking them for "the customers".  Of course, they are all so excited when any member with children arrives - it's a mini play date for them and we really enjoy the camaraderie that you all bring when you visit.  Of course, Dave and I love to hear about how you're using the veggies and how it's working for you.  Many, many, many great comments throughout the season.  Thanks so much.

    I've moved from preparing 60 boxes per week to only 11 for the extended season which is quite a change.  Today was the first day and all went well.  In addition, I'm working on planting the hoop houses.  About 1/2 of the large hoop has been planted in collards, kale, chard and carrots. There are still some peppers in there as well.  Soon I'll plant spinach and mache,  and transplant some lettuce, etc. in there.  Onions, beets, more carrots, sweet peas, etc. will be planted in January and February for harvest in March and beyond.  I'm debating about whether to plant the small hoop over the winter or to give it a break and plant again in late spring.  It still needs new plastic.

    We finally have taken the next step with irrigation.   I invested in a drip system Trickle Eeez this past week and have installed much of it in the large hoop.  Unfortunately they were out of the "round" header (or supply line) so the rep brought out some "flat" hose which is round when inflated.  It's solid hosing that you poke a hole into in order to attach drip lines for each bed.  When it's inflated, it's under pressure.  So, poking a hole in a hose under pressure results in a geyser.  Sheryl and I were soaked!  The rep brought us out some round supply line today and I'll work on installing it Friday.  I hope it results in a better system with minimal leaks. 

    Much of the fields have been harvested and cleaned up.  All potatoes are out of the field along with much of the dry beans.  The eggplant, squash, peppers and okra were all pulled a few weeks ago.  Those areas have been tilled and we broadcast either rye or wheat.  It's starting to sprout.  We have a nice stand of both rye and wheat in both the east and front gardens (looks like grass).  I hope this will help suppress the weeds and will also serve as fertilizer in the spring.

    I still need to pull the pole beans, tomatoes and some cabbage and maybe get those cover-cropped before this weekend.  I cut off the beans at the base and leave the root structure in the soil as this helps build soil fertility by leaving the nitrogen fixers which are attached to the roots in the soil.  I'll feed the bean plants to the goats - they love it - along with any other yummy and nutritious plant debris.

    Speaking of the goats - Dixie still has not given birth.  I really think she might be carrying 4 babies because she is just huge.  Her bag (udder) is very full although it's not glossy yet so maybe she has a few more days or a week before she goes into labor.

    The turkeys are growing nicely.  Anyone who has been here lately has most likely witnessed either Dave, the children or I chasing the turkeys out of the gardens.  Yesterday, while I was gone for a few hours, the turkeys got out.  When I got home, there was a message from our neighbor reporting he had to chase the turkeys out of his corn field two times.  I went out and found them milling around our back yard.  So I herded them into their paddock and counted.  One was missing.  Counted again.  Still short.  Which color.  Counted the brown birds, then the white.  Confirmed via my notes in the house.  Yep - a white bird was missing.  So I went to search.  Our neighbor said I should check the lane by the corn field - said a dog was chasing the birds around.  Sure enough, I found a pile of tail feathers.  A short distance into the field, a little down. Then a beagle showed up, cute as can be, with a mouthful of feathers.  I kept searching and about 20 feet later I found the poor hen.  I think she had a broken leg and she had been defeathered in places.  I hoped that she would be OK.  But, in the end, I decided to put her down.  I am sorry that she was chased and ended up dying as a result but am still happy that she was able to explore and forage as she did.  Sometimes those turkeys are on the roof.  Often they're in the paddock with the goats.  Sometimes they're trying to eat our cover crop seeds.  Her gullet showed mostly grass with a few Jacob's Cattle beans and some rye and some grain.  That's good.

    Many people debate about the ethics of eating animals.  I can understand why people choose not to eat meat.  Every time we kill an animal, we pay homage.  We work hard to ensure the animals have a good life with free access to the outdoors and tasty food.  We hope they'll be able to forage.  So, the fact that this hen was killed by a predator does not upset me greatly.  I would rather have this outcome than to eat a bird raised in a turkey producing facility housing 100,000 + birds.  Yes, we could probably pen them up more closely.  But you'd be surprised at how much pressure 30 turkeys put on even a 100' x 100'  grassy area.  We kept them in moveable pens for a few months.  When the tornado took out the pens about 2 months ago, we moved them to the larger grassy area.  The grass is now under great pressure - it's very short and is browning out.  So, they naturally seek to escape.  They can fly and fly they do.

    The end result is that we have fewer birds that make it to market which results in a more expensive end product.  Is it sustainable?  I have yet to do the math for this year.  We lost money last year.  I hope we'll at least cover the cost of feed and the chicks this year.  I really hope we'll at least make $100 or $200 for all of the labor (Dave has to go out every night and herd them in - they roost on the fences, trees, chicken pens, etc. and it can take 30+ minutes just to get the turkeys into the barn.  If you don't, the raccoons might eat them).  We'll see.  We like the idea of sharing meat with people.  We know how the animals have been cared for.  We know they're eating non-gmo food.  We know they haven't been treated with hormones and only with antibiotics if they are really sick (like when Dixie had mastitis 2 years ago).  So we hope to be able to continue raising a limited number of meat birds and meat goats for years to come.  We'll have to see whether the market will support the true cost of this endeavor.

    Until next time, take good care and keep warm.

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    Egg Info.

    Kind of interesting.  This helps to explain why store-bought eggs just don't measure up, even though they have the "organic" label.

    http://www.cornucopia.org/2010/09/organic-egg-report-and-scorecard/

    Thanks, Angela, for posting.

    Friday, September 24, 2010

    Bugs

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/cazatoma/1582556625/in/set-72157602443457453/
    When I was preparing Wednesday's boxes, I had the chance to see many many creatures in the gardens.  My favorite residents are  Garter Snakes.  They always surprise me but their presence makes me feel comfortable.  When I was picking turnips in the hoop, a 2 foot biggie slithered out from under the huge leaf mass.  Along with the snake, I saw many American Toads and even a few tree frogs.  Of course there are also bugs - so many flea beetles that I thought they were small turds at first.  But then they hopped.  This year there's a new fuzzy caterpillar - yellowish to grayish - that looks sort of like a Woolly Bear.  They like to hang out in the chinese cabbage and other brassicas.  There's also some bug that is forming cocoons in the chinese cabbage - little brown 1/4" long pods.

    The bees are in full swing right now.  They are everywhere.  Some of the basil has bloomed and they're swarming every flower.  Of course they love the ragweed and were also swarming some of the broccoli that had bloomed.  I e-mailed Judy Durfy and suggested she add another super to the 2 hives in our back woods.  Last year they swarmed in early October


    This has been the year of the flea beetle.  It has chewed

    Sunday, September 19, 2010

    And the Food Preservation has begun

    I finally started canning in earnest today. I have put it off for as long as I can but now that frost is looming, I decided I'd better get moving before the tomatoes are finished. So I took a box of tomatoes and made about 8 pints of ketchup along with a couple of quarts of fresh salsa. The salsa included one Ghost Pepper, one Fatali (a habenero) and one cayenne. It is spicy. I read my friend Angela's blog posting and followed her advice and wore gloves when cleaning the peppers - that was lucky! The minute I cut into each of the first 2 peppers, I started to sweat. This was just from the scent - and no I wasn't cooking them. Unbelievable! I also made about 10 pints of hotdog relish (equal parts cabbage, green tomatoes, onions and some peppers, along with sugar and some spices) which we really enjoy on an egg sandwich or as an ingredient to make either tartar sauce or french dressing. The children also like to eat the relish as a side dish, which doesn't happen very often. It might not sound like a lot but it sure does take time. I think if everyone made their own ketchup, a lot less would be consumed.

    I plan to can about 50 quarts of tomatoes in the next week - we'll see what the garden produces.

    I've been lazy about beans, greens and broccoli this year. Last year I froze about 50 bags of beans. In the back of my mind I keep thinking that we can always eat kale from the hoop over the winter. Hopefully that will be the case because the beans are not producing like they did when it was 80 degrees out so I kind of missed the time of plenty.

    CSA members - get ready for mustard greens again along with turnips and leeks.

    If you haven't bought tomatoes and are still looking for some, please let me know. I think I've given all members the tomatoes you've requested so I'm going to open up sales to the general public now (after our family is set).

    Wednesday, September 8, 2010

    Crop Report - Fall is here!

    September has brought shorter days and cold nights. Consistent night-time temperatures in the 40's will slow down all fruit-bearing vegetables. This includes okra, peppers, tomatoes, beans and squash. Soon we'll be back to the root and cold-weather veggies. For now, we can still savor the last of these tastes as we look forward to leeks, turnips, beets, lettuces, mustard, greens, kohlrabi, etc. Hopefully the brussels sprouts will size up in time for the Thanksgiving box along with the broccoli, cauliflower and late cabbage.

    I planted spinach a couple of times in the past month. Some of it is still out there. I think there's a rabbit that's munching away when I'm not looking. Fortunately we have the New Zealand spinach which is coincidentally growing in the large hoop so if the spinach in the field doesn't amount to much, there's that for a back up. I'm currently preparing to plant the hoop and spinach will be one of the main crops grown in there over the winter.

    The pie pumpkins produced very well. We had to move some of the vines so that we could build the hoop but most of them made it to maturity which is great. We harvested those on Tuesday and I pulled the vines to get ready for the next crop. I'm also harvesting all chinese cabbage (Napa) from the hoop to prepare for the next crop. There's a lot of Napa out there. It's also in the west garden and is forming some nice heads out there. Watch out for cabbage worms - I'm trying to wash it but they might sneak past our soaking.

    Most of the potatoes have now been harvested. There are still about 1 1/2 rows of German Butterball taters that haven't quite completed their growing cycle but all of the Adirondack Blue, Russian Banana Fingerlings, French Fingerlings and Kennebecs have been harvested. Many have been distributed. We have about 200 # in the barn that are curing and will be distributed over the coming weeks.

    Many of the butternut and acorn squash have also been harvested and are curing. The spaghetti squash is almost fully distributed as they don't keep as long as the other winter squash varieties.

    There are a lot of red onions still in the field; they haven't quite stopped growing and they're best to store in the field for now.

    The roma tomatoes are finally kicking into high gear - it's as if they know the frost is coming and they all decide to mature at once. I planted two plantings about 20 days apart. The first were relatively large plants. The second were quite small. They're in two different fields but they're still maturing at about the same rate. Maybe it's related to the sunlight.

    I have had a few people tell me that they'd like to participate in a winter CSA. I think I'll experiment with 10 members for this first year. The distribution might be from the Farmer's Market in Ann Arbor - not sure about that yet. If you do want to participate, please let me know. Please understand that this first winter of growing will be a learning experience for us.

    I'm going to post a survey to try to find out how your experience has been with the summer veggies. Please let me know if you have any comments. Thanks!

    Wednesday, September 1, 2010

    The Story of our Newest Hoop






    Saturday, August 28 was quite a day here on the farm. It was the culmination of a lot of work put into figuring out how to erect a new hoop house, funded in a way that would make sense for our operation. Back in February I learned about the USDA grant program which is administered through the Natural Resources Conservation Service. I first heard about it through the forum on Local Harvest. Everyone was chatting about whether they had been approved or whether they thought they'd be approved and what they could even apply for. Farmers from different states were reporting wide variations about the interpretation of program rules . I went to the NRCS site that evening and found out that the deadline for application was in 1 1/2 days. Time to move. The next morning I called the local office which is close to Baker, off of Jackson Road. I went into the office to pick up an application and ended up with the opportunity to apply. We chatted about the rules and, at the time, they thought that the hoop had to be erected in a place that had been planted the year before. I wanted to erect it in the east field, which is in the first year of crop production but had previously been in hay. So we went on our way - apply again next year was the result.

    In mid to late March, I started hearing about the applications that had been approved. Many were for hoops placed on virgin ground. Finally, in mid-April, I called back. It seems that the rules had been clarified after I had applied and a person can site their hoop wherever they want. Luckily, they encouraged me to complete an application because there were rumors that not all of the Federal dollars had been allocated. So I applied. It was a long process. If you've ever gone through the SBA (Small Business Administration) loan process, you know what I'm talking about; the rules and regs can be difficult to navigate, even for the lender. Finally, in late-June, everything came together and I heard from Steve Olds that the application had been approved and that the powers that be had been able to fund it as well. Woo Hoo!

    In the mean time, back in March, I met Jeff McCabe and Lisa Gottlieb through the Local Food Summit in Ann Arbor. I learned of their loan program and considered applying for the spring build but I was concerned about taking on debt at that time. We had a small hoop and I didn't have all of our CSA memberships sold and the labor expense was starting to kick in along with equipment expenditures, etc. I didn't think it would be a good idea to add debt payments to the mix. So, I thought I'd apply for the fall build. As things go, I was fortunate to meet a lot of the young farmers via the Local Food Summit. Washtenaw Community College also hosted a farm job fair and Victoria Bennett invited me to speak, along with others, about farming. I met more farmers and community members there and was very fortunate to make the connection with our current only part time employee, Sheryl. And the ball was rolling. The sun came out, the snow melted, people came to tour the farm, people signed up, and, finally, after months and months of planning and planting and tending, distributions started at the beginning of June. Big sigh of relief - we had enough food to fill everyone's boxes and more.

    But back to the hoop. Jeff & Lisa grow food not far from our house. So every once in awhile I'll stop over to see how things are going and vice versa. I like to make the rounds to other farms when I can. One day Jeff reminded me that the application for fall hoops was approaching. I hadn't known about it - somehow I forgot to add myself to his e-mail list. So, I applied for funding for the difference between the grant and the cost of the hoop and in late July learned that the request had been approved. I also applied for assistance with building the hoop and that was approved. Soon Jeff was calling me to schedule the build. Wow. This was really happening. We scheduled it for August 28. I scrambled around to finish up the final documents with the NRCS, building dept, etc. Dave, Sheryl and I worked to get this place ready for the build and the after-party. And the day came.

    August 28 started as a cool day. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. The wind was just enough during the day to help keep us cool and died down in time to pull plastic. The volunteers turned out. And we built. And we cooked. And we ate. And, as the moon rose, we played.




    Lisa wrote a beautiful photo essay that you can check out here.


    Thank you so much to everyone. A special thanks to Dave and Julie Montiero De Castro (my sister) and Nancy Leist for preparing so much food and working so hard to help prepare for the party. Of course, our deepest gratitude goes to Jeff McCabe and LisaGottlieb who made a loan to help fund the structure and brought out the volunteers to build it and coordinated the after party and the bands to celebrate it along with their efforts. Thanks to Hullabaloo and Prophetic Synesthetic Kinetic Collective for providing fun and beautiful music. Thanks to Dan Vernia and Rob Kangas for roasting the pig. And of course, thanks to all of our members. Without you there would be no need for a hoop.

    I'm still debating on what to do with the greens that we grow this winter. If you're interested in a winter CSA, please let me know. The cost would be roughly $20/week and would include lots of greens and root veggies. I'll probably run it from early November through April with a 4 week break from mid-December until mid-January. It's in the planning stages. I'm also considering taking the produce to market this winter which might be a nice way to connect with the larger community.

    Monday, August 30, 2010

    Our New Hoop

    What a week! Dave and I busily prepared the property last week

    Sunday, August 8, 2010

    Pending Work Day

    Hi all -
    I am rescheduling the work day which was planned for August 28. It will now be this coming Saturday, August 14. Plan for lots of weeding, maybe some potato harvesting, and possibly planting of lettuce, etc. We need help cleaning up the fields and preparing for the visitors which will be coming August 28!

    On August 28 we will be erecting our new hoop with the help of Repast - Jeff McCabe and Lisa Gotlieb's entity. Via funds raised from Cafe Selma, they lend money to farmers to help with the construction of hoop houses. To date, they've built 5 or so hoops in the greater Washtenaw county area. Woo Hoo! I applied for assistance with our hoop and they generously approved our request. So, they'll lend the difference between the USDA grant funds and the total cost of the hoop (which we'll repay over 3 years). We will also pay $500 toward their equipment fund. They'll buy equipment which can be leant out to farmers as they need it. They'll supply the labor and expertise to erect our new hoop. We'll provide lunch for all.

    All in all, should be fun and we can't wait! I'm waiting to figure out the details but I know that on August 28 it would be helpful to have a few people (or more) to help with getting the food out, setting it up, etc. Much will be prepared 1 or 2 days in advance so if you have time to volunteer for advance food duty, that would be great too. Dave will be coordinating food prep and serving and I'll be focused on the build.

    At any rate - all are invited. If you're not working on the build and just want to show up for lunch, please bring a dish to pass. It's a great way to meet other members and community members that are interested in supporting local farmers. I'll probably post a link soon to Repast's site where you can sign up to assist with the build.

    Thanks!

    Monday, August 2, 2010

    Garlic

    The garlic has been harvested and is hanging to cure in the small barn. It's beautiful. We're selling bunches for $5/bunch. The bunches are tied together in swags and consist of 15 or so heads per bunch.


    We bought the garlic from 2 Sisters Organic Garlic in Iowa and here's their descriptions, along with their photos. Check them out at www.2sistersgarlic.com Great customer service, timely and they know their stuff:

    Organic German Red Garlic - Spicy and Aromatic! A large plant with tall scapes (a delicacy in June!). German Red can produce large bulbs with some red color in the wrapper. The cloves have a brownish skin. The taste is hot and spicy, making it an excellent garlic for dehydrating to powder, or for those wanting to get all the garlic flavor possible from each clove. It can produce between 8 and 12 cloves per bulb.

    A Consistent Top Producer For Us!


    Organic Polish White Garlic - Flavorful!

    An old world artichoke softneck. The large, round bulbs have a cream-colored wrapper with a real punchy taste that is mild when fresh, and builds without heat as it is stored. Polish White also has large cloves compared to some other softneck varieties, making it easy to use.

    Polish White is the best variety for dehydrating and making homemade garlic powder in our experience, as it makes a very fine powder. We think pure Polish White powder or a mixture of Polish White and German Red garlic is far superior to the garlic powder you would buy in a grocery store.

    A Consistent Top Producer For Us!




    Organic Metechi GarlicLori’s favorite! AKA Metichi. This fiery little bulb is packed with high-powered garlic flavor. This purple stripe hardneck probably originated in the Republic of Georgia. The bulbs produce a few very plump cloves which store well. It is beautiful...if there were a garlic beauty pageant, Lori thinks this one would walk out wearing the sash and crown.

    A Consistent Top Producer For Us!



    Organic Italian Purple Garlic - Classic Italiano! The perfect-flavored Italian hardneck, also called Gambino and "Easy Peel." It produces large bulbs with easy-to-peel cloves that are perfect for Mediterranean cooking. Widely grown in the Ohio Valley and Northeast, but grows in a variety of places.


    Let me know if you'd like to buy some - it's very tasty.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010

    Blog Comments, etc

    Hi all - I've changed the settings on the blog. If you would like to comment on a posting, you will need to join as a follower. I was finding that people I've never heard of, sometimes from across the world, were posting links to sites that we do not know. So, I thought I'd add an extra step and hopefully avoid a little more spam. So, please join up and comment. Let me know if you have any problems or suggestions.

    Sunday, July 25, 2010

    I think we can all agree that this has been one year for weather. On Friday we planted again - another triple row of carrots (Boleros which are supposed to be great keepers for the winter), beets, some salsify, schozonera and parsnips, rutabaga and again, celeriac (third time for this little guy). Around 6:00 the storm of all storms passed through. It started as a normal rain without excessive thunder or lightning. But, within 20 minutes, the trees were flailing, the house was singing and we headed for the crawl space.not too much

    Saturday, July 17, 2010

    Great work Day & new Hoop Coming

    Thanks to Sarah, Pete, Sejica, Phil, Jenny, Anny, Francisco, Gerrie, Linda, Carl, Kris & Kurt for spending a good chunck of your day with us today. Kristina, Ginny and I worked with everyone today. We swept the potatoes for potato beetles and the tomatoes for horn worms. They found a huge horn worm which might now be a pet? We harvested the remaining items for today's distribution & made the final prep for everyone who picked up today. We then moved on to weeding - no small task this time of year - did a little planting and then harvested some onions. The Stuttgarts are looking beautiful and are now laid out to cure in the barn, alongside some garlic. The herb garden is back in shape, the cabbages are visible, new parsley and snap dragons are in. Very productive day.

    We'll have another work day in mid-August and another one again in September so if you'd like to stop out, please do. Children are welcome - I can tailor jobs for them - as long as you oversee them. It's pretty fun, generally.

    Overall, the garden is doing very well. We have gotten so much done over the past two weeks. We've spread 3 or 4 loads of mulch. Much of the cabbage, peppers tomatoes and onions are now mulched. The tomato cages are in. The beans are trellised for a second time, the tomatoes have been retrellised and the peppers have been tied up in the hoop using a new trellising system that I went in on with Jeff McCabe (thanks, Jeff, for sharing your knowledge and this technique). The arugula has been pulled, the spinach has been tilled under, the first couple of plantings of lettuce have been turned under, etc. These areas are ready for fall plantings which will include radishes, spinach, more beets, more carrots, fall lettuce, fall arugula, turnips, etc. We're also getting ready to start seeding for the plants that will go into the hoop this winter.

    I have been meaning to tell everyone this very exciting news: we've been approved for a grant through the USDA which will assist in financing a new hoop house. The grant (yes, it's a GRANT!) will cover approx. $5,000 toward a 30 x 96' hoop. The hoop is projected to cost between $8 and $10,000 so we'll have to finance the difference. Depending upon how the hoop is used, estimates are that the payback will be between 12 - 24 months. I'm sure that also depends on whether you're looking at gross or net numbers but I'll report back after some time. However you look at the numbers, it's very exciting and a bit daunting. I'll move to full-time production. The hoop (both) will not be heated. Crops such as bunching onions, lettuces, mache, spinach, chinese cabbages, carrots, and of course kale, chard and collards, will do well in the cold climate of the hoop. I have heard the biggest challenge will be the lack of sunshine in December/January. We plan to offer a limited CSA and also to sell wholesale to either restaurants or retailers. We're also considering participating in a new co-op which sells to institutions.

    There's always something going on here. For the immediate future, we're focused on preparing for the main harvest. As soon as the tomatoes, beans and second planting of summer squash comes in, it will be all that we can do to just pick the produce. So whatever weeding we can do now will help position us for the upcoming mountain of veggies. If anyone knows a high school-aged person that would like to work for 3 or 4 weeks helping to harvest, please forward their info. to me.

    Enjoy the bounty - it's coming!

    Saturday, July 10, 2010

    Survey Results

    OK - the results of the survey are in. 37 people voted and 32 said that the quantity is just right. 1 person said they wanted improvement in quality/cleanliness and the rest voted that the quality/cleanliness of the vegetables is what you expected. So, overall, it's a good result.

    I will send out another survey later in the year. It will be interesting to see the results at that time.

    If you have any further comments, please let me know. One idea is that we could have certain items available for additional purchase - a quasi farmer's market. For example, I know some people like a lot of lettuce - we could sell additional bags for those that eat a lot or if you're having a party, we could make additional items available. I know some people divide their share with multiple households so maybe this would be of interest.

    Thanks for your feedback!

    Friday, July 9, 2010

    Purslane & Welcome to Kristina

    First of all I'd like to welcome Kristina. She is a student with the Sustainable Ag. program at UofM and will be working here for the next few weeks as part of her work/study program. She started last week and is not afraid to tangle with the many weeds that have grown with this favorable weather. She is helping Dave, Sheryl and I to keep things moving. Thanks!

    Also, thanks to Kristina, we have purslane in the box for tomorrow's distribution. We'll also pick some for Wednesday's boxes. After that, we'll probably offer it as an optional item on the extras table. If you only pick up every other week and would like some, please let me know and I'll pick some for you. Anyway - Kristina has had this in the past and cooked up a panful for us for lunch today. We always try to eat some veggies so that we can all taste what we're growing. I had never had purslane. It's kind of like Lambs Quarter - yeah you can eat it, but why would you? Both are surprisingly excellent! Also, I've read quite a bit over the last few years that the plants that grow locally as "weeds" such as dandelion, purslane, lambs quarter, etc. contain many anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals which are very benefcial.

    Here's how to prepare it:
    1. Remove the purslane from the bag. Cut off the roots. Remove any hay that might be in there. Soak to clean.
    2. Cut up the stalks in 1 - 3" pieces. Use the whole stem - no need to take the leaves off of the stem. The stems are a bit crunchy but they're not woody.
    3. Preheat a skillet with a little oil. Add a bit of garlic or onions or both and saute.
    4. Add the cleaned and cut purslane.
    5. Sprinkle in a generous amount of salt and pepper.
    6. Saute until wilted and slightly darker green (maybe 6 - 10 minutes on med. heat).
    7. Serve.
    Very yummy - surprisingly. It's a bit like spinach and would probably be good in a stir fry. Enjoy!

    Here's what "On Food and Cooking - The Science and Lore of The Kitchen" (Harold McGee) has to say about purslane (by the way - this is an excellent book if you're interested in the technical side of food):
    "Purslane is a low-lying weed with fat stems and small thich leaves, which thrives in midsummer heat on neglected ground. It's a European native that has spread throughout the world. One nickname for purslane is pigweed, and the 19th century Englishman William Cobbett said it was suitable only for pigs and the French. But people in many countries enjoy its combination of tartness and soothing, mucilaginous smoothness, both raw in salads and added to meat and vegetable dishes during the last few minutes of cooking. There are now cultivated varieties with larger leaves shaded yellow and pink. Its qualities are similar to those of the cactus pad because both have adapted in similar ways to hot, dry habitats. Purslane is notable for its content of calcium, several vitamins, and an omega-3 fatty acid, linolenic acid."

    Here's another interesting excerpt from the same book: "Cactuses, purslane, and other plants that live in hot, dry environments have developed a special form of photosynthesis in which they keep their pores closed during the day to conserve water, then open them at night to take in carbon dioxide, which they then store in the form of malic acid. During the day, they use the energy from sunlight to convert the malic acid to glucose. Pads harvested in the early morning therefore contain as much as 10 times more malic acid than pads harvested in the afternoon. The acid levels in the pads slowly drop after harvest, so the difference is less apparent after a few days."

    Note: We harvested the purslane at around 2:30 in the afternoon.

    Thursday, July 1, 2010

    More On Insects & Plant Culture












    We took a few photos last week.

    Sunday, June 20, 2010

    Beneficial Insects/ our new employee, Sheryl

    We are now moving into the swing of the season. Most of the plants are in - we planted about 1000 feet of winter squash, cucumbers and summer squash in the past week. Much of it has been mulched - thanks to Anny and Trisha for helping out yesterday on on work day! We also laid about 1000' of row cover which will keep out the squash vine borer and the cucumber beetle as well as the flea beetle. The first two can kill the plants by either laying their larvae near the stem which then tunnels into the vine or by spreading a deadly virus. The flea beetle will suck the juices out of a seedling so that's also lethal. After about 42 days, we'll lift the row cover and let the pollinators move in and do their thing - resulting in fruit. By that time, hopefully, the plants will be strong enough to withstand the onslaught of the beetles and we will have the time to patrol the rows and watch for the borers, carefully cut them out, spray inside the stem with a little pyrethrin, and cover the wound with soil.

    We walk the potatoes every morning and evening, patrolling for potato beetles. Luckily we don't have too many. Maybe 3 - 7 plants per row will be infected. We squish the little ones and put the adults or huge larvae in a jar with soapy water. I don't want to spray these plants. They're supporting a nice bunch of flea beetles but they won't kill the plants. If the potato beetles take over, they will completely defoliate the plants. But, I see many many daddy long legs, lady beetles, hover flies, and predatory beetles. These are beneficial and we need to protect them to have balance in the garden. There's an occasional toad or tree frog. I even saw a lace wing today - a first. So I do everything I can not to spray or interfere chemically or even with neem oil or diatamaceous earth.
    If you can see it, this is a ladybug larvae eating an aphid. They look like mini-alligators. Note the orange spot on the back.

    That said, I'm getting ready to pull out something for the okra - it's getting attacked again by flea beetles and aphids and this is the second planting so if the seedlings take a dive again, it might be too late to re-plant so that will mean a lost crop. It's a balancing act.

    Sheryl joined me about a week and a half ago as our first employee. I am so pleased to welcome her and have her working with us. She's a student at Washtenaw and is thinking about pursuing a degree in nutrition at EMU. She has taken the Organic Gardening Certification classes offered through Washtenaw Community College and also has worked for a greenhouse for a few years. This is her first job working in the field and I think she likes it so far. It's tough work - sometimes tedious, often hard and hot and buggy. So if you have a chance to meet her, please thank her for her help.

    I have also been lucky to have the help of Ana - a volunteer that has been working regularly over the past 6 or 7 weeks. She recently retired from UofM and is volunteering at a number of places. She is originally from Romania so she brings perspective that I do not have and that I appreciate. She helped us plant potatoes, weed the onions, harvest the veggies Friday, and much more. She takes the bus to Scio Church and Maple, walks here, works for 4 - 6 hours, walks back to the bus stop, and goes home to, presumably, melt in the tub. She says she does it for selfish reasons - a work out - but I really appreciate it! Again, if you have a chance to meet her, please say thanks.

    More later. Please think about the wasps in your garden and household. They're voracious consumers of mosquitoes and other pests. Many lay their eggs into worms (parasitize worms) in order to reproduce. If you kill all of the "bad" bugs, the "good" bugs won't have anything to eat or a way to reproduce. Makes you wonder who the "other' is.

    Monday, June 14, 2010

    Garlic Scapes & reminder about Work Day

    Just when I told a member last week that the variety of garlic that we planted hasn't produced any scapes - here we go! This is new for us as we haven't grown garlic in this quantity before and have never cooked with the scapes.

    Diana Dyer and her husband have a garlic farm and she posted the following link which I'll share:
    http://www.ehow.com/how_2325835_use-garlic-scapes-shoots-recipes.html
    It gives some good ideas on how to use them. In addition, I hear garlic scape pesto is good but I haven't made it yet - I assume the recipe is the same as any other pesto but I'll have to check it out.

    Get ready - there's a lot of scapes to go around this week!

    Also - I removed the row cover from the summer squash that is in the east garden and the plants are blooming. It shouldn't be long before we have some zucchini and yellow squash! It's a shorter row so we won't get a lot at first but the second and third plantings will follow.

    Reminder: There is a work day scheduled for this Saturday from 12 - 4. Please let me know if you plan to stop over. It will go on, rain or shine, unless we have thunder and lightning.

    Sunday, June 6, 2010

    Rain, again

    Not to sound like a broken record, but we had almost 3" of rain last night. Fortunately, the tornado that hit Dundee did not roll through here and I don't think we had severe wind. The hoop is intact - there's evidence of a gully wash toward the entrance but that area isn't planted and all appears OK in there. The front garden was immersed in water - 3/4 of it at least. I was really worried about the garlic because it doesn't like standing water. The east garden had a few puddles but is OK. The west garden - from which we are eating currently - was covered 50% by water this morning. Much thanks to Victoria and Bob who brought over pumps! We've been moving water to the orchard much of the day. There's a lot of water so it will take some time. But the plants are not uprooted and it should work out. There is no standing water in the front garden now. Hopefully it will dry up and the garlic will be OK.

    I'm hoping that it will be dry enough for me to walk in there and harvest on Tuesday or Wednesday for this week's distribution. Today I went in barefoot - if you wear your boots or shoes, they just sink in the mud and it's twice as much work to walk than if you go barefoot. But, there are creepy crawly things in there and, when they swim alongside your toes, it's kind of surprising.

    If I can find our camera, I'll post pictures.

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010

    Distributions start this week

    Hi all -
    If you have not been receiving e-mails from me over the past few weeks, please let me know. I've sent out several related to a mini-distribution that we had last week along with some general info. re. pickups, etc. If you haven't received them, I need to add your name to the distribution list.

    The 2010 Capella Farm CSA season officially starts this week! I'm beginning to prepare the boxes now for tomorrow. Pick up is from 2 - 7 on Wednesday and 11 - 2 Saturday.

    I'll post more info. on the What's In The Box page.

    When you come, please check off your name on the list showing that you picked up your box and returned your box from the previous week. Again, some people find it easier to bring their own carrying case with which to take their produce home and they leave the box here. Up to you.

    See you soon!

    Monday, May 31, 2010

    Bees are Here

    On Sunday Judy Durfy brought over another hive and stocked both hives with bees. If I haven't told you, Judy and Randy Durfy are beekeepers and maintain about 10 or so hives which are placed on organic farms throughout the area. Last year they located a hive here and stocked it with Russian honey beess which are a bit smaller than their Italian cousins. Judy and Randy have a theory that, because the Russians are a bit smaller and build a smaller comb, they may be able to keep the thrips out which may increase longevity for the hive. We didn't get a chance to find out if they wintered over because apparently they did so well that they ran out of room and swarmed in mid-October.


    The workers will start to make honey immediately but until they do, Judy fills some boxes in the hive with sugar water so they have something to eat.

    This year Judy was planning to stock the two hives with another variety of bee. But, when one of her neighbors called to report that there were two swarms in her dwarf lilac at the base of her driveway, she changed her plan and sprung to action. She smoked the swarms and captured them in two boxes and brought them here the next day. She reports that there's a 50/50 chance that a captured swarm will swarm again but hopefully they'll stick around and our hives will be full and she'll be able to harvest a little honey. Another factor that impacts honey harvest is that when a new hive is set, they have to leave a certain amount of honey in the hive for the bees to feed on over the winter so many times they don't get a big harvest the first year. We'll see.

    Hannah looks on as Judy shows us the combs that the bees made last year. When that hive left they took all of the honey with them. So Judy left the combs for the new hive - a little less work that they have to do. If the combs were not here, the blanks would be there and the bees would get to work.


    We have a lot of bees in the area. If you get a chance to walk under one of the locust trees in the driveway, listen over-head. It almost sounds like a swarm - there are so many different types of bees working the trees now. Judy and Randy love our location as there are many locust trees, bass wood trees, and other pollen sources for tasty, clear honey. It's interesting to hear them refer to different types of honey - like buckwheat or locust or dandelion - and the value associated with each.

    Sunday, May 30, 2010

    Big Planting Weekend


    Memorial Day Weekend always marks the official start of the summer season here in our neck of the woods. It's the day most people use to mark the "last frost date". So, in veggie gardening, it's the day when you can safely plant out tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, beans, etc. I have pushed things a bit this year and planted many of these plants out 1 - 2 weeks ago. So, I thought I'd be in good shape before this day arrived. But alas, there was still much planting to be done.

    On Monday I planted a lot of beans - pole beans (snap) and a couple of types of dry beans. Wednesday was the mini-distribution. On Thursday we transplanted eggplant and covered it with row cover along with some of the cucurbits. The cover keeps the flea beetles off of the egg plant and the squash vine borer and cucumber beetle off of the summer squash and melons. We spent much of Friday and yesterday weeding the west garden. It's looking much better.

    We also transplanted many flowers that we had started in flats along with some that I purchased from Jana Field. This morning we worked on the potatoes - it takes time to till and hill all of those taters. I did find one potato beetle out there so soon we'll need to start regular sweeps of the patch and pick off those buggers. We broke up the hard pack around the tomatoes, beans and lettuce. We also planted many more flowers along with okra, the 4th planting of lettuce, New Zealand Spinach, and summer turnips. Most of the sunflowers are now in along with edible nasturtium and marigolds and the cutting flowers.

    The beans that were planted last Thursday are up and some of the beans planted Monday are already popping through - the next rain will really bring things along.

    We still need to get the strawberries in the ground along with the San Marzano tomatoes, many more peppers and more squash, melons and cukes.

    All is going well and we look forward to the start of distributions this week. If you want to check things out when you're here, please feel free to walk around.

    Sunday, May 23, 2010

    Recycling Opportunities

    Here's a list of items needed around here as well as ways you can help recycle and reuse the packaging you receive weekly:

    1. Every week you'll receive a box of produce. Please return the box the next time you pick up. They're pretty expensive to replace.
    2. There will be rubber bands and occasionally a wooden box containing tomatoes or other items. If you can return these that would be greatly appreciated, especially the pint sized wooden boxes.
    3. For those that like to shop/go to garage sales: I use a lot of stainless bowls to gather and wash items as well as display them. If you find any large stainless bowls in a thrift store for $2 - $5, or less, and can buy them, I'll buy them from you.
    4. We also accept egg cartons to use for our eggs.
    5. You probably don't need to return the plastic bags from your boxes.
    6. I might use pillow cases or sheets to keep the produce hydrated. If so, please leave that here when you pick up your box.
    7. If you have scraps, you can bring them for the chickens. No moldy food or citrus peels or any skins that aren't organic. Also no potato peelings or carrot peelings or other stringy stuff that isn't cooked. They can choke on stringy, fibrous peels. They love meat fat, meat, veggies, bread, dandelions, etc.

    If anyone has other recycling ideas, please share them! Thanks!

    Mini Box

    Hi there -
    Thanks to Julie, Maddie and Libby for coming out this afternoon! We weeded and covered the baby arugula, chinese cabbage and kohl rabi with row cover to protect them from the flea beetle.

    This week marks the first opportunity to buy a box of produce. Things are still maturing so we'll start the official CSA distributions next week, June 2 and 5. We have one more box available so if you're interested, please let me know. They're available for $20 and will be ready for pick up on Wednesday between 4 & 6.

    When you come to pick up, please enter using the east entrance (closest to Zeeb) and leave using the west entrance. Park in front or on the grass by the cement driveway. Please return your box the next week.

    The box will include:
    1. Nettles or lambs quarter
    2. Kale & buds
    3. Collards & buds
    4. Lettuce
    5. Salad mix including baby chard, arugula and beet greens
    6. Mustard Greens
    7. Herbs including chives, rosemary, thyme, lemon balm or mint
    8. An edible flower arrangement (flowering kale, chives and thyme)
    9. Maybe an iris

    Here's some info. on nettles:

    Nettles are rich in iron and are said to build blood. Peterson's Field Guide to Medicinal plants and Herbs says it is used as a "blood purifier," "blood builder," diuretic, astringent; for anemia, gout, glandular diseases, rheumatism, poor circulation, enlarged spleet, ... The leaves are approved in Germany for supportive treatment of rheumatism and kidney infections. Root preparations approved for symptomatic relief of urinary difficulties associated with early stages of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Unbelievable one plant could help with so much. We like them because they're tasty. Also, when you clean them, if you don't wear gloves, they stimulate blood flow to the fingers which helps with arthritis. It is also said that they're packed with antioxidants. Ways to use nettles:
    If the stems are in the bag, use them unless they're really woody. This goes for all distributions. Taste the stem (don't taste nettles without first cooking)and if it's sweet, cook it. You'll save time by not having to take the leaves off of everything and will have more to eat. If they are woody just take off the leaves. Wear gloves if you don't want to "get stung". Wash, spin in salad spinner and use as follows:

    1. Saute - they taste a little like oysters - really! They cook down a lot but one or two bites is still very very tasty and worth the effort.
    2. Drink in a tea - place a 3 or 4 leaves in a cup, steep for 5 minutes, and drink.
    3. Blanch, plunge in ice water, and then drain and make a pesto with them. I'll post a pesto recipe on the recipe blog.

    See you all soon.

    Thursday, May 13, 2010

    Rain & Crops



    As I posted last week, rain is on my mind. Over the past 7 days we've had 3.62 inches of rain. That's a lot. The good news is that I think the potatoes are OK. I dug up a few two days ago and they are growing. The leaves are just below the soil's surface so hopefully they'll pop up soon. The bad news is that there's some flooding in the west garden.


    On Tuesday, instead of watching the pond rise, I packed up the children and went to IKEA. I love that store for the design aspect of the furniture. I'm always trying to make too much stuff fit into a certain space so, space-saving designs are very appealing. Anyway, on the way, I watched the water. The fields which were freshly planted - parts of which were under water. The businesses with drainage ditches in front - some flowing, some not. But the new developments - they had well-sloping drainage ditches, with nice culverts directing the flow, all down hill, one after another for a good 1/2 mile, across a few older homes, all to a low spot where an older cape code sits. The house is back from the road and, at the time, the water hadn't reached the foundation but I think the owners probably needed a canoe to get to the front door.

    So now here we sit - water rising even though the rain has stopped. While I want to do everything I can to protect our crops, I don't want to make my problem someone else's by pumping it out to the ditch. So I decided to move some of the water around on our property. This morning I went out and bought a sump pump and some 1" PVC and I'm now pumping the water out to the orchard. Hopefully, a good amount will sink in and the trees will take it up. Some will wind its way slowly out to the ditch. A quasi rain garden, I guess. When the level is down enough so that the newly planted spinach, cabbage and chard is no longer under water, I'll stop the pump and let the rest of the water seep in naturally.
    The hoop house is rocking. I'm really happy that we took the time to trench the sides, add the drain tile and back fill with stone. Drainage is working and, to date, we haven't had any problems with excessive water in the hoop.
    Can you see the tomato buds forming?

    Of course, the goats don't mind the rain at all. They're happy to be out in the tall grass. Dave and I finally finished sectioning off part of the front pasture and hooking up the electric fence so that the goats could move out of the middle paddock. So watch out - the fence is back on. Make sure you ask which sections are hot. If you touch a live fence, it will hurt but you shouldn't be seriously injured. Still, it's not fun to be zapped.
    And that reminds me - Saturday I was opening up the hoop and the pole (which I tell everyone to avoid) came back and bopped me in the forehead. So, 3 sub stitches and 7 top stitches later, I now have a Potter-ish look. FYI.

    I still need to work on the share partner matches. With the weather as it has been, I'm tending to think that distributions will begin the first week in June instead of the last week of May. If things heat up, I might keep to the end of May but I'll let you all know.

    Friday, May 7, 2010

    Work Day Update

    Hi all - Last weekend we had a great turnout. Lori and Ana helped plant over 1800 feet of potatoes. Then on Saturday Kathy and John and Corina and Chris helped to transplant a lot of (maybe 500?) plants of chard and lettuce. Then on Sunday Jenny, Christine, Melissa, Marnie, Mary, Jeannie, and Sue helped with so many tasks - spreading chips in the orchard, pulling weeds in the garlic and pulling invasive garlic mustard and feeding both to the goats, transplanting more cabbage and beets, preparing beds in the hoop, etc. On Tuesday Kathy came back and we got 300' of spinach and 300' of carrots seeded. We also expanded the herb garden. I also planted some more arugula along with tatsoi, joi choi, various radishes and more spinach. So, many volunteers with so much accomplished. I really appreciate everyone's help.

    Today I took advantage of the rain and ran a bunch of errands. I finally made it to Selma Cafe - Jeff McCabe and Lisa Gottlieb host breakfast from their home every Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. (maybe 6:30?). The proceeds are then lent out to local farmers for hoop house erection - season extension. It's fantastic. Great music, homey atmosphere (it is their home) and all local and organically-grown food. Allie and Hannah enjoyed blueberry waffles and I had eggs and bacon and toast. We got there late - 9:30 - so they were out of asparagus and the other yummy current veggies. But it was still great to see so many entrepreneurs and supporters of local ag. After that was a whirlwind of other errands. If you're looking for any veggie seedlings make sure to get over to Dexter Mill - Jana Field supplies many of their seedlings. I've purchased from her for many years via the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market. I don't think she grows organically but she does a great job with offering huge variety and I don't think she grows any GMO seed. The Mill also has a beautiful selection of annuals and perennials. Also, Matthei is having their annual plant sale this weekend.

    Keep your energy focused on good drainage for the potatoes - may they pop out of the ground quickly.

    The end of May is approaching quickly. The plants are still small but a lot will happen in the next 3 weeks.

    I'll be working on matching half share members within the next week so you should receive an e-mail by next Thursday about who your partner will be.

    The worries of a farmer

    It seems like a lot of people wonder what day to day life is like here on the farm. What's it like to be a farmer. What's it like to do what we do on a daily basis. It's a lot of coordination and planning. It's a lot of communication and juggling. It's a lot of being flexible to changing your plan when rain comes, or doesn't, or plants have an attack of something, or the children need something. Right now, it's a little about worrying. As the growing season shifts into gear the worries of nature come back - hopefully not in a flood - but gushing back just the same. We planted potatoes last Friday. That night we had .3 inches of rain, the following night, 1.3 inches. Nothing significant since but today, 1.4 inches. So now I sit and think about those little potatoes that we so carefully prepared the ground for. We cut them into the right size. We hand dug each hole and made sure their eyes were up. We tucked them in at just the right depth. But, if the water sits there for just a bit too long, they'll rot before they can grow. We'll see. Hopefully in a few days their leaves will pop through and all will be fine. If not, it's early and we still have time to plant again.

    For all of the plants that have been planted, I have no worries. They're up and healthy. A few might succumb to wet conditions but, unless there's massive flooding, I'm really not worried at all. They look great.

    Thursday, April 29, 2010

    Potato planting & tour

    Hi all -
    I sent out an e-mail but for anyone not on the distribution list: We were planning to plant potatoes Sunday from 12-4 but the forecast calls for rain and thunder showers. So, we're moving the date up. If you can come out tomorrow, April 30 from 9 - 12 or 2 - 4, let me know. Otherwise, Saturday from 12 - 3. We'll still have a mini-work day on Sunday from 1:30 to 3:30 with a quick tour at 3:30.

    Besides potatoes we also have other crops to seed as well as some transplanting and mulching and, most likely, weeding under the row covers.

    If you do come, it's helpful to bring gloves.

    Let me know if you plan to be here so that I'm ready for you. Thanks!

    Saturday, April 24, 2010

    Naragansetts now pre-sold

    Update: The Naragansett turkeys are now pre-sold. We still have 11 White Hollands, 10 White Giants and 8 broad breasted bronze turkeys available. Some have asked whether they can let their friends know about our turkeys. Sure - they're for sale to anyone who wants local turkey.

    We will fill orders in the order received. We should know definitively about the # of turkeys that make it to market (Thanksgiving) about a month before so, if we're short, we'll let you know as much in advance as possible.

    Thanks!

    Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    Turkeys are Here

    White Hollands out for a stroll last fall.
    Turkey poults, 5 days old.

    Our little cuties arrived last Thursday and they're doing very well. Of 45 birds, we still have 44 and they look great. The first week is tenuous for baby turkeys - they're susceptible to pneumonia if it's drafty, they need to learn to eat and drink, the temperature must be consistent in the brooder. So, when we have a cold snap, it can be difficult for the equipment to keep up. But, the brooder that Dave and I built two years ago is working well. We found the design online and made a few modifications. It's basically a 4' x 4' piece of plywood, with 12" plywood sides and 2" x 4" legs that keeps the structure off the ground about 18". There are two heat lamps in it - one (or both) connected to a pancake thermostat which is adjustable to your temperature of choice. The interior is lined with sheet metal, to help decrease the risk of fire. Currently we have it sandwiched into a corner of the stall where we're keeping them and it's covered with a blanket so that it stays warmer and cuts out drafts. In a week or so, we'll probably be able to take away the blanket. If I'm remembering correctly, the design for this brooder says it will house 200 + baby birds. So, 45 is no problem. They run around and peck at things and eat and drink and sleep. Soon they'll be strutting and trying to fly.

    I input a table on our website which discusses the varieties and the price for each. Click on the page titled Our Poultry and you'll find a bit more info. To recap - we have White Hollands and Naragansetts, both heritage breed turkeys which are listed as threatened according to the ALBC, Broad Breasted Bronze, listed as study by ALBC, and White Giants which are the biggies used in commercial production.

    So far we've pre-sold 7 birds. The Naragansetts are going quickly. But there are still plenty available so let us know if you're interested in buying one.

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    Plants are growing!

    Hello all - I've been putting off posting until I have pictures but that might not happen soon so I thought I'd go ahead and provide an update:

    1. We've sold most memberships for this year. If you're still thinking about joining, please do so quickly. I will close it at 45 members and may take more in mid-June, after things are clicking along.
    2. Thanks to Keely Kaleski who came out a couple of weeks ago and helped plant for a bit. We formed nursery beds in the hoop house and got some chard planted. Thanks also to our neighbor, Tom, who has been working here part time for the past few weeks and took great care of our plants and animals while we went to South Carolina for a few days over Spring Break.
    3. In the west garden we have: Stuttgart onions, red onions, sugar snap peas, 2 types of carrots, 3 types of beets, chard, another 2 types of peas, early cabbage, early broccoli and, everyone's favorite, collards. In the hoop we have tomatoes, peppers and cukes along with nursery beds of 3 types of chard, broccoli, cabbage, a few lettuces, onions, shallots, a little summer squash, shallots, and, more kale. I always try to kid about the kale and collards but, honestly, these plants are huge producers of nutrient-rich greens. They grow quickly, are tolerant to fungus and bugs, winter over, produce broccoli-like buds, etc., etc. etc. We hope you will develop a strong affinity for these plants but we know it can take a while. One member bought a veggie juicer last year (the one that pulvarizes the veggies and you end up with a drink) and found just the right mix between apples or other fruits and leafy veggies that she had to have a veggie shake a day. Other members easily took to sauteing the greens and eating as a side dish. Others used them in quiches and froze them or made kale potato pancakes. Still others didn't eat them at all. That's OK. If that happens, just take whatever item it is out of your box and leave it on the extras table and take something from that table. As the season goes on, more and more will be on that table - blemished tomatoes or peppers or huge zucchini or extra greens or strange pumpkins or extra herbs. It all evens out in the end and there's no need to take something that you don't want.
    3. The last 2 days have been big work days here. We have been fortunate to have Matthew and Molly working and they'll work again tomorrow. Both have worked on farms in California - Molly growing basil and peppers and other specialty crops and Matthew working on a few veggie CSA/market farms. I met Matthew at the Local Food Summit. They will be moving to northern Michigan on Saturday to begin a care-taker/farmer position at a farm. So, one more day of information sharing and lots of work. The tomatoes are staked in the hoop house, more veggies are planted, tomatoes have been potted up, flowers are in flats, etc. Things are moving here.
    4. A few suggestions re. kitchen equipment. If you don't have a salad spinner, you might want to buy one. I find that, for all of the salad greens along with the leafy veggies, a salad spinner is very helpful to prepare meals more quickly. Also, a cuisinart is very helpful. This will allow you to make quick pestos with the basil or mustard greens. I also use it in food preservation quite a bit - especially with relishes or green tomatoes. Also with salad dressings, etc. etc. etc.
    I know there's more but I'll post more later along with pictures.

    Don't forget - May 2 for potato planting from 12 - 4. We'll have a quick tour at 3:30 if you're interested in seeing the farm.

    Monday, March 22, 2010

    The Hoop House is Up!



    Drum Roll, please....we have plastic! The weather cooperated this weekend and we were able to stretch and secure the plastic on our 16' x 96' hoop house. Much thanks to our neighbor, Douglas Madaras, builder extraordinaire, who spent a few days here over the past two weeks and my father, Merlin, who helped dismantle this in the fall and re-set it this spring. It's not 100% complete but is very close. I'm going to go to the Habitat Store today to look for some screen doors to add and we need to put up some aluminum along the bottom foot to keep out the air (or plastic) but other than that, we're in business. Dave even got in there yesterday with the tiller. I'll set out some tomato plants in mid-April and will be planting some cold weather plants in there soon.

    By the way - planting in the field will be going on this week and next. If anyone has time during the day and wants to get into the dirt, let me know. I'll be out there working.



    Here are some photos of the peppers and tomatoes that have now been transplanted into 3" pots. Many more to plant - tomatoes, eggplant, flowers, etc.

    Sunday, March 7, 2010

    Genetically Modified Food

    OK - so they said it would solve hunger world-wide. We'd be able to grow more, more effeciently, with less inputs. The FDA would protect us, right? Unbelievable.

    Dave and I attended the Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance Conference yesterday and heard from Jeffrey Smith, author of "Seeds of Deception" and "Genetic Roulette" among other books. I can't spend a lot of time writing right now but, suffice it to say, GMO is bad. It causes: 1. 55% mortality rate in fetal rats, 2. Dramatic increases in allergy rates, 3. Blue balls in rats. The gene is passed through the food to your intestinal tract. It continues to survive there.

    Will write more later but, please please please, try to buy non-GMO food. This relates to corn, soy, even sugar. Ask the manager at the store if they can stock n0n-GMO food. Buy organic, if you can, as GMOs are prohibited in organic growing.

    If we can get 5% of the nation to do this, maybe we can be successful with getting the producers to notice that this is an important point to consider. Europe did it - they now have labeling and GMOs are not allowed. We can do it too!

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    2010 Veggie List

    Hello all - I've updated the vegetable list on the website. These are the seeds that have arrived thus far. I know there will be a few others - like some Cherokee Trail of Tears Black Beans (an ARK variety) and another variety of onions and lettuce.

    We haven't made any progress on the hoop house. Not surprisingly, with the snow last week, no one volunteered to come over. I don't think we could have gone out there anyway. Maybe we could try to work on the hoop house Sunday, March 14. Let me know if you're available.

    This weekend is the Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance Conference. Dave and I will both attend on Saturday - should be a good one.

    Yesterday was the Local Food Summit at the School of Natural Resources in Ann Arbor. What an excellent event filled with so many local farmers and community members committed to promoting local food. Here's an excerpt from an article from Ann Arbor.com:

    "The Local Food Summit continues today in the Dana Building on campus, where the discussions that started last night will continue in breakout sessions and committees. The goal of this summit is to work toward The 10% Campaign - a push to increase the percentage of locally-grown food in Washtenaw County. Today, county residents source less than 1 percent of the food they eat locally, but organizers hope that their efforts will be able to increase that to 10 percent, resulting in over $90 million “in new direct economic activity.”"

    Sunday, February 21, 2010

    First Work Day & Hoop House


    Hi there - here's to the enthusiasm of new members! Robin & Steve and Erin & Ben came over last Saturday for a tour and to lend a hand. Robin, Erin, Hannah & I planted 7 flats of tomatoes, peppers, and broccoli. The guys worked on trying to ream out the posts for the hoop house. After 3 hours of: trying to pound out the clay with a sledge; going home for a power washer and attempting to hook it up with frozen hoses; trying to ream them out with a paddle drill; they finally stopped, after clearing 2 of approx. 50 pipes. The next day: Dave borrowed Mike's (Stadium Hardware) hammer drill and dropped it; tried to fix it, took it back; rented a small jack hammer from A-1; the two of us jack hammered away for about 2 more hours and cleared maybe 3 more pipes. Finally, Dave went to Bob's who pulled out the right tool and Dave cleaned out the rest in about 2 hours. So, that job done, we were ready to erect the hoop house.


    Now everyone who has been around for awhile knows how excited I've been to get to this job. We thought it might happen in October or November but Thanksgiving was around the corner and most of you also know that around that time, I do every job to the house that has been delayed throughout the year - paint, mud walls, hang ceiling fixtures - whatever. So, the hoop house was on delay. Then the freeze came. Then I came up with a machine that would supposedly do the trick even if the ground was frozen. No time. So, with winter break upon us, we set the goal of erecting the house. With two new members volunteering to come out, I thought it would be helpful if Dave could get some help with those pipes. It started the ball rolling on Saturday. Finally, on Friday we went out to set our corner posts. 4 corners in. 2 so damaged from using the make-shift pipe insert which was supposed to "protect" the pipe that they will probably need to be cut in order to accept the hoops. So, we had to call the factory. It's been a long time since I've called a factory where the first person I speak with can actually answer a question - even longer still that the person can walk over to the "Manager of Installation" - who's on a machine in the plant and has to come down to talk - to confirm that what she's telling me is correct. Jaderloon, folks - if you need a greenhouse, give them a call. They took about an hour out of their day to ship us 2 $10 parts. So, end of story, they sent us the proper post driver and we have now erected 13 hoops and only have about 9 more to go. Woo hoo! There's a lot more to go before we can get the plastic up and secured but hopefully it will be done in 2 -3 weeks, in time to move the seedlings out and get things moving.



    So, for anyone who has thought about coming out to help, please give a shout. I'll figure out a job to do and it will be one that needs to be done and you will help move things along. Thanks again Robin, Erin, Steve & Ben.

    Friday, February 12, 2010

     
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    Sandy had 3 kids today! Nathan, Grandpa Gerry, and I helped in the delivery. All are standing, nursing and seem well. Now we're just waiting for Dixie to deliver.

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010

    2010 Turkeys




    When I first started researching the cost of heritage breed turkeys, I was surprised to see them for sale at $7.50 - $10/pound. How can that be when you can go to the market and buy them for $0.39/lb before Thanksgiving? Are they crazy? Now, after raising them and actually accounting for the costs, I understand. We raised Naragansett turkeys 3 and 4 years ago. Before that we raised Broad Breasted Bronze. We had one tom B.B.B. which dressed out at 38 lbs! He was fully mature (about 2). The 6 - 8 month birds were between 18 & 25 lbs. The Naragansetts (heritage breed) dressed out between 14 & 22 lbs. at around 7 or so months. Not bad. This past year we purchased 7 Blue Slate and 10 White Hollands, also both heritage breeds. Now, most people know that I'm all for raising animals that are sustainable. I like the goats because they are healthy, require less land to graze, make it to market relatively quickly, etc. It is said that the heritage breed turkeys can forage nicely, can reproduce naturally, and aren't as inbred as some of the "commercial" breeds, thus may have fewer health problems. I don't know what happened, but of the 7 Blue Slates, only 1 made it to market. Of the 10 White Hollands, 7 made it. The Blue Slates were weak from the start, lost eyesight, and were not very adventurous. So, we won't order them again. The White Hollands did well. But, in the end, they dressed out at a max of 15 lbs for the toms and 8 for the hens. It costs approx. $10/chick. Processing is $7.50/bird. So, as you can see, it's impossible to sell a bird for about $2/lb. when they are so small. If you add in solely the cost of feed, it cost us $5.89 to raise 8 turkeys this year. I sold them for $4.50/lb because I had told people that would be the approx. cost (which it would have been if they had reached a higher weight). So, we had 2 turkeys for Thanksgiving. If I subtract out the gross proceeds from the costs, the result is that our 2 turkeys cost us $226 or $7.63/pound. Of course, the labor and overhead are not factored into any of this. So, I now understand why some people are charging $7.50 - $10 per pound for turkey. I will say that the taste of White Holland is the best we've had - they were tender, juicy and excellent. Those of you who bought the birds this year might want to comment (there were only 3 people) individually but I heard comments that concurred that these were the best tasting turkeys ever. All of this said, I realize that not all people can afford meat at $6/pound. So we'll raise some of the giants. Their feed conversion ratio is higher than the heritage breeds - they're too heavy to fly so they don't expend as much energy as others. Since they grow larger, we can charge less per pound. We realize that we can't offer birds at $0.39/lb. but we hope to be able to offer healthy meat at a price point that is affordable, thus sustainable.

    What happened in 2009?
    • We ordered 2 breeds that looked cool. There is quite a bit of info. out there on the White Holland. But we couldn't find much on the Blue Slate. I think there's a reason for that - sometimes people don't raise certain breeds because they just don't do well. So, we won't buy Blue Slates again.
    • We "pasture raised" the birds. What does this mean? Dave built a very nice enclosure for them and we put them out in the goat paddock. It has a corrugated roof and is made from ash slab wood from our forest. It's surrounded by poultry wire. Every 3 days or so, he went out and moved the pen so that the birds would have fresh grass and a fresh supply of bugs. When we could, we let them out for exercise. They'd spend 3 - 4 hours walking around - flying up on the roof, looking at themselves in the windows, pooping all over the place. Our neighbor did her best to keep them out of her flowers - it's kind of like shooing away a squirrel from a feeder - they just keep coming back. Turkeys love to look at themselves so they're drawn to doors and windows at the house. The dog likes to bark at them. It's all very amusing if you can keep your sense of humor. Every once in awhile we'd have to go out and herd them back from the road or out of our other neighbor's garden (she doesn't really like turkey peck marks in her tomatoes). If they get into the lettuce, forget it! We didn't clip their wings so they could go anywhere. Before dinner, we'd have to herd them back to their enclosure.
    • One Saturday morning Dave went out to let them out for their weekend walk and 4 were dead. A raccoon had found them and the birds had stuck their heads through the enclosure in an attempt to escape. So that was bad. He reinforced the enclosure with smaller wire so that they couldn't stick their heads through and we didn't have another occurrence. But, we're always mindful of the risk of predators. It's said a weasel will finish off a whole flock; we hear the coyotes at night; the hawks circle the chickens during the day. We try to keep losses to a minimum but realize that we are part of nature.
    • One turkey looked to the sky a bit too long during a rainstorm.
    • One turkey walked into the woods never to return (a Blue Slate, of course).
    • And 3 chicks died within 3 days of delivery - two Blue Slates (we did receive a refund for those).
    So, that's the turkey tale of 2009.

    What's up for 2010?
    • I wonder about letting the birds out. I know that they'd gain weight faster if they weren't flying around and using their energy to spar with each other for the attention of the hen (the toms start this at about 10 days old - strutting around, looking all puffed up). But, they also wouldn't be as happy. When they're out, they cluck and chat and goof off. Quality of life vs. quanity.
    • We're going to raise 4 types of birds this year. The White Hollands will be $6/lb., Naragansetts will be $4.50 (or maybe 4), Broad Breasted Bronze about $3.25/lb. and White Giants $3. Maybe the giants will be less but they won't be more. Again, the larger breeds are generally huge. We like this especially for ground turkey - it's much easier to get a good amount of ground meat from one large turkey than 3 small ones.
    • Maybe we'll save 3 hens and a tom so that we can raise our own chicks next year. We tried to hatch 9 turkeys 2 years ago and only 3 made it out of their shell. They were cute and lived in with the goats. They would hitch a ride with the goats. One day, the hen got under a goat's foot. So we were left with 2. Anyway, we had fun letting the chicken hens rear their chicks last spring and I've read that people have good luck with turkey poults in this manner so maybe we'll give it a try.
    If you'd like to reserve a turkey for this fall, please let me know - tell me if you want a heritage breed, the approx. size bird you'd like, send a $10 deposit per bird, and I'll write you down. The deposit is refundable if we don't get a bird to you. They will arrive the week of March 22 and will be processed before Thanksgiving (hopefully 3 - 5 days before).