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.