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Market Season Begins!

June 5, 2018
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One of our new NOVOgen girls.

Just a few posts ago, I was writing about the end of last year’s Kenton Farmer’s Market and here we are, the beginning of this year’s market season! Where does the time go?

This spring we have been doing our usual things: waiting for the rain to stop, planning, seeding, prepping the fields and planting. Now, we harvest the bounty from our work.

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The Bethel Farm Stand

Last Saturday, we opened our farm stand, just down the road from our farm. It is a pretty small affair, but we have enjoyed meeting our neighbors. You can find us with produce from our farm on Saturdays, from 10 am to 2 pm, in front of the Bethel Community Church, at 7575 Bethel Rd. in Rickreall.

Tomorrow starts the Kenton Farmers Market. We are excited to be back for our second year and are looking forward to seeing familiar faces and meeting new ones.

Here are some of the highlights of the winter and spring on the farm:

Work on the packing barn (formerly called the pole barn) continues. Being a civil engineer who worked on sewers/storm water, the first project for Steven was the drainage/storm water management system. Then, he perfected his construction skills by building out the interior of our new packing barn. He framed the walk in cooler rooms, bathroom and space for the wash area. He did some work to facilitate the electrical service installation and we now have electricity! The rest will have to wait until work in the field slows down and he can slip away, back into the packing barn.

We have a new flock of hens. In mid-February, we picked up a new flock of laying hens from Jenks Hatchery in Tangent. We went with the NOVOgen Brown Egg Layers again, because they are calm, friendly and productive. We bought thirty hens, but we noticed fairly quickly that one was different. Instead of the orange/red color, it was white. For quite a while, we thought maybe it had a little more Leghorn than the others, or was some aberration. After a few months, we started thinking, could this be a rooster? Not too long ago, we got our confirmation, when it started crowing. We learned that sex-link chickens are not foolproof.

In April, we had our inspection for organic certification. It was earlier than in previous years, which was nice for us. It is a little more hectic to have the inspection in the middle of the summer. All went well, and our organic certification continues.

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Celeriac seed is very small, or I have a huge hand.

We also refurbished one of our hoop houses in April. We took off the plastic and let the rain wash through the soil. Salts built up and needed to leach away. Our peppers won’t have to contend with high sodium levels for a while!

We are entering a new market this season. A few weeks ago, we heard that the Salem Farmers Market was starting a new market in West Salem. We thought it would be great to be in a market so close to home. So, we applied and got in! The market will be on Thursdays, 10 am to 2 pm, starting in July.

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Our artichokes survived the winter for the first time!

Lastly, we got some new phones and got ourselves on Instagram! We’re a little late on the scene, but we thought we would give it a try. If you’d like to see what’s going on (we only have a few posts so far…we are just beginning) you can find us here: bethel.springs.farm

It is going to be a busy year, but we are looking forward to all the good food on its way!

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Who doesn’t love a beautiful bed of spinach?

October

November 12, 2017
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Fall color on a persimmon tree

October was a good month for the farm this year. We are so glad it was not like last year, when the rain started and never stopped. Sure, there was rain this year, but there were more glorious, sunny days. The fall leaf colors were amazing. Down here, with the vineyards all around us, the hills were covered in gold.

With our good weather luck, we were able to finish the harvests that we really wanted to: dry beans, winter squash, persimmons. We still have potatoes to dig, and we’ll get what we can, but if we don’t get them all, that will be okay.

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Spring oats cover crop growing in field F

The fields were dry enough that we could till under the summer crops and seed them in cover crop. Seeing a field of cover crop germinating in the fall makes a farmer very happy. The last two fields were seeded late, at the very end of October/beginning of November, which is about two weeks later than it really should be done. But, maybe we’ll be lucky and it will germinate and grow.

Also that last week of October, we planted the garlic and mulched it. Since we had small heads of garlic from our harvest this year, we invested in new garlic for seed. We went with two old favorite varieties: Chesnok Red and Inchelium Red; and two new-to-us ones: Lorz Italian and Music. We are keeping our fingers crossed we’ll have a good harvest next year.

This past week, we shelled the dry beans. We are still in love with the bean sheller we bought last year. We had a lot of dry beans this year, so it took a few days to get the shelling done. (The daylight doesn’t last long anymore.) We have our three main varieties ready to go (Black Turtle, Rockwell and Rosso di Lucca), and will have some new ones to try soon.

Unless the weather is awful, we are going to have the farm stand one more Saturday (November 18). If you need any vegetables for your Thanksgiving dinner, we’d love to help you out! It will be from noon to 4 pm, Saturday, November 18, in front of the Bethel Church at 7575 Bethel Rd. We’d love to see you there!

Last Kenton Farmer’s Market for 2017

October 4, 2017
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Bethel Springs Farm at the last Kenton Farmers Market for 2017

Last Wednesday was the last Kenton Farmer’s Market for 2017. We enjoyed being at the market this year, as we have connections to North Portland. Steven grew up near Killingsworth and Interstate and attended Ockley Green. I taught at Beach Elementary School for 13 years. Steven’s parents live near Columbia Park. While we moved a distance away to farm more land, it feels good to come back to the neighborhood. We want to thank everyone who came to the market. It was great to meet you and chat, when we had the chance. We appreciated the opportunity to grow vegetables for you. We hope to see you again and get to know you better next year!

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Red and orange sweet peppers, off to Life Source and Roth’s West Salem grocery stores in Salem

Our farm stand, Bethel Farm Stand, is open now on Saturdays from noon to 4 pm. It is a half mile north of our farm, at 7575 Bethel Rd, Rickreall, OR 97371 (a mile or so east of 99W). As long as the weather holds, we’ll keep it open through October….the weather forecast looks good for the next two Saturdays! If you are missing Bethel Springs Farm vegetables and are in the area, we hope you’ll stop by!

Meanwhile, back at the farm, we are still working on getting all the dry beans harvested. We are thankful for a few more days of dry weather and hope they hold on until we are done. The pole barn is almost finished now. The concrete floor was poured and the rest of the sides are up. Just the big, vehicle doors are left. Parts are ordered and they should be installed in another week and a half. We may start storing a few things before it is done!

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You never know what you might dig up (a Yaya carrot)

Big Harvests

September 26, 2017
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The bees are still hard at work harvesting, too.

Late summer and early fall is the time for big harvests. Even though we harvest all season (and sometimes even all year), August, September and October are the months to bring in crops for winter storage. We squeeze in big harvests whenever we can, amid all the regular harvesting and other work.

First up was onions. (Garlic was really the first one, but that happened in July, so I don’t count it here.) We started a bit late, the second week of September, with pulling the remaining Walla Walla sweet onions out of the field. The next week, we tackled our New York Early yellow storage onions. Finally, this week, we finished off with the Rosa di Milano red storage onions and Ed’s Red Shallots. They are all safely in the hoop house, finishing curing/drying down for winter storage. This has been a great onions year for us, with our biggest harvest ever. We dug up more than 850 lbs of New York Early onions alone. I think we’ll have enough for the winter.

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Rosso di Lucca beans

In between the onions, we started in on the dry beans. This year, we got them in the ground earlier than in the past, so they have been ready to pick sooner. Our niece and her friends helped us out with the Rockwell beans a few weeks ago. They are no longer OSU students, but now OSU alumni. Sadly, I forgot to take a picture of the crew. Last weekend, we worked on the Rosso di Lucca beans, before the rain. It was such a productive crop, we couldn’t finish it. We planted the same amount as the Rockwells, and even without finishing, we had harvested more than twice as much. That same weekend, we harvested a new variety, that we had just a little bit of. We’ll sample this variety and will save  a good portion of it for next year’s seed. Yesterday, Steven and I knocked out another new-to-us variety, Kenearly Yellow Eye. We were a little disappointed with the yield on this one, so we’ll have to see if the taste is worth it.

We still have winter squash, potatoes, carrots and assorted other crops, some of which are not ready to bring in yet. Time/manpower and storage space are limiting factors for us. By next year, the storage issue should be resolved with our new pole barn. It is getting closer to completion. The roof and two walls are up now. The concrete floor is scheduled for Thursday this week. Even though we  won’t have the storage rooms built out, we’ll still use the dry, insulated space for winter squash, potatoes and onions. Once the storage rooms are built, we’ll only have to solve the time problem…

 

Off Kilter

September 5, 2017
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The sun shining through the smoky haze today.

Summer seems a bit out of sorts these days. We’ve had a lot of hot days, enough to cancel the Kenton Farmers Market once and the Bethel Farm Stand once. We had a total solar eclipse. And now there are forest fires spreading smoke far and wide, giving the days a hazy, humid, erie glow. We are waiting to hear if the Kenton Farmers Market will be canceled for a second time tomorrow, due to the poor air quality from the smoke. (Just got word that the market is on.) Maybe these things aren’t really that unusual, but they are leaving me feeling a little off kilter.

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You’d think I had caught all the flea beetles on this sticky trap (and about 49 others), but no, there were still more.

As we have been harvesting and taking care of summer vegetables, we work on the fall/winter vegetables, too. We’ve been planting things out in our fall field since June, with a big push in August to get most things in, and most are in now, working on growing into our future harvests. We had a big disappointment when a crush of flea beetles descended on our cabbage and Brussels sprouts starts. Some flea beetles were already on the starts before I put them out. Once in the field, they invited all their friends over. They have a lot of friends and they were all hungry. We made some interventions, but, alas, to no avail. The flea beetles ate our cabbage and Brussels sprouts until nothing was left. I have never seen so many flea beetles. The kale is out there now, holding down the fort. The flea beetle numbers are down, and I am keeping my fingers crossed the kale will outgrow their appetites.

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The impact sprayer at work.

With the help of Saffron Supply Company in Salem, we have a new way to irrigate our fields. Cover crops are an important part of our soil improvement plan. We have only planted them in the fall, when the rain waters them. Now, we can provide overhead irrigation to half of a field at once with an impact sprayer. It is a bit late for summer cover crops this year, but we don’t have to wait for fall rains to put in our winter cover crops and we are set to go for next year. This will be a big help in building our soil quality.

WP_20170903_002The pole barn keeps making progress. This week, the crew is off again, but Steven has work to do, to get some plumbing in place before they pour the concrete floor.

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We found this guy in the parsley today.

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Lots of bees in the corn…can you find them?

Flying By

August 22, 2017

The summer is flying by in a blur. We have been harvesting, weeding, harvesting, planting, and harvesting some more. Fortunately, we were able to watch the total solar eclipse right here on the farm. The natural world never ceases to amaze me. I am already thinking we should travel to northern California for the total eclipse in 2044.

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Steven and Carmelle made some signs for the farm stand

We opened a farm stand down the road from our farm this past weekend. It was our farmers market stall set up at the old Bethel College sight, half a mile north of us. Thanks to all who stopped in!

WP_20170817_007The pole barn is progressing, but the builders will be on another project this week.

Carmelle with beets

Carmelle with beets

Carmelle is heading back to Colorado this week. We are sad to see her go, but so thankful for the time we had with her. Here are some pictures Carmelle took during her time on the farm:

Shiro plums

Shiro plums

Field J

Field J

Hot! Hot! Hot!

August 8, 2017
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We let the volunteer sunflowers stay in the beans.

I don’t really need to tell you, but it has been hot here the past few weeks. Last week, we were over 100 degrees for about 4 days, with a high of 110 for a few minutes on Thursday. This week it has been in the 90’s and there are still a few days  to go before it cools down a bit further.

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A nice harvest of Matina tomatoes.

The heat can be hard on the vegetables, but we keep them well watered and the heat ends up harder on us than the plants. Plants are pretty resilient, but it did take its toll on the mature lettuce and it can be difficult to germinate new lettuce in high temperatures. I have a new trick to soak the seeds in water overnight to get the germination going. It has been working pretty well. We were more worried about our chickens, but we put a sprinkler in their pasture to help cool the air around them (they don’t like to be wet much). With the high daytime temperatures, we also had some warmer nights. While we still had a few nights in the 50’s, some nights were warmer, and that means the plants got a little extra growth spurt overnight. We had some good harvests of cucumbers, beans, squash and tomatoes. Yes, tomatoes! Our refrigerator has been working extra hard to keep cool, what with the warmer temperatures outside and warmer vegetables coming in.

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The poles for the pole barn are going up!

The site for our new pole barn is ready and building started this week, with setting the poles for the barn. We’re excited to have this space that we have been thinking about for four years, finally coming into being!

New Farm Hand

July 25, 2017

WP_20170725_001Our niece, Carmelle, arrived this past weekend for a month long stay to help on the farm. She flew in from Colorado, and we are very excited to have her here, as we don’t get to see her too often. (If any of our other nieces and nephews are reading this, we would be excited to have you come, too, no matter how often we get to see you.) We are going to do our best to fill her time with all kinds of farm activity and see if we can peak her interest in agriculture (no pressure, though!).

There was some other excitement this week, in the start of a long awaited project: a new packing shed/storage pole barn. We’ve been planning to build a packing shed (a place to wash, pack and store the vegetables) since we moved here and it has begun! This week, the site was cleared and is being prepared. It will be a few more weeks before the building starts to go up, but is scheduled to be completed by mid September. We’ll work on the build out of the inside, which will make it a long term project.

Around the farm, we finished the garlic harvest, planted out more lettuce, seeded more crops for fall and have started harvesting plums and potatoes. The field cucumbers are starting to produce now and the field beans aren’t far behind. There has been some heat this week, with a few of the warm nights that really help things grow. The farm is moving, full steam ahead!

Garlic Harvest and Other Things

July 18, 2017
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The potatoes are looking fabulous

We started harvesting our garlic this past weekend. It feels late this year, compared to the last two years, when we harvested over the 4th of July holiday. Those were early years, this year is pretty much on time. We harvested the Inchelium Red and Chesnok Red garlic, and still have the Nootka Rose to go. The harvest was a bit disappointing, because the heads were very small. I am not even going to post a picture of them. We had quite a bad case of rust in the garlic and while the rust doesn’t damage the cloves themselves, it does stunt the plants, often resulting in smaller heads. Oh well, you win some, you lose some. This will not be the year of the garlic. Maybe it will be the year of the potato, because our plants are looking better than ever. I think we’ll take a peek under the dirt this weekend and see how the spuds are sizing up.

In other activity this week, we got the second round of sweet corn planted, along with the leeks and a second planting of summer squash/zucchini. I am trying out a new variety of sweet corn, called Double Red, from Adaptive Seeds. Red sweet corn! I am anxious to see how it will turn out and how it will taste. I’ve had some melons waiting to be planted in a hoop house, and I cleared out some space for them in the new hoop house. The zucchini we had in there became monsters. They were hard to harvest from and had grown over everything around them. The field zucchini are producing well now, so it was time to take them out and put in the melons. I hope they will have enough time to mature…if the summer stays warm and the fall is nice, they could just make it. Being in the hoop house will definitely help! One of the things that slows down growth is cold temperatures at night. We often have nights in the 40s during the summer. You’d be amazed at how much more plants will grow, and fruits mature, at night if the temperatures are in the 50s and even more if they stay in the 60s. It can be impressive. Keep your fingers crossed for some warm nights, a long fall and melons!

Catching Up

July 11, 2017
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some freshly weeded dry beans.

Not having grown up on a farm,  gone to school to study agriculture or even worked on someone else’s farm, there is a lot of  farming vocabulary to learn. Cultivate is one of those words. When I look it up in the dictionary, it says: 1. to prepare or prepare and use for the raising of crops; to loosen or break up the soil around growing plants 2. to foster the growth of.

When I hear other farmers talk about cultivation, they are talking about loosening or breaking up the soil around growing plants, with the intent to kill or disturb the weeds growing around the plants, which does, in turn, foster the plants’ growth. I want to refer to our methods of weed control as cultivation, and often it is. But, a lot of times, we are just plain pulling weeds. That is what we did a lot of over the weekend. This is crunch time for weed control…if we didn’t catch them early. Steven started us off last week, working on the green/snap beans. Then he worked through the sweet peppers.  This weekend, we spent a lot of time on our dry beans. We doubled our dry bean planting this year, and we got through a lot of it, but still have a little more to go. Once this weeding is done, they really shouldn’t be a problem in those beds for the rest of the season, as the plants are big enough to shade out small weeds. After the beans, we have a few other areas to hit. If we can work our way through this, we’ll be in good shape, at least for a little while!