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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?

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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!

Moving into Summer

July 4, 2017
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The corn is almost knee-high by the fourth of July

The beginning of July is a time of transition between spring and summer crops on the farm. The spring crops are slowly dropping out of production as it gets hotter and hotter and the summer crops are slowly coming on board, as they expand into the warmth of the sun. The peas are done for the season, but it won’t be long until snap beans are ready. I saw the first tiny bean on a plant in the hoop house. I’m glad I went with my spur of the moment decision to sow a row of beans there back in May.

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Provider beans on the way

Our lettuce varieties are transitioning, too, to varieties that can take a  little more heat. There’ll be more leaf lettuce, crisp varieties (perfect for BLTs) and romaine lettuce. Soon there will be BLTs and Greek salads: the first cucumbers are sizing up and one tomato is just barely starting to turn pink. I am so very thankful for our new hoop house! Without it, we would be waiting quite a bit longer for these summer crops.

This week, we got the potato field cleaned up and Steven started working on the field beans (snap and dry beans). The tomatoes got a little attention this week, with some pruning and trellising. I planted more flowers out amidst the winter squash, to help bring beneficial insects into the field and to feed the soul.

The barn swallow babies are venturing out of their nests and we can hear the barn owl baby screeching in the evenings. This is their transition time, too: out of the nest and on their own. Even though I am looking forward to what comes next, on the other side of  the transition, I want to make sure I enjoy what we have right now.