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Finally!

June 5, 2017
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Getting started in the first field.

It seemed to take forever this spring, but we were finally able to get out into the fields in May. While we were waiting for the rain to stop, we did finish (mostly) the new hoop house. Steven, with the help of his dad, put up the frame. Then, the three of us pulled up the plastic. I wasn’t sure we would be able to do it, and it did take a while, but we got it up. I started planting in it as soon I could.

We are experimenting with a new fertility program, based on a book called The Ideal Soil v. 2 by Michael Astera. Steven put together a really complicated and totally awesome spreadsheet to take our soil test results and calculate what nutrients we need to add to the soil to balance the minerals and give the micro-organisms and plants what they need. We are implementing the plan in our hoop houses this year and will see how things go. So far, we think it is working great.

We bought another new tool this spring to help us with our dry beans. This year we are planting out just over a quarter acre of dry beans, continuing with our favorite varieties and trying some new ones, too. We got a Jang TD-1 seeder to help us plant the bean seeds. Steven started seeding the beans last week, and we still have a few more to go. The weather got a little cooler right after he did some seeding, but hopefully we’ll get some good germination anyway. Then we’ll know how this seeder performed. We expect it will take some experimentation and tweaking to get it just right.

This week we are starting up at the Kenton Farmers Market. It is on Wednesdays, from 3 to 7 pm, at N McClellan and N Denver. We’ve been getting all the last minute details  taken care of and I think we are ready. We are very thankful for the hoop houses…without them, we wouldn’t have any vegetables ready yet! If you can, we hope you’ll come and see us there!

 

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Patience

April 6, 2017
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I gave the tomatoes a little room to grow this week.

It was a sorely needed stretch of dry weather this past week. Not the most beautiful dry weather, with maybe two or three days of sunshine spread out amidst the overcast days. It wasn’t even completely dry, with some drizzly rain falling occasionally, but nothing measurable. Still, we were so thankful to have it. Our soil made progress drying out, but it was not enough to get us into the ground. Our soil is a silty clay loam, which is good for holding nutrients, but not so good for draining winter rains. Farms with sandy loams or other well draining soils did get into the ground and started planting, but we continue to wait. It is hard to be patient with so little dry weather this spring, but we know it is best for our soil. If we tried to work our fields now, we would end up with hard lumps of compacted soil that nothing would want to grow in. We are practicing patience while the propagation hoop house fills up.WP_20170404_003

We did use the dry weather to get started on a long overdue project: a new hoop house. This week, we set our ground posts/foundation legs in concrete. Or, I should say, Steven set our ground posts. I helped a bit and his dad helped a bit. It was nice to be digging holes and pouring concrete in dry weather, rather than mud and rain. We figure we can work in the rain for the main construction and then hope for a dry, calm day to put on the plastic.WP_20170406_004

The Shiro plum and Flavor King pluot trees bloomed this week. It was still a little bit cool for pollinators to be out in force, but they have been out on the sunny afternoons. I am keeping my fingers crossed for plenty of pluots this summer!WP_20170331_001

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One more rapini picture

Spring is Here?

March 23, 2017
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Lacinato kale rapini

Spring is here, according to the calendar, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. Maybe that is because our last few springs have been so early and warm. I was looking back on a post from a year ago. The Shiro plum was already done blooming and the flowering cherry was in full glory. Two years ago, the French Petite plum was blooming and it was the cabbage rapini that was ready. This year is back to normal, I think. I am still waiting on the Shiro plum to bloom, but it is close. And now, it is the earliest Lacinato kale rapini that is ready. The rain does seem to be easing up a bit, and each time we have a few dry hours, the ground gets a little drier before it gets slogged with rain again. We are still hoping for enough dry weather in April to get into the fields by May, though now it could be mid-May. And I am crossing my fingers that when the trees do bloom, there will be some dry weather for the bees and other pollinators to get out pollinate!

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The Shiro plum in almost ready to bloom!

We continue forward with seeding. The tomatoes are up, with the peppers right on their heels. The seed potatoes arrived from Irish Eyes Garden Seed this week. Even though we need to grow potatoes to control our symphylan populations, we are cutting  back from last year. It was just too much. I am, however, looking forward to seeing how they did their job. I recently spoke with another farmer who also has symphylan, and he said potatoes did the trick for him. Relationships in the natural world are both weird and wonderful.

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The Cornelian Cherries are blooming.

On a sad note, we lost a chicken yesterday. She was taken out by a quite large bird, maybe a hawk? (I’m not too good at identifying birds yet.) I just hope it was quick. That bird did not get to finish eating her. Those birds need to eat the voles!

Keep your fingers crossed for some good stretches of dry weather! Here are more pictures from the farm:

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I think I finally figured out how to germinate parsley better…we’ll see if soaking the seeds overnight and warmer temperatures work on the next round.

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I am showing the garlic again. I don’t like the weeds in this picture, but I do like how it shows the different growth habits of different varieties of garlic. As the garlic progresses, they look more alike.

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Here are the French Petite plum buds. We’ll have to wait a bit longer for them to bloom.

Spring Is Coming!

March 9, 2017
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The first signs of spring!

I want to tell you about how much it is raining, but I know you already know. Suffice it to say, the fields are wet and muddy. But, hope springs eternal and we are hoping to be in the fields by May. With spring in mind, we are getting things going. The seeding has begun! Here are some sights from the farm:

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My high tech seeding tools.

WP_20170304_001The onions come first. I am quite pleased with the germination this year.

WP_20170220_007This picture is from early February. Somewhere in the middle of that water is a drainage ditch. It overflowed, but didn’t reach our fields.

WP_20170306_004We woke up to this on Monday morning. The garlic will survive just fine.

WP_20170302_006Eggs can come in many sizes (the middle one is the usual size). The little one did not have a yolk.

WP_20170309_003It is good to have an inside building project for a rainy day. Steven built this germination box. It is lined with insulation board and filled with a layer of sand, a  heat cable, and more sand. With the lids on, it can get quite toasty in there. The seeds love it and so do I.

Seed Order

January 23, 2017

wp_20170123_001We are getting ready for the 2017 season! This year, Steven sat down with me to develop the seed order. It is always fun to browse through the catalogs and see what new varieties are available. We have lots of favorite varieties that we have  gotten to know over the years, but we also like to try a few new ones. The seeds should start arriving in a week or so.

In case you were wondering, we did not get the snowfall that Portland did the week before last. We only had about 4 inches here, but, like Portland, it did stick around for the week. Our coldest nights got down to 10 degrees. The animals survived just fine, though the girls were not too excited about the snow and they stayed under the coop during the day. The cats put on some nice winter coats to keep them warm. As pretty as the snow makes everything look, I’ll be fine if we don’t get any more this winter.

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Retirement

January 3, 2017

He traded in a warm and dry cubicle to harvest Brussels sprouts in the snow.wp_20170102_001

End of the Year

December 31, 2016
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Winter leeks in the field

Things have slowed down on the farm since the last delivery of the regular season, just before Thanksgiving. The early fall rains put an end to tractor work in the fields before all the work was done. We got some fields in cover crop for the winter, but not all that we had planned. We did get the garlic planted during the driest moments at the end of October. The rains came early, but the cold did not. Many of our fall nights were warmer than they had been all summer! Our first frost didn’t come until early December and, finally, with some nights getting down into the low 20’s we turned off the water in the fields and hoop houses. Still, we harvested a few more things from the fields for deliveries in December. The rest of the work for the farm has been indoors: a women farmers’ conference (me), maintenance work on equipment (Steven), finishing up bookwork, starting in on planning for 2017, and celebrating a few holidays in between.

Here are a few highlights from 2016 at Bethel Springs Farm:

wp_20161231_010A new flock of laying hens. The girls have changed a bit from earlier in the season. About half of them like to venture outside their fenced pasture now, so we are considering additional fencing options. We moved them up close to the house for the winter where it is easier to take care of them.

Steven’s retirement. Steven’s last day of work for the City of Portland was September 1. His first day of full time work on the farm was September 2, and I have been smiling ever since. It has been great working together on the farm, though we are usually working on different things.  I already wonder, how did we get things done when he was just working weekends?

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Beans in the cage, ready to shell

A bean sheller. We made a big investment in our dry beans: a Roto-Fingers Pea-Bean Sheller. We ordered it from Mississippi at the end of September. It is amazing! A job that took us months we can now finish in a matter of hours: throw the beans in a barrel shaped cage, turn on the motor and let the fingers inside the cage beat the beans out of their pods. Add a shaker basket and a blower and the beans are cleaned up and ready to go! We think dry beans are fun to grow and this makes it possible for us to grow more of them.  We’ll be picking out a few new varieties to add to our crop plan for next year.

Out in the wider world, I feel some trepidation about what 2017 will bring. Here on the farm, however, we are looking forward to the possibilities. We hope your 2017 is full of possibilities, too.

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Possible cabbage for January 2017