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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

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

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

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.


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.



June 27, 2017
Chicken inspection

That’s our girl! (guest photo)

Last Thursday, we had our annual inspection for our organic certification. This is our fourth inspection; the first was in 2014, when we were originally certified. The process is feeling pretty routine now, but there always seems to be something new. This year, we added our chickens to our certification and we had a new inspector. After a few years with the same inspector, OTCO (Oregon Tilth Certified Organic) likes to switch it up and put a fresh pair of eyes on the farm. With the chickens, it seemed fitting that our new inspector is a poultry specialist.


The Cascadia snap peas under audit.

Most of the inspection was spent inside, going over our organic system plan and our records. We showed our receipts for materials purchased and package labels. Then we had an audit, tracing a product from seed to sale. We showed what and how much seed we bought, how much we planted, how much was harvested and how much was sold. In the process, we showed how we keep our records and the ability to trace an item. This year, our snap peas were audited. We went through our snap pea records, and luckily, it all added up!


Lacinato kale tissue sample taken here.

Each year, Oregon Tilth, as an accredited certifier, is required by The National Organic Program to test some plant material for prohibited pesticides and methods (like GMOs) from at least 5% of their clients. This year, we are in that 5%. Our inspector took leaves from several kale plants. They will be sent off to a lab and we will be notified of the results. We are happy to be a part of this process, because we are surrounded by conventional growers and it will be good to know if the materials they use on their crops are drifting onto ours.

At the end, our inspector let us know that everything looked good and she had no issues of concern. Her report goes back to the Oregon Tilth office, where it will be reviewed. If everything lines up, we will be notified that our certification continues.


The Ronde de Nice zucchini has arrived! Perfect for grilling!

Harvest Season!

June 20, 2017

Harvesting beautiful heads of Optima butter lettuce.

June is typically the beginning of the real harvest season for us. We do harvest earlier in the year, but in June, the vegetables really start to grow and at some point they seem to explode. We aren’t quite there yet. The last few weeks of cooler temperatures has slowed things down a bit, but the weather forecast seems to predict the amazing growth in the field is just around the corner. From now until October or November, our focus on the farm will be on harvesting. Sure, we keep planting all season to keep the  vegetables coming, and we’ll weed and water, and maybe even work on a project, and weed some more, but harvest takes center stage.

A few weeks ago, we took our first big harvest to the Kenton Farmers Market. This is our first year at the market and it was a lot of fun. We saw some old friends and met some new ones there. Getting ready for the market dominated our time the last three or four weeks, but after a few weeks now, we are settling back into the usual routine.

So, this week, we planted out some lettuce, celeriac and corn. We trellised the tomatoes, using the Florida weave for the first time. Some of the crops in the hoop houses are coming to their end and field crops are coming on to take their place.


Trellised tomatoes

Tomorrow is summer solstice and Kenton Farmers Market day. The market will be a good way to celebrate the longest day of the year (technically, the day with the most daylight). Even though I feel sad that the days start getting shorter again, it really is just the beginning of the harvest season. We have a lot of time and daylight left in the year!


June 5, 2017

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!