Skip to content

End of the Year

December 31, 2016
wp_20161231_017

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?

wp_20161026_009

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.

wp_20161231_022

Possible cabbage for January 2017

Summer

August 26, 2016

WP_20160708_011 1

 

 

Summer is flying by, but doesn’t it always? This week we hit the half way point in the regular farm season. The first half was good, quite good. It was a beautiful, long season for things like kale, chard and kohlrabi. That was so welcome after a few difficult years for those crops. Once the deliveries started back in late May, we have been harvesting, planting and weeding, or at least thinking about weeding,  and harvesting some more. Lucky for us, the two new fields we planted out this year are not showing any signs of symphylan and the weed pressure is very, very low. We are hoping to keep it that way. There are some difficult perennial weeds, like bindweed and Canada thistle, in patches, but just look at these carrots:WP_20160826_004

I have two beds of beautiful carrots. One has only been weeded once and the other not at all yet. Amazing! Carrots are quite difficult to keep clear of weeds, so I am very happy about this.

I am experimenting with a few new crops this year. One, some of you got to try early in the season: Erba Stella, a salad green. Another is one I have tried for a few years without success: artichokes. This year, I got some artichokes, but never enough at once to share. I hope to let them overwinter and see if they will survive for some early spring artichokes. The third big experiment, that we have yet to see the outcome, is sweet potatoes. I almost gave up on this one, because the slips I ordered were so late in arriving. They came the day I thought I should call to cancel my order. I got them planted out the next day. I made some quick changes in my planting plan, kicked the melons out of the hoop house and put the sweet potatoes in their place to give them the best chance to reach maturity. Generally, you need 90 to 100 or more good warm days (and nights) to get some roots. I got them planted on June 19, which means the earliest they would be ready is the third week of September…if they get enough heat. Our nights have been quite cool this year. Even during the mini heat wave last week, when daytime temperatures were over 100 degrees here, our nights went down to the low 40s and even one night into the upper 30s. Quite chilly in the morning! Keep your fingers crossed that we’ll have sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving! (Or sooner!)

WP_20160812_005Our new flock of chickens are laying quite well now. They were right on schedule, according to the information available about them. We are now getting around 2 dozen eggs per day. Chickens are such fun birds to watch. This group is very different from out first flock (now all gone…the last one died on the 4th of July this summer). Our first girls would do anything, including jumping/flying over a 5-6 foot fence, to get to freedom. With these girls, we hardly seem to need a fence. If they do happen to get out through the gate when we go in, they come right back in on their own. They like to stay close to home.

One last thing, something very exciting for us is going to happen next week: Steven is retiring from his job at the City of Portland! We have been plotting and planning for this day since we moved here. He has hung in there, for more than three and a half years, commuting Monday through Friday into Portland. While he really enjoyed his civil engineering work with the Bureau of Environmental Services, he will trade that for some agricultural engineering…and weed pulling. We are so looking forward to working on this land together every day.WP_20160708_007

You Say Potato…

May 24, 2016
WP_20160520_006

Freshly hilled Yukon Gold potatoes in the hoop house.

I am hoping you all like potatoes, because this year we are planting a whole lot of them. We are not planting them because we didn’t have enough the past few years, but because of the symphylan we discovered we had in such high numbers last year. After all that we read about symphylan and all the people we talked to, we learned that the most effective ways to control the population in organic production is to crush them through tillage and to grow potatoes where the numbers are high every few years. This year we are tilling more than we like and we are starting a potato rotation through our fields with the little guys. We aren’t growing potatoes everywhere we found symphylan last year; that would be way too many, and as it is, with as much as we have planned for this year, it will still be too many potatoes. We expect that in a few years, we will have a rotation settled that will give us a more reasonable amount to grow.

For this year, we are growing a little under 3/4 of an acre of potatoes, out of the 2 1/2 acres of total vegetables. Here are a few numbers for comparison: last year, I bought 150 lbs of seed potatoes, this year it was 850 lbs; last year we planted 1200 row feet, this year it will be 7500 row feet. I planted the first tiny bit back in early April, when I discovered one of our hoop houses had some high numbers. I made a quick change in the planting plan and put a row of potatoes in. They are doing nicely and we will have some early potatoes this year! A few weeks ago, we planted out half of one field with three early varieties. We should get the rest in, in a week or so. I am keeping my fingers crossed that when next spring rolls around, we find that the potatoes worked.

WP_20160515_007In other news, we moved the chicks out to pasture a few weeks ago. They are settled in and are growing and looking like little hens now. We planted out the summer squash and tomatoes last week. More summer crops are going in this week. The season is just about ready to begin!

 

Chicks!

April 12, 2016
WP_20160402_002

The new chicks, just a day or two old.

We finally have our chicks for our new flock of laying hens! (And the new pest control, fertilizer team.) I drove down to Jenks Hatchery in Tangent to pick up 26 just hatched NOVOgen Brown Egg Layers on March 30. We decided to set up the brooder (I put together a few cardboard boxes to make a 3′ x 4′ pen) in the closed in side porch of our house. It would be easier to keep the temperature warm, take care of them and keep them away from the cats there. When they are a month old, we’ll move them out to the new mobile coop, or as we will call it, the gypsy wagon. I am a bit worried about the cats; they really like hunting birds. Anyone know if electric poultry netting is enough to keep the cats at bay?

WP_20160412_006

The chicks today, two weeks old

The chicks are very cute, growing fast and getting quite active and noisy. We can’t wait for the eggs!

In other farm news, the dry stretch of weather the last few weeks let us get out into the fields to mow, open up the ground to dry out, and prep the first fields for planting. The first starts went out yesterday: snow and snap peas! It is two weeks past the date I planned to plant them out. The last few springs were quite dry (last year, especially), so this is likely the real “normal” time we can get out in our fields, as our silt clay soil is heavy. But now the fields are drying out and there are lots of starts ready to grow out in the dirt, sun and rain!

Spring Visit

March 23, 2016

Spring is here! We have a special visitor this week, our niece Carmelle. She is the younger sister of Jonas, Paige, and Cameron, who all spent time with us on when we were on Sauvie Island. She is helping us out during her spring break. Here are a few pictures from around the farm this late winter/early spring:

Processed with VSCOcam with h4 preset

Carmelle’s feet (photo by Carmelle)

Garlic Mar 2016

Garlic Mar 2016, off to a good start

Onion starts

Onion starts, ready to be trimmed

WP_20160320_001

Carmelle, hard at work

New Sprinklers

New overhead sprinklers in the hoop house

Pea starts

Pea starts, ready to be planted out

Flowering quince

Flowering quince

Processed with VSCOcam with n3 preset

blooming tree, maybe a flowering cherry? (photo by Carmelle)

WP_20160224_010

willow

Shiro plum 2

Shiro plum blossoms (this was a few weeks ago; they are already gone!)

Thankful

December 2, 2015
WP_20151123_001

A frosty fall morning

It is hard to believe that another season has gone by. October and November were a whirlwind of harvesting and getting the fields ready for winter. We had some help from my niece and her friends for half of the dry bean harvest. The winter squash came in slowly this year, but eventually made their way inside. The garlic was planted and mulched…on time this year! More fields were planted in cover crop and the drip irrigation lines were pulled out, rolled up and put away.

DSCN4985

The garlic is planted, mulched and growing

Even if it is not technically winter yet, it feels like winter. We had a few nights in the mid-20s before the last delivery. After Thanksgiving, it got even colder, with our lowest night around 16 degrees. Brrr…You’d think by now I would be used to the growing season ending this way. It has been a good, though challenging growing season. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are some things I am thankful for this year:

Water  This has been one of the driest years ever. I am so thankful for our well and that it functioned perfectly all season.

WP_20151112_002

Washing the late season carrots

Carrots and Crop Diversity  It is funny how things go. One year the winter squash is better than ever and the carrots not so good. The next year, vice versa. (In case you weren’t sure, the carrots were the good ones this year.) Having a lot of crops to choose from means if one or two don’t do well, you still have plenty of other crops that do.

WP_20151004_004

The harvest crew

Good Help  As much as I like to do everything myself, I need help. I am thankful for the help I had this year. I appreciate the young women who worked with me this year, one for the whole season and one for a couple months, sticking it out through hot days (cold ones, too!) and repetitious tasks. I also appreciate my niece and her friends, who came several times to help out at some peak moments of need. And, of course, I am thankful for our family and friends, who support and encourage us and help out when they come for visits. I will mention Steven’s dad in particular, for his weekly visits to prune trees, mow grass, till fields, spread compost and wind drip tape, among other things.

Loaded Pasta Sauce

Loaded Pasta Sauce

New ventures  With Beth and her new business, Can-Do Real Food, Bethel Springs Farm fruits and vegetables are available in delicious new ways! It is exciting to have the extra and not so perfect fruits and vegetable come to the table, instead of the compost pile. I am looking forward to working on this project this winter, evaluating how the first round went and seeing what we can do to make it better next year.

Customers  I have the best customers ever. Some of you are new this year, and some have been around the whole time I have tried my  hand at growing food. With so many good farms in the area, I am thankful that you have chosen Bethel Springs Farm as one of your sources for local, organic fruits and vegetables.

Yikes! Like last year, I ran out of room before I could get Steven on the list. Maybe next year…

WP_20151123_004

The frost makes things look even more beautiful

 

Summer Recap: August and September

October 28, 2015

It is more than a month into fall and my mind, while thinking about fall, is also looking forward to winter. Preparing for winter is a big part of our fall work. Still, I am going to look back and give the rest of the summer recap.

Onions, curing in the hoop house

Onions, curing in the hoop house

August

For me, August was filled with routine tasks: lots of harvesting, packing and delivering, planting fall crops and at least thinking about weeding. I got very far behind on that last task. My niece in Corvallis came up a few times with a few of her friends to help us out. We did get one big harvest in in August: onions. It always feels good to get a big harvest in. Steven, on the other hand, had a little more fun. I let him out of the fields long enough to get started on the mobile chicken coop. We are planning to start a flock or two of laying hens again. We love the eggs, but we also love the fertilizer and pest control they give. Our plan is to move them through fields and orchard after the crops are done to do a little clean up. There is plenty of open pasture space for them, as well, when the fields are in production. Unfortunately, Steven only had a weekend or two to work on the coop before he had to get back out in the fields.

The beginning of the first mobile chicken coop

The beginning of the first mobile chicken coop

September

Again, Steven had all the fun in September and it was more of the same for me. Steven took two weeks off work with one big project in mind: to disassemble two 30′ x 100′ hoop houses we bought from another farm and cart them back to our place. The first day he went out, a piece of metal fell on his head and he ended up with a few stitches. He had two of my niece’s friends with him that day to help. Reportedly, there was so much blood, one took off his t-shirt to put on Steven’s head to stop the bleeding. I think he will always be one of our favorites among her friends. Despite that beginning, the project ended well. Since I had to hold down the fort and couldn’t go help myself, we were thankful for the friends who could help out. It made the job go much more quickly and pleasantly. There wasn’t time to do any reassembly here, because Steven started right in on sowing fall cover crops. We got information from OSU and other farmers that the best cover crop to use when you have symphylan is spring oats. For now, that is what we will use for our winter cover. The fields Steven sowed in September now have a nice bit a growth going.

One hoop house frame, ready to be reassembled

One hoop house frame, ready to be reassembled

Cayuse spring oats in field H

Cayuse spring oats in field H