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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!

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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.

 

Inspection

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.

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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!

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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.

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

Harvest Season!

June 20, 2017
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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.

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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!

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.