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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.

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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

Summer

August 26, 2016
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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
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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
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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?

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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:

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Carmelle’s feet (photo by Carmelle)
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Garlic Mar 2016, off to a good start
Onion starts
Onion starts, ready to be trimmed
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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
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blooming tree, maybe a flowering cherry? (photo by Carmelle)
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willow
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Shiro plum blossoms (this was a few weeks ago; they are already gone!)

Thankful

December 2, 2015
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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The frost makes things look even more beautiful