Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Favorite Tools

(Before I start, please note:  Our produce stand was a huge failure.  It was only open for about a week, then it froze and the season was all over for us.  With the late spring start and an early freeze,  'I give up ' Mother Nature!  Time to start thinking about next year.)
We had our Focus on Farming event here in Snohomish County in mid-November.  One of the questions that was asked of a our panel was, "What are your three favorite tools?"  Since I garden in the style of my grandmother, mostly with small hand tools and anything mechanized like rototilling, was left to the men.  So, my favorite tools are a rototiller, a hula hoe, and a seeder per the following:  
The above is a picture of our 5 HP Craftsman walk behind with an 18 inch tiller.  It has been a 'godsend' piece of equipment.   We (Doug or Bob) can till about 50-60 foot rows in about three hours.  Yes, I do hand tilling, but it's a row here and there.  A senior citizen such as myself can 'manage' a straigh line, and as long as there is no turning involved.    I still haven't gotten the knack of a well-done, efficient turn.  And, as long as there are no hoses, plants or people in my way, it's not a problem.        
  When we are planting, we customize the width of our rows to accommodate the tiller, we plant roughly 24 inches.  This allows for plant growth and squeezes more plants into the garden. (DUH?)  We were planting our rows a tractor tiller width (48 inches) apart, but that wasn't an efficient use of our space. (another DUH???!!)  
Okay, moving on ... below are my other two most favorite tools.  On the left is a hula hoe ... it's one of those tools that when you are in the 'rythym' of using it, all of the stars are lined up and life is good.  Because of it's curved corners, it's great for weeding close to the plants. 
The other tool, the one on the right is an Earthway seeder, with interchangeable seed plates.  Yes, and one year, (Bob can attest to this) not too long ago, I forgot to check the seed plate to make sure that we had the right one in it! Arrgghhhh

We have successfully and easily planted from seed: beets, carrots, green beans, corn, lettuce, pumpkin and cucumbers.  The pumpkin seed was a little bit too big for our biggest plate.
The Earthway made the planting of those itty, bitty seeds really fast and no bending!  I planted 32-60 foot rows of corn in about an hour or maybe less. 
Our goals have never been to be a big dollar producer, and make our money from selling vegetables.  HA!  We would have been out of business in the first two years!  Even if we would have been perfect, Mom Nature jerked the rug right out from under us!  Our goal is to grow high quality food using as little fossil fuel as possible and share our experience with people who want to grow their own food.
Food production wise we have been averaging about 4,000 lbs of food per year.  In 2012 we were hoping to produce 6,000 lbs by hand, with little equipment, but with the late spring and early fall, we fell short. 
I like to think that beginning food producers/gardeners/farmers will learn from our mistakes. Some of the mistakes have been 'what were we thinking!?' kinds of mistakes. And, yes, embarrassing to admit. Learning from one's mistakes is what happens when you are 'self-taught.'   Neither my grandmother, nor my mother explained why they gardened the way they did. In the spring, my mother could toss tomato seeds into the ground and by late August we would be eating  tomatoes right off the vines like they were apples.  I didn't know what happened in between, but to this day, I remember the first bite and that tomato juice running down my arm! YMMMM  And, BY GOLLY I'm going to figure it out!  Even if it means growing cherry tomatoes!  Make it a great day!  Happy Holidays to you and yours!     

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Our Farm Stand is Open! - Oct 3, 2012

First things first - the produce stand is open ... all produce, except the U-pick apples ($2.00 lb.) is priced today at 50 cents a pound.  Pretty much all of it was harvested today and as we sell out of product, we will restock from the garden.  (As you know, once produce is harvested, it tends to loose it's nutrients and flavor.)  So, we have lots of variety and not a lot of volume, as it will be harvest as we sell.   

Here's what we have to offer today, and generally this should be what we finish out the month with:

Squashes - Acorn, spaghetti, zucchini, scallopini, butterCUP, carrots, green cabbage, cucumbers, potatoes.  If you let me know you are coming or call when you get here, I'll pick you some fresh chard and/or kale.  Also, we have u-pick apples.

As promised, here is a picture of seven of the Red Core Chantenay carrots (supposed to be short) that were part of the "4,000 seeds packet."   The biggest one on the left weighed in at a pound and a half!   Even though they are bigger around than what you would buy in the store, they still have great flavor!  And, yes, they taste gggggggreat!)

And, OMG!  OMG!  We got bit by our first frost last night!  Once again didn't see THAT one coming!  Yesterday morning I was wandering around in the garden and admiring how beautiful the squash plants looked!  All the while thinking ... man, we're going to have a lot of squash!  
They weren't planted until July 7, so we didn't get our full season from them.  Who knew the opportunity to get tired of the squash was not meant to be.  Oh, well ... there's always next year! (Favorite saying ... also saying it about potatoes, corn, tomatoes {that were planted in the main garden}, peppers, egg plants, cucumbers.)  Oh, and lest I sound too "whiny," we did harvest over 4500 lbs of produce out of our gardens ... how awesome is that? 

I do think I figured something out about the tomatoes ... stay posted.  Make it a great day and come visit our produce stand before the end of October.  There's good deals!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Where did the Summer Go?

For that matter ... where did my life go?  Really, the last time I posted was in MAY?????!!!!  (I'll put some pictures of the carrots that we grew out here so you can see how beautiful they "are" ... and hopefully not "were."   They turned out awesome!)

Okay, so we had a wet spring and a lot of our produce got into the ground late, but this summer, and what a great summer it was ... we spent part of it at the Port Susan Farmer's Market in Downtown Stanwood (August 10 thru September 22).  We didn't attend the last market in order to get ready for Harvest Jubilee Farm Tour on September 22.

This is our fully loaded booth at the Famer's Market.  Wow!  Thank you to all of the area folks who supported the market.  Since Doug is still working away from the farm, I consider myself 1/2 of a "mom and pop" operation.  But we didn't do too bad, we pretty much sold everything that we brought to the market.  Which was an awesome surprise!  Also, for anyone who has ever had to make their living from attending various markets ... kudos to you!  It's definitely physical, i.e. loading, setting up and tearing down a canopy, not to mention stocking it full of product.  So, that was fun! We got to meet a lot of really nice people.  So, to all of the staff and volunteers who helped make the Farmer's Market a reality, AND the "shopping" support from the community ... .Doug (of Freshly Doug), myself and my staff say nice job and offer up a great big THANK YOU!  The Market opened up some real possibilities for our farm. 
We so had much going on this summer!  (Wait til you see Big Max ... he's our pumpkin that is still growing.)  Speaking of growing, we harvested zucchini's the size of newborn babies ... one of our customers asked if we would be swaddling them.  Too funny ... we might carve them ... or make 10,000 loaves of zucchini bread.  Also heard that Paula Deen's zucchini bread recipe is the BEST!  Ah, but I digress.  Apologies, at present count we estimate that we have harvested a little under 4,000 lbs. of produce from our gardens.  Not too shabby for '1/2' of a  Mom and Pop operation.  (Okay, I had help from Doug, Kelsey, Jake and Anne.  But, isn't the metaphor funny?) 
September 22, first day of fall ... we had our Farm Tour.  We set up our market stand and let people wander around the place.  One thing about it, we can have LOTS of weeds, but if we mow, it doesn't look too bad.  Below is a photo op that we set up for our visitors ... Slightly overdone ... but fun none the less.  (That's not Big Max pumpkin on the left ... that's one from Michael's and the paper mache apple on the right is a yard sale find.)  And, we did put some extra silk flowers in the 'bed' to make it more full.  The big sunflowers that were planed were stunted because the boat was actually too shallow for their roots, or they were planted over a boat seat.  You have to see it to understand it. 

Now that the "fall feel" is in the air, we should have some time to work inside, i.e. computer work, housework, sewing, knitting, laundry, etc.  You know, all those things that get neglected around here when the weather is awesome!  Or at least not raining.  Make it a great day and I'll keep you "posted" about our Farm Stand - it will be open from Oct 1 to October 31 ... caveat ... if freezing doesn't take us down.  Make it a great day!  It's good to be back on!  XXOO

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Can you guess what this is?

This is what 4,000 red Chantenay Carrot Seeds from Seeds of Change looks like. 

While waiting for the delivery, I had grandiose visions of just what 4,000 carrot seeds would looks like. Would I need a handtruck to move them around? Good grief! You learn something new everyday! Honestly, it seemed like such a small amount, I seriously considered counting them. Actually, I did count out 50 in order to see what that number looked like. There are 4,000 here. And, I was able to get everyone of them back into the package! 

We're chomping at the bit to get planting!  Got my interns hired, Kelsey and Jake.  We're just working a couple of hours a day, cleaning, organizing and some weeding.  We added wood raised beds to our raised bed collection.  All but one are planted.  The one that isn't planted is full of herbs, i.e. chives, garlic chives, mint, sage ... so, major reorg is going to happen there! 

Even though La Nina is very apparent .... we're .... 


Make it a great day! 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

There's Hope!

I knew I hadn't posted for a while.  Didn't mean for it to be this long!  Happy New Year! 
The above picture was taken today from our back porch.  This is the wettest we have seen it all winter.  It doesn't take long for it to dry out, once the rain stops.  And, at least it isn't stinging rain.  You know, the kind that blows so hard against your face it stings. 

Been dreaming about and planning for the new season.  Working on Harvest Jubilee plans for September 22, 2012 when local farms will be open for a tour.  If you're just starting out, this is a great little tour, it's free and you will get a lot of ideas about growing, farming, sustainability and one farm is focusing on permaculture. 

So, this weekend, Doug and I were out trying to get ideas for putting together a chicken tractor. (More on that later!)  We were at a farm store wondering around, and I heard him exclaim, "hey, come over here, you've got to see this!"  Yup, I saw it alright.  Oh, no!  Garden seeds!  Great selection of certified organic seeds from Irish Eyes, Botanical Interests, Lake Valley Organics.  Great prices too!  They had other seed companies represented, but we had to stick with the organics.  Plus, after two hours of trying to remember what we already had, picking up packets and putting them back, we finally got out of there.  And yes, Doug did buy some seeds ... two packages?  I think.  Make it a great day and think spring!