Sunday, July 31, 2011

cool on Friday nights

Every Friday night until Thanksgiving you can find me at the Charles Street Friday Night farmers market. On West Lanvale at Charles Street, this little market is regularly gaining in food traffic, vendors and fun. And goodness is it hot at this time of year..even with the gusts of wind from the trains going by below us. We stay cool in a couple of ways. Kevin McKay gets duck eggs from us weekly, and provides a taste of ice cream that he makes from those eggs. Delicious, interesting flavors, he is ruining my ability to eat any other ice cream. The other is with the lemonades squeezed out by Gayce, Denzel & Tiombe Mitchell's oldest child..he makes a refreshing Mason jar of lemonade, always with a little something else in it: strawberries in season, herbs or another fruit. Here he is working the lemon press, new this year, he purchased with his lemonade earnings:

He is a pint sized barista, when he gets all the ingredients in the shaker and mixes them up it is clear to see this kid is a mover and shaker!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

epic fail


We are enjoying the beauty and bounty of the summer. We are eating well, putting food away for winter, sleeping with the windows open and enjoying the low humidity. Lovely rains the last few days have everything adding lots of growth. And family arrives over the next week to help celebrate Claire's birthday..the girl is now a full fledged adult!


Homer plants seeds every week in spots all over the farm. We do not spray or drop chemicals of any kind, so some things just get chomped by the bugs. We still get lots of growth to distribute to our CSA customers. The learning curve was to just keep putting seeds in the ground, at some point the good bugs eat the bad, the breeze and rain pick back up..the seeds germinate, grow, set flowers, get pollinated and we eat well. And where do we fail? Eggplant and peppers. In 2 years we have produced zero of each. We are trying to grow the non-hybrids, trying to get the old varieties to work here and have had zero sucess. Started in the basement under lights in February, more in March, more outside week after week..and nothing. nada, the big goose egg. Here is the most recent planting:

nothing but mold. Mold! What the?! I need Amy Goldman to write another book, on old peppers and old eggplants. Her books on tomatoes, squash and melons have served as an excellent guide to getting all those to grow, and grow they have, all over the farm. Please, someone, step up and tell us some secrets..peppers and eggplant we want you here at Sunnyside Farm!

Friday, July 29, 2011

to serve

Years ago when we first joined Boy Scout Troop 792 we met a group of great guys. Homer had the joy of camping, traveling and working with this group of young men for years. We witnessed them grow and mature, become Eagle Scouts after planning and executing projects of complexity and generally enjoyed their company.

Two went off to college in different spots: Gavi to University of Maryland, Tom to Notre Dame. Reports from their parents indicated that each of them was doing well, adjusting to college life, maintaining their GPA's, still involved in serivce work, interesting internships, travels abroad..a good life for these young men.

Earlier this year, at Kyle's Eagle Scout induction, a chance to catch up with both sets of parents. And a strange thing happened..we heard the same story from each about their kids plans. Um..did you know that the other is planning the same thing? And how about it, both Tom and Gavi are in the same officer training class in Quantico, VA! Getting worked to the bone no doubt. And based on what we had the joy to see as they grew up, they will each make great commanding officers. And lawyers too! Proud of these young men.


of course, their hair was longer in high school!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

tiny reduction in cucumbers

My goodness, cucumber production has been stellar. Off the charts. A 5 gallon bucket everyday. CSA members backing away, saying "but I have not used up all from last week"..we know summer is upon us!

Yesterday was a cool, low humidity, slight breeze kind of day. Claire and I were up early boiling the big pot of water, sterilizing jars and converting cucumbers to pickles. Thought there would be a greater reduction in cucumbers but while we were pickling the plants outpaced us. Here is the process. At the same time we were gabbing about all sorts of things..such a pleasure to catch up with my girl!

First, we start cooking up apple cider vinegar, water and pickling salt. Just enough to absorb the salt.

Here is the salt, peppercorns, dill weed (called for seed but we did not have) and paprika (called for pepper flakes..which we had but the cleaning crew pitched after the fire and we for got to replace, substitution time!). Some of each into the jars.

Loading the jars.

Sunnyside Farm grown garlic goes in.

Cucumbers ready for the dip..next time pick earlier!

Now jars have garlic, paprika, peppercorns, dill weed and cucumbers.

Next is the pickling liquid we cooked up. We use the big funnel, but no photos, needed all our hands for that task. Here are jars with their rims wiped down and lids in place.

side view after the ring is added..already looking beautiful!

hot tub time, 10 minutes in the drink!

Removal..those tongs are made for pulling hot jars out of boling water..a must have!

and they rest on the counter for 24 hours. Homer will build a one jar deep shelf system in our mudroom/laundry room so we can line up strawberry jam, pickles, peaches, apple sauce, tomatoes of all kinds..we will probably do chicken soup too, and the idea of having them all where we can see them sounds like beauty to me..

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

double the fun

Sybil arrived on the farm pregnant. She was with calf, and it showed. As milk cows go she is more on the petite side..compared to the massive Holsteins our little Jersey girl is just a half pint. And as a 3/4 cow, she is a bit defective..of the 4 spots where milk can be made, she only has 3. Something happened on the way to that first calf that made things go awry..

We are supposed to be milking her daily, bonding with her. Quickly Homer realized that milking by hand takes time..more time than is available right now. And the farmer's wife realized that $1,500 for a milking system for a single cow is not in the budget this month..real estate taxes, homeowners insurance and business insurance all come due this month. So new tech toys/gadgets are off the list right now. We Must Be Adults.

August marks the time we will "breed back" Sybil. A dude with a turkey baster visits the farm. And in 9 moths (if all goes well) Sybil will gift us with another mimi me. Between now and then we should get the individual milker and make use of all she is producing. For now, she is making enough milk to keep the 2 smallest calves happy..and she is keeping the milk going the old fashioned way:

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gads they knock her about!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

turkeys freak easy

All the ime people ask me if turkeys are stupid. They seem to have a reputation as the lightest in common sense of the barnyard animals. I have many times heard stories that they are so stupid they stand with their mouths open as the rain is falling and end up dead from drowning.

We have not had that experience with our turkeys. We take delivery on Thanksgiving turkey polts while the weather is still cold and rainy, and find that the polts need babying at the beginning otherwise they just fall over dead. And last week when it was so hot they needed shade and plenty of water..but then so do we. No evidence there of stupidity.

We are awaiting the next delivery of feed from our supplier, Ross of Quarryville, PA. They are the only feed supplier that we could find locally who offers a GMO free mix..and so sometimes we have to wait. They would prefer to deliver by the truckload and blow into a grain hopper but we are not yet equipped with one of those, so our deliveries still arrive in feed bags. I think the bagging puts us last on the delivery list, it must be a hassle for them!

So the turkeys were fed what every other animal was fed..left over, going stale and moldy bread from Atwaters. The pigs, laying hens, chickens, and even the cows (the cows helped themselves, it was not intentionally fed to them) jumped on that bread. It is stale and hard and requires the animals to work, which they love. With the exception of the turkeys. While I do not think they are stupid they do like a routine. And they are suspicious of anything different in their little worlds. A stick added for a roost will throw them into a tizzy. And bread, added to the pen at the time their grain is usually added (in the morning, right after moving the pen) caused this minor rucus, and consumption took hours rather than the usual 6-10 minutes.

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Sorry to upset those silly birds, but I still would not call the stupid.

Monday, July 25, 2011

stack of tomatoes and cukes

We start more than 100 tomato plants from seed under lights when it is still cold out. They get a bit of heat underneath too. As the weather warms we begin planting under the protection of the hoophouse..the hardiest varieties first. Shown here is the beginning of the tomato harvest: Glacier and Green Cherokee, an additional 8 types were planted. This week each share received one tomato and all the cucumbers we could get them to take, in just a few short weeks we will have buckets of tomatoes. The drip irrigation system has made a huge difference, with steady water input we get steady tomato output. Only compost goes on the plants, and we search for hornworms on a regular basis. Bees buzzing everyday in the tomatoes..as long as we keep tobacco smokers/chewers away from these beauties all should be well..

Sunday, July 24, 2011

things I love, July 2011

My daughter helps me, in more ways than I can count

Homer is a continuing inspiration

The evolution of goslings

Leisure to catch up with friends visiting the farm

Drop in stops from my brother and cousin (cousin from Cordoba, Argentina)

Cool snap on the way

Family get together here for Claire's birthday

Cloud coverage on a morning like this

Dog in our household

Clean sheets

Shade trees

Gayce's lemonade

Kevin's duck egg ice cream

Cucumbers with Keswick feta

Sunflowers

When blogger works for me, which it is not right now :(

Friday, July 22, 2011

hot lettuce?!

Lettuce bolts when the temperatures gets hot. Not that it pulls up roots and runs off, but it does stop growing leaves and instead begins to set flowers that will quickly turn to seed. The open pollinated heirloom varieties we grow means that we can keep those seeds and grow new lettuce from them the next growing cycle. 

Homer is always experimenting with ways of growing. Since we start everything here it is easy to try many different methods and observe in what conditions our vegetables thrive and fail. This week Homer decided to add lettuce under the shade of the cucumber plants that are currently growing to the ceiling! The cucmbers will provide shade for the lettuce, and he planted in an elevated tub so that air can circulate in the hoophouse and harvesting the lettuce in mid-September will be easy on the back.
This afternoon we will be at the Charles Street Friday Market. Homer, Denzel and Jamy will combine forces to provide a water misting system to keep us all cool. Should be a beautiful evening in the city!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

cool in poison ivy

Blogger was fighting me this morning, so there has been a great delay in posting while other activities take place on the farm. It's hot, humid, sticky..we are placing wagers on just how many showers can be taken in a day.

Homer has been hit with poison ivy, as usual it comes and goes all summer. Last couple days have been an impressive amount coverage on his body. Liz, who makes soaps and is a fellow vendor on Tuesday nights in Lauraville, offered to put together a prototype healing poison ivy kit for Homer to use. That got a big yes from us!

It is a combination of honey/oatmeal soap, tea tree oil, green clay and a few other lovely smelling things. The green clay sticks to the skin, does not really flake off, and along with everything else slows down the itch and spread of nasty poison ivy. Once Liz has this for sale we will keep on the farm all the time, as using hormones to combat the itch is not really an option..we have poison ivy for months at a time!

Watering for all critters, human and livestock.

Liz: www.healingfieldswbc.com

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

what the farmer eats and sells, egg edition

Every day of the year we collect eggs. Sometimes in the dead of winter there are no eggs, but we still look every day. At this time of year we collect a couple of times each day, and then pack into cartons the eggs we take to market or hand out to our CSA customers. Except for Jeanne, who brings a basket we fill weekly..zero waste.
Part of the job we do is sorting the broken, dirty, tiny and just not pretty eggs from the beautiful ones. Homer says the farmer eats the scratch and dent models of everything grown..gashed potatoes, lettuce full of holes. Eggs that have been nicked or clicked against another. And the little tiny eggs, called maiden eggs, that indicate a new hen is starting to lay. There are 3 in the bowl, and when opened they will only have egg whites, no yolks at all. Their first few eggs are practice ones: tiny and unable to be fertilized. Another in the bowl is perfect, just leftover from the 14 dozen packed and taken to market last night.
Hoping that breakfast are a few knicked potatoes, a couple of cracked eggs, and a fried green tomato or two. Tastes like summer!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

sunflowers or support?

Our tomato varieties are indeterminate, which means they grow and produce tomatoes right until the first frost. We will put the side up on our hoophouse in October to keep the frost off, but between now and then the heirloom varities we start from seed will just grow and grow. Cages and trellis of all sorts are all over the farm. Where we planted sunflowers in March (and have taken to market a number of times) the stalks are still there, and still producing flowers. We are using them for additional tomato support!

We love sunflowers, and the bright, big, yellow flowers attract all kinds of pollinators to the farm, helping enhance the number of vegetables we get.

Sunflowers shade our water barrels. And the hoophouse looks smaller with these massive plants growing.
along with zinnia, marigolds, cosmos and asters..these sunflowers are over 10 feet tall, and have not yet flowered, can't wait to see the foot across blooms!


and a few more just spring up in the grass..all season long we take sunflowers to market for folks to use as decoration in their homes. Some of the flowers do not look good enough..hit by hail, pecked at by a crow..so we feed them to the chickens..and a few fall or get missed and then grow on their own..much to our delight! And the bees too, there is always a bee or two on every sunflower.


Monday, July 18, 2011

women at work

Often the question is asked.."how long do your hens live?" and "how many years will they lay eggs?"


We don't know the answer. Our girls start with us as day old peepers, with full beaks and no growth hormones. They get new spots to chow down on constantly..here they are under one of the apple trees (yes, we will trim the suckers off just as soon as those hens move out) scratching and eating every bug in sight. While our fruit is not the prettiest, and there is an occasional critter inside..we offer them to our CSA members with that bit of information, and most people take the risk. Truly organic, with no sprays of any kind, the apples are delicious and we cannot wait for them to ripen. Arkansas Black is this tree..a keeping apple..wrapped in newspaper and placed in the right spot we can eat for months..and the flavor deepens as they age..oh yeah..

Sunday, July 17, 2011

get growing: another reason why we farm the way we do

A recent study from Claire Kremen (UC Berkeley)  points out the impact of native bees on California crops. Her study shows that at least 1/3 of the crops in CA are pollinated by native bees and not the trucked around honeybees. Fiscal impact? Almost $12 billion per year. Yes, BILLION!

Kremen points out that honeybees are very important to the almond crop, and the almond growers bring them in to pollinate the trees.

And when she examined productivity and output of all other types of foodstuff grown in CA it turned out that orchards/growing fields/vineyards near open range cattle ranches had the greatest output. She makes the connection that the wide variety of things growing in the pastureland provides habitat for some of the 4,000 or so native bees of North America..and that these and other pollinators, sheltered in grasses, undisturbed ground nests, holes in fallen trees, brush piles, etc. share their love with all the plants in their area.

Kremen asks about the connection with eating beef from free range or pasture beef and how it helps the environment. She makes the link between the ability of all sorts of pollinators to thrive in fields and then visit vegetable and fruit plants and have a significant impact on productivity.

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At Sunnyside Farm we grow lots of things: beef is our foundation, as the cattle move through our 40 paddocks they never eat everything down to the dirt. In early December they have trimmed every inch of the property nicely, including every tree in our little woods. But during the time the pollinators are active the cattle are in constant motion, as Homer moves them to a new paddock every single day, leaving pollinators plenty of time to reproduce and build their colonies. Our honeybees grow like mad as well in these conditions. We have fruit trees planted: apple, pear, peach, cherry, plum and now blueberry. all our vegetable varieties are open pollinated..meaning they need bees and such..unlike the F1 hybrids that most time eliminate the need for bees..or worse, provide with pollen from sterile plants unable to reproduce..what does that do to a tiny bee? With no pesticides, insecticides, herbicides or fungicides (organic or synthetic) used here we see and hear constant pollinator activity. Right now with cucumbers, tomatoes, melons, squash and the like inside the hoophouse it is buzzing. Literally vibrating. Scares some people, because if you are afraid of bugs it is quite freaky. But good for productivity. Homer reports hundreds of fruit..so get ready, varieties of things you never heard of are on their way, thanks to the cattle eating a grass based diet.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

watermelon, pumpkin, cantaloupe and squash

Over the winter we read Amy Goldman's books on growing heirloom varieties of tomatoes, squash and melons. Featuring gorgeous photos and detailed descriptions of growth habit and fruit size, dimension, color and use, these books are garden porn for small growers like us. We want to help our native bee population healthy, and what better way to do it than planting a variety of things native to this part of the world! Some varities from other parts of the world too.

The tomato plants look great with lots of green fruit on them. This week we have a couple of red tomatoes, which means next week a few more and August a flood! Collecting glass jars for canning.

We studied a lot about how to get maximum production on the squash and melons. We have 4 kinds each of pumpkins, cantaloupe, winter squash, summer squash and watermelon in the ground. Our greatest challenge isthe bugs that love to eat the stems of these plants, so we keep an eye on them and plant after the bugs lay their devouring babies. Because we grow for a CSA and are not racing to be first to market we don't feel the push to plant early and spray insecticides, organic or other, to keep the bugs at bay. Many of the fruit from these plants keep for months in a cool place, so our efforts go into keeping plants healthy and not having early crops. We can eat much of these all winter long!

The flowers are the beginning of the fruit. There are male and female flowers, and tons of bees buzzing around. Under the hoophouse where there are tomatoes, cucumbers and lots of different melons and squash you can feel and hear the buzzing. Look closely and you can see the melon forming at the base of this flower:

and the flower full of bees..not honey bees by the way, the melons ans squash are filled with bunblebees and squash bees:
and a short list, from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed, of what we have on order..

New England Sugar Pie


Howden


King Of Mammoth Pumpkin


Rouge Vif D' Etampes Pumpkin


Winter Luxury Pie Pumpkin


Musquee De Provence Pumpkin


Jack Be Little Pumpkin


Seminole Pumpkin


and from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange:

Costata Romanesc
Wilson Sweet
Table Queen Acorn
Sugar Baby WATERMELON
Black Tail Mountain WATERMELON
Northstar (Planet and Stars) WATERMELON
Small Sugar PUMPKIN
Yellow Crookneck SQUASH
Green-Striped Cushaw
Tender Grey zucchini
Delicata Zeppelin SQUASH
Benning's Green Tint SQUASH

and the list goes on..banana melons and more!

3 types on cucumber, that are up on the trellis, thanks to Jerry's help. And while we were sleeping, they were growing..

Friday, July 15, 2011

Plato said..

Necessity, who is the mother of invention. and he lived (427 BC - 347 BC). He would be happy to know not much has changed here at Sunnyside Farm. Now that the days are warm the livestock consume lots of water. Our system works with a cut off valve that fills the water tray from a 5 gallon bucket on each pen. Right now, and until Thanksgiving, every pen that we have is full and in use. About 20 chicken pens, 2 pig pens, the moveable cow shade, and the 3-4 turkey pens. And the brooders..3-4 of those. The water gets filled in the morning and checked in the afternoon..and running that much water can take a while. Homer solved this standing and holding a hose challenge:

Now he can walk away and get other things done while the bucket fills. The hose cannot flip out of the bucket, and he used a bit of the copper tubing purchased in bulk when on clearance 3 years ago at HD.

Homer also bought plastic panels from his plastic supplier years ago. Not certain of the original intended use, but these panels now comprise both ends of our hoophouse, used in a shingle like fashion to keep out the cold. And when cut up into different shapes, as a part of this windmill:
video
Homer removes the sides of the hoophouse once it gets warm at night. The rain barrels are lined up all across the sides and capture the water from the roof. This year we also have an interest in making sunflower oil from our own sunflowers, so we planted the Russian Mammoth variety..usually the variety grown to be converted to oil. They are massive, and along with cosmos and zinnia are shading the rain barrels, keeping them out of direct hot summer sun and keeping the water a bit cooler:


time to look for hornworms..

Thursday, July 14, 2011

across the crowd

Sometimes we get offers of livestock. People realize they cannot quite keep up with all they have, and want to find a larger space. Or they get tired of the daily maintenance required. Sometimes animals are just too loud, in the case of this Phyllis Diller look alike, how was noisy at their old home but is now quiet..

If it turns out to be a rooster we will find another use for it!

Also starting to get crowded now are the pigs. We have multiple pens for them, and while we start them all off in early spring all together to help keep each other warm, by midsummer we split them into multiple pens. They work to clear out our fence lines and do an amazing job "hogging" the fields. Here is how long it takes to eat through the stuff I pick up at Belvedere Square for them:
video
Under the hoophouse is getting quite crowded. Next year Homer plans on shifting the location of our plantings to be right underneath the tears in the roof where the rain comes in..to slow down the growth of weeds. This photo was taken as all the weeds were pulled out and taken to the pigs..they eat every bit of them.

What is left are tomato and cucumber plants. The cucumbers are running to the ceiling, we hope to need a ladder to pick them!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

skinny dog

We adopted Sandi, the Jack Russel terrier, in February 2011. Weighing in at 11 pounds, she is a busy dog. Her alternate name is Rattlesnake, as she will nip at you if you try to touch her..as long as you leave her be and don't reach out to her all is well. She spends much of the day outside running, searching, and doing what terriers do..searching for rodents and getting rid of them.  It is a full time job patrolling our 12+ acres. And in case you were wondering, she eats more than 10% of her body weight every day: in raw meat, eggs, yogurt..and her favorite, baked goods. She is always hopeful and asks for a crust of bread or a bite of a cookie..

She is neither yippy or yappy, she is housebroken and will go to the door and whine to be let out, she sleeps in her own bed, not ours, and is generally a great companion. She listens well and spends most of the day running or sleeping. She has earned the name Kangaroo with this move:

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and she spends lots of time inside our patch of woods. The rock fence that was installed there a long time ago serves as housing for a lot of critters, and she is constantly checking to see what else she can find in there. Turtles are about on this part of the property, and their odd movements..sometimes moving and then closing up..cause her to bark with excited yips, but just a couple. She does not go on and on, and we like that! Not a beagle or coon hound, for certain.
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Sandi is 9 years old and many times Jacks live to be 15-18 years old. We figure as busy as she is, she will last us a good long time. Thanks to the folks who raised her and gave her up when they relocated to northern Michigan, we are loving this little dog, she is a constant source of amusement.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

aliens?

It is lovely and warm here. Not yet too warm for me, but we are going through lots of ice and water every single day. And with warm summer weather comes aliens of all sorts. Claire and I have picked off the potato beetles and their larva on quite a few mornings. Potoates continue to amaze us. You put a bit of a potato in the earth, and not much later there is this, green on top and lots of potatoes underneath:
And now that the tomatoes are starting to come in, we will spend our mornings between 2 crops: potato beetles and tomato hornworms. In this picture are a few green tomatoes that fell to the ground. Along with the tomatoes is a green thing, about the size of my pinky finger. It is covered in little white things. The green is the hornworm, and the white thing the eggs of a parasitic wasp. It is not easy in the animal/plant world!
And also under the category of alien is this plant. It has sprung up behind the pig pen, and is a total volunteer. There is a fruit on it, Homer thinks it is a melon of some kind, but it was not intentionally planted by us. Rest assured we will eat it!
And every so often we find one of these bugs. They look fierce with those giant fake eyes, and might be dangerous, but we love to put them down on their backs and them have them snap up in the air to get back to the right size. Farm fun with bugs!

Monday, July 11, 2011

changes

We were able to pick peas and distribute to our CSA members for a number of weeks. Along with potatoes, lettuces, greens, carrots, beets, radishes and herbs..basil and sage most recently. But peas are done now, every plant has gone to the pigs and been consumed in the blink of an eye. This weekend we harvested enough cucumbers for our CSA members to all get at least one, and the cucumber plants are alive with bees. Mostly bumblebees, not really a plant that the honeybee seems to like. The flowers are big enough that the bumblebee fits in their nicely..I bet the honeybee would be drowning in pollen with the first flower! Homer hates the bees so much he asks me to pick cucumbers, as the 6 rows under the hoophouse are buzzing and vibrating with the bee activity. They hide well, so much parting of leaves has to occur to get them. And when we miss them..the next day they are a foot long! We grow Marketmore 76, 80 and a pickling cucumber. Cucumbers a re a certain sign it is summer, as they love the warm weather and shrivel up and die the minute it gets chilly. Peas on the other hand love cool weather, and shrivel up and die just as the cucmbers come in. We will plant peas again towards mid-August..warm enough to germinate, but as they grow out the weather is cooling off.

The tomatoes are changing from day to day. Not yet enough of those to harvest for the CSA, and it is so hard to resist pulling them while pink not red. They go from this:
to this in one day!
We want them vine ripened and bright red, hard to wait! We have about 10 varieties planted, this is a Glacier, always the earliest tomato we grow. We do not grow the hybrids but grow the open pollinated varieties..and this plant is a volunteer from last years crop..thank goodness, because Glacier was sold out at Southern Exposure Seed Exchange this year. The beauty  of growing what we grow..the seeds will sprout and grow out just like their parents, while  a hybrid will not usually produce, is usually sterile or grows something unlike what was grown the year before. It will not "grow true".

We are gathering Mason jars for peaches, pickles and tomato sauce. Homer will be building shelves in the laundry room, just the depth of the canning jars, so that they will be visible to us every day, the strawberry jam is ready and waiting for a spot, much more to join soon.

The pond is watertight, and refills itself with rain and occasional additions from the hose. The fish are safe in their overturned milk carton, and the geese are loving it.
video

Sunday, July 10, 2011

not piglets anymore!

remember the cute little piglets we had before? Well not anymore! Here they are with a loaf of Atwaters bread:
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And they are really clearing the ground quickly now:
Every spot where they gouge deeply Homer plants a few seeds. And adds a little compost to it.
It is warm enough now that the seeds germinate quite quickly, and there is still enough time before frost that we will be able to harvest this fall. We hope the bugs that eat these squash, pumpkins, watermelons and cantaloupe don't find them. We have read that seeding after the 4th of July helps miss bugs that eat thiese plants, as they have an earlier cycle of life. We are testing to see if that happens.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

thistles..no match for turkeys

In some parts of the world thistles are considered a beautiful plant. Not generally in the United States, where it is an invasive non-native. Large, thorny, persistent, pervasive. There have been laws enacted in many states where neighbors can trespass to pull them out of other peoples farms/yards. A truly hated weed by vegetable growers, orchard keepers, cattle farmers..maybe goats can eat them ok..

On our farm the only animal that consumes thistle before it grows out and flowers are the turkeys. And when their pen is moved the thistle is the first thing they seek out and devour. They even fight over who gets to eat them. This year there are no where near as many thistles as last year. The finches like  to eat the seeds, and the goldfinch is such a beautiful bird we love to have them here. But the turkeys still get the majority of the plant.

Here is the before:
The turkeys make an incredible amount of noise in the morning before their pens get moved. They tear up so much grass that by early morning they are ready for a fresh patch, and they let it be known that it is time to move! Right now it is quiet, but 20 minutes ago this was it:
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And the aftermath of the time turkeys are on a spot, usually less than 24 hours and it looks like:
We had a powerful rainstorm last night. Our ccement pond overflows. The rock in the middle of the pond sits ontop of an old milk crate. We discovered more algae growing in the pond than we wanted, so bought feeder goldfish to consume it. Then the ducks ate all the little goldfish. Then we added the milk crate and the fish are fine. Knowledge is always evolving here!

Stumps's son gets married today, so we are getting ready to see Jerry & Felisha get hitched. Beautiful day for a wedding!

Friday, July 8, 2011

shoulder high

At market we have seen corn for sale..and the vendors tell us they grow it local on their own farms. We are suspect, as we criss cross this area, driving past many farms with lots of corn planted..no one around here has corn ready! We all have corn planted, but I've not seen one farm that can pick anything yet.
We are growing a few different varieties of corn, including the only hybrid we have..Silver Queen Corn..not genetically modified but hybridized beginning 30+ years ago to produce sweet white corn, but not roundup ready! Corn hates the cold and loves the heat, most take between 2-3 months to grow and produce corn, hence my suspicions about "local" corn..it was mighty cold here 9 weeks ago, we had to start later than that! We do grow beans and squash in with them, and all are looking quite full with flowers all over.

We will have beans soon! The bees have been all over them, all different sorts of bees.

Plums full on too, we don;t spray so there are small creatures in some..
and the aisle/walkway between the beans and one of the corn patches. Now that drip tape is installed Homer has the time to plant all over the farm, and has done so. The bees are going crazy..

We keep adding supers and they keep filling them up! Adding more tomorrow afternoon..

Thursday, July 7, 2011

pen repair, $.03

In any business profit can be elusive. When things are happening, thoughts are about how much is coming in..and sometimes how much is going out is forgotten. Taxes come due. Insurance premiums come due. Suddenly the back account balance vanishes. And pens need repair. All the pens must be in working order so they poultry can be in there, safe from the hawk, the owl, the dog, cat, raccoon..and the outdoor conditions just tear them up. Today Homer made his all time favorite repair to a pen, and cost was about $.03. The business manager is happy.


duct tape! It will hold up until the fall rains come, and by then we will be emptying full size poultry out, so this is a great solution until next year.
Homer is always experimenting with brooders. To take up the least amount of space but keep all the peepers happy and growing, to use as few materials as possible in construction and under the chicks. This low rider model was built the other day, using materials that were here on the farm. Along with a quick trip to the local hardware store for a couple of sticks of wood, and an experiment is under way. Will they do well outside, not under the hoophouse at this time of year? Will this offer enough protection for them? With 4-5 more batches of peepers scheduled to arrive on the farm only time will tell. For safety, there are many in the brooder we have been using for the last couple years.


and our first cucumber is here! Small, but there will be many more. We can't believe Homer snapped this picture with a bee in the flower just behind..and that bee means many more cucumbers are on the way!

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