Grown with love.

  • Press block in soil
  • First spear spotted
  • Next time. Next. Time.
  • Jordan transplanting onions
  • Test of patience
  • Old Virginia Tomato seeds germinating
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  • 20140412-120727.jpg
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  • 18 degrees F (that's -7.7 degrees C)
  • May 10th NRV ECO EXPO
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  • 20140315-133531.jpg
  • IMG_1787
  • Minuet cabbage

Latest

Wa waa waaaaaaaa :(

Dang to cold. Double gosh dang the blustery winds! No fresh asparagus this weekend…the quick cold snap melted it!

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Onions are OK. Chinese cabbages are OK. Despite row covers, other cabbages sustained chill injury. Hoping the cabbages rebound….otherwise, I will try again!

Switch of products

Here is a bit of “how-to” and “just in case you are curious” all combined into one post. The how-to part illustrates through images the soil block making process. The just in case you are curious part is sharing with you the fact that I have switched our brand of soil that we use.

First…the soil. Our local organic supplier quit carrying the McEnroe brand of soil because folks got a little upset about finding twigs, fruit labels and other items in their soil. I can understand that concern….but the soil seemed akin to beautiful compost, and our seedlings didn’t seem to care about twigs or non-organic fruit labels (McEnroe’s soil comes from Maine where they take food and yard wastes and make them into lovely compost…so a fruit label here and there isn’t a big deal to meal. I like that they convert wastes to useful product. Plus, this product’s contents resembles Eliot Coleman’s recipe. How can that be bad? Off my podium now.). The replacement soil was primarily peat based, had a lot of perilite in it, and frankly was a challenge to work with to make soil blocks. It isn’t even a commercial based product…just an organic potting soil. Plus, the seedlings just didn’t seem to thrive. In fact, most had yellowing of the cotyledons…something I hadn’t seen before. So, anyway, I found another vendor who sells the McEnroe product….of course they are in Waynesboro…some 3 hours away or so. The good news is that they travel all around the state and have specific spots in different locales for drop off points! Hurray! The bottom line is, I got my beautiful soil back, at a cheaper price despite the delivery aspect, and I could give a rip if I find a small twig or fruit label. It is a great product that I am happy to be using again.

Now…for the how-to part. I’ve verbally and haphazardly posted about soil block making. Here are step by step photos, using the pretty McEnroe’s premium organic soil.

 

McEnroe's soil - general purpose mix tub

McEnroe’s soil – general purpose mix tub

Add water

Add water

Mix by hand...cake batter consistency

Mix by hand…cake batter consistency

Test - squeeze and see water

Test – squeeze and see water

Press block in soil

Press block in soil

Fill blocks well with soil

Fill blocks well with soil

Move to tray (trays are resusable for years...and are recyclable plastic)

Move to tray (trays are reusable for years…and are recyclable plastic)

Squeeze

Squeeze

Ejected blocks!

Ejected blocks!

Nearly ready to seed

Nearly ready to seed

A reminder…

Hey remember me from last year? Well, I’m back. And this year, I should have a lot of friends showing up.

First spear spotted

First spear spotted

I CANNOT WAIT! Yum!!!

 

FloJo and the Carpenter Bee

FloJo discovered bees this weekend…carpenter bees. These bees are big and fuzzy and like to hover. The last part is what caught FloJo’s attention:

Hello. What's that?

Hello. What’s that?

Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

I'll get you my pretty

I’ll get you my pretty

Unfortunately, I wasn’t quick enough with my iPhone photography to capture the complete 360 degree flip that FloJo did… in mid-air…JUST missing the bee with gnashing teeth, and landing solidly on all four feet after the acrobatic rotation. She had some impressive air time.

Next time. Next. Time.

Next time. Next. Time.

See, post rotation. On all fours. Hope that I’ll be able to capture it next time, too. Circus dog.

Transplanting extravaganza

This weekend was a beautiful weekend full of hard work.

Things accomplished:

  • Compost applied to a quarter of the planting beds
  • Broadforking of carrot beds
  • Tillage of onion and cabbage planting beds
  • Weeding of garlic beds
  • Compost applied to garlic beds
  • Transplanting of onions and cabbages

We transplanted 16 flats of onions….that’s 1344 soil blocks. Each soil block was triple seeded. Not all seeds germinated, but we figured we had an average of two seedlings per block, meaning we planted around 2688 onions!

Jordan transplanting onions

Jordan transplanting onions

Onions seedlings - just look at those beautiful roots!

Onions seedlings – just look at those beautiful roots!

We worked hard and had our butts kicked by the sunny, warm days….only to have a reality check that those warm temperatures were fleeting. The forecast for Tuesday night = blustery with gusty winds and temps in the 20s! Great. Yesterday afternoon was a frantic dash to put row covers over everything that was just planted. Here’s hoping they survive the possible freeze……

Mad dash to cover transplants - cold front coming :(

Mad dash to cover transplants – cold front coming :(

The biscuit…..

I don’t need to type anything about this posting of photos….they say it all:

The biscuit

The biscuit

Test of patience

Test of patience

Yes, he is falling asleep (no doubt dreaming of devouring that delicious Bojangles buttermilk biscuit) on the table.

 

Tomato update

So, all of the tomato seeds have been sown. In the works are 9 varieties of tomatoes (heirlooms to new hybrids – see the homepage for a listing) totaling up to 756 seeds.

Here are the first sprouts of Old Virginia, lovingly sown by Jordan:

Old Virginia Tomato seeds germinating

Old Virginia Tomato seeds germinating

Skunked

The Wonder dogs got skunked this morning. Around 2am. A lap through the house before being nabbed has the whole house skunked, too. It was only a matter of time. We’ve been living life on the edge here for over 2 years now by not having a vat of Skunk Off on hand.

Franklin for certain is the guilty one, blasted on his right cheek near his eye where it is difficult to clean. FloJo is clear. I think. I’m too congested to know for certain whether she has second hand or primary stink (her behavior of being 50 paces behind and NOT leading the charge would make me believe that Franklin is 100% stink).

I only had Dawn, baking soda and white vinegar on hand. I am pretty sure that they didn’t work. No. Despite congestion, I KNOW the mix didn’t work. A direct result of this deskunking failure is that I now stink, too. At any rate, I gave up the fight at 2:40am, tired of bathing a sad, scared dog.

Best not to worry about how bad EVERYTHING stinks until people who can smell can tell me. So…let’s have happy thoughts. Like these…

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A gift from Jordan – my newest bird feeder, the Red Rooster, hanging out in the pear tree

20140413-082107.jpg A close up of a pear tree blossom

20140413-082201.jpg Peach tree blossoms

The broadfork

One of many tasks underway on this very beautiful day is tillage by way of the broadfork.

20140412-120727.jpg Bed prep with the broadfork

This tool helps to aerate, till and loosen compacted soil deeply, all by leveraging your own body weight. The benefit of using the broadfork for tillage over something mechanical is that the broadfork is much less disruptive to the soil’s structure (i.e. earthworms and microbes don’t get chewed up). So, this tool’s use comes highly recommended by most organic farm gurus (Eliot Coleman, Barbara Damrosch, John Jeavons, Pam Dawling, Jean- Martin Fortier….). It is a glad addition to our tool supply. This particular fork shown is the 14″ tine option from Meadow Creature. I think I am getting the hang of it though it is slower going than I expected (physicality on a warm day = clear evidence that I am out of training).

Anyway, after this step comes a beautiful layer of compost, a good raking, then 100s if not 1000s of onions, carrots and beets! One bed down, the rest of the garden to go! :)

Wrasslin’

Other use for straw mulch – wrasslin’

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Yee haw (all in good fun – don’t be alarmed by the teeth and snarls, those dogs were having fun with no meanness).

Black gold

Sunday’s to-do list included some of this

20140407-202617.jpgBlack gold

Compost. Finally, bed prepping for spring plantings is underway. So exciting. Also arrived was our straw bales. Yay for mulch!

My arms are like jello…shoveling, hauling, spreading. Phew.

Hello, Spring!

Though we are enjoying seasonal temps, it almost feels like a “cold snap” after last week’s eighty degree days. Still, there is a freshness to the air that is totally Spring. The fruit trees are budding out, daffodils have bloomed, and grass mowing is in our near future.

On the garden side of things, our compost order was delivered, weeds are emerging, and the fields are beckoning for our attention.

Here’s a peek under a row cover:

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Garlic, looking good despite some weeds

Fruit varieties

Here are the berry varieties we purchased from Pulaski County Cooperative Extension:

Brambles

  • Triple Crown
    • thornless blackberry; from ediblelandscaping.com: “Triple Crown is named for its three attributes; flavor, productivity and vigor. This very hardy variety offers two other attributes; disease resistance and very large berries. The thornless blackberry ripens for about one month from end of July thru August. Semi-erect, the canes can be trellised or pruned in summer to an easy picking height of 42″. Does well on East and West Coasts and to Homestead, Florida. Space @ 5′ circle or 5′ apart in prepared garden beds 5′ wide. Zones 5-9.”
  • Heritage
    • raspberry; from arborday.org: “Heritage Everbearing Raspberry is a favorite for its flavor, firmness, and large fruit size. This bush has two harvest seasons with a moderate yield in July and heavy yield in September until frost. Self-pollinating, dark red raspberry that spreads fast and produces a crop in the first year. Extra-sweet, juicy fruit that is good fresh, canned or frozen. A hardy plant doing well in the cold climates where other raspberry may not grow. Self supporting. 5′ to 6′ tall. (zones 3 – 9)”

Blueberries – descriptions are from http://www.danfinch.com/berrys.htm

  • Climax
    • Early ripening, produces medium-size berries with sweet flavor. Plants are upright with intense green
      foliage. One of the very best for harvesting.
  • Premier
    • Early to mid-season, large fruit. Excellent flavor, light blue in color and good quality. Plants are upright
      with good foliage. Highly productive.
  • Tifblue
    • Plants are upright and vigorous growers. Berries are medium to large, light blue and of good quality.
      Mid-season in ripening. For fall leaf color, Tifblue rates as the best ornamental.
  • Centurion
    • Mid to late season ripening. Medium to large good quality fruit, darker in color than most rabbiteye.
      Plants are generally upright, easy to manage.

Tip for blueberries – “It is recommended that two or more varieties of blueberries be planted together to assure higher yields and better quality fruit. For commercial plantings, other specifications may be followed. Whereas cross-pollination will help increase production, the actual yield will also be partially dependent upon size and vigor of the plant.”

When I picked these bareroot plants up yesterday, I was told that there were extra plants still available. Blueberries and brambles are $5.00 per plant. This plant sale is a fund raiser for Pulaski County 4H youth programs. Here is their contact info if you might be interested….the plants need homes by Monday because they are bareroot and need to be planted (or placed in soil medium) ASAP:

Pulaski Virginia Cooperative Extension

143 Third Street, NW – Suite 3

Pulaski, VA 24301

540-980-7761

 

 

Brambles, berries…Oh My!

Just picked up our bare root blueberry, blackberry, and raspberry plants from the Pulaski County Extension office this afternoon. A great fund raiser for the local 4H with delicious returns for us. Looking forward to planting these babies and enjoying the fresh fruits that are coming! Yea!

Our set-up

So…while it may be like this outside:

18 degrees F (that's -7.7 degrees C)

18 degrees F (that’s – 7.7 degrees C)

We have this action going on in the basement:

Basement set-up

Basement set-up

I have mentioned our seed starting methods and shown some close-ups of flats, but I have yet to show you the actual setup. Not ideal, but it works. And it is working better than last year because we have spent our life savings in shop lights. This view is only of half the basement. There is more growing area behind where I stood for taking this photo.

At any rate, we have two tiers of planting areas on detachable plastic shelves. The lights hang from the ceiling on chains so that they are adjustable in height. Most of the light fixtures are 8 feet long. Some of our original lights from last year are 4 feet long doubled up. All lights are plugged into either a power strip with an imbedded timer or to individual timers. Are there some light voids over the flat, yes, but the plants aren’t too leggy as of yet. I did have an emergency blanket up earlier on (before the second planting tier) for added insulation and light reflection. Probably, it was helpful. Are we pulling a lot of power with this setup? I don’t think so. Our most recent power bill was actually down from the previous month.

The soil mixing and block making happens right there on the floor. It is just easier for me to sit there and do it. I do the seeding of the blocks on the counter to the right. I have a little light that is positional that helps me see what it is I am doing. I haul in water for the soil block making in buckets and use the sprayers to water the seedlings. The sprayer seems to work well. I like that I can adjust the flow of water. I have heard that some folks setup fans on seedlings to help toughen them up in preparation for winds and such. I think the sprayer kind of acts the same way. I have been misting daily to every other day.

I have mentioned that Jordan is working on an actual seed starting / growing area structure onsite, at the farm. But building projects take time…and money. But right now a lot of time.

So. The basement works. The investment in lights is worth it. The seedlings look great.

Onion seedlings already forming bulbs!

Onion seedlings already forming bulbs!

As an aside to any other nerds out there: we inadvertently setup a sort of experiment. Most of our shop lights take 75W bulbs. We accidentally bought a light that took 110W bulbs. Then bought a few more. All of the bulbs are cool-white. True, the lumens  are different for the bulbs (75W = 5000 lumens while 110W bulb is 8700 lumens), but visually, it seems the seedlings do not respond any differently to this difference in lumens. The seedlings under the 110W HO (high output) lights are not bigger, greener, or any tougher looking than those under the 75W lights. Why does this even matter? Well. Money. The 110W lights are more expensive…fixtures and bulbs. And I just don’t think more lumens = more or better growth. Curious. Soon it will matter less which lights are needed because I will have the power of the sun! The best light source for seed starting! :)

 

 

Thinking about the markets? I sure am!

I know I know…it is a challenge to think about any Farmer’s Markets today what with snow falling from the sky and the ever-greening grass disappearing from sight beneath the white.

BUT….I am excited to tell you that market season IS approaching.

  • Seems like forever ago that we were at the train depot in Pulaski, but the good news is that soon we will be back there, enjoying the music, drink, good eats and great friends every Tuesday night beginning May 20th.
  • Also in the works is our return to the Blacksburg Community Farmer’s Market located on South Main Street. We are still awaiting word from that group, so stay posted. If all goes well, we will be at that market on Saturdays, starting in May.
  • Finally, we are pleased to be joining the efforts of the Village Gourmet located at Warm Hearth Village (WHV) to offer a farmer’s market to residents and all members of the local community. This market is planned for Thursday evenings and will feature good eats, drinks and music to welcome in the end of the work week!

Please keep watch of the “Market Schedule” section (right side of the web page just above the calendar) for announcements of all market dates, times, locations and any up-coming events. Additionally, in keeping with our mission to make delicious and nutritious food widely available to all, we have completed that application process for SNAP/EBT equipment. We will update you on the status of our application once it is known. We have high hopes that we will be successful in this endeavor and will be very pleased to add this layer of service!!!!

Now back to up-coming events for a moment…I’ve one I’d like to announce that is coming up in May. We’ll be collaborating with WHV and the Village Gourmet to help support their NRV ECO EXPO happening at the WHV Village Center, a spectacular venue, on May 10th from 10am-4pm. This event highlights sustainable living in our region. Check it out, there will be a lot of cool things going on for everyone:

May 10th NRV ECO EXPO

May 10th NRV ECO EXPO

 

Here’s to spring and the coming market season!!!

 

 

Projects…just a few

Though little has been written here lately (sorry about that everybody), quite a bit has been going on. Namely – construction projects.

I don’t have pictures yet, but Jordan has been working hard on repurposing a bay of our garage into a growing area (it has a south facing wall). What a plus it will be to have that space out at the farm! I’ll post photos soon.

We’ve purchased straw round bales for the garden. Unfortunately, they are in Vinton and will have to be hauled in, but the fact is there is no straw locally. Too wet a summer, I think. At any rate, I brought back a bale in the truck, and we rolled it out. Now the asparagus beds are mulched (finally), and we have just over half the garden mulched. Here are our helpers:

20140323-174706.jpg FloJo jumping on the bale while it was rolling with Franklin bedding down in the background

20140323-174929.jpg Queen of the bale

Meanwhile, back in town, dad has been super busy the past few weekends. He helped install the door and window in the hoop house. Then he took out two raised beds that were in the hoop house for room. In place of those beds, dad built two planting tables for mom. I just transplanted some greens and onions in one of the tables. Take a look:

20140323-175307.jpg Greens just planted

Of course, winter weather is on its way. So the table is also protected with a row cover.

20140323-175526.jpg A peak through the hoop house door at the covered table

Finally, dad has done a tremendous job building the farm a brand new top bar beehive out of red cedar. Look at this thing of beauty:

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I know it’s coming…

Signs of spring are making an appearance! Robins abound. Spring peepers serenade us in the evenings. A cluster of daffodils are about to have their blooms burst free. Lilac leaves are budding. The forsythia will be a wash of yellow flowers this week, I think. And the dreary brown of the pastures and lawn is beginning to take on greenish hues.

20140315-133714.jpgview of the house from neighbor’s pasture

Dang the snowy forecast that’s coming! I will stay in denial has I hang laundry on the line in the sun and freshening breeze.

20140315-133531.jpgview of the barn from neighbor’s pasture

Pretty birds

I can’t wait to get some of these…..so pretty! The eggs aren’t bad either!

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Love me some chickens

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Chicken closeup

Awaiting spring

What an amazing weekend! Bright sunshine. Comfortable temps. Slight breezes. Man, it really gets ya eager for spring!

Change of seasons….

Nature is already telling us that a change is underway….daffodils are coming up, forsythia is getting ready to shower some color, and the maples are preparing to release some pollen. I am trying to watch these sorts of things to help with timing of some of my planting this season. The process of observing / recording plant and animal cycles over the seasons is called phenology. In my simple mind, it goes back to a mantra I believe…that things happen for a reason. Plants emerge, leaf out, flower, insects appear, animals behave this way and that…all of this and more occur because of an underlying cause – mostly temperature (climate).

The importance of what happens around you….

Daffodils have a wide territory, so why should you care what they do? The cool thing about following what happens in your backyard is that, well…it is specific for YOUR backyard. Meaning – you can determine the climate in your region at a specific point in time which may impact planting decisions or growing conditions. Or…just be nice to look at and take note! In a world of generalities, it is kind of nice to have something that can guide you in your decision making. At any rate, we’re gonna give it a try as a sort of experiment. Can’t hurt!

In the meantime….

Hard work is underway. Granted, we are still in the basement, but we have a better setup than last year for our seed starting operation. Onions, cabbages, kohlrabis and other greens are beginning their pampered lives with words of encouragement, every other day mistings of moisture, and warm shop lights. LOTS of shop lights. (A growing area will be built one of these days). Soon, some direct seeding will happen out in the field – peas, carrots, beets and others. It is a much anticipated and exciting time! What’s going on in your area?

Minuet cabbage

Minuet cabbage starts

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