Sunday, May 11, 2008

Then There's the Mulch.

If you put in flowers this past weekend, it's time for mulch. If you're not sure you want what's at the store, come on over to the Farm and load it up.

We've been moving mulch here, there and everywhere. Six to eight inches deep in between the raised beds for weed control and moisture containment. Two to four inches side dressing on plants for nutrition.

We use two different kinds of mulch. One is the wood chip mulch which is now three years old and quite nutritious. The other kind is the compost we created from last year. The compost is for side dressing on the planted areas. This compost acts as fertilizer in addition to weed control.

To improve soil fertility in the field, we rotate grazing animals like chickens and goats. When they're done with a grazing pen, we can use it to plant crops in two weeks or less. We also planted squashes and melons directly into the wood mulch this year. Those plants are coming along nicely and should have record yields.

Compost and mulch are two great secret weapons in an organic farmer's arsenal. These things build soil health which in turn builds healthy plants. Healthy plants are more nutritious for us to eat. So composting improves our diets and helps us be healthier. It all starts with the earth.

Friday, May 9, 2008

More Fence, Please.

Some days, it seems that the only tasks a farmer has is to put up fence, repair fence and plan for more fence. Where we farm, in the cove, a fence is necessary to protect our chickens and goats from predators. Since we practice rotational grazing, as the goats or chickens finish grazing one pen, it's time to move them to another.

We opted for the "do it as we go" method which means we build new pens as we need them. It also means we don't have a giant cash outlay all at once. We thought it would mean we wouldn't have fencing materials laying about, but that hasn't worked out like we thought.

It's time for two more pens to go up. We've decided to separate the girl and boy goats, so that we don't have any baby goat surprises. The goats have also eaten quite a bit of the pasture in the two existing pens, so it's time to move.

I have to say, putting up fencing is not a job I enjoy. I would rather that the fence brownies came and did it, but it's got to be done. The fence brownies don't apparently exist.

First we measure out the pen size and locate the corner posts. Then we locate the gate posts. Thirdly, we put in other posts as needed. Then it's time to string the wire - a job best done with several people and vehicle. With the tractor needing a part, it's also time to order the part and repair the tractor, so it can be used to stretch the fence tightly. Finally we put up the gates and open the pasture up for grazing.

Wish us luck.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Digging in the Dirt

We've been busy planting last Friday and this past Monday. In the raised bed area, last Friday, we planted spring peas, snow peas, carrots, dill, fennel, lettuce, onions, beets, and spinach. I think that's a complete list. This increases the number of lettuce varieties to at least seven. Three packets of lettuce seeds were mixes, like chef's mix and Mesclun mix, so those actually have more than one variety.

On Monday, the kids and I planted herbs: oregano, basil, sage, bee balm, parsley and thyme. Planting with the kids was such fun. They asked lots of questions about the different weeds we cleared first. We talked about what various herbs can be used for. They learned how to transplant herbs from a pot to the ground and about different types of soil.

I was reminded about how important it is for children to know where their food comes from and how it is produced. By helping me plant in the garden, the children have a stake in what they eat. This is also the basis of Community Supported Agriculture. By supporting the farmer, you have a stake in what you eat. Not only that, you help ensure that the farm can continue to produce the food you eat.

And speaking of farm involvement, the kids were extremely excited to help milk the goat. They are learning how to take care of a milk producing animal, and how milk is processed. I am reminded that children who grow up on farms are more likely to be compassionate and responsible because of their involvement with animal care. These are priceless lessons that cannot be taught in school as effectively.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Pie Lady

The Pie Lady has been making fried pies for a really long time. Twenty years - she thinks. At first she only made them for her family. Usually she made apricot pies, but sometimes she made peach pies. She would make them when family and friends requested them.
One year, her daughter told her about an new Open Air Market in Ashland City. All Master Gardeners were invited to set up at the market and sell their plants and whatever else they were producing at home in their gardens. Her daughter wanted her mom to come with her. Mom didn't want to go because... why after all, she would not have anything to do. So her daughter suggested that she make some pies and bring them, just to see if they would sell at the market. She sold 20 pies in 30 minutes.

The Pie Lady comes to the market early on Saturday mornings. Those delicious fried pies are the first item sold out every time. She now makes four flavors of fried pies: apple, apricot, chocolate and peach. All of them are fantastic.

I eat breakfast so early on Saturday mornings, that by the time I get to market and get set up, I am ready for a snack. One of those delicious homemade fried pies really hits the spot. When the Pie Lady's grandchildren are there, you can often get a large cup of sweet tea to go with your pie. When you come to pick up your share or to visit your friends at the market, come early and see The Pie Lady.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Our New Prince

This goat is our new herd sire. Notice his beautiful and quite long ears. Look at that lovely color. Java is a Nubian goat. Nubian's are milk goats.

We got him from Beth Thompson who maintains a quite wonderful Nubian Herd. Beth also makes fantastic goat's milk soaps which you can get at the Ashland City Open Air Market.

Java enjoys playing with Rock, Gem, Rock Lee and Anabelle. He has also visited some with George, the rooster.

Java is acclimating well to our herd which now features three goat breeds: Saanen, LaMancha and Nubian.
Feel free to comment by clicking on the comment link above. I want to see what you have to say.