Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Building a Raised Herb Bed

We continue to try to get the best out of our soil at the farm, but for some plants a heavy silt loam is never to their liking. Such is the case with some of our herbs. When we were in Upstate New York we seem to remember one tarragon plant growing as tall as your head in their sandy soil and being enough for the whole CSA. Our plants do not do as well, to say the least.

So we are building a raised bed for some of these herbs, in an attempt to make them happier. The soil mix we are trying is roughly 1/3 sand, 1/3 compost and 1/3 topsoil. A little wood ash, a quick mix, and voilĂ , an herb garden.

The other factor that helped us decide to try this out is that we are cleaning up an old pile of building stones from behind the barn as part of our farm beautification. These wonderful limestone blocks came from our barn's old foundation wall that was replaced in 2004. While there is only a limited amount of stones, we may build another raised bed if this one proves beneficial.

Here is the stop action video of the project. A higher resolution version is available on YouTube

Saturday, March 26, 2011

FSF to Host "Outstanding in the Field"

We received some exciting news this week at the farm. We have been chosen (and agreed) to host an Outstanding in the Field dinner.

This program travels around the country, setting up their long dinner table in a farm field, while having a celebrated local chef serve up a farm inspired meal. Our event will be held July 24 (rain or heat or shine) with chef Jonathan Justus providing the meal. For more information on Justus Drugstore, the Restaurant read this New York Times article.

The tickets are $180 per person. You get the unique experience of dining in the field and eating arguably the best local food from the area’s most celebrated chef. Along with appetizers, wine parings, a five course meal you get a chance to rub elbows with real live farmers (that’s us!).

We receive a generous honorarium for hosting, and plan on putting some of it towards farm beautification. We like our scruffy side, it is proof that we are indeed a working farm busily producing food and not manicuring the grounds, but we don’t want to look too shabby for this celebrated event. To help with this we anticipate having a volunteer day or two as the date approaches to help showcase Fair Share Farm in the best possible light.

Spread the word. The folks at Outstanding in the Field say that tickets sell out quickly. We are looking forward to playing host to the region for one night’s dinner.

Tom and Rebecca

Is it Really Spring?

We are getting antsy to get going in the fields at Fair Share Farm, but the weather, and our farmer's sense tell us, be patient. We have learned that a transplant in the greenhouse with warm roots will give us a healthier plant than one that gets set out into 40 degree soil. And while we've seeded some peas and spinach, it remains too cold and wet for much else.

And cold and wet is the word. For the next five days the warmest temperature we can expect is 45 deg F; and 4 of the next 5 nights will see temps in the mid to high 20's. All are well below the balmy average of 60 deg F during the day and 40 deg F at night.

So we continue working in the greenhouse, and in the barn, and clearing brush, and planning, and whatever else we can do.

First day of Spring

Snow on the garlic Friday morning

Seeding the eggplant in mini-soil blocks

Stinging nettles, a Spring treat

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sign-up Meeting and Spring

We would like to extend a thousand thanks to the Fair Share Farm CSA Core Group for organizing and running the annual Spring Sign-up Meeting. Their efforts are a great help to us, the farmers (as well as to the members!) In another smoothly run show, at a new location to boot, we "oriented" new members, signed contracts with both old and new, helped you schedule your farm work shifts, and introduced you to our partner vendors.

If you are a new member and missed the meeting, you need to attend the alternate signup meeting this Saturady at the farm at 2:00pm.

Contract signing

Meanwhile, farming continues. The broccoli continue to gain leaves, the garlic is pushing through the straw mulch that protected it all winter, and the earthworms are mating. We have planted onion sets, peas and spinach in the field and start the peppers and eggplant in the greenhouse today.

Broccoli starts



This time of year we also find time to do our own Spring yard work. We have a home garden that is more protected than the fields where we start early lettuce and greens, so that we have some food for our interns and volunteers before the season is in full swing.

On that note too, if you planted the walking onions we handed out a few years ago, take a look at them now, as here at the farm they are perfect for pulling. If you want to keep a supply for next year simply pull a bunch/cluster, take the onions you want to eat, and replant a couple. You can trip the roots and tops before planting to help the plant out. They can last a lifetime, as these were from a garden in central MO that was originally planted in the 1940's.

Lettuce planting

Home garden

Yummy walking onions

And yes, we still have bees. After buying 7 hives in the past 2 years, we still have 2 (maybe 3) viable hives going. We will see how they do this year. If available, we plan on buying some locally bred bees from Les Miller this year to fill in some.

Springtime for the bees

Friday, March 18, 2011

March Farming

Activities are accelerating here at the farm as March passes the halfway point. In the greenhouse we have seeded a host of crops: onions, leeks, broccoli, cabbage, Asian greens, kohlrabi, lettuce, tomatoes, celeriac, kale, herbs and flowers. Our volunteers and interns, Shelly, Marlene and Lucas have been a great help.

Marlene seeding w/Momma kitty

Broccoli showing its true leaves

No more greenhouse for the onions. They are hardening off outside awaiting planting in about a week.

Lettuce, kale and leeks filling the cold frame

Cleaning the tools in prep of the season

Lucas taking a soil sample.

Recycle and Reuse at the Farm
Frugality is nothing new to this Missouri homestead. In our remodeling of the house and in other activities at the farm we often find scrap materials that were used in construction 4o or 50 years ago.

To live up to the waste not attitude of our forebearers, and satisfy our desire to keep plastic out of the trash, we have designed our own version of the "ground staple". By cutting waste irrigation tubing in half, and punching two holes in it, we are able to make a ground staple that better holds down our row cover. It appears to be working well, and has the potential to save us a lot of time when putting out the row cover, as our alternative is to bury the edges (a tiresome and time consuming process.)

To top that, we are using them this year to tack down large sheets of waste greenhouse plastic on our cherry tomato beds to help warm the soil before planting in April. More on that in the future.

FSF ground staple

Warming the beds

Electric Tractor Update
At the end of last year our electric tractor was not acting as powerful as in the past. After some testing, it became apparent that 3 years of farming was all our batteries could take.

As we were hoping for 4 to 5 years we were a bit disappointed. Luckily our search for new batteries took us no farther than next door in Lawson, to Magnum Industrial Batteries. The folks there were helpful in providing us with an alternative design for our battery pack.

Instead of the six 8-volt batteries of our original system they suggested eight 6-volt batteries to achieve our required 48-volts. The 8 battery system cost the same as the 6 and has over twice the amp/hour rating, meaning we will have more overall life.
We installed the batteries on Tuesday and went to work cultivating on Thursday. The tractor performed like a charm, with enough power to draw the cultivators and disks through almost an acre of beds.

New battery pack

Cultivating in prep for planting

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Continuing to Move Towards Spring

The words of the day lately have been remodeling and greenhouse. We are wrapping up the remodel and getting our life back in order in the house. While the trim work and other jobs await us, we are now able to move our concentration back to farming.

Yesterday and today were filled with planting...cherry and determinate tomatoes, kohlrabi, pac choi, herbs, more broccoli. As the sun gets stronger and the fields dry out we get closer to the days when we can again work in the fields. The sunshine and warmth are most welcome.

Broccoli growing

Kale and lettuce growing well


More painting

Done except for trim (yeah!)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Spring is Almost Here

Spring isn't here yet, but it's close. Here are some sure signs Spring is just around the corner at the farm.

Snow geese

Homemade salami (finocchiano)

Sprouting garlic

Remodeling final stages

Onion seedlings

New (albeit old) equipment. Our new flail mower.

Broccoli seedlings.