Friday, February 24, 2012

A Look Back

It was 10 years ago that Rebecca and I made our home here on her family's land in rural Clay County and began Fair Share Farm. Having moved here in November of 2002, we began working on building the farm's infrastructure in late January, while remodeling our 1930's farmhouse.
The house in 2002

While we lost some photos due to a bad disk drive, we do have pictures of those early days and plan on sharing some with you as the year proceeds. This round documents the building of the greenhouse, our initial infrastructure project.

The passive solar design was taken from a similar structure at the MU Mount Vernon Experimental Station. With the help of Rebecca's father John, family, and some hired hands we commenced to clear the site of an old chicken coop and build this most important structure.

Through all types of weather the greenhouse has stood tall and nurtured our late-Winter and early-Spring transplants. It has also served to dry herbs, cure sweet potatoes, overwinter potted plants, dry our clothes, and otherwise warm us.

John clearing the site for the greenhouse

Greenhouse back wall

Rebecca laying out the foundation
Building the greenhouse

Taking shape

Rebecca hoisting the plastic
Insulating and finishing the interior

The finished greenhouse

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

High Tunnel Raising at Fair Share Farm

For all of you interested in participating in the construction of a high tunnel, this is your chance. On March 10th and 11th we are soliciting your help. (See the post below for an update on the project status.)

Work is scheduled to begin Saturday morning at 9am and Sunday at 10am. We will start with a safety talk and a rundown of tasks to accomplish, so if you plan on helping we encourage you to be there at the start. We want to make sure that it is a safe, interesting and fun day for all participants.

It is expected that we will work until 5pm both days. If you can stay the whole day, great, but we understand if folks have to leave early or can only work a half day.

Hoop houses are put together with a combination of carriage bolts, tek screws and other fasteners. Some assembly work is done on the ground and does not require a lot of upper body strength. Other tasks require lifting relatively heavy steel, some while on ladders. So there are lots of places to plug into the process and all are welcome.

If you plan on attending please RSVP so that we can plan enough food for lunch. We will prepare a large pot of stew and some other veggies and goodies.

We recommend all workers bring the following:
  • water
  • snacks
  • work boots
  • layered clothing appropriate for the weather
  • work gloves
In addition, if you have the following tools we recommend tossing them in your car in case we need extras:
  • cordless drill and batteries
  • bits for driving screws and other fasteners
  • socket set and wrenches
We could also use a sturdy 8 foot A-frame ladder to supplement the couple we have.

If you received an email concerning this, please reply to that email if you plan on coming. If you did not, reply via or website comment page. Thanks in advance for your help and consideration.

High Tunnel Beginnings

As we may have mentioned somewhere along the line, we have decided to add "season extension" to our growing practices here at Fair Share Farm. So with the help a a Federal NRCS grant we bought the materials for a so-called "hoop house" or "high tunnel," and have begun construction.

On February 11, Rebecca and I traveled to Morgan County Seeds to pick up the 6,000 or so lbs of steel, wood and plastic and safely made our way back to the farm. Yesterday Rebecca, Luke and I began staking out the layout, and putting the ground posts in.

Hoop house on the farm

Along with leveling the site (something we did last month), this is one of the more critical steps. Once the posts are in place the remainder of the work is similar to an erector set.

Laying things out

Setting the posts (we got half of them in before the rain) has been a learning experience. To provide stablility to the tunnel you need to drive them 32 inches into the ground with whatever means you have at hand. Our primary source of power is a Bobcat. Our initial attempts were a bit precarious, lifting the bucket 11 plus feet and then pushing/hammering the posts in.

We decided that we didn't want to tip over onto Luke in the process, so came up with a new method. Searching the barn for old metal parts we found our solution...a compressed gas cylinder top and some old, old tractor tire chains (this is why I never wanted to throw them out!)
As you can see from the picture, things were less tipsy that way and we proceeded to drive 14 posts in a couple hours. We plan on finishing them on Wednesday or Thursday and will be ready to put the rest up during a "tunnel raising" on March 10 and 11th. More in the post above.

Post pounding method 1
Post pounding method 2
Post pounding method 2

Friday, February 17, 2012

Onions and Geese

As is often the case in February, the greenhouse is the warmest place on the farm right now. Sunny days bring 90 degree comfort to our little hothouse. The onions we started on February 4th are up and growing well. Next in line are some herbs, and then the broccoli, cabbage and other brassicas.

Outside the skies have that late winter feel, as the geese cross back north over the farm. The snow geese have been abundant this year, and lower flying than normal. You almost feel that you can reach up and touch them sometimes. It is nice to be in a flyover state.

While you can hear them, you may want to full screen the video to get a better look by going directly to the YouTube Fair Share Farm Channel.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Fair Share Farm Wins MU Extension Award

On Thursday we received some mail from the University of Missouri Extension. We regularly work with Extension, attend or help out at workshops and classes, and otherwise take advantage of the help and services they provide to the local farming community.

When we opened this correspondence we were touched to learn that it was to inform us we have been selected to receive the University of Missouri Extension Leader's Honor Roll Award. We are appreciative of this gesture of our contributions and want to thank the Clay County Extension for this honor. We look forward to accepting the award at their annual meeting on February 28th.

Click on the photo below to see the notification letter.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Let the Seeding Begin

Well it is official, the growing season has started. Last Saturday February 4th our two new interns, Dani Hurst and Ryan Stubby, joined us for half a day to initiate the planting of over 12,000 onion seeds. We finished up the planting yesterday with Luke, and will concentrate on tending to your vegetables for the next 10 months.

Planting the first seed of 2012

Dani making soil blocks

Ryan and Rebecca seeding onions

Along with the seeding, we have been taking advantage of the warm weather to do as much equipment maintenance as possible this year. We are hoping it pays off during the growing season  by minimizing equipment breakdowns, delays, and frustrations, while improving the working life and safety of our machinery.

One piece of equipment we worked on is the spader. For a while now the frame/shroud that surrounds the digging spades has been bent and in need of some adjustment. With a lot of elbow grease from Luke we were able to take the frame apart so that we could work on it.

Local artist/metal worker/handy guy Jeff Becker came up with the solution to bending things back into over it with the tractor! Well, in true Missouri farmer fashion we used the tools and leverage we had at hand and were able to straighten things out. Re-assembly is on its way.

Spader with bent rake frame
Straightening the frame
This winter season we have seen a lot of birds on the move, more it seems than the last couple years. A huge flock of snow geese flew over the greenhouse on Monday, It was quite a sight and sound. If I had the time I would count the number of birds in the photo out of curiosity.

Snow geese on the move

Lastly, a salami update. For the past several years we have been working on perfecting the making of an annual batch of Finocchiana, a peppercorn and fennel seed flavored cured pork salami. The recipes we have used has been consistently good, and when we can get 20 lbs of Parker Farms pork shoulder, the meat quality is the best. The trick has always been the curing process.

To make a tasty (and safe) salami you need to cure it at the proper temperature and humidity. In the past we relied on whatever conditions a cool basement could provide. Then we started curing it in a box of wood ash from our stove. With the construction of our "cave" in the lower part of the barn we are able to control the temp and humidity to the general levels required.

The results have been the most consistent batch of salami yet. Thank you local hogs.

2012 Finocchiana