The content of this journal entry is from an eNewsletter sent to existing CSA Shareholders this past week.
After surviving such a difficult growing season in 2013, we have been doing a lot of soul searching, that is in terms of our lifetime goals and expectations. We want this farm to not only to be sustainable from an environmental and healthful perspective, but also for the farmers, in terms of planning for retirement.
As many of you readers are aware, because we made farming our career choice, we haven’t been able to save towards our retirement due our low paying job. That is the reason for working towards building a “Farm Vacation Cabin Rental”. Offering farm vacations is something that, as we age, we feel we can manage physically as opposed to tending to five acres of row crops.
This year we are making one of the most difficult and significant changes to our business since the inception of Mountain Harvest Organics. We hope these business changes will allow us, not only to continue paying our annual bills, but also make progress towards building the cabin rental.
A photograph taken by Sylvestre Dion of standing water in our fields last Spring. Needless to say, our yields were significantly decreased causing a lot of stress and anxiety.
Last year our hope was to be able to juggle building the Farm Vacation Cabin along with production but that proved to be impossible. The weeds grew up around the unused sawmill which was a reflection of us not making progress towards our long term goals. We have finally faced the reality that as long as we focus our production on the CSA, that it becomes our exclusive focus during the growing season, just to assure that we are delivering quality produce each week.
Our plan for this upcoming season, is once per week, to process and pack a limited number of shares for the CSA with the majority of our harvest intended for market sales. Harvesting once per week, rather than twice, should save a substantial amount of labor on production. That means we will only be attending the North Asheville Tailgate Market and also means that we will not be delivering to the Waynesville area for our 2014 growing season. This decision is very difficult for us because our Waynesville shareholders have been very dedicated and a core part of our farming operation for the past 14 years. We are also offering a “Market Style CSA” this season, rather than the traditional CSA shares where the farm determines the share contents, which will help reduce our stress in not feeling pressured to have an abundance of diversity each week throughout the season.
The sawmill with weeds growing up around the area!
We contemplated attending the Waynesville market, rather than going to Asheville, but have determined that we can’t earn enough from Waynesville market sales to cover our living expenses. This season we will be offering a limited number of CSA shares and relying on market sales for the majority of our income. Our market sales in Asheville are very consistent, compared to Waynesville, only because Asheville is a much larger city.
We appreciate everyone’s support and understanding as we transition the farm from one that is production oriented towards one offering Agri-Tourism events.
Packing out the first of our CSA Shares early in 2013! We have found it fast and efficient to use an assembly line approach for filling our CSA orders. Photograph taken by Sylvestre Dion.
Options for the Waynesville CSA Shareholders?
We are thrilled that within the last 14 years the Haywood’s Historic Farmers Market has grown to offer an abundance of organic vegetable choices. While we know that most of you will be unable to pick up at the North Asheville Tailgate Market, also realizing that many will want to continue a CSA membership, it is our understanding that both Balsam Gardens
and The Ten Acre Garden
offers CSA subscriptions. While we are not certain that these farms deliver shares to the Waynesville Market, we do know that our area farmers’ are very willing to work with customers, in providing easy access to fresh food. So please ask them because it probably is an option!
A colorful Summer CSA Share with all the amazing summer time vegetables in season! Photograph taken by Sylvestre Dion.
Follow Us During 2014!
We offer several ways for you to keep in touch with the progress of the cabin. Like our Facebook page
because we post updates weekly. We will also continue to send out eNewsletters each week throughout the season including recipes for produce in abundance and for the rare and unusual items. We hope that you wish to receive our eNewsletters, so please email or facebook us, just to let us know you wish to remain on our eNewsletter distribution list so that you continue receiving newsletters! We will be hosting our annual Killing Frost Celebration, and for those who are not able to continue their CSA membership, we hope you will join us for a fun filled day at the farm in October for $12 a person or $25 for a family. You may reserve your space for our Killing Frost Celebration using our online store, which is currently under construction.
A pizza with ingredients from MHO and baked in our wood fired pizza oven!
How will our market style CSA Work?
These shares will be available for pick-up at either the North Asheville Tailgate Market or at the Farm.
The shareholder will pay an upfront cost of $450 for $495 worth of credit in produce. That is a 10% discount!
Each Wednesday morning, during the season which begins mid May, we will update the online store on our website with produce that we will be harvesting on Friday. Using the online store, you will select the items that you wish for your share, then we will pack them and have them ready for your pick-up. We do know that many of you like the surprise and challenge in receiving a CSA Share each week, so for those who prefer this style of CSA, you will have the option of choosing the Farmer’s Choice share from the online store. Each week we will credit your account with the items you order.
We will require that each time you place an order with us that you order a minimum of $15 in produce just so it is worth our time and effort to harvest and pack produce for you.
The advantages for the shareholder is that you won’t be required to pick-up each week, just as long as you use your available credit before the end of the season, because your payment is non-refundable. Not only will this type of CSA offer the shareholder a more flexible schedule, but it will allow for the farm to set a cap on the amount of hours spent on production, allowing us to move towards building the farm vacation rental cabin.
Sign up now for our 2014 CSA by downloading this form, then completing it, and sending in the completed form and payment to the address listed on the form. You may email us a request for a CSA Share if you want us to reserve your share before sending in your payment just to make sure we have shares available. All CSA memberships will be filled on a first come, first serve basis. We have a limited number of shares available for our 2014 season.
Meadow Fork Creek, that has been beautiful this winter with a covering of ice and snow along the banks!
Harmon, our house dog, roughin' it this winter on the couch in a blanket crocheted by Carl's mother!
Bagheera drinking some of Daisy Mays milk. Daisy May has been so gracious for supplying us, the cats, the dogs, and the pigs with delicious tasty milk this cold winter! Bagheera drinking some of Daisy May's milk. Daisy May has been so gracious for supplying us, the cats, the dogs, and the pigs with delicious tasty milk this cold winter!
We made it through January and it seems that the entire month was spent hauling buckets of water for the horse, cows, chickens and pigs. As Gene Logsdon wrote in his journal that farming without money takes a bit more labor and his direct comment, “no water piped to my barn as well as no electric in the barn, also examples of farming without money “
. We wouldn’t trade the weather for anything, and wouldn’t mind another cold snap next year, because our hope is that this type of weather will decrease our bug pressure.
We are fortunate to have water piped to our barn, using hoses, making animal chores rather easy when the water is unfrozen. However, when it freezes, so do the hose lines which means we must carry water. It would be rather costly to pipe our water underground, and since we farm without much money, that is not in our budget. After realizing how much water our cows drink we are surprised that California is able to raise any livestock. It seems that our vegetable production uses much less water than raising livestock, which to us, means vegetable production might be better suited for the desert.
We don’t currently have power to the barn, or we would run heaters to keep the water troughs unfrozen, but for now we have been breaking the ice layer in the troughs a couple times each day providing the critters with access to water. At one time we did have electricity running to the barn, but a tree fell knocking our power line down, so fixing this power line has not yet made it to the top of our priority list.
The old timers would just allow their animals to drink out of the branch because here in the mountains we are fortunate that our branches rarely freeze. We, trying to be good stewards of the land, have fenced our animals out of the branches so the animals rely on us for water. Keeping Meadow Fork clean, means keeping the animals out of it’s tributaries, and most of the streams on this farm run right into Meadow Fork. We have had a dusting of snow the past few weeks, and the animals could eat snow, but they are much better off if we provide them with fresh water. We don’t want our animals struggling to get water, when they are simply trying to survive in our unseasonably cold temperatures, which is why we are happy to spend January hauling water.
The old timers claim that these temperatures were at one time the norm for winter, but according to the weather records, this is our fourth coldest winter
in 50 years. My theory was that the old timers had homes which were poorly insulated so it was a bit more difficult keeping their homes warm. So to them, because it was difficult to keep their home warm with wood heat, the winter’s all felt extremely cold. We’ve experienced these brutal conditions first hand living in a poorly built singlewide trailer trying to keep the temperatures above 56 degrees at night. Several times this winter a layer of ice has even developed on the inside of our windows. This is just a reminder that one day we hope to build ourselves a decent home.
So what have we been doing during January’s Artic Blast?
We finished building the 4 season hog shelter and fencing a corral. We have yet to complete fencing the perimeter of their pasture where we hope to seed paddocks of forage crops for their nourishment, but our plan is to juggle that in with other farm jobs early spring. Once the perimeter of the hogs pasture is fenced, we plan to divide the pasture into 3 or 4 paddocks using electric fencing.
We have been staying relatively warm inside doing a bit of seed planning. I must say we have woken up a few times with the inside temperature about 56 degrees. So not as warm as the tropics in the greenhouse on a sunny day but we are warmer than the farm animals.
We fenced a corral in the hog pasture by setting wood posts for the gates and corners. The posts were made from old telephone poles that once were used to route electricity to the flats of Spring Creek. We also set a gate for the tractor access into the main corral, a gate for loading/unloading hogs, and a gate for access to the farrowing stall. We ran woven wire around the perimeter of the corral as we did not want to use electric fencing for this section because we are bad about letting grass grow up along the fence which shorts it out causing animals to escape.
We finished the siding and tin roof. We also added siding in front of the farrowing stall allowing added protection from the elements of weather.
The girls seem happy eating downed trees and brush that was left in the coral area.
They seem happy and content after their first night in the corral.
Since establishing our Facebook page, it has been rather easy to periodically post a photograph of our daily experiences on the farm using this social media tool, that we have become negligent recording our life experiences in our journal. For us, the reason for facebook being easy was that Sylvestre was doing a lot of the updates with his amazing photographs, and now that he is back in Canada, we want to return to journaling on a more regular schedule. It seems to us that one can have more content about a particular subject or project with a journal entry than using facebook photographs or status updates. Our journal provides an outlet for us to document our history, emotions, decisions and all else that goes along with living and trying to eek out a living on this small farm.
With December’s arrival we had expected to begin sawing timbers for the farm vacation cabin rental, but with the most of the farm crew gone, we had a HUGE surplus of milk that we thought we should raise a few pigs over the winter, only because milk equals affordable and healthy pig feed.
We have been keeping these 3 adorable pigs in the warmth of the barn where they are rooting up worms! They have such cute dirty snouts, from doing what pigs like to do, which is rooting.
Over the past several years we have been rotating pigs through the fields used for vegetable production. The pigs have been great about rooting up and eating pests, adding fertilizer to the fields and killing invasive weeds. This requires labor each year in setting up a temporary shelter
and fencing for the pigs depending on which field we are rotating them to. We like the concept of raising pastured pigs because it is in keeping with our philosophy that pigs should have plenty of forage and outdoor space. In our overall farm plan, we had an area set aside for pigs, but it was in need of being reclaimed as the land has been let be for some time now. Our dream pig pasture includes several paddocks where we can seed forage crops for the pigs, a permanent shelter that can withstand snow load and protect the pigs from the elements of weather and finally a central paddock with a watering hole and feeding area. Based on our best guess, this permanent pasture should save labor each year and with a small farming operation such as ours, labor is our single largest annual expense.
We decided to prioritize the pig pasture over the Farm Vacation Cabin Rental because the pigs are a big part of our annual farm income. We thank these pigs because they help us buy those necessities that we don’t grow or raise such as grains, toilet paper, land taxes, telephone bills, etc. It does seem like we are always putting the Vacation Cabin project on the back burner, in favor of projects that earn us money now, but we must begin thinking about our retirement, especially since we aren’t able to do the amount of physical work that we could do just ten years ago. The pig pasture, besides finishing the cow pasture, is the last project that gets prioritized over the cabin! WE PROMISE OURSELVES THIS!
The first phase of this project was to clear a half acre of land for a central paddock, build a permanent pig shelter, run a water line to the pasture, and finally fence in an half acre of land for the central paddock. The central paddock will eventually provide access to several additional paddocks that will be fenced then seeded in forage crops. Before fencing the additional paddocks we will need to cut quite a few trees down. We plan to clear one paddock each December, which will provide us with firewood for the following winter, and cutting firewood each year is something we need to do even while we are building the cabin.
This land at one time was planted in asparagus, and this was the first space we abandoned, all because the deer ate everything. It is good soil in this so it feels good to be putting this land back into production. We know one thing, the deer won't eat pigs, which is another plus in raising pigs!
The land cleared and trees sawn into firewood to keep us warm next winter!
Carl hauling the wood that will be used for the pig shelter frame.
Carl digging holes for the frame posts. Of all the structures and fences we have built in recent memory, this area was the most rock free, and the holes were so EASY to dig.
We are concreting these posts because pigs are strong creatures and they will rub against the shelter just to scratch their backs. We want this structure to last!
The pig shelter with the posts concreted and the girts installed.
The pig shelter with the rafters installed and ready for siding!
Carl choosing a hemlock board for siding. Most all of the wood for the structure, with the exception of the pressure treated posts, were cut and sawn using our sawmill.
The pig shelter with most of the siding done. We are going to take a few days off to celebrate the new Year!
Production Note: In November we seeded G3 in cover crops, we have been splitting wood for our heat, filling driveway holes with rocks in preparation for having gravel put down, trenching the cabin site for water drainage (using a Chinese backhoe), Enjoying a little down time, fencing pastures behind G3, Fixing the generator, fixing the tablesaw, making cheese, setting up a new place for irrigation, making a compost pile for 2014. Most certainly other random jobs that go along with farming.
The comment period for the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is open until November 15th. We should have let everyone know about this a couple weeks ago because time is running out and we need your help in protecting America’s small highly diversified farms. So PLEASE RESPOND
to voice your opinion. You will find procedures in how to comment at CFSA’s website
, and just so you know, CFSA was the organization who “Certified” us organic before the National Organic Program (NOP). The FSMA is mostly concerned about “Safe” food therefore not putting a lot of emphasis on “Healthy” food. Healthy food to us means so many different things with a few of those being; food grown without conventional herbicides and pesticides, food grown sustainably in protecting our soil and water supply, food grown locally thus increasing the nutritional value all the while reducing our carbon footprint.
According to those spearheading the FSMA rules and regulations, “Safe” food, is eliminating any chance of food borne illness entering the food supply. Would you believe those folks making the rules think that we shouldn’t have deer running through the fields, working dogs on rodent control for mice/voles/groundhogs, birds flying over the fields or livestock animals on the farm.
We all need to find a balance in keeping food both Safe and Healthy. Perhaps we all should have a little “risk” in our life and expect that a bird just might drop a turd on your kale (Good thing there is no kale this week!) We think that the consumer should be able to choose who to buy their food from. If you decide to buy your food from a farm with biodiversity and want to risk a bird turd or dog urine, than so be it, you should be able to make that choice. Biodiversity is key for a sustainable operation, and to us, a highly diversified farm is the most environmental friendly.
One of the biggest issues we have wtih the FSMA proposed rules is that we would be required to test our water every 7 days. That is because we irrigate from Meadow Fork Creek, which by the way, is high quality water, and I can’t every imagine that it would make us sick. We swim in this creek after all. It is not feasible for a small operation like ours to test water so frequently so we highly recommend that the FSMA exempt small farms earning under $2,000,000 from regulation.
Another big issue with our farm in regards to FSMA is the time proposed between spreading manure and growing crops. We at MHO raise pastured poultry, just so the chickens can poop on the ground where your food is grown adding good wholesome fertilizer, but the proposed standards would require nine months after we run chickens across the land before we could grow food on that land. The practice of growing food with manure is an ancient technique and one that should be preserved. We should recommend that the FSMA adopt the National Organic Program standards which require 120 days between spreading manure and growing crops.
Sylvestre walking the cows back to the barn after they spent a day grazing in their pasture. Part of this farms biodiversity is cows, for milk and manure, and we want to remain a highly diversified farm. Sylvestre has been instrumental in making sure the cows have fresh green grass each week, keeping their barn clean, taking on the milking duties and making cheese. Thanks Sylvest!
The morning of the Killing Frost the pigs weren't too sure they wanted to leave the comfort of their shelter for breakfast! Yes, we raise pigs on this highly diversified farm because the pigs eat the vegetables that we can't sell, drink the whey which is a by-product from cheesemaking, root up the ground eating grubs. The FDA would prefer they be away from all vegetables.
Kaiser sleeping in a sunny spot on top of our black landscape fabric! Thankfully He has taken out a lot of groundhogs this season or we would have more crop loss to groundhogs. We already loose a good bit to those sneaky enough to hide from Kaiser. The FDA would rather us use rodenticides than animals such as Kaiser and our kitties.
Our first Killing Frost this season was October 26th early in the AM! We are thankful for the frost that kills the crops so that we can have a rest from growing and harvesting warm loving vegetables!
YEA! A killing frost killed the greenhouse tomatoes, peppers and eggplant! We are seeding cover crops in these greenhouses to give back to the soil what the soil provided in supplying us with these wonderful veggies!
A snapping turtle. What would the FDA say about a snapping turtle within 50 feet of our packing/processing shed? We think these critters are important. In fact, there is a reason for all critters being here so we should be able to grow food with the risk of these critters.
This September, even before falls arrival, we have been enjoying fall like temperatures, and finally plenty of sunshine. We’ve spent a good bit of time setting up irrigation and cleaning up our spring and summer fields in preparation for seeding cover crops. Cover crops on an organic farm, are just as important as growing food for our shareholders and market customers, and these crops are seeded and grown to reduce erosion, add nutrients and organic matter to the soil and suppress weeds among many other benefits.
With the new deer fence, running irrigation to our fall field is more challenging, so we had to come up with a plan quickly since it had not rained in 10 days, the first that we recall since early April. So we scrambled to set up irrigation where these crops are growing because we have not yet irrigated that field since an 8 foot high deer fence has been installed. That required Carl, using our front end loader, to clear and level an area along the creek, just so we were able to back our PTO Pump and Tractor near the creek. Then we laid pipe, installed risers, and were finally able to irrigate the field. Would you believe that once we were in the midst of irrigating it rained? And still while we were irrigating, we received a text message with a flood warning for Meadow Fork Creek, which is the creek that is providing the much needed water for our fall crops. So we turned off irrigation, then pulled our intake pipe out of the creek, because surely enough after we removed the pipe Meadow Fork Creek rose a couple of feet. Had we left the intake pipe in the creek, it might have washed away, clear down into Hot Springs.
Cleaning up our fields means removing rocks that were used to secure our landscape fabric to the ground preventing the wind from blowing it up into the trees. Chris was primarily responsible for removing the rocks that Carl is sitting on. We have placed these near where we will be building the pavilion and pizza oven because we hope to grade these rocks and use the best suited for facing our dream pizza oven.
After removing a few tons of rocks from the fields, we must pull up all the landscape fabric that was used to prevent weed growth. This requires us to pull the weeds from each of the holes where our winter squash/strawberries were growing, then loosen the fabric from the earth, and finally roll it up. Even though the plastic is a bit of work to put down and take up, it beats continually having to weed the crops throughout the season, and in the end saves us time. The landscape fabric also helps to prevent the plant from getting soil born diseases during rain storms because it keeps soil from splashing up onto the foliage.
George loosening the landscape fabric from the earth so that we can roll the fabric up and store it in the barn for the winter. Prior to George being able to pull up the landscape fabric, we pulled weeds from each of the holes where our crops were growing.
Once the fabric has been loosened from the earth, we roll up each of the sections. For easy management we have cut our fabric into 100 foot sections. After the fabric has been removed from the field, we roll up the drip tape, then store both the fabric and the drip tape in the barn for use next season.
Julie is mowing down the old crops. Look closely and you will see red cabbage that never matured because of our extremely wet Spring. Also, notice the weeds are as tall as the tractor! One can look at the positive and believe that the weeds will decay back into the soil creating biomass or one can look at the weeds as another 20 years of weed seed germinating in the fields with us having to remove them from the crops. However, weeds are Mother Nature's cover crop so if the ground is left bare, the weeds will grow and flourish as a means of preventing soil erosion.
After the ground has been mowed, we use the disc to mulch up any spent crops or weeds, and stir up the soil so that our cover crop seed is certain to come into contact with the soil. We also use the disc harrow to bury the large cover crop seeds so that they get better germination.
Above is our PTO (Power Take Off) operated spreader and loaded into the spreader is cereal rye. This season we are mostly seeding a bi-culture of two different cover crop seeds: Cereal Rye that puts down deep roots to help keep our soil aerated and Crimson Clover that adds nitrogen to our soil. In our previous 14 years of farming we also seeded Hairy Vetch but have found the seed toxic to livestock so we have decided to cut that out of our production schedule
Sassy spends her day in the pasture with the pigs. She loves it when we bring her up to the pasture first thing in the morning where she can eat some of the pigs grain and whey.
We are juggling a few long term projects here at MHO those being building a pavilion over the pizza oven, building a farm vacation cabin rental, raising another greenhouse and finally reclaiming pastures. A few years ago our neighbor Ken Pangle
made a comment to us something like, “You’ve got so many irons in the fire you don’t know which is hot!”. Read this for a history of this phrase
which appears to have first been recorded back in 1549. Our neighbor Alvin has recently said to us, in regards to a greenhouse we are currently constructing, “Have you foundered on that greenhouse project?”. The term Foundered
is used frequently with cattle and horses which is where he began using that term. It is fun hearing about all the old time phrases that folks in our area use.
The problem with us being entrepreneurs is we are sometimes a bit idealistic, and if we weren’t idealistic, than we probably wouldn’t undertake many of these projects here on the farm because we would lack the confidence to start them and follow through to complete them. So perhaps it is this personality trait as to why we are undertaking so many projects one time. As Carl says, “Any strength taken to extreme can become a weakness”. So I guess this idealistic thing is a weakness for us here at MHO.
Sometimes It seems to me that we aren’t making much progress on any one project, because most of our long term projects span over a year, and we try to work on these projects in between growing food for you wonderful CSA shareholders and market customers. One such project is to reclaim pastures for cattle. We’ve had plans on eventually raising just a few beef cows, which in the past, was a big part of this family farm before we became the stewards. Since the 1980′s, an area that was once pasture has returned to a young forest, with most of the trees only a few inches in diameter.
Once we began farming this land, being tree huggers, we couldn’t bring ourselves to cut any saplings down which is why the pastures have returned to a very young forest. Our main farming goal has always been to be sustainable and environmental friendly, which is why, we choose to use organic farming practices and are highly diversified. For us to keep five acres of cropland productive, we use an organic fertilizer which is primarily made from composted chicken manure. Although we are using a by-product from the chicken industry, we are still purchasing fertilizer, that it is composted then made into pellets and shipped here. It requires a some precious non-renewable resources to make our fertilizer so our long term goal is to have livestock who will produce our fertilizer right here on the farm. We farmers’ call it a closed loop system when you have all inputs (fertilizer’s and minerals) that are produced right on the farm.
Our neighbor Alvin is helping us to reclaim our pastures. He has used his bulldozer to push down the saplings and just this past week Carl seeded the pasture with grass. It will be another year until the pasture is ready for cattle, mostly because we need the grass to become established, so it is baby steps for us in achieving our goal of having a closed loop farming system. We are certain our neighbors and CSA members the Daltons might just have a heart attack when they take their annual hike over the mountains and into the valley. We nearly had a heart attack when we first saw the newly graded pasture. But pastures and open land are needed for cattle. We will be using the wood from the trees that were in this area for heating the greenhouses and our home so nothing goes to waste.
We are hoping it is a good year to seed a pasture, because with rain nearly every day, it must be ideal for grass seed to germinate, as long as the seed doesn't wash away. After Carl seeded, Alvin walked the seed in with his dozer, so we are hoping the seed won't all germinate at the bottom of the hill.
Sylvestre helping to process a trailer full of onions. Thank him for all the amazing photographs on Facebook and those included in this journal entry! We are estimating that we have lost about one third of our onion crop due to the wet weather but we are hoping that our CSA Shareholders will make use of the soft onions so we will not have to compost them.
Besides weeding, the past couple weeks have been spent processing onions, digging and washing potatoes, harvesting and grading melons that the crows haven't eaten, plus all the gazillion farm jobs required to keep the veggies growing and the animals healthy on this small farm!
We on the farm are enjoying the ever decreasing day length as fall approches. Us farmers' can work ourselves to death being outdoors trying to accomplish as much as is possible when the sun is up.
We are thankful that although we continue to have rain showers nearly each day, each storm is bringing less rain, allowing us to transplant and direct seed a few crops for fall. With our current crop rotation, it just so happens that our fall crops are growing in our sandiest (meaning driest) field. We are thankful to have built a deer fence around that field as it just might pay for itself this fall alone if we are able to harvest tasty greens.
Just a couple weeks ago we transplanted our fall crops, then covered these crops with floating row cover, all this work done to simply prevent them from being devoured by flea beetles and harlequin bugs. Over the years we have accumulated an assortment of row cover each with a different weight and weave, only because as we phase out old sheets replacing them with new, our suppliers keep changing the brand and weight they sell. It seems the best type that has worked so far, with the longest usage, was one made by DuPont that we last purchased around 6 years ago. We are using this type for our baby boc choi and have noticed a lot of flea beetle damage so we will need to phase this type completely out of production. Our fall crops must be transplanted mid July through August so they mature before it gets too cold for them to grow. While the row cover prevents bugs from destroying our crops, it also raises the temperature of the plants a few degrees, which is great for our Spring season. However, with the fall crops that are transplanted during the peak heat of summer, this protection creates the risk of loosing these crops to overheating. We estimate that we have lost half our fall broccoli crop to overheating as we try to figure out which row cover works best for our summer season. The row cover that we used for our broccoli is a tighter weave, and heavier in weight, so it seems to not allow as much airflow, meaning that we will not be using this type during the summer anymore. The lighter weight row cover worked well but it seems to tear fairly easy, which to us doesn’t seem very sustainable, since it only lasts a couple seasons. It would be nice if all row cover was created equal, with some kind of rating, just so the farmer can figure out which should be used each season as new brands and types become available while others are discontinued. Floating row covers do have a rating but the rating doesn’t seem that helpful from a sustainability aspect. Perhaps that is too difficult with so many different climates and conditions around the country.
We normally leave our crops covered for a couple weeks after transplanting. It is always a surprise to see what has survived being covered for a couple weeks. We were pleasantly surprised to see that most of our fall crops seem to be doing well.
The weeds really do LOVE THE HEAT under floating row cover. The weeds grew so much faster than our crops these past couple weeks that our cultivating tractor couldn't do it's job in removing the weeds.
Here Chris is removing floating row cover from our fall crops. We leave a few of the crops, like baby boc choi, covered for nearly their entire life. Chris is super efficient using the wheel hoe when weeding our crops.
George rolling up floating row cover. He is GREAT at unrolling the fabric because he is tall with a large arm span so can straddle the bed with the roll while the rest of us put rocks to hold down the cover. George has BEEN AMAZING this season in writing our newsletters and helping to care for Sassy. Carl and I have so much enjoyed having the year off of writing the newsletters each week and hope that when George is off running his own Farm To Table business that Carl and I can continue producing his quality of newsletters.
Slyvestre hand weeding. He is among the most efficient of us at pulling weeds by hand. Because the soil is so wet, and the weeds so big, the farm crew hand weeded nearly all the fall crops. It beets spraying herbicides so that we can keep the biological life in our soil healthy.
pic – crops weeded
YEAH FARM CREW for working so hard at a first pass in weeding the first succession of our fall transplants. Mostly likely we will be weeding most of these crops once again and we have more to plants to set out so this will be an ongoing job for the next month.
We are beginning to harvest eggplant but our yield is VERY LOW. We think this may be due to the blossoms falling off, rather being pollinated and setting fruit, because the bees don't come out and play in the rain!
We are thankful to be harvesting greenhouse peppers that are incredibly sweet. We have a lot of culls we think because our greenhouse irrigation system is delivering too much water. We fixed our well pump and forgot to adjust our watering system to compensate for icreased water pressure.
We direct seeded arugula, beets, carrots, turnips and beans. Direct seeding is placing seeds directly into the soil rather than transplanting. Here I am using the our earthway seeder to seed french filet beans.
Journal, I am sorry that I have not written lately, but our computer crashed and I didn’t have the software that I am accustomed with to downsize images for use in this journal. We just purchased a new computer and Carl has loaded most of the software so I am back!
We have only had four rain free days during the past month, and this amount of rain, it is proving very difficult for us to maintain a high level of production on this small organic farm. In these rainy conditions, weeds sprout and grow very rapidly, which can ultimately out-compete our crops for sunlight and soil nutrients. We at MHO don’t use of any synthetic herbicides and pesticides to control weeds and pests that are harmful to the health of our customers as well as the environment. Instead, we rely on more traditional means of weed management. Normally we prefer to use our cultivating tractor to control weeds, and using this tool, we are able to weed our crops in a fraction of the time as most any other means available to us for controlling weeds. When the soil conditions are too wet for our cultivating tractor, we must use a hoe to scrape away the weeds from our plant beds; however, when our fields remain saturated, the soil tends clump around the blade of the hoe and we cannot slice through the weeds. At this point, we are forced to pull weeds out of our beds entirely by hand drastically increasing the labor require for crop maintenance.
Since we do not have enough labor or hours here at MHO to hand-weed all of our field crops, we have been forced to make some difficult decisions about which crops to salvage and which ones will simply be mowed down because of too many weeds. To make matters even worse, the cold, wet soil slows the growth of our crops and is causing broccoli and cabbage to rot in the ground. The rain has drowned so many of our first beet and carrot seedlings. With all of the hard work and love put into each and every seedling, these conditions are very mentally challenging for even the most experienced farmer.
As insurance for our CSA Shares, we are trying to make a decision if we should plant our succession of summer squash in the greenhouse or if it should be planted in the field. If the rain continues for the next month, much like it has for this year so far we would be better off planting this crop in the greenhouse, but if the rain subsides and the sun begins to shine we are better off planting this crop in the field. Planting greenhouse crops in the middle of summer is risky due to the possibility of overheating, but what we have discovered over the years on the farm, is that every seed we plant is a gamble!
A farmer using a Farmall A tractor to cultivate crops. This is not us doing so because I don't have a photograph of us cultivating but this means of cultivating quickly removes the weeds and using this method our crop can normally out competes the weeds. This is the same model of cultivating tractor that we use.
The farm crew weeding and thinning a crop of beets in the rain. We normally don't do this type of work in the rain but had to in order to save the crop.
Our onions with weeds! Carl was able to use our cultivating tractor to cultivate a few times which is why you don't see weeds between the rows of onions and only between each onion plant. Normally we hand weed our onions once because we are afraid that we would damage the bulb with a hoe.
George hand weeding onions!
Chris weeding onions!
Sylvestre weeding onions!
We have seeded our fall crops since our last journal entry. Seeded are kale, broccoli, collard greens, boc choi, tatsoi, cabbage and probably a few others!
We finally had a week without rain allowing us to transplant many of those heat loving crops. We all worked hard and accomplished so MUCH this past week! It is at these times when we are extremely thankful for an efficient and dedicated Farm Crew.
Just a week prior we had rain nearly every day, and then a very light frost early Saturday on May 25th, and are thankful we covered our basil. Our crops don’t know whether it is Spring or Summer. Just a week ago it was rather difficult to imagine us keeping up a continuous and bountiful harvest with rain showers sprinkling our fields nearly every day preventing us from preparing land, transplanting crops and seeding additional crops. In the end I am fairly certain that everything will turn out alright because in between rain showers Carl was able to get our land plowed.
With the land plowed and fields prepared, this week we were able to transplant our peppers, eggplant, most of the winter squash and leeks. The leeks were begging to be transplanted a few weeks ago, we just couldn’t get the land prepared with all the rain at that time, we are grateful the leeks made it out into the fields this week. We must be thankful for Mark, who is an Appalachian Thru Hiker, and spent a few days off the trail helping us get the bulk of our summer crops and leeks transplanted. There is an optimal time-frame where we need to plant our peppers and winter squash – which is right about now – that is if we have any hope of them maturing before our first frost. These crops can’t be planted until after our last frost, yet must be planted very soon after the frost, just so they have plenty of growing time before the mildews and diseases arrive late summer.
The past few weekends have been spent planning and building “The Dairy Parlor”. We have a phased approach for the parlor, and we will continue to work towards our dream dairy parlor, that is if dairy cows suit us. We are building the parlor in a portion of the barn that the cows won’t have access to except during milking just to keep the area manure free. This required that we clear wood that has been drying in the barn for several years to make room for a dairy parlor. So Sylvest and Julie cleared the wood. Meanwhile, Carl built a stanchion, then we finally hung a gate providing easy access to the parlor. Our dream parlor will have a concrete floor underneath the stanchion that can be watered down, a separate area for grain storage, a cabinet for milking supplies, a sink for washing the milking supplies and walls to keep the cold winter winds out. Right now, the parlor is simply a stanchion on a dirt floor, with a gate to keep the cows out except during milking.
We have also been working on fencing another pasture for the cows just so they continue to have access to plenty of lush grass. Clearing the new pasture meant finally collecting firewood that had been cut last year and moving it out of the pasture stacking it in the wood shed. Also in the pasture were trees, that we felled last year, so we cut those into firewood. We removed old fence wire and locust fence posts, then finally mowing the pasture, just to be certain it is free of anything that may be dangerous to the cows and so new grass will grow. Now that the new pasture is mowed and cleared, we will hang a fence, then we can rotate the cows between pastures.
The land FINALLY PLOWED! It seemed to me that this day was not ever going to come this year.
Drip tape put down, landscape fabric laid to warm the soil and keep weeds at bay. THEN WE TRANSPLANTED Peppers, Eggplant and most of the Winter Squash.
The Stanchion and milking machine. My mother used this type of set-up when she was growing up for her family dairy cows and it seems to be very popular among home dairies. Carl built the Stanchion with a combination of wood from the farm and some pressure treated wood. Mom said she had to keep her fingernails short so as not to scratch the cows teats, that is, until her family purchased a milking machine like the one we are using. We used pressure treated for wood that is on the ground. Right now it is just on dirt but we may pour concrete in the future if we enjoy raising dairy cows.
Daisy May seems to have adjusted to the Stanchion and seems content being milked using it.
Little Sassy. The farm crew thought this name fit her spunky and playful personality. We have begun separating Little Sassy from Daisy May during the day just so we can begin collecting more milk. We are trying to get her used to bottle feeding and are starting out by feeding her milk from her mother. George has a very natural and loving relationship with all the farm critters so has undertaken the job of feeding Little Sassy each evening.
That is towards building the farm vacation cabin rental. The reason being is that we’ve decided to get into the dairy business and buy a couple dairy cows. These aren’t just any old cows, these are cows from our neighbors the Browns
, and we have been drinking these cows milk for about four years. The Browns decided to sell the cows so we figured this might be the best time to begin our journey into raising dairy cows. For those who have been following our journal, you might be aware that at one time we were raising goats for fresh milk, but decided that it was much easier to buy milk from the Browns than deal with adventurous diary goats. We’ve decided that Dairy Cows are much easier to contain while goats are smart and are forever trying to escape their fencing. At one point in time the goats ate our entire greenhouse swiss chard crop because our guard dog led them into the greenhouse.
Sylvest requested that he would like to undertake a “project” for just another learning experience during his apprenticeship here at MHO so we suggested either bees or dairy cows. His first choice was beekeeping; however, we were unable to secure a bee nucleus because the beekeeper we were hoping to purchase it from was sold out rather quickly this season.. So Slyvest said he would love fresh milk and would be more than happy to work on the cow fencing and milking during his spare time. So we thought, OK, a diary cow might be a good mix for this highly diversified farm.
Just a couple days after the discussion of dairy cows with Sylvest, while Alvin was visiting, Alvin mentioned to Carl that the Browns were selling their cows. Carl made a call to the Browns. We worked out a deal. We devised a fencing strategy that might work for a month or two. We then moved the cows to their new home here at MHO. Just a few days after their arrival Daisy May calved and out came an EXTREMELY CUTE little baby girl. We worried like any new parents as to whether the baby was getting enough milk so we called a couple of our neighbors who suggested that perhaps we need to restrain Daisy May allowing her baby to nurse. They say sometimes first time mothers, which is what Daisy May is, won’t let their youngun nurse. So that we did, which wasn’t a very comfortable for us, the bit about restraining Daisy May so that her baby could nurse. Little Daisy May happens to be very healthy and playful. All of this happened in a little over three weeks. It is still hard to believe we are on this new journey all because of little dreams in our head of warm milk directly from the cow, soft mozzarella that melts in your mouth, freshly churned butter, frozen custard, feta cheese, cream cheese, aged moldy cheeses. It is not just because of these dreams, but also because Sylvest is taking his job seriously in helping with the cows, making sure they are healthy and happy. SO THANK SYLVEST if you happen to taste our wonderful milk!
So here we are in the bovine diary milk business. This new journey is taking time away from progress towards the Farm Vacation Cabin Rental, but we feel it is the right direction for the farm, especially since we will be offering Agri-Tourism (or Eco-Tourism). How can you go to a farm and not expect to find cows in the pasture? Our next step is to build a small little Milking Parlor and Stanchion so that this milking thing can become a one person job. At the moment it is taking a couple of us to milk.
First we installed the electric fence around the barn. Carl, Chris and George started this one Saturday. Syl and George completed it the following Tuesday. This fence allows the cows free access to the barn.
We then moved the cows from the Browns farm to MHO. Luckily the cows only needed to travel in the livestock trailer about 5 miles down the mountain to their new home at MHO.
Daisy May moved to MHO on Monday then Calved on Wednesday. Little Daisy May is trying to stand up after a quick birth.
Precious Little Daisy May just after a quick birth!
Little Daisy May getting her first drink of milk! We worried that the little girl wasn't nursing enough so we restrained Mother Daisy May so her little one could drink a bit of milk while we were watching. Silly and nervous first time parents we are!
Production Note to Self:Sassy was born May 8th to Daisy May.
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