03.28.10

Articles worth reading

Posted in Food Policy at 3:20 pm by Farmer

Michael Pollan is one of my favorite food writers so I am posting a link to articles of his that are extremely thoughtful and worth re-reading from time to time.

With Health Care Reform underway I think the below article is worth re-reading:

Farmer in Chief

Below is a great article in support of a decentralized food system.  Safety begins by knowing your farmer not by regulating all the small farms making it impraticale for them to stay in business.  If we regulate our small farms to death, we will end up putting them out of business, only to be left with a centralized food system.

The Vegetable-Industrial Complex

Soon to pass is the S 510 FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. It is important that we call our senators to request amendments to the bill so that it does not negatively impact our small farms. Such amendments might be: (1) Farms earning under $250,000 annually be exculded from on farm inspections (2) Assist small farms in implementing a “Food Safety Plan” (3) Allow for working dogs/wild animals (birds, racoons, ground hogs, deer, etc) without negatively impacting the food safety rating.

Read Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s response

Letter with some good suggestions when calling your senators in regards to amendments to the bill

Finally able to work up a little ground!

Posted in Projects at 7:03 am by Farmer

Our Propagation Benches are Full! We are waiting for some dry weather outside so that we can do something other than seeding.

Our Propagation Benches are Full! We are waiting for some dry weather outside so that we can do something other than seeding.

We are so thankful that our soils dried enough this week allowing us to work up some ground for direct seeding. Direct seeding is when we place the seeds right into the soil out in the fields. We do much more seed starting than direct seeding.  We use the term seed starting (growing transplants) for when we place seeds into flat inserts then once the plant is a good size it is transplanted outdoors to fend for itself.
Seed Starting/Transplanting is much more reliable than direct seeding because when starting little seeds in the greenhouse you can provide them with the perfect germinating environment: controlled temperatures, controlled seed depth and water. I find it a miracle that one can drop a seed in the soil outdoors, and then it gets rained on, snowed on, stampeded by the neighbor’s dogs (our dog to, but we can’t blame little Harmon for anything!), but still sprouts and becomes something edible.
Our goal is to have food crops for the first tailgate market of the season, which is April 17th, but Mother Nature just doesn’t see it that way this year. To have crops for our first couple markets we need to have things direct seeded by mid March; however, we had snow then rain and just this week is the first time our fields have dried enough to plant.
That brings me to the deer problem. We have soils that would dry out faster than the soils in our fenced area but we can’t plant crops tempting to the deer such as beets, spinach and lettuce mix. Only a few limited crops may be planted in our fields that aren’t fenced and those being: potatoes, onions and garlic. If we had the money we would have fenced our entire farm!
This past week we were able to seed radishes, arugula and lettuce mix outside and we transplanted cucumbers and zucchini into a greenhouse. We also partially assembled a greenhouse frame – we raised the bows and bolted up the top purlin – so it is looking more like a greenhouse every day.We are out of space in our propagation area and need to free up space so our plan is to move onions out of our propagation greenhouse and into a greenhouse heated by the wood boiler. The onions won’t be so warm at night but they should still continue to grow! They have another couple weeks before they are ready for transplanting out to the field.

Our First Direct Seeded Crops of the Season!  All seeded and covered and waiting for a little warm weather to hopefully sprout and turn into something edible!  Notice all the rocks holding down the row cover to prevent it from ending up in the trees during our March winds.

Our First Direct Seeded Crops of the Season! All seeded and covered and waiting for a little warm weather to hopefully sprout and turn into something edible! Notice all the rocks holding down the row cover to prevent it from ending up in the trees during our March winds.

 

The bows and one purlin up for greenhouse #5. We put one purlin up so that our March winds would not take down the bows. We have 2 more runs of purlins to install; however, we only had 1 sunny day this past week so we didn't get much done on the greenhouse project.

The bows and one purlin up for greenhouse #5. We put one purlin up so that our March winds would not take down the bows. We have 2 more runs of purlins to install; however, we only had 1 sunny day this past week so we didn't get much done on the greenhouse project.

Sabrina is an awesome photographer so here are her photos! I hope to post more because she has captured some amazing farm moments on disk. (In the days gone by I would have used “Film” rather than disk. Is that the right term?)

The 3 Little Pigs Snuggling!

The 3 Little Pigs Snuggling!

A close-up of cute little Harmon.  We are all disciplining him each time he attacks our legs (in his cute playful manner) and he is learning!

A close-up of cute little Harmon. We are all disciplining him each time he attacks our legs (in his cute playful manner) and he is learning!

 

03.18.10

Now I know why I’ve never heard of pigherds

Posted in Pigs at 6:17 am by Farmer

Today we introduced the pigs to their summer home and by evening they were definitely enjoying their shelter. We covered the entire floor of the shelter with a think layer of straw and added their old hay bedding from the barn stall just to provide them with a little familiarity.
It was a very interesting experience getting the pigs up to their summer shelter. We first tried to use hay baling string around their neck which slid off because it freaked them out since they have never been collared. I don’t believe that God designed pigs to be collared because anything we put around their necks slid off. (At this time we wish we had a harness on the farm!)
The 3 Little Pigs exploring their "Summer Home" a few hours after we herded them from the livestock barn up to their pasture!  They will be like AT Thru-Hikers living in a tent the entire summer.

The 3 Little Pigs exploring their "Summer Home" a few hours after we herded them from the livestock barn up to their pasture! They will be like AT Thru-Hikers living in a tent the entire summer.

After chasing them around the barn for a bit trying to get a halter on them, and them wondering what is up with us humans, we finally were able to halter one pig, and then after getting the gate opened wider, we were able to herd the other two out of the barn and up to the pasture. Sounds easy. NOT. Sheep may be easy to herd but not pigs!
You see our barn needs a good mucking out because old hay/goat manure prevents our gate from opening all of the way, and had our gate opened all the way, it would have been much easier to herd the pigs out of the barn.  Not to mention, since coming to the farm, the pigs never went out the front gate of the barn but out the back gate to the paddock and goat/horse pasture.  Most animals like routine and it makes them nervous to change their routine. So we made them nervous changing their routine!
Prior to introducing them to their summer pasture we installed a woven mesh fence as a physical barrier and then in front of the woven wire we have an electric fence as a psychological barrier. The plan is that the pigs won’t escape their fence and root up our vegetable crops. After all, the pigs have plenty of fescue to root up, so I would think they will be rather happy in their summer home. 
In this short time of raising pigs I have come to love their personality. They are very social creatures who enjoy a good belly rub now and then and they don’t seem nearly as stubborn as goats.
The 3 little pigs checking out the layer of straw in their summer tent!

The 3 little pigs checking out the layer of straw in their summer tent!

The 3 Little Pigs snuggling in straw. We covered their entire tent with a layer of straw and some bedding from the stall in the barn where they used to spend the night just to give them their familiar smell.  We think they forgave us for stressing them out while trying to herd them up to their summer pasture.

The 3 Little Pigs snuggling in straw. We covered their entire tent with a layer of straw and some bedding from the stall in the barn where they used to spend the night just to give them their familiar smell. We think they forgave us for stressing them out while trying to herd them up to their summer pasture.

03.10.10

Finally temperatures warm enough to set concrete!

Posted in Projects at 6:52 pm by Farmer

Carl mixing 160 lbs of concrete per batch!  He is one hard worker!

Carl mixing 160 lbs of concrete per batch! He is one hard worker!

Look at all those greenhouse posts plumb, aligned with the string and level with one another!  We have been waiting for the weather to warm for a couple consecutive days just to set concrete.

Look at all those greenhouse posts plumb, aligned with the string and level with one another! We have been waiting for the weather to warm for a couple consecutive days just to set concrete.

 

With temperatures reaching 52 degrees midday Sunday we were finally able to concrete greenhouse posts in greenhouse #5.  Would you believe that this is the first time since December where we had a couple consecutive days reaching these temperatures?  Last October Joe, Meagan, Caree and Carl dug 50 holes 2 feet deep for the greenhouse posts and just now we are getting around to setting the posts in concrete. This means making sure all the posts are on 4 foot centers, removing rocks from the holes that would prevent the post from setting correctly, making sure all the posts are plumb and aligned with the string, making sure the top of each post is level with one another (not easy here in the mountains where our land is sloped!), and finally mixing concrete and filling the hole. Our goal is to have this greenhouse up by April 1st just in time for peppers to be transplanted into the house!

So we thought we could accomplish this in a couple days but we have SOOOO many rocks on this farm and Carl is a perfectionist so this job took us from Friday until Monday afternoon.  (THANK GOODNESS Carl is a perfectionist because all our greenhouses are still standing – partly our greenhouses are still standing due to LUCK – especially after the December storm.)

A gorgeous view Bluff Mountain, over which the Appalachian Trail Passes, with snow covered peaks and the Carolina Blue Skies that we haven't seen too much of recently!

A gorgeous view of Bluff Mountain, over which the Appalachian Trail Passes, with snow covered peaks and the Carolina Blue Skies that we haven't seen too much of recently!

03.04.10

It ain’t easy being green!

Posted in Nothing in Particular at 7:20 am by Farmer

For the past 10 years we have been re-using seed tray inserts, flats and black landscape plastic. Of coarse a few seed tray inserts ware out each year and end up at the dump then eventually into the landfill. (Our rule when taking our trash to the dump is that you can’t bring home more than what was taken. Our dump does have a “recycling” system going on in that stuff that is “considered” useful is set aside for folks to take home. The fellows who run our dump decide on what might be useful for others.)
With the media attention about global warming and us humans needing to do something about it quickly if we want us homo sapiens to continue living on the plant, here on the farm we continually evaluate our daily lives as to how “green” and “sustainable” each of our actions are, which then makes our buying and living decisions ever so much more complicated.
For example, because we re-use our seed tray inserts, we first wash and sanitize them, mainly to reduce the possibility of spreading diseases. The process we use is to pressure wash the inserts which uses water and gas fuel. Once they are pressured washed we dip them in a mild bleach solution. The bleach comes from chlorine, caustic soda, and water. Sodium chloride, common table salt in bleach, comes from either mines or underground wells. It also costs us labor, which because we are farmers is very minimal, and since we don’t earn much per hour we value our time at $3.00 per hour.
Pressure Washing Seed Tray Inserts on a cold winter day in between snow storms.  I have on a wool hat and carhart coveralls to keep me warm!

Pressure Washing Seed Tray Inserts on a cold winter day in between snow storms. I have on a wool hat and carhart coveralls to keep me warm!

So then we question if it would be better to purchase new seed tray inserts each year rather than wash/sanitize existing seed trays? We have to believe the manufacturing process for making new trays is much more energy intensive than for us to wash/sanitize but we just don’t know. I have read of a rather large farm that uses soil blocks with a mechanical transplanter. That interests me and someday I think we need to investigate that. That could become a project after the greenhouses are done but I don’t want to quit using our transplanter until the world runs out of fuel!
I am not sure how manufacturers compute carbon emissions but Scotland has instituted a law requiring manufacturers to specify the carbon emissions required for products. The Carbon Footprint label shows the weight of carbon used to manufacture the product (in grams). The carbon generated is measured from the source of the product, through to its sale and disposal of waste. The label is designed to help shoppers choose products with the lowest carbon footprint. Take the snack Fritos for example – how does the manufacturer know the energy required for growing the corn and shipping it to their processing plant – and it is not just the corn but all the other ingredients? I just wonder if the energy use for production of the base ingredients is included in the label. I can see how PepsiCo would know how much energy was used to make the product once they purchased the ingredients.  How about the packaging?  My guess is that they don’t make the packaging materials and that it is supplied by another manufacturer.
Another crazy program was the “Cash for Cluncker” program our country created last year. You purchase a new vehicle that was at least 1 MPG more efficient than your current vehicle. The dealer was required to destroy the engine of your old car so it is hard to imagine that the MPG saved in efficiency used less carbon emissions that those required for recycling the engine. (I do understand that politically this program was to stimulate the economy with additional car sales and bank loans and not necessarily to be green.)
I should try to figure out my top 10 most unsustainable habits. I bet it is home energy consumption (electricity use), computers, driving, and not sure what would be next.