05.07.13

Inspiring words of wisdom

Posted in Projects at 6:47 pm by Farmer

Several years ago, Angela Witmore apprenticed with us, she is a GREAT ARTIST, who painted an AMAZING PORTRAIT of Luther Baily from the North Asheville Tailgate Market.. We hope that today she continues to use her gift,  in painting portraits of people and farms, as it is such a great way for preserving history and for educating others of our varied cultures.
Just last week we received an email from Angela’s brother, who visited the farm while she was apprenticing, and is currently working on a farm who wrote us inquiring if farming, “continues to be a source of discovery and joy”. That to us, is that he gets it, and that is something each and everyone of us should be asking ourselves daily about our  jobs, goals and objectives. Throughout our life, society has defined one as being “successful”,  based on how much money one earns, how big ones home is, the type of car one drives, etc.
We on the farm don’t live in a big house – we live in a trailer – but we do have a LARGE greenhouse with food growing in it. Is this considered successful? Our t-shirts and clothes are worn out because we only purchase one outfit each year. One of our vehicles is relatively new and runs well, while the others it seems, needs daily maintenance to keep them going. As we near retirement, without much savings or a retirement investment portfolio, there are times when we feel we are not successful and have made poor choices in our lives.
For certain, we find discovery and joy almost daily, so perhaps that sums up why we have chosen to farm. When working with Mother Nature, there are no constants, which is why discovery occurs daily in our lives. Also, we have so much joy, too much to write about. But a few of our joyous moments are…
  1. Waking up each morning, knowing that Carl and I are going to spend another day together
  2. Every day, when there is no cloud cover or fog, looking up at Bluff Mountain.
  3. Entering the propagation greenhouse, during our growing season, just to see so many seedlings near the beginning of their life.
  4. When Kaiser catches a ground hog or opossum.
  5. When Harmon, who has been sleeping in the house all morning while we’ve been working out in the fields, wags his tail with delight because he is so excited to see us.
  6. When it rains and Meadow Fork Creek is flowing fast and furious.
  7. Spring hikes in the woods when we see an astounding variety of wild flowers blooming.
  8. When we are so tired after a days work that we collapse into our bed with our dirty farm clothes on.
  9. Walking through the fields seeing potato sprouts appear above the soil.
  10. Cutting down a hemlock, then sawing it into lumber and admiring the beautiful grains, knowing that it was grown and raised right here on the farm and will be used for our building projects.
  11. Hoeing a bed of kale, after which looking back and admiring it without any weeds, knowing that the weeds will return before the next day.
  12. Having a crop of arugula or baby boc choi, that is free of holes from flea beetles, knowing this is a rare occurrence in our lives.
  13. Both our first and last harvest for the season.
  14. Placing tiny seeds directly into the soil out in the field, only to have them germinate a week or so later, knowing that we just got lucky.
  15. Knowing that 80% of the food we consume comes from us or our friends.
  16. And so much more
THANKS to all those who are dedicating so much of their life, time and effort seeking “discovery and joy”, rather than strictly “financial independence”, because it is these choices that will keep our planet healthy and happy. NOT CONSUMERISM. We know that many of our tailgate market customers, spend more of their budget on food than the average American, rather than use their hard earned cash for CONSUMERISM.  We live in a GREAT place!
In between rain showers we were able to work up the soil and transplant onions! We transplanted around 8700 onion plants that hopefully will turn into DELICIOUSNESS!

In between rain showers we were able to work up the soil and transplant onions! We transplanted around 8700 onion plants that hopefully will turn into DELICIOUSNESS!

This is the first year we let our over wintered Swiss Chard go to seed. We just pulled it out of the greenhouse last week and transplanted eggplant.

This is the first year we let our over wintered Swiss Chard go to seed. We just pulled it out of the greenhouse last week and transplanted eggplant.

A cold, early May morning, inspired us to light a fire in our wood stove to take the chill out of the air in our house.

A cold, early May morning, inspired us to light a fire in our wood stove to take the chill out of the air in our house.

We’ve been enjoying hikes in the mountains this spring. Below are a few of the most incredible wildflowers making an appearance in the forest. My battery on the camera went dead or I would have photographed more.
Thalictrum thalictroides made its presence during my recent hike in the woods!

Thalictrum thalictroides made its presence during my recent hike in the woods!

Lace-Leaved Violet - Viola lanceotata Linnaeus was also showing off on my most recent hike in the woods.

Lace-Leaved Violet - Viola lanceotata Linnaeus was also showing off on my most recent hike in the woods.

Halberd-Leaved Violets - Viola hasata Michaux. Oh So Beautiful!

Halberd-Leaved Violets - Viola hasata Michaux. Oh So Beautiful!

I think this is the Common Blue Violet -Viola sororia - very impressive!

I think this is the Common Blue Violet -Viola sororia - very impressive!

Stinging nettle - Urtica dioica is medicinal that we don't use much of. Perhaps we need to start!

Stinging nettle - Urtica dioica is medicinal that we don't use much of. Perhaps we need to start!

Fiddleheads!

Fiddleheads!

Phacelia - Phacelia bipinnatifida Michaux. Amazing to see this beautiful flower sprouting on top of a large boulder.

Phacelia - Phacelia bipinnatifida Michaux. Amazing to see this beautiful flower sprouting on top of a large boulder.

04.06.13

FINALLY… We’ve transplanted a few crops to the fields

Posted in Projects at 7:45 pm by Farmer

If I was to look back through our journal entries from previous years the subject for this entry might just be the most commonly used. After all, we are transplanting seedlings throughout the season, hoping each time that the soil has just the right amount of moisture.
This past week we only had a couple days without either snow or rain, and our soil was by no means the perfect consistency for making smooth beds for our transplants, yet we made a decision to work up some land and went with it. We are thankful to have transplanted a few beds of crops, and our best guess is that we set out around 2100 little seedlings, that were finally freed from their cells of plug trays in the warmth of the greenhouse left to survive the cold wet fields.
We were hoping to direct seed the following morning after transplanting, but at dawn we awoke to rainfall, that arrived a few hours earlier than forecasted. This is the latest we can remember being able to direct seed, which is putting seeds directly into the soil rather than into plug trays in the greenhouse, so we may be delaying our first CSA delivery by a week. Each year is different in farming, which is one of the things we LOVE about our job, but it is also something we find  frustrating about our job. Last year the weather was so warm that we were harvesting extra early, this year nighttime temperatures have been down in the lower 30’s and 20’s, so we will be harvesting later than normal.
We must give credit to Sylvestre and George for getting our greenhouse tomato crop planted this week, because Carl and I wanted to quit working early afternoon on Thursday while it was only 35 degrees and raining, but they insisted we keep at it. My motto is, “Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow.” Sad to say, George topped my motto, his being, “Nothing is something that I do.”
Carl using the rotovator to make beds for our transplants. We plan to adopt a no-till strategy at some time in the future but we aren’t quite there yet.

Carl using the rotovator to make beds for our transplants. We plan to adopt a no-till strategy at some time in the future but we aren’t quite there yet.

George and Julie, using our Transplant Schedule on the tablet, figuring out where each of our seedlings will go and how many feet of each variety will be transplanted. We are in love with using the tablet for our record keeping. We transplanted the following crops: kohlrabi, baby bok choy, bok choy, tatsoi, napa cabbage, kale, red cabbage and lettuce.

George and Julie, using our Transplant Schedule on the tablet, figuring out where each of our seedlings will go and how many feet of each variety will be transplanted. We are in love with using the tablet for our record keeping. We transplanted the following crops: kohlrabi, baby bok choy, bok choy, tatsoi, napa cabbage, kale, red cabbage and lettuce.

George fixing kale plants and nearly done fixing a 300 foot bed of kale. He was very THOROUGH in making sure that the ROOTS FOR EVERY plant was covered with soil.

George fixing kale plants and nearly done fixing a 300 foot bed of kale. He was very THOROUGH in making sure that the ROOTS FOR EVERY plant was covered with soil.

Sylvestre fixing kale plants. He loves kale so he was very careful to fix EVERY plant to reduce the risk of loosing any transplants.  Behind Sylvestre you will see the 2100 seedlings we transplanted

Sylvestre fixing kale plants. He loves kale so he was very careful to fix EVERY plant to reduce the risk of loosing any transplants. Behind Sylvestre you will see the 2100 seedlings we transplanted.

Sylvestre and George fixing transplants. We must be certain that all the roots from the seedlings are buried so that they survive. Any root hairs that come in contact with the air will be killed. The soil was a little damp so transplanting went a bit slower than when we have prime soil conditions.

Sylvestre and George fixing transplants. We must be certain that all the roots from the seedlings are buried so that they survive. Any root hairs that come in contact with the air will be killed. The soil was a little damp so transplanting went a bit slower than when we have prime soil conditions.

Our tomatoes transplanted to the greenhouse last Friday! We were so THANKFUL to have gotten the old greenhouse tomato crop cleaned out, the soil prepped for a new crop, and the new tomato seedlings transplanted!

Our tomatoes transplanted to the greenhouse last Friday! We were so THANKFUL to have gotten the old greenhouse tomato crop cleaned out, the soil prepped for a new crop, and the new tomato seedlings transplanted!

Our hope is that this plant, and all others, grow tall and produce some incredibly tasting fruit!

Our hope is that this plant, and all others, grow tall and produce some incredibly tasting fruit!

It was sunny today, so with the fields much too wet for field work, we spent some time sawing.

It was sunny today, so with the fields much too wet for field work, we spent some time sawing.

The tree in the previous photograph became this tie beam for the cabin. It is 8x10x19 and I am having a real difficult time imagining us raising this beam onto posts 9 feet high!

The tree in the previous photograph became this tie beam for the cabin. It is 8x10x19 and I am having a real difficult time imagining us raising this beam onto posts that are 9 feet high!

This beam is a bit too heavy for us to carry which is why we LOVE THE Tractor and forks!

This beam is a bit too heavy for us to carry which is why we LOVE THE Tractor and forks!

Recent articles that I’ve found interesting:
How cool is this class for high school students. If this class isn’t yet available in the Asheville area, I bet it will be one day soon!.
I love how this Texas Farmer is using native grasses for raising his cattle. It is all about rotational grazing and something we hope to get into one day.
I always wondered how much renewable energy our country produces. We have a long way to go and I do wish the money invested in the Keystone XL pipeline could be re-directed to renewable energy sources.

03.27.13

I know that we should be careful in what we pray for

Posted in Projects at 8:41 am by Farmer

It does seem silly that I would like a few prayers for our fields to dry out, especially when a good portion of our continent is in drought and badly needs moisture, and sure enough just as we pray for drier weather we will be in a drought. But I am just going to say it, I would like a few days of dry weather so our fields can dry out, allowing us to place a few seeds in the soil and transplant seedlings to the fields!
We are at the mercy of Mother Nature. We need her sun to shine for a few days and her wind to blow so that our fields will dry up enough so the soil can be worked. Ideally, the farmer would like for the soil to have a little moisture but not too much, yet it is nearly impossible in the spring to have the perfect soil consistency. So we just make a decision as to the best time, given the circumstances, to work up the soil and go with it hoping the crops grow and prosper.  This may be a year when we work up the soil when it is a little too wet.  Time will tell.
All these plants need to be transplanted outdoors! We have about 55 flats of plants that are in need of being transplanted outdoors into the fields which we hope to do next week. We will only be able to do so if we have a few days of dry weather.

All these plants need to be transplanted outdoors! We have about 55 flats of plants that are in need of being transplanted outdoors into the fields which we hope to do next week. We will only be able to do so if we have a few days of dry weather.

Red cabbage wanting to be transplanted!

Red cabbage wanting to be transplanted!

This may sound like cruel and unusual punishment for seedlings, but once they develop decent roots, we blast them with a watering wand. You will notice that these plants are sideways from being blasted with water. We do this, because they have been growing in the protective environment of our greenhouse, yet we want them to toughen up and become a bit used to the rough weather that may come their way once they are transplanted outdoors. So we try to simulate a storm!

This may sound like cruel and unusual punishment for seedlings, but once they develop decent roots, we blast them with a watering wand. You will notice that these plants are sideways from being blasted with water. We do this, because they have been growing in the protective environment of our greenhouse, yet we want them to toughen up and become a bit used to the rough weather that may come their way once they are transplanted outdoors. So we try to simulate a storm!

My desk is dirty! We are potting up herbs for our spring plant sales. Thank goodness we have plants for sale, since we have yet to seed or transplant anything outdoors, our plants may earn us a little money the beginning of the season.

My desk is dirty! We are potting up herbs for our spring plant sales. Thank goodness we have plants for sale, since we have yet to seed or transplant anything outdoors, our plants may earn us a little money the beginning of the season.

Little seedlings being potted up into pots providing more food dirt for their little roots to feed on.

Little seedlings being potted up into pots providing more food dirt for their little roots to feed on.

03.19.13

Grading for the cabin site!

Posted in Vacation Cabin Rental at 8:36 pm by Farmer

We were in the midst of transplanting seedlings to the greenhouse when Alvin stopped by inquiring if we were ready to grade the cabin site. The soil is the driest  we’ve seen since mid December of last year, so we said YES, and the grading began!
Alvin believes he has moved about 500 tons of soil so far, and just after grading for a couple days, he is done with the rough grading for the site. We could have built the cabin down in the farm fields, but after farming for over a decade, that land seems just so valuable from a food production standpoint that we decided to flatten a little nook up on the mountain. We will now let this area settle before digging footers and building the foundation for the cabin.  In the next couple days we plan to stake out the cabin location, then hopefully we will post a few pictures of the site.
Click here to listen to an NPR story about the local food movement and how the farmer isn’t earning much. Like the couple interviewed in the story from Illinois who  don’t know many folks that would work for such little pay, and we ask ourselves that same question at the beginning of each season, but we keep on farming. Some say the love and desire of working with dirt and planting a seed gets in your blood and you just can’t get rid of it. That must be true. It must be in our blood because each season  we have the longing to till the earth and grow healthy food; rather than find a paying job.  We are trying to work hard towards building the vacation cabin now that we are nearing a time in our life when we one day won’t physically be able to cultivate 5 acres of farmland.
Recently we read this inspiring article about our future scientists.
Meet Alvin, who is grading the cabin site, and also taught us how to farm!

Meet Alvin, who is grading the cabin site, and also taught us how to farm!

Alvin pushing dirt my way with his dozer. It is amazing how much, and how quickly, his dozer will move dirt. That pile of dirt his dozer is pushing is around 5 feet tall.

Alvin pushing dirt my way with his dozer. It is amazing how much, and how quickly, his dozer will move dirt. That pile of dirt his dozer is pushing is around 5 feet tall.

Alvin has been teaching Carl how to use his track hoe. Here Carl is using it for piling the brush up, and after doing so, Alvin uses the dozer to push it into a burn pile. We will need to burn the brush on a rainy day so that we don’t start a forest fire.

Alvin has been teaching Carl how to use his track hoe. Here Carl is using it for piling the brush up, and after doing so, Alvin uses the dozer to push it into a burn pile. We will need to burn the brush on a rainy day so that we don’t start a forest fire.

Besides grading for the cabin site we have been sawing some trees for the pavilion. This is one HUGE hemlock that was sawn into a couple 8x8x10 pavilion posts, a few 4x6x10 rafters and some BEAUTIFUL siding.

Besides grading for the cabin site we have been sawing some trees for the pavilion. This is one HUGE hemlock that was sawn into a couple 8x8x10 pavilion posts, a few 4x6x10 rafters and some BEAUTIFUL siding.

We have also been putting our vermicompost into our greenhouse, amending the soil, then transplanting seedlings. This compost is like GOLD to us, and if it was traded on the NYMEX, we would invest! We are transplanting seedlings that love summer, so we will be using the wood boiler to heat our greenhouse the next few nights, hoping to keep the temperatures around 45 degrees.

We have also been putting our vermicompost into our greenhouse, amending the soil, then transplanting seedlings. This compost is like GOLD to us, and if it was traded on the NYMEX, we would invest! We are transplanting seedlings that love summer, so we will be using the wood boiler to heat our greenhouse the next few nights, hoping to keep the temperatures around 45 degrees.

Here compost spread across the beds in a greenhouse where our crops will be planted. Vermicompost is a nutrient-rich fertilizer, and needs to be diluted, so we mix it into the soil.

Here compost spread across the beds in a greenhouse where our crops will be planted. Vermicompost is a nutrient-rich fertilizer, and needs to be diluted, so we mix it into the soil.

The seedlings are growing in the greenhouse! We were able to work up a bit of land this past weekend while it was dry because shortly many of our seedlings will be going outdoors.

The seedlings are growing in the greenhouse! We were able to work up a bit of land this past weekend while it was dry because shortly many of our seedlings will be going outdoors.

02.24.13

Going high-tech on the farm!

Posted in Food Policy, Veggies at 9:11 am by Farmer

Prior to farming both Carl and I spent our life writing software, assisting companies in automating and streamlining their processes or manually done tasks, thus saving them money and time which allowed them to grow and flourish. Doesn’t it seem crazy that we’ve never evaluated our business from an automation standpoint?
When the Palm Pilot first made its debut, I ditched my day timer that had been a part of my life for a good 20 years, in favor of the Palm. The Palm went with me everywhere and I had all my contacts on it, appointments, meeting notes, my dream places to visit, my dream list of things I would like to accomplish, an ongoing list of books to read, etc. I even used the Palm for record keeping (although in a pretty archaic format) the first couple years while we farmed until the Palm bit the dust. I couldn’t financially justify purchasing a smart phone because out here in rural America we didn’t have data coverage. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that we actually could get a cell signal yet our signal strength was never strong enough for data and still too expensive. Because we spend so much of our time here on the farm without a strong cell signal, Carl and I have never yet entered into the world of smartphones and texting. We figured why bother with such technology if we couldn’t use it for receiving calls, emailing or texting because we had no data coverage, not to mention the smartphone still had a screen too small for the record keeping we do on the farm. So I must admit we are technologically a little behind the times.
Perhaps us being technically behind the times will be changing with the introduction of the Nexus7. Carl has been trying to talk me into this computer after he read reviews about it, then while at the store he showed me it, and I was sold after seeing how big the screen resolution was. The tablet can run software for displaying and editing spreadsheets, so now we can realistically export our reports from our PC and have them on the tablet. I am fascinated by this little computer and now am interested in one day having a smart phone.
Our hope is that we go paperless this season and I think the Nexus7 will actually allow us to do this. It is complete with a development environment so we are hoping one day to have a thin version of our farming software on this computer.
Here is an article that makes for an interesting read, and just another reason to buy local in supporting a regionally diversified food system, helping to protect the US food system from being impacted by extreme weather conditions such as droughts and floods.  Also interesting is this article about the science of junk food being addictive and I found it astounding that in 1979 James Behnke of Pillsbury organized a meeting, with companies producing unhealthy food, to discuss what can be done for the health of America. Yet nothing has been done since that meeting and today, twenty four years later, junk food continues to be subsidized by our government.
For the past 13 years we have been using this printed report, generated from the software we wrote, used as our farm journal for tracking those items seeded in the greenhouse. We are trying to get rid of our paper journals so this report is going to be used on the tablet.

For the past 13 years we have been using this printed report, generated from the software we wrote, used as our farm journal for tracking those items seeded in the greenhouse. We are trying to get rid of our paper journals so this report is going to be used on the tablet.

For the past 13 years, we've always used this printed report, generated from the software we wrote, for tracking those items transplanted or direct seeded to the field. As we go paperless on the farm this report will be used on the tablet.

For the past 13 years, we've always used this printed report, generated from the software we wrote, for tracking those items transplanted or direct seeded to the field. As we go paperless on the farm this report will be used on the tablet.

For the past 13 years, we've always used this printed report, generated from the software we wrote, for tracking our harvest. As we go paperless on the farm this report will be used on the tablet.

For the past 13 years, we've always used this printed report, generated from the software we wrote, for tracking our harvest. As we go paperless on the farm this report will be used on the tablet.

Paper generated for our record keeping after a season of farming.

Paper generated for our record keeping after a season of farming.

The tablet with our Seeding schedule.. It is taking me more time to organize seeds for seeding and complete tasks because I am learning this new tool.  Too bad I wasn't born 20 years later and this tool would already be a part of my life because I would have grown up with this technology.  When the Palm Pilot was first introduced, I ditched the day timer for the palm, and it was life changing. I have been slow to adopt new technology on the farm. I think the tablet is the first portable computer with a large enough screen to do what we do here on the farm.

The tablet with our Seeding schedule. It is taking me more time to organize seeds for seeding and complete tasks because I am learning this new tool. Too bad I wasn't born 20 years later and this tool would already be a part of my life because I would have grown up with this technology. When the Palm Pilot was first introduced, I ditched the day timer for the Palm, and it was life changing. I have been slow to adopt new technology on the farm. I think the tablet is the first portable computer with a large enough screen to do what we do here on the farm.

Making Transplant Soil Mix! It is that time of the year to begin seeding and growing seedlings for our 2013 season. We are using a concrete mixer this year to save time! We bought the mixer for the cabin but will use it for soil mix making when we have a lot to seed!

Making Transplant Soil Mix! It is that time of the year to begin seeding and growing seedlings for our 2013 season. We are using a concrete mixer this year to save time! We bought the mixer for the cabin but will use it for soil mix making when we have a lot to seed!

Filling flats. It feels good to have my hands in the soil once again!

Filling flats. It feels good to have my hands in the soil once again!

We like to fill a lot of flats before we begin seeding and this year we started seeding with about 150 flats filled. We do this so we can fill our greenhouse as quickly as possible, with seeded flats, because with the greenhouse full one is germinating seeds rather than wasting propane heating air.

We like to fill a lot of flats before we begin seeding and this year we started seeding with about 150 flats filled. We do this so we can fill our greenhouse as quickly as possible, with seeded flats, because with the greenhouse full one is germinating seeds rather than wasting propane heating air.

Notice that we are using plant tags for labeling flats! We have always been rather neurotic about information included on our flat label such as variety, date, supplier and lot number. The computer program we wrote would print flat labels according to our production schedule. That would require us to tape the label to the flat then remove the label once the flat has been transplanted. Now we are just using one plant tag for each flat with plans that the plant tag will also be used in the field. We have always worried about the plant tag falling out then not knowing what was seeded in the flat and yesterday morning I did notice one tag that was on the ground and I think our cats are to blame for the plant tag falling out.

Notice that we are using plant tags for labeling flats! We have always been rather neurotic about information included on our flat label such as variety, date, supplier and lot number. The computer program we wrote would print flat labels according to our production schedule. That would require us to tape the label to the flat then remove the label once the flat has been transplanted. Now we are just using one plant tag for each flat with plans that the plant tag will also be used in the field. We have always worried about the plant tag falling out then not knowing what was seeded in the flat and yesterday morning I did notice one tag that was on the ground and I think our cats are to blame for the plant tag falling out.

Harmon would rather be hiking than seeding. Half way through the day he went back to our house so he could sleep on the couch.

Harmon would rather be hiking than seeding. Half way through the day he went back to our house so he could sleep on the couch.

Spotfoot is not afraid of heights. I wish I had a bit of her personality in me.

Spotfoot is not afraid of heights. I wish I had a bit of her personality in me.

02.17.13

We are not afraid to eat our spinach!

Posted in Food Policy, Production Note, Veggies, Video at 11:09 am by Farmer

This Valentine’s day we decided to make gnocchi as our main entrée along with steamed spinach and sweet potatoes for our sidedish. Is it right for two people to eat a 1/2 pound of fresh spinach for one meal? Perhaps, if one knows the individual who grew the spinach, otherwise maybe it is a bit too risky. Once again a top news story is the recall of spinach that has been shipped all across the country. I wonder if the new food safety rules can eliminate problems with a situation such as this most recent recall of spinach? I’m curious about this mostly because if you read this article you will note that manure is in the air across these central valley farms that supply much of our country with veggies. With the proximity of farms growing our veggies to CAFO’s, I am not sure how they can keep pathogens out of our food if manure is indeed in the air and I also wonder how the farms in this region become “Certified Organic”. USDA Certified Organic food must not come in contact with fresh manure within 120 days of being harvested. The food harvested in California’s Central Valley will have a “manure particles”, that are coming from the air, so manure must be coming in contact with the food as it is being harvested. We make it a practice to spread fresh manure into our fields in the fall of the year prior to that field being planted early spring. Our spinach, grown here on our farm is still healthy, even though critters such as rabbits, deer, cats, dogs, rats and mice might wander across our spinach patch. Not to mention, only perhaps 80 families per week might eat our spinach while it is in season, so if some rat or mouse spread a disease, we would not make most of the country sick because we are not shipping across the country.
So act on food safety today and purchase your food locally from our highly diversified farms here in Western North Carolina by joining a CSA or shopping at area tailgate markets!
Our Valentines Day Celebration complete with gnocchi, steamed spinach and steamed sweet potatoes. Is it right for two individuals to eat a half pound of spinach at a meal? We did and love it! Our gnocchi, made with German Butterball potatoes, were melt-in-your mouth deliciousness.

Our Valentines Day Celebration complete with gnocchi, steamed spinach and steamed sweet potatoes. Is it right for two individuals to eat a half pound of spinach at a meal? We did and love it! Our gnocchi, made with German Butterball potatoes, were melt-in-your mouth deliciousness.

Just a few ingredients commonly used in our meals this time of the year (used weekly). We made Aloo Saak which is an asian indian dish. Along with this we had homemade Naan and rice. We are proud that 80% of our food is what we have grown and raised.

Just a few ingredients commonly used in our meals this time of the year (used weekly). We made Aloo Saak which is an asian indian dish. Along with this we had homemade Naan and rice. We are proud that 80% of our food is what we have grown and raised.

2500 Strawberry plants to weed! One would think that weeds don't grow during the winter. Henbit and chickweed flourish in the winter so we must remove these weeds from around each strawberry plant. We probably have this issue because we use landscape fabric as our weed barrier, which is used for several years, rather than disposable plastic.

2500 Strawberry plants to weed! One would think that weeds don't grow during the winter. Henbit and chickweed flourish in the winter so we must remove these weeds from around each strawberry plant. We probably have this issue because we use landscape fabric as our weed barrier, which is used for several years, rather than disposable plastic.

Do you see a strawberry plant in this hole? Normally we weed our strawberries late January or early February; however, we must make a note to begin weeding in December. We think because of global warming (warmer winters) the weeds are growing much faster throughout the winter.

Do you see a strawberry plant in this hole? Normally we weed our strawberries late January or early February; however, we must make a note to begin weeding in December. We think because of global warming (warmer winters) the weeds are growing much faster throughout the winter.

This strawberry plant has been freed from the henbit! This is the strawberry plant in the previous photograph. It makes you think that nothing so sweet as strawberries come free and requires patience and work. Hopefully come spring our patience and work will pay off.

This strawberry plant has been freed from the henbit! This is the strawberry plant in the previous photograph. It makes you think that nothing so sweet as strawberries come free and requires patience and work. Hopefully come spring our patience and work will pay off.

Production note to self: Weed strawberries mid December because the weeds are growing much faster earlier in the winter. It took 25 hours to weed all strawberries which was completed 2/11/2013.

01.25.13

Our seed order is placed and we’ve poured concrete piers!

Posted in Vacation Cabin Rental, Veggies, Video at 2:08 pm by Farmer

Last week we had four days of rain so we used this time for seed planning and then finally placing our seed orders. Early January we decided that we would decrease our production level by half with hopes that we will be able to juggle production along with building the farm vacation cabin rental. Then the catalogs arrived in droves, complete with mouthwatering photographs of incredible looking veggies, all with the caption; “Best Tasting, Highest Yielding, Grows in any weather condition.”. So yes, of course we had the urge to grow EVERYTHING in the catalog. That is winter for you – when it is cold and the weeds aren’t growing – one thinks they are capable of doing almost anything. Quite a few hours into our planning session we knew we weren’t actually cutting back on our seeds and varieties, so we took a break to regroup, and started the process over. I am proud to say that we ended up decreasing our seed order by 1/3rd which is a HUGE accomplishment for us!
This past summer while we were sawing our trees into lumber for our timber-frame projects, we noticed that our lumber was not consistently sized. Meaning that when we had plans on cutting an 8x8x12, it was actually 8x8x12 in some places, while in other places it was 7-3/4x8x12 or 7-7/8x8x12, with varying sizes along the length of the timber. What does this mean from a sawyers perspective? It means that we had either sawn through knots, were using a dull blade, that our saw mill wasn’t level while we were sawing, or all three of these. The beautiful thing about building using timber-framing construction is that your lumber does not need to be consistently sized because the size is factored into the layout for the mortise, tenon and dove tail joinery. These timber framing techniques were probably designed this way because our forefathers were using hand tools and I expect it was nearly impossible to obtain consistently sized lumber when hand hewing logs.
What we noticed during our limited time sawing so far, was that we would level our mill which has 8 leveling feet with 4 on each side, before sawing each tree.  When rolling a tree onto the mill, the mill would slightly move, probably because our mill was leveled onto cinder blocks directly in the ground, therefore offering a little flexibility from the weight of the tree onto the mill. We even noticed that if we were able to roll a tree onto the mill and the mill remained level, then after making the first cut and using the winch to turn the tree for our next cut, the mill would slightly move because of the force of the tree. We don’t think we would have this problem if we were sawing smaller trees.
So after we finished edging our backlog of boards with live edges, we decided to take time out of our schedule to pour concrete piers that will allow us to bolt the mill onto the piers, hopefully yielding more consistently sized timbers. Before making the decision to build concrete piers, we discussed our plan with Edward Zimmerman who designed the mill, as to whether he thought it would be structurally sound for the sawmill to be bolted onto piers because we understand that one wants a little flexibility with mill movement so that large trees do not break the sawmill frame. Edward thought it would be fine because he has already designed this needed flexibility into the leveling feet so that our sawmill frame should withstand the sized trees we are sawing. I will post his design feature in a following journal entry once we get around to bolting the sawmill to the piers. We know that our lumber will never be perfect because we are working with mother nature. And although accurately sized lumber is not important for timber frame joinery, we like consistent lumber for stick building, and it seems we always have a building project in the pipeline for this type of construction. Not to mention, since we are not very experienced at cutting joinery for timber framing, consistently sized timbers will speed up the labor spent on layouts. These aforementioned concerns was our justification for pouring concrete piers.
In preparation for pouring concrete piers, we moved the mill, which was fairly easy because our mill is portable. After that, Carl graded the pad using our tractor so that the individual piers would be easy to level with one another and the mill would be positioned at a height allowing us to easily move trees onto the mill and lumber off of the mill. Normally, for any construction project, Carl likes to make batter boards for squaring a pad; however, I was pleased to say Carl relinquished a bit of perfectionism for this project and we simply put nails in the ground to square the area for the piers. We then dug 8 holes so that we could poor a pier for each of the leveling feet. When we built our equipment barn, we made wood forms for pouring concrete piers; however, this time we purchased cardboard forms from Lowe’s saving us a bit of time.  After setting the cardboard forms, we mixed concrete and poured the piers, and now they are curing while we wait for warmer and dry weather to move the mill back onto the pad.
Moving the Sawmill
To move the mill we first use the log turning winch to jack the sawmill up so the wheels could easily be attached. We leave the bolts for fastening the wheels to the sawmill in a bracket on the wheels otherwise we may not find those bolts amongst our gazillion parts on the farm. The winch is positioned opposite as it is used for turning logs.

To move the mill we first use the log turning winch to jack the sawmill up so the wheels could easily be attached. We leave the bolts for fastening the wheels to the sawmill in a bracket on the wheels otherwise we may not find those bolts amongst our gazillion parts on the farm. The winch is positioned opposite as it is used for turning logs.

Carl bolting wheels to the sawmill while it is jacked up. Once the wheels have been connected, we raise all the leveling feet so they don’t drag the ground. One would want to completely remove the leveling feet if the mill was to be hauled on the highway.

Carl bolting wheels to the sawmill while it is jacked up. Once the wheels have been connected, we raise all the leveling feet so they don’t drag the ground. One would want to completely remove the leveling feet if the mill was to be hauled on the highway.

Once the wheels are attached, while the jack is still holding up the mil, you want to slide the engine to the back of the mill and raise the trailer hitch. I don’t have a photograph of this because we forgot to do this! After the trailer jack is sturdy, you want roll the sawmill engine to the center of the mill and bolt the engine to the frame. The bolts are left in the sawmill frame so that they can be easily found when moving the sawmill.

Once the wheels are attached, while the jack is still holding up the mil, you want to slide the engine to the back of the mill and raise the trailer hitch. I don’t have a photograph of this because we forgot to do this! After the trailer jack is sturdy, you want roll the sawmill engine to the center of the mill and bolt the engine to the frame. The bolts are left in the sawmill frame so that they can be easily found when moving the sawmill.

We used the tractor to move the mill out of the way while we pour the concrete piers.

We used the tractor to move the mill out of the way while we pour the concrete piers.

Site Preparation and Digging holes for Piers
Normally Carl builds batter boards when pouring concrete footings or for building structures. This time we simply used nails to mark the corners and squared the site using these.

Normally Carl builds batter boards when pouring concrete footings or for building structures. This time we simply used nails to mark the corners and squared the site using these.

We marked the center of each footing with a flag so we had an idea as to where to dig the two foot deep hole for the footings.

We marked the center of each footing with a flag so we had an idea as to where to dig the two foot deep hole for the footings.

For each hole we start out using the PTO auger on the tractor but end up digging the old fashioned way with the digging bar and post hole digger. Here Carl is using the digging bar for loosening dirt and rocks. Someday I am going to count how many holes have been dug on this farm between 2 deer fences, our equipment barn, greenhouses, and a wood shed. Perhaps we might qualify to be in the Guinness World Records for digging holes.

For each hole we start out using the PTO auger on the tractor but end up digging the old fashioned way with the digging bar and post hole digger. Here Carl is using the digging bar for loosening dirt and rocks. Someday I am going to count how many holes have been dug on this farm between 2 deer fences, our equipment barn, greenhouses, and a wood shed. Perhaps we might qualify to be in the Guinness World Records for digging holes.

Carl using the post hold digger for removing loosened rocks and dirt.

Carl using the post hold digger for removing loosened rocks and dirt.

All the holes dug for the footings after only a day and a half of work.

All the holes dug for the footings after only a day and a half of work.

Leveling the Forms and Pouring the Concrete
After the holes are dug we used our laser level to check that the depth of the holes were close enough to begin setting the forms. We either added dirt or dug out additional dirt out depending on the level at each hole.

After the holes are dug we used our laser level to check that the depth of the holes were close enough to begin setting the forms. We either added dirt or dug out additional dirt out depending on the level at each hole.

We then set each form into the hole and added removed dirt until the form was level. We back filled around the form preventing it from moving when filling it with concrete.

We then set each form into the hole and added removed dirt until the form was level. We back filled around the form preventing it from moving when filling it with concrete.

We used our laser level to verify the final height of the form and adjusted it according to if we needed to push it further into the earth or if it needed additional dirt to bring it up. This form we added additional dirt into the hole.

We used our laser level to verify the final height of the form and adjusted it according to if we needed to push it further into the earth or if it needed additional dirt to bring it up. This form we added additional dirt into the hole.

We bought a concrete mixer to mix the concrete.  I should count how many tons of concrete we have hand mixed on this farm. We finally justified purchasing a mixer because it will be needed for block work when building the foundation for the farm vacation cabin rental.  The concrete can mix while we are doing other jobs allowing us to multi-task.  We also have plans on using the concrete mixer to add in micro-nutrients into our soil mix.

We bought a concrete mixer to mix the concrete. I should count how many tons of concrete we have hand mixed on this farm. We finally justified purchasing a mixer because it will be needed for block work when building the foundation for the farm vacation cabin rental. The concrete can mix while we are doing other jobs allowing us to multi-task. We also have plans on using the concrete mixer to add in micro-nutrients into our soil mix.

All the concrete piers filled! We finished the first four the previous Sunday afternoon and then had 4 continuous days of rain preventing any outdoor work. This Sunday on Jan 20 we finished the remaining 4.

All the concrete piers filled! We finished the first four the previous Sunday afternoon and then had 4 continuous days of rain preventing any outdoor work. This Sunday on Jan 20 we finished the remaining 4.

With temperatures expected to drop down to the teens after finishing these last 4 piers we decided to cover with hay for additional warmth hoping that the concrete sets and is strong enough to prevent our sawmill from moving when dealing with heavy trees.

With temperatures expected to drop down to the teens after finishing these last 4 piers we decided to cover with hay for additional warmth hoping that the concrete sets and is strong enough to prevent our sawmill from moving when dealing with heavy trees.

We also used plastic hoping to get a bit of thermal gain with the sun. We have not yet uncovered them to find how these last 4 piers cured.

We also used plastic hoping to get a bit of thermal gain with the sun. We have not yet uncovered them to find how these last 4 piers cured.

In between seed planning and setting piers we have been using a bit of our off season to enjoy hikes in the woods. Here the sunshine made an incredible appearance through the forest after 4 days of rain and a dusting of snow.

In between seed planning and setting piers we have been using a bit of our off season to enjoy hikes in the woods. Here the sunshine made an incredible appearance through the forest after 4 days of rain and a dusting of snow.

Harmon giving us that look that suggests that we quit taking photograhps and actually hike!

Harmon giving us that look that suggests that we quit taking photograhps and actually hike!

01.10.13

We’re enjoying a change in our farming jobs

Posted in Vacation Cabin Rental at 9:27 pm by Farmer

We spent a couple days the last week in December, while we had a dusting of snow and it being a bit too frozen for outdoor jobs, working up the soil in a portion of our propagation greenhouse for salad mix. We seeded the lettuce for our salad mix October 24th, but because of short day length this time of the year, the lettuce starts were perfect for transplanting even though they were 3 weeks older than those we normally transplant. From March until October, which is pour peak growing season, we prefer to transplant our lettuce starts at 5 weeks of age.   We also direct seeded arugula and mustard greens which is just starting to germinate so perhaps in another month we will be enjoying tasty salad mix with our meals. We’ve never transplanted or seeded anything into our greenhouse this time in the season so it is just another interesting experiment for us!
Lettuce transplants laid out ready to be put into the soil.

Lettuce transplants laid out ready to be put into the soil.

One of our favorite lettuce cultivars is Red Oakleaf. We have about 480 row feet of salad mix transplanted. It won’t yield a lot but hopefully enough for sale at our early markets. Mostly it is for us to enjoy.

One of our favorite lettuce cultivars is Red Oakleaf. We have about 480 row feet of salad mix transplanted. It won’t yield a lot but hopefully enough for sale at our early markets. Mostly it is for us to enjoy.

Tucking in Lolla Rosa into bed. This is a beautiful red leaf lettuce and the weather can influence the intensity of the color so it will be interesting watching it grow this time of the season.

Tucking in Lolla Rosa into bed. This is a beautiful red leaf lettuce and the weather can influence the intensity of the color so it will be interesting watching it grow this time of the season.

Nearly a month ago Alvin stopped by inquiring if we were ready for him to begin grading the site for the farm vacation cabin because conditions were ideal with our weather here in these mountains being extraordinary dry and warm. Thank goodness Alvin is trying to move along the cabin project. Perhaps if we had appointed him our project manager we might almost be done building the cabin! We kindly asked him if we could wait a few weeks because we still had trees to clear from the cabin site. To speed up the project, we could have let Alvin simply push the trees down with his bulldozer and pile them into a brush pile for burning, but it seems silly to us not to use perfectly good wood for heating our home and greenhouses. So we spent the first week in January felling trees and cutting them into firewood, stacking branches and limbs onto a brush pile, and are pleased that the site is now ready to be graded once Alvin has time and the weather permits. We’ve enjoyed our time up in the forest rather than down in the fields.  One of the many perks in being a highly diversified farm is that we get to switch gears to completely different projects. Not to mention, we are enjoying a little slower pace of work, which we treasure because our “off” season is short.
The cabin site that we partially cleared early summer last year. It is a bit fun seeing the site evolve as it was hard for us to vision what it would look like in the beginning when it was a forest. Now that we have taken the trees down it is a rather pretty site with views of Bluff Mountain.

The cabin site that we partially cleared early summer last year. It is a bit fun seeing the site evolve as it was hard for us to vision what it would look like in the beginning when it was a forest. Now that we have taken the trees down it is a rather pretty site with views of Bluff Mountain.

We fell the trees, limb them, then cut them into firewood. We have firewood cut into large sizes that will fit into our wood boiler and also small sizes for our house wood stove. We think we have enough wood for next winter and the first time we have wood stockpiled a year in advance.

We fell the trees, limb them, then cut them into firewood. We have firewood cut into large sizes that will fit into our wood boiler and also small sizes for our house wood stove. We think we have enough wood for next winter and the first time we have wood stockpiled a year in advance.

We have piles of firewood and we have been hauling out loads early morning while the ground is frozen to prevent ruining the driveway to the cabin that Alvin has graded so nicely.

We have piles of firewood and we have been hauling out loads early morning while the ground is frozen to prevent ruining the driveway to the cabin that Alvin has graded so nicely.

Greg – you are going to be so proud of us – we spent a couple days this week doing the dreaded job of edging – and we edged all the boards from the pile that was left after you helped us saw wood this past summer. For you readers, you must understand that Greg hated leaving without edging the boards because he is one that takes pride in finishing jobs that he begins. I think he knew that it would be quite a while before we found the time to once again prioritize sawing lumber.
Edging is when the outer layer of the logs, the portion of the tree that gets sawn before you are in the heart of the tree, are sawn into 1 x’s and occasionally 2 x’s. The outer lumber will have “live” edges which is the bark from the tree that needs to be trimmed off so that the board is 4 sided and of dimensional sizes. The reason it is a “dreaded” job is because it is tedious and time consuming for the yield of board feet.

In preparation for edging, we first organized the wood into stacks by the size we expect to get. We have the following sizes:

  • A stack with live edges on 2 sides that we plan to saw into 1×8’s
  • A stack with live edges on 2 sides that we plan to saw into 1×6’s
  • A stack with live edges on 2 sides that we plan to saw into 1×4’s
  • A stack with 1 straight edge and 1 live edge that we plan to saw into 1×8’s
  • A stack with 1 straight edge and 1 live edge that we plan to saw into 1×6’s
  • A stack with 1 straight edge and 1 live edge that we plan to saw into 1x’4s
Once our wood is organized, we can then put a few boards on the mill at a time, finding like sizes and edges. We cut the edge off one side, then flip the boards, and cut the edge off the opposite side. We still flipped the boards with one straight edge and did a final truing cut.  Once the boards are cut the wood is stacked and stickered for drying. I must say, this week we have had a blast spending our time in the woods and another portion of our time running the sawmill.  It is a nice break from seeding, weeding and harvesting; however, I expect in another month we will begin experiencing withdrawals from these jobs!
our stack of boards that need edging. The only thing worse than edging is dealing with the edged edges that must be cut and stowed away as fire starter.

our stack of boards that need edging. The only thing worse than edging is dealing with the edged edges that must be cut and stowed away as fire starter.

Our boards that need edging organized by sizes.

Our boards that need edging organized by sizes.

Boards being edged on the sawmill. We will cut off the top edge then flip the boards and edge the opposite side. The end result is dimensional lumber with 4 smooth sides.

Boards being edged on the sawmill. We will cut off the top edge then flip the boards and edge the opposite side. The end result is dimensional lumber with 4 smooth sides.

12.19.12

Deer Fence #2 Complete!

Posted in Projects at 9:08 am by Farmer

Or it is nearly complete so we have officially marked this task off of our “To Do” list.  We finished everything except installing gate latches on December 18th, but we have chained the gates closed, and are THANKFUL that we are officially keeping the deer from accessing an additional 2 acres of farmland. We are looking forward to adding this field back into our rotation plan and believe it will be a big help in improving our soil fertility.  It has been 6 years since we have grown anything the deer find tasty in this area so are excited about once again growing crops such as greens, corn, peppers and winter squash in these fields.  The last we remember, it grew those crops well, and so we will keep you readers posted as to how it does in our 2013 growing season.

We divided our deer fence project into 6 phases and used this guide for instructions in installing this type of fence.

  • Phase 1: Planning and acquiring all the supplies
  • Phase 2: Clearing the fence line and setting the posts
  • Phase 3: Installing the corner and line braces
  • Phase 4: Pulling the 8 foot woven high tensile wire, tying off the corners and splicing where needed
  • Phase 5: Driving and attaching 11 Foot T-Posts
  • Phase 6: Hanging the gates
One would think that Phase 1 of our project is very quick, but THANK GOODNESS Carl is one to analyze the situation to death, so this phase took a bit longer than expected. When using equipment and dealing with a deer fence, one must leave room to get equipment in and out of the fields, and for us that means being able to get the tractor into a bed midpoint in the field with crops growing in all the other locations. We debated if we should move our driveway a bit so that we could include as much growing area within the fence as is possible. However, moving our driveway would have meant installing an additional culvert pipe because fortunately we have a little branch meandering along the driveway feeding into Meadow Fork Creek. We decided that moving the driveway would be “Scope Creep” and that we would sacrifice a bit of production area because of the cost. Once we decided the area to be fenced, we measured the area, then Carl calculated the supplies needed: how many feet of the 8 foot high tensile wire was required, number of 11 foot T-Posts, quantity of crimps, the size of gates, the gate hardware, wire for constructing braced corners, number of posts and braces. We ordered all of our supplies, except our wood posts/braces, from Kencove Fence because they supplied us with our fencing materials for the last deer fence project and were very knowledgeable and informative. We purchased our 6x6x14 foot round posts from Southern States early Spring, and since they are a local company, we didn’t need to pay shipping except our fuel costs! Our 4x6x12 foot braces were purchased from Summit Building Supply.
The project manager and mastermind of the farm!

The project manager and mastermind of the farm!

Here is the the 8 foot high wire, t-posts, gates and hardware such as fencing staples, gate hindges, and latches.

Here is the the 8 foot high wire, t-posts, gates and hardware such as fencing staples, gate hindges, and latches.

Here are the 29 posts that need to be set, plumbed and concreted!

Here are the 29 posts that need to be set, plumbed and concreted!

Phase 2 of the project began with the assistance of Alvin and his equipment. We had plans on fencing along our old fence line, which we had let grown up in trees, so needed not only to cut the trees, but also remove the old barb wire and locust posts. Click here to read our journal entry with photographs of us clearing our fence line!
Once our fence line was cleared, we partly used a tractor mounted auger to dig our post holes, but mostly dug our holes manually using a digging bar and post hole digger because our auger can’t dig through rocks and our fields are loaded with rocks.  For any corner or brace posts, we must dig these post holes 4 foot deep, and add a bag of quickrite to the bottom of the hole so that the posts have an “anchor” keeping it strong and upright because our high tensile wire can put a lot of force on the post. Carl bought us a new post hole digger that works incredibly well for 4 foot deep holes. Most post hole diggers require the handles to be pulled apart, then closed around loose dirt, just to remove the dirt. Our old post hole handles couldn’t easily be pulled apart to remove dirt after our hole was about 3 feet deep.
Most of the 28, 4 foot deep holes, were dug using the digging bar to crush rocks and the post hole digger the right to remove dirt!

Most of the 28, 4 foot deep holes, were dug using the digging bar to crush rocks and the post hole digger the right to remove dirt!

.

The quickrite mix that we add water, and once all the mix is completely moist, put it in the post hole so that the posts have an anchor

The quickrite mix that we add water, and once all the mix is completely moist, put it in the post hole so that the posts have an anchor

Carl adding water to our quickrite mix. Then we use a hoe to mix it well before putting it into the post hole.

Carl adding water to our quickrite mix. Then we use a hoe to mix it well before putting it into the post hole.

Phase 2 complete! This photograph is a line of posts that have been set, plumbed and concreted.

Phase 2 complete! This photograph is a line of posts that have been set, plumbed and concreted.

Once our posts are concreted and the concrete cured we began Phase 3 of this project in constructing the corner braces! This is probably the most complicated part of the project and we have a total of 11 braces to build. Most braces are built for the corners; however, we have one section of the field that slightly changes direction so that required a brace. It is recommend that if the inside angle is 120 degree or less (Of coarse, you don’t have to brace for 0 degrees!) then normally a brace is needed. The braces 4x6x16 feet long, so for each braced corner we were careful when setting our brace and end posts, making sure that they were spaced no further than 15 feet 11 inches apart. We were required to cut a bit off the brace so that it would fit snugly in between the end post and brace post securing them together.
Our tool box the front-end loader!

Our tool box the front-end loader!

The brace is 4x6x16 and very heavy to lift up since it is suspended 7.5 feet up in the air. We use our tractor to hold it up until it is secured.

The brace is 4x6x16 and very heavy to lift up since it is suspended 7.5 feet up in the air. We use our tractor to hold it up until it is secured.

We first measure the distance between the posts and cut the brace to length so that it fits snugly.

We first measure the distance between the posts and cut the brace to length so that it fits snugly.

We have a support board that is used to determine the height of the hole on the end post for the 5 inch pin, and this board is also used at the opposite end on the brace post to support the brace while drilling the hole for the 10 inch pin. The 10 inch pin will go all the way through the brace post, with 4 inches into the brace, and approximately 1 inch extending out from the brace post so that it can hold the brace wire.

We have a support board that is used to determine the height of the hole on the end post for the 5 inch pin, and this board is also used at the opposite end on the brace post to support the brace while drilling the hole for the 10 inch pin. The 10 inch pin will go all the way through the brace post, with 4 inches into the brace, and approximately 1 inch extending out from the brace post so that it can hold the brace wire.

The end post will have a 5 inch pin with 2 and a 1/2 inches into the brace and another 2 and a 1/2 inches into the end post. Carl first marks the end post where the brace will be lined up and drills the hole into the post. Next he drills the hole into the brace and sets the 5 inch pin into the brace. He has duck tape on the drill bit so that his pin hole is only 2 and a 1/2 inches deep.

The end post will have a 5 inch pin with 2 and a 1/2 inches into the brace and another 2 and a 1/2 inches into the end post. Carl first marks the end post where the brace will be lined up and drills the hole into the post. Next he drills the hole into the brace and sets the 5 inch pin into the brace. He has duck tape on the drill bit so that his pin hole is only 2 and a 1/2 inches deep.

The 5 inch pin that is set into the brace and will be positioned into the end post.

The 5 inch pin that is set into the brace and will be positioned into the end post.

opposite end of the brace we drill the hole for the 10 inch pin. Before drilling this hole, we slide the 5 inch pin of the brace post into the end post, while the tractor holds up the brace for security purposes.

opposite end of the brace we drill the hole for the 10 inch pin. Before drilling this hole, we slide the 5 inch pin of the brace post into the end post, while the tractor holds up the brace for security purposes.

Carl hammering in the 10 inch pin. We leave about an inch of this pen extending out from the post so that we can secure the wire that is used to make a triangle in creating a VERY STRONG BRACE!

Carl hammering in the 10 inch pin. We leave about an inch of this pen extending out from the post so that we can secure the wire that is used to make a triangle in creating a VERY STRONG BRACE!

These are big wire staples!

These are big wire staples!

Once we have the brace up, we put a wire staple at the bottom of the end post that has the 5 inch pin so that we can string our wire through it.

Once we have the brace up, we put a wire staple at the bottom of the end post that has the 5 inch pin so that we can string our wire through it.

We use a jenny, centering it between the end post and brace post, so that we can pull a wire from the bottom of the end post with the 5 inch pin to the top of the brace post with the 10 inch pin, in a figure 8 pattern. The brace post will have about an inch of the 10 inch pin left out near the top, which is used to support the wire, then the wire is pulled to the bottom of the end post with the 5 inch pin and wire staple.

We use a jenny, centering it between the end post and brace post, so that we can pull a wire from the bottom of the end post with the 5 inch pin to the top of the brace post with the 10 inch pin, in a figure 8 pattern. The brace post will have about an inch of the 10 inch pin left out near the top, which is used to support the wire, then the wire is pulled to the bottom of the end post with the 5 inch pin and wire staple.

We begin by pulling the wire through the bottom wire staple on the end post.

We begin by pulling the wire through the bottom wire staple on the end post.

Then we pull the wire over the 10 inch pin, the portion left out, on the brace post.

Then we pull the wire over the 10 inch pin, the portion left out, on the brace post.

Carl on the ladder pulling the wire over the portion of the 10 inch pin that is sticking out on the brace post.

Carl on the ladder pulling the wire over the portion of the 10 inch pin that is sticking out on the brace post.

Once the wire is pulled in a figure 8 pattern between the end and brace post, the strainer is installed, which has a ratchet so that the wire can be tightened to pull together the posts. The wire creates a strong triangle for added strength when pulling the High Tensile wire tight.

Once the wire is pulled in a figure 8 pattern between the end and brace post, the strainer is installed, which has a ratchet so that the wire can be tightened to pull together the posts. The wire creates a strong triangle for added strength when pulling the High Tensile wire tight.

A close up of the crimps we are using for our 12.5 guage wire.  We used a total of 500 crimps for this fencing project!

A close up of the crimps we are using for our 12.5 guage wire. We used a total of 500 crimps for this fencing project!

: The wire from the brace post is crimped onto the strainer using these crimps.

: The wire from the brace post is crimped onto the strainer using these crimps.

Feeding the wire from the Brace Post into the strainer. The wire from the brace post will be crimped.

Feeding the wire from the Brace Post into the strainer. The wire from the brace post will be crimped.

Putting on the crimps to securely hold the wire.

Putting on the crimps to securely hold the wire.

Using the crimping tool to fasten the crimps. This tool is used a lot during this project - not only to fasten all 500 crimps - but also to cut the wire.

Using the crimping tool to fasten the crimps. This tool is used a lot during this project - not only to fasten all 500 crimps - but also to cut the wire.

Feeding the wire from the end post onto the strainer.  The wire feeding from the end post will be cranked tight.

Feeding the wire from the end post onto the strainer. The wire feeding from the end post will be cranked tight.

The wire from the end post must be fed into a little hole in the strainer.

The wire from the end post must be fed into a little hole in the strainer.

Using the strainer ratchet to tighten the wire securing the brace.

Using the strainer ratchet to tighten the wire securing the brace.

The strainer is tight creating a very strong braced corner.

The strainer is tight creating a very strong braced corner.

Once all the corner braces were complete, we transitioned into Phase 4 stretching and tying off the high tensile wire, and during this phase of the project we spent most of our time stripping and straightening the 20 strands of wire for the ends that were tied off around posts. Also, it was during this phase of the project when we would wake up in the middle of the night with numb hands. The wire is 8 foot high and made with 12.5 gauge wire which is very STRONG and hard to bend. We must learn how those folks who install this type of fencing for a paid gig can handle this. We figure they must have special tools for stripping and straitening the wire. Perhaps their hands become very strong dealing with this heavy wire so they don’t have to work as hard.
One roll of the wire is 330 feet long and each roll probably weighs about 292 pounds so we use our tractor to position it near the fence line where it will be unrolled.

One roll of the wire is 330 feet long and each roll probably weighs about 292 pounds so we use our tractor to position it near the fence line where it will be unrolled.

For each run, and we have 5 runs, we roll out the wire, then strip and straighten the wire for the first end that will be tied off.  Once the end was striped, we used bungee cords to hold the wire up for the first hundred feet, making it easier for Carl to crimp the ends at the right height.

For each run, and we have 5 runs, we roll out the wire, then strip and straighten the wire for the first end that will be tied off. Once the end was striped, we used bungee cords to hold the wire up for the first hundred feet, making it easier for Carl to crimp the ends at the right height.

We first tie off all 20 strands of one end which uses 40 crimps. Once one end is tied off we can pull the wire tight.

We first tie off all 20 strands of one end which uses 40 crimps. Once one end is tied off we can pull the wire tight.

Once the first end is tied off, we put our oak stretcher board on which we made around 6 years ago for our other deer fencing project, then with a tractor and chain we pull the run tight.

Once the first end is tied off, we put our oak stretcher board on which we made around 6 years ago for our other deer fencing project, then with a tractor and chain we pull the run tight.

Once the oak wire stretcher is attached, we use a chain in the middle connected to our front-end loader.  The tractor can then pull the fence wire tight.

Once the oak wire stretcher is attached, we use a chain in the middle connected to our front-end loader. The tractor can then pull the fence wire tight.

Another photograph of the tractor holding the wire tight.

Another photograph of the tractor holding the wire tight.

Carl tying off this end while the tractor holds the wire tight.

Carl tying off this end while the tractor holds the wire tight.

One run of our fence was longer than the roll of wire so this required us to tie the fence off in the middle of the run.  We used the tractor to pull the longest section keeping it tight while we connected 2 oak fence stretching boards with come alongs.

One run of our fence was longer than the roll of wire so this required us to tie the fence off in the middle of the run. We used the tractor to pull the longest section keeping it tight while we connected 2 oak fence stretching boards with come alongs.

While the come alongs are in place pulling the two sections of wire tight Carl ties these off.  A splice in the middle of the run requires 60 crimps – 3 on each wire – to tightly secure the two runs of fence.

While the come alongs are in place pulling the two sections of wire tight Carl ties these off. A splice in the middle of the run requires 60 crimps – 3 on each wire – to tightly secure the two runs of fence.

Once all the wire was hung, we began Phase 5 of this project, installing 11 foot T-Posts,  which felt like the light was at the end of the tunnel on this project.   This phase is probably not OSHA approved but is much safer than using a ladder on our unlevel ground. We hook up our carry all to the tractor, containing our generator and air compressor, so that we can use our air powered T-Post driver. We had 42 T-Posts to install because we placed one approximately every 16 to 20 feet between corner/line posts. The T-Post holds the wire along the ground keeping the deer from going underneath. We also put additional T-Posts in if the contour of the ground changed so that we could pull the wire to the ground.
First I market the location for the T-Posts with orange flagging tape. I used a calculator to calculate the distance between the T-Posts between our end/line wood posts. We wanted them evenly spaced and somewhere between 16 and 20 feet.  Then we distribute the T-Posts along the fence line at the marked locations.

First I market the location for the T-Posts with orange flagging tape. I used a calculator to calculate the distance between the T-Posts between our end/line wood posts. We wanted them evenly spaced and somewhere between 16 and 20 feet. Then we distribute the T-Posts along the fence line at the marked locations.

Next we hooked up our 3 point carry all with the generator and air compressor so that we could use our air powered T-Post driver.  One can’t use a manually operated T-Post driver 11 feet up in the air.

Next we hooked up our 3 point carry all with the generator and air compressor so that we could use our air powered T-Post driver. One can’t use a manually operated T-Post driver 11 feet up in the air.

I then lift Carl up in the front-end loader, 11 feet in the air, so that he can put the T-Post driver onto the post.  The T-Post driver is heavy and I seriously doubt I could lift it on that high in the air.

I then lift Carl up in the front-end loader, 11 feet in the air, so that he can put the T-Post driver onto the post. The T-Post driver is heavy and I seriously doubt I could lift it on that high in the air.

Phase 6, hanging the gates, went rather smoothly because Carl made a jig with pre-drilled holes marking the spacing of the gate hinges. He then plumbed and leveled the jig to the post so that it was rather easy to figure the spacing and the position of the holes on the face of the post.    We had 5 gates to hang: One eight foot gate for access when irrigating and near where our irrigation lines enter the field, one 16 foot gate, and two twelve foot gates that create a 24 foot entrance into the field for large equipment such as our disc harrow.   We skimped on spending money for gates with our first deer fence, and have regretted that because now when we are irrigating, one must walk a good distance to get into the field to unclog the rainbird nozzles.  This go around, we spent the money for an access gate when irrigating.
 A close-up photograph of the jig with pre-drilled holes for the gate hinges. Using the jig, he doesn’t have to measure for each hinge or does he have to align the holes vertically on the face of the post.

A close-up photograph of the jig with pre-drilled holes for the gate hinges. Using the jig, he doesn’t have to measure for each hinge or does he have to align the holes vertically on the face of the post.

Carl attaching his jig to the post, making sure it is plumb and level, just so the gate  will hang level.

Carl attaching his jig to the post, making sure it is plumb and level, just so the gate will hang level.

Carl drilling the holes for the gate hinges.

Carl drilling the holes for the gate hinges.

Carl installing the gate hinges for our 16 foot gate.

Carl installing the gate hinges for our 16 foot gate.

Using the tractor to carry up our 16 foot gate to the opening in our fence.

Using the tractor to carry up our 16 foot gate to the opening in our fence.

This gate is rather heavy so we used our tractor to align it.  Then we nudged it into place.

This gate is rather heavy so we used our tractor to align it. Then we nudged it into place.

Our 16 foot gate is installed!  All of the gates have been installed and the deer can no longer get into our fenced area.  We are excited to see how much our cover crop will now grow with the deer not grazing it down each night.

Our 16 foot gate is installed! All of the gates have been installed and the deer can no longer get into our fenced area. We are excited to see how much our cover crop will now grow with the deer not grazing it down each night.

Tips and Tricks that we learned from this project and should remember should we ever install another fence of this type:

  • For a run of wire: Before tying off the first end, strip all 20 runs of wire. We used 36 inches to strip and straightened wire to wrap around the post and have enough work space. That way we had 24 inches of wire extending out from the post and another 12 inches to go around the post.
  • Before tying off the first end, unroll the wire the length of the first run, then use bungee cords to tie up the wire so that it is somewhat level and one can judge easier in lining up line 14 from the bottom so it can be stretched with the fence stretcher. Line 1, 14 and 120 from the bottom are all larger gauge wire.
  • Use a fence stretcher, with the ratchet, to pull the wire tight when tying off the ends just to easily get them all even.
  • While one person is tying off an end, another can be stripping the opposite end to save time with the project. All crimps can be slid on ahead of time, duct taping the ends of the wire, just so it is ready for tying off.
  • Our homemade oak “Fence Stretcher Board” should be positioned so that the carriage bolt heads are against the brace so that the tractor can pull the high tensile wire tight. The nuts should be away from the brace.
  • When stripping and straightening the wire, roll out the entire line of wire, then strip/straighten while the wire is lying on the ground.
  • Don’t forget that when the tractor is set with the front end loader pulling the wire, we will have leakage with the hydraulic system, so just check the tightness and alignment every once and a while.
  • T-Post Driving. Lift Carl up in the front end loader so that he can put on the air T-Post driver, then lower him before we begin driving the post in, and after he is lowered turn off the tractor.  Once the T-Post is driven, with Carl still in the front end loader, have him put on the top two wire clips.
  • Measure 104 inches from the top of the T-Post and mark a line that is used to know how deep the T-Post should be driven.
  • Use a jig to install the gate hinges with pre-drilled holes.

11.28.12

How do we reinvent ourselves?

Posted in Production Note, Projects at 8:43 am by Farmer

This has been our household discussion for the past several months as we begin planning for our 2013 growing season. Anyone who has been following our journal may know that several years ago we had winter computer work that supplemented our farming income making it financially feasible to farm during the summer. Our computer work provided income for investment in the farm infrastructure and a bit of savings for our retirement. During these times, we hadn’t even considered investing in a “Farm Vacation” cabin rental, only because the computer work allowed us additional income without the capital outlay for building a cabin.

The income from our computer job disappeared a few years ago.  A combination of the economy crashing, and after we completed the software for running their business, the company no longer had enough additional work to sustain our farming career. It was at this time we decided that, if we wanted to continue farming, we needed to have additional income and needed a job that we could juggle with farming. We decided the Farm Vacation Cabin Rental would provide additional income while allowing us to continue farming.
Further complicating matters in transitioning towards offering Farm Vacations, is that because we are full-time farmers, we don’t qualify for loans because we have no capital or documented income. In the bank’s mind, the trailer that we call our home, isn’t valuable enough for use as collateral in securing a loan nor our farm land. Our farm land, in the bank’s mind, is considered raw land and not valuable, even though it provides families with food.  Since we are self employed, we don’t have W2′s, so the bank’s don’t see us as having a steady income.  So we decided to harvest the trees from the farm and saw our own lumber for the cabin, allowing us to move ahead in building a farm vacation cabin rental, and perhaps one day offering farm vacations without much capital outlay.
In reality, it has been much easier writing about our dreams than actually physically moving towards achieving our dreams, as we have been busy harvesting and cutting timber for the past few winters and crop farming during the summer. The past couple growing seasons we hired 5 or 4 apprentices, rather than our normal 2.5, hoping to free up our time so that we could prioritize the farm vacation cabin rental during our crop production season. That hasn’t seemed to work these past couple seasons, mostly because farming continually demands our attention, and work on a farm is never done. One can always look around and find something that “needs” to be done right now and those tasks continually take priority over moving towards the farm vacation cabin rental. There is always the desire to have perfectly weeded crops and as long as we have crops growing the weeds will also be thriving. Each week during the crop season, we are always trying to meet the demands of our production schedule in providing highly diversified CSA shares and a booth full of produce for market customers, taking away from moving forward with the farm vacation cabin.
So that is our issue – how do we transition from crop production to building the farm vacation cabin rental – while still having an income? Our production income is currently paying our bills so we need to continue farming enough to cover our living expenses. On the other hand, farming takes an extraordinarily amount of labor, and we can’t seem to free up our time to work on the cabin, because as long as there is a production schedule and crops in the field we feel committed to caring for them. For example, it is very difficult for us to say, let the weeds overtake the spinach, that way we can prioritize building the cabin.  We can’t simply walk by the spinach without weeding it and then lo and behold where did the time go?
Suggestions have been made to us that perhaps we should hire someone to help build the farm vacation cabin rental. From a financial perspective, it doesn’t make sense to us because most carpenters earn $15 to $25 per hour for their labor, while we are earning at the most $5 per hour growing crops. We can’t justify paying someone more for their carpentry skills when we know full well we are capable of doing the same work.
So how does the small farm re-invent itself? I bet almost any small business has this issue. For that matter, our country is having a hard time figuring this out, in deciding how to live within our means and creating new jobs.  New jobs for our small business is a farm vacation cabin rental, new jobs for our country might be healthcare, sadly hydrofracking, but hopefully someday jobs will be created in alternative energy but that probably won’t be until the economic model factors the environmental impact of hydrofracking into the cost of this energy source.  We on this small farm are trying trying to figure this out.  The difference with our country is that it has an unlimited credit line.  Our small business, and many others like it, don’t have this option.   At this time we feel that we have to decrease our production by half and “tighten” our belts a little further in decreasing our spending all the while prioritizing the cabin. This is a necessary step for us to make a living from the farm. The cabin will be our retirement. We don’t have near enough retirement funds at this time, nor will we be able to keep up this scale of production as we age, and we do not want to sell the farm land but rather transition it into a “farm trust” for future farmers.
Life is COMPLICATED. It is really hard for a small business, where you have such intimate relationships with your customers, to make a decision to decrease production. We have been discussing decreasing the size of the CSA or even eliminating our CSA for the 2013 season.  The reasoning behind this concept is that because we feel committed to our CSA, we will always go above and beyond what is required just to have a continuous production for the CSA, so we feel we could never prioritize the farm vacation cabin.  When growing for market, if we didn’t get a crop hoed or seeded because we were working on constructing the cabin, we wouldn’t feel as bad not having as much produce for sale at market as long as we can earn enough to cover our living expenses. However, the CSA has been KEY in our farm surviving and thriving, these families have supported us for the past 13 years as we have learned how to farm.  For us, it is very difficult to think about not supplying the CSA members with a weekly basket of veggies throughout the growing season.  These are HARD and SERIOUS decisions for us to make and we need to make these before ordering seeds for our 2013 growing season so our goal is to make these decisions by the end of December.

What have we been up to in November? We’ve been harvesting for market and our last CSA delivery. We also finished planting our garlic, later than normal, but our garlic seems to be developing a root system underneath our cold soil. I took Vanessa’s suggestion to dig a few cloves up to see what was happening beneath the soil and we saw a lot of little roots!  We also took a weeks vacation with Mom and Dad. THANKS for visiting Mom and dad we had a BLAST with you. We also spent a bit of time concreting the posts for our second deer fence.

These are anaheims that we are drying for our stash of "chili powder". We use a lot of dried peppers over the winter and even during the summer when we have an abundance of fresh chilies.

These are anaheims that we are drying for our stash of "chili powder". We use a lot of dried peppers over the winter and even during the summer when we have an abundance of fresh chilies.

Last CSA harvest for the season with neoprene gloves! Carl ordered these and they definitely make it bearable harvesting and washing veggies when the temperatures are around low to mid 30's. WE LOVE OUR NEW GLOVES!

Last CSA harvest for the season with neoprene gloves! Carl ordered these and they definitely make it bearable harvesting and washing veggies when the temperatures are around low to mid 30's. WE LOVE OUR NEW GLOVES!

Our family share, and final delivery for the season, delivered 11/14 and 11/17. Included in this share is: Romaine Lettuce, Red Leaf Lettuce, Kale, Napa Cabbage, arugula, a HUGE Daikon Radish, Japanese Radishes, Japanese Turnips, Butternut Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Irish Potatoes and Garlic.

Our family share, and final delivery for the season, delivered 11/14 and 11/17. Included in this share is: Romaine Lettuce, Red Leaf Lettuce, Kale, Napa Cabbage, arugula, a HUGE Daikon Radish, Japanese Radishes, Japanese Turnips, Butternut Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Irish Potatoes and Garlic.

We FINALLY planted our garlic!  We first break apart the garlic bulb into individual cloves just before planting. This is a photograph of our Music that is VERY FLAVORFUL and reliable.

We FINALLY planted our garlic! We first break apart the garlic bulb into individual cloves just before planting. This is a photograph of our Music that is VERY FLAVORFUL and reliable.

This is a photograph of the garlic cloves spaced 6 inches apart with the roots down. We plant 2 rows per bed with 19 inches between the rows allowing us to use the tractor for cultivating.  We still are required to do a lot of hand weeding so we don't damage the garlic while it is developing into bulbs.

This is a photograph of the garlic cloves spaced 6 inches apart with the roots down. We plant 2 rows per bed with 19 inches between the rows allowing us to use the tractor for cultivating. We still are required to do a lot of hand weeding so we don't damage the garlic while it is developing into bulbs.

Carl covering the garlic.  Alvin taught us to cover the garlic just by walking along and pushing dirt over the trench using our feet. Our soil is a bit too wet for that technique so we are covering with a hoe. Because this is the latest we've planted garlic, we have considered covering with row cover to warm the soil until the cloves sprout and develop a good root system, but a few of our fellow farming friends thought the soil still warm enough for the root system to establish before winter.

Carl covering the garlic. Alvin taught us to cover the garlic just by walking along and pushing dirt over the trench using our feet. Our soil is a bit too wet for that technique so we are covering with a hoe. Because this is the latest we've planted garlic, we have considered covering with row cover to warm the soil until the cloves sprout and develop a good root system, but a few of our fellow farming friends thought the soil still warm enough for the root system to establish before winter.

I am working at socializing the girls. They are starting to get used to my voice and eat from my hand. This red star is sitting on my lap!

I am working at socializing the girls. They are starting to get used to my voice and eat from my hand. This red star is sitting on my lap!

We’ve been hiking to the ridge each week.  This photograph is of Bluff mountain through the trees. It looks a little different at the top of the ridge behind our house rather than in our valley. So BEAUTIFUL.

We’ve been hiking to the ridge each week. This photograph is of Bluff mountain through the trees. It looks a little different at the top of the ridge behind our house rather than in our valley. So BEAUTIFUL.

Production note to self: We planted garlic November 4th trough the 11th in between delivering CSA shares. This is the latest we’ve planted garlic but our temperatures have been very warm this November.

« Previous Page« Previous entries « Previous Page · Next Page » Next entries »Next Page »