We were a little behind in getting new starts in the field mostly due to the colder weather. But, thanks to Karen (sister) who came up from Salem to help, we managed to get over 500 broccoli and cabbage plants in the ground and covered with agribond. Farming is excellent physical activity and we had the sore muscles to prove it. The next day, mom came and helped plant dry onions while dad ran the weedeater. And, today, the two of us planted peas both outside and in the super tunnel. We are juggling greenhouse openings with the morning fog and frost---do we open them before we go to work or come home midday to open?--that is the daily question.
We work in the greenhouses as much as possible! On Saturday, we had the pleasure of seven Brownie Girl Scouts from Troop #43623 helping us plant fingerling potatoes in the super tunnel. They planted four 30 foot rows and helped us weed the tunnel. The potatoes will be ready to go out to our subscribers in late June.
On Sunday, we planted peas and beans, again in the super tunnel while it hailed about 2" outside. We even used our snow removal poles to push the hail off of the greenhouse.
We have dreamed of an orchard since we moved to the farm 3 1/2 years ago. Thanks to help in picking Northwest hardy fruit trees from Michael Dolan's Burnt Ridge Nursery, we have 14 dwarf trees--pear, Asian pear, apricot, nectarine, peach, cherry, plum, and apple. We re-tilled a strip of land, dug 18" deep holes, and put gopher wire boxes in the holes. We added dirt and compost to bury the roots, a little water, and some wood chips around the base to keep the weeds down. A lot of work but what a sense of accomplishment to see that nice line of trees.
This weekend marked the realization of a project we have been working on for a year or so. The Natural Resources Conversation Service (NRCS) offers grants to private landowners/farmers like us to plant pollinator habitats. Ours consists of a 20 foot swath of land along two fence lines--about 250 feet across the back of the farm and 300 feet along one side of the property. We are planting three rows of flowering native plants which totals about 375 bareroot shrubs.
With the mysterious collapse of bee colonies globally, this is a conservation method which can help promote an increase of native pollinator-type bees--which are necessary for many vegetables and fruit trees to bear fruit.
The plants come from the Association of Conservation Districts Plant Materials Center. Varieties include red flowering currant, Indian plum, salmonberry, blue and red elderberry, mock orange, pea fruit rose, and nootka rose.
We tilled the field, set the rows, then dug 12-18" holes four feet apart. Each plant is held in the hole so that the roots do not bend (or 'j'), buried with soil, and watered. Thanks to help from Gail and Dale Tracy (Mom & Dad), we planted about one-third of the planned areas over the three-day weekend. More to come in the next week or so. This is a little like the anticipation of Christmas or a fun trip--to see this habitat mature and bloom is exciting. Thank you NRCS!
The chicks are doing well-almost 3 weeks old. We have removed the inner protective cardboard circle, added a roosting bar, and an additional feeding station. They are still fuzzy and adorable but adding feathers and getting leggy. We check on them twice a day and change their water and food daily. And we just sit and watch them. Peaceful.
The chicks are almost a week old. We lost three shortly after arrival so have a flock of 22. They are adorable--still fluffy and their wings are starting to develop. Today was another winter-paced day. We continued pruning the 100+ year old apple trees and cleared more leftover broccoli and cabbage plants out of one of the fields. We are preparing that area for another two high tunnels. The sun came out and it was great to have a million excuses to be outside.
The four steers we have had the privilege of pasturing since Memorial Day departed last Wednesday. This has become a marker in the farm season--it means the corn is nearly ripe and without cattle in the pasture, the appearance of a few deer. Our friend, Fred Colvin sends Mary who is an EXPERT truck backer-upper to pick the cattle up. It's our job to get them in the small steel frame corral. We spend the week prior to the pick-up date training them by putting delicious pea vines in the enclosure. They learn pretty quickly to go in and expect to find food. this year, one of the reds pretty much refused to take the bate during the week. Only one of us was available to corral them on pick-up day (me!). I put the peas in the corral--three went in and Red tried to eat pea vines from the outside. I started towards him and he went the opposite way which was right into the corral. I slammed the gate and the four steer and I waited patiently for Mary to arrive. Fortunately, Mark came home and took over on the loading operation which is a whole other set of challenges. Then, they were gone for another year. Thanks Colvin Ranch!
One of the best things about living on a farm is the great food available for the picking anytime we want it---except when we are saving the best for our subscribers. That said, as a cook, there is nothing better than pondering the dinner menu, then walking out and gathering what is needed. Last night, we had leftover chard from picking for the boxes. So, we tossed chopped onions and chard in olive oil with a little salt and pepper and grilled them using a grill pan. When the vegetables were tender-crisp, we added feta cheese--amazing! Thanks to one of our subscribers for the idea.
Another great thing about this time in the farm season is weeding. What a contrast to our day jobs where the outcome of what we do on a daily basis is often not clear--with weeding, we KNOW what we have done. Most of our weeds pull up pretty easy (except the ones that don't) and the activity is almost soothing. Tonight I was a bit disappointed when we had to prioritize and plant more cucumbers and winter squash instead of weeding the corn. But, the weeds will be there tomorrow.
We finally finished planting the almost 2,000 corn plants raised from seed in the growing room, then the greenhouse. Last Saturday in pouring, cold rain, our good friends Maria, Char, Robin, and Nichelle braved the weather and helped us get the remaining 1,200 plants in the ground. At least we did not need to water the plants in. The field was newly plowed last spring and planted with ground cover which was about three feet tall just two weeks ago. Dad came with his handy-dandy weedeater and cut the tall grass. Mark and I raked it and hauled it off the field, then Mark tilled the area three or four times. Whew!! We planted twelve varieties in 30' blocks. Which ones will produce and which ones will be the tastiest? This is the FUN of planting several varieties. Our last major 'one and done' crop this season--in the ground.
Max at 13 years and 9 months passed away last Sunday--a really sad day for us. He had a great life--ate lots of chocolate, carrots, peas, broccoli, and whatever else appeared to be food. He was more like a little person than a dog. So many memories and the farm is e-m-p-t-y without him following us around. But we carry on and are so grateful for his gift of unconditional love and cheerful tail wagging.
This blog reflects the journey of Kathleen and Mark who have left suburbia to steward this historical property and transform the land back into a working farm.