Saturday, March 29, 2008

Web Stuff

Well..... Inclement weather here. Slows things down to just performing the neccessary tasks at hand. Watering, feeding the chickens, harvesting etc. I am feeling so good about working ground when we had the chance. At least we have things in the ground! We have beds waiting to be planted as soon as the weathe permits. The greenhouses are beyond full and at maximum capacity. Its just a waiting game now. Personally, I'm going to the city.

This akward weather pattern looks like it's going to be in play through about mid April. Hold on!

So, Let me update you on some info on our website. Check out the links page. There are links to some other farms out there who are doing similar things as us. Interesting. We often share tips, stories and offer up encouraging words to one another.

Make sure you check out The Weather Cafe. Rufus is right on the money. Most of the other weather sites are unpredictable. I use the Victoria BC weather as my daily forecaster. We are pretty much the same. Seattle weather is completly irrelevant for the San Juans.

Are you looking for a new recipie for fresh produce? Go to the Harvest Page on our site. Click on any of the highlighted items and you will be directed to the food networks recipe listings for that item. It's slick and I'm afraid little known and seldom used. Since you are reading this, You obviously are in the know and aware that we actually have a website! Many people don't. Please tell your friends and send them our way.

You can easily download our CSA membership form from the sight as well. All of the details on our program are on the site. We are still looking for members. We are way short of our goal this month (unless we get a whole bunch of sign ups by Monday) I know many of you have helped us put the word out. Thank You! Please don't stop. We need everyones help right now.

Big thank you to John Clancy for the article in the paper about supporting local farms. Thanks John!

Thats all for today. Enjoy the rain/snow and have a cozy day.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008


It's a might chilly out there and a tad windy. Uggh. The wind wears us all out. The sound of plastic flapping in the wind from a cloche gone south is especially annoying. We'll be taking that down today. Nice try. I just dont have the patience for plastic things in the field.

The good news is we started potting up toms yesterday. We have more to do and as I'm taking stock there's a little man in my brain saying "you better plant more tomatoes" I think we will. I'll check to see what we have left for seed but I'm thinking Stupice. This is a nice, early, productive, open pollenated tomato. Nothing fancy by any means. An old dog if you will. Always there and reliable. Good flavor and a nice size too. Not too big. Consistent producer when others fail in our fickle maritime climate.

Direct sowed more radishes and turnips yesterday too. We are harvesting the first sown radishes from the greenhouse right now. They are lovely. I'm experimenting with the turnips. Basically mixing three varieties together with the thought that as we harvest the early ones (hakurei) it will act as the thinning harvest for the bigger ones to size up.

Experimented with the cultivating tractor yesterday as well. Its a little too wet to do much ground work but we really needed some bed space so I set up some S tines minus the points onto my tool bar and drove through some previously tilled sections to cut the furrows to transplant into. It actually worked great. The wheel tracks rough in the paths and we wind up with a wider/more effiecient use of space bed at 48" Might be onto something here for the future.

Looks like shaky weather for the next week. We'll work on indoor stuff.

Keep well,


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Spring Things

Things are getting more busy here everyday. Yesterday, after our orders were filled and delivered, we spent most of the day in the greenhouse's. We actualluy pulled out all of the side tables and forked under the beds before they were to become a tangled mass of weeds. We direct sowed the new beds with arugula and a mustard green mix. We'll get a harvest or two off of those and then they will be incorporated as green manure prior to transplanting a heat lover like eggplant or peppers. Looks great! So nice to see clean beds instead of weeds.

We also continued our transplanting. A little everyday makes it not such a daunting task. On the docket for today is some early morning tilling. Trying to capitalize on this dry spell and get a few more beds made to transplant into. I think we have some golden beets that are ready to go. We'll also start potting on tomatoes today, always a monumental day.

No time to tarry, Keep on.


Saturday, March 22, 2008


Spring is here. We're all happy about that here. The weather has turned a little wetter but the days have still been pretty sunny. It's amazing to see how fast things are growing now. Especially in the greenhouses. You can tell a noticable difference sometimes just overnight. We'll be having the first of the french breakfast radishes next week. They are inetrcropped with onions that we sowed in the fall and overwintered. The shelling peas are coming along nicely too. With those we have cilantro and chervil intersown. There is also four beds of Asian greens that are just coming on and just in time. We terminated the beds in one of the other greenhouses that we had been harvesting our overwintered lettuce from just as the new crop was coming on. Timing is tricky this time of year. We are OK for now but a gap in greens is imminent. We just transplanted new lettuce starts indoors but are mostly waiting on outdoor greens next. They are up and have just had there first cultivation but are out at least another 30 days. I could speed them up if I covered them with remay but as most of you already know, we stopped using floating row covers a couple years back. I get a lot of curious responses from other growers on that one. I just don't believe in using all of that pertroleum based product that winds up in the land fill at some point. We do just fine without it. It does work though. I also hate chasing it down wind the wind blows it off the beds!

We've been transplanting outside beds also. Mostly with salad green stuff. Swiss Chard, Salad Kale, Bok Choi etc. We have some nice broccoli that is going out today. I'm going to heavily mulch it with hay to protect it from the elements. We just put in the first round of potatoes. Just a couplle of 200 ft beds. It's early for potatoes but we are doing a little different program than normal. We are growing them in hay mulch. We did'nt even bury them. Just plopped them onto the ground and covered them with about eight inches of hay. Main crop will go in later like mid june after we open up some more ground. Not new ground, but they'll go in one of our plots after the peas and favas come out. Speaking of favas (my favorite veg) We just planted about 40 lbs of seed in our very worst soil. I'm hoping its and edible cover crop situation. I simply broadcast the seed and tilled it in. I'll undersow it with vetch after they get established. Hopefully we can just cruise through the plot and harvest.

Outdoor sowing continues as we see fit. We have alot of stuff in the ground already. Peas and Favas are up on our other sites. Just planted turnips and more greens yesterday. It' time for more rads too.

Soon we will start potting up tomatoes. They are looking healthy, just putting on their first true leaves. I have most of them under lights right now. We have several thousand started, I'l do one more sowing just because I'm a belt and suspenders kinda guy. Peppers and tomatillos are up and doing well as are the eggplant. These are all heat lovers and need a little extra love. I covered them last night (with remay) just in case it got really cold. We lost a bunch of stuff last year on a very cold night. It lokks like it did'nt get that cold though. Frost but not too hard.

Space will be an issue frome here on. Hopefully we can just crank it all out and stay on top of it all. Weather may set us back if I can't get into the field to make beds. It's looking good so far though. Really good!

That's what's happening here.

Keep well,


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Happy St. Patty's Day!

Hey everyone! Matt, A mrf CSA member posted a comment in the form of a recipe for the Melissa cabbage that's on right now. Matt, I love it -sounds delicious. You had me at the porkchops. It was perfect timing being that it's St. Patricks day and all. Also I thought it would be great to see some other recipes posted. Tye and Barbara, if you're out there I would love to hear how your Irish fest turned out.

I'll start it out with a recipe that my partner Katie B. came up with loosely based on her interpretation of corned beef and cabbage.

This recipe was based around ingredients that we just happened to have on hand and also some cozy PNW Sunday weather. (I'd have her do this but she's busy making butter right now.)

She started off by dry roasting four good size beef short ribs from Coffelts farm. (grass fed and local) for a couple hours at 350 degrees. Then oven braised in a broth made from the drippings plus a couple cups of broth. Sauteed onions, celery and carrot were added and the pot was placed back in the oven at 325 degrees for another two/ three hours. Basically what your going for here is more of a broth texture rather than a stew. Season to taste with salt, pepper, thyme and bay leaf.

These particular cabbage are quite small but their over-wintered flavor and texture is quite complex and sweet. Katie simply peeled whole leaves of cabbge into the pot about ten minutes prior to serving, plated into a large bowl with broth and a big serving of the short ribs. Damn baby! Serve it with an ice cold beer poured into a frozen mug. Life is simple, life is good.

Eat well, drink wisely and don't forget to wear your green

John and Katie

Make it work

Stirring the nest makes things happen. I've gotten a lot of response and some kind words of support from other farmers off my last couple of posts. Thanks. I'm really not a whiner. I live my life with intent and take action and make comment as I see fit. My experience has always been action = activity. Things are starting to flow again and I've received many verbal commitments to pay so it looks like we're back swing'n on a steady roll. Hopefully this week I'll have enough in to pick up our seed potatoes and a few other supplies.

The greenhouse shuffle is on. Constantly moving flats around and setting out as they become ready. It's been a little wet but we have the upper hand and have beds ready and waiting thanks to the earlier dry weather. Everything is looking great!

Direct sown peas are up and I was able to flame weed most of them right before they germed. I missed a coulpe of beds by a day, so it will be interesting to see the difference. Also the garlic we just planted is already up in full force! That was fast. I just finished my Sunday morning foliar spray and am very pleased how everything looks. I'll re- fill the greenhouse again today wth another round of starts. Not sure what yet. I'm thinking about basil and cucumbers. Early I know but I have a couple of ideas. we'll see. We'll be putting in our early potatoes this week too. Im going to put them in the very worst soil on the farm and mulch them with hay. I'll undersow with a low growing cover crop after they are established. That way Hopefully we'll get a crop and be adding organic matter to the soil at the same time. I'll keep you postd on that one.

Time to hit it. Bye for now


Saw more deer tracks this morning. Really gotta finish that fence or I'll be sorry. I have a couple of wascally wabbits awound here too. I'm thinking stew... or maybe braised with tender mustard greens.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

People Do Care

It's been an interesting couple of days. I've recieved some help from more than a few of you out there and it is greatly, greatly appreciated. Thank You to all of you. All I can say is it's just really nice and it's starting to feel more like what I have always invisioned and that's people really caring about their food source and actually having a relationship with their growers. Cool!

So, For me just knowing that people do care and are willing to take action is a huge boost. Huge. Sometimes I hit the wall and it makes me wonder why I'm doing this? To have a little help from the outside makes it loud and clear. So again, thank you.

Things are looking better. We still have a tough month ahead of us but I know it's all going to work out just fine.

Yesterday, we transplanted four beds of Bok Choi and planted out three more beds of fava beans, another bed of shelling peas one bed of arugula and another of mixed Asian braising greens. Did a little clean up, made a couple of sales and raked out some beds. Not a bad day.

Today we have a restaurant orders to fill and perhaps some more tansplanting and direct sowing. If we can make some more room and have time we'll sow up a few more flats of something.

Keep well,


Monday, March 10, 2008

Anybody Out There?

Helllloooo, Uhhh, anyone? Bueler? What happened? Is that it? Well, sorry folks, gotta go off for a minute. Please, You cant be telling me that Orcas, A hip, progressive, forward thinking community of 5,000 plus people has less than 100 people that belong to a CSA farm. I'm not just talking just about MRF. I mean all of the farms on Orcas combined don't have 100 members. Shocking!

We're pretty much at a stand still here. There is no money. Bills are due, seed orders are on hold. We are in the middle of March. Our most difficult month. We have a ton of things to move forward on but are not able to proceed any further at this time without receiving funds. This is when we really , really need you to sign up. Not April, Not May. Now. I'm not putting any candy coating on it. If you like having local farms in you community we need for you to show us. Beggin aint my business folks, Growing food is. We need your support.

Here's the dirt. I need $5,000 to cover the month. How are we going to get there? Thats 25 members at our average payment of $200 or only 10 members at $500. Thats a totally doable number either way. Come on Orcas! I know you can do it! show me.

Your's truly,

John Steward

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Only Good Rat Is A Dead Rat

Snap!..... Got ya. Finally, you little bastard (the rat) The rat thats been stuck in the attic above our bed tormenting us for days or should I say nights on end. All night back and forth, up and down the walls. Ooohhhh I hate rats! I was starting to get worried, having visions of that of course being a female rat and doing what they do oh so well and then having a really serious problem on my hands. All attempts to trap the rat had failed. The elctronic evictor thingy thing proved to be worthless. I refuse to use bait anymore for two reasons. First off I don't want our cats to die if they eat the poisioned rat and secondly last time I did that, the freakin rat crawled down into the wall and died. Oh my god the stench. Hey wait, wait, wait, wait a minute. This is supposed to be a foodie sight not a gross out fest. Sorry, sorry. I am just happy I got the damn thing. Just part of life on the farm folks.

The photo up top is a sample of whats on right now. Cabbage, kale, mizuna spears, turnips, potatoes, collards, broccoli and eggs. pretty nice early March harvest.

First transplants are in the ground and this next week we'll be seeing quite a bit more of that action. We'll be sowing just as fast as we set things out, both in flats in the prophouse and direct into the field. It's perhaps a little early but I'm sowing beets and carrots direct today. I normally sow these guys around the 3rd week in March. It's just too nice to pass up. I have a big seed order coming in any day now and I'll be picking up seed potato here in a couple of weeks. We are well into the swing of things.

Still amazingly dry. I'll try and get some more groundwork done today too.

That will have to do for today. Keep well,


Thursday, March 6, 2008

Transplanting Begins

Today we begin transplanting the first of many flat trays into the fields. First off will be spinach and chinese broccoli. These will be covered by by low hoop cloches. Something I rarely do. I gave up on floting row covers of "remay" about three years ago. I just hated using all of that non recycleable oil based product and frankly find it to be a huge pain in the butt to deal with. It does work but I am still able to grow high quality early vegetables without it and my life is easier. Plus I don't carry the guilt of throwing the stuff away.

The cloches we are using today are built 100% from recycled material that I already had on the farm. I did not have to make a single purchase and am turning junk into something useful Now that makes sense in my world!

Getting transplants in the ground is always symbolic of success and new beginnings. It's insta-gratification. The big thing is it will open up some space for us to sow another 50 flats or so. Probably lettuce?

With exception of the peas and favas, all of the outdoor beds I sowed direct in mid February have all germinated. The weather has given us a real brak here. It's allowed me to work all but the wettest areas of the fields and has put us way ahead of where we were last year. I'll be working on ground prep and sow another round of outdoor greens this weekend.

CSA? Pretty lackluster couple of weeks. Trying not to get too discouraged. It's gonna be a rocky month. Fortunately we are making deliveries and we'll start seing a little flow come in here soon. I'll have to spend more time off the farm working so progress is going to slow down.

Allright, Time to work.

Keep it real,


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Holding Pattern

Things are on cruise control right now. Need a week for things to catch up to themselves. The prophouse is full to the gills and we can't sow anything more until we start transplanting. Perhaps later this week we can pop in the spinach and chard and maybe even our experimental beets. I've never sown beets in flats before. Heard of a couple of folks doing it. Just thought we'd give it a go, it appears to be working so far. We are trying a round of carrots that way too. Labor intensive to transplant but the end result could be some nice early root crops. Chinese broccoli is ready to put out. I think I'll build a cloche for that one, just to spped it up a bit.

We have a few deliveries going out today. Nothing major but it's nice to see the tide begin to turn. Overwintering crops like purple sprouting broccoli and cabbage are just coming on. Beautiful! Salad greens are gorgeous. We just keep eeking by on filling orders. They seem to grow on about the same schedule as we cut. This is the hardest time of year to have product in any quantity so I'm thrilled when we actually can meet the demand. Next week we'll most likely wipe out the cabbage with St. Patricks day and all. Call early to place your order!

I love March. It's 6:30 and it's already lite enough to go outside and work. Day length makes the most dramatic change of the entire year this month.

So, I'm taking a step back this week. I have off farm jobs planned for the remainder of the week. Gotta put some duckets in the ol piggy!

Take Care,


Sunday, March 2, 2008

Feeling Smart And Not So Smart

I'm feeling pretty good right now. The weather has reaaly been cooperating and I've been able to do quite a bit of groundwork. I'm using a moldboard plow this year to do the preliminary tilling. This is somewhat of a new tool to me. Not exactly my first choice but far superior to my prior method of just using the rotovator. The plow penetrates deeper into the soil than the tiller. Anyway, having the new plow (which is actually very old ) is opening my mind as well as the soil. Looking back on the history of my tillage techniques I feel like I could have made some better choices in equipment. Thats one disadvantage of being self taught. The learning curve is longer. I need to spend some money on aquiring the proper tools here. Thats always been one of the problems. Not having enough money but having equipment that will do the job, just not do it in the best possible way or give the best performance. So Im feeling smart in using the plow, and not so smart for the past, but I've always just been that way. Do the best with what you have. And so it goes.

My new equipment wishlist goes like this. Offset disc harrow, Chisel plow, ripper, new tiller/bedshaper with a bed roller/packer and lots of assorted cultivating tools, hillers ond so on. Most of this I could find used if I put my mind to it and was able to spend a few days off island. It all has to wait. No money to do anything right now. So I'll keep using my current set up for a bit longer.

It's been a fantastic start this year. We are further down the road than we've been in years past and everything is running smoothly in a non hectic manner. We have alot of our early outdoor crops in already and the greenhouse's are full and overflowing. I'll tell ya, that's one thing I feel smart about. When you're running around like a chicken with it's head cut off, you don't make intelligent deciscions. Poor decscions are usually expensive.

Csa memberships have slumped again. We did well in February. I had some big expenses and the farm paid them all so at least we are not in the hole. March is the hardest month of all. I still have a couple of large seed orders to place and some minor supplies to pick up so expenses are fairly normal, We just need about $5,000 to come in for the month. We are starting to have some sales so we can cover the rest from that. So once again, If you are planning on joining and have not. This is it. This is when I need you. Our CSA goal for March and April is $10,000. If we can hit that, Maple Rock will pretty much be standing on it's own two legs for the first time in history. We can do it, but we need your help. ( I'm going into public radio if we don't ) :0)

Smartly yours,

Farmer John