Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy Solstice

Yeah daddy! Soltice is here and the days are getting longer. Almost ironic that it's the beginning of winter but also the time at least for me to beginn thinking about farming again. In these prts you can normally count on six weeks on each side of the soltice where's there's not much growth happening. So even though its the start of winter we'll be starting a new season in just over a month. So now is the time relax, reflect and plan for next year. There's always something to do. Seed orders go in in January and mapping ot next years arm plan is in proccess.

Some good news here is that the hard freeze we had a couple weeks back really didn't do as much damage as I had first thought. I am very happy to report that the fava beans are alive and the broccoli took a minimal hit. Greens are gone but thats OK. They'll be back soon enough.

Happy holidays to all.

Your farmer


Thursday, December 17, 2009

CSA For The Holiday

Who would'nt enjoy receiving a Maple Rock Farm CSA share for a Christmas gift? There's Plenty of time left. Give someone you love a great and meanigful gift. Minimum amount is $100.00.

OR... I'm also offering the food bank Match again. I'll match any contribution of a CSA share that is to be donated to the Food Bank by 50%. Last year we delivered over two $2,000 in fresh produce on this program.

Happy holidays everyone,

Your farmer,


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Last Nights Supper

Last nights dinner was more symbolic than fancy. What was special was that it represented the last fresh harvest of the year. We normally go a bit longer into December but the cold snap we are experiencing has most of the fresh veg in the field looking a little less than desirable. Some of it may come back as the weather moderates but alot of it is gone. The real success was the kids liked it.

For the main course we had tenderloin of Mangalitsa. Wow! Best ever. So simple to make too. I used a dry rub and seared it off and finished it low and slow in the oven. Awesome. We also had artichokes, fresh steamed cauliflower and baked potatoes. I came up with a new bread recipe too. Savory whole wheat with kabocha squash mixed in. It was fantastic. We have alot of winter squash and this was a great way to incorpoate it. I always make lunches for the kids to take to school. When they get sandwiches I like to use home baked bread. The prefer it and it's not all pumped full of crap. Normally it's a white bread but I was thinking of something different and more nutrtious. They loved the whole wheat/kabocha. Theres nothing like fresh bread served hot right out of the oven slathered in butter and honey. It definately takes me back to my mom Novella Steward and her great wheat bread she made when I was a kid. Yum!

The weather has brought things to a halt here. Very cold but beautifuly sunny, crisp and clear. The down time is allowing me to focus on getting the year end news letter written and planning things for next year. In January we'll be hosting some farm dinners here. The idea is somewhat similar to an underground supper club. Great food shared with friends family style. It's something I've wanted to do since the day I've started the farm. Just never been able to pull it off in the summer due to the lack of time. It had never really occured to me to do them in the winter but it's the perfect time. Cozy atmosphere, good food, friends new and old gathered around the farmers table. I think it's the scenario for a food memory you'll never forget.

I'll keep you posted.

Your Farmer,


Monday, December 7, 2009

Farmer Porn

This time of year most farmers are just wrapping things up from a long productive year and don't even want to start thinking about next year yet. Then the seed catalogs start showing up with all of their sexy, glossy photos of new and heirloom vegetables and titilating descriptions expounding all of the virtues of each and how and why we should grow them. I must confess I am weak. Oh lord I try to be a good man but every year I fall to the temptations of the evil. Take tomatoes for example. Over the years I have grown hundreds of different varieties. I have just a handful that have proved themselves worthy and I vow to only grow those chosen ones. Yet when I start making orders I start to stray and add a few here and there and then all of a sudden I have 30 varieties and a justification for each one of them. Then later as I'm dumping out flats of tomatoes into the compost pile a strange feeling of guilt, possesion and self reasoning sets in. "Why didn't I just stick to the ones I know do the best"? "Why did I order so many"? "Shouldn't I be giving these to someone"? "Better too many than not enough right"? Right. The subsequent harvest confirms my kmowledge, my trusted varieties perform as always. Some of the others do well but are generally lack luster. Note to self: "don't grow that one next year" Yeah okay, but what about?

In my own defense. I would have never discovered my favorites without succuming to temptation. So as the catalogs appear and I begin to plan out next years crops I'll try to restrain, but I know I'll cave a some point. It's okay, I can justify myself, It's who I am.

Your farmer,


Monday, November 30, 2009

Flog; It's all about the food

Thanksgiving dinner this year was a special one. We spent the day gathered with friends, new and old of all agesThe food spoke for itself. All in all a lovely day.

I had made a commitment to try and use as much local food as possible. The idea was not to obsess about it but rather to come up with a list of possibilities and go from there. I'd say we hit 99%.

The turkey was from Jones family farm on Lopez Island. The star of the dinner was a ham I cured from one of our Mangalitsa hogs that we had recently slaughtered. This was my first attempt at making my own ham. It was awesome. The only thing I would do different next time is to inject brine into the center of the ham at the beginning to insure proper penetration to the center We also incoropated the bacon into several dishes including a cabbage/celeriac/fennel slaw with homemade aoili. For apps we made bacon wrapped water chestnuts broiled off in the wood fired oven as well as fresh local oysters on the half shell and enjoyed a large pickle platter from some of the items we had put up earlier in the season accompanied by hand made farmers cheese. For veg we had fresh Maple Rock Farm brussel's sprouts, broccoli and a fall forage salad mix with the last of our fresh tomatoes. One big hit was the onion pie. Made with copra onions from Orcas Farm, and also included some of the Mangalitsa smoked jowl bacon. I use a spring form to make this one so it stands tall. It's rich and delicious.

I think the best thing was to share all of this with friends and good cheer in an un-pretentious manner. Good friends, Good food, good times.

I bid you well,

Farmer John

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Jowl Bacon And Split Pea Soup

It was a good day, starting with bisquits made with lardo, smoked jowl bacon and eggs. Nothing fancy right. Just some good ol southern influenced soul food. The jowl meat is truly off the chain. Side by side of the bacon it is really it's own thing. Similar to regular bacon but quite distinctive. It has a European name but I cannot recall what it is. It does'nt matter, It's just good.

Katie fired up a couple different soups for the day. The first was a classic french onion soup made with Coffelts Farm beef broth and onions grown on island by George Orser at Orcas Farm. The other soup was split pea made with the pork stock and ham hock. This is all what one my call peasant food which in m opinion is the best food on the planet. Unpretentious, authentic cooking using on hand, local ingredients. It's what I would call living close to the bone or what others would perhaps say as living high on the hog. Anyway you say it, it's all good. It is good to be alive.

We're pretty much in pork heaven here right now. I smoked the jowls and a litle bit of the bacon. I have a cheapo smoker but it works quite well. I used all alder wood just by using that as the wood for the fire. It's a bit heavy sometimes but good if you dont over do it. I took everything to 150 degrees. I'd like to try some fruit woods that may create a less intense smoke flavor. I aslo have the to be ham in a brine soultion. Another few days in the brine and then I'll lightly smoke it and finish it off in the oven. Looking forward to that. It's all fun. I'm a newbie in this department so its all experimentaion. It never hurts to have a chef as a friend. Thanks Geddes for all of your help and guidance. My cooking skills are getting kicked up a notch.

Today? rendering some of the leaf fat I think. I'll be using some of the lard to make pie dough for holiday pies. We're swimming in pumpkins, apples and all kinds of other fruits and berries that we put up earlier in the fall. I'll make a few pies and tarts and pop them in the freezer for later use.

I'm hoping to host a few farm to table dinners here this winter. Hopefully that will come to fruition so We can share some of the goodness with our customers. I'll keep you posted.

Keep well,

Farmer John

Friday, November 13, 2009

This Little Piggy Goes To Market

We slaughtered the first of our two mangalitsa hogs a couple weeks back. Very interesting to see how these "Wooly Pigs" differ from the regular swine we have raised in past years. The obvious difference is how much fat they have. The fatback on this guy was about two and a half inches thick! Wooly pigs are famous for their high quality fat and I was perhaps a bit sceptical in the beginning but after working with and tasting the meat I a convert.

Yesterday was spent smoking ham hocks and bones and making copious quantities of stock. I also proccessed the scrap into ground pork. This was the first real taste of the meat I have had. Highly impressive. Without question the best pork I've ever tasted. The flesh is such a beautiful red color and the texture reminded me of a sushi grade tuna. Just fabulous.

Geddes Martin from The Inn At Ship Bay dry cured the bellies and jowls for bacon. The flavor is exceptional. The bacon is mostly fat but it's different than any bacon you'll see at the market. It goes translucent as soon as it heats the pan. The flavor is clean and the taste again, is out of this world.

I also rendered a pan sized piece of fat and wound up with four pints of high quality lard. We had around six pounds of leaf lard. I have not rendered that yet but I can't wait to do so and of course we're going to try some whipped fat! I'm especially looking forward to bisquits made with the lardo and a big pot of split pea soup made with the stock from the smoked bones. The smell in our house right now is delightfully one of pork fat.

My chore for today is to de-bone a large fresh ham and get it into a brine solution to cure so we'll have a nice ham for thanksgiving. We always have a big crowd at thanksgiving. We always eat fresh and seasonal and this year will be extra special using the mangalitsa as a critical componet to many of our dishes.

Time to roll. Take care all.

Farmer John

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Winder Down

We are rapidly coming to a close here. We have just one more farmers market after today. We'll be about town selling when the weather permits and supplying the local restaraunts for the next six weeks or so and then it's a wrap for the year. Not that the work ever stops. People ask me all the time what I do in the down time. There is not much of a slow time these days! It's always something. January is a slower more contemplative time. Lots of planning for the upcoming season and soliciting custumers for our CSA begins. Keeping the cash flow up is priority # 1. CSA dollars are what allow us to continue bringing Orcas Island a wide selection of locally grown produce.

For now we're just trying to keep as much product flowing as possible. There is still an amazing bounty coming from the farm. Believe it or not we still have some lovely tomatoes. Never have I seen the quality continue this far into the season. It's awesome. It's helped pick up some slack on our failed crop of potatoes (bummer) It's not often we get skunked but it does happen. It's a classic example of why we are diverse in the crops we grow. Other things we are bringing to the table right now include cabbage, beets, celeriac, leeks, salad greens, braising greens, turnips, brussel's sprouts, broccoli, swiss chard, kale, collards radish's and celery. We have a handful of winter squash but it is mostly done. Wish we had planted more.

The days are becoming shorter and the weather can be challenging. Yesterday was a little rough. Not so much the weather but just tuckered out. Therefore it is getting light and I must go finish the market harvest this morning. Stay tuned. I'm a better blogger in the winter months than I am in the summer.

Keep well,

Farmer John

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fall Rush

The rains are coming and that means lots of last minute details to attend to. Getting the grenhouses battenend down, stocking firewood and getting in the last of the cover crop and overwintering crops in. This week noted the first frost of the season. Not a killing frost but enough to remind us that winter is definately on the way. I'm actually looking forward to the rain. It's been a long, hot, dry season. Plus I'm just looking for an excuse to sit inside and watch it rain and contemplate the season and begin the planning process for yet another year. I'm still commited as ever to providing fresh and local produce

Our pigs are sizing up and I'm beginning to think it's getting close to slaughter time. We'll give them a little longer and see how they do.

Garlic is in and we are just beginning to take tomato plants out of the hoophouses and replace them with lettuce. Once again, just an amazing tomato year. I'm probably a little late for the lettuce but how can you just rip out a healthy tomato plant you've nurished for damn near a year? I can't, besides, the greenhouse's are great and all for growing winter crops but the reality is they are so small relative to what we actually harvest that it just does'nt make that big of a difference. Our outdoor plantings of winter hardy greens are much more practical and provide us with a much longer/larger harvest.

Although we put in our fall and overwintering crops slightly late this year, they are doing well and looking like they will produce. Broccoli will be on soon followed by cabbage and other misc. brassicas. Hopefully my late sowings of greens and Hakurei turnips will make it. I'm also sowing peas and fava beans for spring harvest. Just as a side note, we have been harvesting some nice sugar snap peas that I sowed on July 1st. Note to self, do that again next year only more.

Time to getty up. Biscuts for breakfast!

Farmer John

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Wow! The weather this week has been wonderful. Looks like a change is on the way soon though. The rains cometh. I'll be pushing to get firewood in and under cover this week. Daily routines on the farm continue but things ar definately slowing down. Our reastaurant accounts are ordering less as their volume begins to slow down. The Farmers market has now moved inside to the Oddfellows Hall. Traffic seems to me like it's a little slower this year but we are actually up from last year. Same time last year sales volume is definately slipping. It's too early to determine if it's a developing trend. We'll just keep pushing to bring as much to market as we can. Part of the slip has been on our side. Deer ravaged our strawberry and potato fields causing a major shortage in those crops both which are in the top five sellers. I personally dropped the ball on salad green production (our premier crop) It was just so hot this summer it was hard to keep it rolling. Once you fall behind it's hard to catch back up. All is well for now, hopefully the weather holds long enough for the newly sown greens to come to maturity. It appears that most of the fall broccoli and cabbage crops will come to fruition. This time of year you can't really count on anything until it happens. It is all weather dependent.

This week will be the last of the summer squash, cucumbers and outdoor tomatoes. They had a nice long run and I am happy for that. Best tomato year I've ever seen and the cucumbers as lowly as they may seem reigned as kings this year. I'm shocked at how many we sold. I'm leaving the indoor toms in for a bit longer. They have tons of tomatoes on them and seem to be continuing to ripen. The end will come soon. With that we will be officially be in fall crop mode. Lots of root crops, beautiful fall greens and winter squash and hopefully a few lingering tomatoes that have ripened off the vine.

That'll have to do for now. Thanks to you all for helping us have another great season.

Keep well,

Farmer John

Friday, August 28, 2009

"What we have here is a failure to communicate"

Sorry... It's been a damn long time since I've posted. Just too darned busy. Ironic, this is the time when there is the most to write about. It's been a busy summer obviously. This years dry, hot conditions have provided us with the best tomato crop I think I've ever seen. Gorgeous! Paul Robeson is STILL my favorite tomato ever. Lovin the black cherries and of course the sungolds as always are complety off the chain.

The pigs are growing nicely with the exception of our full breed mangalitsa. He's still alot smaller than his buddies. The biggest of which is about 180lbs I'd guess. Before too long we'll be having a hog roast. Can't wait.

The season is beginning to feel a bit autumnal But it is still clearly summer and the bounty is on. Changes are in store soon. Just five more outdoor markets before we move inside for the fall. Sales have been good at the market. I think we are up a little for the year. Wholesale sales are off a bit due to the economy. Overall I think we're doing OK. It's been a bit of a turbulent year. Could be better, need more space.

The new land we are working this year has potential but not much progress has been made on the water situation. No water.... no farm. The potatoes I put in there showed promise in the beginning. Not enough water and then having them ravaged by the deer pretty much nailed the coffin shut. We are harvesting some potatoes from there but the yield is terible and there is heavy wire worm casulty. We'll try that next year under an improved situation. ie, a fence and irrigation and a different location in the field away from the neighbor.

We've had deer issues in the strawberry field. It's an ugly story I'm tired of telling. In short there are no strawberries and there will not be until next year. Nuts!

That'll do for now. Just easing back into a blogging routine. More to come on a "regular" schedule.

Farmer John

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Back At Market

The Farmers market returns for 2009. Saturday was our first market of the season. We had a great day. Sales were brisk and the energy was great. Considering all of the wierd weather we've experienced this spring we had a nice selection of produce. Lettuce, Asian greens mix, baby bok choi, radsish's, Japanese turnips, braising greens and kale tops. We also had a wide variety of plant starts available. Plant sales were good which was nice because there is strong competition for starts at the market. We had alot of return customers who have been with us for years. Thank you, we appreciate your business.

Me moved our location from the village green to the street this year on a temporary basis while the newly sown grass is taking hold on the green. We all loved the new location and so did our customers. The energy was like a stree fair; and the street is free! The board has my vote to move and many others feel the same way. We are all more than tired of the county bullying us around with the outlandish rate hikes and cavalier attitude. They should be happy to have us there. I hope we move just to be able to give it back to the short-sided, money hungry parks department.

It's been a rainy week. We were able to get in most of the potatoes before it came down. Still have 15 rows to go. Just waiting for it to dry out a bit. The rains been nice, perfect transplanting weather and thats what we're up to. We put in six beds of brassicas yesterday ( broccoli, cauliflower and kale) Six beds left in brassicaville, there's more broccoli ready to go today. Pea trellis's are up on the earliest peas. we'll continue installing as needed. Lots of potting up going on and still sowing indoors and out. Getting ready to run out of space soon. Strawberries will be here today. A little late I know but given the weather and other events I just hav'nt been able to get the new beds prepped. This rain will set us back a couple more days perhaps. It's hard once market satrts to get everything done as it takes out two days of the week. One for harvest and one to do the market. Oh yeah and everything needs to be mowed. And.... weedy! when the sun comes out they will explode. Get the weed arsenal ready!

So much to do. When and how will it all happen?

Farmer John

Monday, April 27, 2009

Open House A Huge Success

Thank you to everyone who came out Saturday for the open house/plant sale. We were busy all day from 9 til 5. It was great for folks to get a view of some of the happenings around the farm, have some pizza and grab a flat of starts for the home garden. It's been awhile since we've had a plant sale. I used to do them we first started the farm. Not many people came out as people didn't know who we were or what we were doing. Now after we've been in business for eight years, people definately know us and we have a great reputation for offering high quality and reliable varieties of plant starts in addition to our fresh, local produce. It's a very satisfying feeling to see the success of something you've started from scratch. So a big thank you to everyone who has supported us over the years.

Now its back to the business of getting plants in the ground. The broccoli and cabbage we've been hardening off all week is ready to be transplanted. It's at its prime and looks great. We'll be starting up with the irrigation now too. It's actually quite dry out and the new transplants need a good shot of water to survive. We've got lettuce going in the ground this week too and maybe some onions as well along with chard and anything else that is ready. Things are ramping up in general. It does'nt get too much busier than it is now.

Obviously lots of ground work happening as well. The potato field is just about ready and I need to get to the new strawberry field prepped as well. It's a little later than normal but the weather is later so I'm not too worried. But no time to tarry. Oh, and don't forget to keep up with the potting on. Lots of little plants that want to be big guys:)

Time to get going here.

Have a good day,

Farmer John

Monday, April 20, 2009

Potting up

Greenhouse's are bursting and as we pot up from flats to 4" pots we need even more space. Fortunately some things are begining to go out into the field but realistcally it's a still too cold to be putting most things out. Some of the starts we put out last week are definately in shock and don't look too happy. They'll recover but it's really not optimal. So more tables we will build and hopefully the weather will continue to improve.

We have a few orders for starts that we have been delivering and a few flats going out today so that will help. Hopefully we'll move a bunch on Saturday for the plant sale/open house. Gorgeous starts this year. Absolutely stunning but they must now go. We'll start haredening off broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower today. I have nine 150ft beds prepped and waiting. I'll hit em with the flame weeder just prior to transplant to knock out the first flush of weeds. Brassicas grow fast and tall and generally out compete most of the weeds. This is good because I was bad and let some weeds go to seed in this space last year. Bad farming technique for sure. "one year seed... seven year weed" It's true, trust me, been there done that.

April is a wicked month in many ways. Fickle weather, taxes, lousy cash flow and the final push for last minute supplies makes for extrodinarily challenging days Basically we're beyond broke and have been hoping for a few CSA memberships to show up. I know times are tough and I'm not complaining, I've been impressed by how well we've done to date. But... there has been a big lag in sign ups this month. It's normal but we could really use a cash hit right now. If you're out there and reading this and you hav'nt yet signed up but you've been thinking about it. Please do it now. ( I know I sound like the pledge rcruits on NPR ) but this is how we make a living and would like to continue doing so. To do so we need your help by becoming a member.

Market starts the first Saturday in May. We'll be moving this year for the first month due to the fact that the new grass is not yet able to be walked on at the village green. We'll be set up on the steet at Prune Alley. It'll be interesting. Maybe it'll spark some type of permant foundation for moving in the future to escape the excessive charges the county parks dept has levied on the market. I know I'm not alone in my opinion of wanting to tell the county to shove it. Whoa partner better stop there, thats a whole nother story.

Take care,

Farmer John

Friday, April 17, 2009

Plant Sale, Farm Tour & Pizza

Join us on Saturday April 25th for our plant sale and farm tour. We have a huge amount of plants ready to go for your home garden. It's a great time to see the happenings of early spring on the farm. A peak into the back door as it were. Also I'll have the pizza oven fired up and will be selling gourmet wood oven pizzas. Come one come all. Have a pizza, take a tour and grab a flat of starts for an instant garden of bounty. We'd be happy to accept orders for custom grown flats as well.

As a side note, we are in need of plastic trays (Anderson Flats) and 4" pots. would love to recycle if any of you have any.

What else is happening? Alot! Its planting time. I'm working available ground and prepping beds as fast as the conditions will allow. Much of the ground is still too wet to work but we have managed to get in a decent amount transplants and have direct sown crops in our drier areas. We've been making restaurant deliveries since the end of March without a gap however, if the outside crops don't produce soon we'll have a gap. we really need some decent weather and it appears to be on its way.

The new potato field is coming along nicely and should be ready to plant by the end of the month. I'll be dry cropping these and growing them without the protection of a deer fence. we can normally grow potatoes without a fence. It's a risk though. The earlier you put them in the better as their are more attrative things for the little beasts to eat than potatoes (which are technically posinous)

Endless potting up these days. Thousands of starts coming out of trays going into 4" pots. Space is at a premium and the greenhouse's are bulging. As the weather turns these will be going into the fields. Hopefully many of you will be relieving us of flats at the plant sale!

Looking forward to seeing you all for a day of fun.

Keep well,

Farmer John

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Weather Turning!

Yeah baby, it's a little cool right now and will be that way a bit longer but warm WX is on the way! We'll get this show on the road. Lots of plants in the greenhouses ready to go out. We'll have a big push next week to get them ready for transplant. Things are drying out and I'm working fields as the're ready. Space is always an issue but we're on top of it thus far. This past week I was able to direct sow about 19 beds of various items. Now we just need a little decent weather and we'll be off.

Market is coming up fast. I'm thinking if we get good weather we'll have a decent amount of produce. We'll have plant starts too (along with everyone else).

We're trying to get a jump on that one by hosting a farm tour/plant sale at the home farm on Saturday April 25th from 9:00 til 5:00. You'll have the very best selection of anywhere that day. I'll have the pizza oven fired up and will be selling pizza's too! As always you can ask us your gardening questions, we'll be happy to help. It'll be a fun day, hope you can make it.

Still accepting CSA memberships. If you want to support a local farm by becoming a CSA member, this is it. The time is now. April is a brutal month for a farmer. Cash reserves are zero and the bills still coming in with no end in sight. Things will begin to normalize in May but for now we've got a big hurdle to jump to make it through April. Please join us.

Take care friends,

Farmer John

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Dude, Get the boat

Geez, First day of April was a doozey. First we started out with some rain which then turned to about an inch of snow and the just went back to steady rain all day and most of the night. One of those days when you just try to move forward and not let it get you down. We just went to the green house and potted up all day. Today will be the same but with a little less rain. I'm feeling fortunate that we have a at least a few outdoor beds planted out. Yesterdays rain will keep us out of the fields for a couple of weeks at least.

Despite the lousy weather will be making some deliveries today. Not much. A few greens, some radishes and turnips. Just trying to eek things out without coming up short for later deliveries or the first maket. We''l be clearing out a couple of beds in one of the hoop houses. we'll turn them under, re-shape and re-sow and hope we get a turn around harvest in 30 days for the first market? It's right on the edge. We might miss that timing by a week or so. It depends on the weather. The other option is to let the greens we cut, re-grow and come in for a second cutting. It works but there is a lot of chickweed in the beds. Chickweed actually makes a nice touch to the greens but the problem is it may start to bolt and then it's funky and takes way longer to harvest the greens. I like a clean slate.

I'm short on time today, gotta roll.

Take care out there and keep your powder dry.

Farmer John

Monday, March 30, 2009

Things Are Growing

Hooray! We're starting to see things turn to normal. Been harvesting a few greens from the hoophouses. Radish's and turnips are close behind. Starts in the greenhouse's are showing new growth daily. Soon (perhaps this week) we'll start potting up out of trays into pots. This is alot of what we do in April. We have bee transplanting the first sowing of lettuce into the fields and soon other greens crops will follow. We try to put as many things out as possible without potting up but some things just do better geeting the extra growth within the confines of the greenhouse. The heat lovers like tomatoes and peppers absolutely require being protected through at lest mid May.

I was able to get a few outdoor beds worked up and sown last week. sure feels good to get some seeds in the ground. I sowed Spinach, salad mix, rads, turnips, beets, peas, fava's and I'll be getting ready for an early sowing of potatoes. The main crop will be going in a litle later. Still breaking ground on the new potato field. I'll have to till it a couple more times to break down the remaing sod and get a fine seedbed. Should be ready by the end of April. Already it feels like we'll be struggling for space. where is it all going? Strawberry starts will be here in a couple of weeks. I'm not even for sure where there going yet. Better figure that one out pronto!

All in all I'd say it's going well. We made our first restaraunt deliveries last week. Hopefully we'll be able to keep going without a gap. Market starts on May 2nd. It looks like we'll have a pretty good showing.

Home Gardners need starts? We have em. Anything you want. You will also be able to buy our starts from ACE Hardware starting soon. Because of the late start this year. There will be a tremendous amount of competition for plant starts at the market from all of the other farmers. We will be having open house's at the farm prior to market opening. Maple Rock has the largest supply of plant starts on the island. All of our starts are of the highest qualities and we sell only varieties that are proven for our climate. If you are looking for something extra special. Call us, it's not too late to accept custom orders.

And Finally, We still have CSA sign ups available. Membership has slowed way down. Are you out there? Call or e mail if you have questions or the easiest way is to go to www.maplerockfarm.com and download the membership form and send it in with your check. We need you. We hope you need us as well. We want to be your farm.

That's all for now. Take care and keep well,

Farmer John

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fluky Weather Continues

I was out for a few days. Looks like things dried up a bit but then by mid day yesterday it was raining again. I did get a little field work done. Not as much as I would have liked. I really need to get peas and fava's in the ground! Oh well, Things will come around soon I hope. Until then, it's greenhouse work. Lots of trays being sown right now. It's filling up fast and we are just squeezing things in where ever they will fit. That translates into lots of potting on and transplanting. Thats a whole other issue. Very soon the first sown brassicas and tomatoes will be potted up into 4" pots. That means your taking one tray and turning it into three or four and sometimes even five trays. As we are cramped for space now, we'll be even more cramped for space when that process begins. Timing is key. Fall behind in this process and your starts get root bound and become stunted. As the weather gets nicer, many things can start to get transplanted. For example, right now here are about 50 trays of lettuce ready to go out. The weather's been so crappy I'm just holding them a bit longer before they go. There are another 50 a couple weeks behind that and so on and so on. We transplant all of our lettuce even in the summer. It just works better when we have a little control over the germination conditions. Anyway, you get the picture. Get it up, grow it till it it's ready, put it out, first cut in aout 30 days. Simple right? Usually, but you never know for sure.

We'll be working up a few beds for transplanting lettuce into today. These were rough shaped with the tractor a while back when we had a dry spell. We should be able to rake out the weeds and let them set for a few days before planting. As we rake we'll bring up more weed seed to the surface that will quickly germinate. If we wait a week or so we can come back with the flame weeder and knock out that first flush, then transplant. It works well.

So those are things in my imediate world. It's going to be hopping around here real soon. We have alot to do to get ready. Soon we'll be starting summer squash and cukes!

I'll try and post some new photos this week.

Take care,

Farmer John

Monday, March 16, 2009

Oh My Is It Wet

Yesterday started out with rain, turned sleet, turned snow, turned rain then sunny, cold and windy. Typical late winter weather that toys with the farmers emotions. Any field work is out of the question for quite a while. The ground is saturated. This is setting up to be late starting season for sure. I know the other island growers have not had the chance to get anything in the ground yet. We don't even have our peas or fava beans in. Maybe we'll start some in flats for transplant. Laborious but doable.

The good news is Spring is only four days away and we are up to about twelve hours of daylight now. It's a good time to think and get any small nagging indoor projects out of the way. Soon the weather will break and having a clear mind and an open schedule will be a big advantage because things will need to happen fast. This is the third year in a row we've had very similar condidtions. This year appears to be even more difficult. I think it's what we have to prepare for. It's hard though. People are antsy for the good stuff and they want their greens now!

Today will be a greenhouse day and hopefully get in another case of onion sets and leeks And of course.. paperwork.

Take care,


Sunday, March 15, 2009

HR 875

Go to www.organicconsumers.org to sign a petetion in opposistion to this bill.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Aye! We Be Planti'n

Another "one day window" was taken advantage of yesterday. After sevearl days of freezing temps and a day before several days of impending rain,we were able to get in a planting of onion sets and direct seeding of a few beds of greens and early root crops. I also got in another round of tillage on the new potato field. Nice timing on that. It was just barely dry enough. We're supposed to get about 10 days of rain so I would'nt have been able to hit it again for quite awhile. I'm breaking new ground there so it takes quite a while and several passes with the tiller to break down the sod. I want that field ready to go asap as I intend to dry crop the potatoes and want to take advantage of the spring rains for irrigation.

Yesterday was the first chance to use the new Jang seeder. I'm impressed so far. OK so it's a little intimidating switching from a system even though imperfect but yet I know works to a completely new set up. It's quite a bit more complicated than the Earthway and I'm only able to use an educated guess on what rollers and settings will work best until I have some experience. So yestereday I trialed several different settings. We'll just have to wait and see how it worked. I'm hopeful that this tool will dramatically change our world. No more thinning? Doubtfully but less would be acceptable. Anyway, It just feels great to have some things in the ground. I've been feeling a little behind so this helps.

I'll post more details later. Gotta roll for now.

Take care,


Friday, March 13, 2009

HR 875

Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009. Good Grief! This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen. I'm not going into details today but do a google search and check it out for yourselves. Our good ol buddies at Monsanto are waiting on the side lines to completly control our food source and put small farms like MRF out of business. Like we don't have enough to do already so now we get to fight legal encroachment on our livelyhoods. Perfect! That's exactly what we need right now. If this one passes we're probably done. The fight is on. You know the drill. We do have a voice but only if you take action. Please write your representatives and tell them you are oppsed to HR-875. Tell your friends to get involved. We can stop this if we take action. This is on a fast track. It's possible there may be a vote without debate in as little as two weeks!

In other news it's business as usual. The weather is at least being consistently terrible for farming. The fields have been frozen solid for days and it looks like rain is coming. This will be a late starting season for sure. We don't have anything in the ground outside. The greenhouses are full of trays. Lots of things up and things germinating daily. It's starting to look like somethings happening. Perhaps we'll get some onion and leek sets in today? Hopefully I'll be able to direct sow some greens, peas, radishes and favas here in the next couple of days. Cross your fingers.

So off to a frustrating start. It's all part of the game. Once again it's where patience and experience payoff. Focus on the big picture. The bill will fail, the weather will warm. It will dry out and rain only when we need it to. CSA checks will arrive daily and my accountant will never call to ask for more money. The greens will be lush, strawberries plump, tomatoes full and ripe. Deer will never break in if they do they will not thieve. People will be nice.

Take care and action,

Farmer John

Friday, March 6, 2009

75th Post

This is my 75th Blog post. Thanks to those of you who follow. I've really enjoyed chronicling the activities of the farm. I'll keep writing. You keep reading.

Time is creeping up on us. The time changes on Sunday, spring is just two weeks away and the farmers market opens in seven weeks. Seven weeks... We hardly have anything in the ground. It's been wet and a little too cool to plant in my opinion. Sometimes it's better to wait. I's hard but I think the end result is better even if you're a few days later at harvest. After this next system rolls through I'll direct sow the beds that are ready to go. We may see snow here over the weekend.

If you recall there I have made mention many times this year the situation of the honey bees. The experts were talking about the almond pollination and how healthy the hives would look after their winter break and long travels to California. I saw a program on the BBC yesterday in regards. Unfortunately it does look like they are still seeing a good deal of colony collapse disorder. We are at a tipping point. There is still no one answer. Most of the scientist are now saying it's a combination of everything. Envioronment, travel, stress, monoculture cropping, gmo, etc. We are asking the bees to do alot within an unnatural set-up. Hope for the best. The one bright spot I can see is it appears at least on Orcas more people are getting into bees. It's a difficult, but worthwhile and fascinating hobby.

Lots of farm clean up going on. I'm getting ready to add to the chicken flock so Im re-doing the coop and run and we are getting pigs again this year so I have a new pig pen going up. We're going to try one of the wooly pigs this year along with some others. The're a european pig, higher fat content but with omega 3 fatty acids. Supposed to be divine. We'll find out. One thing for sure is they are cute. You can check it out at www.woolypigs.com.

The prop house is getting full. Adding flats daily. Going to need to move into one of the other hoop houses here soon. Things are looking good. It's so nice to walk in and see new life happening right before your eyes. I'll get some new pics up soon.

Soil tests are back and I have begun ammending fields as neccessary. Things are looking fairly normal as expected. Really interesting to see the numbers and critical to know how and what to ammend with. also It's nice to see the history and evolution of the fertility increase over the years. I feel like we're on the right track there.

Should be nice today. Cold but sunny. Colder through the weekend. Planting Tuesday!

Farmer John

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tool Time

You all Know about tools and guys right. What is it? Why do we lust over them so. I for one am always on the lookout for tools. Mostly tractor implement stuff for me these days; especially if its old and usable and will work on one of my vintage tractor set ups. Don't get me wrong, I like shiny new tools as well. Yesteday I finally got around to ordering a new seed. I fiigured it was time to step up to the plate and stop using the ol stanby $100.00 twenty year old earthway and get myself a single row Jang ap-1 preciscion, hand push seeder. I'mpretty stoked about it. The whole reason you by a tool is to make your job easier and more efficient right? Well if the Jang works like most people say it does we will all but eliminate hand thinning because this is a preciscion seeder and that means as opposed to just laying down a trail of seed as the earthway does, the Jang places the seed at the interval you dial it into. This will be especially helpful with crops like beets, carrots and onions where in the past we had lost sowings or dimminished yields just because we could'nt get to the thinning in a timely manner. (the truth hurts but sometimes it happens) Anyway, It's a trick looking tool I hope it works. If so, I'll be seriously looking at the tractor mount units they offer. Very reasonable compared to the other seeders available. So for about $700.00 to my door I will have a tool that should pay for itself in increased yields and lower labor input not to mention they are much more economical on seed usage. Now that works in my world.

There are other tools I could use, It's on a wait and see basis. Money is tight right now. Sure would be nice to have a fertizer spreader. It could also double as a cover crop seeder. (I prefer multi-tasking devices.) Still looking at a disc and generally can't believe I don't own one. I use my big roto-tiller in lieu of and it has worked well for all of these years. Having a disc would perhaps be a little faster but more importantly just another arrow in my quiver for having the right tool for the right task at the right time. Another smaller 4ft tiller would be nice, I have my eye on a used one in good shape. Oh and don't forget the combine!

Trying a new recipe for seedling mix these days to and so far I'm liking it. Basically I make my own mix as opposed to buying it bagged from an off island source. It saves money that I can apply to additional soil ammendment. Its a mix of rotted/composted cow manure with some hay residue, leaf mold and course building sand for drainage and texture. I throw in a couple of scoops of 4.4.4. for every 8 cubic feet. I mix this all up and run it through a 1/4" screen. I normally have used peat moss in the past. I'm trying it without this year for a few reasons. It's expensive, a non island source, it's acidic, it's hard to wet and it dries out fast in the shallow cell trays. Some people like to use perlite. I have in the past, it's OK I don't like working with it. You are supposed to wear a mask when you use it to avoid inhaling it. I think the sand is a reasonable substitute. It works fairly well. Your first question is what about weeds? There are a few but generally it's not a problem. To me the cost savings is worth it. We use tons of seedling mix and potting soil and I can use it freely and copiously this way without feeling funny about seeing four dollars fly by everytime I open a new bag. Plus I don't have to make an all day trip to Tacoma to get the stuff. Again, it works for me.

Time is sneaking up us. Just eight weeks till the first farmers market. Holy moly!

Take care,


Monday, March 2, 2009

Let's Go!

Well hell, all of a sudden here it is March 2nd. I was feeling mostly on top of it all until yesterday it hit me of all the things there are to do. Yikes mister! I gotta get some seed in the ground and those 2 cases of onion sets that came on Friday need to get in the ground and to do that I need to go fertilize and rake the beds out and oh shit!!! what about the tomato plants...... I said I was waiting till March 1st this year no matter what, well that was yesterday! ahhhhh.

Ohhhh, sorry...... sor, sorrry. Thats how my manic side functions at times in the spring. Slumbering days of feeding the woodstove and reading seed catalogs and dreaming of this year being the most kick ass ever are over. It is time for action, not that there has'nt been action but March brings it on just a notch higher.

It's wet outside and looks like it'll be wet for awhile. I have beds ready to go so thats good. Main focus for the next couple of months anyway will be greenhouse work. Lots of sowing and shuffling flats around, table building, lableing, watering, potting up, transplanting etc, etc. Making space for things to go into will be a challenge as always, hopefully it'll dry out enough to get more beds made before it all hits at once.

I'm trying to re-think things this year. Planting different crops and taking into consideration the harvest times to avoid any gaps in production and to offer a wider selection throughout the course of the year. Spreading production out makes our lives easier and gives us a sane course to run on. That means getting some things like potatoes in the ground a little sooner which will allow me perhaps to dry crop them so I can avoid the expense and hassle of irrigation. Harvest time comes sooner and fills a void and the remining spuds can get harvested as we go as opposed to all at once in October. Thats one idea anyway. Anything I can do now to plan for a smoother harvest pays greatly when summer rolls around. I Just cringe when I feel like we run short on product in the summer. It happens and when it does it's a blow not only to profit but to ego. I do take it personally so good planning now can really pay off, literally. How can it be so hard? All you gotta do is scuff up some dirt and throw the seed in the ground and come back and harvest right? yeah! lol. Don't screw it up dude.

There's alot to write about. I don't want to make it a long one today. Come back soon and we'll talk equipment! yes..... the real reason we farm.

Take it easy,

Farmer John

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What's New?

A little snowy today. Nothing major, Just a dusting. Thanks to Rufus at the Weather Cafe we saw this one coming for days. His forecast was spot on. All of the other guys (you too Cliff) did'nt see it until it was upon us. I was hoping to direct sow some of our outdoor beds but decided to hold off until this system passes through. Because of the Weather Cafe forecast I was able to get some beds made. Now that it has rained it will be awhile before we can get equipment back in the field. This happens almost every year. It's a good time to be watching the weather so you can hit these micro windows of opportunity. This year they were few and far between and were "one day" opportunities. We are fortunate to have about 20 beds ready to roll.

So days will be spent in the greenhouse starting flats to be transplanted later. Check out the calendar on the web site and you can see what is being sown. I've made a deciscion to hold off on sowing tomatoes until at least March 1st. I normally go a little earlier but it seems to work out all the same in the end. Start them too early and there is not enough light and you wind up with a spindly albeit sometimes big plant. I'll take a shorter, stockier, healthier plant any day over a big ol spindly thing. Most important, it all gets down to the varieties that do well here. The pacific Northwest is not an easy place to grow toms. Trust your farmer when buying your plants. We have alot of experience with varieties that perform as well as ones that don't.

Hopefully more people will be having home gardens. You might think this is an odd thing for me to say since I make my living selling vegetables. The bottom line for me is I think it's a big part of the overall solution to begin to turn the tide from decades of dissconection of our food sources. Overall it's good for us if there are more home gardeners. People get enthused about eating better and eating local. That want to buy starts from local growers who know the ropes and lets face it. You can't grow everything, so people will still buy from us. I'm a perfect example. I buy stuff that I don't grow from my fellow farmers all the time.

We are still taking CSA memberships. We seem to be down to a trickle. Happens every year at this time. Late February and March always seem to fall off. Unfortunately It's our toughest time of the year. This year will be hard going into April since we lost our overwinter crops.

That'll do for now.

Keep well,


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Daily Factoids

Farm Census: The 2007 farm census is out. The number of US farms is up by 3.5%. This is mostly due to an increase in small farms like ours and really large operations. More farms is good right? Yes but there are some disturbing trends. The average cost of land went up to $1900 which is about 55% higher than it was in 2002 and 95% higher than 10 years ago. (damn wish we could buy land here that cheap) There's a re-occuring trend of go big or get out happening. Growers need to spread the cost of equipment and capital investments over larger acerages to reduce the per-unit cost of production. An offset of the higher cost of land is the fact that the market value of ag products increased by nearly 50% over the last five years. The average age of the farmer continues to rise and is now at 57.5 years old. Younger farmers are not taking up the slack fast enough. In 2002 the average age was 55. A fact that more directly relates to a farm like Maple Rock is that we are part of a fast growing movement of farms that markets specialty crops. Organic farms grew in number from 12,000 to 18,000 between 2002 and 2007 and sales more the quadrupled from about $400 million to $1.7 billion. This is due to organic farms becoming more effiecient and acquiring more expertise. Nationally the number of farms who sell dierct to the consumer increased from 116,733 to 136,817. Here in Washington the number of farms went up 9% to 39,284 from 35,939 in 2002. The average size of farms decreased by 11 percent to 381 acres. Maybe this would be a good time for congress to kick down some of the stimulus package to help young farmers get a foothold in the Ag biz?

The Data above was obtained from The Capital Press.

Weather: The oddness continues. This has been the driest mid January thru mid February period on record in 117 years. Since we've been keeping a record. But... We had large amounts of precipitation in December and early January so it is less pronounced. Oddly, I only had one day that was dry enough to be able to do some field work. Often we get a break in February that will allow a few days of getting on the ground. So it's still pretty wet now. To complicate matters, forecasters are now saying that we maybe shifting out of our La Nina into an El Nino pattern that will likely cause us to see severe draught conditions this fall and into the winter of 2010. This is global climate change in the works. It's going to be a big challenge for growers in the future.

For those of you whom received my newsletter you will recall the situation about the bees and the almonds. As it turns out California is experiencing a serious draught and it looks as though many of the almond growers are deciding not to go for a crop this year. Apparently they need to irrigate and there is just not enought water? The Bee guys on their forums are not saying anything about CCD but only making reference to not as many hives being placed and having lots of difficulties getting bees across the border into California. The almonds are in bloom now so you may start to hear something.

Legal Battles: An Important case against Monsanto's roundup ready GM sugar beets is set to be argued in April. One of our seed suppliers is a plaintiff in the Case. Frank Morton, owner of Wild Garden Seed in Oregon is having his livelyhood threatened by the GM beets. Frank produces seed for chard, table beets and other vegetables in the willamette valley. The Gm beets can cross pollinate thus forever contaminating the true seed and ruinning Franks business. the biggest problem here is that the GM seed was planted on the sly for the last two years. Fortunately the judge in the case denied the petition for Monsanto to join the lawsuit and a precedent was established in 2007 in a similar case against the USDA regarding GM alfalfa seed.
We'll have to wait and see what happens. We send all of our best to Frank and good luck. It's hard enough to make a living as a grower and to have to add the stress and time of a lawsuit is aggrivating and sad.

And Last but not least. To the asshole that stole my daughters snowboard off of my front porch. You suck and I hope you enjoy the special seating section in hell.

Take care people it's a crazy world we live in.

Farmer John

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Fearing The Unknown

It seems most people are fearful of the unknown. I know I am. I like having the feeling that I know I'm in control of my own destiny. For the last few months there has been less than solid ground to stand on and nothing appears to be as it was. I'm Not just talking about the economy, I'm relating to all aspects of life on earth from the weather / climate change to geo-politcal events to everyday life in own little micr-cosims. Relying on what once was is pretty much out the window.

The view from the window in my world, it appears that things are starting to normalize a little, (or at least I am starting to adjust to the uncertainy) Work is starting to re-appear, CSA memberships seem to be coming in at a steady click but most importantly it's what I'm hearing our members and customers say. Of course people are worried. Many of them are under or unemployed and have a miriad of other random concerns but there appears to be a pattern forming and that is that more people appear to be thinking about keeping their dollars in their community and are seeing the importance in and are thankful for the work we do. I have had so many wonderful conversations with folks lately whom have been so supportive and encouraging. It's helped me define the good from the bad. We all understand times are tough and going to get worse before they get better but there is a sense of hope rising. In some ways I think this is all good in the long run. Of course it's painful but if you can look past all of the gloom, these are days of great opportunity.

Agree or not, many of us are being challenged on a level we have not experienced before. We are having to be more creative just to secure our own existence. Thinking outside the box is the new norm. I'm hopeful and I am seeing that our community is becoming stronger with all of this and hopefully we'll stay stronger when we pop out on the other side. This is the time to lend a hand up. Small gestures now will go a long way into the future. Be an islander.

This all translates to each of us in our individual lives. Ask yourself how you are adapting (or not) For me, I am stepping up production to grow as much beautiful, nutritious food as possible. I am encouraging those whom are enclined, to put in their own gardens. It's an easy way to start to make a difference. Do a community service project or help a farmer for a day. Anything you do will make Orcas stronger and you'll feel good too!


Take care,

Farmer John

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Breaking Ground

Watching the weather paid off. The fields had dried out just enough to get on them and I was able to do the initial ground breaking at our newest site Stonebridge. I'm breaking sod so my plan here was to run a big rotovator through one time to break up the top layer. I'll go back as the weather permits and make another couple of passes. I'll make a deciscion at that point where to go from there. Most likely I'll run a chisel plow to bust up the deeper soil and hit it again with the tiller to make the final seed bed. This field will be potatoes the first year. I find that starting a new site with potatoes normally works well for me. The cultivation and hilling all done by tractor is a convenient way to get the field into good shape for the following year. I'm trying to get them in by may 1st. Potatoes are sensitive to forming nice tubers in chunky soil so I'm hoping this early start will give enough time for me to get the field in good shape by then. Fencing is the the next step here. We'll be starting that project soon.

The beds in the hoophouses I direct sowed on January 23rd have germinated nicely. Just under two weeks, thats normal for this time of year. Hopefully we'll have some sunny weather coming up and we'll be harvesting in March. I have one more house to plant out. I'd like to get some radish and salad turnips in, and of course more greens. I'll be on that soon.
Also I'll be sowing flats in the propogation house starting this week. I'll be starting with lettuce.
Also have one more bed of garlic to get in. I know it's later than most people are accustomed to but we did this last year and it worked brilliantly. No rust or botritus and we had a nice crop just slightly later than normal. We did get some of our stock planted out in October.

So here we are, one more time, another season begins. It's going to be good year.

Take it easy y'all,

Farmer John

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Lets Go

Here we go. Getting closer to starting back up in earnest. Just trying to ease back into some sort of normal schedule and tackling at least one item on my "to do" list each day. There is no shortage of things to be done. Just the opposite, It's actually overwhelming. Without my list I would'nt know where to start. Picking one project and seeing it through from start to finish offers a much needed sense of accomplishment this time of year.

I'm feeling optimistic and excited about the up-coming season. Even though there is a looming sense of the "unknown" hanging in the air, I am confident and planning on growing more food than ever before. The one thing I'll be paying more attention to is spreading the harvest out and growing an even wider array of fall and overwintering crops. The fall indoor markets have really helped us out with late season cash flow.

For our early season cash flow we have to rely on our CSA sign-ups and renewals. The difficult part of this is that it's basically a passive sale. I am waiting for people to sign up. I can market the service, advertise and talk it up all the time but at a point it is simply out of my hands. So we wait, and waiting is hard. February, March and April are always rough. It's a challenge to keep up the enthusiasm some days. But we must.

Seed orders have been showing up. Fertilizer order is ready to ship. Potting soil is ready to go. Trays, flats, pots and all the neccasary accesories are cleaned and set to go. We're ready!

Keep well,

Farmer John

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sucker Window

OK, I fell for it, I admit it. It's late January but the weather the last few days has been most spring like. Cold, frosty nights and warm, sunny days. I've been taking the opportunity to do some clean up work in the greenhouses. Re-installed the hot bed in the propogation house. It's a simple design. Essentially an 8x12 table lipped with 2x2s. Heating cables are placed and covered with sand. It heats up to about 72 degrees and makes an ideal environment for germinating newly sown flat trays. One thing led to another and the weather was so warm I decided to go ahead and prep some beds and sow some seed. I put in an Asian greens mix. I know it's early and it may fail but really whats there to lose. The earlier cold snap we had killed all of the greens that would ordinarily over winter allowing us to start making mid February deliveries. So why not try it. In reality I'm just mirroring nature. Often times if you walk around in February you will notice quite a bit happening as far as plant growth. If you have things that have gone to seed they will sometimes make an appearance and begin to grow. It only takes a few nice days for these hardy plants to take foot. By the end of the day today, I'll have two of the three greenhouse's sown. It feels great to be back outside accomplishing something and getting some fresh air. My strategy this time of year is to take it easy. Just do a little bit each day and before you know it you can look around and see that you have made a dent.

The first round of seed orders have been placed and will be arriving anyday day now. I'll be sowing flats of lettuce, onions, leeks and other hardy crops by next week. I'll have the prop house full before you know it.

This is the time of year when I really keep a close eye on the weather. Many times we get a nice long dry spell (like the one were having right now) that will allow us to get a little field work done on the drier sections. It can make a big differnce in early production if we can hit it before it rains again. If you miss that window it often does not dry out again until spring. We need a few more dry days, Ive got my fingers crossed.

We have a new piece of land we'll be breaking ground on this year. We're calling it Stonebridge. It's big, twenty plus acres of farmable land. Just getting ready to start the fencing for the first phase which will be just over an acre. We'll be putting in potatoes, winter squash and pumpkins there this year. Its a big endeavor and there is much to do. It's all in the early stages of planning but this is an exciting project and a huge step forward for us. I can't wait to get it up and running.

CSA sign-ups are trickling in. Thanks to all of you who have sent yours in. Please keep them coming. We have alot of outflow right now with no end in sight.

That's the news for now.

Keep well,

Farmer John

Friday, January 9, 2009

Harder but easier

Yesterday I took a trip cross island to go check out an old International combine that we have the opportunity to use if we can actually pull off a grain crop. As it turns out and as expected, it's a bigger restoration project than I am capable or willing to take on. But The good thing is I finally got to meet Mr. Thurman Bond. He and his brother Joe who unfortunately is now deceased came to Orcas Island in 1946. We had a nice chat talking of the similarities and differences between now and then. In those days Joe and Thurman were mostly substinence farmers. They ran a few dairy cows, sheep and about 300 laying hens. Just enough to get by on. Back then going to town was a bigger ordeal than it is now. The easier way to get their eggs and cream to market was put them on the mail boat that went to Friday Harbor. They could also get sundries and medicene sent over on the return trip as there was no drug store on island then. Pretty simple actually and a whole lot more isolated but more tightly knit hamlets. People depended more on each other than we do today. Most people had some type of farm operation happening.

Today, Some parts of our lives are easier and some parts are overly complicated. Farming has all but vanished and most pople could'nt survive a month on their own if the shit really hit the fan. Situations change and things have recently made a dramatic change. Lot's of people losing their jobs and everyday the news seems to get worse. Farming seems like not such a bad idea. People whom used to think I was crazy are now asking me for jobs. As Thurman Bond said to me yesterday "at least with farming if everything goes to hell in a handbasket you won't starve." Yeah maybe... until the bank shows up to take the whole thing away because you can't make the payment. There are two weak links my system. First is expenses are too high and return is too low and secondly I'm just one hearbeat away from the whole thing collapsing. That's the way it's always been I suppose and I reckon it's the same for most folks. Life is tenuous. I try not to worry too much about it.

Anyway, we going to grow more food this year than we ever have. We need farmers and farmers need eaters. I hope they come to the plate. (pun intended)

Take care all,

Farmer John

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

inspecting the damage

Yesterday was the first day I've had the gumption to walk the farm to access the damge from the frigid weather. It's ugly out there! Lots of melted piles of slime that just a couple of weeks ago were vibrant fields of winter and spring crops. Even the greenhouse crops were destroyed. The cauliflower and broccoli appear to be gone and for me most sadly, the stately fava beans are definately toast. They were looking great and I was so excited that we would have spring favas for the first time. Oh well, I will try again. Love the fava beans!

There appear to be some survivors. Even though they look awful if you look right into the center of the kale and chard plants, there is some new growth and once February gets here, they'll proabally take right off. Surpisingly, the turnips survived. With their shoulders exposed to the weather I figured they were goners. In fact, the cold appears to have enhanced their flavor. They are the sweetest turnips I've ever tasted! Cabbage was 50/50 Most all of the January King survived, while the Melissa did not. Hence the name I suppose. Brussel's sprouts made it with minimal damage. The verdict is still out on the beets. I'm not sure if they are dead or alive?

So it is what it is. When something like this happens, it's actually a good time to see what types of plants are the hardiest. Basically, anything that can survive 10 degree temps with windchills in the minus category for multible days is a super food in my world.

Lots of planning going on right now. Seed catalogs continue to roll in daily. Here we go, another season begins. Yeah baby, we're gonna farm the shit out of it this year!

Take care,

Farmer John

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Reflect or move on?

Thinking back on 2008 most people are more than happy to turn their backs and say good riddance. No doubt, 2008 was a rough one.

There were some bright spots though. Most importantly we are all happy, healthy and eating well and despite the tough times, 2008 turned out to be the best year we've had to date. People continued coming to the market despite the economic turndown. That's a huge positive in my mind. Even now as the situation has become more challenging, I'm still hearing people say they are committed to eating well and supporting their local farmers. Perhaps our years of building relationships and creating a consistent market are paying off. Regardless, Thank all of you for supporting Maple Rock and helping us become a viable business.

I'm seeing some interesting things happen on Orcas right now. People are coming together a bit more within the community and some creative projects and business's are emerging as a result. That's a positive in its self right there. I hope and believe we can build on that and if we do we'll emerge as a stronger, more resilent community on the other side from the mess we're in right now. It seems obvious we are in for some even rougher times coming up here in the short term. Hopefully they'll be just that: short term.

This will be the time it is most important for us to support each other to keep our lives in tact. Shop local when you can. Support your local farms and small business's for your essential needs. Use or reuse your resources at hand to the best of your ability. Be creative, many of us have lost or will be losing at least some if not all of our income stream. What are you going to do to replace that? Hopefully the answer is not "pack up and leave" We'll need to be creative to come up with a new plan. It can happen. Actually having some diversity may force us to take leaps we were afraid of in the past. Be brave! It will get better.

Ultimately you could say this is all a good thing. How may Linens & things and Circuit Cities do we really need. Oil consumption is down. Maybe Detroit will pull their heads outta their asses and start making a decent car that gets more than 30 mpg! Please... You can't tell me we can put a man on the moon but we can't make a car that gets 100 mpg. It's bullshit! Maybe we'll all buy less crap we don't really need anyway? How about everyone having their own kitchen gaden and more community pea patches. Sorry... starting to rant but hopefully you get the idea.

So in a sea of doom I'm going for the bright spots. The're out there. You just have to pull back a layer and look.

Keep well and may 2009 be most excellent to all of you.

Farmer John