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