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 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 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

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