Friday, December 23, 2011

Yah Te Hay

Hola Compadres and Happy Holidays. Recovery from ankle surgery is coming along fine. Sutures are out and x rays show that everything is looking about as well as it can. I still have one ugly looking foot. It's More ugly on the inside than out. So much for beauty being skin deep. I'm house bound for another 5 weeks or so before I can start to put any weight on it.

It's solstice. Love it, cant wait for the return of light and long days. Very excited about farming this up-coming season. Things are already shaping up and we can't hardly wait to get into the fields. Not that we've been out of the fields. Well I have, but Jay has been out there several times a week. Still harvesting for our farm store, restaurant and grocery store accounts. it's been a phenominal fall season. Everything coming out of the fields right now Tastes so good.

The good thing about being down right now is that I have lots of time to plan things out for next year. Seed catalogs are starting to arrive dailyand we're planning layouts and strategizing on what we're planning on growing. We're still expanding at our new site and are working on eventually having all of our production at one site. It takes a while to get a field into production. Anyway, Lots of behind the scenes action happening and we're stoked, things are coming together smoothly right now and spirits are high.

Lots of good energy out there from prospective young farmers. Things are shifting in the right direction it feels. Seems like this is the time we've been waiting for.

Happy new year y'all.

Farmer John

Take care,

Farmer John

Sunday, December 4, 2011

I Got Screwed

Literally... Back in the day, 1996 I took an ugly spill out of bounds at Mt. Hood while snowboarding and did some serious damge to my lower right leg and ankle. After a 5 hour surgery to put it back together and another year of recovery I was doing OK. Recently It's been acting up so I had a specialist take a look and was told I would need surgery. So I had it done this last Friday. I'm out for the next 12 weeks recuperating. Basically they had to fuse my lower joint as it was super arthritic and bone on bone. They cleaned all that out and put a big ass screw right through the bottom of my heel, up into the joint, I have to stay off of it so long because it has to knit together just the same as if I had broken a bone. There were a couple of other issues they handled as well. So hopefully I'll be able to get around much better and without the pain.

Luckily I'm my own boss and can get the time off! I'll be back in the field come early February which is right on schedule for what we normally do. Until then there is much indoor work to be accomplished. Farm plans, seed ordering and organizing are just a few things we're working on this time of year. Were still expanding while also trying to keep a hold of what we're currently doing. We have some fertility issues to address and we'll have more fencing to build and more ground to work up. We're trying to consolidate our efforts into our Stonebridge site which is where we're doing most of our production these days. It's kind of an evolving proccess for us here and we're still adapting. We'll get there soon.

I'm a little tipsy from my meds and the page is getting fuzzy, better sign off now.

Keep well,

Farmer John

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Everything is changing. So many people moving on right now. good people, young folk mostly, headed for distant horizons and unknown opportunity. Many of these people I have been friends with for years now and have seen them grow from greenhorns to experienced farmer types. They've become fixtures in our community and It's almost as though I've begun to take it for granted that they would be here forever. I"m both happy and sad for them leaving, maybe even a little jealous. I understand, this is a hard place to make it. Opportunities are limited both on the job and social front. I wish all of you well. Go forth and conquer. Spread your knowledge and youthfull enthusiasm. the world needs you.

We'll have a couple less farmers at the market next year. You could argue thats good for our business. You could also argue it will make our market less vibrant and not quite as quaint as its been. We'll see, I think it's up to us to keep it lively and diverse. Hopefully more cool people come on island and participate in our market. We could us some new blood.

It's November and we are still farming. We've had a great fall. the weather has held in nicely and we're still harvesting lots of beautiful produce from the fields. Without question, this is my favorite time of year. Absolutely bountiful. In addition to our normal sales, we've been making weekly deliveris to the food bank. We're dropping of about 200lbs a week of assorted produce. We'll keep it up as long as we can.

Not too much changing here at the moment. Wrapping up one season and looking forward to next year already.

Keep well,

Farmer John

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fall Frenzy

Fall is here and we are as busy as we get. Harvesting great quantities of produce out of the fields right now. Market traffic has slowed a tad but our great loyal customers are allowing us to harvest as much as we can. We've been maiking weekly deliveries to the food bank as well. thank you to all who have contributed. Wholesale sales have remained fairly strong but we'll see a big drop this week I'm guessing as fall sets in for real. Weather is looking stormy for the next couple of weeks.

besides our normal harvest/market and delivery schedule, we're working on getting everything put to bed for the winter. Still sowing a few last minute fall/winter greens but most fields are getting cover crop after we complete harvest. We just wrapped up our outdoor market season and next week we move indoors to the Oddfellows hall for the remainder of the month. It was an OK market season. I have not tallied up the numbers but I know we're down a little from last year. In my opinion the market in general was a little quieter this year. One can only assume it's due to the economy. Price perception could be a factor. If you shop with us you've noticed we have not raised prices in a while. Some specialty items will always be more at the market. Because they are special and can't be obtained at the grocery they of course will be at a premium (like vine ripened heirloom tomates for example) Other than that though our prices are competitive with Island Market. We sell product there as well now which makes it more convenient for folks to buy local.

We are closing in on some more infrastructure projects too. This week we should have water flowing from the new well at our Stonebridge site. Also installing a curtain drain around the new greenhouse which we are just putting the finishing touches on today.

So, you can see we are pretty busy here. Just two of us on right now which makes it even more interesting which is just how I like it. We have an open house/farm pizza night this week on Friday afternoon/evening. No shortage of things to do for sure.

I'll post some new pics soon.

Keep well and thanks for following us.

farmer John

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

It Is Not Fall

Lets not rush it here. Last night I actually came home a built a fire in the woodstove. It was'nt really cold out but it definately felt fall like. If nothing else a good chance to check out the stove and make sure it's in proper working order. Soon it will be lit and pretty much burning 24/7 til May. Just two days ago we had maybe the hottest day of the entire year. Nothing too unusual for this year as there has been no rhyme or reason to anything it seems.

Despite the weirdness, it's actually shaping up to be a pretty good year for us. The tomatoes have really kicked in and have been just great. Good production and great flavors. Some of our old favorites like Paul Robeson, sungold cherry and stupice have out-performed as always. Some new varieties this year have also done well . Arbrason, mountain crest and persimmon are earning permanent slots in the line up. The highly touted and expensive "Temptation" turned out in my opinion to be more hype than go. You never know about toms. It's always fun to try some new varieties and we'd never find favorites without experimenting. Tomatoes are my totem veg.

Lots of other goodness happening now too. A little later for us this year than normal but none the less, the summer bounty is here. I think all of the farmers in the northwest are hoping for a long and mild fall season, I know we are. We have late sowings of peas, squash and many others that we are hoping will hang on into October. Lots of late fall and over-wintering varieties in the ground too.

Some fields are getting wrapped up and cover cropped for the winter as mature crops are harvested. Actually hoping for a little rain to help the newly sown seed to germinate. We are still sowing a few things, winter greens, over-wintering carrots and beets and more.

That's all for now, time to roll.

farmer john

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Big Week

Thanks to everyone who lent a hand last week, We were able to get a lot done. Another big couple of weeks around here coming up too. Lots of transplanting and sowing which also requires quite a bit of tractor work to prepare new beds. Weeding, watering and cultivating is also big on the list. Add to that a busy harvest and market schedule and you've got yourself a full plate. I'm feeling pretty good about where we're at right now. We have our work cut out for us but we're on it. Not a lot of time for goofing off though.

The weather's been much better. A little cool in the night but toasty in the day. Tomatoes are coming around. They'll be full on soon. I'm expecting a short timeline for harvesting but there's lots of fruit on right now. Lookin good. Potatoes have been great and we have lots more to harvest. It's been a bright spot this year. We'll be cover cropping as we go. Just waiting for a little rain to sow the seed so we can do it without irrigation.

Thats all for now, returning to bed!

Farmer John

Sunday, July 31, 2011


Wow, here we are already at the end of July, It's been a busy, scrambled year for us here. A year where we appear to just be finding our groove. Consistently we've been about 30 days off of normal due to the poor weather we experienced in the spring. But alas the tomatoes are starting to ripen and things are growing well in the field. Other Summer crops like squash and cucumbers are coming on too. Hopefully with any luck, we'll have a long fall/winter season. Most of what we are doing right now is efffectively planning for just that. Lots of newly sewn seed in the fields and this week we'll be busy transplnting seedlings into the fields. This has been a year that has given us experience that hopefully we won't have to fall back on in the future. I've talked to many of the old timers and they all say they cannot recall a year like this. So This year has been different that what we were hoping for and I'm hopefull we don't have another like this but am confident we can ride it out and perservere if we do. The one lesson I have learned is that consistency pays and try not to beat yourself up too much over issues that are out of your hands. Patience and a positive attidude basically. So enough is enough about lamenting the tough year. It's time to move on. We've got work to do!

Farmer John

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


There is a lot going on right now. Mostly working on getting planted out. We are finally working all of our land as things have dried out. By the end of the week we should have most of our plots planted out. Some transplanted, some direct sown. At this point we're thinking about our summer and fall crops. We have summer squash planted in one of our greenhouses that'll be ready for harvest next week. We have a second main sowing outside that's just in and another sowing planned for the 1st of July. Winter squash should be direct sown today and we'll have our new planting of strawberries in. It's late to be putting them in but we'll reap a nice late summer & fall harvest. Late seems to be the theme this year. We have alot of crops in the field slowly growing and just waiting for some warmer weather. The weather is still cool but it's been dry. We're irrigating most of our plots but not all. We have one plot of potatoes in a field that has no water source at this point so I'm hoping we'll get a little rain here and there. Irrigation takes us a good bit of time to set up and maintain, we often refer to it jokingly as "irritation" We use drip tape which works great but we are constantly setting and re-setting beds to take them on or off line.

Despite the slow season, things are looking pretty good in the field. You've heard me say many times by this point, that its been a difficult year. We're slowly working out of that and hopefully the slow start will soon be a distant memory. It's been making me feel quite introspective. What have we learned from the experience? How could we have handled it differently? What are we going to do in the future? The weather has been throwing us some curve balls in the last few years and I think it's a fair assesment to assume this is our new future. We're going to have to adapt. On the same hand I feel we're going to have to adapt to this new economy. Things are changing despite the fact our leaders are telling us we're out of the reccession and this latest down turn is only a blip. I'm seeing it a little differently here from my view as a small business owner.

Yesterday, we began sowing our earliest fall and overwinter crops. We'll be working at this for a bit. We're starting a little earlier this year to adjust for the cooler temps. Having product in the shoulder seasons is a big deal for us. It often represents our profit. Good planning and solid execution are key. Having some good fall weather is a bonus. It's safe to say all the farmers in the northwest are hoping for a long, mild fall season.

It's a new day out there, better get an early start.

Keep well,

Farmer john

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Tide Turns

The absence of any recent blog posts should be a hint that perhaps things are ramping up a bit. We still don't have a ton of product coming out of the fields but at least we have a decent selection of spring greens. Much of our field area is still too wet to work but should be dry by this week. At this time we have all of our dry beds planted out and are just waiting so we can really get planted. Honestly it's been a frustrating season. We're a good month off of normal and I have so much too do there is just simply not enough time in the day to accomplish all that needs to be done. Sales have suffered from our lack of variety and quantity. This weeks market was much better than earlier and traffic appeared to be normal.

Big news for this week was we got the cover put on our new greenhouse. We still have some work to do but at least we're covered and planted out. We filled this house up with tomatoes and basil. Looks good.

Outdoor sowings have performed poorly so we're still mostly transplanting. Soon we'll be direct sowing most of our beds. Potatoes are up and looking good.

So in general, not a lot of details, just hard work and persistence.

Keep well,

Farmer John

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Still Frosty

May 12th; Heavy frost this morning after a very rainy day yesterday. Quite unusual. After looking at a satelite pic it is all quite clear. basically a huge front passed us with an unstable cold trough following. Unfortunately there's another one coming right on the heels of this one. We were drying out fast too and I was feeling hopeful we might get a break. Not to be.

This is starting to turn into a situation and not a good one at that. Maybe we should use remay?:) I'm not even sure what to do at this point. We have alot of things to direct sow and alot of things to transplant but only a very small amount of space to do anything. Germination has been so spotty so far this season so I guess I'm leaning towards transplanting but that will make us short on some crops later in the early summer. Conundrum. Still we have it better than most other places in the country right now so I can't really complain too much.

One good thing is we basically finished our fencing project this week. Just a couple minor details to attend to and we're there. Next, we'll focus on wrapping up the new greenhouse. It's still quite wet at the site and I have a little more tillage to do. We have some drainage issue's we need to address there but I think we can get a handle on it. I'm shooting to have the project completed by the end of the month. This house is getting planted out in Tomatoes and there's no way I'm putting them in before June 1st so the timing should not be an issue. This is going to be a late tomato year but we will have them.

I think the big thing for us right now is to just carry on and not get too excited about the weather hype. It'll come around eventually and we'll have a great year when it's all said and done. Definately a slow start. Hopefully we'll have a long fall.

That's it for now.

Keep well,

Farmer John

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Are We There Yet?

Or more aptly, "Dont Make Me Turn This Car Around!" We've had a couple of nice days here and there and things are drying out faster between storms but mostly it is still very wet and the soil has not really warmed up much.

We've experienced quite a bit of "failed" germination. This is new territory for me. Normally things pretty much pop out of the ground. We cant even seem to get a decent stand of radish's going. Yesterday, We made the deciscion to wipe the slate clean and start over. This meant taking out about 6 beds of salad greens. They just did'nt look like something we would want to put our name on. Bummer? yes, but I refuse to put out second rate product. We'll be re-sowing today. Greens, beets, rads etc. As much as we have room for. That is still the biggest issue, lack of dry growing space. We did get a few more potatoes in the ground yesterday as well, about 3,000 row feet. German Butterballs, Red Thumb Fingerlings and Satina's. We still have a couple hundred pounds of seed to plant. Where is it all going to go?

We need to get our sunchokes in too and a we have hundreds of flats that are ready for transplant, perhaps our eyes are too big for our stomach? Strawberries? We don't have the new ones in yet. Same story, no space. It may be too late?

Market starts on Saturday. We'll have a little produce and a lot of starts.

Still working on infrastructure projects. Had to take a break due to wetness and other pressing issues.

Dawn is here, oh look, it's raining again! Yay!

Keep well,

Farmer John

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Enough already on the rain. There is possible snow in the forecast for today and it's pouring right now and about 40 degrees out. Looks like another indoor day. We'll just keep potting up toms and sowing flats in the greenhouse's today. Late start, long lunch and quit early. Might as well take advantage while we can.

We're all ready for our plant sale/open house this Saturday. Just hoping the forecast for "mostly sunny" prevails. Come on out if you're on island and take a look.

Not alot else to report at this time. Perpetually stuck in this No season thingy thing.

Take care,

farmer John

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Looking Good

This Saturday and next we are having our annual open house and plant sale. We'll have lots of veggie and flower starts for you garden and fresh pizza coming out of the oven and some live music from the boys in Spoonshine. Looks like the weather is going to hold and might even be sunny! Come on out and see what we've been up to.

One good thing about having an event like this (or company) is that it motivates you to tidy up. It's a good thing. We've been busy mowing, weed wacking, weeding and spring cleaning in general. The property is looking good. I love it when it's all spiffy. The only bad thing is we've spent all of outr time here on the home farm and are neglecting our other "in-proccess" projects like building fences and finishing up the greenhouse. It's OK, things are still drying out there anyway.

We've been building new green house tables this week too, something I've wanted to do for a long time. the new ones are way more space effecient than our current system. I think they'll work better too because we are using a mesh top so the roots coming out of the bottom of the flats can air prune which may be more important than I know. They also just look nice. This will be an ongoing project as time and money allow. We need about 40 of them. I've got the proccess down to about 30 minutes per bench and they cost about $30 each in materials. Hopefully we'll get at least ten years out of them.

Fields are still too wet to work so it's another big week in the greenhouse's. We moved about seventy flat's to our "showroom" solarium up at the house for this weekend's sale so we have a little more room for more flats. If it stays dry, we may be able to transplant on Friday? Needless to say, we're pretty backed up and we need to get some plants in the ground. Honestly though all the plants we've transplanted to date are not growing too fast, it's just been too dammned cold and windy. We're gowing to continue to plant the same as normal, eventually things will pop.

We've been making a few deliveries these last few weeks. Slowly getting back into the harvest/delivery schedule. Market starts soon! May 7th, Hope we have produce:)

That's the news from here, hope to see you this weekend.

Keep well,

Farmer John

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Working Around The Rain

The weather is still giving us fits. It almost dries out, then comes a big rain and puts us right back to where we were. This has happened time and time again. I beat it yesterday by about 5 minutes and was able to chisel plow some of our tight ground at the home site. Certainly not dry enough to till but the chisel plow travels beneath the soil without disrupting too much. The "chisels" ride about a foot deep and break up the hard soil below. This can help open up chanels for the water to pass through more readily and can let some air in. I'tll be some time before we can really do much tillage at this spot. Glad we have the diversity of multible plots to farm on.
That said, we're at a stand still everywhere else right now as well as far as tillage goes. We are planted out on every plot that will allow. Things will have to dry out before we can do final tillage and bed shaping. So for now we're back to sowing flats in the greenhouse's. Over the last week we have been able to plant out quite a bit so at least we have a good amount of space available. We're also potting up plants that need to come out of trays and go into a bigger container. That's the theme for April. Yesterday we started this proccess for the tomatoes, always an exciting time. We have about three thousand plants to pot up.

Speaking of tomatoes brings up a concern we're having. Clearly it's setting up to be a difficult year for tomatoes. What's potentially going to set us back is the delay the rain has caused in tillage of the new greenhouse. I have made one pass and not been able to get back in. It takes about five or six times to get the soil roughly workable. We'll have plants that need to go into the ground before the site is ready. Waying our options, the easiest solution may be that we go ahead and pot them up in to one gallon pots rather than the standard 4" pot. This could buy us some time. Other options include changing our planting plan and put the toms in the greenhouses here at the home site or grow them in grow bags. Considering we've never successfully grown toms in containers, option two seems like a big gamble. The one gallen pot option takes more soil and creates space and handling issues but could be the easiest way in the end. We'll keep you posted on that one. We may have similar issue's with other crops like squash.

So the rain and cool weather is making our lives a little more difficult and we are ready for sun as are most people I know. It'll come. Trying not to get too worked up about the things I can't change.

Keep well,

Farmer John

Thursday, April 7, 2011

In Between

We're just farming whenever the weather will allow us to do it. Yesterday was a good day, despite the coolness we were able to get a few beds transplanted out. I don't know how they'll do but we just have to get going. Some of the stuff we put out earlier looks OK and some looks stressed. Beds we direct sowed like a month ago are spotty. Some are up but not growing. Some failed. It should be dry enough today to re sow. We'll keep sowing in the grennhouses's too just to have back up stock if things fail. Fickle. We really need some heat. At least we've been keeping up on lots of little projects here and there. We were able to do a nice Kale harvest too. It actually looks and tastes great. Nice and stalky, very sweet. It's my favorite time of year to eat kale. I like it better than broccoli. It is still very wet everywhere but the short term forecast has it being dry for the next couple of days. With any luck at all we'll be able to get a few more beds worked up but I'm not holding my breath. After today we'll have all of our available space planted out. From here on out we are at the mercy of the rain gods. Please be kind. We gave out daffodils in town yesterday too. It was fun. I just needed to do something good. I'm sick of all the bad news. And most importantly it was a good day because Katie said yes when I asked her to marry me. Keep it real, Farmer John

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Double Down

Our annual plant sale / open house now has two dates. We'll be open on Saturday April 23rd and the following Saturday April 30th. Come on out and take a look. We'll have the pizza oven fired up and lots of other good eats. Live music by Spoonshine from Anacortes and of course, lots and lots of plants for sale for your garden. Come on out, have a good time and help us kick off our season. This time of year we are busy bees here planting and getting ready for the season. The weather has been very difficult this year but despite that, we are making progress. We have a few things in the ground outside in our driest areas, peas, fava beans, greens, radish's, potatoes, garlic, leeks and kale. We have a few beds ready to sow and will probably be on that as soon as the weather dries out a bit. It's still on the cool side for things to pop but waiting is difficult. We can still transplant in the rain and are doing so as the seedlings in the flat trays mature enough to go out. We have our greenhouses all planted out and also filled with tables to accomodate the flats. We really need to get some things into the ground soon just so we can make room for all of the potting up thats getting ready to happen. This is our last chance to get any last minute equipment maintenance and setup done. Mowing season is basically here and we're ready to cut some grass! We have alot of new tools and another cultivating tractor on line this year. Our newest and most exciting addition (for me) is our new Jang tractor mounted multi row seeder. We can sow three rows at a time now without having to walk a country mile to do it. Some would consider this a luxury. I see it as just being effecient with our time, plus I have been having problems with and old injury to my lower leg and ankle and frankly it's getting harder to walk comfortably so being able to sow without walking back and forth three to six times up and down a 2oo ft bed just makes sense. I'm scheduled to have surgery on it this winter but for now, anything I can do to reduce my walking mileage is a good thing. Until recently, one would have had to pay around $10,000 to get a decent tractor mounted preciscion seeder. The Jang's are a nice option for about a third of that. We've been using a single row unit for a couple of years now and I really like it. We've made good progress on the greenhouse and have done the intial tillage. I'm waiting a bit longer to put the endwalls and cover on so I can have full easy access with the tractor. We're shooting to plant out around mid May. It's pretty wet at that site so we would like to see it stop raining and dry out. Fencing is in progress and we are working on it as time allows. That's all from here for now. Thanks. Farmer John

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Potting On

Potting on has begun. This is the process where we take the small seedlings from the cell trays they were propagated in and pot them up into a larger container so they have enough room to grow and establish a vigorous root system. Not everything has to be potted up, some things like lettuce for example get transplanted right into the field from the tray. Yesterday we were working on Artichokes and will be again today. Kale will be next and then followed by anything that has at least one set of true leaves. Potting on buys us some time in a year like this when it's cold and wet and a bit harsh for transplants yet. Despite being cold, we have a hard time working the fields when it's as wet as it's been (ie: twice as wet as normal) We almost had a window this week until it rained a half inch the night before last. Back to square one. The fields are as wet now as I have ever seen at any time. Although potting up has it's benefits, there's a downside too and that's space. Every plug tray turns into at least three flats of 4" pots. If the greenhouse is already full of flats and you're tripling the volume where does it all go? You cant just put flats on the ground because the roots will grow right through the trays and also the slugs will get you, plus you want the plants elevated for the best light and maximum airflow. So we have benches built in the greenhouses, lots of benches. Basically we make benches out of just about anything we can. Eventually we run out of space and things have to go in the ground somewhere.

Wire worm control: Recently, we planted a row of potatoes in one of our greenhouse beds. Yesterday I did a ilittle sneek peek to see what was happening underground. Not much, the spuds were just starting to sprout but they are just filled with wire worms. Every one I pulled out had three or more worms sticking out of them. I don't know what to do. Let em go as a trap crop and just chuck em worm and all? Pull them out now and plant something else? I'm open to suggestions here folks, Your guess is as good as mine but I'm leaning torwards option two.

We also got the layout done on our new fencing project yesterday. Now I can put in the corner post's in and start banging in t stakes. The greenhouse is also coming along albeit slowly but it's so wet after all the rain it's easier to let it set for a few days before we get back in there. The clock is ticking. I'm going to have to hurry if I'm to get beds ready for tomatoes. Speaking of tomatoes, they are up in the flats and just thinking about setting true leaves. We'll be potting those on shortly as well.

I was able to beat the rain on Friday and run the rotovator through a large portion of the new field. I had plowed this field back in the fall. I tried discing it at first but got frustrated that it was going too slow and switched over to the tiller which was quick and effective. This is the first of many passes with the tractor. I would like to say this seems to be the way to go when breaking new ground. Plow in the fall and hit it with the tiller in the spring. It's fast and not as hard on the tiller as going directly into the tough sod.

We have plant starts for sell now and will be having our annual plant sale/open house in April. We'll check the weather before setting the date but most likely the third Saturday. Market is just 7 weeks away!

Keep well,


Monday, March 14, 2011


Every year for the past several it appears that our spring weather gets more challenging to work in. This year has been worse than previous. It's very wet and the soil is cold. We've had a couple days above 50 but I can't recall more than a couple of days where we had sun and we're currently in a windy stretch. Even the crops in the greenhouses are just setting there. Nothing is really growing yet. Quite frustrating.

My frustration however pales in comparison to what's happening in Japan. It's so devaststing. My heart goes out to the peolple. I can't stop thinking about the videos of the tsunami encroaching on the land. It looks like this was a large agricultural area. Lots of fields that looked like they had either just been planted or were about to be. Hundreds of greenhouses. What happens with that land? It seems it would forever be contaminated. What happens with all of the trash and debris? How many farmers died? The nuclear issue? What a mess. So sad.

Things and times are changing without a doubt. Are you ready? I keep running this scenario through my head of how we would handle a similar situation. We'd be better off possibly than most folksI guess but really would we be? We'd lose our house but hopefully not our land. we have no earthquake insurance so we'd be paying for something we do not have and would suffer other great financial difficulties. Our economy would at best temporarily buckle and our paper assets would plummet. Hell who am I kidding, we'd probably go down the toilet. It would'nt really matter. Values would change, things that really matter would come into immediate focus. The health of our family and friends foremost and their continued well being and survival. we'd be cutoff from the mainland. No supplies, food, fuel etc. Hopefully we would all be together with our families, but perhaps not. A loved one, especially a child off island for a sporting or school event, that would suck. It's all heavy stuff to think about but I think we all know we should be thinking about it in very honest and realistic terms.

For the weather, ehh, it'll come around, the wind will stop, the sun will shine, plants will grow and all will be well. Hopefully we'll live our fragile existence with intent, dignity, respect and hope for the future. We've got some issues peeps, wake up calls can work to our advantage.

Keep your powder dry,

Farmer John

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

FAT Tuesday!

Fickle weather as per standard for the season. Nice yesterday, rainy today. We got off to a good start for the week. Hoops are up on the new greenhouse and we just need to install some bracing and the purlins and then we can start the ground prep. The forecast is looking pretty stormy in the short term. Hopefully not so wet that we can't till up the sod. We're as little under the gun time wise here, we should have it ready to plant by May 1st ish. We'll make it, we can cheat it a little bit if we have to. This house is getting tomatoes that are to be direct grown in the ground. If we have to, we can heavily amend each hole with compost and plant into that. We could even go as far as mulching the beds with black plastic to help break down the sod and eliminate the weeds. I hate to use plastic though and it would be hard to convince me to do that.

Fencing materials are being delivered on site today as well. 1500 ft of it. We have no shortage of projects.

We also spent a few minutes cleaning up one of our other sites. We'll be no-till planting a few rows of fava beans there today. The rest of it may get a quick cover crop before we plant it out to artichokes and leeks.

Indoors, we're taking a little break. We have lots of starts in flats and we are letting a few days go by before we resume sowing on any scale. Spring is funny, seeds sown mid March may actually out-perform seeds that were sown at the beginning of the month. So what happens is that you get a big batch of flats that all need to go in the ground about the same time. It's a recipe for failure, especially in a wet year when you may be limited on how much ground you can actually work. Things are looking good though, mucho germination. In the mean time, on our rain days we can be building tables in the greenhouses for flats to sit on and be getting ready for the next round. Some things have to be potted up into larger pots and that requires massive amounts of table space. We really need another hoophouse just for flats.

Outdoors, we'll be sowing beets and carrots probably next week and have a couple rows of potatoes going in on St. Patty's day.

The shop is busy too. Spring maintenance and tooling up for the season. It never stops.

On the business side we need some help. Most of our early CSA customers have renewed and paid (thank you!) Normally March and especially April are our most difficult months. We still have room to take on more members and could really use the income. To be completly honest with you all, our CSA income is not anywhere close to what it should be. We operate as a CSA because it's really the only way we can make it but we can't make it the way payments have come in this year. I realize times are hard and I know we can do a better job at promoting but I can't help but feel frustrated. I know for a fact people love what we do and appeciate that such great food is available from the Orcas farming community. We need people to come to the plate and become members. Farming is my sole source of income, I make no regrets for that decision and full well know it's a hard row to hoe. I see what my fellow farmers on the mainland are doing and it makes me just a little envious. Some operations operate soley as CSA's and have a waiting list for people to join. You do the math, 100 members at a $600.00 pre paid share. That works, why can't we be doing that here? Currently we're at less than 10% of that which in my opinion, does not work. I know people are getting hit up for money all the time and money is tight for alot of people, but it's not like we're looking for a hand out here. We're proud of do. We offer a real product and a valuable service to our community. We want to share that and we want to make a living while doing a good thing. Please tell a friend about us.

Keep well,

Farmer John

Friday, March 4, 2011


Just started our first outdoor planting. Yesterday we popped in some Fava beans and today we'll do peas and some of the hardiest spring greens and probably a bed of radishes. It's still pretty cold out and maybe a little early but probably OK. If it fails we'll just do it over. Most of our fields are still a little too wet to do do much work in but we have a couple of drier areas we concentrate on this time of year.

Also experimenting with planting a spring cover crop mulched with hay on a really wet area that my fall cover crop failed on. It's way to wet to till so I think we'll broadcast seed and simply cover the area with some spoiled hay and see what happens. Hopefully it'll germ and grow quickly and we'll mow it, disc it in and plant out that field in June. At worst we'll be adding organic matter to the soil. Looks like crap now though, at least the hay will make it pretty. Interestingly, I've never done spring cover cropping before and am interested to see how it will work. Thanks Blue Fox Farm for the idea.

Still working on the new hoop house at our new site. We'll have it up by the end of next week and begin tilling the area to prep it for planting. Time is running short. We've got about 60 days to get beds prepped and ready for tomato transplants. That's not long as the sod takes a long time to decompose. It'll be a little rough the first year but doable.

As soon as the hoophouse is up, fencing begins. It'll take us a couple of weeks and then we'll be up and running on this new section. We're putting in fruit trees in shortly and prepping the new field for a mid-summer planting. This is where our fall and over winter crops are going so We have a little time to get it nice. Regardless, we have our work cut out for us. The lazy days of winter are gone.

That'll do for now. Take care.

Farmer John

Thursday, February 24, 2011

22 degrees

22 Degrees with snow on the ground, windy, snow in the forecast and temps dropping into the low teens tonight. Jeez. Some might say this is typical but I've not seen it like this before. We can't even think about watering in the greenhouse as the lines are frozen solid. I may have to hand water from the house to keep things moist if it even matters. We may just have to start over. No big deal if we do, we're not that far down the road and this is always the risk you run by starting early. Always. I don't mind, the snow is beautiful, I actually hope it snows more so I can take the kids out "tractor tubing". I just hope it passes and we're done with it. It's only fair we have some weather as practically everyone else has had their share this year.

Speaking of weather, do you ever stop to wonder how it affects you. I'm not talking about seasonal light disorder or the blue feeling a dark gloomy day provides, I'm talking a direct hit on your wallet. I was speaking with the produce buyer at the market yesterday, he informed me that every single region they buy from has had a problem with the weather. Mostly frost issues that affected AZ, CA, FL, Mexico and even Chile is having a cool wet fall. The result is a very high price and a lower quality product. Iceberg lettuce is $3.99 /head and celery is about the same. Supply and demand free market capitalism is alive and well.

Talking about supply and demand, what about oil? If you're not paying attention folks you're headed for a big surprise. It comes down to one word. Uncertainty. Turmoil in the middle east has the ability to erase any kind of uptick we've seen in our economic recovery. Even if the Saudi's step up and fill the gap from Lybia, the government and oil companies will use the loss of production as an excuse to jack the price. I paid $4.23 for Diesel yesterday. My prediction is we'll be at $6.00 by July. If that happens You're going to be hearing the phrase "double dip" alot. At least we still have it at the pump. Anyone remember 1974? All of sudden, these topics that the dooms dayers always seem to rant on and on about have at least a decent chance of becoming reality. We're a very small farm. We do lots of field work by hand but we do rely on machinery to do daily tasks of keeping up production. No fuel? way less food! Hire more people you say to take up the slack? hmmph, from what labor pool? and labor is the real cost of farming. If you think $4.00 is expensive for a head of iceberg lettuce just wait until oil becomes more scarce and we've chased all of the migrant farm workers out of the country. You'll be lucky to even find a head of lettuce. Hiring labor to replace the effeciency of mechanization is not feasable unless people really want to make a change and work for minimum wage or better yet, barter labor for food and I certainly would'nt count on that. Americans are lazy and don't like to make sacrifice or have the desire work too hard. We are a nation in decline and it's a damn shame.

What are you going to do? Start a garden? make a pledge to support farmers in your area, use less fuel? All good things. Hopefully things will work themselves out. Hope... We always have hope.

Keep well,

Farmer John

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


It's snowing...if you can call it that. Us west coasters don't really have a clue to what snow is compared to the east. Normally by this time of year, our threat of snow is greatly diminished but I've seen it snow in May too. They're calling for a few inches but the real issue will be the low temps (teens) and the high winds coming out of the fraser river valley. Brrr. Honestly I'm just not in the mood. (whiny west coaster!) We'll be on hold for any outdoor projects for a few days. That's OK we have stuff we can do inside.

We've started constructing our new hoophouse, we'll pick back up when the weather gets better. It should go fast. We'll move on to the fencing project right after we finish the hoophouse. It's going to be a busy month, in addidtion to our infrastructure expansion, we'll be busy in the greenhouse growing starts for the field as well as plant for sale. We'll keep you posted for our annual open house/plant sale in April.

We have our prop house full of newly sown trays right now. Things are germinating and coming to life. Soon it will be lush and verdant. It's about time for us to move into a larger prop house. We need about twice as much space as we have right now. Maybe next year.

That's about all there is going on for now. A slight lull in the action. Enjoy the snow!

Farmer John

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Rock and Roll

It's mid Feb and we're off and running. Within a couple of days we'll have our prophouse filled with flats of newly sown seeds. This first sowing is all hearty type stuff. Lots of brassicas, lettuce, spinach and chard. We might even kick out a few flats of flowers. We do have a few beds of direct sown greens in one of our other hoophouse's that are just popping up. Shortly we'll be sowing tomatoes and peppers. I like to wait a bit longer on those so they don't get leggy before it's time to put them in. We have an empty 100 ft greenhouse to plant this week as well. Just need to finish the bed prep and we can get it planted. We normally use this house for toms but are not doing so this year. We'll probably grow some peas and perhaps fava beans in there along with some small quantities of a few other things.

It's good to get going again. Patience tends to run low this time of year and we're all antsy to get growing even though we know sometimes waiting is the best solution. Weather is fickle at best and the intensity of the sun is still low but growing each day. We're gaining 3 minutes of day right now. Things will start growing quite fast once we get a litlle sun energy happening.

Outdoor planting on the heartiest crops can begin for us as soon as things dry out a bit more. We have beds ready to go for peas, favas and a few rows of early potatoes as well as some greens like spinach and arugula. Our garlic is all up and looks awesome. We have a few things that made it over-winter but are pretty beat up. Hopefully we'll see those things rebound and put on some growth. After a harsh winter like we had they may just bolt, it' s too early to tell.

Anyway, lots going on, time to get the kids up and ready for school. more to come soon.

keep well,

Farmer John

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Taking Stock

Goodbye lazy month of January, Hello February.... Welcome to 2011. Yesterday was Imbolc, half way between winter slostice and the spring equinox, the celtic beginning of spring. I consider it at least that but also it's the end of the that 12 week period in which not much happens. If you will notice, things are just beginning to grow again, albeit slowly, but this changes rapidly as the suns intensity increases. Imbolc signals the time when we tie up loose ends. We welcome the coming light in anticipation of another growing season. Soon the real spring begins and we'll be sideways busy. So in real terms... sharpen your tools now boy.

Ahh tools, the quest continues. Finally found the cultivating tools I've bee searching for that fit on my old Farmall Super A. Great news, this stuff is getting hard to find and the tractor is worthless to me without it. So we'll finally have a second cultivating tractor in the field this year. Also finally purchasing a tine weeder. This ones been on my list for awhile now. We'll be able to cultivate "in row" between the plants with this one if it works properly. Also a great tool for stale bed farming, where we prep the beds prior to planting and let them set for a few days then run a tine weeder, rotary hoe or flame weeder through prior to planting. We can wipe out the first flush of weeds that way. We can also blind cultivate with the same tool. Blind cultivating is hitting the bed just before the seeded crop comes up. These are techiniques that can save us vast amounts of time and labor if done properly at the right time. My tool wish list is long and always getting longer. Alot of things we can find used but some things are either very specific or in high demand and therefore sell quick when they do come up. You have to be quick on the draw and having a pocket full of cash does'nt hurt either. Some tools on the list now are a manure/compost spreader, potato harvester, disc harrow, basket weeder and my big rotovator is on it's last leg and needs to be replaced as well. We need a van too.

We're just starting to sow this week. The freezing temps set us back a couple of days but nothing worth noting. Very soon we'll have the hoophouse's full of starts destined for the field. Lots of other projects getting ready to happen as well and we have some system uprgrades and maintenance as always. So really for us, winter is over and we are firmly on the road to another year of growing. I'm pretty fired up about it and looking forward to big year. I have some lofty goals set for the farm this year, perhaps a little too lofty but I'm hopeful to hit the mark. As long as we do our best, grow nice produce, pay our bills, and put a little in the bank I'll be happy.

The weather is looking like it's going to gives us a break here. We should be dry enough in a few days to at least work our dry spots and get some beds prepped to plant out our earliest crops of peas, favas and hardy greens. Usually you're better off to wait a bit but we'll see what it looks like. Regardless, I can't wait to drag some steel through the fields. Can't ever get enough of that.

Thank you to those of you whom have renewed your CSA memberships. We really appreciate and need your support. Please keep them coming, it's our only source of farm income until we start the market in May.

Thanks all and keep well,

Farmer John

Monday, January 3, 2011

Back To Business

Holidays are over and were at the first Monday of the new year and it's back to business as usual. Contrary to what you may think, January is actually a very busy month for us. Mostly planning and setting up for the up coming season. Seed orders are being compiled and will soon be submitted. We're getting ready to fence in a new section so we'll be planning and ordering materials for that as well as ordering and installing a new greenhouse. Still looking for one more person to work on the farm this year. We have a little more ground under cultivation this year. We'll most likely be a little short on labor but we can probably get by. I'll just have to work a little harder this year. That's OK. I'm getting fat anyway and could use the exersise. Lots of other projects happening too. Still repairing flood damage and other maintenance chores along with cleaning up some outdoor storm damage stuff.

Once February hits we're pretty much working full time again. Not only working on infrastructure but actually sowing seed in flats in the greenhouse that are destined for transplant into the field and doing some field work in our drier spots. Coming into the season well prepared and with a clean conscious of not having alot of un-finished projects hanging over your head gets us off on the right path for having a successful year.

2010 actually turned out to be our best year ever and it feels like we're on the right track. My goal for this year is to up our volume, increase fertility and reduce our overhead. Pretty much the same goal as always. Make this year better than the last.

Stay tuned in. Lots of good stuff happening this year.

Keep well,

Farmer John