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