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