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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Big Snow

We got our first big snow of the winter season, 8.5". It crushed 2 of our 3 hoop houses which is a bummer. Had someone gone up and cleared the snow from them just 15 minutes earlier at least one if not both would have been saved. Too often timing is everything and this time we just missed our mark.

At least the timing on the winter farm Share program was right on the mark. That ended just 4 days ago. It would have been tough harvesting out of flat houses.

The bad news is that one house now has a lot of ripped up greenhouse poly where it all came down on top of fence stakes that were there for the fall tomatoes. It also looks like a lot of the hoops are badly bent up and will have to be replaced. The good news is that the crops inside, tomatoes and spring mix in one and kale in another will be just find under the snow and plastic, even if we cannot access them. Now we just have to wait on the weather to take everything down so it can be fixed and/or replaced.

Nate checking out the strawberry hoop house which got the most damage

Another shot of the Strawberry hoop house (and Nate)

More of the Strawberry house

A shot of the kale hoop house to the left that is half down and the lettuce hoop house to the right which was cleared of snow in time

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Last Winter Farm Share

This is the news letter for the last Farm Share of our Winter program

Greetings and salutations Farm Share Folk,

Here it is last winter share-we made it through despite the weather being a lot colder than is normally is in late fall/very early winter. I don't know about you guys but I am happy with the way things went. I would have like it to be a lot warmer in November and the first part of December so that the greens would be more varied. the kale took a big hit early on (and very unexpectedly as it is supposed to take cold down to -10 if protected) and I know some of you really really love kale. but this is a part of the becoming a member of a farm.

Overall though, the variety was good and the shares were always worth far more than the $25 a week you paid. Next winter I will likely double the share price and make the shares much bigger, especially since winter shares happen every two weeks and not weekly unlike the main season which will be weekly shares.

Okay, since the last share it got cold-our lowest point was -14F which means we likely lost a lot of over wintered crops as most are good to around -10F if properly protected but below that all bets are off. The good news is we harvested spring mix and heirloom lettuce heads before it got so sold. granted the greens are not fresh picked but in winter these things last a lot longer than they do in the summer. I suspect this is because they are not growing much this time of year and that inertia carries on after harvest so they do start rotting but at about 1/10 the speed they do in summer. I know I have some lettuce in the home fridge I picked for the December farmers market which is in fine shape and still tastes good. The spring mix you are getting superb-we have been eating it lunch and dinner (and one breakfast) for the past 9 days or so. The lettuce we have not touched because we have spring mix and like it more than plain old lettuce.

I still have not heard from most of you as to whether or not you want to join the spring farm share program. You can go month by month or sign up for the entire 31 week season. If you can get friends to sign up as well than you can divide up the driving duties. We do this with our raw milk share-there is another family in Eaton and we pick up twice a month between us so we only have to drive to Middletown once a month (we used to pick up milk weekly and had no one to divide up the driving with for about 2 years so we do know about the drill of driving to get local foods)

We hope to see most of you as members come April.

We sincerely mean it when we say thanks for your support on this trial CSA deal. We did a CSA for over 10 years and dropped it because we did not like where it was going. We were a bit uneasy with this winter farm share program at first because of the sour taste our old CSA left in our mouths. But you guys have given us faith that this form or marketing can work for us. Now we are very excited about the main farm share season. So again, thanks a zillion for your support

Okay, on that note, here is what I am planning on putting in each share

Spring mix-1 to 2 heads
Red onions-over a pound
Garlic powder-I make this from the 3 different garlic s we grow. If you have not had this before know it is a lot stronger than store bought garlic. It's powerful good
Honey (we do not raise bees but buy this from a crazy guy who lives about 5 miles from us and has organic bees, or as organic as you can get bees around here)
Red turnips
Potatoes-mainly red and white taters
dried Cinnamon basil
catnip-if you do not have cats this makes a nice soothing tea. just put some in a tea ball and steep for 3 to 5 minutes. If you have a cat than crumble a small amount in front of them and watch the entertainment start.


Roasted Vegetables
Preheat the oven to 400F
Clean and cut into big chunks root vegetables such as garlic (leave whole) red or yellow onions, carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, potatoes, beets and celery (which is not a root vegetable) is very nice). Put everything into a roasting pan and drizzle a good olive oil over top and sprinkle some kosher or seas salt, cover and put in the hot oven for about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes. When you smell the veggies and they are soft it is done. Serve with a salad and a nice crunchy bread.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Root Canal

Today I am going to a dental professional in Richmond, IN at 9am to get a probable root canal. I say probable as the tooth has some issue (well obviously, it is getting a root canal, after all). First off it has a crack and a gold crown that was put on 14.5 years ago. Second the tooth has died in the last 6 to 12 months which means now it is a festering cesspool of infection that so far my immune system has had little problem in controlling. I do have a swollen gum by the tooth and a bit of pain this morning (I have a very high pain threshold so I suspect the average person with a lower pain threshold would be in a lot of pain right now).

I was really hoping that the root canal could not be done and that someone would pull the tooth and than I could get busy on getting another implant. Granted, a root canal is going to cost around $800 and an implant when it is all said and done costs over $3000. I suspect that in another couple of year this tooth will deteriorate more and have to be removed and than I get the choice of either a bridge or an implant. Since bridges and implants cost about the same but an implant lasts for a lifetime and a bridge can break and needs replacing every 10 to 15 years I will opt with the implant. I already have one (#20, I am learning the numbering system for teeth as this will make my conversations with the various dental professionals that poke around in my mouth much much clearer) and I am quite happy with it.

I swear there is rarely a dull moment in my mouth-I was given a very very bad genetic hand of cards as far as my mouth is concerned

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

GMO Crop Implicated in Honeybee CCD

Genetically Modified Crops Implicated in Honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder

Sunday, January 11, 2009 by: Patty Donovan, citizen journalist

(NaturalNews) As the disappearance of honeybees continues, researchers are trying desperately to discover the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). General concensus at this point is that there is more than once cause and the latest culprit may be genetically modified crops. This is one area of research being neglected as mainstream scientists insist GM crops are safe.

For the last 100 years, beekeepers have experienced colony losses from bacteria, (foulbrood), mites (varroa and tracheal) and other pathogens. These problems are dealt with by using antibiotics, miticides and and other methods of pest management. Losses are slow and expected and beekeepers know how to limit the destruction. This new mass die-off is different in that it is virtually instantaneous with no warning of the impending collapse.

John McDonald, a bee keeper in Pennsyvania with a background in biology, speculated that genetically modified crops could play a role in CCD. Although the government constantly reassures us that these genetic manipulations are safe for both humans and the environment, his hope is that looking more closely at these issues might raise questions about those assumptions.

The common bacterium, bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) supplies the most commonly used segment of transgenic DNA. Bt has been used for decades by farmers and gardeners to control crop damage from butterfy larvae. Now, instead of spraying this bacterium directly on the crops, where it is eaten only by the target insects, the genes containing the insecticidal traits are incorporated into the genome of the plant itself. As the genetically modified plant grows, these Bt genes are replicated in every cell of the plant, including pollen. Therefore, every cell of each GM plant contains its own poison aimed to kill the target insect. The target insects consume some portion of the plant, then once ingested, the toxin produced by the Bt genes causes crystallization in the guts of boring larvae and thus death. The primary toxin is a protein called Cry1Ab. In the case of field corn, the targeted insects are stem and root-borers and butterfly larvae.

Although scientists "assure" us that bees (hymenopterans) are not affected, there are Bt variants available that target beetles, flies and mosquitoes. There is indisputable proof that Cry1Ab is present in beehives. Beekeepers spray Bt under hive lids to control the wax moth because the larvae cause messy webs on the honey. Canadian beekeepers have noted the disappearance of this moth even in untreated hives, apparently the result of bees ingesting Cry1Ab while foraging in GM canola plants.

Bees forage heavily on corn flowers to obtain pollen for the rearing of young bees. These pollen grains also contain the Bt genes of the parent plant, because they are present in the cells from which pollen forms. Mr. McDonald believes it may be possible that while Cry1Ab has no direct lethal effect on young bees, there may be some sub-lethal effect, such as immune suppression, acting as a slow killer.

Tens of millions of acres of genetically modified crops are allowing the Bt genes to move off crop fields and contaminate other flowers from which bees gather flowers. "Given that nearly every bite of food that we eat has a pollinator, the seriousness of this emerging problem could dwarf all previous food disruptions".(John McDonald) He proposed an experiment to compare colony losses of bees from regions where there are no GM crops to losses of colonies where they are exposed. He wanted to put test hives where GM crops are so distant from the hives that the foraging worker bees would have no exposure to GM crops. Researches readily dismissed his ideas and no one followed through with such an experiment.

At this point, he decided to do his own investigation at his own expense. He established 8 colonies in new wooden hives to ensure no possible disease transfer from old hives. The bees were fed continuously with sugar syrup until the hives were placed at the selected locations.

"At both sites the flowers of goldenrod provided ample pasturage, with the honey flow commencing in the middle of August and tapering off by the second week in October. Medium-depth empty honey storage supers (a super is the part of the beehive used to collect honey) were put on the hives at this time in addition to the three brood chambers already there. By the simple expedient of lifting the hives from behind, progress could be roughly monitored.

This monitoring showed that the hives of the farmland bees, while numerous, were not gaining weight. Meanwhile, the non-farm colonies steadily gained weight. This part of the experiment was terminated Oct. 14 with the removal of the honey storage supers, with these results: The farmland bees had not even started to work in the honey supers and will require extensive feeding before winter sets in. The non-farm bee colonies produced, in total, nearly 200 pounds of extra honey in addition to about 150 pounds per hive stored in the over-wintering brood supers. These colonies will be left in place to see whether the die-off of last season is repeated. These results should encourage new research to determine what factor or factors are present in farm country to cause such a discrepancy in honey production." John McDonald

John McDonald is a beekeeper in Pennsylvania. He welcomes comments or questions about the bee problem at

Another study indicating that Bt may be contributing to the death of honey bees was undertaken in Mexico. This study compared the effects on young adult honeybees of 2 concentrations of Cry1AB (3 and 5000 parts per billion) to a chemical pesticide, imidacloprid. 3 different effects were evaluated by the researchers:

1. Survival of honeybees during sub-chronic exposure to Cry1Ab.
2. Feeding behavior.
3. Learning performance at the time that honeybees become foragers.

Neither test concentration of Cry1Ab had lethal effects on the honeybees, however, when exposed to the higher concentration, feeding behavior was affected. The bees spent longer ingesting the syrup which contained the Cry1Ab which could mean smaller amounts of pollen would be collected. These bees also had impaired learning performance. Honeybees normally do not continue responding to an odor when no food is present, but should be discouraged and seek other sources. These bees continued responding to the odor which again, could affect pollen gathering efficiency. This study indicates that although Bt is not directly lethal to honeybees, it could indirectly lead to colony death due to failure to collect enough food to sustain the hive.

These findings may be the key to the difference in honey production in Mr. McDonald's experiment. Bt appears to have non-lethal effects which become apparent only when the lethal effect is absent. Although not directly lethal to non-target organisms, the toxins from the Bt gene potentially puts non-target insects such as honeybees at risk.

Seed Ordering Time

January is seed ordering time here at Boulder belt. The seed order used to be a huge event for us that caused a great deal of stress (what if we forget something? What if we get it WRONG!!??!?). we would get the seed catalogs in the mail (most arriving by Jan 1st because we are commercial growers and commercial growers get their catalogs before the home gardening crowd). We would study the catalogs for days dreaming of spring and planting and warm mornings and fresh food being harvested daily and other unwintry thoughts. We would put big black stars by the seeds we wanted to buy and would fill out order forms and check them twice than send in the orders.

And every time we would discover we had missed something important and would freak out.

These days we do not find the seed order is such a big deal because we have started in the past two years putting 2 to 4 seed orders every year pretty much in every season. So if something is forgotten we no longer freak out. Instead we just order whatever it is we need and grumble about S&H charges that could have been avoided if we only had order whatever with the rest of the seeds.

So far this year we have put in our orders to Johnny's selected seeds and Fedco and have only forgotten one item-5 pounds of sugar snap peas, one of our best selling crops. I have not decided if I want to put in another order to Johnny's or Fedco or go with one of the Heirloom companies-Baker Creek or Seed Savers Exchange. Both have sugar snap seed, I believe. But we have not order sugar snaps from either of those companies before so don't know the quality. We usually get our peas from Fedco or Johnny's and do know what to expect form them.

Something that has come up in the various forums I use about seed buying-The fact that Monsanto bought Semenis seeds and now controls something like 85% of the global seed stocks. We at Boulder belt do research where the seeds we buy come from and we avoid buying Monsanto owned seeds. This has meant dropping several hybrids that have always done very well for us and finding substitutes. This has not been an easy task for a couple of crops. I have yet to find a replacement I really like for the Fat n Sassy green to red bell pepper. It has been fun trying out different peppers both hybrid and heirloom. I have found many heirloom varieties I like a lot but none have come close to replacing this red bell (but I have found some wonderful yellow, purple, brown, red cheese and other peppers that now have a place in the market garden)

We used grow a wonderful pure white sweet onion called Superstar that we dropped because of the Monsanto connection and have yet to find anything close. So now we grow heirloom sweet onions that are not as pretty but have no ties to Monsanto and have excellent taste, though rarely are as mild as the Superstar.

I am hoping today we finish up the seed ordering for this month. We still have to order some tomato seed. There are two heirlooms I want to grow-Paul Robeson, a black beefsteak mater named for the performer/activist, Paul Robeson and also Green Zebra because Miami University is interested and we have not grown a green full sized mater in years. We grew GZ about 6 or 7 years ago and it was prolific, pretty but not the best tasting mater that we grow. We also have to order eggplant and of course the sugar snap peas. I think we will also order several flower varieties. We have been wanting to grow sunflowers for years and I think this is the year to do so. Sunflowers can brighten up any day and it looks like we are going to go through a lot of very dark days and will need sunflowers to rescue us all. And we need yarrow and there will likely be many other seeds we will decide we cannot live without.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Frozen Mizuna

Today is a Friday when someone goes out and harvests things for the Farm Share members. Unlike past harvest days this time everything was frozen, even the crops in the hoop houses. Bummer.

I was hoping to supply the Farm Share members with fresh greens but after looking at the frosty lettuce plants and the icy Mizuna I knew there was slim chance that greens could be harvested today (or for the next several weeks as winter is making a cold statement for a while). I did hack off some frozen mizuna and brought it back into the house to see if it would thaw decently (many cold hardy crops can be harvested fully frozen and thaw out perfectly). It thawed and was not turning to green goo but was still kind of weird. I do not want to take the chance of thawing the Mizuna, putting it into bags and than having it start rotting after it is bagged. I have tried this with frozen lettuce and things did not turn out well at all. I believe Mizuna will do better but I want to experiment a bit more with it before foisting it upon my customers.

So the Farm Share members get no greens this week (and probably not the last week either) but will get a lot of other nice things to eat. This is pretty much par for the course with farming on the back side of the calendar. If we heated our hoop houses (which is not really possible with the design we are using) we would have a lot of things growing in them. All the cold loving crops need is for the houses to be around 40F degrees at night and at least that warm during the day (if the sun is out the houses will get over 85F when it is 25F outside). The down side of this is you have to use some sort of fuel to heat the houses-propane, natural gas, electric (from coal or other fossil fuels), electric (from solar/wind) or wood. Fuel costs money which adds to the cost of the produce and most fuels pollute which adds to our carbon footprint. So for now we deal with things like frozen mizuna in January and stay content knowing that the mizuna will thaw soon enough and we will have greens to eat come late winter and early spring when most gardens in Ohio lay dormant.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Holiday Farm Share

I see it has been a while since I last posted. Let's blame the holidays for that. And since I am still not quite in a writing mood I am posting the Holiday Farm Share email for all to enjoy

Greetings farm Share Members,

I hope everyone had a happy Christmas (she says, making the assumption we are all of christian backgrounds here). Eugene and I did next to nothing Christmas day. we took a walk around the farm with the dogs, ate pistachio's and had pastured lamb from the Filbruns for dinner (along with butternut squash, salad and fingerling potatoes, all of which we grew). we don't generally exchange gifts but my sister and I do give enough money between us to Heifer International to buy a water buffalo for some family somewhere in the tropics.

The farm has been quiet but because of the freeze & thaw action and high winds we have lost some crops. We took a huge hit on the winter squash. The store front building froze up and the squash did too. We were not expecting this as last year we spent $300 a month to heat the building so nothing froze out there last year. This year because we are cheap, we decided not to heat the building. So when it went below zero so did everything that was not in a fridge (those all stayed just at freezing which is fine for all the produce we have in them at the moment) froze. things like onions and garlic can take being frozen with no problems (as long as they are left undisturbed) but winter squash not so much. The small squashes seem to be fine but the Butternut we lost. So we have some squash for the rest of the season but not as much as I was counting on. I am really glad none of us are in the position of depending on the Boulder Belt Eco-Farm to feed us through the winter because this would have been a very serious loss. We also lost the napa cabbage (I am glad as I do not really like the stuff, it is a poor seller and yet Eugene keeps planting it-it will make a nice green manure crop though). high winds ripped the row covers off almost the entire bed and that was that for the Napa. We also lost a 1/4 bed of arugula for the same reason. But where the covers stayed on the crops seem to be in as good of shape as they can be this time of year.

What has happened is after 2 winters here (this is our 3rd) we still have not figured out where to store the winter food. The house is way too warm, the barn can get too cold and freeze things worse than the store and there are rodent issues now that we have lost another mousing cat this fall and only have the ornamental cat who is useless when it comes to hunting. the store can be heated but only at great cost at present.

We need to seriously rethink how we heat this farm-gas and electric are getting too expensive and are also the causes of wars and great pollution, etc.. We have been talking about getting an outdoor wood boiler to at least heat the store and barn and this would also heat any greenhouses we might build. If we can it will also heat the house. These boilers can easily heat something like 40K square feet of space. But such things are expensive and we are still addressing roofing and window issues (which are also expensive) and there is the mortgage that takes a nice chuck of change out of the monthly budget. but we are working our way towards being a much greener farm. We would also love to put up a wind mill/generator and a solar array. Eventually we want to be 100% off the grid.

Okay, on that meandering note here is what you guys are getting this week. Some of you are picking up today and some on Monday. Either way, the shares will be ready for you anytime after 2pm. They will be in the store and just go and grab your share (one bag). Oh, and don't forget to bring back your old farm share bags (and any other clean plastic or paper grocery bags sitting around your home taking up space and needing to be reused)

Lettuce-a 1/2 pound bag of mixed small lettuce heads
Carrots-1 pound of sweet and crisp carrots
Winter squash-You get a variety-expect 3 to 4 squashes in your share
Leeks-two kinds, you get a bunch of the skinny Lincoln leeks you have had all season and 1 or 2 King Sieg leeks which are the big, winter leeks and I think more flavorful
Garlic-a bulb of each kind we grow, German white, Shvilisi and Persian Star
Celeriac-2 celeriac this week
Apples-3 pound bag of Dr Matthew's Apples-these are crisp and sweet
Onions-red onions this week. These have been nice but a bit on the hot side

Next farm share pick-up will be January 10th and the last will be Jan 24th. After that we will start back up April 7th. I do need to know if you are interested (or not) in the main season Farm Share program ASAP so I can get things planned out.

Several members have expressed an interest in having a Farm Share Potluck dinner here at the farm. One suggestions was to do it inauguration evening which I believe is Wed Jan 21st. But we can do this about any evening. I will offer our farm to host the event and now we need a date and time. Dinners are a dynamite way for us to build community around the farm with which we all have an interest, i.e. we can all meet and get to know each other.

And on that note, we are now signing up new members for our Farm Share program. The Shares Start April 7th or 9th (we will have two pick-up days-Tuesdays and Thursdays). Cost and all the other details can be found on our Farm Share Page

Imagine if we can do such a good job on this Farm Share thing in the dead of winter imagine how good we are when the farm is producing at full speed.