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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Plants and Planets

As of today we have 60 4' x 50' beds plowed and several of these will be tilled and almost ready to plant by this evening. this is over a full acre of market garden almost ready to go. Last fall I did not think we would be so far so soon. Of course I was thinking we would have winter and that has not happened yet. So we have had a lot of decent weather to work in.

Not that we have anything ready to put in them yet but in about two weeks we will have a lot of things to put in the ground. Mid March means the arrival of 300 day neutral strawberry plants and 300 asparagus plants (250 are green and 50 are purple). These have been mail ordered from Krohne's nursery in SW Michigan. We have used these guys for several years. They are by no means organic but they have high quality plants and good prices and good customer service to boot. So we stick with them.

We should also have a bunch of lettuce ready to go into a hoophouse. I planted lettuce 5 days ago and it has already germinated. I did 4 kinds, Simpson Elite, Marvel of 4 Seasons, Lollo Rossa (my favorite) and Rouge D'hiver. Other than the Simpson all are heirloom lettuces and all very beautiful and tasty. After you have eaten heirloom lettuces it is hard to go back to pedestrian leaf, green romaine and iceberg lettuce.

Come March 1st it will be time to plant the early tomatoes! I am frankly amazed that it is already time to do this. Last Saturday March seemed about 4 years away and now it has rushed up on me behind my back. But the tomatoes have to be big enough to go out in a hoophouse around April 1st and it takes a minimum of 4 weeks to get them to that point so it seems it is time.

Tonight there is a celestial wonder happening. Mercury will be very visible in the western sky at sunset and for about an hour afterwards. this is by far the best I have ever seen this planet. It is extremely rare to see it in the first place because it is so close to the sun and generally when it is visible it is very hard to see. I have seen it twice (maybe 3 times) before but nothing like this. It will be visible until March 1st and than it goes away again.

Ironically we are growing a new red onion this year called Mercury. It replaces Mars which did not germinate for us this year due to using old seed and the commercial seed suppliers had failures so no way to buy more seed. I think it is fitting in a year where Mars will be dim and Mercury will be so strong (well, for Mercury and albeit for a very short time) that we are growing an onion called Mercury.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Some Advice for Local Eaters

This is this blog's 100th post.

I should have baked a cake.

Today I am going to write about eating locally. I don't just grow food for the local market I also buy as much food as I can from local farmers. So this makes me a customer as well as a seller.

Buying as much food as you can locally is a worthy and healthy goal but it is not easy. Over the years most of the local agriculture infrastructure has been utterly destroyed to make way for the Green revolution agribusiness model. this means that few farms are growing for the local market and the farm to market ties have been badly broken since after WWII. That's the bad news. The good news is this is changing as more and more small to medium farms become diversified and geared towards selling direct to their customers and also more and more marketing opportunities are being developed all the time. there are more farmers' markets than we have ever had in this country. CSA's are increasing each year. When I started Boulder Belt CSA there were something like 1500 CSA in the entire country now there are at least 3x as many and every state in the union has at least one. And there are more and more farm stands coming into being. For the customer it has definitely become a lot easier to buy locally at least 8 months out of the year.

Locating the food is really only half the battle (though it may seem like so much more when you are in the hunt). The other half is dealing with the food once you have located it. buying local often means buying whole unadulterated foods in the raw. this is something most modern consumers are not used to. Most people buy a lot of processed foods that are ready to eat and can be stored easily. And people are used to having year 'round availability of all foods. This is not the case with local foods and that means one has to plan ahead, often months ahead. One has to do their own processing (canning/freezing/dehydrating) and one has to have equipment to do that.

The basic equipment I recommend is the following:
A salad spinner
A pressure canner
Canning jars and lids/rings (you can jars way cheap at auctions. Buy lids and rings new)
A jar lifter (for lifting hot jars out of the canner, you cannot can without this)
A canning Funnel (for no mess pouring of food into canning jars)
A chest freezer (very important if you eat meat but also incredibly handy for produce too)
A Victorio Strainer (this separates seeds and skin from pulp for things like making fruit jellies, tomato sauce, etc.)
A Couple of big Stainless Steel Pots (3 gallon or bigger, 5 is a real nice size)
A dehydrator (I have several kinds from dirt cheap to top of the line, to begin with go cheap)
Freezer zip lock bags
Food grade buckets with lids (for storing grains, dried beans, flour, etc.. I use all sizes from quart yogurt containers on up to 5 gallon buckets. Never use anything that is not food grade like drywall mud buckets)
Food processor/blender (if you love pesto you will need this)
Herb Grinder (coffee grinder dedicated to herbs and spices or mortar and pestle)
A Metal Colander
Baking Sheets (for freezing fruit, not baking)

These are the basics in my kitchen for what I eat. I don't do a lot pickling/fermenting so I do not have pickle crocks but if you plan of fermenting food you will need at least one and there is probably other things I have not mentioned. If you see any omissions put 'em in the comments.

One thing local foods eaters need is a root cellar of sorts. This is a place that is dark and cold but not freezing and well ventilated. A basement can work, so can a garage or closet or if you have a yard you can dig a cellar into the ground. This is where the bulk of the winter veggies will be stored. The things we cellar are onions, garlic, winter squash, beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, potatoes and apples. I am not going to get into how to store these items because it is a topic beyond the scope of what I want to talk about today. Go to Back 40 Books for some great titles on root cellaring. Herm Beck-Chenoweth and Linda Lee, the owners of this business are great folks who know a lot about simple living and sell the best books they can find on simple living/local eating/sust. ag topics.

Like most things in life there is a lot more than meets the eye in this eating local foods idea. It takes a lot of preparation to be able to have the bulk of your diet (more than 50%) be local foods. You have to have the proper equipment and know how to use it or you will be overwhelmed and will very likely back away from the goal of an all local foods diet. You have to teach yourself to plan months in advance instead of days or hours in advance for your meals. You have to learn how to can and freeze (neither is hard to learn and a great resource is Martha to learn more about these skills) and you have to learn how to store things properly. It takes time to do all of this so do not think you will one day wake up and start an all local foods diet-it won't work. but it will work if you take several years and add a few new skills and new foods/sources to your repertoire each season.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

We Must Be Crazy

Did our monthly Winter market this past Saturday. It was a cold one with snow showers and a stiff breeze. Us farmers were seriously doubting our sanity for being there. And yet a lot of dedicated local food mavins came out to the monthly market despite the weather. We now know who the core farmers' market supporters are after this bitter cold market

We sold a lot of garlic, potatoes and onions. We sold no squash probably because we had to put it away in the van within a half hour of putting it on the table because it started to freeze (it was a balmy 14˚F by 10:30am according to Karen Baldwin's Van).

I bought 3 dozen eggs from Karen because her eggs are almost as good as the eggs we used to raise. She had a lot of eggs-3 coolers full of 'em. February is the month that hens come out of their winter vacation and start to lay in earnest. I remember when we had hens we would be getting a couple dozen a day from 75 layers Nov/Dec/Jan and into the beginning of February and than suddenly one morning you go into the coop to collect eggs and everyone is laying and instead of 2 dozen you have 6 dozen eggs to clean and pack into cartons.

And picked up my first milk order from the cow share I bought in January. Raw milk is such a wonderful food. It is a shame that the pasteurized dairy lobby prevents most people from having the choice of buying their milk raw, though that may change in Ohio this year as there is a bill going through the state house that wants to change the law so grade A dairies can sell raw milk from their farms. It's a start.

After market we went over to the Nelson's to pick up the shelving we had bought the week before. Got there and met Pat and terri and proceeded to take apart 3 shelving units. We had planned on taking down a lean-too for the lexan panels but it was too cold to work with plastic. so we loaded the van with dusty shelving units instead and took them home. They will go into the store eventually. First we have to finish a wall and paint the place.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Hoophouse how To-Part 3

Last in a Series

Detail of how 10’ conduit is held together

Trench for anchoring plastic. Either a shovel or plow will work. What we do is turn the soil and move it to the edge of the trench, put the plastic over the frame, center it than put the edges in the trench and with a shovel put the soil back over the plastic.

Finished hoophouse. the edges are kept down with large rocks, tires, milk crates filled with rocks. Any heavy but movable item.

Detail of how we keep ends open and the houses vented in warm weather using a pole stuck between the plastic and a hoop. In hot weather (above 80˚F) we will dig up one edge of the plastic and take it off the hoops and leave it to the side (so it can be put back on quickly if we get a cold spell which has happened the past 6 springs-weeks of hot weather followed by a frost.)

A few things I should mention. You will need to irrigate in a hoophouse. We use drip irrigation. The irrigation and plastic mulch, if you are using that, need to go down before the hoophouse goes up.

If you are doing tomatoes or anything else that will be trellised get the materials you will be using erected before the plastic goes on. You cannot use a post driver with 2' of head space for a 7' fence stake.

The rebar needs some discussion (and some photos too but I don't have any right now). we put washers on the rebar so it does not sink too far into the ground. without the washers the wind will pound the rebar and conduit into the ground sometimes 2" or more so the houses get rather short. The washers stop this. We have used big (2") metal washers as well as pieces of 2"x4" with holes drilled in them for the rebar.

The structures are passively heated. we do not use any auxillery heat but we do suppliment heat with buckets of water, dark mulches and row covers.

That is it. Simple to put up with no power tools. It takes about 2 to 3 hours for one person to put one of these structures up if they do not have to bend conduit (which you only have to do once but will add several hours to the task). It takes about 45 minutes to take one down with one person. If you have several people you can put one up in about 10 minutes (we did this at a farm tour/workshop we had a few years ago-had 10 people put up one of these complete with plastic dug in in about 15 minutes with only one person knowing what to do).

Hoophouse How To-Part 2

Now that we have the ingredients we can start to put things together

bending conduit with a pipe bender

Using a tree to bend conduit (this tree was NOT sturdy and we broke it a few minutes after this picture was taken so if you go this route use a STURDY Tree)

Erecting part of a section (i.e. 2 pieces of conduit bent and fasten together with a connector)

Two complete sections. These would have rebar driven in to the ground at a complementary angle that the conduit would slip over and be anchored to the ground.

Detail of how two sections are connected together

Stay Tuned for Part 3 Coming very very soon

Hoophouse How To-Part 1 What you need

Since several people have requested more pictures and info on our hoophouses I am going to to a series of How-To-Build entries. I'd do this all in one entry but it is heavy on photos which will not load quickly for anyone using dial-up

Here is what you need tool wise.
1” to 1 1/2” metal conduit in 10’ or 20’ lengths (if using 20’ lengths no need for connectors)
greenhouse plastic-6mil, UV stable (not shown)
screwdriver (slotted)
pipe bender or sturdy tree

Part two will deal with Construction

Friday, February 17, 2006


Yesterday was an eventful day. What with the extremely warm weather (around 60˚F), the accident in the afternoon and a stormy evening and night with 40mph winds (but no damage from the storms). I don't know how the guy who got hit yesterday is doing, the roadwork has been cancelled for today so no one to ask. I don't know if this is weather related or because of the accident.

I saw on the news that this bridge project will start for real on Monday and last until October which is pretty much our entire season-Bummer man.

The reason for this post is to post some pictures of the hoophouse Eugene erected Wednesday. This hoophouse will be for arugula and lettuce. I have posted two shots.

Here is a full shot of a completed hoophouse. It is 100' long and 12' wide. The white patches next to it are beds of fall planted garlic under row covers. the sides are held down by soil and the ends have several water filled tires to keep them down. this easily survived a night of 30mph winds with 40+mph gusts.

This shot is further down the hoophouse and is supposed to show the second structure going up. But I see that has become almost invisible (damn my cheap low resolution camera. I really need a 5 or greater mega pixle camera). You can see in the distance a glass coldframe and a pile of plastic waiting to be stretched onto another hoophouse.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Witness to a Bad Accident

Emergency Vehicles Dealing with the Accident

We are no longer virgins. We witnessed our first serious accident on US 127. A highway workers was hit by a young man driving a pick-up truck southbound right outside our driveway this afternoon around 1:55pm. The highway worker was stopping cars for bridge work going on down the road about 1/2 mile. The young man said he did not see the stopped vehicles in front of him and in order not to hit the vehicles in front of him he veered off the road and hit the flag man who was standing in the southbound lane nearly on the shoulder of the road. The highway worker (who we were developing a vague relationship with because he was parking his truck in out parking area and we figured he would be there for months since there is some major bridge work starting) had a bloody face and it looked like a broken leg or ankle and perhaps a broken back. They put him on a back board and put a neck brace on him.

I know he was conscious because I talked to him and got him a towel to wipe the blood off of his face. He knew who he was and where he was and what had happened and even exactly where his wallet was (which Eugene got for him as the paramedics arrived).

It was strange waiting for the authorities to arrive. The guy was lying on the ground in shock bleeding. A small group of people gathered there, Eugene and I, the first two people in the line, a couple of road workers who came up from the bridge and I guess called 911, the kid who hit the worker. We were all milling about with no purpose confused as to what to do. . There was a stack of traffic building up on the highway but no one to keep them stopped so eventually the line started moving. No one stopped the traffic. One guy, a witness to the accident, said he hoped there was no oncoming traffic (there wasn't because they had already stopped the northbound traffic). I finally found something to do by looking at the injured worker and seeing his face covered with blood asked him if he wanted a towel. He said yes so I went and got him one and gave it to him just as the fist emergency people arrived. waiting for the emergency vehicles turns minutes into hours

Okay I don't know what happens when a normal person gets hurt out here but when a highway worker gets hit is is a major production. We had 5 Sheriff cars, 4 paramedics in personal vehicles, an ambulance, a fire truck (to wash the blood off the road), a tow truck that was not needed, a bunch of ODOT trucks (it was one of their own that got hurt). It was a full road.

The authorities did their jobs. Some cops interviewed the kid who caused the accident (I suspect he was on a cell phone and just was not paying attention to the road, bad mistake on his part), some investigated the accident scene. The Paramedics got to work cutting away clothing and getting the guy stable and in the ambulance. The Firefighters washed the road clean of human blood and the highway dept. Got a person to stop traffic (which by this time was backed up at least 2 miles). After an hour everything was back to normal, the road was cleared and all the trucks parked in our parking area were gone.

I made peanut butter cookies and Eugene battened down the hatches for tonight's wind storm.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Hoophouse Time!

I don't care what the groundhogs around here predicted about spring coming late, I say they are wrong and my proof is the 4 buzzards (black turkey vultures) I saw soaring just north of Hueston Woods State Park on Saturday afternoon. The tulips and lilies coming up in about every yard that has them planted (though I have yet to see any crocuses). And the fact that today we started hauling out the hoophouse equipment so we can start putting up hoophouses in the next few days for lettuce and the strawberry plants that will arrive March 15th, or there abouts.

It was a fine day. Not a cloud in the sky (except the occasional chem trail). It started out chilly with a heavy frost and tufts of snow still hanging out on the north side of the hills, trees and grassy knolls. But by noon most of the snow was gone, the pond was about half melted and Eugene was busy opening up another bed (which makes 27 of 'em). After lunch we decided to start getting the hoophouse stuff together. We started with taking 3 100' x 25' rolls of greenhouse plastic out to where they will be used. They were heavy and smelled like cat pee (the last 3 years we have had several neutered male cats who would hold pissing matches against the hoophouses). Good thing they will be used outside. Next we opened the container that holds the hoops and rebar stakes for the skeleton of the structures and found we had to move several long (500') pieces of landscape fabric that we use for mulching crops. So we hauled those out to the field and laid them out. The plan is to cut them into 50' pieces so they fit our beds tomorrow. Would have done it today but no one had a knife nor wanted to go find one.

Finally we could get at the hoops and rebar and started piling rebar on the cart so I could pull them out to the area where they will be needed. I got them where they needed to be and found myself out of breath. I started tossing them off the cart onto the ground but was stopped by eugene after I was half done. I was told we needed to put them on something like a skid. Eugene than told me there might be a skid in the barn and I asked why we couldn't use the skid we uncovered earlier this morning that was along the west fence (which is about 200' away vs about 1/4 mile to the barn which may or may not have a skid that could be used). he grumbled something and than went and got the thing and dumped the rebar stakes onto it. On the way back to get more we loaded the cart with an old gas tank and hauled that to the ever growing display of farm art we have for sale. Got back and loaded the cart up again with rebar stakes and took the second load out to the garden beds and though the load seemed heavier than the first. Going back with an empty cart was quit hard and it felt like it was loaded down big time. The problem was mud had encased the wheels and was rubbing against the supports causing a great amount of drag. Cleaned off the wheels and took the last load out and than decided it was time to make dinner.

Dinner will be a small pastured chicken we raised last year. I think we will be eating "Gimpy" the runt of the litter last year. He somehow broke a wing early on in his life which did nothing for his growth. The bird I am roasting is missing a wing and is under 3 pounds so it must be him. I will make delicata squash and probably kale that we did not grow but had to buy at Kroger's. It is no where near as good as our kale but it is better than no greens at all. And since we are not growing any greens this winter beggars cannot be choosers, though I would really like some chard and no one around here (other than us) sells the stuff. C'est la vie

Monday, February 13, 2006

Saturday Sale

This past Saturday we went down to Oxford to check out a sale. The Nelson's, a Couple who have been CSA members of ours in the past, bought Hooven's, a popular nursery in Oxford, OH and they will be turning this into a place for workshops and conferences concerning green topics like organic foods, Zen Buddhism, simplicity, etc.. And because of their plans they decided they really do not need several thousand pots, seedling flats, greenhouses, carts, shelving, baskets, garden chemicals (most toxic as Bill Hooven did not seem to believe in organic management), etc., etc..

So we went down to see what they had and picked up many 10' pieces of conduit that will be turned into at least part of a hoophouse, 3 shelving units, 2 huge bags of perlite (we won't need to buy any more of that in our lifetimes unless we get a lot bigger), a couple of bags of hydrated garden lime and this coming Saturday after market (yes we have a farmers' market coming up on the 18th) we will go back and see if we can get this Lexan sheathed lean to taken down. If we are successful, we will have enough material to make a couple of good sized greenhouses (the heated permanent kind). If we are not than we will have helped the Nelson's get rid of part of a building that is in the way of their plans. I suspect, however, even in failure, that we will be able to extract many aged Lexan panels, enough to do something out here.

The way cool thing about this transaction is it will be a barter. We get stuff they do not need in exchange for food later on this season. I love it when we can barter with people, it is such a nice economy. If we did not need cash money to pay bills and mortgages and such I would do far more bartering. Always wanted to barter a season long CSA subscription for an hour long massage a week. If you are a local masseuse/masseur who is interested in all the pure food you can eat leave a comment and we will get in touch.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

NBC Olympic Coverage-WTF?

Every two years they hold some sort of Olympic even. This year it is the Winter games in Torino, Italy.

I have been watching this on NBC and so far I have not been impressed. The opening ceremonies started with non olympic competition of some sort. I really don't know what it was because I was watching the last night (probably ever) of Arrested Development. 2 full hours of all new shows and a wrap up essentially of the series. It was well worth the time to view. I guess I will have to get a hold of a DVD compatible TV, a DVD player and discs of all 3 seasons of Arrested Development if I ever want to see it again

But I digress, back to the opening ceremonies rant.

So at 8pm I tune into NBC and see things that are not a grand pageant but people doing snow sports. So I go to FOX and watch AD. At commercials I go back to NBC. Still no pageantry. Finally at 9pm they start the opening ceremonies. Why did they wait so long. To make sure I would be asleep with an hour to go? I mean the ceremonies ended at 9pm GMT (4pm EST) which means NBC could have aired it anytime after that. And they did not have to include the hour long quasi Olympic sports hour.

On the first full day of competition things did not get started on non cable NBC until 3pm. Why so late in the day. Are the really badly drawn and animated cartoons and vapid Teen reality shows that important? I guess they do sell a lot of sugar frosted crap and video games and that means big $$$$ to the network/GE and its' shareholders.

And when things did get started all we saw were qualifying events. Why? if there were medal events (even ones the Americans do not have a chance in) than show those and don't waste our time with qualifying.

And now because they made figure skating squeaky clean as far as judging is concerned and we don't seem to have a psycho trailer bitch like Tanya Harding whacking other competitors lurking around the rink we have to hear about Michelle Kwan quitting. Look she shouldn't have gotten a spot on on the team to begin with. She is past her prime and not world class material any longer. but she was given a spot anyway it seems for old times sake. To give her a final chance at a gold medal. So now she has become the soap opera of the games thus far.

I give her high marks for seeing the folly in the selection committee and stepping aside so her team will be able to to do as well as possible. She has a lot of class.

And today it sounds like a few hours of the Olympics will be preempted by the NASCAR Nextel Cup Budwieser Shootout that was rained out yesterday. I have no problem with NASCAR Nextel Cup racing. I am a fan, not a major fan, but I follow the sport and have favorite drivers. I have yet to go to a race much less travel around the USA in a huge RV/Bus going to all the races and spending 4 days a week getting drunk and BBQing hunks of meat in the infield of a superspeedway. Nor do I collect Jeff Gordon or other official NASCAR paraphanailia like my friend Rosie (and so many other fans of the sport)

Look NBC if you are going to do this Olympic thing you need to commit to it and go full out. So far you have not done this and I fear tomorrow there will Soaps and no sports in the afternoon.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

An Ode to Garlic Powder

Today was garlic day. I decided it was time to dehydrate persian star garlic for garlic powder before it got too far gone. So I chopped the ends of bulbs off, separated cloves and when I got enough ready loaded up a dehydrator. I quit after filling 2 of the 3 dehydrators I own. I got about 1/2 bushel processed in a couple of hours (that is several hundred bulbs). The next step after they have dried to hard nuggets is to clean off the paper wrappers and than grind the cloves into powder and than sell the stuff.

And now I smell like garlic and probably will for a couple of days now that it has penetrated my skin. I feel this has to be very healthy to get such a strong dose of garlic in a subdermal manner. Garlic is good stuff, it has antibiotic and fungicidal properties as well as making a darned fine addition to just about all food.

I once read the smell of garlic bread baking in the oven calmed over aggressive men. If any such men were to walk into this house over the next 3 to 5 days they should, if the theory is true that garlic hath smell to calm the savage breast, go into a near coma of calmness.

I won't be able to tell with my husband since he ain't the aggressive type (thank the Gods and Goddesses. Been there done that a long time ago, long before I was into growing and processing garlic)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Onions and Leeks

More signs of life awakening;

The leeks and mercury onions have germinated. I hope the rest will follow suit but I did plant a lot of year old seed and onion seed does not last very long so the rest may not do so well. I did hit them all with a feed of weal Maxi-crop (a kelp based fertilizer) and perhaps that will kick the older seed into high gear and get them germinating. It sure is nice to have some stuff growing under lights

What is this?

What do think this is and how was it done? All correct and/or incredibly creative guesses will get a fabulous NoPrize

Pruning Season

Spring must be on the way as the tempo of farm life is beginning to pick up after a long winter's rest.

Eugene has been pruning the apple trees. It does not appear that these trees have been properly pruned in decades, if ever. Nature has done some pruning on her own via high winds and periodic cicadas but nature tends to leave the detached limbs in the trees which is counter productive. we have 2 huge old trees that need pruning and it looks like Eugene will get about 50% of the work done this season that needs to be done to these trees. He would do all the work this year but one is not supposed to cut out more than 50% of the tree (and 1/3 is a much better figure) ever and these trees need about 75% of their branches removed to be healthy trees that let in enough air and light for the developing pommes.

Now I don't see the use of doing anything to these trees as long as there are mature eastern red cedars within 10' of the trees. Apples and Cedars do not get along at all. Cedars pass a disease call cedar apple rust to apple trees making the apple trees sick enough to not grow fruit and in extreme cases drop all their leaves by July. There is also the fact that we have no idea what kind of apples these trees produce (red of some sort for one and I don't remember what the other had on it last fall). for commercial purposes it would be nice to know what we are growing and selling.

The plan is to get disease resistant trees for our future tiny orchard (we plan on getting 7 to 10 trees total) so we do not have to resort to incredibly toxic sprays in order to get a decent looking crop (since people tend to buy with their eyes). our own trees will also have the advantage of not being neglected for decades and thus will be super simple to prune and care for compared to the trees already here.

We have already been through the experience where we had to rehab someone else's apple trees. It was a good learning experience and one of the things we learned is in order to make any money on apples (and there is a thin margin with this crop because a full orchard takes a lot of time grooming the trees-pruning, spraying, etc., and a lot of money for all the sprays used on conventional apples) one needs trees that do not need a lot of spraying and pruning. But if you take over neglected trees that is exactly what you will get into for years and years. After 11 years at the old farm we got the apple trees into really good healthy shape and did not have to do much to them in the spring as far as pruning went but in the early years it took weeks and weeks to get 8 trees pruned because they needed so much work and than just to get any apples we had to spray the trees (with organic sprays) weekly for a couple of years. After figuring out that apples did not make us much money for all the work involved we stopped spraying the trees more than a couple of times a years and found they apples were about the same and we made more money from them when we did less work. I mean one year we grossed about $300 from the apples but we probably put 250 hours in to the care of the apples so we ended up making well under a buck an hour when the inputs costs were subtracted from the gross.

So Eugene prunes the old apple trees and improves them. And this will mean we get some heirloom apples of unknown types while the new trees (which have yet to be selected or bought) grow to maturity over the next 3 to 5 years. They are some really nice old trees with a swell canopy of branches set behind the barns along an old fence line and towering over the possible chert outcropping. they have created a nice work space and possibly the place where the packing shed will be.

Monday, February 06, 2006

In This Evening's Email

With Spermamax you will have more sperm than there is water in the ocean.
You think you are not able to father, Spermamax will change your world.
You worry of not having descendants,
Spermamax can help you.

Now just how is this possible? Having more sperm than water in the oceans... I mean talk about blue balls. And what if the woman just ain't in the mood? I mean wouldn't the guy pop if he had that much sperm running around in his testicles? I would think this would make the chances of conception go down if for no other reason than these oceaned sized blue balls the poor chap would be sporting. That would be enuff to make most women run away fast.

And let us not forget the fact that I am not a male, I cannot produce sperm, no matter how much Spermamax I take and I am not planning on breeding decendants. They pretty much struck out on me, it seems.

Post groundhog day Musings

It's post Super Bowl party season and that means getting back to the grindstone.

Winter has made an appearance this week. Winter came back Saturday morning with wind and a lot of heavy melting snow (it was falling on warm surfaces). To celebrate the return of cold weather we went to an auction to look at a tractor. The weather was miserable at the auction and the tractor went for a bit more than we wanted to pay so we left right after the tractor sold but before the corvette and horses sold.

Went home, ate lunch and took a nap and was awoken by a small dark colored truck leaving the driveway. It appears they did not stop at Kayler Rd and jumped 127 and landed on our land, drove south towards the driveway entry and left going north. Don't know what to make of it-either rilly bad driving due to slick conditions or someone wanted to put ruts in our grass. Either way they left their hubcap behind.

Eugene welcomes the colder weather (we still cannot call this cold when it is just around freezing and February) because he does not get overheated working. he has been cutting up brush and trees while it is cold. And we don't even have a wood stove, old habits die hard. he also has leveled out the dirt where a greenhouse will be going behind the barn. Small jobs but progress towards the sustainable produce farm we will have up and running someday.

I have been kicking around the web trying to find a place to buy business cards. I found a site that allowed me to design a really nice looking card but it will cost about $50 to get 1000 cards which seems high. Than again this will be a write off, the cards will look nice and more importantly will have the correct contact information on them and the cards I designed (using a stock graphic) look very nice and are probably worth the money.

Okay I ordered the cards and should have them in 3 to 5 business days which I will take as Friday.

We are up to 25 beds opened. Eugene attached a moldboard plow to the BCS walking (2 wheeled) tractor and ripped up some soil in 3 beds with it before deciding that hand digging with a shovel did a far nicer job and was not taking a lot longer to do.

Got some onions and leeks planted in the past 5 days. Planted about 150 seeds per 4" pot and did nine pots of red, yellow and white onions plus two kinds of leeks. IIRC I planted Copra and Prince yellow onions, Superstar white onions, Mars and Mercury red onions, Lincoln and Kind Richard Leeks. In the past I planted these things in seedling flats but found they would quit growing about 4 weeks into things. I figured out this was because the poor roots were running out of room and so would go kind of dormant until they were giving more room. this meant small spindly seedlings and this is something I would like to avoid. instead we want to plant stocky, healthy seedlings in a couple of months. And the pots ought to do the trick. Of course the seeds have to germinate before I can pass any judgment.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Boulder Belt's Super Bowl Pick

We are not football fans here at the farm but this has been a special season and has gotten out attention. First of all the Bengal's had a winning season for the first time since 1982. being from SW Ohio/Cincinnati area I have a soft spot in my heart for the Bengal's. But they did not make it past their first playoff game. leaving the Steelers to cheer on.

I became a Steelers kinda fan last year when Ben Roethlisberger, Miami football phenom became the Steelers’ football phenom. The man is great at what he does and this is only his second season in the NFL, he will only get better.

So because we both went to the same university I have become a fan.

And this is good because I have a Superbowl party coming up on sunday where I will actually be into the game because I actually watched most of the post season games.

Most years I watch about 5 hours of NFL action (including the Superbowl) total.

So the Boulder Belt prediction is Pittsburgh by 14 points.

Sustainable Trash Meets Weekly Pick-up

This week we were forced to sign up for garbage pick-up. In the past we would go into New Paris to Tudor's and buy special trash bags for $2.50 each and would put our trash into those when we needed to and put them out for collection. For over 10 years this system has worked well for us.

You see, a part of our being sustainable is creating as little trash for the landfill as possible. So we recycle, we compost, we burn things that are not too toxic (no tires, plastics, combustible liquids etc.. mainly paper and trash wood). Our household garbage collection might be considered insane by those of us who do not care about sustainability.

There is an ad on TeeVee that shows a woman saving her zip lock bags and cleaning them after each use and she is called crazy, crazy like a fox, as she is saving both money and resources (along with time she does not spend driving and shopping to get more plastic bags). I do the same thing and have found I can get 10+ uses out of the old style zip lock bags but only about 3 uses out of the zipper lock bags (which I do not like for a variety of reasons). I save money, I save resources and I do not see what is crazy about doing so.

But I digress... This is an entry about signing up for trash pick-up.

Okay, when we moved here back in September we brought along our special trash bags we bought in New Paris and loaded them up with trash about every other week and put them out by the road Sunday night and early monday morning a Rumpke garbage truck would come by, stop and take the bags. This stopped 3 weeks ago. Eugene would put out the bags and they would still be there monday morning. This happened for 3 weeks and finally Eugene called Rumpke and see what was going on. It seems that as of Jan. 1 Rumpke stopped the individual trash bag service and now requires everyone to sign up for monthly curbside pick-up at $15.50 per month. Not that Rumpke told anyone (like us) about this major change

So we signed up and than realized that at $15.50 a month we will have to come up with a lot more trash to put in the landfill to make this service worth it to us. In the past we generally put out 2 bags a month because that is all the landfillable trash we generate in a month since we recycle, compost and burn most of it. And buying trash bags for $2.50 each to be used when we needed to landfill garbage was perfect for us.

But we do not want to put any more trash into the landfills than is absolutely necessary and over the past 10+ years we have done a pretty good job at keeping material from being landfilled. But by using the Rumpke (or any) curbside service we are being encouraged to throw out as much trash as we can (up to 6 bags a week!).

I believe what we will have to do is cancel curb-side service and pay the dump $10 every time we take trash to the Preble County Sanitary Landfill, which is about 9 miles due south of us (and we can recycle many things including hazardous items such as batteries and paint). This way we do not have to come up with a weekly bag of trash to feed the garbage mountain. I don't think we will be able to come up with that much garbage in a week. We simply do not consume enough, unless we quit our crazy sustainable ways with garbage and that ain't gonna happen folks... ain't gonna happen.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Happy Groundhog Day

Looks like Punxatawny Phil in PA saw his shadow and the whistlepig in Dayton saw her shadow so the prediction is for 6 more weeks of winter.

But we must ask if an area has not even had a winter yet this year does this mean we will have an actual winter for 6 weeks?

FYI the vernal equinox is 7 weeks away which means winter will be around until March 21st

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Buy Into a Farm- Join a CSA

Erin Peterson

Eating healthy doesn't have to be expensive. In fact, it can also be fun and educational.

Everyone knows eating more fruits and vegetables is good for you -- the new Department of Agriculture, or USDA, food pyramid encourages it more than ever before -- but paying for all that produce can be costly.

Government studies show a family of four typically spends more than $850 on fruits and vegetables annually. And if you're trying to meet USDA nutrition guidelines or are buying organic, that number is likely to be much higher.

What's a shopper to do? After all, there aren't many places to buy produce -- either at the local supermarket or take a short drive to a farmer's market, right? Actually, however, there is a third -- and usually less-expensive -- option: a nearby community-supported agriculture, or CSA, farm.

CSA farms sell "shares" of the crop -- anywhere from six to more than 1,000 shares per farm -- which entitle you to an agreed-upon amount of whatever the farm produces through the growing season. It also gives the small farmer operating capital for the year's production. Every week during the growing season, typically 15 to 30 weeks, depending on the location, members receive a box or basket filled with the week's harvest of fruits and vegetables. The weekly share may also include items such as flowers, milk, eggs, honey and herbs.

Prices vary significantly. Starting at $300 per share and topping out at more than $1,000, the fee is usually paid in advance of the growing season. Each share is typically enough to feed a family of four, though half shares are sometimes available. Each farm has different options, so you'll want to check to make sure the food you get will be enough -- and not too much. Some offer different prices depending on whether the produce is delivered to your home, picked up at a central location or picked up at the farm itself. Some CSA farmers offer monthly payments....
read the rest here.

As an aside Boulder belt has a CSA program that serves SW Ohio/EC Indiana. And we charge by the week, the month or the season-we are just THAT flexable. More info here

Save cash and eat well: Buy into a farm