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Friday, June 20, 2008

Farm Pictures

The onions, garlic and leeks in the foreground and row covered crops (carrots, broccoli, beets, etc..) in the background. This is what you see first going up to the garden from the barn or store

Early tomatoes, about 2 weeks from being ripe. We transplanted these into a hoop house April 15th and it looks like we will have ripe tomatoes by July 4th. I believe these are Yellow Taxi, an heirloom that we have been saving seeds from for over 12 years

The raspberry beds looking north. we have around 300' of these things. two kinds latham (which is pictured in the fore ground) and heritage which you can kinda, sort of see in the distance. the latham are loaded with berries. I have never seen as many raspberries as we have. this is scary and exciting. as long as nothing major goes wrong (disease, hail, large flocks of fruit eating birds) we should have a bumper crop of berries to sell. The berries have been very very good so far this year and they have just started to ripen and the weather has been about perfect the past 5 days or so for raspberries and strawberries to develop the best flavor they can.

Almost Summer

It's the last dawn of spring 2008. It is cool, pink to the east and the birds are singing. The full strawberry moon is setting to the southwest. By 8pm this evening we will have passed the summer solstice.

For us this means more never ending work. Peas, broccoli, zucchini, strawberries, raspberries, radishes, red turnips, etc. to harvest. Tomatoes to tie. Carrots, onions to hand weed, squash, kale, broccoli, etc. to hoe. Leeks and potatoes to be hilled. Beets to be thinned. Everything to be foliar fed a combination of water soluble kelp powder, fish powder, Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap and GSE for fungal problems. More planting to be done such as the last potatoes to put in the ground, winter squash seeds to replace the seeds that did not work or. More carrots, arugula and other crops will go in as things like garlic and onions come out in July. Row covers to be put back on the crops every time there are strong winds (almost daily this spring). And we have to sell all this stuff on top of maintaining the market garden and believe it or not marketing takes at least as much time as the growing.

For us farmers, when it is summer the livin' ain't easy at all

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The State of our Garden

It's almost summer and that means new crops coming in. We have peas (snow, snap and shelling), raspberries, beet greens, garlic scapes, red salad turnips, broccoli, basil, oregano, zucchini and green onions coming in now. The spinach is over, the asparagus is over the lettuce is nearly over. Spring mix we thought would be nearly over but now that it is getting cool again we will do another planting of it and see if we can keep on cutting it through early July. Radishes are about done too, maybe another 10 days of harvest.

The tomatoes we started in mid April in a hoop house all have green fruits on them. None are full size yet but soon they will be and than after a 100 year wait they will ripen to either red or yellow. Why does it take FOREVER for the first tomatoes to ripen and than after that you can barely keep up with the harvest?

The early pepper plants (also started in a hoop house in late April) are about 2.5' tall and are in full flower. Ought be getting tiny green peppers in a week or so. this is the first time we have tried early peppers and so far it has been a stunning success. they are 3x to 4x bigger than the peppers we put out 10 day ago and, as I already mentioned, in flower. If things continue as they have been, we should have the first green peppers at market in Oxford. Usually we have the last peppers.

We planted zukes and cukes early in a hoop house. The zukes have been poky-not many flowers and mostly male flowers which do not give us zucchini. We need female flowers for squash. the cucumbers were coming on strong in May and than the voles found the baby cukes and ate every last one of them. #@!!^^&%*(% voles. We set up traps and caught many but not all of them and than the cuke beetles exploded and started ravaging the cuke and zuke plants so it was decided to pull the plastic off of the hoop house about 8 days ago to see if that would not break the cycle of bugs. It did not, but it did make the voles go away (or maybe we killed them all) so now, a month later, we have some 1/2 sized cucumbers on the vines and should be able to harvest a few this coming week. Pulling the plastic also allowed more pollinators in the area and also made it a lot easier for us humans to work around the plants. Hoop houses and 92˚F days do not mix what so ever. I have noticed since the plastic has come off the zukes are producing a lot better. It must have been too warm for them and now they are much happier.

All in all, the market garden is doing very well. We have all but 22 beds filled up with crops and those will be planted with potatoes, dried beans, popcorn, green beans and likely spring mix. We have been getting too much rain but the garden drains extremely well so we are not getting too much rot. I have found a couple of rotted kale plants and some seeds have rotted in the ground. This has been especially true of the French filet bean seed and some winter squash. If it decides to dry up we will be in great shape. If it decides to do to us what has been done to Iowa, Wisconsin and much of southern Indiana than we will lose the entire crop planted to date and will be pretty well screwed for the summer. But will likely be able to plant for fall and winter.

Being an optimist I will figure things will continue as they have so far this season which has been the best we have ever had, thus far.

Bye Bye Montero

The Montero sitting in front of the house with its' friend Dodge Cargo Van

I sold my SUV today and I am a bit sad. I have had the 1987 Montero for at least 17 years (it was my dad's before that). It had not been in use for the last 18 months or so due to bad exhaust leaking into the passenger compartment which gave me a bad headache if I had to drive it more than 5 minutes. It would have cost more than $1500 to put in a new exhaust system so Eugene jury rigged flex pipe to the manifold and muffler about 4 years ago but that system is pretty much gone, now.

It would have taken around $3,000 to get it back into decent shape if we did the work ourselves. Far more to hire a mechanic to do it so it was put out to pasture even though it still ran.

Now it has a new owner and will be put back into service and I have $450 cash for the vehicle.

I miss the car but it is also nice not to have it moldering away in the parking area. Still I'm a bit sad about it. It was a really fun vehicle to drive.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Don't Panic Go Organic

June 13-15, 2008
Shortages and Rising Food Prices
Don't Panic; Go Organic

Rising food prices and shortages have joined the energy and climate
crisis, economic recession, and the war in Iraq, as headline news.
While consumers struggle to pay their bills and put food on the table,
Monsanto, Cargill, and Archer Daniels Midland rake in billions from
taxpayer-subsidized biofuels. Monopolizing markets, polluting the
environment with genetically modified organisms, and hoarding future
reserves of crop seeds, wheat, rice, soy, corn, and other grains, the
food and gene giants profit from global crisis and misery. Adding fuel
to the fire, Wall Street speculators have shifted their greed from sub-
prime mortgages to food and non-renewable resources.

The public are becoming aware of the causes of the food crisis:
millions of acres of corn and soybeans diverted into biofuels;
corporate-driven free trade agreements that discourage nations from
maintaining grain reserves and becoming self-sufficient in food
production; massive subsidies for industrial agriculture and a
misguided export model that have forced millions of family farmers off
the land; sharply escalating oil prices, farm inputs, and
transportation costs; commodity speculation; population growth; a
growing demand for feed grains for meat consumption, and, most
ominously, a destabilized climate spawning deadly droughts, pests,
floods, and unpredictable weather.

Fortunately, there are hopeful signs that we can move beyond crisis to
positive solutions. Connecting the dots in our food-climate-energy
crisis, millions of green consumers are voting with their dollars for
foods and products that are healthy, locally produced, energy
efficient, and eco-friendly. A growing number of politicians, mainly
at local and state levels, are also waking up.

Organic food and farmers markets are booming. Chemical-free lawns and
gardens, green buildings, solar panels, wind generators, “buy local”
networks, and bike paths are sprouting. A critical mass of organic-
minded Americans are waking up to the fact that we must green the
economy, drastically reduce petroleum use and greenhouse gas
pollution, re-stabilize the climate, and heal ourselves, before it’s
too late.

For 10,000 years locally based family farmers and ranchers managed to
grow and distribute healthy food, and ample feed and fiber, largely
without the use of petroleum-based chemical fertilizers, toxic
pesticides, animal drugs, or energy-intensive irrigation, processing,
and long-distance transportation.

In 1945 most of the U.S.’s six million family farmers were still
rotating their crops and cultivating a wide variety of fruits, grains,
beans, and vegetables organically, fertilizing with natural compost,
and generally practicing sustainable farming methods they had learned
from their parents and grandparents.

By 1945, as part of the war effort, Americans were growing a full 42
percent of our vegetables and fruits in our backyards, schoolyards,
and community Liberty Gardens.

The nutritious, primarily non-processed foods that people cooked for
their family meals were purchased from locally owned grocers who
stocked their shelves with a wide variety of items — typically grown
or raised within a 100 mile radius of our communities.

In the 1950s the average American household spent 22 percent of our
household income for fresh, locally produced food. Currently we are
spending 13-15%, though low-income households are spending 30-35%.

By today’s standards the post-war generation was relatively healthy in
terms of low rates of diet-related diseases such as cancer, heart
disease, obesity, diabetes, food allergies, birth defects, and
learning disabilities.

Sixty years later we have a Fast Food Nation, living in denial (at
least until recently), gorging ourselves on the industrialized world’s
cheapest and most contaminated fare, allowing out-of-control
politicians, corporations and technocrats to waste our tax money on
corporate welfare, destroy the environment, starve the poor, wage a
multi-trillion dollar war for oil, and destabilize the climate.

The good news is that there is a solution at hand. Turning back to
the time-tested practices of local, eco-friendly, organic food and
farming will go a long way toward restoring our health and the health
of the planet. Revitalizing democracy and bringing our politicians to
heel will guarantee that these organic and green alternatives become
the norm.

Organic and local farms dramatically reduce energy use in the
agricultural sector by 30-50 percent while safely sequestering in the
soil enormous amounts of greenhouse gases. Decades of research have
shown that small farms produce far more food per acre than chemical
farms, especially in the developing world, and that organic farms
outperform chemical farms (by 40-70%) under the kind of adverse
weather conditions that are quickly becoming the norm. Buying local
and regionally grown organic products means food doesn’t have to
travel 1500-3500 miles before it reaches your kitchen.

Crisis demands change. We must continue to buy local and organic foods
and green products. Patronize farmers markets. Start or expand your
garden. Move your diet away from restaurant fare and over-consuming
meat and animal products. Buy in bulk and cook your meals at home with
healthy whole foods ingredients--vegetables, fruits, beans and grains.
If you’re going to eat meat or animal products, make sure they’re both
organic and grass-fed or free range. Most important of all, get
political. Demand an end to the war. Demand healthy and sustainable
food and farming, energy, and climate policies from your local, state,
and federal elected public officials—or else vote them out of office.
Don’t panic go organic.

To press the politicians on these burning issues, go to

Ronnie Cummins is director of the Organic Consumers Alliance. He can
be reached at:

Monday, June 09, 2008

Storca (AKA Stewie the Cat)

Stewie the cat is now storca the cat. Storca is a combination of Stewie and Orca. We tried to change his name to Orca but we kept using either Stewie or Storca. So it looks like the kitty will be called Storca. He doesn't seem to respond to either so I guess, to him, it makes no difference.

The last time I wrote about Storca he was angry at us for removing him from his home and than removing his testicles. He hid for about 10 days than started appearing to us but never letting us get close. Than about 2 or 3 weeks ago he decided he had had enough isolation and let me touch him and pretty much melted when I started petting him. It turns out he is a real lover of a cat and enjoys having his body rubbed. He's one of those rare cats who loves his belly rubbed. My dad would have like this cat as he always like cats who like to have their bellies rubbed.

He's also a good hunter. He has gotten a couple of mice and this morning he had a young snake that was about 18" long. I took the snake from him, I hope before he killed it. The snake was not stiff and seemed to move a bit in my hand and it's eyes were not clouded with death. I put it under a tarp on one of the compost piles to warm up, heal and hopefully not be molested by the cat again. We love our snakes here at Boulder Belt Eco-Farm.

We have reintroduced him to the house and he has not sprayed anywhere even after being kept in all night. Trina, the other cat, is not sure what she thinks about him. She makes a big display of hissing at him and even lashing out with her clawless hands but than I see them laying together and they will also eat together so I think it's all smoke and no fire on her part. Storca is still not sure about the dogs but I think a few more days of being indoors with them and they will all be cool with one another.

He is even beginning to follow us out to the garden. Soon enough he will in all likelihood come out to distract us from our work. Shiva, a past cat, used to feel it was his job to make sure we did not work too hard out in the market garden and would get us to take numerous cat petting breaks. Shiva also was skilled at catching mice, voles and moles. This is Storca's main reason for being here is rodent control and I think, soon enough, he will be on the job out there

Sunday, June 08, 2008


Hey all you organic farming/gardening forum aficionados there is a new food and farm forum on the web The OEFFA (Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association) On-line Community. This has been around for about a month and is a nice forum for being so young. Already lots of good information and you can also check out OEFFA's main website as well and maybe even join up (I have been a member off and on -more on than off-for 15 years or so). This forum is open to all who have a stake in food. that would include farmers, gardeners and eaters-basically everyone.

Strawberry Jam

When I have time I like to read other locavore and farm blogs and today I had tome to go check out Val Taylor's Cincinnati Locavore blog and to my delight found a recipe for no-pectin strawberry preserves (click on the title of this post and you will be taken there).

We grow strawberries and at some point I will have a need to make strawberry preserves. Usually I am lazy (or because we grow day neutral berries I am making preserves in late summer or fall so have no natural pectin sources like green apples) and use commercial pectin but it has chemicals that I don't really want to ingest and I agree with Val that the commercial pectin makes the preserves rather solid. I was planning on making preserves using apple pectin though I will have to wait another week or so until the green apples are big enough to fuss with. I even went to the liquor store in Richmond, IN to get some pure grain alcohol (which they don't sell in Ohio for some reason) for the preserve making process. I need the moonshine to check the pectin, it does not go into the preserves themselves. No, I am not making high octane jam. I don't think alcohol and pectin will work together, than again... What I use the alcohol for is to check to see that the sugar to pectin ratio is correct. When I am prepping the apple pectin I have to mix ground apples with sugar and cook that for a bit, if I am remembering this correctly (I will consult with the Joy of Cooking before doing this so I do it correctly). Than I put a bit of the apple/sugar goo into an ounce of 100 proof alcohol and it will either jell or not. When it is correct than it is put with the strawberries and cooked and put into hot sterile jars and sealed.

But Val has a recipe that uses under ripe strawberries that she claims have enough pectin in them to set up the preserves. So check out her recipe. I know I'm going to try it when I have enough strawberries to make 6 to 8 pints of jam.

Quiet Sunday

I'm sitting here inside out of the hot sun waiting for someone to stop at the store and buy something. Sundays seem to be the slow day of the week for the store. That's okay after Thursday, Friday and Saturday I can use a slow day.

Yesterday it rained most of the day (had a stormy farmers market which was interesting, to say the least) so the ground is wet making it easy to do weed pulling and that is what we did this morning until a bit after 11am. Sat in the grass in an aisle way and pulled lots of different weeds from in between scallions. Got bout 2/3 of the bed done before I realized it was probably after 11 am and the store needed to be opened. So now that it is 90˚F/32˚c I won't be going back out until after 6pm. Eugene, on the other hand, seems to like working in high heat

While I was weeding the scallions I was thinking this is a part of the of what we do that is kind of similar to a home garden. than I thought "but if this were a home garden I would have been done weeding the scallions a while ago because no home gardener in their right mind would have 3 50' (15m) rows of scallions for any reason". So, once again I came to the conclusion that what we small market farmers/gardeners do is not anything like what a home gardener does, even a gardener with a huge home garden.

If I go back to having a non-commercial garden it will be anally neat and clean, unlike what we have now which, because of all the rain and now heat, is becoming a weed patch. Eugene has been keeping up decently with hoeing/tilling but lately we have had a lot of rain and a lot of heat so all the plants are growing fast and it is too wet to hoe so the only thing to do is hand weed which is around 20x slower than using the wheel hoe. Plus we have found over the years having some weeds in the garden beds is good for things-they add different nutrients and do different things to the soil. You just can't let them get out of control and take over but you also don't need to worry about getting every last one, either. This idea of the perfectly weedless garden has been brought to us by the chemical companies who sell herbicides. The more we believe is the virtue of the weedless garden the more herbicide they sell.

Did a load of laundry and Eugene vacuumed the dog hair off of the carpets (the dogs seem to be perpetually shedding). Yes, I realize it is still shedding season but these guys seem to have copious amounts of fur coming off even with brushing. Granted, Danny is the main culprit with his chow/border collie long coat of wispy blond hair and a dislike for being brushed or trimmed. this makes it hard to brush his entire body as he either walks away or if I tie him up he than sits/lies on his side or in some other way contorts his body so I cannot brush him. I guess I need to find the horse ear clippers, drag the dog into the barn and shave his furry ass and be done with it. Personally, I would rather body clip a horse than shave this dog, even though Danny is under 40 pounds and has virtually no teeth.

After morning cleaning had a breakfast of eggs and bacon (all from local sources-the bacon I bartered for spinach at market yesterday. Also bartered spinach for fresh pasta, foccacia, lamb chops, lamb steak and whole wheat bread. It was stormy and slow at market so everyone had stuff to trade. I love days like that). Than went and started in on the scallions which brings us back to now, me sitting here blogging and waiting.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Hot Time In the Garden

It is not yet the solstice and already the weather has gotten HOT. After a long cool wet spring we have suddenly changed to hot humid conditions. Yuck.

I hate working in high heat. I have gotten heat stroke before and since than I do not do well with work if the temps get into the high 80's. So that means I don't do heavy work outside past noon or before 6pm. Eugene will and sometimes gets cranky with me for not going out into the hot noonday sun. I just remind him if I do there is a good likelihood that I will end up in the hospital and be useless for any kind of work for weeks or months. Oh and that he is nuts for working mid day when it is so hot.

Though I might not like the heat the summer crops do and the garden is thriving, especially after the 3+ inches of rain we got between Tuesday and Wednesday. Yesterday evening I helped Eugene put up pea fencing and noted that the garlic scape are ready to harvest on the Hardy German White garlic (and I did get in one bed of scapes so we now have them), the D'Avignon radishes are ready to pick, we have medium sized peas on the English pea plants and lots of flowers on the first planting of Snow and Snap Peas. The yellow beets look wonderful and next week I will be thinning them out so will have baby beet greens.

The strawberries are in full roar-we are getting around 15 pints a day from the 300' of berries that are producing and the strawberries we put in this year are desperately trying to reproduce by putting out runners and flowers. I dutifully pick off both. I will let them go to flower in about 3 weeks but since these are day neutral berries I will continue to take off the runners. By late July we should have double the output in berries and likely will be able to drop the price a little bit.

I will close here as it is almost 6am and the sun is just coming up enough so I can see to harvest leafy greens such as spinach, arugula and baby lettuce before it gets too hot today to do anything.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Weather Cancelled our Market

Did not make it to the Tuesday market today. there were severe thunderstorm warnings for Oxford at 3:45 and we decided that it would not be worth the risk to go. Though now i see it is getting sunny. If you were expecting us we are sorry but we really did not want to risk having our equipment destroyed in high winds.

It's a shame too, as we have a lot of produce to sell and no market for it. the strawberries and spinach have been coming in strong the past few days and we have a lot of both along with lettuce & spring mix

I guess I will have to make the excess strawberries into jam this evening. Than I will have jam to sell at the store later this week. Jam is always a good seller for us