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Friday, February 27, 2009

We are a Great Locavore Blog!

This blog got a mention in the post "10 Great Locavore Blogs to Chew On over at Best Green Blogs Diary. We are in rare company with blogs like Local Harvest, Eat local Challenge, Ethicurian, La Vida Locavore and Cincinnati Locavore (which I contribute to on occasion and has been a super supporter of Boulder Belt), among others.

Woo Hoo.

So go and check out these wonderful blogs and get your locavore blog on

And for more wonderful blogs about food and farming check out my list in the right sidebar. There are some really well written ones on that list go visit.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

St Alphonso's on Face Book

I see I am getting more and more hits for St Alphonzo's/St Alphonso's/ St Alfonzo's/St Alfonso's Pancake Breakfast (and to the people who wonder if this party really exists, yes it does and it happens every spring).

I invite you check out the St Alphonso's Pancake Breakfast group on Face Book.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It's Pruning Time

Things are heating up here at the farm. The snow is gone and, at least today, the weather is warm and that means we are getting busy pruning trees and raspberries. Pruning is amazingly important, without proper pruning trees and brambles cannot produce as well as they do when pruned. Pruning gets rid of dead and diseased material as well as branches that cross each other and opens up the plants to sunlight and air. After we are done pruning than we will spray dormant oil on everything to kill scale, aphids, mealybugs and other pests. Than lime sulfur is sprayed on the trees to control various fungi. After that we quit spraying and wait for the trees to flower and the bees to come and pollinate the flowers. Than we hang sticky traps which we make from orange plastic sleeves our in which daily newspaper is delivered covered with this waterproof sticky stuff called Tangle Foot. These sticky traps catch coddling moths, curculios and other fruit pests (we also use them for keeping arugula and eggplant free of flea beetles). they also will catch beneficial insects such as bees which is why we wait until after the flowers are gone to hang them. We even will bag some of the fruit (Martha Stewart had a segment on bagging fruit). It is the most effective organic way to keep everything off of the apples but it is also amazingly labor intensive so we never do more than about 5%. We simply do not have the time to bag several thousand pommes and pears and plant 3 acres in produce in the spring. And since apples are not our main crop, by any means, we get a bit slack with the bagging.

Eugene does most of the tree pruning. I have a fear of heights so will not climb way up into the trees (and we have 2 old apples that are 30'+ tall) and because i am not a man and do not have the upper body strength of one I cannot use the saw and cutters on the long extension for more than 10 minutes at a time. Nor can I control the extension well so it takes me several minutes to make a single cut. in that same time Eugene will make about 10 cuts.

So I get bramble duty. I started in on the red raspberries today and got about 30% done before my hand got too sore and stiff to use the pruners. I have applied arnica and heat and by Friday I should be able to continue my task. I would continue tomorrow except we have a big vet appointment in the morning that should take a few hours (3 dogs and a cat all going to the vet) and it is supposed to rain all day on top of that. I think I will need the time to heal my hand.

We grow two kinds of red raspberries, Latham, a summer bearing plant and Heritage, an everbearing type that we make into a fall bearing crop by cutting down all the canes in late winter. The Latham are a bit more complex to prune but by no means rocket science. What I am doing with the Latham berries is first going in and taking out all the dead canes and any live canes that have crept too far out of their bed. If I leave these in they will by summer grow into the aisle way making raspberry harvest difficult as well as making it difficult to deal with the crop in the beds immediately to the east of the raspberries (4 of them). I cut the canes as close to flush with the ground as I can with a pair of anvil pruners (I do not like the offset kind as much). After I get the dead stuff out, I look at the canes and remove any that are not straight and any that are crossing other canes. The goal is to leave 5 to 7 canes per foot. The cut canes are removed from the area and either will be composted or burned. We are leaning towards burning now that we have found mealy bugs and some sort of white scale on some of the canes.

Once the raspberry canes have been cleaned out we will go back and take out any small, misshapened or crossing canes we missed before and also cut about 10% off of the top of the canes (between 4" and 7" depending on the size of the cane) as this allows the plants to make larger fruit. After that they will be sprayed with dormant oil and mulched with cedar chips (these are acidic and raspberries like an acid soil) and either straw (expensive) or grass clippings (free). than we wait for the canes to leaf out, bloom and than make berries. Last year we had an incredible bumper crop and were when the season was over for the Latham we had harvested over 26 gallons, one 1/2 pint at a time. I really doubt we will have such a great crop this year, but you never know.

So for the next couple of weeks we will be pruning trees and brambles. Than it will be about time to start transplanting onions and leeks which is pretty much like planting several thousand blades of grass one blade at a time. It's a pretty Zen job if you have your head in the right place.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Getting Ready for a Winter Market

We have a farmers market this coming Saturday so we have spent the week getting ready for it. Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning we harvested greens. During the main growing season we would not think of harvesting so far away from a market but in winter cold gets in the way and if you can get a day of two of above freezing weather a week or less before the farmers market you harvest on those days. We can get away with this because we have found in winter, greens (and everything else) last a lot longer than thing harvested the rest of the year. My theory is that the bacteria that is on all fresh produce and will eventually cause it to rot is dormant in the winter. This means that lettuce that might last a week after harvest in summer will last about 3 weeks after harvest in winter. The other thing we have noted is in winter it is best to harvest greens late in the day. During the other seasons these are best harvested early in the morning. Winter is a backwards time to grow and harvest things.

On Monday I was making sure we have enough dried herbs and garlic powder ready to go. In doing that I discovered to forgotten products in the freezer-dried apples and dried cherry tomatoes. So I made up about 10 bags of each. Now we have two new products to offer at the farmers market and to the farm Share folks in April. Along with the tomatoes and apples I found we were short on dried basil and catnip so I made up more of those.

Wednesday I spent time going through all our table signs and tossing out what we no longer needed and making new signs for products that did not have a sign or things with a new price (we lowered a couple of prices) or new products. That took more time Than I though because the printer decided it did not want to print card stock paper (I have had this argument before with the printer and thought I had resolved it). Eventually I won the argument and got around to printing the pages I needed.

Today I went and bought a ream of paper so I can print out some more brochures and Farm Share Program fliers (which are about half way done). I also wrote and sent out an email to my 300+ subscribers alerting them to this market.

Tomorrow we will put spring mix, mizuna, baby lettuce into 6oz and 1/2 pound bags and about 100 pounds of parsnips into 1 and 5 pound bags. We also need to grade the leeks and put the small ones into bunches of 2 and 3. Than turnips and potatoes will need to be boxed up. That should take the two of us about 1/2 the day. But when it is all done we should be ready for a cold winter market.

The rest of the year we would easily do all of this work in about a day (actually about 3 or 4 times this much work) but cold weather really slows down the harvest

Friday, February 13, 2009

NAIS Threatens Access to Local Food

NAIS Threatens Access to Organic, Local and Sustainable Food
by Barbara Minton, Natural Health Editor
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(NaturalNews) At first glance, many readers of Natural News will think the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) is nothing that concerns them because they eat only plant based foods. However, NAIS is only one part of a much bigger issue. The implementation of NAIS directly threatens the ability of everyone to eat locally grown, organic, and sustainable foods, including fruits and vegetables. NAIS is the first step in the final round of the takeover and regulation of all agricultural products, including plant based foods and supplements. Once NAIS is implemented it will be easy for growers of all agricultural products to be pushed around, intimidated and finally taken over by big agribusiness and its best friend, the government. NAIS is the next step in the destruction of the freedom to eat as we choose and enhance our health with supplements.

If you are opposed to the loss of liberty and the expansion of government tyranny that NAIS represents, your help is urgently needed to block the next step in its implementation. Comments must be received at the USDA by March 16, 2009. Specific information and a link to sample comments appear at the end of this article.

NAIS hands over production of food to factory farms

NAIS is a system of regulation that poses a serious threat to consumers of organic animal products. As a consequence of the implementation of NAIS, the small scale farmers and ranchers who produce high quality products meeting the certifying standards to be labeled as organic will be put out of business. NAIS stacks all the cards against small organic farmers in favor of the huge factory farms owned by big agribusiness that produce products that in many cases are not fit to eat.

A recently proposed rule mandates the NAIS Premises Identification Number (PIN) as the sole means of identifying properties for official USDA purposes. This rule also mandates the use of the NAIS numbering system for ear tags. All animal tagging is required to be linked to the NAIS PIN.

NAIS will drive small and medium-sized farmers and ranchers out of business, increasing the consolidation of the food supply into the hands of a few large, multinational corporations. These are the corporations who have shown again and again that they have nothing but contempt for their customers. The NAIS wastes taxpayer dollars on a program that will lead to increased food prices and decreased food quality.

What is NAIS?

NAIS has no specific legislative authorization. No input from farmers, ranchers or homesteaders has been sought in its creation. NAIS is a result of the same international trade negotiations in Uruguay that produced the World Trade Organization and gave rise to CODEX alimentarius. The National Institute for Animal Agriculture, the organization that represents major meat producers such as Cargill, major manufacturers of tag and tag reader equipment, and major trade associations such as the National Pork Producers Council asked the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to begin implementing NAIS in 2002.

As a result, the USDA has been working for over five years to force NAIS onto American animal owners, although several coalitions of farmers and ranchers have been formed to block it.

NAIS is designed to identify and track each and every individual livestock and poultry animal owned by family farmers, hobby farmers, homesteaders, and pet owners across the country. If made mandatory, the program will compel every person with even one animal on their premises to register their homes and property into a government database and subject their property and animals to government surveillance, in direct violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.

Under the current plans, each animal would have to be identified and physically tagged, in many cases with radio frequency tags or microchips. Factory farms would be able to identify whole groups of animals with one number, but most regular farmers, ranchers and individuals would have to identify each animal individually. "Events" in the animal's life would required reporting to the database within 24 hours. The information in the database would be kept by state government or private companies, while the federal government would have the right to access this data as it deems necessary.

Although initiated as a voluntary program, the USDA has been pushing and in some cases coercing people to sign up. This new rule and the implementation of the PIN would effectively remove the last vestige of voluntarism from the program, as it would require registration under the PIN into the database for any activity involving disease control.

Premise registration would be automatic any time veterinary services personnel conduct an "activity" related to a federal disease control program, including such activities as certification or surveillance. Moreover, veterinarians are expected to provide information on their clients to government authorities to facilitate registration. The proposed rule clearly mandates that all locations with disease program activity will be identified with a NAIS PIN, and the property address will remain in the NAIS database whether the property owner is in agreement or not.

The USDA claims that NAIS is a disease tracking program, but has refused to provide any support for this claim. In reality, NAIS will replace state run, existing, well functioning disease response and brand inspection programs with an untested, expensive and unreliable system. It will also impose high costs and government surveillance on every farmer, rancher and animal owner for no significant benefit, and will force many small producers out of business.

NAIS will result in a decrease in food safety

Animal diseases are not prevented or controlled by NAIS, and NAIS does nothing to improve food safety for consumers. The initiative is not intended for this purpose. NAIS expands corporate profits, not consumer safety. Contamination of food generally happens after the food leaves the farm or ranch. Contamination is found at the slaughterhouse, food processing and handling facilities, or during food preparation, long after NAIS stops doing anything to collect information that would help in a response. NAIS does nothing to address the risks associated with slaughterhouse practices or the failure of the USDA to enforce current laws.

Because NAIS tracking ends at the time of slaughter, NAIS will not prevent food borne illnesses such as e. coli or salmonella contamination. Food safety is better served by focusing on programs such as increased testing for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or Mad Cow), improved oversight of slaughterhouses and food processing facilities, and increased inspections of imported foods.

The NAIS will heavily burden small, organic, and sustainable farmers, which will hurt efforts to develop safer, decentralized, local food systems. As evidenced in the recent peanut butter recalls, having a centralized food processing and distribution system means that contamination in even one plant can lead to deaths and illnesses of thousands all over the country, and create problems very difficult to track and isolate. Consumers clearly support a local, sustainable food supply, which means the agencies need to write rules that work for small independent farmers, instead of rules such as NAIS that were designed for the benefit of vertically integrated centralized animal feeding operations.

To the extent that contamination occurs despite efforts at prevention, trace back efforts should focus on tracing the meat, rather than the animals. USDA currently avoids tracing contaminated meat from the processor back to the slaughterhouse, as in the case of the e. coli contaminated ground beef that was found at John Munsell's packing plant. While USDA focused its efforts on shutting down Munsell's family run packing plant, the agency refused to address whether the contamination had actually occurred at the ConAgra slaughterhouse that supplied the meat to Munsell. Within a few months, one woman died and dozens of others were made sick from beef traced to the Con Agra slaughterhouse, resulting in one of the largest recalls of meat in history. Tracing of the meat from the packing plant to the slaughterhouse might have prevented the illnesses and saved millions of dollars. This sort of tracking program would be far more beneficial and far cheaper than NAIS.

Costs are high and benefits are low with NAIS

Costs involved in the implementation and use of NAIS include: (1) the development, maintenance, and update of massive databases; (2) the costs of tags, most of which will contain microchips, and computerized tag reading equipment; (3) the labor burdens for tagging every animal; (4) the paperwork burdens of reporting routine movements that include eating one of your chickens for dinner or taking your horse out for a ride, and; (5) the costs of enforcement on millions of individuals. The databases needed to register the properties, identify each animal, and record billions of "events" will dwarf any system currently in existence.

NAIS diverts resources from more critical needs such as disease testing, disease prevention through improved animal husbandry practices, and disease detection in currently uninspected livestock imports.

Because of the costs and government intrusion of NAIS, future farmers will choose not to go into farming, while current producers will decide not to stay in farming. This will result in less competition, greater reliance on foreign imports and poor quality at higher prices.

NAIS creates disincentives for people to seek veterinary care for their animals and participate in existing disease control programs. Animal owners who object to NAIS may avoid participating in programs beneficial to the health of their animals because it would mean automatic registration into the program. This would increase health risks to the public and to other farm operations.

In the end, it is the consumer as well as the small farmer and rancher who will bear the burden for the high costs of NAIS.

You can help put an end to NAIS

It is critical that the USDA and Congress hear from the millions of people who will be adversely affected by the NAIS program. This includes animal owners, consumers who care about locally produced, organic, and sustainable foods, taxpayers who object to wasteful government programs and expanding government bureaucracy, advocates for a safe food system, and anyone who wishes to continue to have access to nourishing food and supplements.

Step 1: Submit comments to the USDA online or by mail. The comments must be received at the USDA by March 16, 2009.

Submit comments online at:
Click on the yellow balloon under "add comments".

Or mail two copies of your comments to USDA:
Docket No. APHIS-2007-0096
Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS
Station 3A-03.8
4700 River Road Unit 118

Clearly state that your comments refer to Docket No. APHIS-2007-0096.

Here is a link to downloadable sample comments: Click on the sample comments link

STEP 2: Send a copy of your comments to your Congressman and Senators.

You can find who represents you, and their contact information, at


Farm and Ranch Freedom Allance

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Farm Share Update

A year ago if you asked me if I was doing a CSA as a marketing strategy I would have sneered and said been there, done that, ain't gonna do it again. What a difference a year makes. As regular readers know, we did a small and short (12 week) winter CSA. We limited the program to 6 members, though we could have done 10 easily. Doled out the shares every other week starting in mid November and went til the 3rd Saturday in January, than we stopped. There were few problems on our end-Christmas week was a bit dicey on scheduling due to the pick up day being 2 days after Christmas and the second to last pick up was rescheduled due to bad weather (ice). the week after the last pick-up we had a combo of snow and ice and a lot of both and 2 hoop houses came down (but they were put back together within 2 days). So I would say we ended the winter farm share program just in time.

We did the winter program to see if we still had affection for the CSA style of marketing produce and I found I still loved it. So the decision was made to drop the Tuesday farmers market that we had help to found and had been doing for the past 13 years and revive the Boulder Belt farm Share Program in earnest. So I put together a Farm Share Page on the Boulder Belt Website in December so people interested in our FSP could go there for more information. Than I did not do much about the 2009 season for a while. I had the winter program to deal with, the holidays, etc.. In January I revived the Boulder Belt CSA page on Local Harvest because they sent me an email saying they had cut the commission 50%. And since some people like to use a credit card for such purchases this site allows us to go that route without getting our own credit card account (which we do not want to do for a variety of reasons). Than last week I decided why not put up an ad on Craig's List. So I did and saw a huge jump in hits to the Boulder Belt website and specifically the Farm Share Program page all coming from that add (I also get a lot of CSA hits from the Cincinnati Locavore blog). But while there seemed to be interest in this farm share idea I was not getting many bites. I did get 2 or 3 people to say they were seriously considering our farm share program and one person who committed early after sending out an email to my list in early January.

So after a few weeks of not doing much marketing on behaft of the FSP and not getting any people signing up I got nervous and started doubting my instincts. Maybe the cost is too high, maybe people are turned off by the on farm pick-up. Maybe I should change everything or maybe I should just drop the idea and figure out something else for the upcoming season to make up for the weekday farmers market we dropped. Maybe it is the economy and everyone is out of money so no one can join (okay that did not last long as I feel that what we do will not be all that effected by the economy crumbling-folks gotta eat, after all).

I mean after all, I had one member and a couple of maybes and only 8 weeks until the season starts. So I decided perhaps before I change everything or simply ditch the whole idea perhaps I should send out another email to my list. You know do some marketing, let people know what we are up to. So yesterday afternoon I composed an email about our FSP and sent it out to several hundred people. This morning I had my first hit and by noon had 6 people firmly commited to joining up. Perhaps by Friday the FSP will be 50% full at least through may. Since we have a monthly option later months will fill later on in the season.

So if you are planning on joining our FSP or another farm's program you need to get on the ball now and sign up as things are filling up quickly

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Winter Farm Tour with Cub Scout troop 511

Yesterday we hosted cub scout pack 511. Their leader, Stacy, had called 3 weeks ago to set up a form tour so the kids can get credit for some ecological/green living badge they are working towards. So I guess they thought a tour of a sustainable farm would fit the bill. Unfortunately they had to do this before the end of this month. So we did our first ever winter farm tour and it went swimmingly.

Around 15 kids, ages 8 and nine and 5 or 6 adults came out to learn a bit about sustainable farming. it was a warm day (50F) but messy because of all the melting snow. Of course, the boys loved the fact it was wet and muddy and they could be in it. We gathered everyone on the porch of the store and than set off to look at a hoop house a compost pile (which Eugene allowed the kids to turn using a potato fork. I wish I had remembered to grab the camera because the grins I saw on those faces was priceless). Than down to the bottom field where Eugene talked about nature and stuff with the kids.

I was blown away (I always am) with how receptive the kids were to all this new information. And I was happy to see the adults were also very interested in what we had to say about sustainable farming.

At the end of the tour we gathered on the store's porch again and I passed out heirloom lettuce seed packets to the kids along with boulder belt brochures and card with the information of the Oxford winter market. That really thrilled the kids (I had forgotten how cool it is as a child to get stuff to take home). Eugene explained to everyone how to plant the lettuce and I have a feeling that most of the packets will be planted this spring.

I had forgotten how much fun farm tours are and having one for kids was even better than adults. I think we will do this again.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Boulder Belt on Face Book

Boulder Belt has a Face Book group. Join if you read this blog and are into Face Book. If you are not a member if you join FB you may well become addicted to it.

Anyway the Boulder Belt group has 99 members and grows daily

Thursday, February 05, 2009

What We are Doing: Early Feb.

It is mid winter but not to early to start planting things for the market garden. So far we have planted several kinds of onions and 2 kinds of leeks (I am waiting on the seed to arrive for the Musselburgh leeks, an heirloom am excited to try). We also have started White Russian and Winterbor kale.

Soon we will start lettuce for head lettuce (I do not mean iceberg lettuce. All lettuce comes in heads be it leaf, bibb, buttercrunch, lollo or iceberg) inside under lights along with broccoli, cabbage and chard. Most of these things will go into a hoop house for a few weeks until it stops getting really cold at night. Than the hoop houses will be removed and they will be under row covers for the rest of their lives.

In March we will do a lot more seeds. More broccoli, lettuce and cabbage will be sowed indoors along with early zucchini, tomatoes and peppers. We will also start celeriac, parsley, rosemary (which takes about 3 to 5 weeks to germinate and has very low germination too boot) and early basil. Out doors we will start transplanting the onions and leeks and will sow seed for spring mix, arugula, scallions, spinach, parsnips and plant shallot sets. I believe we also have plans to open up more beds so we have more planting room.

We prune fruit trees and deal with the raspberry and blackberry brambles in late Feb/early March. Pruning is amazing important. Without proper pruning the quality of fruit goes way down quickly as does yield. The first year we were here we were faced with 3 apple trees that had not been properly pruned in at least a decade (if they ever were pruned correctly). the fruit was small and full of bugs and disease. the trees themselves were less than healthy and had a lot of kind of dead wood on them. So Eugene did what one should not normally do-he took off nearly 50% of the trees. You generally do not want to take more than 1/3 in any given year but these trees needed major help so they were well pruned. Since than the apples have been much bigger and much higher quality and Eugene has not had to prune more than 25% of the trees since than. The brambles are much easier to deal with because we put them in.

The heritage raspberries get mowed down in late winter because they are an everbearing and we have found the do best if they are not allowed to set fruit in the spring. The Latham raspberries have to have all the old canes removed along with any canes that cross other and canes we don't want. You want to end up with no more than 6 canes per linear foot. Last year these berries went nuts and had a bumper crop (I have never seen so many berries in my life!) so there is a lot of stuff to remove this year. Once we remove everything we will also remove any perennial weeds (dandelion, thistle, etc..) and than put on a nice 6" layer of mulch which is generally a mix of straw and cedar chips to feed the berries, keep the soil on the acid side and keep the weeds down (not that many weeds can compete with these brambles)

The other thing we will plant sometime in March are nut trees. We ordered something like 10 nut trees and when ever they arrive they will go in the ground. We have a fantasy of developing a nut grove. I'll bet the local squirrels will love us for this idea


It is mid winter. Ivy the whistlepig saw it's shadow in Dayton so that means 6 more weeks of winter. Is it a coincidence that the vernal equinox (spring) is also 6 weeks away? In other words no matter what the groundhog predicts spring is 6 weeks away