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Sunday, August 30, 2009

The IFO Farm Tour

Tour goers gathering in front of the store before the tour commenced

We hosted a farm tour today in association with Innovative Farmers of Ohio. We talked about sustainable strawberry and raspberry production. Around 20 people came out for the event and a good time seemed to be had by all.

We got started at 3pm with Sharon Sachs introducing us to the tourees. We spoke about what we would be discussing on the tour than everyone was invited to introduce themselves and tell us what they wanted to do with berries (market farm or backyard gardener) Many were backyard gardeners though there were several farmers there as well

After the introductions we got started with the tour and took everyone behind the store and out to the market garden.

This is me explaining how to get bigger berries by pulling certain flowers off a fall

talking irrigation and ground covers

Now we are all done talking about strawberries and we are starting towards the raspberries and pointing out things as we go.

part of the tour group by the raspberries

talking about pruning raspberries

Look! Over there!

Enjoying the farm

Tour is almost over at this point and Eugene is showing off a cold frame

Friday, August 28, 2009


I haven't posted in a while. Between long days working the farm, marketing food and Facebook I haven't made time to post here in weeks.

Like all summers it's been busy at Boulder Belt Eco-Farm. We have had a great summer-the weather, for the most part has been cool and dry and the crops have loved it. we have huge tomatoes this year, despite the evil specter of late blight which has been stalking the tomato patches of the eastern US this summer. We don't seem to have that problem. Our tomato plants look pretty bad as they have once again been struck with whatever crud we have in our soils but it is not late blight as our crud rarely effects the fruit. It just kills the vines which can lead to sun scald problems but not fruit with disgusting lesions and rot. At any rate, the fruits are huge.

I did not know that Glick's pride was a beef steak tomato as it never has gotten all that big for us in the past 12 years we have grown it. But this year we have a lot of 1 pound+ fruits.

I notice the paste tomatoes, Amish paste and Opalka are also both huge this year. Usually the Opalka come in at about 1/2 pound or less. This year they are at least twice that big. Same with the Amish paste.

The early girl are not all that big this year but quite prolific

The Paul Robeson are all over the place on size-some are teensy and catfaced, others are big and beautifully round. the taste is good but not quite as good as I expected. still seeds have been saved for next year

Great White tomatoes like others are huge and for the most part perfectly round. And they taste really good for any tomato, but especially for a white tomato which generally are pretty insipid. unfortunately because they are strange they do not sell well (I guess I will have to get aggressive about them and convince people to try them)

The Nyagous are perfect cue ball sized black tomatoes again this year and they taste fabulous. these have become one of my favorites.

The Black Krim are just wrong. 95% of them have catfaced horribly making them pretty unusable for anything other that displaying as a freak of nature or sauce/juice. I dunno what happened there, but it ain't good.

I don't know what happened to the Green Zebra, but with pretty much all the different types of tomatoes we grow ripening to at least the point of identification, we don't seem to have any. But we do seem to have a lot more red saladette types than I remember starting. It's been years since we have grown Green Zebra but I remember them being pretty early so if we have them we should be harvesting them by now. We got the seed from Baker Creek. I do like the philosophy at BC but this is not the first time we have gotten wrong seed from them. I doubt we will order from them again as we cannot afford to spend money with such a lax seed house.

The Costoluto plants died early but they did produce a crop of beautiful fluted medium red tomatoes before they succumbed

The cherry tomatoes are doing well this year. We have way to many sunsugar about the right amount of Cherrywine (which is nearly stable this year-I believe there was only one sport-a pink saladette). The yellow pear plants are not dead and generally they are the first to die of our home grown tomato ick. The green pear seem to be stabilized their first year of selection-100% of the plants are producing green pear maters. As a mater of fact, I found a couple of green pear plants in with the yellow pear plants. The red grape are going gang busters and the green grape are nice and healthy and just beginning to ripen.

It looks like we got 2 crinckovich plants this year and they are noting special. I do like the fruit so I think it will be worth seeking out a good seed source as I do not have enough to keep seed from (you really need a minimum of 8 plants and I have 2).

The Sunray tomatoes are just now ripening up and they are about perfect in every way. huge round deep yellow fruits with great flavor and very prolific. I am surprised the plants have not broken under the weight of all the fruit.

The Dr Wyche's Yellow is almost over for the year and they were, like so many other tomatoes pretty spectacular. Very few deformed, catfaced fruits. Good flavor and good yields.

The Boulder Belt Striped was very good this year. As far as I can tell, we had zero off types so I will declare this a stabilized breed. the flavor is good to boot.

The Matina has been great. Wonderful small tasty fruits and very very prolific

So That's the August rundown of our maters

Sunday, August 16, 2009

CSA short Film

Check out this beautiful film from a member's perspective about their CSA in PA
Fridays at the Farm

127 Yard Sale, Day 4

Okay a week late but here it is. this year's finish of the yard sale far exceeded past years. We had probably 1000 people com through between 9am and 4pm. I attribute this to the fact that for the first time the other YS venues in Ohio did not shut down on Sunday as they have in the past. So shoppers had reason to keep on shopping throughout Ohio.

Last year I believe we had around 200 people stop. It was so slow that we had earlier made the decision not to open Sunday and I gave all the vendors their space for free on Sunday this year if they wanted to stick around. I am glad we decided to stay open Sunday as that was by far our best produce sales day of the weekend. next year we will plan on doing Sunday and we will not give away the spaces that day

I was struck by how many Maryland license plates we in our lot Sunday morning. They outnumbered the Ohio (and other state plates) 2 or 3 to one for a couple of hours. I guess these were people about ready to hop on I-70 and head back home and we were about their last stop on their Yard Sale adventure. though I do not know that for sure as I did not talk to any one about why they were here Sunday morning.

All in all this year's yard sale was the best ever. But next year will be better. We plan on having T-shirts for sale (we still need to design them) We will do the map again as that was simply fascinating and from the comments we have received we are the only people doing such a thing on the 127 YS Trail. There will be a new food vendor-We have asked several chefs we know if they want to set up and all are interested. But we will see what happens over the next 11 months.

Monday, August 10, 2009

127 yard sale 2009 Day 3

Day 3 was almost as busy as day 1 but I do not think anyone sold as much-lots of lookers but probably only 1/3 actually bought anything. Still, the vendors all seemed happy with the day. We had around 2000 people come through our sale. Looks like we will have had at least 6000 people stop here by the end of Sunday. That is about twice as many as in any previous year. Part of this is the fact I did a good job of advertising on the web and part of it is because Ohio has finally come alive for this event. Unlike previous years, there were at least 500 sales, big and small, in Preble County. I heard this was also true in Darke County. I have not heard about Butler, Hamilton Counties but people said it was active from West Unity southward-Way to go Ohio!

We picked up a new seller, Vince, who had a wide array of music -CD's, Records, Tapes- and some other things to sell. He at one time had a large record/music store. He showed up around 10 am asked about a spot and set up. He said he would be back for the entire 4 days next year.

Looks like we have 8 of our 20 spots reserved for 2010 already. Everyone agrees we have one of the best places to set up in Ohio-right one the road and 3 miles south of where about 85% of the yard salers start their shopping trek. Those folks that called and said they would set up here and flaked out missed a great opportunity and it is likely they will not be able to get a spot here next year. I now can be picky as to what sells and who gets to sell it. the fees will likely be raised for 2010 as this farm is a hot commodity and why sell ourselves short. setting up and managing this event is a lot of work and we need to start being decently compensated for it. As it stands right now we can make about the same money doing one 6 hour farmers market so we need to start charging more per spot. $10 bucks ain't much
We have one guy who leaves as soon as he makes $300. He was gone at 3pm. Everyone else stuck around until 6pm. By 6pm few cars were pulling and we were all exhausted.

We had no food as Adams Rib pulled out yesterday. Next year we will get someone who can do the full 4 days. It probably won't be Adam's Rib BBQ but it will be food and likely far greater variety (The BBQ folk brought only 2 selections when they could have brought much more. They did not supply an eating area as they had last year. They did not seem to have their heart in this event which is a shame. It is time for us to move on to bigger and better things with our food vendor). I believe if we had food Saturday we would have even more people stop. I noticed we were dead at lunch time and again at dinner time (though we were all ready to close up by 6pm so not an issue)

All in all Saturday was another great day for us.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

127 yard sale 2009 Day 2

It was slow on day two of the 127 yard sale. Real slow. I would say we got, maybe, 1000 people coming through, maybe less. The car count average was down by 2/3rds perhaps more (probably more).

I spoke to may of the other sellers about this and we all decided there were a couple of factors involved.
1) The first day of the sale should have the best items so that is the day to hit the sales.
I don't think this is necessarily true. It was observed yesterday that between Eaton and St Rt 73 there were about 50 small sales that had cropped up in the yards, barns and parking lots that were not there Thursday (and boy did they miss the boat!). So in that case the good stuff would still be there on Friday as it could not have been sold on Thursday
Add to that the fact that our sale is still picking up new vendors. I got a call from a guy in Michigan who said he would be coming in sometime Saturday morning. that means we will have a whole lot of items that have not been gone though.
Plus I know we continue to go through our house and barn and keep finding additional items to put in the sale as do a couple of our other vendors who live close by. I am positive we are not the only people doing this so this also keeps the sale selection some what fresh for buyers

2)Thursday has the truly serious buyers. the folks who are attempting to do the entire distance. In order to have a chance at going the whole way or at least more than one state you must start on Thursday. So that would go far in explaining the extremely heavy traffic on that day.

I did notice we were getting heavy traffic Friday from 7am til about 10am and that most of these people were from out of state and doing a lot of the sale. After 10 am the traffic dropped a lot and we were getting more locals than out of staters. Several people told me that they had taken a half day off from work to do the sales. And I did note that after 2pm that we were getting an increase of people, though now where near Thursday's volume. I expect traffic to be up today as it is Saturday and people have the day off

Friday, August 07, 2009

127 yard sale 2009 Day 1

Alyssa and Sohpie are prettying up the Open sign for us. They spent the day with Alyssa's Grandmother, Rose McCoy, of our first time vendors

Day one of the yard Sale dawned clear and cool. By 7am we had 5 of the 6 vendors in place and setting up. The 7th vendor was a no-show.

By 8am the parking lot was packed with cars and this did not stop until around 6pm. It was the busiest Thursday we have ever seen-Yard Sale Madness!

A walk through of the sale around 8:30 am

It was also a bittersweet day. The night before we lost our dog, Arlo-he had a stroke we believe at 6pm and was dead by 10pm. So Eugene dealt with digging a very large hole behind our store and buried him while the sale went on its' merry way. Than one of our New vendor's got word that his mother had died around 10am. He had asked if he could give our number to his brother as his mother was gravely ill and he might need to be contacted. Well, he was contacted from around 9am on several times with worse and worse news. Finally I was in the store talking to his wife and the phone rang again and I said I will bet that is for you. It was and it was the news of death. They hung in there the rest of the day but around 5pm packed up and left. They will be back next year which is great because we really like these guys and they had a lot of interesting items for sale and really enhanced the sale.

happy shoppers around 10am

Other than death of beloved dogs and mothers, the sale went better than expected (and I had high expectations). I'd say at last 2000 people stopped and shopped. Probably more as we were averaging around 20 cars at most times with a turn around of about 15 minutes and lets say 2 people per vehicle. All the vendors reported great sales and we picked up an 7th vendor around noon (and I expect today and tomorrow to pick up a couple of more).

We put up a map this year and are asking people to put a thumb tack to show us where they are from. We had people coming from as far away as Los Angeles California and Seattle Washington. We heard that there was a person from Germany doing the sale that someone had met at the West Manchester sale. We came up with the map idea a couple of years ago and kept forgetting about it until mid Afternoon Saturday of those sales. But this year I remembered in June and reminded Jules and Rosie and they got the grand kids to put something together-A US Map on cork board. This is becoming a bit of an attraction for the yard salers which is way cool. I love looking at how far people come for this event. And it gets conversation started too. I would say about 10% of the people put their location on the map, maybe 20%.

We had Adam's Rib back again and they will be here today as well but not Saturday or Sunday. But who knows perhaps another food vendor will show up. We had several people ask about renting spots. One guy was nasty about it. He though $10 for a 10' x 20' spot was way too much and that he could set up for free somewhere on US 40. That's nice and I wish him the best. Than another guy asked Eugene about setting up and was back within an hour with his stuff. He will be here through at least Saturday and has a variety of tools and other items.

The day ended around 7pm and I was dead tired-selling to thousands of people for 10 hours is amazing tiring. That much people contact really drains the energy out of you. We were all dragging buy the end of the day.

Today is shaping up to be another spectacular and busy day. It is 7:15am and we already have our first buyers on site. An SUV pulling a trailer. Eugene went out to talk to them and found out this is trailer number 2 for them-these are serious buyers.

Monday, August 03, 2009

127 yard sale Update

today we got two additional dealers making our current total at 6. We will have knives, walking sticks, antiques, military items, food, produce, tools and lots more. I fully expect a few more to rent spaces by Thursday.

Also I was interviewed by the Dayton Daily news about thios sale so this should draw in even more people than the several thousand expected over the course of the weekend.

This is not your average yard sale and this year is shaping up to be far better than the previous 4 years (all of which were fantastic!)

The New Farm Sign

The old sign circa 2007 (the white one, not the yellow one). As you can see, you cannot read it from any distance. This is an example of a horrible farm sign

After 5 years of having really bad signage we now have a very nice sign for the Farm and people should start noticing that there is a produce farm on US 127. And it has already had effect. Before we even have the sign completely done people stopped and said they had never noticed the farm before.

The sign has been 6 years in the making. We bought two of them from a local Dunkard who was getting out of the clock repair and sales biz. He had been bothering us to buy his 2 huge signs for about a year and finally he offered the two signs for $50 each (they cost him $1500 each). We at the time had no real use for the signs but we went out on a cold windy day and cut both signs down. one fell on me and almost caused me great harm. The guy's father saw us taking one of the signs and assumed we were stealing his son's signs and almost called the sheriff on us. But we explained that his son had sold us the signs so he called him first and found we were telling the truth and left us to our work.

The signs laid around the Crubaugh Rd farm for a couple of years than were moved to this farm with the intent of getting at least one erected within a year. But since I did not want to go the vinyl letter route-I hate vinyl lettering- it took a bit longer. I wanted a proper sign that was painted by an artist. I was hoping that perhaps my father could do it but by the time we got around to getting our shit together enough to get one of the boards painted my Dad was in failing health. So that did not happen. I asked around to various artist friends and acquaintances I know and no one wanted to do the sign (I was pretty amazed, especially with the younger artists, that no one seemed to want money for their art. I guess sign painting is considered too low brow). Finally, our friend, artist and farming colleague Debra Bowles said she would do it.

So we got the big board we planned on using prepped for her (it had been, in a former life been a clock repair and sales shop sign) and took it to her farm in the spring of 2008 and waited. Many months went by and nothing had been done on the sign. Autumn happened and Debra told us she still had not had time to work on the sign because of family, goats and other issues and and now it was getting too cold to paint her unheated space. My brother visited for Thanksgiving and we told him of our sign progress and he made the observation that we were using a hippy artist and we would just have to be patient. That the result would likely be wonderful. I believe he said the fact we were using a hippy artist was perfect for us (and one who learned her craft under the teaching of Crossan Curry, one of my Dad's best friends, a person I have known my entire life and a wonderful master artist in his own right. So keeping all this in the family, so to speak).

Winter passed and spring and warmer weather was upon us and still no sign.

At this point (early May) Debra implied that perhaps she was not the person to do the sign after all. This hit me hard. Now we were looking at paying someone close to $1000 to create a design in vinyl, resurface the sign (which had been primed for pain by this point) and apply the design. Yes, we would have likely gotten a decent sign (and far, far better than what we had) but it would have been vinyl. Somehow she seemed to feel my bitter disappointment and decided that she could do the sign. So in mid May the project finally was started in earnest and by mid June she told us it was finished and we could pick it up. We drove to her farm and put the new sign in the back of the van and took it home where it languished on the front porch of the store until yesterday.

We now have a beautiful new sign and just in time for the 127 Yard Sale. I suspect this will increase business by several hundred percent in the next few weeks. I cannot use this coming week to gauge as I expect business to increase by at least 2000% during the yard Sale (as it has the past 4 years)

Eugen dismantles the old sign

Digging out the eastern post that had been cracked in half 3 weeks ago by a truck that had hit it

Surveying the work so far-old sign down, new sign about to be erected

First post being put in place

Second post erected and Eugene with his trusty level is getting his bearings on where the post need to be exactly in their post holes so the entire sign is level

Sign is up but not quite finished. Eugene is bring a rope to put around the sign so the side bolts can be tightened

Sign is up and almost finished. Still needed to pour concrete in the post holes and than the final step is painting the white horizontal board so it matches the rest of the sign.