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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

New Book Listings!

In Honor of Black Friday (which I will not attend, I shall be in the bosom of my family that day, well away from the Malls and shops. Plus it is Buy Nothing Day) I have listed new titles and things for you to peruse and purchase for a Christmas present or for yourself. Look to the right hand side bar for the new titles. Click on any that interest you and you will be swept away to the Amazon website where you can purchase the item(s). Know that Boulder Belt gets a small % of each sale that comes from this blog and that that money supports what we do. So buying from Amazon via this Blog supports a small diversified sustainable farm.

3 of the titles are Eliot Coleman classics on market farming and season extension. If you grow for market or are into hoop houses so you can grow almost year round, if not year round, and do not have these books you need them. They really are a "must have" for your farm and garden library.

Solviva is a book about an interesting experiment that no longer exists. Ana Edy took her house Solviva and made it into a living breathing entity. But her success took her away from Solviva and it eventually died. But the book is about how this worked for many years and is full of ideas for the rest of us.

The Aerogarden I have not used but I have seen them and they are a wonderful idea for people who want to grow year round but do not want to fuss with big old hoop houses, snow loads and other issues one has with winter growing outdoors. And I have a listing for the seed pods too.

The Handbook of Organic Pest Control is one of my favorites. I use this book a lot. Well written and well organized.

The new Farmers market is for anyone who is thinking of starting a farmers market or selling at one. It is really two books in one, as it looks at farmers market from both the management perspective and the vendor perspective. I own this book and my copy has helped to start two farmers markets and has helped Boulder belt with marketing techniques. This is an essential book for everyone involved in farmers markets in any way shape or form

The Moosewood Cookbook. My favorite cookbook ever. The recipes are simple and tasty. I got my copy at least 20 years ago from My sister, Maggie and I still make good use of the book to this day.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Eugene Finds Truffles

Who woulda thought we would find truffles near a shag bark hickory tree in a potato bed. But we did.

We are not 100% they are truffles but from looking through the mushroom book we have and checking several places on line plus looking at a lot of images on google they really can't be anything else.

And they smell. A very strong moldy earthy smell like a cabin in the woods stuffed with woolen items that has been shut up for a long time. Not exactly pleasant. But they may well be interesting to eat. But what if they are the one yet to be discovered poisonous truffle. The evil anti-truffle if you will. if that is the case than we would get very sick or even dead from eating the truffles.

Yeah, Mushrooms can be scary if you are not 100% sure what you have.

So we have a mystery. These could be the rare and valuable Oregon White Truffle or not. Need to do some more research.

Here is what they look like
Not rocks, truffles!

This one is cut open. the inside spores are brown and may be mottled. the fungus itself is less than a cm across. these are not big truffles by any means.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Boulder Belt and the Choice Food Pantry

Many years ago when I was still on the Oxford farmers Market Uptown governing board I made the suggestion that we should figure out a way to get the left over food that farmers have at the end of every market to people who need food, i.e. a food pantry. Everyone on the board thought that was a great idea and voted it in. And we thought from there it would be easy to set up a system to get food from market to the needy.

Not so. It seems that at the time none of the local food pantries around Oxford (there were two at the time-family Resources and the Food Pantry of St Mary's/St Vincent dePaul. These merged in 2007 to form The Choice Pantry) had much, if any, refrigeration and were not open on Saturdays and had no real way to deal with perishable fresh foods. There also was no one to pick up the food and take it where it needed to go.

The first couple of years were hit and miss. It was obvious it was up to the farmers market to get things together such as coolers and humans to get the job done and this happened (we have a really great support system and community with this market). But it was not possible to find people every week to pick up food from the vendors and take it to the food pantry location and I know on at least one occasion the food pantry forgot about the Saturday delivery and the volunteers had no way to deliver the food. And there was also the issue that the needy people who were getting this food were not familiar with much of the produce being donated like arugula, heirloom tomatoes, specialty peppers, eggplant, daikon, fennel, etc., etc.. So they were not using the food and it often went to waste.

But that was 4 or 5 years ago. Than in 2007 the two pantries merged into Choice Pantry, run by St Mary's Catholic Church. They are well run and have refrigeration (because they knew about us farmers when they set this new pantry up and made sure they could utilize us). And they have Miami students hold classes to teach the food needy about cooking, nutrition, etc., so these people can use the food from the farmers market (more utilization). And we have Mike coming by just about every Saturday at noon to gather together food that would other wise be wasted (okay not exactly wasted as we and most other farmers at the market would do something like compost the produce or feed it to livestock-it would not be land filled in most cases) and he takes that food to the pantry for distribution that very day (unlike the past where the fresh food would sit around until Monday before distribution). It has become a very workable system.

So we have been donating a lot of food most weeks. Most weeks the pantry gets about 3 bushels of food. I think there have been only 2 or 3 weeks where we did not have much of anything left to give (and what we had was probably too weird for the food pantry-we do grow and sell a lot of unusual varieties). Over the season we have probably donated more than a ton of food.

It feels good to be able to do good works but it sure ain't easy to get these good works started up. But happily, in Oxford, OH they have it figured out.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Wisdom Of Growing Berries Workshop

On Wednesday we went to Columbus Ohio to the 4-H building (or the 4-H mother ship) to the Wisdom of Growing Berries workshop. If you remember we had a farm tour back in August. That was stage one of the Wisdom of growing Berries and this meeting in Columbus was the second and final stage. This was all about sharing our knowledge with beginning farmers and farmers getting into berries. I saw quite a few people I know who are definitely not beginning farmers but I guess felt they needed more knowledge.

I was very pleased to see Kristi Fisher there. We met in 2000 when we both sold produce at the Dayton Second Street Market (which neither of us does currently). We see each other it seems about once a year, though I think it has been about 3 years since our last meeting. Any hoo we had a nice chat about chickens when we should have been talking berries-oh well...

Eugene and I went to the event as "Mentors" and sat on the afternoon panel. I gotta say I learned a from both the mentor panel and the new grower panel. Lots of good insights from both groups. I found that once again I felt kind of behind the other Mentor growers as we have not made good use of extension/OSU research. But considering most of the research is for the chemical farming crowd I have avoided it. But I was made aware that there is much there for the organic growers as well. If nothing else, pictures of pests and diseases and links and references to other sites.

But back to what we did. We sat on this panel of 5 mentor farmers and we were asked three questions and each of us had five minutes to answer each question. Most of us went over time, some way over time. But it was all useful information. After the panel discussion was over we broke into small groups. There were 43 participants plus the panel members so around 50 people in all. I know a few people left before the afternoon stuff started taking down the numbers. Unfortunately we only had about 25 minutes to talk in these small groups. There is so much to say and teach and rarely enough time to do it at these events.

But Sharon Sachs, the woman who put on this event for IFO, at the end had a solution to the not enough time to teach problem-she wants to pair up beginning and struggling farmers with experienced farmers in a mentor program. We have had apprentices and interns on the farm but this is a bit different. In this case we would get paid by the mentee to teach them what we know. it is up to them to initiate the contact and tell us exactly what they want to learn and than we go from there. Several farmers in the room had been on both sides of the table and the # 1 thing I got from this is don't trade work for information. Charge money for the information.

In the past we have done this mentoring thing a bit and always were disappointed because we would trade information for work but found that we spent a lot of time training the person to do the work and in the end it slowed us down too much. these people said if you do trade work for education than have that work be something big and something you do not really want to do like clean out a livestock barn-something you might pay someone an hourly wage to do for you. But do not include any chores that you are teaching. As one guy said he did not want any students pruning his blueberries but he is more than willing to travel to their farm to show them how to prune on their berry plants. In other words he does not want these people working on his farm and making their mistakes on his farm. Good policy.

I have no idea if we will be come mentors to anyone from this event. We are willing but have yet to be contacted