Honestly, I wish there was more happening on the farm these days. Unfortunately, there just isn’t. Spring was fraught with pests, digging wet soil, being stressed out, and now everything seems to have settled, which is bitter sweet. The soil is still not tilled – having only been disked once – so I have no fluffy soil to throw seeds in.
That said, I probably could be doing more. I could still be flipping beds by hand, but – and let’s be ultra-real here – I just don’t want to do that. It’s no way to run a farm, ruins my body, and isn’t particularly great for the soil. I’ve put in enough beds to get me through market for the first couple months, but otherwise I’m waiting patiently for a till.
Austin, TX, is in my future, though, and my mind is starting to drift down south. I’ve been checking out some land on the Internets, reading books on how to grow vegetables in their sandy soil, and thinking about business models. I’m just anxious to go bigger, and make farming a bigger part of my life.
I’ve also discovered this fantastic resource – Greenhorns Radio. For anyone who’s interested in going into organic agriculture, you should surely check this out. Great interviews with people actively farming around the country with a laid-back attitude.
Anywho, expect to see Sasquatch at market this Saturday!
Sasquatch stares directly at the sun.
I am, in fact, not dead! Which is good, for now!
Market was great. We had the following:
- Green Garlic
- Head Lettuce
- Lettuce Mix
- Spinach Mix
- Bok Choi
- Spicy Mustard
- Kale (Red Russian and Lacionato)
- Micro Greens
- Tomato Starts
- Cucumber Starts
More substantial post to come.
Sasquatch smile at you! He Love You!
Buying soil, cleaning the greenhouse, killing voles, being frightened by nutria / Blue Heron, seed purchases, filling out forms, insurance, applying for markets, working beds, planting seeds, watching seeds sprout, the greenhouse full, building low tunnels…
That’s kind of how it happened. Suddenly, I’m farming again. After a long – LONG SO LONG – Winter, and the seasonal depression passing – maybe? – I’m back on the land and it feels very good. I should be there, on the land. And I’m there, every other day, soaking it all in and loving it.
Winter was as productive as it could be – I published the first issue of Running With Pitchforks, and it’s currently on sale online and in stores around the nation and it’s slowly taking over every major book seller / distributor in the US and then the world. Nah, it’s around though. I’m also having an essay on my 2010 farm experience being published in a real book this year, with a hard cover and everything. More news on this once I believe it and it’s in print.
I am extremely happy to be back on the land, though. The chickens made it through the winter, but their pasture is muddier than I would like. In the last week they’ve really started to produce again – maybe a dozen a day. I recently added another 5 chickens to the flock, and this may have something to do with the increased production.
The greenhouse is completely filled. This year, I’ve learned to not start less tomatoes and more vegetables with high turnover, such as lettuce, mustards, and spinach. The advantages are great – they get way ahead of the weeds, are more established in the fertile, store-bought soil, and have a much better chance of erupting into amazing, enormous vegetables of intensity. I also have lots of space in there.
Also – and this is important – I feel so much more comfortable this year, and I am not constantly freaking out at all times. The beds are much easier to work after working in all that compost last year. There is much more life in the soil that I amended with all this compost – more roots, worms, bugs, not-dead-things. The soil dries out faster, and can be worked even after one or two days of dry weather. Once I get some more compost on the land, I’m going to seriously start planting super hard (hopefully next week).
In other news, I’ll be at two markets this year. Expansion, capitalist style. 100% increase from last year – anyone looking to buy stock?
St. John’s Farmers’ Market – Saturday’s - Downtown St. John’s, by the bridge - June 4th through October 15th.
Interstate Farmers’ Market - Tuesday’s - 3550 N. Interstate Ave at Fremont, at Overlook Park, 97227 – May 18th through September 28th
Always lovin’ St. John’s Market. I cannot wait to see all the regulars from last year, meet new peeps, and enjoy the lovely community there. I hear great things about Interstate, and can’t wait to spread some roots there and become part of their community.
Alright – Go Times, 2011.
I already feel the land is emptier without Travis this year, and he is sorely missed.
Sasquatch smash Travis. Then hug him.
Alright folks, the time has come to start a zine. And It Shall Be Dubbed:
Running With Pitchforks
The idea is this: Get a bunch of urban food producers’ writing together – whether it be fiction, creative non-fiction, essay, interview, short short, that can be about anything. Literally anything I promise. Because, really, this zine is not so much about farming as it is about farmers and food producers living in and around Oregon city centers.
The bottom line is: if you’re producing any food at all, please submit some creative writing to this young, promising, and enormously epic zine.
TO SUBMIT! Go to http://www.RunningWithPitchforks.com and click on the submissions tab.
We’ll have a grand ol’ time. ILUVU.
Checking in. I’m currently a human being on planet Earth. There is currently a big plate of glass in front of me that I can see through, a wooden structure meant for holding things at a comfortable height, a thing that when you pull a string it makes light, and these plastic/metal things I’m pounding with my fingertips and making these magical markings on the screen in front of my face.
The farm is fun right now. Pretty much all that’s left to do is harvest. I have a few weekly boxes I’m putting together for my kiddo’s school and a few friends. That said, anyone interested in buying a weekly, $20 box of veggies from the Lumbering Sasquatch, please get in touch with me at SasquatchAcre@gmail.com . I can deliver if it’s not crazy far out of the way. This will be available at least for the next couple weeks. Currently a box contains:
- Salad Mix – 1lb.
- Mixed Mustards – 1 bunch
- Kale (Dinosaur or Red Russian) – 1 bunch
- Rainbow Chard – 1 bunch
- Summer Squash – approx 2 lbs.
- Garlic – 1/2 lb.
- Beets (smallish ones) – 1 bunch
- Carrots – 1 bunch
- Snap Beans – approx 1 lb.
- Broccoli – 1 or 2 lbs. (not sure yet)
- Cabbage – 1 large head
OMG DOESN’T THAT SOUND SO GOOD FOREVER? I THOUGHT SO I LUV U.
Other news on the farm: I made a smaller chicken coop, and will be adding another eight chickens to the flock. It’s very simple and looks like this -
I’ve added some corrugated plastic sheeting to the top since I took these picutres, so it should be all ready for the winter. This little coop is more in line with Joel Salatin’s design, in that it can easily be moved with a couple of people. When spring rolls around next year, I’ll be able to move it around every week or so, giving the chickens more flexibility to fertilize the ground.
I also finished putting in the garlic. This was our first task on the farm last year and one of the last this year. Feels good. One thing I’ve learned is to not care so much about buying authentic seed garlic. We saved a good 30 lbs of our own from last year, but I still needed to supplement this with additional garlic to plant the five rows I wanted. Rather than paying upwards of $7 / lb for certified seed garlic (that’s usually on the small side), I paid $3 / lb. for organic garlic from my local co-op, which I got to hand select, and is on the bigger side. I then mixed up all my varieties and threw them in the ground.
I also decided to grow about half as much garlic as I did last year. Initially, we thought that garlic would sell very well, but this was not the case. At markets, it was very slow to sell, as people typically only buy a head or two – roughly .2 lbs, which translates to about a $1 sale. We thought restaurants would snatch it up, but they weren’t as excited as I thought they would be. So! We have about 50 lbs. or garlic left over this year, with no one to sell it to. This is partially due to my laziness as a marketer, but also due to the low demand for local, organic garlic. Hence, putting in 5 beds of garlic (1,200 row feet), rather than 13 beds (3,120 row feet).
On a different note, here are some other thoughts. As a first year farmer, I think I did the following particularly well:
- Actually Farming: The decision to begin farming – and then acting upon this decision – was the single most successful aspect of farming this year.
- Focusing Of Farmers’ Markets: Not doing a CSA this year was a marvelous thing. Taking money up front as a first year farmer and being obliged to provide veggies for 20+ weeks would have been too stifling. Focusing on markets gave us the flexibility to work at our own pace. The great part was that it paid off. We made a small profit when all’s said and done, and all our customers are happy.
- Persevering Through The Horrible Spring: We had to break some rules in order to get some seeds in the ground in early spring (ie. working the soil when it was far too wet), but this allowed us to get some money flowing into the farm by being prepared with enough veggies for market.
- Wingin’ It So Hard: Much of the time on the farm was dealing with a series of failures, and turning them into something successful or, at the least, salvageable. Figuring everything out on the fly was the best way for me to learn what I needed to learn. 2011 will be a much more confidant year for me on the land.
- Not Maintaining Restaurant Relationships: It would have been very nice to provide our restaurants with a whole lot more veggies then we did. As markets wrapped up, we were left with a whole bunch of food, and no where to sell it. This was due to not maintaining weekly contact with our restaurants. We sent e-mails every now and then, but giving more face time to restaurant owners and calling over the phone is a much more personal and successful way to keep doors open.
- Not Amending The Soil Properly: There is so little nitrogen and calcium in our soil… so sad. We’d look at some veggies that weren’t growing properly, talk about how we don’t know why, scratch our heads, and let them stagnate. Clearly, they were starving for more nutrients. So! We’ll be applying a whole lot more Complete Organic Fertilizer next year.
- Not Utilizing The Greenhouse: This was largely due to our miserable soil mix that we were making ourselves. Bad idea. We now use OMRI Certified Organic Black Gold soil mix for our starts, and the difference is very clear. Once the seeds have sprouted and have a couple true leaves, spraying the leaves with fish emulsion helps out quite a bit. Next year, when we’re starting transplants for spring, we’ll be far more prepared for a successful early harvest.
- Not Properly Surveying The Land: When we initially selected our land last year, we were so excited to be actually leasing it – we’re acutally farming can you believe it omg this is so awesome we’re doing this and it’s great – that we didn’t properly analyze the land. We didn’t notice the slight tilt of the land, that it would pool so terribly in the winter. We didn’t notice how little life was in the soil. We didn’t do a soil test. I’m still paying for this mistake. Lesson learned.
Here’s some more pictures of the land right now:
Sasquatch is bringin’ it all in for a huge hug.
OHSU Market was very fantastic to the point of greatness. It was OHSU’s last market – their Harvest Festival – and thus, it was busier than usual. People seemed to enjoy our presentation and variety, which we were happy to see. It was so nice to meet a whole new set of customers, all appreciative of nutritious deliciousness (and it was interesting selling to / chatting with some actual nutritionists).
Market consisted of mostly what I wrote in the prior post minus Cilantro and Parsley, but with the addition of Micro Greens, which people seemed to enjoy and sold reasonably well.
We’re coming full circle on the farm right now: putting garlic back in the ground again. Finished the chicken coop. Finished the greenhouse. Looking for people to sell veggies to (get in touch if you want some!), harvesting occasionally. I love this time of year out there. Mild fall weather is such a delicate and short lived time in the NW.
Sasquatch is currently threatening to flick Travis’ ear really hard with his index finger.