Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Pleasant morning. The bugs weren't too bad.  Spent the morning planting peppers with Joel.  I like working opposite of the farmer planting away because I get to pick his brain for info while we work on down the rows..

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cut worms..

After a long day of planting you return to the house and have yourself a nice sit down, proud of the hard work you've put in that day.  Pat yourself on the back and have a nice cold drink.  You reminisce about the days events and feel a little relief knowing that you are that much closer to the finish line.  Another step closer to completing your planting duties for the season.  You sleep well, rise early and head up to the garden ready to make further progress.  A little hop accompanies your step as you mentally lay out the days strategy.  Upon reaching the garden you notice something different.  Something seems to be missing.  Where you though you planted seedlings yesterday now only has a few seedlings surrounded by stems..hmmm.  Upon further inspection you in fact find just a stem remaining of what was a beautiful little green seedling as if it had been cut.  You see the wilted tops laying on the ground next to it.  As if someone had come by with scissors and just cut the little guys and left them to die..Again and again you find just another.  What the hell????

Was it aliens?  Sasquatch, perhaps?  The punk kids across the street??

Nooooo, sorry.   I'm afraid you have been hit by cut worms. <---follow link!  Interesting stuff!!

See.. while you slept, an evil force was at work destroying a good portion of your hard work and making what you did yesterday seem like it never happened..  Cut worms are devastating and annoying little bastards that can do some serious damage in a short amount of time.  If I plant 100 cabbage seedling one day I could have to replace 60-70 (I'm being conservative) of them the next day due to cut worms.  I've seen a single worm take out 11 seedlings in a row in just one night.  Imagine what multiple worms could do...

Here's one of the dirty little buggers I found.  Since we use plastic mulch it is pretty easy to spot the empty holes.  When I see that cut worms have been at work I start digging.  I dig down and dig up the cut seedling with my hand and throw the hand full of dirt on the plastic and spread it out.  Cut worms never go far from where they feed.  If there's no worm I move onto the one next to it and so on.  Finally after 5-6-7-8-9 empty holes down the row I usually find the bastard.  Then I squash it and move on.  

here's a beautiful cabbage seedling

Here's a seedling that has been cut.  As you can see just the stem remains.  :(

The cut seedling close up.
Here I threw a handful of dirt onto the plastic and found the worm center right.
Up close

They're pretty nasty little creatures and something you don't want in your garden.  So?  What do you do about them?  I hear certain cover crops grown in the fall will prevent them from seeking out your spread.  I haven't tested this personally so I don't know for sure, but there are plenty of remedies natural and non natural and I'll leave it up to you to decide which one is best (follow the link above for more info).  There are natural pesticides and physical barriers etc.  I use a jar and a flashlight some folks use nuclear grade pesticides, but I wouldn't want to eat their cabbage ;)  Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

a little advice...

For those of you like me who are thinking of becoming a farmer KNOW THIS!:  When you tell someone you want to be a farmer you need to be prepared for TWO kinds of reactions.  The first one is the preferred one, where someone smiles and wishes you luck.  The second one is less preferred but more common, where the person questions your sanity tells you that you are "LOSING IT!" and they wear a look that makes you wonder if you smell like rotten seafood...

plastic mulch

The plastic mulch is going down pretty well.  After the slow wet spring we've had I never thought we'd get to this point.  This is the first year Joel has done plastic and so using the machine has been a learning experience.  Once we get the machine tuned in and running well, it pretty much lays itself. 

 above is the first five rows of plastic mulch laid.  By this time all the kinks had been worked out so the rest of the field went  relatively smooth.

Here is a pic of the entire field covered.  Notice both black and white plastic.  The color of the plastic is determined by what is going to be planted there.  LOOK!: the lower right hand corner shows cabbage already planted in the row! Now that one field is ready for veggies, going forward I will be a planting fool for the next few weeks. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I'm getting there.

I have made some really big strides this year in my home garden.  Compared to my first garden, 5 years ago, the garden has gone from two small struggling plots to a year round provider.  I have noticed healthier,faster growing, better tasting vegetables as I progress.  I remember growing lettuce and not being able to eat it because it was too bitter.  I approached the farmer and he told me that my soil was the cause.  So I worked it, added nutrients, compost and mulch.  Now my lettuce is so good the farmer wants it!  

Each year (despite protest from my wife who likes green grass) the garden gets a little bigger.  This year I have dedicated all of the available garden space to the things we eat the most.  The knowledge I have picked up farming and reading has given me better results.  Better results equals more fun!  

Joel tells me that I need to walk before I can run, so I have decided to get really good at growing the things we like before I venture out and diversify our table.  

I take the home gardening pretty seriously.  I look at it as my own personal study.  My lab and learning space.  My homework area, maybe?  It is the space where what I have learned is being applied and a lot of what I have yet to learn is being taught.   

I look at it like this: if I can't grown good carrots in my raised beds at home how am I going to do it by the acre?  Here in our small urban garden is where my skills will be perfected!

Monday, June 20, 2011

It exists!!

So there has been a rumor going around the farm that a baby chick exists somewhere.  For a couple weeks now the farmers youngest daughter has been talking about seeing a baby chick running around.  One day, she even tried to find it, to prove to me it existed,with no luck. She insisted anyway that there was in fact a baby chick.  I just smiled and nodded.  Keep in mind Joel's egg layers are free range or "pastured", so they are scattered all over the farm making it difficult to see ALL of them.  Anyway, I had not seen it and honestly figured it was probably hanging out with Bigfoot or the Lock Ness Monster, if you get my drift.  After all I do work at the farm and see the chickens pretty much every day so if a baby chick existed I would more than likely had seen it  by now, right?

A week or so had passed since I had first heard about the chick and I had pretty much forgotten about the whole baby chick thing, when one early morning I was down front drinking coffee, half awake, when out of the tall grass came an egg layer and running behind her was a little baby like the un-prepared, fumbling, bumbling moron I am at 4:30 in the morning I barely got a pic of the little thing before momma saw me and took off running with it close in tow...sorry for the quality. I was moving fast!

 The little blurry golden ball just to the right of the two egg layers is the elusive baby chick.

Joel gets a shipment of egg layer chicks about every year.  He raises them up under heat lamps and when old enough he puts them outside to pasture them.   I see the chicks only after they become pullet sized (A egg layer chicken with feathers under a year old).  Up until then they are in a box somewhere.  Well apparently the last batch of chicks contained a few randoms that turned out to be roosters..He decided to keep the roosters for whatever reason and I don't need to explain to you the birds and the bees- so now Joel has a baby chick on the farm.   I'm really surprised that there is only one.  I've never counted, but he has got to have at least 100 egg layers and out of all of them only one baby chick so far. 

I have got to tell ya.  This is what is so great about working for a farmer like Joel who really believes in allowing his animals to be animals.  This life was made in nature not in a controlled environment.  Not in some lab or chicken house.  This chick was an egg laid in the grass nurtured and protected by it's mother.  Momma chicken was allowed to be a chicken and exercise her natural instincts.  He want's his chickens to roam, scratch, dig, peck.  He want's his pigs to root and his cows to be out in the air free to graze on endless pasture.  He, to me, is a great example for those of us who want this sort of life style where we are not only good farmers, but good stewards. Thanks for reading!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Like a kid...

Remember being a kid a dreaming about driving around in big dirty tractors?

Question:  What has two thumbs and drove the big filthy orange rig around all morning?

Ya, bud!  Friggin right I did!  Laying plastic down and keeping the ol' girl centered in the rows like a pro!  Good times...good times... I gotta say for a second there........I felt like a farmer.

Check out big filthy without her front paws on.   She looks like a farming rig now.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Soil is key...

I write a lot about soil structure and nutrients.  I don't go into great depth; one: because I myself am an amateur and quite frankly don't have the knowledge to go into great depth and two:  This is a blog about my journey to become a farmer- not biology class.  Although, I believe the best way to learn is to teach, so you could make the argument that I should in order to really learn.  However, at the risk of putting people to sleep OR losing readers, due to them falling asleep and then out of their chairs causing injury, I won't go into great depth about how to build soil structure...If you are really interested in farming on a molecular level, like I am,  I can always recommend resources for you to seek out and use.

Besides, one of the greatest overlooked facts about farming is that it is a competition.  "HUH??" people always say to me when I say this.  Yes, a competition.  Farmers compete against one another for market share, and honestly it is almost like European football (soccer) type of crazy competitiveness.  Anyone familiar with that sport will know what I mean. 

My farmer want's to grow the best looking and most nutritious food in order to gain a bigger share of the market.  He want's people to flock to him at the markets and buy his stuff.  He want's his food to stand out against all others.  How can this happen if I'm giving away all of his secrets here?  So for the sake of competition, I keep a lot of things "general".

Getting back to soil structure I wanted to show people how important having good soil is.  If you could spend a lot of time on just one thing, it has been stressed to me over and over again by Joel that soil structure is that one thing.  Don't blow your cash on a paint job for up that old useless farmall so you can look the part.  Instead, lay down the cabbage (money) for some nutrients or composting animals.   See, not only is screaming good soil important for growing good, nutritious, healthy food it is also important in regards to being able to withstand drastic changes in weather.  If your soil is good and I mean screaming good velvety dark goodness with minerals and organic matter then you should be able to fair better during drought or monsoon.  Good soil stays moist and drains well.  

If you read this blog you'd know that just about every post for the last month has talked about how we've just been getting hammered with rain up here.  Now,  for anyone who knows soil knows most uncovered, bare soil that has been pounded and pounded with rain usually ends up dry and feeling like concrete after it finally dries out.  It gets hard packed from the constant pounding.  If you tried to drive your hand into it you'd probably end up tearing off a few nails and breaking a finger or two.  I have a spot in my garden that I haven't built up yet and right now looks like the salt flats out west, just light, dry and hard..When it rains water will stand on the surface and create a puddle. 

Joel's soil doesn't do this because he has great soil structure.  He realizes the importance of good healthy earth and has taken the time to turn what used to be poor soil into something fantastic.  Think I'm crazy?  Check out the vid below.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Grab yer Deer Isle Sneakers!

If you are planning on coming out to the farm you'd better get on your Deer Isle Sneakers!

Or a canoe!

Too bad it's a hard living selling mud cause we got plenty of it at the farm.  How much ya need?  After the last two days of rain there isn't much hope of planting any time soon.  We spread some nutrients today, but that was about it.  Because of the absolute nightmare mud conditions we couldn't get the dirty orange machine onto the fields to start laying plastic mulch.  Because the fields are so saturated and keep getting hit with rain whatever has been planted is rotten by now.  We need some sun and wind to dry this place out!

Monday, June 13, 2011


Just when you thought the bulk of the rain had passed and we could look forward to getting some work done, the weather takes a turn and it looks like rain again all week.  Hard luck farming!  It's rained so much you can't drive a tractor on the fields.  Hard to lay down plastic mulch without the tractor.

Had a decent weekend at the farm except for yesterday (RAIN!).  Got a lot done Saturday in terms of getting closer to the big planting days. I can't tell you how much of a great experience it has been this spring, with the unpredictable weather, bad weather and all around "emergencies" that spring up around the farm.  I have learned that nothing ever goes according to plan on the farm and do not plan to do tomorrow what  you could do today because tomorrow the pigs are going to get out!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Acres and Acres and Acres

Just pulled the trigger on a subscription to Acres U.S.A magazine...The farmer told me if I were to subscribe to any one publication I would benefit most from this one.  I have been reading Acres for almost a year now, but it has not been the entire magazine every month.  I go to their site and read the free articles or pick up a mag here and there, so this is going to be a great resource for me going forward in my farming venture.

If you are interested in sustainable, organic, cutting edge science and farming methods I would highly recommend this mag!

Everything I want to do is Illegal!

Here is a great article by Joel Salatin (the author of the book I'm currently reading "You Can Farm").  He explains how the agricultural bureaucracy machine makes everything he want's to do illegal.

I read this piece a year ago for the first time and have since then run into some of the exact same issues he addresses here on the farm I work at now.  

Click and enjoy:

Thanks for reading!

New stickers are in!!

The new stickers are in!! I'm pumped!