Monday, September 17, 2012

What the!!!!

                                            What the???? What is??? Who is in my tomatoes?

What the!!! What is she doing? Holy *&^$%!!!!

Heidi and I took a tour of the farm together today. We paused in the tomatoes that are enjoying this long stretch of dry warm weather. The cloche (that's French for bell) is loaded with the Fantastics I wrote of earlier. There is a ton, literally, of green fruit and we are just beginning to  harvest some for the house.
                                    The cherry and grape tomatoes in the field are loaded as well.

It is so nice to grow a few things far enough apart that we can till between them with a tractor. We trellis on metal stakes with a two wire system that supports the plants. As you can see they are getting so tall that they are beginning to fold over the top of the wire.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Field Walk September 13

 At the start of today's field walk I checked in with Boistfort Valley Farm's newest addition. Lisa Marie has joined us to take on some of the book work in the office; taking orders and printing invoices and pack sheets among other things. She seems to be getting the hang of things here as she politely asks me to talk to the hand.

 One of my biggest concerns right now is the health and well being of our crops. Aphids just love these warm dry days, and though the cool nights and mornings seem to be knocking them back a bit, they are still enemy #1 at the farm. We grow over 5 acres of celery and I am an attentive and doting steward when it comes to this crop.

 You have to get right in there to find the earliest signs of an aphid population, or the early onset of early blight, or black heart or any number of afflictions I do not care to dwell on but that constantly threaten an organic crop. A large block of a single crop is an unnatural occurance, and without the silver bullet of high potency pesticides and fungicides it requires constant diligence, and a great degree of faith and attention to detail. My friend Nil always reminds me "there is no fertilizer like the footprints of the master".

 Here is a good example of something or things done right as this crop of broccoli has made it to harvest as a consistent and healthy crop during the greatest degree of pest pressure.

 Another surprise victory in this short season is our melon crop which appears ready for harvest in the next few days. This will be our first real harvest of melons of any sort in several years.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Calm Before the Storm

Thought I better post a photo of what is probably the nicest planting of broccoli we have grown here in years. Healthy, clean, and consistent. Now I just wait for the explosion of aphids that share my enthusiasm for healthy crops of broccoli. It seems like the aphid pressure has been increasing every year in the valley and though we have established a fairly effective trifecta of treatments including a microbial fungus and the application of over 1/2 million lady every year, these little %$@#%$s seem to eventually get the better of us. The aphid loves this warm dry weather as well and they can hide like nobodies business, especially in the broccoli and cauliflower as well as the undersides of the kales. Please wish us well as the fight is definitely on.

Garlic Harvest

I know, I know, It's just that I....

It is a story well illustrated by my most recent attempt to blog. Early in the morning in late July I set out with the field crew to document the garlic harvest. We grow about 2 acres of garlic and the harvest is kind of a big deal. Among other things it signals the beginning of the end of the beginning of summer.

My job is to operate the tractor to loosen the soil and make shorter work of the difficult task of pulling the garlic out of the ground. We use our John Deere 2640 with a set of "rippers" or "subsoilers" on the back. The tractor straddles the rows and the shanks of the subsoiler penetrate the soil to a depth of about sixteen inches.

 It is literally like throwing an anchor off the back of the tractor. This process is also used late in the season on ground that we have traveled over a lot and helps to loosen the soil and break up any hard pan caused by tilling or plowing.

So there I am doing my best to get over the field and stay ahead of the crew without breaking anything.The whole field crew is out there with me; twelve guys that really know how to work, and it is a struggle to stay ahead and double back over the tougher areas while they pull the garlic and load it onto our trucks and trailers.

Before I realize it the crew has finished harvesting, the last truck is loaded and pulling out to transport the garlic back to the farm and there I am holding a camera in an empty field.

We use our now empty greenhouses to store the garlic and It was all I could do to snap a few pictures of the garlic in the greenhouse before these guys had it cleaned and ready for market.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fourth of July Field Walk

I made my rounds of the farm early on the fourth of July. It is so nice to come across a field that the crew has recently weeded. Our first planting of dill shows excellent vigor, solid germination, and is virtually free of weeds.

I am also happy to report that the chard that I wrote about in an earlier post has recovered well and has quickly grown ready for harvest. However...

 A recent conversation with a local producer of chard seed has brought another issue to the table. Some of our red chard is beginning to flower; probably due in part to how early we started it in the green house and then finalized by the consistently cool temperatures we had in June. He is concerned that our crop of red chard may contaminate his yellow chard which is about 1/2 mile away. If so we will send our field crew out to remove those plants which have gone to seed.

Chard, like many other crops, including kale and parsley, is a "cut & come again". We harvest mature leaves from the outside of the plant every week, and the plant continues to produce, sometimes for the entire season. We do not harvest from plants that have "bolted" or gone to seed. So in this case it is of little consequence that we have to remove the flowering plants, just a bit more work.

Our first planting of sunflowers is well established and beginning to take hold. Soon this field will be a solid forest of bright yellow flowers.

The mystery guest under the row cover is, in this case, my personal planting of tomatoes. I have a favorite. Fantastics by name they are admittedly not an heirloom, but rather a very old hybrid developed in the northwest. I have been growing them since I started my own garden in the early eighties. They are a beautiful, vining plant that produces huge very traditional tomatoes. They are the best in my opinion; absolutely fantastic. In a few weeks after we cultivate them one more time and they begin to grow unmanageable, we will stake them and trellis them, cover the hoops with a row of fabric and hope for a bumper crop of great tasting tomatoes.

One of my jobs as I observe the fields and plants that make up the farm, is to monitor trials. We are always looking to improve the quality of the produce we grow, and trial several varieties of several crops every year. Sometimes it is difficult to determine the difference, other times, like with this trial of two different lettuces, the choice is clear.

Gratefully I ended this particular day with another great set of beds; good germination, excellent performance and very few weeds. I hope you're hungry for cilantro.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Warehouse Progress

Enter the new digs. We have re-taped and added a coat of mud and some texture to what will be the office and break-room of our new facility. Doors have been hung or re-hung, patches made, and we are ready for a coat of paint
The new office has a view of the floor.
The floor is still cluttered with tools and a thousand things that we have collected over the years in preparation for setting up a more formal packing facility.
The list has expanded and contracted, but our short term objectives and long term goals have remained the same since day one.
The new covered area, that will be used for washing, is being inspected today and we will pour concrete on Monday. The painter is coming down to go over  the details, and though I am jokingly sticking to my original projected start-up date of July 1, we are making good progress and it will not be long before we are setting up the refrigeration and completing the installation of new high efficiency lighting.

Nothin' Left To Do

About a week ago The Organic Mechanic paid us a visit. I got a phone call from a local farm and was introduced via email to Thomas Kamiya.


Mechanic breathes life into farmers, machines

Capital Press
ROCHESTER, Wash. -- Thomas Kamiya proudly points out a rototiller that was underwater for four days during a 2007 flood.
"We clean up, start up, it runs," he said. "It's a miracle."
Less miraculous are the lessons he teaches his students. The Japanese-Canadian retired as a heavy duty mechanic in 2009, and he now spends about six months a year teaching young organic farmers how to maintain their equipment.
Until this summer, Kamiya has taken his class on the road only in Canada. Now he's working his way south, through Western Washington and Oregon. He's hoping someone in California will invite him to continue south.
Kamiya came to Canada from Japan in 1975, studied at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and started working at Finning International, a heavy equipment company based in Vancouver, B.C. There he settled into what he calls "The Canadian Dream" -- a wife, two kids and a garden.
Since he retired, he has shared his knowledge with 123 farmers and counting. He is now 67 and has no plans to retire again.
Why focus his teaching on organic farmers?
"Organic farmers support public health," he said. "They are food doctors. They are a 'farmacy' -- that's with an 'F.'"
Many young farmers have come from non-farm backgrounds and never had to learn technical skills.
Kamiya said he teaches life skills in parallel with mechanics. "Maintenance is good for the machine and for life," he said. "You shouldn't need to repair it. That means you didn't do maintenance."
Taking care of machines need not be difficult, but it is all-important.
"One minute of checking for leaks before start-up can save you a thousand dollars," he said.
A 1958 Farmall Cub now runs well after he taught a young farmer how to troubleshoot it. He called the repair and parts manual "the machine's Bible."
This machine should last another 20 years, "but without maintenance, tomorrow morning it's gone. You have to make it last. They're not making these anymore." 
Student Drew Schneidler said any of Kamiya's student had better be ready to work.
"He's a traveling teacher, not a traveling mechanic," he said.
Schneidler farms next to Helsing Junction Farm, where Kamiya stayed during his visit to the area. The young farmer has confidence to do things he earlier would have hired out to a mechanic.
"Before, I could tinker. Now I can figure out anything wrong, at least with smaller machines. With bigger machines, at least I get in the ballpark."
Kamiya doesn't charge for his services, asking only for a place to plug in the van he travels and lives in.
Any donations go to relief efforts in the earthquake- and tsunami-stricken areas of Japan, where he plans to teach next summer.
"I want to build a bridge from the U.S. to Japan," he said. "I want to bring hope from heart to heart." 

I ended up on the phone with Thomas and told him that though we may not need any maintenance work I would be delighted to meet him. He came down to the farm on Saturday and stayed until early Monday morning. I know he was a bit frustrated by  the fact that we made him take Father's Day off. This man really likes to work. I think he was duly impressed by our maintenance program and completely baffled by the safety measures we take here. He was unwilling to believe that we had not  had a fire when he saw that we have fire extinguishers in all our buildings and field and delivery vehicles. After searching and searching, meticulously going over our tractors,  lawn mower, chainsaw, weed-eater, pressure-washer, and two generators, Thomas was finally able to point out one grease fitting that had not been serviced.

My daughter took a real shine to Thomas and his elegant manner and thoughtful approach to an intentional journey are inspiring.