Monday, September 17, 2012
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.
Posted by Mike at 9:41 PM
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Posted by Mike at 10:18 PM
Monday, September 3, 2012
Posted by Mike at 5:07 PM
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.
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.
Posted by Mike at 4:47 PM
Thursday, July 5, 2012
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...
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.
Posted by Mike at 1:20 PM
Friday, June 29, 2012
Posted by Mike at 10:03 AM
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
By STEVE BROWN
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.
Posted by Mike at 9:56 AM