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Farm News: Elation, Uncertainty, and Week One, Season Two!

May 26, 2013

WEEK ONE, SEASON TWO

This part needed to come first, just in case you don’t have time to read the rest right now. 🙂

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A sample of the veggie starts you will see at market this Thursday.

Mama Tee’s first CSA share and first Farmer’s Market of the season are among  us this week! CSA Full share and Half share pickups are at the Buckman Farmer’s Market this Thursday from 3-7pm. The market is in the parking lot of Hinson Church on the corner of SE Salmon and SE 20th. If you don’t have a share, and want one, there is still time and a few more spaces! Goodies for the Full share this week will include spinach, spicy greens, pea sprouts, herbs, radish, and pickles.

Mama Tee’s will have a wide array of starts for sale at the market. Including, herbs, lettuces, peas, tomatoes, beans, squashes, arugula, and maybe some peppers and artichoke as well! And, Mama Tee’s famous pickled radish is back and will be available at the market as well. Come out and say hi! Let’s start week one, season two out with a bang!

ELATION

Now on to the nitty-gritty.

Willamina. Ten acres. The new Farmstead home. It’s beautiful and tucked away in the Eastern Coastal Foothills just a stones throw away from some of the best Wine Country Oregon has to offer. It came with a 2-bedroom house, some infrastructure, small animal quarters, a greenhouse, water rights, an orchard, a separate annex, and plenty of camping space.  Two very encouraging, helpful, and supporting owners as well. We started off with a ten year lease. It just felt right. I don’t think I could of dreamed of a better home for Mama Tee’s.  Moved the farm the last two weeks of February.

Breaking ground began March 25th. To date, a little under half an acre is tilled and limed. Half of that is amended and has spring goodness growing in it! The warm season crops will be going in next weekend. Another half acre will be tilled up for fall vegetables.  Another two to three will be disked and planted in cover crops this fall. And that is only half of it.

Three goats are rotated between two paddocks. Two more paddocks are in the works. Two of the girls will be bred this fall and kids and milk will arrive next spring. This season they will be working to remove Himalayan Blackberry and fertilizing the soil.

Sixty baby chicks are on their way June 10th. They will be my debugging, fertilizing, tilling (ok, more like scratching), egg, and meat crew. After a six-week brooding period, they will head out to pasture and rotated every month thereafter. The roosters will be butchered come Labor Day. That’s perfect because that’s when the first round of Red Rangers should arrive.

Last, but not least, at least one Farm to Table dinner is in the works for Fall and hopes of a cob oven building workshop as well.

That’s the plan for the season, in a nutshell. Elated. Here are some pictures of before and after of the fields and a front porch view of the farm:

This is a picture in January of the South Field, before it was mowed and tilled.

This is a picture in January of the South Field, before it was mowed and tilled.

South Fields with spring veggies and tilled warm season ground as of 5-26.

South Fields with spring veggies and tilled warm season ground as of 5-26.

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Upslope field March 25th

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Upslope field May 25th.

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Porch view

UNCERTAINTY and, at moments, DESPAIR

Yeah, breaking ground on fallow land and putting it into production immediately comes with some extra added, not so happy

times. It ain’t all roses and sunshine all the time:

– Within days of planting the strawberries, the deer started sampling them.  We covered the strawberries almost immediately. Temporary solution.

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Arugula with flea beetle damage

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Peas with Pea Leaf Weevil damage

– Within days of the arugula and radish coming up, flea beetles decided they liked them. Pea Leaf Weevils were taking some serious chunks out of my new arisen pea leaves. We are adding beneficial nematodes (3 varieties) in stages across the entire planted area. We are also weeding the area at least once a week to keep it clean. The flowers are coming as well, which brings beneficial insects, but they are still weeks off from providing support.

– Then, the deer nibbled the peas. Covered them with hoops and remay…they are outgrowing their protection fast.

– The lettuces and radish were not growing up to speed. Decided to added some more organic fertilizer.

– Root borers started eliminating broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and collard transplants. Again, adding beneficial nematodes that seek out and lay eggs within over 250 soil dwelling crop pests.

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Deer-nibbled lettuces

– This morning, the deer decided they liked one of my lettuce varieties as well. Seriously, enough to drive a sane farmer crazy. And yesterday morning, after the deer and the lettuce, I almost lost it. Tears were welling up. One thing after another. More fencing is so expensive. Remay cover only lasts so long…

So, I proceeded to the greenhouse where I knew I would feel better until…

– Slugs decided they would eat several of my bean starts.

(Big Sigh here) Breathe. It’s no wonder it is so easy for a farmer to reach for a pesticide. The quick fix and all the frustration goes away (for a while at least).

I started exploring my options. I covered half the lettuces (all of the variety they apparently have an affinity for), decided an organic certified slug bait was needed for the greenhouse and began researching more deer fencing considerations. Yesterday evening, while I was watering the greenhouse later than usual, I caught 5 slugs approaching the beans! Hmmm, maybe Sluggo wasn’t necessary, just better timing in the greenhouse.

As for the deer: a fencing project around all the fields is in the works with the land owners. Maybe a temporary baited electric line around the upslope field (where the strawberries, lettuces, and peas are) for the short-term. Row cover will have to do for now.  Again, to be continued….

These challenges will be a continuous process with no easy fixes, trying the patience and will of the farmer. From an agroecological perspective, long-term fertility and health of the farmscape means increasing diversity throughout, not eliminating or sterilizing it with pesticides (even if they are organic). So, I continue to think this way and act accordingly, knowing this is better for the long-term production of the land. This plan does not eliminate the present uncertainty one feels when multiple issues all hit at once, however. No one ever said it would be easy to live in sync with Nature.

I read a quote the other day that resonated. Not sure of the author:  “Sometimes when things are falling apart, they may actually be falling into place.”

I hesitated to publicize this. You never hear about beginning farmers dealing with what could, potentially, sink their farm. Farmers, at least this one, don’t like to be seen as vulnerable. You also never hear about the choices they make to resolve or improve these conditions. You usually only see romanticized versions of the small, sustainable, cheery farmer with all his happy plants and happy animals running around the pristine looking farm. Of course, most sustainable farmers know rotational crops, cover cropping and the above mentioned are all part of the “happy” farm, but what about when you are starting out? All those things DON’T happen overnight. So, I realized this is important to the future of our food, our land, and our health. How the farmers chooses to deal with issues that maintain the farm is the root of where the sustainable food movement grows and needs to be transparent so the public can better understand.  There needs to be a cohesion and cooperation between land and human, not this 70 year idea of “battling its forces by eliminating the enemies.” That’s why I won’t use words like battling or fighting Nature. We can’t beat her, we must stop trying and live our lives more in tune and connected to her needs. If not for Nature, we must do it for the human race. If we don’t change this paradigm, the human species is seriously at risk of exterminating itself by destroying the very thing that gives us life.

A short disclaimer about “organic” here. Hands down, organic is better for you and the land. Unfortunately, the word organic gets associated with the inevitable bureaucracy of the USDA run organic certification program. This program, although flawed, is probably one of the most important investments for human and land health and ranks up there among the creation of the Endangered Species Act and formation of our National Parks. It remains, at its core, a program that encourages health of the land and the people first. It does, however, allow the use of some naturally-derived and certified by a scientific Board of Advisors (whom Monsanto has NO part in) pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides as a last resort. The policy is also distorted when organic farmers pay fees and must label their product, all the while the conventional farmers using toxins and unchecked GMO’s pay no fees and do not have to label their products. This is the biggest flaw by far and why organic “costs more.” But, this is our government currently: those with more profits, have more power, and in return buy more government support. Please get involved if you’d like to see this change. There are several NGO’s currently working to help create better policy within the USDA for sustainable farming. For more information on the Organic Program and its principles click here.

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