Questions from the Farm – #2 in an Ongoing Series

We get lots of questions from community farm participants. Here are questions that came up this week.

1) How do you know whether you should plant 1 seed or multiple seeds in the same spot?

If the seed are purchased then the back of the seed packet will usually show planting information that includes desired spacing between plants and the number of seeds to plant in the same spot

Another way to determine how many seeds to plant in each spot is to look at the germination rate listed on package.

If the germination rate is 80% or below I would plant 4 seeds and then thin as needed. Above 80, consider planting 2-3 seeds and thin as needed. A 95% or greater gemination rate means you could try planting one see per site.

2) Is it better to wash produce before or after freezing?

Definitely better to wash before freezing

3) What crops have the best number of calories?

If you are interested in the number of calories per ounce of crop check out:

https://www.calories.info/food/vegetables (click at the top to select serving size)

It is important to note that calories / lb of crop is only a small part of the picture. Some crops are easier to grow, take more or less space or have higher yields.

Another way look a it is with a typical serving size. You can download a chart here from the FDA:


Vegetables – https://www.fda.gov/media/70792/download
Fruit – https://www.fda.gov/media/76508/download

Also check out: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-labeling-nutrition/nutrition-information-raw-vegetables

The breakdown of carbohydrates vs. protein is also important. Protein is a very important part of your diet. Check out:

https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/19-high-protein-vegetables

4) How long does eggplant last in the fridge?

Eggplant lasts about 5 days in the refrigerator crisper.

5) How many weeks does a fig last on a fig tree?

Figs last just a few days after picking when ripe. Figs don’t store well, so it is best to eat or process them soon after picking. Once the fig is ripe on the tree, it won’t last long. Birds and insects are drawn to ripe fruit left on the tree.

Homestead Experience – Fall Edition – 3 Weeks Away!

Come join us for a day of learning about homesteading and farming!

Event Schedule

Friday Night

The event on-site camping at the farm (spaces limited) on Friday night.

Schedule | Friday

5:00 – Check In at the farm

Saturday

Lets share and learn about how to be more self-reliant by raising more of our own food. Here are the topics, each with practical experience to go with them:

1) Preparing beds – see our BCS walk behind tractor in use as we prepare the beds using a low till approach

2) Planting garlic – learn the basics of planting garlic. Get your hands dirty and put what you just learned into practice as we plant garlic together. We’ll provide the garlic.

3) Sugar snap peas / beans / tbd – learn how and actually plant sugar snap and then trellis the peas. We’ll have everything ready for you to help make it happen.

4) Economics of starting a homestead – we share the real costs of starting our farm, with Q&A

5) Starting a community garden

Schedule | Saturday

8:00 – Breakfast (provided) and Check-in

8:30 – 12:00 – Practical classes / demonstrations / hands in dirt

12:00 – Lunch (provided)

1:00 – 3:00 – Practical classes / demonstrations / hands in dirt

3:00 – 4:00 – Economics of starting a homestead with numbers from our farm

4:00 – 4:45 – Starting a community garden

4:45 – 5:00 – Wrap up / final Q&A

Pictures from the Farm – 2nd Week of May

Summer is here and we are starting to harvest veggies!

Sweet potatoes are doing well
Winter squash are growing!

Corn and Cushaw are doing well together

Tromboncino squash are doing well
Some of the Tromboncino squash are going to get very long
The purple bush beans are cool
Nice picking the pole beans to enjoy with a meal

First Weekend in May – Update

Everything is growing! Here are some images from this week.

Gemba Walk after Mowing

Lets take a walk around the farm and see what is growing!

One of the topics that comes up in the video is the concept of imposing my will on the farm. Planning for the growing season requires creating a calendar of when to do what. Different crops need to go in at different times so that requires planning. We need to have the ground ready to plant. This year is very much a building year so we had infrastructure that had to go in. We put in:

  • 3D anti-deer fences
  • drip irrigation
  • new beds for planting that were previously pasture

We have also been working to add additional perennials this year

  • elderberries
  • figs
  • peaches

The garden beds are shaping up. They spent the last three months under a silage tarp but are now mostly ready to plant. The elderberries, figs and peaches are growing.

We also did work in the food forest area that we started building in 2021. We added a trellis for the blackberries and covered the hugelkultur mound with a silage tarp for 3 months to help suppress weed growth this summer. We also put down a biodegradeable paper around the bushes and trees and covered it with hay.

These have been great successes. Which would not be possible without everyone that has helped out on the farm. Our farm is structured as a communal community farm. We have another family that helps out. We share the harvest with them. Having their help has made this possible.

One of the challenges of accomplishing these things is timing. It is critical to have materials (hay, biodegradeable paper, plants, hardware and lines for the drip irrigation, and a bunch of various item) in place and ready to install. The next step is to have a plan where the materials and manpower are ready to go. I developed a calendar for the year. Then each week we have a list of items to accomplish. The list makes helps everyone to plan their time and know what tools to bring. It also helps us to work as a group and sometimes to break down in to 2 groups to work on some items in parallel.

Can Impose My Will on the Farm?

Weather is always a factor with outdoor activities like hiking or camping. Weather is an even bigger factor with farming. Not only the weather on the day you plan to work in the fields but also the weather leading up to the days you have planned to work.

If the fields are wet, then you may have to wait for them to dry out before preparing beds or planting. If the soil isn’t warm enough then seeds won’t germinate. A late frost can kill young plants. Maybe the tractor breaks down in the middle of the field (been there).

It takes effort and organization to

  • make sure the materials and tools you need are ready
  • make sure any equipment is ready for use
  • confirm that the people helping are in place and ready

Days and weeks before you

  • made sure you had budget for anything that needed to be paid for
  • ordered any materials or equipment and made sure it arrived

So you have all this lined up and on the calendar. But that doesn’t mean it will happen. Weather, equipment issues, or other frustrations can keep your plans from happening.

My desire and my decision to do X,Y, and Z on a certain day doesn’t mean it will happen. My will to accomplish work on the farm is totally subservient to reality of circumstance. There are many things that can delay plans or even cancel them. Its really easy to assume that because I planned something and got everything ready, then it will happen. The life lesson comes when it doesn’t . Farming will teach that life lesson again and again. I’m not able to impose my will on the farm. It works better if I set up goals and plan for success but not get upset if those plans don’t work out. Humility wins. Farming, or even gardening, will definitely teach you humility, patience and the value of a backup plan / rain date.

Parting words: plant a garden!

Planting Time

The last two days have been a blur. We have been busy. Even with 4 people on the farm working hard, we still have more stuff to do before everything is been planted.

We are on still on a rapid learning curve as we work hard. The garden area in the pictures below was pasture for decades so we had to work to plow up the grassy area and then build new beds.

Using the BCS Tractor

The BCS tiller was also a new piece of equipment for us. The biggest challenge we’ve had with the BCS is laying out beds so that the rows come out the width that we want. Our BCS tractor has the 5.5 inch extensions added to the the 749 tractor. This makes the tractor wider by 11 inches.

The vegetable garden beds are on a sloped face. To help minimize any erosion issues during rain events, we kept a 10 foot ribbon of grass between each plot. Each plot was laid out to have 2 rows per plot (30″ wide rows) with an 18″ wide walkway between each row. When I added up 3 walkways plus a quantity of 2 of the 30″ wide rows, then we should need a plot that is 9.5 feet wide. In practice, it just isn’t working out that way. I suspect we’ll have to till and hill a plot and measure to see where I’m off in my estimation of the total width of each 2 row plot. There is definitely a learning curve to becoming a better farmer.

Trellis

We just installed rows of trellis for pole beans and tromboncino squash. We are using a curved trellis for the tromboncino squash and pole beans. I keep seeing videos and picture of the curved and over trellis configuration, so we wanted to see at try and find out if it works as well as we keep hearing. The curved trellis (when covered with tromboncino squash) should provide provide shade for the young rhubarb.

One of my projects for this summer is to install posts in the field, near the rows, where we can hang the cattle panels (used in the trellis) this fall after we take the trellis down and store it for the winter.

This is our first year of using an arched trellis
Trellis for climbing beans

Tagging Each Fruit Bearing Tree and Bush

One of the projects this month was to map and tag each fruit bearing tree and bush. My wife took this project and ran with it. We now have a map that shows the location of each fruit bearing tree and bush, indicated by a unique tag number. The unique tags number are recorded in a spreadsheet. Information about each plant is recoded with the tag number, such as variety and date planted. This will also us to track historical data about each plant. This data is also useful when we propagate cuttings, allowing us to properly identify plants for sale.

Elderberry with drip watering tree ring and metal tag

Flowering Mandrakes / Almost Time to Plant


It is the time of year where you never know if it is going to be an 80 degree day or a 40 degree day. We are still getting ready to start planting our summer garden. This was also the first time I mowed the grass for the season. More and more plants are starting to grow. The drip irrigation system is still a work in progress. Once we have the planting beds made then we can put down the drip tape and test the system.

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Leaves coming out on the peach trees, but it looks like the frost killed the blooms
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The elderberry plants are really starting to take off
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Blackberries are growing too
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The garlic is continuing to thrive

We had a fairly mild winter so the weeds started growing early in the garlic beds. This year we put down hay twice to try and suppress weed growth. Hopefully we can avoid a lot of weeding this way. I was pleasantly surprised that our garlic beds survived our neighbors cows getting loose and trampling the plants earlier in the winter.

American Mandrake

We have several patches of wild American Mandrake. It grows in the shady areas. I’m hoping that we can actually try some of the fruit this year. That would mean that we would have to time picking it just right. If we wait too long the squirrels and deer will beat us to the ripe fruit.

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Our American Mandrake is flowering