Thursday, July 31, 2008

My Mailbox

Since I am the one getting the mail this week, I get to see what comes in our mail.  I think the magazine diversity is absolutely hilarious so I took a photo.

Tonight while reading Backyard Poultry, I learned that egg shells are generally thicker and stronger in the winter but thinner in warm weather when hens pant.  Panting causes the hen to evaporate body water which in turn reduces carbon dioxide into the body and will upset the birds pH balance and can cause a reduction in calcium mobilization.  

Laying hens need 2-4 cups of water a day or on a hot day 4-8 cups of water.  That's a lot of water for such a little animal.

And that was only the beginning--- the article described a whole bunch of other egg problems that can occur.  

I'm going to need to figure out how many hens we'll get in September.  Maybe we'll start with 6 hens and a rooster.  But what kind?  Stay tuned....

Fun with a Prism

Kevin and I had fun last Friday morning playing with a prism.
This is angry Kevin.

Happy Kevin

Long Face Kevin.

Baby face Kevin.  This one was our favorite....

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

You'll need to visualize- updated with pics

The problem with moving is that you don't know where things are.  Take for example, the camera hookup to the computer to download pictures.  Mike put it somewhere, but who knows where and he's not here to help me find it.

So visualize 4 of those big bins from the previous fridge posting and imagine them filled to the brim with cucumbers.  Yep, that's what I did this evening, pick cucumbers.  I laughed the entire time.  So Blue Heron-- I'm beating you to the punch this time......
ha, ha,
he, he
1 cucumber for you
and 1 for me

Thank goodness the folks at work like cucumbers- I always end up with an empty tub.  We'll see what is left tomorrow and if I can give all these away.  I think I may have about 200-250 cucumbers to give away tomorrow-- no joke-- could be 300 but I was estimating lower.

I also picked some overgrown zucchini and lots of cherry tomatoes.  Oh are they good.  So visualize a square white bowl about 5 inches x 5 inches and imagine it filled with dark purple, red and orange cherry tomatoes of different shapes and sizes.  Gorgeous!!!!

Hopefully pictures are coming tomorrow when I find the camera cord!

In 2-3 weeks, we are going to have a lot of tomatoes so for those that want to come pick, please let us know.  We'll have plenty.  
We also got a heavy duty pressure canner so we'll be putting that to some good use in the next few weeks.

I'm counting down the weeks-- 8 more weeks--- in Mid September I am getting hens.  I don't really care if they only lay 1 egg per week, I am going to go to someone's farm and buy a few that are already laying eggs.  It will likely be the most money I'll ever spend per chicken- but I will have chickens in September.  I've been waiting 2 years for hens-- that's all I ever really wanted, a bigger garden and a few hens.  I have the garden- just need 3-4 hens and I will be the happiest woman on this planet.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sunday, July 20, 2008


It is crazy how much we have learned already this summer.  I would take the garden and blow it up and start over if I could.  I would plant rows farther apart.  In long rows.  I would use more mulch.   And Id space the rows so I could drive the tractor among the plants.  I would have caged the tomatoes.  And...well, you get the picture.  This year was always intended as a learning year, especially since we werent living at the farm in the spring. 

Now that we are getting used to the lay of the land, we are already thinking about next season.   We have many questions to answer; how many families to invite into the CSA, how many chickens can we process at one time, do we buy sheep for meat or fiber, what kind of breeding stock do we buy for beef, do we buy breeding pigs, where do we put the cattle barn, do we need facilities for the vegetable and fruit processing, how big of a walk in fridge do we buy, etc..

I have plenty of ideas myself.   I think I can answer most of those questions, but I also need to find out what my customers might want.   Perhaps what I want is not in line with what my customers need.  

It is interesting that one of our current customers is also involved in a different CSA.  They have told me that the other farm barely gives them any vegetables every week.  A small handful of snap peas.  A couple of small bunches of herbs.  Maybe.  And excuses.  Oh, there wont be much this week.  The heat is bad.  The bugs are bad.   I was told that they are getting more from us, and we arent charging anyone this summer!  

I think we have a future.  

Really, we need to be able to charge a premium for our produce and meats and eggs and fiber, but we also want to give our core customers not only a premium product, but also a greater quantity than they might get elsewhere.  The benefit for us as a farm is to bring in the guaranteed income that a CSA provides.  The model calls for the customer to pay up front.  It lets us see our budget up front and helps mitigate some financial risk because the customer shares in the risk.  Its not all on the farmer.  In order to pay off on that insurance, I think it is a bit like paying a dividend on that policy by providing a bit extra for the customer.  Like an extra helping of green beans, or a few more tomatoes than you might get from a traditional CSA.  Or providing some extra produce if the customer wants to pick their own on any given day.

So please, feel free to post suggestions in the comments section.   What do you want from your local farm?  What is important to you?  Is organic important?  Or is knowing your farmer more important?  Is USDA certified organic important or is simply knowing that your farmer isnt using pesticides or chemical fertilizers or herbicides the more important factor?   Would you be interested in other farm fresh products like breads, jams, jellies, yogurt, cheese, dairy?  Or other farm products like organic straw or hay?  What about pond raised catfish?  Do you want to pick your own produce?  Would you prefer a work-share?  

Oh, so many questions...

But hey, time to start planning!

Friday, July 18, 2008


I got to join the evening picking tonight and what a harvest!
Above are 2 types of butter lettuce and some romaine.  A friend at work got me hooked on butter lettuce about 2 years ago.  I had no idea what a wonderful lettuce it was!  I will see him this next week so I'll need to bring him some if there is any left!
I needed a point of reference so that's my foot in the picture.  I wear a size 8 1/2.  We picked about 5 rows of beans tonight.  Yellow wax beans and some green beans.  Also notice the huge bucket of cucs!!!!  Love them!  We'll be giving away the beans and cucs tomorrow to some lucky individuals!

Mike is now official.  He has his business, a checking account and now a debit card.  What more do you need?  How about customers....  I have no doubt that he will need to turn folks away next year and there will be a waiting list for the CSA.  
The early variety tomatoes are starting to turn red.  I really need to go around now and mark the tomatoes and pepper and cucs so I know what is what.  But first we need to do a little more cleaning of the old house as we hope to put it on the market next week.

By the way- our cats will not be wearing wigs per the last post by Mike.  Isabella is going to the farm house tomorrow and a friend is helping us find barn cats and so we might be in luck tomorrow.  If not, it doesn't seem like it will be hard to find some.  No more mice in the house at this time- we caught the 2 that were hanging out last week.

Quick note on Emily's theater camp week: it was great and next week they start working on a play.  There will be 2 plays and Emily is the lead role for her play.  She is so excited and has started memorizing her lines already.  Mom, Dad, brother and sis will be practicing too.... We rehearsed Scene 1 tonight (4 scenes in total).

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Funny Stalk of Corn

The corn isn't really that tall.
It's about waist high!  

We were looking at how the corn is and how green it is in certain areas.  We hypothesized water, better drainage, but then came the moment of realization.  The corn that is within 30 feet of the compost pile is getting runoff and so that corn is greener and taller.  Amazing what a difference good soil can do for your garden.  That truckload of compost was our best investment so far!  
The sweet corn is perfectly spaced in terms of timing for harvest.  I am going to plant 1 more section and try out my seeder again.  This time I am also going to add white clover seeds in between the rows of corn as they put back nitrogen into the soil and should help the corn.

Moving In

Mousetraps are the coolest invention.  So simple, yet so effective.  2 nights, 2 mice down.  Isabella (the indoor cat) moves in next weekend.  I hope the mice are telling their friends that it's a dangerous house and to stay out!

I am so excited for tomatoes---- I see hints of orange color on them so maybe 1 more week?

Sunflowers are starting to bloom.

Pumpkin patch is taking off!

Beans are growing, 
shallots are almost ready to harvest and corn is starting to tassel!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Reality Check

This weekend we start to move ourselves into the new house.  Not fully move in but enough to live in both houses and keep the old one nice and clean so we can sell it.
So as I walked into the farmhouse this evening I saw a mouse scurry from one end of the kitchen back somewhere between the fridge/sink/stove.  I don't know exactly where it went because I had turned around quickly and headed out the door.  Once I got outside I let out a big squeal.  I then had to take a deep breath and remember that I am now really, really living in the middle of nowhere.  The mice are also likely more scared of me.  So I am going to need to learn to tolerate all creatures or at least learn to control my fright reflexes.  High alert at all times.

In conclusion: 5-6 traps have been set, Isabella (our current house cat) will be moving to the farm shortly and we'll be looking for 4-5 barn cats this week.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Groundhog Tally and Farm Vocabulary

3 groundhogs gone (gone is a much nicer word)
1 injured and presumed gone

The groundhog population still needs to be thinned a little bit more before we can bring in the cows.
Mike is working on the grazing plan with the local Ag/Farm center people.  He tells me lots of other things he's doing but I'm not up with the farming vocabulary yet so here is my version.

Next steps: 
Get electric fencing up and working.
Get watering system working.  
Figure out what kind of cows/steers to get.
Get the cows/steers.  

Terminology Lesson (I just learned this myself):
Cow - a female 
Heifer- a young female who has not had offspring
Steer- a castrated male
Bull- male 


I got home tonight and to my delight found that Mike had picked the first batch of Zucchini!  What is hard to see in the picture is that the bucket is deep so there is one more layer under what you can see.  And when I say first batch-- that's about the yield I project to get every 3-4 days.  

My master garden plan is at the farmhouse so I don't know the names of the different zucchini but I think I planted 4 varieties.  I can only figure out 3 of the varieties so 2 of them must look a lot alike.  This weekend we will move beds and such to the farmhouse so soon we'll be able to live there!  Yippee!  (ugh- that means we then have to clean up this house and get it ready to sell....)

So if you need some zucchini- give me a holler and I'll deliver it to your doorstep (assuming you live within the 10 mile radius of Westminster, Maryland).  Although I am back in the Big Apple next Wed and Thursday so if there are any NY'ers out there, I could bring a bunch in a bag on the train.  That paints a funny picture-  I might have to bring a load of zucchini with me on the train just for fun- imagine the looks and comments I'd get.  

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Parties and Groundhogs

We had a lot of tree limbs fall down on the property.  We know we need to get used to this as a weekly task.  What better to do with fallen limbs?  Have a bonfire and a party!

It blazed up 20 or so feet but then simmered down so we could actually roast marshmallows.

The kids had a ball and we lit lots of sparklers.  

The next day Mike made good on his promise to diminish the groundhog population.  
The current count:
2 groundhogs down for the count
1 groundhog injured- we saw him limp back to the hole so we aren't sure if he made it or not

Check out the hole above!  There are about 10 of them around the pasture and we need to bury them and make sure we don't have them on the property as it would not be good for a cow to get a leg in one of those holes.  A human could also break a leg with one of those holes so we are scouting them out to fill them in.

Harvesting the spring garlic and some lavender flowers.
Lettuces are ready as well!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Baby Barn Swallow

After a night of heavy rain and wind, we went to the barn for more straw and found that a swallow nest had fallen down.

There were 4 little birds hanging out in the barn trying to fly away.  One flew away and the other 3 hopped around for a while.  The little one below was so cute and I moved them over by some straw so they could rest up so they could try to fly again later.  The next day they were all gone so they must have flown away- or something got them.  I think they flew off and joined their family.


15 year old straw is like gold in your garden.  The more straw I put around the veges, the more they grow and thrive!  About 30-40 more bales left in the barn- we bring it over by the truckload.  The other benefit of the straw is that it makes the garden look beautiful and hides the weeds.
This is called a Smartcart.  This is the best wheelbarrow ever invented.  The wheels are balanced in the center of the load so moving it is effortless.  The wheels are also nice and big and sturdy.  It costs twice as much as a regular wheelbarrow but well worth it.  We now own 2 different sizes.

In order to get the straw out, Mike has to jump into the hay storage area and battle the carpenter bees and wasps.  So far the count looks like this:
Mike- 1 wasp sting and 1 bee sting
Margaret- 1 wasp sting
Wasps and Bees-- 200-300 zapped by Mike

The All-Star

Margaret played in the All-Star game for softball.  Try to find her in the picture of the team above- hint- she's the smallest one on the team.  Now really, really look and see how much smaller she is than the rest of the kids.  
She may be the shortest and littlest kid on the team but she gave it her all and she did a fantastic job.  

She played catcher for 1 inning.  I love it- she is the perfect height for a catcher because she only has to bend her knees slightly and she's at the right height.  It helps her out because she can react very quickly to make a play. 

Margaret getting ready to steal a base.

Margaret won the hearts of the rest of her team and so she even got the game ball.  Picture of that to come--- she had a smile on her face the rest of the day!

New Toy- I Mean Farm Necessity

And so starts the process of getting the things you need to run a farm.
Mike can now cut the grass quickly.  It's actually really fun to drive.  

The Thriving Garden

Cucumbers flowering!  Can't wait for the cucs to start!
Field of beans.  They are starting to flower.

Beans from another view.

First phase of the sweet corn is about 4 feet high.


Swiss Chard.  Beautiful Swiss Chard.  I didn't realize I got a mixture of different colors of swiss chard and so the colors suprised me.  I sauteed it with shallots and garlic (from the garden as well)-- yum!!!

Black seeded simson lettuce.   Perfect for eating!  I've been giving it away by the bagful.  I now need to learn how to stagger the planting so that I get staggered picking.

Dill, basil and cilantro-- my 3 favorite herbs.

The pumpkins are coming up!!! 

This is the field of pumpkins and watermelons.

I'm really enjoying the whole process of gardening.  I even find that I get a sense of accomplishment after I've weeded a section of garden and given my plants another round to grow.  The garden is shaping up fairly well and we now have a watering system in place so I'm diligently watering the peppers and such.  Peppers need about an inch of water a day but I haven't really figured out how large the inch needs to be.  Do you just assume 1 inch for the area 2-3 inches around the plant or is the height taken into consideration?  I will need to research.