We have 7 trial beds where we are exploring mixing wood chips into the soil.
We want to determine what is the most amount of wood chips we can till into the soil while still getting a good harvest the first year.
Our farm has been chosen to participate in a CA Healthy Soils Initiative 3-year project.
Our project proposal was accepted to trial adding wood chips to vegetable fields as a way to sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gases, and increase the soil health and vitality.
Spring sunshine is finally here and we are getting a chance after the rains to start preparing for the new season.
Our creek is overflowing and the wildflowers are at their peak now.
Hansi, our mascot goose, came to live with us last fall.
She's enjoying the spring and the the freshly filled pond.
When working she always comes to keep us company and inspect our work.
This year she's gotten much more comfortable with us touching her. She really enjoys getting her "spiritual eye" massaged.
After much uncertainty, we now know that she is a she.
Anne, our new chicken keeper, shows off Hansi's egg above. Below she's getting a lesson from Ken, one of farm managers, on driving the forklift.
A new intern, Michele, is helping spread old chicken hay on the fields to help fertilize before the spring planting.
This year we are continuing to explore methods to farm that improve the soil viability while also producing abundant crops. Spreading a tarp over the ground for a month to eliminate weeds without tilling is one method we are trying this year.
We also recently purchased some "low-till" soil-friendly, farm implements. This BCS "2-wheel, walk behind tractor" system is used by many small, organic farms. Before we would rototill the beds in the spring to get rid of weeds. The BCS has a small "power harrow" which mixes only the top 2" of the beds to control weeds without pulverizing the soil, like a rototiller does. We plan to never use the rototiller again on the growing beds.
Notice the size of tractors in the background. They were used on the farm previously when it was a commercial flower farm (that extensively tilled the soil). Does anyone want to buy a tractor?
They are for sale.
Another way to nourish our soil is we are switching our green bean production over to perennial runner beans. Last year we did a trial and planted, Scarlett Emperor Runner Beans. Everyone who sampled them preferred them to the traditional green beans we grew.
The runner beans grow large tuber roots that will resprout when it gets warm. So now we don't have to till the soil in the bean beds at all. And the beans are so vigorous they will easily outgrow weeds.
The only drawback is they don't produce as much per plant as "commercial varieties" which is why you don't see them in stores. As a small farm with lots of land, we can just plant more to make up for this.
Here's a picture of a Scarlett Emperor Runner Bean root waiting for warmer weather to sprout.
We have been busy all winter, when the rains allow, building a new high tunnel, hoop house. It will replace the one that blew down last spring. We will grow tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, basil,... in here. All the heat loving vegetables that people want.
We specifically chose a high tunnel to withstand high winds.
We'll need some help in a few weeks to put the plastic on. Let us know if you'd like to come help. We'll have to pick a calm, non-windy day.
A racoon was getting into our chicken coop. We tried to trap him, but it didn't work out as planned. A smelly experience for everyone involved.
We've planted a lot of flowers around the pond area this last year. Here's Lisa and some volunteers planting Pink Lady Belledonnas around the pond, with Hansi in the middle supervising.
It's time to sign up for the CSA. If you are interested sign up early. We are limiting the boxes to only 75 this year, so we expect to sell out early. As a reminder what our boxes look like, here's pictures from the last week in 2016.
We are including Wild Amaranth in the boxes this week. This is a wild vegetable that grows around the farm and very nutritious, more nutritious than kale or regular spinach.
Our farm interns all enjoy eating this vegetable. In fact when they go out into the field to pick something for dinner they almost always choose the wild amaranth over kale or Swiss Chard.
Here's what we wrote about preparing it last year.
Here's a simple way to use wild amaranth to spruce up a grilled cheese sandwich.
Cut up every part into fine pieces, stalk, flowers, leaves -- it is all good. Separate the large stalk pieces from the leaves. The stalk takes about an extra 2 minutes to cook. So put them in a frying pan first with about 1" of water. Cook with lid on for several minutes until soft. Prepare one side of sandwich at same time.
Sometimes people are less than thrilled to find bugs in their CSA boxes.
And they let us know it!
This year we decided to go entirely spray-free, pesticide-free in our fields.
Being organic certified we have never used synthetic pesticides in our field.
Last year we did use neem oil, a natural pesticide.
However, we want to be completely free of all pesticides in an effort to grow more in harmony with the land and to protect the bees and the biological life of our soil.
Most farms, including organic, use some pesticides to control bugs. If you read modern organic farming magazines they are filled with new pesticides that have been developed that meet "organic standards" while delivering chemical lethality.
Part of the joy of being a zero-pesticide farm is you will receive, from time to time, a bug in your box. Or even many bugs. Don't worry, it is a sign you are receive toxic-free food for yourself and family. When food looks too good and clean then usually you might also be receiving residual pesticides.
Our produce will also have many "chew marks" showing where bugs have feasted ... they really think our produce is good and healthy!
Pillbugs really had a banquet on our Daikon radishes. It's the first time we grew them and we almost didn't put them in the boxes ... they were so unsightly. However, in they went ... sticking to earth friendly ideals. If you get such as daikon, just remember it means they were grown in biologically alive soil with no poisons! Just make extra use of a knife and peeler to "sculpt" out the good parts.
We try to clean off any bugs from the produce before it goes into the boxes. Some though
will slip through. We feel confident though we'll catch any frogs like this one,