April 2014

Nibbled Veggies and Pest Prevention

. . . Apr 15, 2014 | posted by Josephine
Card!

Last week you may have noticed that someone else was nibbling around the edges of your bok choy leaves.  While we would love it if every leaf we harvested was 100% perfect, we accept a certain amount of cosmetic pest damage as normal.  Just because we have a pest doesn’t mean we have a pest problem.  Low numbers of insect pests are actually good for the garden because we need to keep our toads, ladybugs and other pest eaters happy.  No pests means no food for our beneficial insects and animals.  

That doesn’t mean we get to sit back and relax when it comes to insect pests.  Our first and best line of defense against insect pests is prevention.  This is where we natural farmers have the biggest and best tool kit.  Once a pest digs in and becomes a real problem our toolkit is small, expensive, time consuming and comparatively ineffective.  Often it is best to get out the tractor, plow a crop under and say “better luck next time” rather than spending time, money and energy and still losing to the bugs!  As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 

What does prevention look like?  A diverse plant and animal community promotes balance in insect populations.  If the timing works out we usually let mustard, arugula, and other greens go to seed after we are done harvesting them so that nectar and pollen are available at all times.  We avoid the use of broad spectrum insecticides as much as possible.   While they may offer a quick fix for certain pests, these insecticides, while organic, will also kill beneficial insects.  A sterile, insect-free field is an invitation for future infestation because natural checks and balances are absent.   Pest that have been introduced from other parts of the world and pests that do not have a lot of natural predators can be difficult to control.  Our favorite strategy in these situations is to cover the crops with a fabric pest barrier that allows water and sunlight to penetrate but keeps insects out.  We also try to plant varieties that have natural resistance to certain pests that we know are a problem for us.  We are by no means experts.  I am sure this year will bring plenty of new learning opportunities for us about pest control, which means you can expect to see more nibbles on your produce throughout the season.

Before we bought this farm it was conventionally cropped in soybeans for years and years and years.  It is going to take some time to cultivate the diverse and balanced ecosystem both above and below the soil.  Each year we are seeing more earthworms and we take that as a sign that we are moving in the right direction.    

Pig Huts

. . . Apr 07, 2014 | posted by randy
Pig hut

So we had some questions about our pig huts. I decided to go ahead and write a blog post that way I can just point folks to it. If you have any questions feel free to email me here. Click on the picture to open a larger pic in a new frame.

Currently we have three different fencing set ups all using electric fence chargers. We have 2 strand for the older girls, pig netting from Premier 1 for Seth and Iollan and chicken netting for our new hogs that are isolated from the rest. The reason for chicken netting is our new hogs very from nine months to two months. If you have ever seen a two month old AGH they are small enough to easily fit through pig netting. So for now we move pigs pretty frequently so when we were wanting to build some pig shelters we wanted something mobile yet large enough for our hogs. 

We decided to use some old pallets to make shelters. Each shelter takes two pallets, two eight foot 2X4s, some type of cover and a hand full of screws. Once you have built one the others only take about fifteen minutes to make.

 

Pig hut constructionThis one is a finished one but you will see we start off by placing two pallets together at 90 degree angles from one another. We put a short board across the top and a long board across the bottom. 

We have found it is easier to screw the bottom board in place then saw off the excess. Then we use the piece we cut off as the brace for thee top.

 

 

Pig hut laying on its sideThen you gently roll it over and do the same on the other side. To the right you will see a finished pig hut laying on its side

 

 

 

Inter standing next to pig hut

Here is Matt our farm intern standing next to a nearly complete pig hut.

 

 

 

 

Finally we cover them with used billboard tarp. The used billboard tarps are cheaperScrew and roofing washer and much stronger then your typical tarp. Check them out here. We fasten them on with screws and roofing washers. We don't like to use staples because they tend to come out easy.

 

 

 

And here is a happy pig checking out his new home. Our newest pigs all sleep in one hut. That's nine pigs three are nine months old, three are about five months old and three are just weened. They have two huts in their enclosure but all sleep together.Checking out the new home

First CSA of 2014

. . . Apr 04, 2014 | posted by randy
Hightunnel in the spring

There is nothing we farmers enjoy more than complaining about the weather, and this winter has not left us short on material.  We were grateful to have the high tunnel in November of last year when winter came early, and we are equally grateful to have it this spring since the cold weather decided to dig in its heals and overstay its welcome.   It has really been a doozy of a winter, folks.    The good thing about all that cold weather this winter is that we got an extended break – it was just too cold to go outside and work but perfect for drinking hot chocolate and playing Scrabble.  We’ve got lots of baby veggies out in the field and now that the sun is shining and the weather is warm things will really get growing.  Just the other day we saw the first little potato shoots poking through the ground.  How exciting! 

Love your Wax Boxes
It may look like just a box, but it is an important piece of our CSA infrastructure.  We really do need those boxes back.  The best way to do this?  Simply bring your reusable cloth bags or plastic shopping bags with you when you come to pick up your share so that you can unpack it and leave the box behind.  Of course you can choose to take the box with you but then you have to remember to bring it back next week!

For a demo of how to break down your wax box without tearing it, please take one minute and fifteen seconds to watch this video; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jq1wQIeceRg 

Lots of Recipes on our Pinterest Page
Rather than give you one or two recipes in the newsletter each week, we pin a lot of recipes for vegetables features in the CSA on our Pinterest page.  Easier for us, more options for you!  In fact, I just added a recipe for quick Pickled Swiss Chard Stems and vegan Bok Choy Slaw with radishes.  Check it out!

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!
Eat your chard stems and radish greens.  Lots of recipes tell you to remove chard stems and discard.  Hogwash!  The stems are delicious, but will need slightly more time cooking than the greens.   Remove your stems, but chop them up, add them to your dish, and allow them to cook for about 3 to 5 minutes before adding the greens which need only to be wilted.  

These radish greens are particularly young, mild and tender.  You can add them to your salad for a spicy arugula-like kick or give them a quick sauté in butter.  The radishes themselves are quite mild as well but some folks just don’t like a raw radish.  Luckily, there is no law that says you can’t cook a radish.  Try throwing them into your bok choi stir fry at the last minute so they still have a little tooth to them.   A little cooking will mellow out the radish bite.