Tag Archives: Soils

Battening Down the Hatches

Silvery red cabbage leaves

Silvery red cabbage leaves

Rain is in the forecast, a novel situation for us in “Droughtville” (California). We’ve had a couple practice storms roll through, dropping an inch, more or less, just to tease us. But this week, we’ve heard up to 7 inches could fall. The whole community is excited, hoping this will open the storm door and eventually lead us out of the dry conditions we’ve experienced for several years now. The reservoirs are low and steps are being taken to monitor ground water supplies. We have two good wells on the property we use to irrigate year-round. And so far, that’s been enough. Paul has also switched most crops to drip lines for most of their life cycle, rather than overhead, sprinkler-type watering. We trade off using less water for more plastic and more labor.

Cover crop has been planted wherever possible.

Cover crop has been planted wherever possible.

Lush cover crop.

Lush cover crop.

The farm prepares for winter rains every year, whether they come or not. As the day length shortens and the nights cool, fields are cleared of finished tomatoes and eggplant, tilled until smooth and flat, composted and finally cover crop seed has been planted wherever we want to give the beds a carbon boost. Ditches are checked and regraded where necessary.

Hoops to cover beds await

Hoops to cover beds await

Hoops are set up over beds in case the rain becomes too much for small plants. Plastic covers can be pulled over the top of the hoops, if need be. We’re ready and waiting to have time in the shop, to clean and sharpen tools, to change the oil for the many machines, and to get to the projects that await, like the recently purchased cultivating tractor that needs a new front axle and for the whole under-belly apparatus to be rebuilt and mounted.

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Romanesco plays peek-a-boo

So we wait to see how much will fall.

Red beets

Red beets

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Rainbow chard is loving this cooler, wetter weather.

Rainbow chard is loving this cooler, wetter weather.

 

Lots of new pipe. The days of moving pipe from field to field are numbered!

Lots of new pipe. The days of moving pipe from field to field are numbered!

Surprise artichokes are popping here and there.

Surprise artichokes are popping here and there.

Moving compost

Moving compost

Attending the compost

Attending the compost

Two kinds of leeks, King Richard on the left and Lexton on the right.

Two kinds of leeks, King Richard on the left and Lexton on the right.

Joanie came to visit on Thanksgiving.

Joanie came to visit on Thanksgiving.

Brussels sprouts are just beginning to form

Brussels sprouts are just beginning to form

Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi

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New (used) Kubota cultivating tractor

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Front axle needs work

 

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El Verano Potatoes

Field restoration is in full swing. Organic farming, almost by definition, strives to improve the soils. Whether by adding organic matter through cover cropping, taking soil tests and boosting nutrients through application of whatever is needed or rock crushing!

Several of our fields are very rocky. Several years ago, Paul bought a rock crusher, which has been earning its keep this month. The rocky fields are slowly (driving as the crusher runs is very slow…15 minutes from one end of the 100 yard field to the other) becoming rock free.

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Already crushed areas, ready for the next stage.

Already crushed areas, ready for the next stage.

Rocky soils are being "crushed".

Rocky soils are being “crushed”.

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Broccoli grows with such verve, it's impossible to ignore.

Broccoli grows with such verve, it’s impossible to ignore.

Kristen picking kale

Kristen picking kale

Will picking kale

Will picking kale

Surprise artichokes are popping here and there.

Surprise artichokes are popping here and there.


Busy Spring

IMG_5555The words “busy” and “spring” are synonymous on a farm.

Fields are drying quickly and the cover crop wants to be “harvested” and turned into the soil, creating an instant carbon boost helping with fertility and soil structure. Once mowed the debris from the crop digests for several weeks or until it’s structure is all but gone allowing the finished bed to be even and smooth.

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Furrows help dry the soil.

The cover crop consists of bell beans, austrian peas and oats.

The cover crop consists of bell beans, Austrian peas, barley and oats.

Then the field will be rototilled. Sometimes when a field is tilled, the soil moisture is still too high to plant. To speed drying, furrows are made with shovels on the tractor.

Once a field is flat and weed-free, it’s ready to be planted. And there are many transplants lined up waiting for space.

Transplants and irrigation supplies

Transplants and irrigation supplies

The whole crew works the plantings. The irrigation has to be set up. Most everything is on drip lines which have to be pulled and hooked up to the water supply. Some crops require covers. For example, the first tomatoes and peppers (Padron) are in and covered.

Additionally, many things are being harvested at this time of year, adding to the day’s diversity and the community’s health. We are so happy to be able to grow this excellent food.

The artichokes are finishing.

The artichokes are finishing.

These carrots are just beginning to be harvested.

These carrots on drip lines are just beginning to be harvested.

Asparagus harvest today

Asparagus harvest today

Picking peas and sage in flower

Picking peas and sage in flower

Raspberries with lava beans in the background

Raspberries with fava beans in the background

The first peppers in the field have their own greenhouses to give them a little boost.

The first peppers in the field have their own greenhouses to give them a little boost.

Spring purplette onions

Spring purplette onions

 

Even the sweet peas at home are growing like crazy.

Even the sweet peas at home are growing like crazy.


Summer

The next carrots are looking lush

The next carrots are looking lush.

Oh yes, Summer is here.

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Rows of tomatoes are finally bearing fruit.

There are so many changes on the farm. Let me share just a few. The season is just getting started.

Celery root is up and pushing.

Celery root is up and pushing.

Winter squash is setting fruit.

Winter squash is setting fruit.

Onions drying under a giant oak.

Onions drying under a giant oak.

Cracked melons litter the field. You can smell their sweetness.

Cracked Charentais melons litter the field. You can smell their sweetness.

The foreground field has a turned-in summer cover crop (buckwheat). It's digesting nicely.

The foreground field is digesting a turned-in summer cover crop of buckwheat. 

 

 


After Hours

The garden beside our house is wild these days. Quite a greeting as you venture into the farm.

The garden beside our house is wild these days. Quite a greeting as you venture into the farm.

The farm is in full swing right now and looks beautiful, every corner cared for and organized. Some crops are finishing (broccoli and cauliflower), others are coming into their glory days. The crew is working full days. It’s nice to have easy weather now, 70-80 degrees F. They are striving to keep up with the needs for the whole farm plus pick and pack far more produce. We’ve dropped the salad mix from our “product line” for the second year to help even out the workload.

Paul is always working to restore and improve soils. The rock crusher has been busy lately. It makes a quite nice pinging chorus if you are far enough away. As you approach you can feel the ground vibrating through your shoes and dirt and rocks are flying everywhere.

Growing heirloom tomatoes under the greenhouse tables. We just had our first ripe pink brandywine, last night!

Coming Soon! Heirloom tomatoes growing under the greenhouse tables. We just had our first, ripe, pink Brandywine, last night!

Rows of red onions are drying in the shade. Properly grown and cured dry onions should be good through the winter.

Rows of red onions are drying in the shade. Properly grown and cured dry onions should be good through the winter.

Summer cover crop, buckwheat, has emerged after just 4 days!

Summer cover crop, buckwheat, has emerged after just 4 days!

The area has just been rock crushed. Paul is setting up the beds with a "bed shaper".

I see a painting...

I see a painting…

One of the inescapable features of our landscape is the old Shamrock cement plant to our west. Some friends of ours just bought it! I've always wanted to paint it's portrait!

One of the inescapable features of our landscape is the old Shamrock cement plant to our west. Some friends of ours just bought it! I’ve always wanted to paint it’s portrait!


End of May

It was premature to think that summer had begun. It’s sprinkling now. The greens are greener when seen under a grey sky. Many summer crops have been in the ground for weeks, and are struggling to stay ahead of the insect pressure. Cucumber beetles are very active and making a mess of the first bean crops, beet greens, cucumbers (natch). Once the heat comes, the plants will outgrow the damage. We believe in history and the power of positive thought.

Here’s a virtual “Walk-Around” of the farm today.

We've had beautiful summer squash, though can't seem to get enough zucchini flowers to fill our chef's orders.

We’ve had beautiful summer squash, though can’t seem to get enough zucchini flowers to fill our chef’s orders.

The rock crusher has been busy pulverizing this field. It's very time and resource consuming, but the improvement is huge.

The rock crusher has been busy pulverizing this field. It’s very time and resource consuming, but the improvement is huge.

Rocky field will get "crushed" very soon.

Rocky field will get “crushed” very soon.

We've been enjoying an abundance of brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage) which are finishing up. Luckily, this next planting should be ready in a couple of weeks.

We’ve been enjoying an abundance of brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage) which are finishing up. Luckily, this next planting should be ready in a couple of weeks.

Celery is coming soon.

Celery is coming soon.

This field has not been cover cropped in a long time. It's been too important. It's nice to see it get a rest!

This field has not been cover cropped in a long time. It’s been too important. Now that we have some more ground, it’s nice to see it get a rest!

These beans are suffering from cucumber beetle damage.

These beans are suffering from cucumber beetle damage.

The first planting of tomatoes is flowering. Planting through plastic helps push it along. It's already been staked and tied.

The first planting of tomatoes is flowering. Planting through plastic helps push it along. It’s already been staked and tied.

So glad to see two beds of Lacinato kale next to one of Red Russian. The RR yields more, but we can't keep up with demand for the Lacinato.

So glad to see two beds of Lacinato kale next to one of Red Russian. The RR yields more, but we can’t keep up with demand for the Lacinato.

A bed of Asian greens for the salad mix.

A bed of Asian greens for the salad mix.

Finally we have fruit on the raspberries, weeks later than in past years.

Finally we have fruit on the raspberries, weeks later than in past years.

The first planting of peppers is looking good. The shishitos and padrons are always the first to set fruit.

The first planting of peppers is looking good. The shishitos and padrons are always the first to set fruit.


Spring Ramps Up

Diversification is beautiful

Diversification is beautiful

Today is Thursday. It’s pick for the farmers’ market tomorrow morning day. It’s pick for the restaurant orders day. The crew began at 7 today, the first 7 am start of the year. (They will most likely go back to an 8 start when daylight savings time ends, in November.) Even so, Paul wonders if there will be enough time to finish all the picking (and packing) today. And we are facing the loss of one of our stellar field workers at the end of this week. That’s farming.

Picking spinach

Picking spinach

Artichokes

Artichokes

Spring onions

Spring onions

Lettuce rows

Lettuce rows

Paul has begun working up the ground on the new 4 acres that has been settling with cover crop. Some of the soil is rock free (phew!) and beautiful. Most of it, we expect will turn up rocky and sticky, with a high-clay content. Finding some problem free ground is exciting.

 

Anyone out there know of someone that wants to work for us? Please get in touch with us!

The new ground with a stripe of beautiful fluffy soil.

The new ground with a stripe of beautiful fluffy soil and wow, isn’t that oak glorious.

 

 

 


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