Event about women in the food movement

“A day of education, celebration and dialogue, this one-day symposium intends to acknowledge, celebrate and lift up the leadership and voice of women in the food movement.  The day will focus on a transfer of knowledge and foundation-building through an intergenerational dialogue weaving together historical narrative and current efforts spanning policy, advocacy, art and farming – both through dialogue and visual representation. All are welcome! For more information go to: https://foundationsandthefuture.wordpress.com/.
Hosted by Red H Farm at the Permaculture Skills Center.
Saturday, October 15, 2016 from 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM (PDT)” in Sebastopol, California

This looks good, but I am wondering which is needed more: celebration, or critical thinking/planning? Also, I have asked if there will be any kind of kids’ space… And it’s kind of a rough time of year as it will be time for planting garlic, fava beans, and some strawberries.


Our farm needs a name

We still have not decided on a farm name. Kind of need one, depending on how I’d announce its existence/what’s available. What if we brought in like $50 a week? How would I even have time to interact with customers, nevermind pick stuff for them?

I picture me listing us on localharvest.org and saying “inquire about availability” and”by appointment,” but really all I need is a sign on the fence. Tho the website would help find foodies who might be able to pay a fair price. SIGH!

Name-wise, something related to our location would make sense,  but then again, it’s a common street name. Maybe something about being on the urban edge…  Here’s an article I don’t have time to read about Farming on the Urban Fringe On this subject, I just want to say that a really nice acre on the street near us that goes from the fringe into the city was getting dug up by heavy machinery last week. 😦 I sure hope they’re putting in affordable housing!

Blackberry harvest has begun!

Himalayan blackberries

Today while we were walking past the Himalayan blackberries along the driveway (with a septic guy), I checked to see if there were ripe berries. Just in time, since there are tons of ripe berries! I went out and picked maybe a basket’s worth or so with T. He ate and ate and ate them! I hadn’t realized that they were that far along. They are delicious. My inlaws had made it sound like they’d only gotten a half a basket on Tuesday. Now there are a lot more than that, and the photo shows a small portion of the closest patch to the house.

Sad broccoli plants. Bad gophers!
Broccoli plants damaged by gophers.

The wildlife is really starting to impact the garden- 4 broccolis have been affected by gophers in the last 2 days. One or two are still holding on, if sideways. I put the others into the compost. To work on for the future: bigger heads.

Small hole where animals dug into the soil to eat pumpkin seeds, eat bugs, or find out what the fish smell was from (fertilizer)
Spot where raccoons or skunks dug up pumpkin seeds

The raccoons dug up approximately 5 of the 8 little “mounds” where I planted pumpkin seeds the other night. Boo. 😦 Fortunately I have another packet. Z thinks I should wait another few days to replant, since the animals tend to dig on more than one night. Possible reasons for the digging: use of fish/kelp meal right as I was planting (so it wasn’t watered in for a period of time before I planted), and use of compost on the surface. There’s another gopher mound along where I planted the pole beans the other night. May need to replant that section.

Z got so much done today! He chiseled 11 beds (8 pictured) and then after I took this picture he got them most of the way raked. I am not happy about the “dust” that was blowing around. He was working while it was too windy. And yes, the soil was too dry.

Today I harvested: blackberries, kale, broccoli, basil, purslane, strawberries (ate in the field), and beans (three huge handfuls). T was excited to carry two of those handfuls of beans into the house! They sure get big quickly.

Z has an interesting idea: we could grow a bunch of things that local plant breeder Luther Burbank grew. Maybe some spineless cactus, Shasta daisies (need those for the strawberries!!), etc.

Productive Friday!

On Thursday evening I planted more corn and green, yellow, and purple green beans. I snuck a few more Blacktail Mountain watermelon seeds in, too. I don’t have a lot of luck with this method. I also tried to fill in some of the spots where I had poor germination (eaten seed?) in the last planting. That was 2 weeks ago, oops.

This morning (Friday, a day that peaked around 93 or 94 degrees) I tried to smooth out the west-most beds. The soil is so sandy there! There is still a lot of grass, which I wish weren’t a problem. Then I prepped some more ground for potatoes. I only went about 12 feet because there’s no drip tape past where we’ve already planted, so the soil is really dry in the top several inches. Then I forget if I did something else (maybe checked the Chandlers?) but I went and picked some old strawberries. I put Camarosas in one basket and Seascapes in the other, but I don’t quite know which is which.

This evening T and I planted sunflower seeds! I had a big bag of mixed sunflowers, and a packet of old Mammoth sunflowers (packed for 2014) and another packet of a big sunflower. I tried to put the big ones in the middle of the bed just in case they can block some light from hitting the house, which is on the other side of the garden. I want to cover that bed with compost but I am a bit concerned that we only have 4 or 5 yards left. There are way different bugs in that bed than I’ve seen anywhere else in the garden. We’ll see if they just eat the seeds, or what. I also worry that I could have planted the seeds too deep.

To do: hoe the greens, add all those buckets of stuff I’ve got to the existing compost pile – it will be much bigger that way, pick strawberries, plant dry beans, plant flowers, plant cover crops (Z needs to prepare a lot of beds for this), plant pole beans, plant the other sunflower bed, go to herb fair and get some perennials to plant…where?

Z has pretty much mowed the whole back area with the tractor. He moved the tractor and mower back under cover tonight because he’s noticing new rust. A few mornings ago the fog was down to the ground, so I’m guessing that that’s why. That was the day I had all this weird wilting on the Chandlers (did I write about that?).

Busy week in the garden!

view of the hill and the northeast corner of the garden. You can hardly see the remains of the pile of purchased compost behind the fence.
blurry photo from around sunset tonight. it shows the new bed of chard, cabbage, and kale 

I started transplanting the cabbage, chard, kale (and, to come, broccoli) seedlings on Monday or Tuesday. I had to take a break for a few days because it got so hot out (93 degrees, I think). I put compost out over a lot of the 2 beds I’m using because I just couldn’t stand seeing all that bare soil. Dust sometimes comes up when I walk on the paths. That’s soil erosion right there. Still considering trying out some landscape fabric and/or burlap for the paths. Just need Z to stop at our local farm supply store on the way home from work.

Z got excited about getting the potatoes we bought into the ground. It’s probably too late, and the potatoes are somewhat overgrown already, but hey, we bought them, so we have to use them. I suggested putting them between the two greens beds, since there’s so much space between them. He got started today, opening the ground with the mattock and planting like 20 feet of potatoes!

Today I planted 8 or 10 feet of Trilogy bush beans and Ashworth OP yellow corn (from Fedco). Both are organic, of course ;). I also transplanted 2 6-packs of dino kale. This morning, I didn’t have much time out there because I’d had a doctor’s appointment. I weeded and pulled  yet more runners off of the Chandler strawberries, and found 4 slugs. Yay for getting those out of the way. I saw a box elder bug today, I forget which bed it was in (not the old berries, though). At the end of the night I pulled runners out of the summer strawberries. It’s crazy in that bed!!

the north end of the summer strawberry row. too many runners! and the weeds are/were encroaching on the bed

I’m hoping to get a new compost pile started in the next few days. I haven’t had any empty buckets for some time, and there is (or was, before the current wind storm, which seems to have broken the outdoor table in our yard!) so much debris on the ground next to the old strawberries. Probably 3 5 gallon buckets’ worth. I picked and ate a half a dozen strawberries this evening. We’ve still been getting less than a basket per night.

Someday I’d like to learn about windspeed. I grew up in a place that had hurricanes and strong winds during winter storms, and I have to say that this is not a mere 21 mile per hour wind.

Got some things into the ground!

On Monday I planted 2 varieties of chard (fordhood giant and perpetual spinach), 2 varieties of cabbage (1 green 1 red), and 1 variety of kale (white russian). Didn’t really add compost at beginning. Ground had been chisel plowed and raked ~2x and Z had put some compost in. I hate having the ground exposed like this. 1st plants may have drowned or gotten too hot from the ground/watering after planting. Have 8 more six-packs of greens seedlings. Will have to use 2nd bed. That stinks, because I have to hoe and rake it before I can plant there! 😦

There is so much debris in this bed! I don’t think it would have gotten digested if we’d waited another week… there are also hard spots where the soil has already dried out too much (or the plow didn’t affect it).

Here’s a strawberry I picked and ate this morning! Z picked a basket from the old berries tonight.


Future project – plantings near walnut trees

I just found this page on Peaceful Valley Farm Supply’s site that lists http://www.groworganic.com/organic-gardening/articles/companion-plants-that-tolerate-black-walnut-tree-toxicity

This is good, because at the front, or south end of the garden, there are some huge, old walnut trees above the ditch. Who knows how long they’ll last, but I bet their roots will have a longlasting impact. The south end of the garden is pretty dark in winter, but it’ll be nice to have some appropriate stuff growing in that area!

Thinking about the “stale seedbed” technique

So many farmers who are doing the cutting-edge stuff with organic food gardening are doing this “stale seedbed” thing- you prep, fertilize, water, and then throw down a plastic tarp for however long until you need the bed. The weeds will be dead, the fertilizers and compost mixed in due to macro soil life, etc. I’m talking about Curtis Allen Stone, Paul Kaiser of Singing Frogs Farm, and Jean-Martin Fortier (I’ve read Stone and Fortier’s books in the last year, and Paul is local and frequently written about). I’m listening to The Urban Farmer with Curtis Stone, Season 2 episode 1 (on the Permaculture Voices podcast  on Soundcloud). I see it’s not archived yet on the website.

I first heard of this in my classes at SRJC, and it referred to tarping weeds for 2 weeks at the hottest time of the year. But prepping the bed first really helps a farmer be ready to put crops in the ground when it’s the appropriate time of year or when they need the crops.

I wonder what the long-term effect of this is on the soil life (especially during hot weather, for example, in a place where the ground is usually dry). How can it not be bad for the soil?

Lots of rain

We got roughly 2.5 inches of rain (as of 10pmish) today. The path into the garden (after the gravel ends; it is pretty low) is flooded at least as badly as it was on Monday and Tuesday before I put 9 wagonloads of compost on it. I can’t imagine what a mess the strawberries must be. Wow, this picture is blurry!

Flooded pathway into the garden

1.5 inches into the day’s rain, the noaa website said that we’ve now gotten 88% of our normal rainfall for this point in the year. What were we at a week ago? 78%? Our total annual rainfall is about 36 inches, but it stops raining by mid-Mayish and the new rainfall year begins on October 1st.

I… must… plan… summer and fall crops…

I think that I will start to get it together in time for planting a lot of fall crops this year. Before then, I’m not so sure.


Pumpkin patch at school farm

Today we went to the annual pumpkin patch/fall open house at the farm at the junior college that I attended. It’s always interesting to see what changes and what stays the same. One student (I assume, he was in a shirt with the farm’s name on it, like all the volunteers and student workers), when I asked him who the current garden manager is, said that it was the farm manager. When I pressed further, he said that there were 4 or 5 students running it. Now I think that he misunderstood me, because another guy came up to the table and sent his tablemate on her break. So that was the “supervisor” and maybe the student didn’t understand all the crop planning and stuff that that person does.

It was amazing to see what’s different between that garden and ours. The garden looks so clean- nary a weed in site, except maybe in the pumpkins. They have raised beds – they have a bed shaper, iirc, and a lot of other implements. Their strawberries, at least the Seascapes, don’t have runners. Their San Andreas plants look newer and do have runners. They look like it’s the beginning of their season, but I would guess that it’s the end (#winteriscoming). Z thought that they didn’t have many berries per bed foot compared to us, but then again, people had been picking berries for over 3 hours by the time we went to that area (I found only 2 ripe strawberries. there were a lot of overripe ones in the San Andreas section). They use landscape fabric to cover the strawberry beds- we didn’t use anything to cover the ground (and the skunks or raccoons dug the hell out of my plants and I had to replant a dozen every day for several weeks). Sure, we had weeds, but there aren’t many now. I find that they tend to provide places for the pests to hide (that said, I keep having to pull out dried grass at the edges of the bed, because the runners keep spreading so far. sadly, pulling the grass tends to also pull out the little plants whose roots have been taking refuge in the shade provided by the grass). Their greens were planted closer together (but in the case of kale, at least, they harvest more often. I wonder about their cabbage plants that seem to be only a foot apart. Maybe they are trying to grow smaller, personal-size cabbages, which makes sense to me.

The farm doesn’t have any chickens right now. I was part of the group that got the farm’s first-ever laying hens. The mobile coop that we built sat empty, with its doors open so people could see inside. I hope they park it out of the weather so it will last longer. I kind of wonder if they will sell it if it doesn’t get occupied within a certain number of years…

There used to be a hedgerow that was filled with native plants. It was a bit overgrown my first year, and the garden manager cut it way back my second year (iirc it may have been hosting chicken predators). It hasn’t really grown back. There was a huge, tall pile of what was obviously a Sonoma Compost product (we will miss you, Sonoma Compost!). One of that company’s owners is an adjunct instructor and board member for the Sustainable Ag program, so I almost wonder if it was donated. Oh, I had an interesting conversation with a woman from a local environmental nonprofit about folks who are trying to start up smaller local composting operations. She said that our compost likely does not go to Marin County, but rather even farther away to Solano County (this will increase our garbage fees). I need something to grind up my big pieces of food and crop “waste” so I don’t have to have my stuff shipped that far.

There were several familiar student faces (Albert, Ken, the guy with the mutton chops), including someone who lived at the intentional community I lived at when I first moved here. Two of my former instructors were there, and I passed by the farm manager at one point. He didn’t seem to see me. I have so many questions for him- what thickness drip tape do they use, where does he get those connectors that he uses between the oval hose and the drip tape, what is the tape that they use to cover up some holes, etc…

One of the strangest things to me was that, prominently featured in the parking lot, was the Tiny House Club’s workspace. Apparently that club works out of the farm- they are actually milling their own lumber from wood from the forest that is on the farm property. Sonoma County seems to be a hub for the tiny house movement – in fact, several people were building or living in tiny houses at the intentional community I lived at. Tiny houses are seen as an important way to house young farmers. I have some “issues” with the idea. Here are some of them: 1. they are expensive. even with the wood coming for free, and the school providing tools, what about a bed? will it have its own kitchen and bathroom, as they usually do? all of those things, plus the electrical, cost money. 2. I suppose that people are correct to say that young folks tend to not have a lot of stuff, but I’ve observed that my friends who live tiny (and this was true for me when I lived in a bus for 4 months at the i.c.) tend to need additional storage. 3. Zoning. There is an Event about zoning for Tiny Houses in Sonoma County coming up, but really, as a rural landowner of acreage, I have to say that we’d be concerned about having to provide hookups to our septic system, water, and electric system (and the tiny house’s drain on those systems), and insurance – what if something happened to that tiny house dweller, or the tiny house, while that person was living on our property? Also, what kind of rent would one charge? 3. It can be really isolating and make one feel claustrophobic to be stuck in a small unit during, for instance, an El Niño winter (as I was) – in that case (or when one needs to do laundry), one will likely need access to the primary dwelling or some other space. I do think that this is a better way to do the Tiny House thing- in community with friends

We went on a tour of the forest – it was just a tiny section that used to take me 15 minutes to walk, while my whole hike took an hour to 75 minutes. I walked really fast then, too. I miss that forest SO much. It’s not open to the public, and it’s 30 minutes from our place with no traffic. I even visualize it sometimes to help me sleep! Our tired kid seemed to enjoy it, too, although his dad had to do a lot of hiking while holding him! They provided water and a pumpkin bread snack at the end. It was neat to hear students and what appeared to be the main instructor who uses the farm as his class laboratory talk about some aspects of managing the forest.

Back at home this evening, Z picked a basket of strawberries, T picked pieces of greens, and I hoed the empty part of the east greens bed so I can try to get those poor seedlings into the ground. The tall collards look very unhappy and need to get transplanted!!!