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Taking stock, part 2

February 19, 2008

I should have called this blog FARM AS DESIRED, this is just my attempt to record this portion of the history on our family farm.  If you quilt, you know what I mean by Farm as desired.  We read farming books and blogs and any info we can.  We ALWAYS learn something – I never begrudge paying $30.00 for a how-to book.  If it saves me $30.00 one time, the book or the author doesn’t owe me a penny.  So Farm or quilt as desired.

Everyday I’m aware that each decision I make concerning the farm operation will have long lasting effects.  Sometimes, I can fix it (if “it” doesn’t turn out) by NEXT YEAR, and sometimes it takes several years to dig out of the hole.  We stopped doing pastured poultry last summer, and we still are seeing good and bad things about the decision.  Mostly good, but it’s weird only having 2 dozen hens to deal with.  We still raise a couple hundred meat birds, and will still do turkeys.  We ran a flock of 700 – 800 chickens, and had to deal with 400- 600 eggs every day, depending on the time of year.  We raised our replacements too, so it wasn’t unusual to have 2000 chickens on the farm at any one time.  Today, 2 of our old restaurant accounts called, and begged us for eggs.  It’s nice to feel needed, but on our end it just didn’t feel right for our farm and our lives.   We could see the grain and fuel prices steadily rising and couldn’t see anyway to raise our prices enough to keep in step. Yesterday, I heard a hen in the distance announcing her egg laying accomplishment, but with the wind – her cry sounded scared, not happy and my first thought was get the shotgun, something is getting the chickens.  During the winter we housed the chickens in two of our greenhouses and bedded them everyday.  By spring when it was time to turn them out to pasture – we had quite a bit of chicken manure and straw for composting.  During the grazing season we moved them every 3 days (Salatin Style) to fresh pasture.  With that amount of chickens, we were using 4 lengths of Premier Poultry netting.  Excellent Product!  We’ve had ours since 1998 and it is still in pretty good shape.  We only used it during the grazing season and stored it inside for the winter, but it was definitely worth the money.  We were able to rejuvenate one worn out 10 acre pasture this way.  So I will definitely miss all that chicken crap! 

But anyway, here’s the rest of my informal inventory.  I made way too many bread and butter pickles, (ordered by someone who shall remain nameless) and not near enough cilantro pesto.  I can extra pickles, salsa and jams for gifts, but I usually don’t give away anything else.  Some people just think canning is wierd or unsafe – so I don’t bestow that kind of gift on someone who doesn’t appreciate the work that went into it. 

This is the LIST of what we put by last year:

1 beef

1 hog

60 broiler chickens

2 turkeys

Stored in barn, basement or left in the garden:  potatoes, onions (3 kinds), garlic (2 kinds), winter squash, carrots, celeriac, beets, rutabagas, parsnips, turnips, radishes, brussels sprouts, cabbage (3 kinds), kale (5 kinds), root parsley, and dried beans.

Freezer:  broccoli, corn, mushrooms, peppers, pesto, butter, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Per my ND,  I froze what I could in canning jars.  The Ball Blue Book of Canning and Preserving has excellent instructions for this. I put up my broccoli,  berries and some fruit in freezer bags, but I have noticed over the years that the quality of the bags is getting questionable, I’m careful handling them and I still get leakers when I thaw them out.  This tells me that air is getting in while they are in the freezer too.  Another thing I have noticed that our old 1950 -60’s chest freezers that are painted metal inside do not impart that freezer smell to the food.  The newer ones we have that are plastic inside, retain that smell and pass it on to the food.

Canned:  green beans, whole tomatoes, whole roasted tomatoes, roasted tomato puree, salsa, prunes, pears, applesauce.  Note:  I usually use my pressure canner at 5# pressure for 10 minutes on things that can be canned in a water bath.  I know the Home Extension and USDA is crying out right now. (The last thing the government wants is a self reliant populace, heaven forbid people are actually trying to feed their families good food.)  But, there are canning books around that have tables in them for this method.  I also use heirloom tomatoes (higher acid) and citric acid in my tomato products.   I also know not to mess with proven recipes.  If you are new to canning, I wouldn’t recommend this, because canning can be daunting.  But I just had to throw that in, because it saves time and resources.  If you don’t feel safe trying this, just disregard that I even said it.

Fruit I purchased and canned or froze:  Nectarines, peaches, and apricots.

 This garden diagram is from The New Garden Encyclopedia, 1943 Victory Garden Edition


 This is pretty much how my gardens are plotted out.  All rows run North and South for the most sunlight.  Our greenhouses are oriented N and S also.  I use a tractor and rotovator for soil prep.   All rows are planted on a 4′ center.  I don’t use raised beds, they do warm up quicker, but are more demanding as far as watering is concerned.  If you are gardening in an area that recieves regular rainfall in the summerDepending what the crop is, I might only have one row in that space.  To raise this much food, I’m using 1/2 acre of land, including 1 30′ x 72′ greenhouse.    We use the dust mulch, (old name) bio-extensive (new name) method and bare fallow .  The best book I’ve seen on the subject is by Steve Solomon (Territorial Seeds founder)  Gardening When it Counts, Growing Food in Hard Times or if you can find his Water-Wise Vegetables that is helpful too.  For info on doing this on a farm/market garden level, Anne and Eric Nordell write a columin the Small Farmers Journal detailing their use of this method on their farm in Pennsylvania.

 Even in rainy western Oregon, I know the water supply is dwindling, people I know have had to redrill wells, and I see how our springs act.   At our place we  are sometimes on short water supply until December.  We have to have 6″ of steady rain to re-charge our house spring.  Some years, that is in October, but not usually.  This doesn’t mean I don’t water at all, just not most of my crops.  I water cucurbits,  transplants and anything in the greenhouse.  The rest I rely on my dust mulch, and wide row spacing and the plants are fine.  What dust mulch means is, that you keep your ground between your rows, cultivated (on a garden scale, that means hoed)(yes, I keep it hoed) and weed free.  If you mulch with some kind of organic material, you are actually wicking the moisture out of the soil.  The dust acts as a mulch and keeps the moisture in the soil.  What bare fallow means is that each year I set aside a part of the garden that I will just cover crop and cultivate several times during the dry season.  This helps mine out that never ending supply of weed seeds.  I plant some kind of cover crop before fall and this part will become part of the garden next year.

This year since we don’t have the chickens I will have two 30′ x 72′ greenhouses at my disposal.  We purchased the kits from OBC  and Oregon Valley Greenhouse.  They are semi-gable, with roll up sides for ventilation and they are not heated.  Most summer nights here are too cool to consistently raise enough solanums, and also we get late spring rains and early fall rains.  I haven’t had blight problems since I started using the hoophouse for tomatoes.  YEAH!  So my plans are to plant my usual tomatoes, peppers and melons in one, and prepare the second one for winter crops.  I usually try to interplant between tomato rows, but it is a pain.  This will allow me to rotate crops AND keep everything safe from the venison deer that ate my winter garden outside last year.  Our old dog died last August and our young dog (who is now the old dog) was depressed and he wouldn’t chase the deer unless I went with him.  He feels better now and we have a new dog so…. I’m hoping that he will pick up the slack, but just to be safe I will plant inside too.

Garden helpers

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