JustPicked Farms

  (Emporia, Kansas)
What's happening down on the farm
[ Member listing ]


We won’t be at the market for the next 3 weekends.  Instead, we’ll be on vacation, checking out farmer’s markets in other places.  It will be strange, trusting someone else to let the chickens out every morning and lock them up at night, feed the dog, and take care of the garden, but hopefully we’ll come back recharged and ready for the rest of the market season.  Some of our produce will mature while we’re away – the cauliflower is already setting nice heads and will probably be done by IMG_1659the time we get back.  We have a few cayenne peppers about 6 inches long already.  We also have some beautiful beefsteak-type tomatoes that are already the size of tennis balls, and roma-type tomatoes the size of eggs.  These should be ripe in time for us to sell at our next market on June 25.  Wherever your travels take you this summer, or even if you stay close to home, I hope you take time to smell the roses… or tomatoes… or melons, and enjoy wherever you happen to be.

Cheryl Alvarado, JustPicked Farms


JustPicked Farms at the Emporia Farmer's Market

The regular season of the Emporia Farmer’s Market starts this Saturday, and we plan to be there with fresh, locally grown goodies.  The Market is in the lot at 7th & Merchant, and selling starts at 8 am.  We will have our free-range eggs (check it out, our eggs will be in the breakfast burritos for sale at the Kiosk!), a green and red “All Star” lettuce mix, broccoli, green onions and a smaller, easier-to-manage cabbage called Caraflex.  This cabbage has tender cone-shaped heads, and is just the right size for someone who doesn’t feel the need to make a gallon of sauerkraut!  Try it finely shredded in a salad for extra crunch, or instead of lettuce in fish tacos. 

Happenings On the FarmIMG_1626

The strong winds we’ve had lately have given our high tunnel (just in production this spring!) sort of a beating.  We had to make some repairs to the doors after the wind caught them and blew them open and shut a few times.  Not to worry though, the veggies in the tunnel are coming along just fine.

Our 28 hens are giving us plenty of eggs, and we’ve got another 30 chicks growing quickly.  They’ll start laying small eggs around September.  The small eggs (called pullet eggs) are the tastiest!

We’re gearing up our perennial patch for more selection in years to come.  We’ve planted 60 asparagus crowns, some green and some purple.  If things go well, we can start selling asparagus next year.  We’ve also planted some rhubarb, bunching onions, and will soon be planting raspberries.

Other things we hope to be able to sell this year – tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, bok choi, spinach, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, eggplant, watermelon, cantaloupe, green beans, zucchini, butternut squash, blackberries, strawberries, and pie pumpkins.

I hope to see you at the market this weekend!  Be sure to stop by and say hi!

Cheryl Alvarado


Our Emporia Farmer's Market Debut

May 30

Our Emporia Farmer’s Market Debut

IMG_1417We had our first ever booth at the Emporia Farmer’s Market this Saturday.  The weather was warm and beautiful.  The market opened at 8:00, and I had a customer waiting at my booth for the opening bell in order to buy radishes.  Our offerings at this first market included strawberries, Romaine lettuce, All-star red and green leaf lettuce mix, radishes, an assortment of herbs and mints, and of course, eggs.

A lot of planning and preparation went into this market – getting a table,  tablecloth, baskets, and basket liners ready, getting our canopy and learning how to set it up and take it down, not to mention growing, picking, washing, and bagging all the veggies.  My goal for our first market day was to at least earn back the $25 annual market promotion fee that each market vendor has to pay.  We more than made that fee back, and had sold out of what we brought by 9:30. 

We expect to have about the same items for sale next week, with the possible addition of iceberg lettuce and oregano.  The peas are blooming profusely, so we’re looking forward to having peas at the market in a few weeks.  Our broccoli and cauliflower have heads about the size of quarters, so we’re looking forward to being able to offer those at a future market.  Our cantaloupes, Crenshaw melons and watermelons are sprouting and full of promise.  We hope our garden continues to produce well, so we can expand our offerings, and eventually open our Saturday afternoon farm stand location on South Avenue.

We learned a lot at this market.  We learned we need to plant more, so we can bring more, so we don’t sell out by 9:30!  We learned that our price signs need to be taller, made out of something stiffer so they don’t curl, and written in something besides water soluble ink.  We learned that we need to have some sort of display for our eggs, because people don’t realize we have them under the table in a cooler.

If you stopped by our booth this weekend, Thank you!  We hope to see you again next week.  If you didn’t stop by our booth, be sure to check out our offerings next week.



The Barefoot Gardener

May 16

The Barefoot Gardener

I went out into the garden this afternoon to try to get some things done on the only non-rainy day we’ve had in a while.  I was fairly productive, and got corn, beans, and zucchini planted, and got the mulch fabric laid down for the melons.  The ground was really too wet to be planting, but I feel like I’m so far behind I needed to do it anyway.  As we were laying the mulch fabric, one end of the garden was so wet it felt like we were stomping grapes rather than walking on dirt.  Our footprints filled with water as we walked.  As I was planting the corn, so much mud was sticking to my shoes that they must have weighed 5 pounds each.  I finally took them off and went barefoot instead.  The mud didn’t stick quite as much to my feet as it did to my shoes, and besides, it was nice to feel the cool, squishy mud between my toes.

We picked our first strawberries of the season this week.  There was just enough to top a bowl of cereal, but they are so much sweeter and juicier than the grocery store strawberries.  We’ve been eating lettuce out of our garden for a couple of weeks now.  We have a nice leaf lettuce mix that includes both red and green lettuce and looks really nice in the bowl.  The cool rainy weather has been good for the lettuces.  We should have enough to sell at the farmer’s market in another couple of weeks.

The chicks have outgrown the brooder house, so we’ve moved the broilers and turkeys into one of the hoop houses.  They are enjoying having fresh grass and bugs to eat, as well as having extra room to move around.  The little barred rock pullets are still in the brooder house, but we’re starting to let them out to range in the evenings.  The first evening we let them out, they didn’t know how to get back in, so we were chasing them down with a net to put them back.  Soon they will be able to find their way “home” by themselves.  The ducks are fully feathered now and love to swim and play in the pond we’re building next to the garden.  They have their big duck quacks now instead of the little duckling peeps.

Here’s to big duck quacks, sweet juicy strawberries, and squishy cool mud between your toes!  Life just can’t get much better.


The Mystery of the Missing Eggs

April 25

The Mystery of the Missing Eggs

For a while after we moved our hens out of their cozy wooden house and into the roomier hoop house, we noticed a decline in egg production.  Originally we had attributed it to stress, since the hens had been harassed and a couple of them killed by a dog just before we moved them into their new house.  This weekend, however, we discovered the real cause of the missing eggs.

The hoop house has a human-sized door in the end, so we can go in to gather eggs and fill the feeder and waterer.  We close the door at night, but during the day it’s open so the chickens can come and go and free range outdoors. 

IMG_0597-croppedSaturday after we arrived home from running errands, we knew there should be some eggs to gather since we had heard the hens singing their “I just laid an egg” song.  For those of you who have never heard this, it goes like “buck, buck, buck, buck, buck, buck, buckET”!  We went to check, but there were NO EGGS!  This was unheard of for afternoon.  Our suspicions immediately turned to Ellie, our dog, who had lately been caught chewing up the ceramic nest eggs.  We got some scrap lumber and quickly made a 12 x 12 inch chicken-sized door so the chickens could still come and go, but Ellie could not get in.

Not long after we had completed the new chicken door, we saw Ellie trying to get in.  She stuck her head in the chicken door, but then could not get her front feet in.  All was good.  We went back to work on other things, but in less than an hour, we found Ellie inside the chicken coop, chowing down on freshly laid eggs!!  She had somehow figured out that if she put both her front feet in the door first, she could then squeeze the rest of her body through.

We  closed the opening down to about 12 x 7 inches, still big enough for a chicken, but too small for Ellie to get her shoulders through.

I hope.  We’ll see tomorrow.



A Productive Week

April 19

A productive week

This has been a very productive week at JustPicked Farms.  On Thursday morning, I got a call at 5:30 am from the postoffice saying my chicks had arrived and I needed to pick them up.  When I got there, they handed me a box about the size of a shoe box.  “Is this all?”  I asked.  IMG_1362  I peeked inside the box and saw that it included only the 25 barred rock chicks, but not the 50 cornish cross chicks and 6 turkeys that I was also expecting that day.  They assured me that was the only box that had come for me.  I took the chicks home and got them situated in the brooder house, and then went to work.  At 8:00 I called the hatchery to see if the rest of the chicks had been delayed.  “No,” they assured me, “they all shipped yesterday morning.”  The rest of the morning I worried that they had been lost by the postoffice.  I went home for lunch and found a message on the answering machine from the postoffice – the rest of the chicks had arrived on a later truck.  I went back into town, picked up the chicks, went back home again, and began unpacking the chicks.

For those of you who have never purchased chicks, there are two steps to unpacking them.  The first step is to count the chicks as you are taking them out of the box.  Of course, you want to make sure the hatchery didn’t short you (although I’ve never had a hatchery short me), but also because hatcheries generally throw in a couple of extra chicks just in case of losses during the trip or first few days.  In this case, there were 52 chicks, and 6 turkey poults.  The second step after counting each chick is to dip its beak in the waterer, so it knows where the water is.  That gets them drinking quickly after they’re unpacked.

IMG_1373On Saturday, Japheth and I went to Spring Hill to pick up a package of bees.  When we got them home he helped me put them in the hive.  They come in a wooden box with screened sides, with the queen in a separate cage inside.  There are about 10,000 bees in a three pound package.  We took the queen cage out, removed the cork that kept the queen inside, and placed the cage inside the hive.  Then we turned the box with the rest of the bees upside down and set it on top of the bars, leaving a space so they could crawl down inside.  We left them alone for an hour or so, and then we took the box off the top, put the lid back on the hive, and left the box leaning up against the side of the hive so any remaining bees could crawl out and find their way into the hive.  Nobody got stung during this process, and we weren’t wearing gloves or veils.

We also rented the small tractor and tiller from Waters, and tilled the corn patch, the melon patch, Japheth’s patch, and inside the greenhouse.  I was able to get some tomatoes transplanted, and some carrots and broccoli planted.

There’s always something to do on the farm.  It keeps us from being couch potatoes.

Until next week…



Sore Muscles and Determination

April 11

Sore muscles and determination

The weather this weekend was absolutely gorgeous, and perfect for working in the garden.  Japheth came over to help, and was setting out my lettuce and broccoli seedlings and planting cauliflower in the raised beds while I tilled up new ground for planting peas.  Our tiller is one of the walk-behind type, and I have named it “the beast”.  It is fairly powerful, and can till up even the hardest compacted clay soil (which is what we have).  However, using it takes some muscles, a certain amount of determination, and a little common sense.

Starting the tiller isn’t too bad.  Once it’s started the first time each season, it starts reliably after that all season long.  The fun starts when I actually begin tearing up new ground.  I walked the tiller over to the plot of ground that we had plowed and disked the weekend before, which was now a sea of hard clay clumps the size of baseballs.  I put the tiller in gear, and it immediately bucked and ran about 10 feet down the row with me racing along behind.  Then I remembered to let go of the handles and it stopped, growling menacingly as if daring me to try again.  That’s where the determination comes in.  Not willing to let the beast win,  I backed it up to the beginning of the row again, planted my feet, leaned back, and put it in gear again.  That’s where the muscles come in.  This time, I was able to get about 5 feet tilled before it bucked and ran away again.  I continued like this over and over again until I had made one pass over the whole pea patch.

Common sense would have helped, if I had any.  I finally realized that there was a tilling depth adjustment, and it was set at the deepest setting.  I changed the tilling depth to the shallowest setting, and was able to make another pass around the entire pea patch with the beast only bucking once or twice.  Another notch deeper, another round.  Another notch deeper, another round.  And so on, until I had made what felt like was 20 rounds around the pea patch, but was probably only four or five.  Now the clay lumps are about the size of marbles.  By this time I had been tilling this single pea patch all morning long.  Japheth had planted all the lettuce, broccoli, and cauliflower, and I still didn’t have soil that seemed fine enough to plant in.

We took a break for lunch, attached the auger to the tractor and planted three new fruit trees and a few windbreak trees.  Then I broke open six bales of peat moss and spread them over the pea patch.  Martin came to my rescue and ran the beast, incorporating the peat moss into the clay-marbles while Japheth and I mounded up the rows for the peas.  By 5:00 we finally had the peas planted.

Martin had asked me on Friday if I wanted to rent the small tractor and tiller from Waters Hardware so we could get the tilling done fast.  At over $300, I had said no, let’s try it with our own tiller.  Next time I think I’ll say yes.

All in all, although it took WAY TOO LONG to till the pea patch, between the three of us we got a lot done anyway – six trees planted, and all the lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, and peas.  And, we got to spend all weekend outdoors in the great weather!

Keep your sunny side up,



Building Hoop House for Pastured Poultry - Part 4

April 03

Building a Hoop House for Pastured Poultry – Part 4 – Final Touches

IMG_1128This last article in the series about building hoop houses for pastured poultry discusses the finishing touches to complete the project.   You may have  noticed in the photos that the front and back of the hoop house frame are about 5 inches off the ground.  There are a few reasons why.  For one reason, it’s easier to pull the house if the front and back of the frame aren’t digging into the ground.  For another reason, if a chicken gets caught under the back of the frame as you’re pulling, that 5 inch gap is just enough space that the chicken can roll under the house and come out the back side without injury.  And the third reason, the frame just seems easier to build and more sturdy that way.  However, in order to prevent the chickens from believing that they can come and go through that gap whenever they please, we added a skirt made of old cut up inner tube that we got for free from the local tire store.  Note that the gap under the front and back and the fact that there is no floor in this house means that it is not predator-proof.  If predators are a problem in your area, you should run an electric fence wire around the house near the bottom.

IMG_1315Spray paint on the wooden parts will help keep them from weathering.  We added an eye bolt through the skid on each side at the front to tie a pulling rope to.  We also added a handle and latch to the outside of the door, and another latch on the inside of the door (so when I’m in there gathering eggs, I can keep the chickens in).  We folded some more pieces of inner tube over the wooden frame parts that stick out on the back side of the hoop house and stapled them on.  These pieces of inner tube act as padding around the sharp edges of the boards so they don’t rip holes in the tarp as easily.  Then we covered the house with a 12X16 tarp.  The silver kind works best at resisting deterioration from sunlight.  We put the front edge of the tarp even with the front of the house, leaving the front side of the house uncovered.  The back edge of the tarp wraps around and partially covers the back of the house, making it look somewhat like a Conestoga wagon.  The tarp is fastened to the house with zip ties.

The hoop house is now complete.  If you’re going to keep laying hens in it, you will want to add a roost and some nest boxes inside.  We found that the feeder and waterer can either hang from the ceiling, or can be placed on the triangular corner gussets and secured with bungee cords.  That way they will move along with the house as you pull it.  Two adults can pull the house without too much trouble, but you could also loop the rope around a garden tractor hitch.




IMG_1309IMG_1312 If you’ve been following my blog, you will know that I recently purchased 6 Rouen ducklings.  They are quickly outgrowing the plastic bin we’ve been brooding them in, so this weekend we built them a little hoop house of their own, in a style similar to the chicken house.  We made the duck house 4 ft by 4 ft, and used welded wire fencing instead of cattle panels.  The ducks are starting to get pinfeathers, so they should have enough feathers to move out of the barn soon.

Happy chickens and ducks!!



Building a Hoop House for Pastured Poultry - Part 3

March 28

Building a Hoop House for Pastured Poultry – Part 3

IMG_1273A light drizzle outside made working inside sound like a good idea this weekend, so we pulled the hoop house into the barn to continue working on it.  In Part 2 of this series we showed how to attach the cattle panels to the frame we had built in Part 1.  This week we built the back and the front of the hoop house and put on the poultry netting.


The first step is to attach 1X4 lumber to the back upright board at about hip and shoulder level.  They are glued and screwed to the upright, and attached to the cattle panels with plumber’s strapping and screws or bolts like we did with the upright board in part 2.  Et Voila, the back framing is done.  Simple, huh?

IMG_1277The next step is the door frame.  We glued and screwed more 1X4’s to the bottom front board, two feet apart in the center of the opening.  Triangular plywood gussets glued and screwed on the inside of the door frame hold a two-foot long header board for the door opening.  You’ll want to place that header board high enough that you don’t have to stoop to get into the hoop house.  We used an extra board to prop up the cattle panels IMG_1280 so we could get a little extra height, and then attached the door frame posts to the cattle panels with the plumber’s strapping.

The door is made of more 1X4’s held together in the corners with more plywood gussets.  We made our gussets for the door frame and door out of 1/2 inch plywood, cut into 8 inch squares, and then cut corner to corner into triangles.  You’ll want to make the door with at least 1/4 inch gap all around, so it’s not tight inside the frame, otherwise the wood will swell and the door will stick in damp weather.    Notice in the picture of the door frame, we dropped the gussets down and in a bit so they cover the corners of the door opening.  This serves as a stop that the door rests against when it’s closed.  IMG_1279You can’t see in these pictures, but we also made the door long enough that the bottom of it rests against the hoop house base when it’s closed.  That serves as our door stop on the bottom.  For the door, we placed the gussets flush against the edges of the 1x4’s.   We also put a brace across the middle of the door, securing it with 4 inch wide strips of plywood.IMG_1281

The next step is to cover the back, front, and 4 feet high on the sides of the hoop house with one inch poultry netting (chicken wire).  You will use a whole 50-foot roll of 4-foot wide netting.  Starting with the back of the hoop house, stretch the netting across the bottom, staple it to all the wooden parts of the hoop house, and attach it to the cattle panels with hog rings or zip ties.  We used zip ties in the corners to hold it while we were stapling, and we used hog rings for added strength.  I think the zip ties might deteriorate outdoors in the sun.IMG_1284  Four feet is not tall enough to reach all the way to the top of the hoop house, so you’ll need to cut another piece of netting to finish to the top.  Again, staple to all the wooden parts and use hog rings to connect to the cattle panels.  Where the two pieces of poultry netting meet, we connected them together with cage clips.  We found the cage clips and this cage clip crimping tool in our local farm and ranch store in the rabbit supplies section.IMG_1283 

Repeat the process to cover the front of the coop with poultry netting, covering the whole front.  Once the netting is securely stapled to all the wooden parts, you can use nippers to cut the wire from around the door to allow the door to open.


Add poultry netting to each side of the hoop house, just one row high.  Staple it to the hoop house base, and use the hog rings to attach it to the cattle panels.

That’s where we gave up for the evening. :-)

In the next article in the series we’ll talk about adding the finishing touches to the hoop house













Keeping busy,



Life and Death

March 22

Life and Death

This week has been dramatically eventful at JustPicked Farms.  Last week while I was at work, my daughter called to tell me that something had killed two of our free-range hens.  She didn’t see what killed them but at first she thought it was a hawk, because she saw one picking at one of the carcasses.  Personally, I believe the hawk was just getting an easy meal, and it was actually a dog that killed them (not mine, she was indoors).  Both chickens had been bitten at the necks and had their necks broken, and only one looked like anything had actually started to eat it.  This type of killing for sport rather than food seems like the work of a domestic dog to me, since coyotes or foxes would have eaten or carried off their meal.

With that sad event, I had to make the difficult decision to no longer let our hens free range while I’m away from home.  We quickly got one of our new hoop houses ready, since their existing henhouse would have been a little small for them to be spending so much time in.  This weekend we built nest boxes to go inside the hoop house.  I still plan to let the hens out whenever we’re home and working outdoors, but I’ll keep a shotgun a little nearer by in case of predators.

IMG_1272This past weekend we were back and forth to Kansas City on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for a conference, so we didn’t have much time to work on the high tunnel or poultry hoop houses, other than getting the nest boxes built.  However, while Martin was in his conference sessions, I was free to shop!  I stopped in a Tractor Supply store to buy some feed for the chickens, and found that they had chicks and ducklings for sale.  I couldn’t pass up the opportunity, so I bought 6 new ducklings.  The sign on the bin said “assorted”, so I don’t know for sure what type they are, but by their markings they look like Rouans, which when they grow up look like a large mallard.

Ducks should be a good addition to the garden, since in addition to eating slugs, snails, and other pests, they won’t damage the crops as much as chickens would.  And, they’ll give us occasional yummy duck eggs!

Mourning the loss of the hens, celebrating the arrival of the ducklings,  trying to keep all things in perspective -



Building a hoop house for pastured poultry - Part 2

March 15

Building a hoop house for pastured poultry – Part 2

vertical supportThe first part of this series covered building the base for the hoop house.  This part covers making the “hoop” part of the house.  The first step is to add a 1x4 vertically to the center of the back edge of the frame.  We used Gorilla Glue and screws to hold it in place.  We also set the end of the 1x4 flush against the floor, to make it easier to hold straight while we were gluing and screwing it.  Once we got the screws in, we cut the bottom of the 1x4 even with the bottom of the frame.

Fence staplesNext, we took a 4X16 cattle panel, available at the local farm and ranch store, bent it into an arch and aligned the back edge of it with the back edge of the hoop house base.  We fastened it to the outside of the hoop house base with fence staples.

A second cattle panel was bent into an arch and placed overlapping the first one slightly at the center of the house, and aligned with the front edge of the hoop house base.  This was also fastened to the base with fence staples.

Since the cattle panels had a tendency to want to spring back out to their original flat shape, we tied twine from one side to the other to keep them arched while we stapled them to the frame.string and hog rings

Where the two panels overlapped, we used hog rings to connect them together.

Pipe strappingWe adjusted the cattle panels so that the top of the arch visually aligned with the vertical 1x4 at the back, and attached them together with plumber’s strapping and a couple of screws.

In the next segment in this series, we’ll show how to build the end walls and door for the hoop house.  The chicks and turkey poults will be here in April, so we really need to keep moving with this project!

Until next time, have fun, and think Spring – Cheryl


In the Belly of the Whale

March 06

In the Belly of the Whale

As I write this week, I'm sitting in an airport on my way to a conference for my "day job".  Although the conference should be interesting, I will miss my family and my "critters"; my dog, Ellie, and my hens who have no name, except for the New Hampshire Reds which are collectively called "Lucy".  The conference couldn't come at a worse time for my "real job", that is, my market garden.  If I were at home this week instead of at the conference, I would be working with Martin to complete the high tunnel, tilling the area where I will be planting peas, and starting more seeds indoors.

IMG_1265 The celery seeds I planted a couple of weeks ago are slowly germinating, with one or two small, spindly plants per pot.  The lettuce and broccoli I started a couple of days ago are already sprouting, seeming much stronger and more vigorous than the celery.  The under-cabinet fluorescent light that shines on them as they sit on my kitchen countertop is probably not bright enough to give them a good start.  I’m thinking I’ll have to set up some sort of makeshift cold frame on the south side of the barn in order to give them some warm spring sun and protection from the wind and the chickens.  After all, I don’t have any more room left on my kitchen counter, and I have LOTS more seeds to start!



During the short, cold days of winter, spring seems to take forever to arrive.  Once it’s here, everything seems to be in a rush.  Seeds rushing to sprout, and us rushing to get things ready for them; everyone rushing to enjoy the first warm sunny days.  I’m looking forward to the extra daylight in the evenings once daylight savings time is here. 

Standing inside the new high-tunnel-in-progress, as I looked up, the arches seemed like a whale skeleton around me.  This garden sometimes seems to me like I’ve hooked a whale on 10-lb test fishing line.  I’m excited, scared, and I feel like I’m in way over my head.  I’ll just have to learn to take things as they come, one day at a time.


Keep your head above the water,



The Fifth Season

February 28

The Fifth Season

IMG_1263 Some places have two seasons – the rainy season and the dry season.  Most everyplace else has four seasons – Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter.  Kansas has five seasons, and we’re in that fifth season right now.  Kansas’ fifth season comes squarely between Winter and Spring.  The nights are still cold enough to freeze everything solid, but in the daytime the 40-something temperature is just warm enough to turn the ground into a thick, soupy mess.  You guessed it, the fifth season is Mud Season.  This year’s mud season is especially muddy, due to the larger than usual amounts of snow we received this year.  A walk through the garden makes ankle-deep footprints that immediately fill with water, and leaves a person wondering if their boots will be left behind with the next step.  It is in this type of mud that we were out yesterday, trying to set up a new high tunnel that we got at Christmas. 

IMG_1262 Martin had a great idea on how to line up the poles that get pounded into the ground – he got a 20-foot long 2x4, and drilled four holes in it at the appropriate spacing, figuring that once we get the first four posts pounded in through the holes, we move the board down two spaces and pound in the next two poles.  A brilliant idea, I thought, and so I suggested that we skip the usual batter boards and string, and just get started pounding poles in using his 2x4 alignment tool.  Our son came over to help, and our daughter’s boyfriend did too, and we were making pretty good time, and got all 17 poles on one side pounded in.  Then we looked back down the row of poles and realized that instead of a straight line, they drew an arc in the mud.  Apparently the 2x4 had warped when it got wet, and the holes were no longer aligned.  So, we put up our batter boards and string, and figured out which poles needed to be pulled out and moved.  If there’s any blessing in the mud, it’s that the poles were fairly easy to pull out and move.  We ended up getting only the 17 poles on one side done that day, plus the corner poles for the other side. 



IMG_1264A day wiser, Martin and I set out this afternoon to get a few poles installed on the other side, and to get a few of the bows up, so it would at least look like we were making some progress.  It turned out the 2x4 tool still worked well to get our spacing, as long as we used the string for alignment.  Four done, 13 more to go!  Then we just have to add the top purlin, bracing along the sides, the end walls, the plastic, etc….  I hope we’re done in time to start planting!


Keep your socks dry,



Keeping Warm

February 21

Keeping Warm

IMG_1251I had intended to write part two of “Building a hoop house for pastured poultry” this week, but the weather has been somewhat uncooperative for working outdoors.  So, in celebration of the half inch of ice covering everything, turning the world into a crystal wonderland, I’m spending as much time as possible indoors looking out.  Winter is beautiful if you don’t have to be out in it.

There are lots of ways to keep warm in this type of weather.  I like to wash and dry the bed sheets right before going to bed, so they’re still warm from the dryer when I crawl in.  Comfort soups like ham and beans, chicken and noodles, or creamy bacon and potato soup are warming from the inside out.  Hot cocoa with whipped cream or a marshmallow on top is always good, as is snuggling with the whole family under a blanket watching old movies on TV.

However, one of my favorite things to do in cold weather is to bake.  I’ve been fortunate that my hens have continued to lay throughout the winter, and they’ve blessed me with plenty of eggs for breakfasts and baking.  In fact, since one of my best egg customers has left the Kansas winter behind for an extended stay with relatives in sunny Arizona, I’m finding myself left with an overabundance of eggs.  So, my baking goals today have been geared towards using some of my extra eggs.  One my favorite recipes that uses lots of eggs is pound cake.




IMG_1259Traditional Pound Cake

1 dozen eggs, separated

1 pound butter, softened

1 pound sugar

1 pound cake flour

2 Tablespoons vanilla

Whip egg whites until they form stiff peaks.  Set aside.  Cream egg yolks, sugar, butter, and vanilla until smooth and no longer grainy.  If your butter is unsalted, add 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  Fold in egg whites.  Divide batter between 2 bread pans (or one Bundt or tube pan) sprayed with non-stick spray, or greased and floured.  Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Allow to cool, remove from pan and slice.  Serve with fruit topping and whipped cream.

This versatile recipe is very easy to play with to get different varieties.  Try adding coconut, or using lemon, almond, or rum flavoring instead of vanilla.  Sprinkle chopped walnuts in the bottom of the pan before adding batter for a nut-crusted cake.


Blueberry Topping

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

3 Tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 cup water

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 cup water

Dissolve the cornstarch in 1/4 cup water.  Set aside.  Cook blueberries, sugar, and lemon juice in 1/4 cup water, until the water boils and the blueberry skins break.  Remove from heat and add cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly until sauce thickens.  Serve warm over slices of pound cake.



Keep Warm,



Building a hoop house for pastured poultry - Part 1

February 13

Building a hoop house for pastured poultry – Part 1

JustPicked Farms is planning to raise chickens and turkeys for meat this summer, and we’re planning to pasture them in movable hoop houses, moving them each day to a fresh spot of pasture.  We did some investigation of others’ houses on the Internet, and used that as a basis for our design:

IMG_1128 In this post, we’ll show you how to build a sturdy, lightweight, easy to pull base for this hoop house, and we’ll continue in next week’s post.  To make the base, you will need:

(2) 2x4, 10 ft, and (2) 2x4, 8 ft treated lumber.  If you prefer to avoid treated lumber, you should use a rot-resistant lumber such as cedar, redwood, or cypress. 

(2) 10 ft pieces of 2” PVC drain pipe (optional, but recommended)

(4) 16 x 16 x 22 5/8 triangles made from 3/4 inch plywood

measuring tape


Jig saw or hand saw

Table saw

heat gun or propane torch




power screwdriver

Gorilla glue (a polyurethane-based glue that cures when exposed to moisture.  We’ve found this glue to be quite long-lasting, with excellent hold, and impervious to weather, making it great for outdoor projects.)

IMG_1232 1.  On the 10-foot pieces of treated lumber, mark 1 inch from the corner on one end, and 6 inches along one side.  Cut this off with the jigsaw or hand saw.  These will be the runners, like on a sled, that the hoop house will slide on.  Cutting off the corner keeps the runner from digging into the ground as you drag the hoop house to its new spot.  Repeat this for each end of the 10-foot pieces of lumber.IMG_1235

2.  On the table saw, cut a strip out of each of the pieces of PVC pipe, so the pipe will fit over the short side of the runner. 




3.  Clamp it down, and use the heat gun or torch to heat the pipe at the point where your board begins to angle.  Be IMG_1234careful if you use a torch to not heat it too much and burn it.  Once the pipe is warm, bend it to follow the board.  Do this at both ends of both boards.

IMG_12374.  To fasten the pipe to the board, drill through the pipe, and fasten it with a few screws.




IMG_12385.  Here’s what the bottom runner looks like with the pipe attached.  You can omit the pipe if you IMG_1239want, but I think it makes the hoop house slide across the grass more easily.

6.  Measure 6 inches from the one end of the runner board, and glue and screw one of the triangles onto the opposite side from the pipe.  Do the same with the remaining triangles.  If the weather is cold, set your glue bottle in a bowl of hot water to warm it.  It will squeeze out of the bottle much more easily and spread better.

7. Now you’ve got both your runner boards with the pipe and triangles on them.  Flip them over so that the pipe is facing up, and the triangles of one runner board are pointing to the triangles on the other runner board, and place them about 8 feet apart on a good flat floor.


8.   Take your 8 foot treated lumber, and place one on edge, underneath the triangles at one end of your runner boards.  Line up the IMG_1240edge of the triangle with the edge of the 8 foot board, and make sure the end of the 8 foot board is even with the outside edge of the runner board.  Glue and screw the triangles to this board.  Do the same with the other 8 foot board on the other end of your runner boards.IMG_1241

9.  Flip the whole thing over so the plastic pipes are once again on the bottom.  Now you have a sturdy, lightweight, smooth pulling base for your poultry hoop house.

Next week, we’ll continue with Part 2 of building our pastured poultry hoop house.  Stay tuned!

RSS feed for JustPicked Farms blog. Right-click, copy link and paste into your newsfeed reader