What's happening down on the farm
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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 Farm
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!
Posted by Cheryl
@ 11:49 PM CDT
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.
Posted by Cheryl
@ 11:16 PM CDT
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.
This 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 -
Posted by Cheryl
@ 07:51 AM CDT
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.
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.
A 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,
Posted by Cheryl
@ 04:38 PM CST
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