Bountiful Blessings Farm Produce

  (Hinckley, Illinois)
Locally Grown - Quality Farm Produce at Affordable Prices
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Another Busy Week

This past week was a whirlwind. We have been busy sowing seeds, from tomatoes and peppers to lettuce and cabbage. As the Whitfield Farm mentioned in their blog post, our town lost a good friend and neighbor farmer. Our sympathy to the Danekas family and friends. Today we put brakes on the delivery van we use over the summer. It is all complete and ready for the season. Tonight the wind is blowing like crazy and it makes me really anxious for some warm days in the near future. Last year at this time we were planting potatoes and onions in the field. I think it is going to be a little while before we are able to get into the field. The soil in the high tunnels is drying out and looking favorable for planting in a couple of weeks. I am getting cabin fever and want Spring now! Anyhow, we are ready for another week of seeding and preparation for the upcoming season. Blessings on your week!!

 
 

A New Seedling House

We got the framework erected today for the new seedling house. Snow is predicted for tomorrow, so I will be seeding. I am a day behind. Then on Friday, we will finish the base frame, cover and install doors. If it would clear off tomorrow, I will finish the base frame. Thank you for helping Jorge Lopez!!! Great day's work. BTW - seedlings are looking great. They need more light, but that will be remedied soon.

 

 
 

Onion Seeding

The last two days I have been seeding onions. Like most growers, I started out growing onions from sets, which are small, immature onion bulbs. They were easy to grow, but now I want to expand my variety horizons, but with onion sets, choices were limited. So this year I turned to seeds. Growing from seed lets me pick varieties to suit the needs of our customers—such as the desire for an early-season sweet onion or a late-season keeper. Colors range from dashing purple to pure white and numerous shades of yellow. Shapes and sizes vary, too, from the bottle-shaped ‘Italian Torpedo’ to the plump perfection of ‘Ailsa Craig Exhibition’.

Most onion experts agree that, diversity aside, onions grown from seed perform better than those grown from sets. They are less prone to disease, they store better, and they bulb up faster, and there is less double bulb heads.

Onion varieties differ in the length of daylight and the temperature required to make a bulb. Short-day types are ideal for the South, where they grow through cool southern fall and winter months. They’re triggered to bulb by the 12 hours of sunlight that come with the return of warm, early summer weather.

Long-day onions are best grown in the North, where the summer daylight period is longer. These onions require at least 14 hours of light to bulb up. The plant grows foliage in cool spring weather, then forms bulbs during warm summer weather, triggered by the long days. Our farm is located in the north, so long day onions are the type we will be growing.

 I sow seeds 1/4 inch deep in flats filled with soil-less potting mix. I place the flats on the seeding rack in our seed room. Onions germinate in just a week at around 70°F.  Once they have produced 3-5 leaves I move the flats to to a low rack near the floor in the seed room where it is cooler. They remain under fluorescent lights, one warm white and one cool white bulb per fixture. I keep the lights just above the leaves, adjusting the lights as the plants grow. I feed the seedlings with a water-soluble fertilizer at half strength every other time I water, being careful not to keep them too wet. Once the weather gets a little warmer outside, I move them to the cold frame. They remain there until they are transplanted into the field.

 
 

Seeding!!!

Another day was spent seeding at the Bountiful Blessings Farm. I worked on onions and lettuce today. This is a very exciting time of the year. I love seeing the little seedlings start popping through the soil. Once the seeding was done today, I cleaned up the tool room, cleaned tools and put things away from weekend work around the farm. I want to make it a goal to keep things picked up and put away where they belong. In the busy season, things do not always get back to where they belong. We try real hard, but the busyness sometimes wins. I am hoping to encourage everyone helping us at the farm to put things back - and put them back clean. In the long run it will be more efficient. Moving all of my tools from the office building to the tool room should be a big help. We do most of our spring work in the main produce building, so having the tools over there should save time. 

Tomorrow we are supposed to get hit with up to 12 inches of snow. This is good for the moisture levels in the ground, but it will slow the process of building the seedling greenhouse. I was planning to work on that this week, but will most likely have to shift to something else. There is plenty to do in preparation for this season, so I am not worried about not having anything to do.

I filled out the paperwork today for two farmer's markets and got them in the mail. More information on that to follow. Now, for supper! Blessings!

 
 

The "To-Do" List

How many of you have a "To-Do" list? I am really not much of a list person, but in the effort to become more organized, I have created a "To-Do" list for the immediate time. These are some things I will be concentrating in the upcoming days and weeks:

  • Move more soil to transplanting area 
  • Bend hoops for low tunnels and row covers
  • Erect seedling house
  • Prepare transplanting flats
  • Back-fill around High Tunnel #2
  • Fix tire on hay rack
  • Put all produce boxes upstairs in building #3
  • Finish bean harvest
  • Package more popcorn
  • Put up small greenhouse for transplants
  • Change oil in my van
  • Take down old hoop houses
  • Cut wood for office wood burner
  • Organize tool room and storage area
  • Haul greenhouse tables
  • Prepare soil in high tunnels
  • Assemble drip tubes for High Tunnels
  • Measure plastic for low tunnels and row cover
This is just an abbreviated list. The work of a farmer never ends. When it is not fit to be out in the field or even outside, there is plenty of bookwork, planning and construction to do inside. So, you know I will be busy!!! Have a great day! Blessings!
 
 

Leeks - Cold Frame - Hot Bed

One of our main goals at Bountiful Blessings Farm Produce is to produce a top quality vegetable, and make it available over a long period of time. This means finding ways to extend the normal growing season. One avenue we have used the past year is high tunnel farming. This year we actually expanded by adding a second high tunnel. We also have several smaller cold frames and heat beds. Once our seeds have germinated, they are hardened off in either the cold frame, cool house (has some supplemental heat) or the hot bed. The hot bed is basically a cold frame with heated soil. We placed heat coils beneath the soil in the bottom of the cold frame to make a hot bed. Years ago, farmers used fresh manure beneath the soil in a hot bed to heat the soil as the manure composted. We are a little more tech savvy.

 

I am getting the hot bed ready to use in the next few days, as I will be planting leeks. Leeks are a member of the onion family.  The edible part of the leek plant is a long cylinder of bundled leaf sheaths which is sometimes called a stem or stalk. As the leek grows in height, soil is pulled around the base of the plant, blanching the stem- making it white and tender. I will be starting the seed indoors in our seed room, and then when they are large enough, I will move them to the hotbed in the plug trays in which they were seeded. Once the field is ready and weather stabilized, I will move them to the field and transplant. Leeks are fairly hardy and can be planted several weeks prior to the last frost date, so I will move them out as soon as it is fit. The variety we are growing is Lancelot.

 

 

 

Here is a great recipe for Leeks:

 

Leeks Au Gratin

Makes 8 servings

 

2 lbs leeks

1/4 c butter, plus about 1 Tbsp

2 Tbsp flour

3/4 c milk

1 Tbsp white wine

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Salt and black pepper, to taste

1 c grated baby Swiss cheese

1/4 tsp Tabasco or similar hot sauce

1. Cut white and tender portion of green leek leaves lengthwise, and then into 1-inch pieces.

2. Boil until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain; place in buttered casserole.

3. In saucepan over medium heat, melt 1/4 c butter; stir in flour. Whisk in milk and wine. Stir and cook until thickened, 3-5 minutes. Add nutmeg, salt, pepper and Tabasco; pour over leeks. Sprinkle with cheese.

4. Bake at 400 degrees 15-20 minutes, or until bubbly. Dot with remaining butter, and brown under broiler, 3-5 minutes.

 

 
 

First Seeding of the Season - Beets and a Recipe

Today officially marks the first day of our season. If you are looking for me, I will be here on the farm from now until November. Things are really going to get busy. I started sowing seeds today. The first batch is beets.  Beets are the only root crop that I know of, that you CAN start indoors and transplant. I have heard transplanted beets always do better than direct seeded beets. I experimented with a few last year and it worked. The beet “seed” is a cluster of seeds in a dried fruit. Several seedlings grow from each seed. I am going to plant one seed per cell and then thin to the one strongest seedling per cell. Then I will transplant the entire cell, without disturbing the starter mix, into it's planting hole. Beets are one of my favorite veggies. Here is a great recipe using beets:

Marinated Beets
Makes 6 servings
2 bunches beets
2 Tbsp water
1/4 c vinegar
2 Tbsp caraway seeds
1 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp minced onion
1 tsp prepared horseradish
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
5 Tbsp vegetable oil

1. Wash beets, trim off greens, place in medium saucepan with salted water to cover; bring to a boil then simmer until tender, about 40 minutes.
2. When cool enough to handle, peel, slice, and place in glass or ceramic
bowl.
3. Whisk together water, vinegar, sugar, onion, horseradish, cloves, salt, pepper and oil until sugar and salt dissolve.
4. Pour over beets and let stand several hours, stirring occasionally, before serving.

 
 

Gearing Up for Another Season

We are gearing up for the upcoming growing season at the Bountiful Blessings Farm. With the addition of a new high tunnel this year, we will once again be able to provide local customers with top quality, fresh produce earlier, without the loss of flavor. High tunnels are season-extension technology used for producing a diversity of horticulture crops including vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers. Specifically, high tunnels are passively vented, solar greenhouses covered with 1-2 layers of greenhouse plastic. Crops are grown directly in the soil beneath the high tunnel, and the only external connection is the drip irrigation system. In addition to accelerating crop growth and maturity, high tunnels protect the crop from an erratic environment where extremes in temperature, wind, rainfall, pests and light intensity can severely reduce marketable yield and quality.

Tomorrow we start seeding for the new season! It's excting!

 
 

Red Deuce in the High Tunnel

Today has been a very busy day. We were going to head out to the church, but realized that there was too much to accomplish. Unfortunately, we were not able to attend. I really hate missing worship. Anyhow, we were going to transplant, but decided to work in the high tunnel and transplant the tomatoes directly into the ground. I needed to do some tilling and we had to lay down the weed control fabric. Once that was complete, we planted about 65 plants. We are using "Red Deuce" tomatoes in the high tunnel. I may place a few heirloom varieties in there as an experiment. Andy was out this afternoon to help us. He cut the fabric and dug the holes, while Kim planted and I watered. We will eventually have a drip tube irrigation system to water the plants, however, I have to get a few more things together before I can install the tubing.

We are getting rain this evening. This is much needed and it is coming down very nicely. We could use an inch real easy. Tomorrow I will be transplanting and seeding. I have several varieties to sow in the morning. I want to move some of the tomatoes up into four inch pots. Some of the fours I have now, are very nice. They have really taken off and will be placed into the field by May 10th. I am hoping to get them in the ground a little sooner than last year's plantings. 

Supper is almost ready here, so I will sign off for tonight. May God richly bless you in this upcoming week.

 
 

Extension Office Visit

The weather here at Bountiful Blessings Farm Produce has been cold and blustery. After experiencing some eighty degree days a couple of weeks ago, it is difficult to get used to this colder weather. Yesterday, I seeded most of the balance of tomatoes and also planted some peppers. The seedlings in the seed room at this point are doing real well. The plants in the hot house are growing like weeds and the cole crops in the hoop house are also doing well. 

On Thursday, Ellen Phillips, Extension Educator - Local Food Systems and Small Farms, from the University of Illinois Extension Office stopped by the farm to observe our operation. It was a pleasure meeting her and showing her a little bit of what we are doing. She was able to give me several ideas for the future. It is great to know there is helpful information available from her office. I am thankful she stopped in. Today, I am going to work the ground in the high tunnel to prepare for planting our tomatoes next week. Dad has equipment to work on today, so I am sure he will be busy with his projects. Well, its time to get moving. Hope you have a blessed day!

 
 

Thankful for the Rain

Today has been kind of slow as I am not feeling the best. I have a terrible cold and chest cough. I guess getting wet and being out in the hot then cold weather got the best of me, I planted more seeds this morning and kept up with the sowing schedule. I do not want to get behind as it is very difficult to get caught up again. Everything looks great after the rain. Our onions are up about two inches and the potatoes are nicely sprouting. It won't be too long and things will be rolling real fast. I want to plant the tomatoes in the high tunnel towards the end of the week or the first part of next week. I am waiting on the weather to stabilize a bit before I gamble again. The same goes for the sweet corn, I want to see what the weather is going to do before I start putting it in the ground. 

After seeding this morning, I cleaned up the garage and pulled some equipment outside. I then did a bunch of paperwork and organization. I am going in the house now to lie down for a little while. The medicine I took is working, making me drowsy. I am very thankful for the rain we received over night and yesterday. This really helped our plantings. May God grant you a wonderful afternoon and evening!

 
 

Family Fun

Today was another beautiful day. It started out with a little rain and very cool. I seeded several varieties of tomatoes, cabbage and cauliflower. About nine this morning we headed to my son's home in Crown Point, Indiana with my dad to meet the rest of my family. It was a very nice day with the family celebrating my youngest grandson's birthday. He turned two on the thirtieth. He greeted us with silly knock knock jokes. He is growing up fast. Kristin, our daughter in law, prepared a nice lunch and we watched the NASCAR race on TV. It was a nice day visiting with other family members from both sides of the family. 

Tomorrow, if the weather is good and the ground is dry enough, we will continue to plant onions and garlic in the field. I have some transplanting to complete and I think my dad will be working on some of our maintenance items. We are going to build a potato and asparagus planter. He is looking for the metal he needs to fabricate a surrey to pull behind the middle buster. There will be a rack for the roots or tubers and a seat for a person to ride on behind the tractor. I am sure it will work out. Now its time for supper and a little relaxation as this week is going to be busy. God bless you and have a great week!

 
 

Very Busy Yet Enjoyable Day

Today was a little different than most days around the farm. I was up early as normal, but only to check on things and then it was off with my sister and family to move all the stuff from my parent's summer home in central Illinois. The property was sold and all of our belongings needed to be moved out. Dad and mom rented a U-Haul Truck to haul everything back to the farm. It was fun working together with most of the family loading the truck and cleaning the house. There was a little tension in the air, but no really big problems. I drove the truck back to Hinckley this evening and my mom rode back with me. 

Dad arrived back to the farm tonight from his winter vacation and he thought everything looked pretty good. Andy and I surprised him with the new wagon we built this winter. I think he really liked it. I think it looks pretty good and it will work great for hauling our produce out of the field. It was a long day and tomorrow we have to get the truck unloaded and back to the rental place. I have more to seed and a bit of transplanting to complete. Sunday is my grandson's birthday party in Indiana, however if the weather is real hot, I may not be able to attend. Someone has to be here to maintain the plants in the greenhouses. I really hope I can go and enjoy the day with the rest of the family, but sometimes a farmer has to tend to his crop. May God richly bless each of you! Good night!

 
 

Getting Ready for the Market

Have you ever had one of those days? Well today has been one of those days for me. I tried so hard to keep on task today, but I had several emergencies that I could not let go without addressing. Anyhow, the day is coming to a close and I am still on schedule with the seeding. I have one variety of seed that needs to be reseeded. Germination was only about 50% and then they damped off. On the next batch I am going to watch it real close. Not to say that I was negligent the first time, but I am going to be more cautious not to make any mistakes. I use a bleach solution to sterilize the seeding trays and I use quality seed, so I am not sure what went wrong. I added more ventilation in the seed room thinking that there might not be enough air movement. Hopefully, this will correct the issue. 

Tonight, my wife and I are heading to a meeting for the Hinckley Farmer's Market. We are excited about the upcoming season and hope it will even be more successful than last year. Nora Gubbins and Christy Bark are doing an excellent job in organizing the market. For more information about the market, be sure to check out the website at  http://www.localharvest.org/hinckley-farmers-market-M49935

There is also a link to the Facebook page for the market.

 
 

Cold in Illinois

Another cold and blustery day here in Illinois. However, it is supposed to warm up. Yesterday was very productive. Due to a snow day, my nephew, Andy came out and helped me most of the day. The day started with my daughter going into the ditch with her car and daddy attempting to rescue her. By the time I was able to get there, someone else pulled her out. That was so nice of them! When I got back to the farm, I started seeding tomatoes, onions and cauliflower. The season has officially begun! Andy worked on a few projects I had lined up for him and he did such a great job! I am blessed to have such a super family! There is still a lot more preparation work to be completed, but things are moving right along.

Today is the Grundy county auction. I'm not sure yet if I am going or not. My back is bothering me and I am not sure I can stand around in the cold for fear it would just agitate my back even more. My wife went to town for her normal Saturday morning coffee at her brother's house, so I will probably work in the seed room and get somewhat more organized. It was so wonderful to walk into the seed room this morning and smell the damp soil and feel the warmth when it is only 17 degrees outside. It won't be too long and seeds will start popping through the top layer of soil. How exciting is that? Another miracle! Bountiful Blessings is growing once again! Thank you God!

 
 

Growing Rack

Another warm day in Illinois. This winter has been so mild! It is amazing! However, I expect when winter comes in like a lamb it will go out like a lion. Yesterday I applied for our sales permit for the spring. I anticipate a great year at our stands with tasty vegetables all season long. Today I am getting the materials I need to build a growing rack for my seedlings. I will be starting seeds on a heat bed with grow lights. Once they sprout they will be moved to this rack until they are ready to be transplanted into packs. My dad designed a rack build from PVC pipe. It will have six shelves, each of them with grow lights. The rack will be placed in a warm grow room. I can monitor the growth of the plants and maintain them very easily.

Yesterday, I loaded the manure I mentioned in the earlier blog. The manure turned out o be composted, so there is a very low chance of it burning the plants. If anyone has used chicken manure before, please let me know how it all worked out. I certainly do not want to cause any damage to the new plants. Again, it is such a pleasure working in the soil getting ready to see the Bountiful Blessings God has in store for this season!

 
 

Preparing for the Season

I never realized there is so much work just getting ready for the new season. Seed orders, repairing equipment, planting, mixing soil, marketing, are just some of the things going on at Bountiful Blessings. I really believe that being prepared is a good key to being successful. So, I continue to the  prepare. One of the things I am planning on doing this week, is to build a hotbed and a cold frame. My goal is to be able to provide vegetables here in our local area earlier than I was able to do last year. With the High Tunnel, cold frame and hotbed, Bountiful Blessings should get a little bit of a jump on the season. It'll be nice to have lettuce, greens and cool weather crops early! It is exciting and fun getting ready - I can't wait to get my fingers back in the soil, planting and growing!

Seed Orders

Getting Ready

Well it's that time of year at the farm where I look over last year's records and plan for the upcoming season. Actually, I have been planning for weeks, but I am finally mapping out the ground and preparing seed orders. I never realized there is so much work involved with a produce business! One cannot imagine the amount of planning that it takes to get everything in order. So, with my pile of catalogs, records and projections, I am making a master plan for this season's crop. I enjoy looking through the catalogs and seeing what is new, but it is just as exciting to see some of the heirloom varieties that look so inviting and interesting. I think of how it was back in the day and how much more work it took to grow a crop. Nonetheless, when a person bites into a Black Krim tomato or tries their first Moon and Stars watermelon, they get a sense of that old timey pleasure of eating something that folks enjoyed many, many years ago. I am also working on a hotbed and cold frame to extend the season; trying to provide locally grown vegetables earlier in the season. Many people are already asking me when they can get their first tomato! Well, it's still a bit early! Back to the seed order!

 
 
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