Arcadia Farms

  (Portage, Michigan)
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Seed Sources

lettuce seedlings in seed starting mediumI did it!

After many hours of possibly making the process more complicated than it needed to be looking through seed options, I’ve selected plant varieties for Arcadia Farms’ 2013 season! This is an exciting time for a gardener – exploring the vast world of possibilities as you imagine what your upcoming garden could become, what it could yield. There are so many varieties and sometimes making a choice between what would be prettiest and what would be most productive is an agonizing trade off.

Deciding what to grow is made one step easier for me by our members. All of our CSA members provide us with a list of veggies they love, veggies they hate, and veggies they’re willing to try when they submit a completed Membership Application. Last week I spent quite a bit of time digesting (pardon the pun) those preferences to amend the original garden plant I presented to you in this blog post last fall.

Based on customer preferences, the Main Garden will now look like this and the Fenceline Garden will now look like this. (Click on the links in the previous sentence to see a visual representation of what the gardens will look like in spring. Keep in mind that you’ll need to zoom in quite a bit – like 400% – to see the details.) I also have some succession plans for replacing crops that will be fully harvested early in the season, such as lettuce or peas. More on that when the time is ripe. (Get it???) I’m eager to share info with you on all the varieties we’ll be growing, including information on where to buy the very same seeds we’ll be using. I’ll also talk about a seed-starting plan so you know what to plant, when to plant it and where to plant it (indoors or direct-seed). But alas, I’m not quite ready to share that info now. (I’ve been way to busy drooling over photos of heirloom tomatoes and plugging price-to-seed-count numbers into my what-should-I-buy spreadsheets!)

All the same, I recognize that if I’m thinking about what to plant this year, you probably are too. I’m not ready to spill the beans (get it???) on everything I’m planting, but I most certainly would like to help your search by sharing some tips on where to get seeds. So without further ado (and no more tasteless food-puns… did I say tasteless??…) here is a list of some of my favorite sources for seeds. You probably know of even more seed sources – we'd love to hear about them! Please stop by our website and share your thoughts, reviews and sources in the comments section!

Annie’s Heirloom Seeds

Annie’s Heirloom Seeds is owned and operated by Scott and Julie as (in their own words) “a labor of love.” Their “about” page explains that they have “chosen to grow heirloom vegetables for a variety of reasons.  Better taste, better nutrition, disease-resistance, independence, and self-sufficiency all play a role.” However, the “heart” behind their operation is to honor the traditions and influence of their grandparents who passed gardening knowledge and passion on to this couple. Scott says “that connection with the past, more than anything else, is the reason we love heirloom vegetables.” Annie’s has a good selection (if you can find it with one of these other vendors, you can probably find it with Annie’s too) and I love that they are a Michigan-based company (Clarksville, MI). I’ll be doing business with Annie’s whenever I can.

 

Wedel’s Nursery, Florist and Garden Center

Wedel’s has a rich history of serving the horticultural needs of the greater Kalamazoo area. Founded in 1946, the business has evolved through many stages and locations to become the amazing garden center that stands today at 5020 Texas Drive. As a newbie gardener, I found the staff to be very helpful and approachable. In addition to seeds, Wedel’s sells many gardening supplies, including organic potting soil. Although you can buy online directly from any of the vendors I’ve listed in this post, you can also find many of them in person at Wedel’s (think: no shipping!). I’ve purchased Botanical Interests, Hart’s and Seed Savers Exchange seeds at Wedel’s. If you’re new to gardening, have questions, want to avoid shipping and want to support a local business, you should stop by Wedel’s.

Source: wedels.com via Arcadia on Pinterest

 

Hart’s

My first garden consisted primarily of Hart’s seeds. I still find that they have some of the best germination rates of all the seeds I start and I’ve always been pleased with the resulting crop. I appreciate that Hart’s is committed to selling only non-GE (genetically engineered) seeds. You can be assured that all of their seeds are open-pollinated seeds. Their packaging isn’t nearly as appealing as some of the other vendors listed here, but don’t let that fool you about what’s inside!

 

Botanical Interests

I’ve grown many crops from these seeds. The packets provide lots of growing tips and usually include recipes on the inside! Lots of heirloom varieties and they also offer some organic seeds. I especially enjoyed their Easter Egg Radishes.

 

Victory Seeds

Victory seed places an emphasis on maintaining seed quality and providing quality customer service. They have packaging and growing procedures in place that help them meet and often exceed industry standards for quality. In their own words “our goal as an organization, is to provide you, our friends and customers, with the highest value for your money — a good selection, reasonable prices, high quality open-pollinated and heirloom seeds, and responsive customer support.” They seem to have a good selection, great prices, and helpful growing information on each crop which has helped me determine which seeds to purchase based on my needs.

 

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

I have not yet planted seeds from Baker Creek – 2013 is the first year I’m buying from them. So far, I’m impressed. Their selection is amazing and I appreciate the informative “blurbs” they provide about each plant. Gardener reviews are also great – several of them helped me decide what to purchase and what to pass over. Their website is beautiful and they offer additional products and services, including an Heirloom Gardener Magazine. Their “About” page says “We do not buy seed from Monsanto-owned Seminis. We boycott all gene-altering companies. We are not members of the pro-GMO American Seed Trade Organization! We work with a network of about 150 small farmers, gardeners and seed growers to bring you the best selection of seeds available! Many of our varieties we sell were collected by us on our travels abroad.”

 

Seed Savers Exchange

Maybe this is childish, but one of the reasons I like buying from Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) is that their website and catalogs have such amazing photos! But there are more grown-up reasons to buy from SSE, like the fact that they are dedicated to preserving America’s gardening heritage by “saving and sharing heirloom seeds.” This non-profit organization is all about preservation of heirloom, unique seeds so that they can be enjoyed by future generations. In addition to seeds they offer cooking beans, books, workshops and seed-saver gatherings.

 

Burpee Organic Seeds

Burpee seeds are everywhere. Meijer. Wal-Mart. Walgreens. Everywhere. They have a good variety of selections and are usually very economical to buy. I personally don’t like the fact that it’s sometimes hard for me to tell by their packaging if seeds are genetically engineered or not. However, I have purchased and grown some non-GE, organic seeds from Burpee and have been satisfied with the results.

Source: burpee.com via Arcadia on Pinterest

 

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.   

 
 

Homemade Vanilla Extract

homemade vanilla extract in jar

We do a lot of baking at our house. Because we don’t eat artificial food dye and are trying to avoid artificial everything-else, I recently purged all of the unnatural additives from my baking cupboard. I pitched things like neon food dye, regular food dye, artificial vanilla and a slew of other flavorings like “butter” and “root beer.” All that remained was some pure almond and pure peppermint extract.

If you like to bake as much as I do, you know that a touch of vanilla is an important ingredient in many different recipes. In some cases I was able to substitute the almond flavoring, but you know that’s just not the same. Lucky for me I made a neat little discovery about homemade vanilla extract around Christmas time. (I wanted to share this with you earlier but since I was giving homemade vanilla extract as a gift, I decided to wait.)

The recipe for homemade vanilla extract is below. I’ve baked now with the recommended recipe (2 beans) and my own “recipe”, which really is just double the vanilla beans. Last week I used my double-vanilla extract for the first time. I could not believe what a huge difference it made! These were seriously the best cookies I’ve ever made. Ever.

view of homemade vanilla extract in jar from top

When you look straight down into the jar, you can see all of the vanilla beans laying on the bottom. It looks like there are more than four, but that’s just because I cut them in half so that they would lay beneath the vodka in the jar.

closeup of homemade vanilla extract in glass jar

Looking from the side, the homemade vanilla extract is much darker than artificial vanilla flavoring I’ve used.

 

Vanilla beans can be expensive. For those of you who are in the Kalamazoo area, we purchased our vanilla beans from Sawall Health Food Store. Don’t let the price per pound scare you! I don’t know exactly what it is, but the price is somewhere around $150/pound! I bought four tiny, practically weightless little beans for somewhere between $1 and $2. Vodka can range in price from $10/bottle to $60/bottle. In theory, the higher the quality of your vodka is, the higher your vanilla extract quality will be. We used a $20 bottle and I’m very pleased with the result.

Making your own vanilla extract is super easy!

Click here for the recipe!

 
 

Wish List Wednesday: Magazines

Wish List Wednesday | Magazines

Welcome to another Wish List Wednesday! When I first started sharing these posts I intended to do them every Wednesday. Then I realized it was a little obnoxious. So now I’m working on making this happen the third Wednesday of every month. While some of the items I share about may be true recommendations – products/services I’ve used and think you’d benefit from – most of these things are truly just wishes – things I’d love to have or experience or learn more about as I move deeper into living a sustainable farm life.

This Wednesday (which just happens to be my birthday) I’d like to share a list of magazines I’d love to receive in the mail. These magazines are related to food, permaculture, homesteading, small/urban farms and/or sustainable living in general. Do you receive any of these publications? If so, please leave a comment to let me know what you think of them!

Urban Farm

Sustainable city living has a magazine and it’s called Urban Farm. This magazine has great tips for those of us who live in suburbia or the city who want to experience the benefits of farming right where we are. Farming/self-sufficient living in the city requires a level of creativity and this magazine shares tips and tales from others who understand the unique challenges of a city farmer.

 

Mother Earth News

Mother Earth News is, well, the mother of all permaculture/homesteading magazines. It is packed with SO much great information, including info on organic gardening, modern homesteading, renewable energy and green homes. It’s been around for a long time and has lots of DIY project plans available.

Permaculture

What is permaculture, anyway? Well, according to the magazine by the same name, permaculture is”an innovative framework for creating sustainable ways of living” as well as “a practical method of developing ecologically harmonious, efficient and productive systems that can be used by anyone, anywhere.” This magazine provides information and inspiration for living a permaculture kind of life.

 

Organic Gardening

It’s all in the name. Organic Gardening magazine provides expert garden advice, helpful tips for beginners, useful information about beneficial insects, how to make compost and other things critical to organic growing.

Source: amazon.com via Arcadia on Pinterest

Backwoods Home

Backwoods Home offers useful information on self-reliance, homesteading, canning and other related topics.

 

Back Home

This magazine is a hands-on guide to sustainable living with many agriculture and homesteading topics.

Hobby Farms

Hobby Farms is a magazine for hobby farmers, small production farmers and those passionate about the country.  Hobby Farms caters to all aspects of rural life—from small farm equipment, to livestock, to crops.  Hobby Farms highlights “rural living for pleasure and profit.”

 

Grit

GRIT is a bi-monthly magazine distributed throughout the United States and Canada that celebrates country lifestyles of all kinds, while emphasizing the importance of community and stewardship.

Source: grit.com via Arcadia on Pinterest

Countryside

Countryside & Small Stock Journal (better known as just “Countryside”) is more than a magazine: it’s a network where homesteaders share a wide variety of experiences and ideas about simple, sustainable, country living. There are no guidelines and no paid writers. Instead, there is an open atmosphere of neighborly sharing.

 

Small Farm Today
Small Farm Today® was founded by a small farmer in central Missouri in 1984, and is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of small farming, rural living, sustainability, community, and agripreneurship. It is published on a farm, by a farmer, for farmers.

Growing for Market

Growing for Market is for local food producers. GFM keeps you informed about the business of growing and selling vegetables, fruits, cut flowers, plants, herbs, and other food products. They have information for those who are market gardening or farming, whatever your scale, that will help make your business more profitable and enjoyable.

Everyday Food

This magazine has great recipes (many of them very simple) and is family-friendly. They also offer great tips on selecting produce and buying in-season. I love it and recommend it!

 

 

Whole Living

I enjoy the articles in this magazine. Unfortunately the magazine is being discontinued sometime in 2013 due to a lack of subscriptions.

 

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.   

 
 

A Micro Tea Garden

I want a tea garden. And by ‘tea garden’, I mean a garden with hedges made of true tea plants (Camellia sinensis) and tea-worthy herbs that I can harvest at my leisure (<— said with my best British accent) then steep for a delicious homemade tea minutes later. On top of that, I wouldn’t mind sitting in the midst of all those beautiful hedges and herbs while I sip said tea. The ideal tea garden would be very near my back door. I have visions of something marvelous and much like the following:

Source: flickr.com via Arcadia on Pinterest

Source: mydeco.com via Arcadia on Pinterest

Source: everythingfab.com via Arcadia on Pinterest

 

 

 

Source: ripe6.net via Arcadia on Pinterest

 

 

But the unfortunate reality is that there just isn’t a great space available for my fantasy tea garden. While I do plan to incorporate some herbs like chamomile and mint into the main garden this year, the bulk of the garden space (Main Garden and Fenceline Garden) is rightfully set aside for growing vegetables to support our CSA. I considered planting around the perimeter of the house (that would be pretty and practical!) but I know that there was a previous application of insecticide for termintes applied here and I’m reluctant. (Apparently this treatment bonds to the soil and stays put so its not an issue for the rest of the property – the garden is at the complete other end of our acre – but I’m not taking a chance of growing edible plants right above or next to it.)

What’s a tea loving girl to do? How about this: I intend to have my tea garden in containers. I’ll be reusing (up-cycling, if you will) tin cans as planters which will be affixed to the posts of our garden fence. They’ll get plenty of sun out there, they’ll be conveniently close to our water source and they’ll just be pleasant to look at and smell as I work in the garden. After drilling a few drainage holes in the bottom and filling them with compost, they should be well-suited to growing little bits of beauty. I’ll have several cans of yarrow, thyme, spearmint, sage, rosemary, peppermint, lavender, lemon grass, fennel, chamomile and anise. Those herbs with fragrant flowers will hopefully also attract more bees and butterflies. I’m not 100% sure yet what they’ll look like or how I’ll secure them to the fence (maybe just nails?) but here’s a gallery of inspiration that the final product is sure to come from.

 

What do you think? Any suggestions for how to hang them? Or suggestions for tea-worthy herbs to grow in them? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.  

 
 

Winter Gardening Confessions (An Update)

garden in January

Seems like anytime I’m making small talk these days I’m asked “How’s your garden?” (No complaints here; I’m happy to share!)

So, let me just tell you how the garden is. It’s good. But not as expected. I just paid the garden a visit yesterday for the first time in a couple of weeks. (A couple of weeks?? Hmm… I feel like this post is part confession…) Here’s what I found.

Winter Update

The peas still look green and healthy. They’re a wee bit larger and beginning to tangle about each other, but otherwise there’s no change. The lettuce in this bed looks healthy but is essentially the same size as in November. This is also the bed with an outdoor thermometer inside. Here are the stats: Under the row cover, it was 65*. Outside the row cover, it was 34* and sunny. The high temp was recorded at 96* and the lowest recorded temp was 18*.

This lettuce seedling hasn't had any noticeable growth in over a month.

This lettuce seedling hasn’t had any noticeable growth in over a month.

Peas growing in January

The peas are (barely) growing under a row cover on this January day.

Confession: The kale bed has never been covered (for several reasons). Despite being buried under several inches of snow, half of the kale looks good still. The other half was transplanted from the Fenceline Garden in late fall and never did look terribly healthy. I’m going to sample both tomorrow (perhaps in an omelet?) to see how they taste.

This kale is growing under a blanket of fall leaves and snow.

This kale is growing under a blanket of fall leaves and snow.

The cover over the carrot bed was partially collapsed and covered in some major ice chunks. After I remedied that situation, I crawled inside (yup… I confess I was too lazy to open the iced-to-the-ground side) and plucked a couple of carrots from the center of the bed. In fact, I ate them while I wrote this post! They’re pretty small (maybe three inches) but they sure taste good! Can I tell you a dirty little secret? (More confessions…) These carrots were transplanted from a different bed. I know, I know, you shouldn’t transplant root vegetables… but there were a bunch of small carrots still hanging around this fall and I was curious to see what would happen if I transplanted them to another bed for winter growing. If these two carrots are any indication, they haven’t grown at all, but they sure are tasty!

Hard to believe it, but there are carrots "growing" under those leaves. More like "stored" under those leaves.

Hard to believe it, but there are carrots “growing” under those leaves. More like “stored” under those leaves.

Next I checked the bed with beets and chard growing in it, both crops still there from fall. They don’t seem to have grown much but I did pick a few beets for dinner. However, my favorite part of this bed isn’t edible… not yet anyway. Late this fall (November?) I direct seeded spinach to this bed. I’d given up hope that they would ever germinate, but there they were today smiling up at me! These are about the only plants that have actually shown growth during the winter. It will be fun to see if they continue to grow to a harvest-able state during the winter or if they simply overwinter till we hit springtime.

This bed has chard and which have shown no noticeable growth in over a month. The spinach in this bed however has germinated nicely over the last few weeks.

This bed has chard and beets which have shown no noticeable growth in over a month. The spinach in this bed however has germinated nicely over the last few weeks.

Spinach seedlings grown under a row cover in December and January.

Spinach seedlings grown under a row cover in December and January.

And speaking of overwintering spinach, yet another bed had a layer of teeny baby spinach plants sleeping under a blanket of fall leaves (and a canopy of plastic). No growth, but I’m pretty confident that they’ll overwinter for a spring harvest. Same deal with the turnips; no growth, but they look healthy under their leaf-mulch and hopefully will take off this spring.

This spinach seedling germinated in late fall. There are many more like it under this layer of leaves.

This spinach seedling germinated in late fall. There are many more like it under this layer of leaves.

Turnips waiting for spring under a bed of fall leaves (and a plastic row cover).

Turnips waiting for spring under a bed of fall leaves (and a plastic row cover).

I didn’t get a chance to check on the newly seeded carrots and parsnips which are under several inches of leaf-mulch and several more inches of snow.

raised beds in snow

The story of ‘looks-healthy-but-no-growth’ is repeated in the greenhouse. I have many (100?) seedlings that I was going to plant out in the garden which are frozen in time. Some of them were destined for beds that have row covers and I probably should go ahead and transplant them. (Confession: With the busyness of the holidays I didn’t get around to it.) I did bring one lettuce plant into the house which is beginning to grow as it thaws.

SAMSUNG\

SAMSUNG

 

So in summary, while things aren’t growing like I thought they would, we still have a few winter delights to nibble on and I’m optimistic that I’ll have several early crops in the spring.

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.  

 
 

Olla Irrigation for a Market Garden

An olla buried in the garden.Image fromhttp://www.apartmenttherapy.com

Clay olla buried in the garden.
Image from http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/olla-gardening-the-original-dr-78565

It’s January. And it’s cold. And I’m glad… mostly. I’m not a fan of cold weather, but I’m hoping a cold, snowy Michigan winter means a drought-free Michigan summer. Cold weather also means I have some time to create plans for making our 2013 season even more successful than 2012. I’ve been doing research on irrigation systems for our 2013 garden and I’d like to share the results of this research with you this week.

A major component of my irrigation plan is hugelkultur. If you’ve been following this blog than I’m sure you’re sick of me throwing that term around. If you haven’t been following my German-term throwing antics, then I’ll just let you know briefly that hugelkultur (“mound culture”) is a gardening method that has been used in Eastern Europe for centuries and is essentially a sheet-composting method that involves burying woody debris (logs, branches, sticks) and other organic matter under a mound of earth to add nutrients to the soil and retain moisture. For more on my adventures in installing hugelkultur beds, click here.

I sincerely hope that hugelkultur will reduce our irrigation needs but I’m not quite optimistic enough to trust that it will eliminate the need to water. So I’ve set out to develop a sustainable irrigation system that minimizes labor, reduces costs, avoids overhead watering, and stores extra water while maintaining aesthetics appropriate for our suburban setting. I want the system to minimize reliance on city water. And I’d like fries with that too, please.

Click here to read the rest of this article, including:

 
 

Is Hugelkultur Sustainable?

leavs in hugelkultur beds

We recently incorporated several large hugelkultur beds into our market garden. For those who have not yet heard about hugelkultur, you can learn more about the how and why of this gardening practice in my original hugelkultur post. In short, hugelkultur is a German term that roughly translates to “mound culture”. The hugelkultur gardening method has been used in Eastern Europe for centuries and is essentially a sheet-composting method that involves burying woody debris (logs, branches, sticks) and other organic matter under a mound of earth to add nutrients to the soil and retain moisture.

Hugelkultur boasts some pretty audacious benefits: Dramatically increased soil aeration, increased soil fertility, creative use of what would otherwise be ‘waste’ (the brush/burn pile) and biggest of all – little/no watering.

No watering? Hard to believe, right? As I did my initial research into hugelkultur, this claim caught my attention most. I read all about the benefits of hugelkultur, the science behind it, the how-to instructions for making it happen and the first hand experience of those who’ve given it a whirl. Everyone had great things to say and claimed that these audacious benefits were legit.

Digging for Disses

I was convinced that hugelkultur raised beds were the way to go for expanding our garden… well, almost convinced. As I concluded my research I decided to search for one final thing: Naysayers. I purposely searched terms like “hugelkultur fail” or “hugelkultur myth” or “hugelkultur doesn’t work”. After quite a bit of digging, the only thing I found was a handful of articles about people who doubted the process would work and were amazed at the results; converts. From all my reading, it appeared that hugelkultur has a whole slew of fans and no foes. In fact, through all my digging I only found one diss, and it has to do with sustainability.

Any Naysayers?

The one negative commentary I could find on hugelkultur was the purported idea that hugelkultur is not sustainable. Why? Click here to read on about what we found and our answer to the question "Is hugelkultur sustainable?"

 
 
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