Arcadia Farms

  (Portage, Michigan)
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Early Spring 2013 Update

NOTE: Ooops! Somehow I managed to only save this as a draft and did not publish it. This was supposed to be posted on April 1 (no joke). Keep that in mind as you read my "today"s and "yesterday"s. - Farmer Katie


Today’s Headline: No snow… (yet)! Today’s forecast for southwest Michigan was snowy. To be sure, it is cold outside (hovering around 30 degrees as I write this) but the sun is shining brightly. After a sustained string of sunny days, it’s a little hard for me to stomach the idea of snow. The good news is that Wednesday should be sunny and relatively warm (40’s) and then if the Mr. Weatherman is right, there’s no looking back! Farewell, winter – I’m ready for spring!

Our First Hugelkultur Planting

With spring on our doorstep, I’ve been super busy starting seeds. On Good Friday I planted about half of our peas. The most exciting thing about these peas is that they are the very first thing planted in one of our hugelkultur beds! To recap, the beds are comprised of pits (about 3’ deep) filled with rotted logs, branches and fall leaves which have then been topped with the very earth that was removed to make the pits. (For in-depth info on why in the world we would bury logs in our garden – and why you should too – click here.) On Friday I made a mound about 8-10” high with more topsoil and topped that with 6 cubic feet of organic garden soil (purchased from Lowes). My plan was to create the mounded part of the beds with compost but I have not yet ordered the compost. (Just like last year we’ll get it in bulk from a local supplier.) Because I knew a cold snap was coming, I covered the bed with a plastic row cover using our PVC hoops. (I had a fabulous helper!)

hugelkultur bed

This hugel has 3 feet of logs and leave buried beneath it with a 8-10? mound of top soil on top.

hugelkultur bed

Owen is helping me put the hoops in place for our row cover.

hugelkultur bed

What a great little helper!

hugelkultur bed

Hoops are in place. A covering of organic garden soil (from Lowes) tops the bed. This is only 6 cubic feet… I wish I could have added more.

hugelkultur bed

The bed is ready for the row cover.

hugelkultur bed

I covered the bed with plastic held down by logs and large rocks. The let the bed warm for a day before planting the peas.

The row cover will also keep the deer and other critters from digging up my peas since there we do not yet have a fence around this part of the garden.

Seedlings

To date I’ve started onions, leeks, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, rhubarb, chard, broccoli, stevia, lettuce, peas and tomatoes. Frankly, this is the part of the season that keeps me on edge. Starting hundreds of seeds at a time while the weather is still touch and go provides lots of challenges.

a pile of newspaper pots

My biggest issue is space. We live in a small house and have a very small greenhouse. Finding an out of the way place for so many seedlings that also has the warmth and light they need is difficult. Second of all, making sure I stick with my planned planting dates is hard for me. Life gets busy and despite the fact that I vowed not to do this again, I’ve already had a couple of days where I look at the calendar at 8:00 PM and think “Oh crap, I’m supposed to plant 200 seeds today!” Right now I’m way off schedule on planting chives, scallions and a few days off on lettuce, spinach and chamomile. The biggest issue is that I haven’t been diligent about making newspaper pots every day. The good news is I think I can go ahead later this week with direct seeding my chives and scallions (they are cool hardy) and I’m thinking of direct-seeding the lettuce and spinach under row covers. The only reason I was going to start chamomile this early is because it takes a while to mature and I wanted to give it a jump start. But since that is not a critical crop for our CSA, I think I will just direct seed it after the last frost date.

In further keeping-it-real news, my onions are not doing well. I planted about 450 seeds and I think about 30% of them are thriving. I think the culprit here is lack of light… they’ve been hanging out in my laundry room and there are so many that some are not in the best-lit places. Also my cauliflower and cabbage have not germinated well because they are in the greenhouse which drops down to about 50* at night despite my space-heater’s best efforts. I replanted cauliflower a couple of days ago and will be bringing those seedlings, along with the cabbage, inside to germinate. The good news is our kale is doing fabulously as well as our chard. Broccoli germinated just fine and the tomatoes are coming along. Once the night temperatures pick up (or I get my hands on a second space heater) we should have no problems.

kale seedling in newspaper pot

Later this week I’m hoping to build shelves for the greenhouse to make better use of space (and get seedlings out of my dimly lit laundry room!)

The Garden Fence

Now that the direct-seed season has arrived (at least for my cool-hardy plants) we need a new fence ASAP. For those of you who are just starting to follow us, you might want to check out this post where I talked about expanding our garden. We’ve doubled the size of the Main Garden by adding 14 new beds – 10 of them are hugelkultur beds. The existing fence is still standing around last year’s garden. Besides needing to be expanded, it also needs to be improved. The posts are loose in several places and there are gaps (like, fawn-sized gaps) in the metal fabric in a couple of places.

Existing fence around main garden

Existing fence around main garden

DSC03841

fawn sized hole in existing main garden fence

Oh look – a fawn-sized hole in the fence… lovely…

Last fall I shared with our CSA members that we could use help in April with building the new fence. Several of them graciously said that they’d be willing to help when the time arrives. (Thank you!) We haven’t set a date yet but will soon. The fence will serve several purposes: Protect veggies from critters (like deer and rabbits), allow sun to reach our crops (by using welded wire fencing), provide a trellis to the north of the garden and create an attractive boundary for the garden. The attractive boundary is a driving force behind our need for some additional help, of the financial variety. Being good neighbors is important to us and since we’re a suburban farm, we want to create a fence that is as aesthetically pleasing (for our neighbors) as it is effective (for our crops). To make a prettier fence, we need a prettier penny. (And since we’re a start-up farm committed to operating debt-free, the budget is tight.)

The good news is that we’ve found a way to make a fence that is relatively low cost while still serving all the purposes listed above. And we’ll be able to make it modular so if we need to expand or move it in the future, all of the dollars invested in our project will not go to waste. All contributions (even $5) will bolster our ability to provide naturally-grown, locally-sold produce to our community. If you’re interested in investing in the naturally-grown, buy-local movement, here’s a great opportunity to make a tangible difference for just a few dollars! If you’d like to contribute, please email me at katie@arcadia-farms.net.  (P.S. We’re giving away some pretty cool rewards to contributors. More details coming within a few days on our very first www.kickstarter.com project!)

Here are some pictures to give you an idea of what we’ll be building.

prowell woodworks gate

{Image Credit}
www.prowellwoodworks.com

Garden-Fence-Designs

{Image Credit}
www.onhome.org

wire wood garden fence

{Image Credit}
http://mnkyimages.com

There you have it… a little peak into the world of what we’ve been up to lately. What have you been up to around your homestead? Have you started any seeds indoors? Outdoors? Any other gardening activity? I’d love to hear what you’re up to!

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

 
 

Urban Farm Heirloom Seed Company

corn seed watermark

Seeds are a hot topic at Arcadia Farms these days. We just wrapped up an heirloom seed giveaway this past week. The week before that I shared a Seed Starting Spreadsheet with you that can help you determine when to plant seeds and approximately when your harvest will be ready. That same week I also shared a list of seed sources with you. It wasn’t until after I created that list of seed sources that I realized I had forgotten someone! I want to share information with you about a new heirloom seed company founded by some of our family friends. But first a little background…

Around the time I left my full-time job to become a suburban farmer, an article came out that discussed a movement of young people (20’s and 30’s) flocking to farming. The article cites several reasons why young entrepreneurs are turning to agriculture rather than corporate jobs. Some of the major reasons include the stifling nature of corporate America, a strong demand for local and organic foods, the opportunity to be self-employed and the intangible rewards of doing work you love. The article is endearing to me because I am part of that movement of entrepreneurs who’ve (passionately!) traded desks for dirt.

The Urban Farm Heirloom Seed Company Story

Jarrod and Kendra Tishhouse are part of that movement as well as co-founders of Urban Farm Heirloom Seed Company (located in Lancaster County, PA). I recently had an opportunity ask Jarrod some questions about Urban Farm HSC. If you’re interested in supporting creative entrepreneurs who are investing in the future of sustainable agriculture, you’ll want to read on to hear their story!

Q: What inspired you to start Urban Farm Heirloom Seed Company?

A: Kendra (my wife) and I really feel called to sustainable living and we feel that one way to preserve sustainable living is in the preservation of heirloom seeds (non-hybridized non-genetically modified varieties of seeds that produce true-to-form generation after generation). In light of big agriculture and chemical companies stream-lining “perfect” tasteless vegetables, we want to make sure that people continue to have access to heirloom varieties of seeds, and also invest in their food future!

Q: Please share a little bit about how Kickstarter played a role in the startup of your company. [Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects.]

A: Kickstarter is an invaluable resource to us. Not only does it provide all the start-up costs for your business, it single-handedly proves that you have an idea worth selling and helps you access people out of your immediate circle who would be interested in your project. Heck, we sent seed capsules as far as Portugal, Taiwan, and Australia among others!

To visit Jarrod and Kendra’s Kickstarter page for Urban Farm HSC, click here.

Q: What surprised you most about the startup process?

A: It is definitely a lot of work getting all of your ducks in a row! You have to know all your costs from A-Z, and you have to connect with the people that you want to support your project – let them know that you’re a real person with a real beating heart who believes in what they are doing.

Q: Please tell us about the products you offer.

A: We currently offer seed “capsules” in a couple of different options – a standard Survival Capsule with everything you need to plant a well-rounded garden, and a completely Customized Capsule where you choose all 25 varieties. We also just launched a new, “Ready-to-Start” garden that comes unsealed and non-capsulated for those looking to get started right away at a cheaper price! Now’s a great time to get your garden kit for the Spring season, and all of our kits come with included planting-times and seed-saving instructions! We are also looking to the future with other sustainable garden capsules and new projects.

These capsules contain heirloom seeds sealed in mylar bags for safe-keeping!

These capsules contain heirloom seeds sealed in mylar bags for safe-keeping!

Q: Some of your products are designed for long-term storage. What measures do you take to keep seeds from becoming sterile over time?

A: There are three specific factors that harm a seed over time: Light, oxygen, and temperature. Our Urban Farm capsules aim to keep the first two intact, but unfortunately we have no control over the last. (We put a suggestion on all of our capsules to store them in a cool place). Our seeds are sealed in mylar bags which are then encapsulated. You can literally bury your capsule in the ground if you want to (we keep ours in the freezer)!

Q: What can customers do to help maintain the viability of their seeds?

A: You’ll want to keep your capsule in a cool place. I suggest a fridge or freezer, a cool basement or cellar, or just burying it straight in the ground. The mylar bag has a zip-lock enclosure, so you can re-seal your bag after you’ve opened it. (It comes heat-sealed, however, and once you do unseal it initially the oxygen absorber inside can be spent rather quickly if you leave it open).

Q: Why did you select the seed varieties that you offer?

A: We wanted to offer the standard varieties, but I really like fun varieties too. We are constantly going to be updating the different kinds of seeds available for our custom gardens. I’m a big fan of purple and red carrots, yellow lemon tomatoes, and banana melons! When we started on this journey, we had no idea how many varieties there are out there that you would NEVER find in a supermarket!

Q: What are some of your future plans for Urban Farm Heirloom Seed Company?

A: I have been thinking about this since day one! The seed capsules and gardens are only a start for us. We are looking to the future for other sustainable methods that we can apply not only to our lives, but to those around us! Our next step is to start a full local CSA in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, transforming our yard-space into a literal “urban farm.” I am in the midst of planning out the details right now, and we are VERY excited about this! Look forward to a new Kickstarter project within the next week or two!

Q: What advice would you give to new gardeners?

A: I would suggest doing research. Organic gardening is the only gardening worth doing and many people frown at the amount of work they think is involved. I suggest Googling a film called “Back to Eden” as a good starting place, as that revolutionized the way my wife and I did our garden this year. Gardening can be far easier than people make it out to be, you just need the right resources at your fingertips!

Q: Is there anything else you’d like Arcadia Farms’ readers to know?

A: We are so grateful for people investing in a young company like ours! Many people don’t realize the amount of work that goes into running a personal business – it’s a lot of work with little pay, but for me it’s a labor of love. We enjoy what we do. Sure, gardening, canning, dehydrating, and all the other facets of sustainable living definitely are a lot of work, but I can tell you one thing for sure: Every night at dinner time I am SO glad we do what we do. Our food is fresh and delicious, not stale and filled with preservatives and chemicals. It’s an ongoing transformation, and Urban Farm HSC is just one way to help us live the way we do, while helping others too!

capsules watermark

Your Part of the Story

If you live in the Lancaster County area of Pennsylvania and would like to join the Tishhouse’s CSA – or if you love what they’re doing and would like to support their newest endeavor through Kickstarter – check them out here:

Cinderblock Gardens CSA Kicstater Campaign

Urban Farm Heirloom Seed Company Website

Another Annie’s Heirloom Seed Winner

Last week we ended a great giveaway for heirloom, non-GMO seeds from Annie’s Heirloom Seeds. Thanks again to everyone who entered! We had such great participation. Even though I was very happy for our winner, I wished I could do more for the rest of you. So I gave an open invitation for our readers to comment here on 1) What one thing they’d love to have from Annie’s catalog and 2) one garden tip. We planned to  pick our favorite reader tip and give the winner the seeds they desire courtesy of the farm! And that’s just what we did…

Everyone had great tips (and I wish I could have picked more than one “winner”)! But at the end of the day, Tina’s Folded Newspaper Pot Pictoral takes the cake seeds. Congrats, Tina! She’ll be receiving the purple Falstaff Brussels Sprouts she desires. Thanks to everyone for their tips!

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

 
 
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