7/21/04 Vol. 1 #19

Pretty quiet out here on the farm this week, even with the slight break in the really hot weather we have been just chugging along with the usual chores.  The mid summer meeting season seems to have arrived and so we have been trying to attend some that we think might be good for us to participate in.  Most of the farmer meetings are in the winter when we all have lots of time to think about new ideas but it is all on paper or in slides.  There is a period during the growing season when short events happen, usually afternoon or evening, that allow us to actually see things growing, in person!

This week we attended a seed saving workshop.  With over 200 varieties of crops that we grow, it is just not possible to think about saving our own seed.  To do a good job of saving seed one really needs good isolation from other like plants so that you can be assured of no cross pollination, that would be really hard for us to achieve.  We have been interested in this for several years now, particularly in the heirloom tomatoes.  From time to time we have ordered tomato seed and when they began to produce it was clear that it was not what we had ordered, imagine how excited I might get if the Cherokee Purples turned out to be something else!  So we are looking at beginning to make selections for fruit quality and plant strength in some of these heirloom tomatoes so that we can have some more control over one of our most important crops.  In the back of my head I also have an interest in trying to develop our own Poblano pepper that would produce consistently under our conditions here in North Carolina.  We have trialed at least a dozen Poblano varieties and have found only one that does reasonably well and are afraid that we may not be able to get that one for too much longer.  The seed business these days has been in great flux as it becomes more and more consolidated.  We have lost several varieties over the past few years as the new companies decide to discontinue varieties for one reason or another (the main reason being dollar$).  I’m not sure it’s not just the heat that makes my head swim with such ideas!

The Broadbrested turkeys, known here on the farm as the “little guys”, are three weeks old now and will graduate to going outside from the Poultry Villa during the day to get them used to eating grass and sunshine and their new mother ship.  After two weeks of day time privileges they get to go out to the fields for good.  First along side, but separated by a fence, the “big boys” and finally total integration.

Picture of the Week
The Broadbreasted White Turkeys thinking about making a run for the outdoors!
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3/2/05 Vol. 2 #1

They live!  I have been trying to sit down and send out an update for months!  Just an indication of how our winter has been going, way too busy for a couple of folks who are supposed to be “taking it easy”!  I would like to think that I have gotten caught up on all of the things that we need to do but I know that would just be a bold faced lie!  As a friend of ours once said “our recreation is getting in the way of our recreation”!

Let’s see, since our last newsletter we have both had several major excursions and many minor ones.  In December Betsy and I both flew to Texas where I gave an all day workshop for the Austin Farmers’ Market.  We have good friends there who are large cut flower growers and we held the workshop at their farm.  After five days with them, including a quick side trip down to Mexico, Betsy flew home and I headed on west to Big Bend National Park.  I have been going out there, to hike, for over 30 years (starting when I was in high school in Houston).  We had a great 60 plus mile walk across the desert and up into the mountains.

In January I went to New Orleans for the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) conference.  I didn’t have to give any workshops this time around but as a board member we are always busy.  The end of the month Betsy flew back to Italy!  A professor friend of ours is doing a sabbatical in the main cutflower growing region there and as we weren’t very successful in October in seeing much flower production this gave Betsy a great chance to get on some farms.  After several days in and around San Remo she took the train up to see our Italian family, the ones we stayed with in October.  I am not sure that I may not lose her to the Italians!  We have had lots of other extracurricular distractions sandwiched in as well, workshops to give, grants to review, etc.

On the farm we have been trying to pay attention to business but quite frankly have been having a hard time as we have been having too much fun!  We have managed to get quite a bit of work done on both the house and the packing shed.  The weather has made it difficult to get any planting done in a timely manner and we are running a bit behind with some crops.  Betsy has the greenhouse full of transplants and we have managed to get the first 3000 or so lettuce plants in the ground as well as seeding some other flower and vegetable crops.  If it doesn’t warm up soon I am not sure what we will have to sell the first few markets.  We are using all of the tricks that we have to get things to grow faster but really we just need some normal March weather.  The high tunnels are protecting flowers and vegetables (spinach, lettuce, turnips and more), in the field we are covering the lettuce with huge floating row covers of spun bonded polyester.  These 30’X100′ sheets are very effective but also can try a marriage!  Imagine trying to put these out in the kinds of winds we have had the last few days!

We are planting several new things this year and are excited to see how they work out.  I have a new planting of asparagus going in, new blackberries, rhubarb, and artichokes as well as new varieties of peppers and tomatoes to try.  Betsy has thousands and thousands of tulips and lilies planted along with other new flower cultivars.
Believe it or not the first market is only two weeks away, March 19th!  Yikes!  I will send out another newsletter just before then to let you know if we will be there and what we might have.