Thursday, May 31, 2012

Spring Lull

There's always a bit of a lull between the beginnings of the summer crops and the end of the first flush of summer crops. This year, with extraordinary slug pressure that lull seems like it's really extended itself. Shares are a bit lighter than I'd like, but there are still a few nice items. Today I harvested the first of the kale leaves from the Rainbow Lacinato. The transplanted Kestrel beets look great, at least the ones the voles left us. There's also a small head of Brown Golding lettuce. This is my first time growing this variety, and while it's interesting to look at and seems pretty hearty, I'm not sure I'm sold yet. I may have to go back to the more standard romaine type, Plato II.

This has been a productive week in the field planting wise. All of the tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, and melons made their way into the ground. I also managed to get a seeding of arugula and beets in. That still leaves a few crops that are a tad behind schedule, but I'm actually feeling pretty good about the plantings right now (with a few exceptions, like carrots, which are another story). 

Keep thinking warm weather thoughts, all of those summer vegetables need a bit to really get going. I'm hoping for some good sun soon.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Looking for Land

This is the fourth year for Slow Hand Farm CSA and it will be the last one that we grow at Wild Goose Farm. When I started this project it was very experimental and I wasn’t sure what directions it would go. Yianni and Jessica (Wild Goose Farm) had recently purchased their property on Sauvie Island and after meeting Yianni at the Farmer Chef Connection event we talked about the potential for me to use some of his land to grow vegetables, hand scale. This was actually before I even knew it would be a CSA, this was actually a year before the farm even started.

Being that the land was new for Yianni and Jessica, and the farm was as of yet undefined, we said we’d try it out, see how it went and I made no long term plans. The deal was a handshake, very generous on their part, just wanting the space they weren’t currently using to be available for food production. Slow Hand Farm paid nothing, offering advice where we could for their own growing efforts, and leaving them weekly CSA shares as tokens of our appreciation.

When the CSA started in 2009 Yianni and Jessica were still living in town and they were just starting to develop the property into a livable space. The CSA was new, and just a one day a week project. Yianni worked hard to get water hooked up for us so that Danny and I could have irrigation in place that first season. The barns were still in disarray and being used to store salvaged construction materials so we washed produce under a little porch and hauled our tools back and forth.

As the property continued to change I helped Yianni pull out a fence to open up the former horse pasture, allowing us to more than double in size our second season. That allowed us to start working two days a week.

In 2010 Yianni saw our need for propagation space and also the potential for increasing his own summer vegetable production with an unheated hoop house so with a little help from us he put one up and let us use a portion. With scrap lumber from the property we built tables and a small reach-in greenhouse for heated space. We also took over little corners of the two barns for washing and packing, and for storing our tools and supplies. This was the year we started growing year round, and the year Kji started working along side me.

In 2011 Yianni and Jessica generously expanded the space available to us for storing tools and supplies, and also allowed us to use the barn space and wood fired oven on site for CSA member parties.

Now, four years in, the CSA is starting to become more defined in its needs, and scope, and while I never thought I’d expand, I’m considering it (in a small way). Yianni and Jessica now live on the property with their two kids and are continuing to develop their own space. The CSA is maturing and it’s time for us to find another space to allow Yianni and Jessica more space for their own projects.

This discussion of potentially moving started last fall, so it’s not sudden at all. At this point I am actively looking for another spot in the vicinity of the current location. I’ll continue to grow on the current spot in the mean time, but I will be trying to transition production to a new location as soon as possible (there are several potential sites I am pursuing).

I am incredibly grateful to Yianni and Jessica for giving me the opportunity and the space to start this incredible dream farm project. I thought about doing something like this for more than a decade before it became a reality, and that was largely due to their generosity in opening up their space to me - not just the land but in countless other ways as well.

If you happen to know of a possible location here are a few of the criteria I'm looking for:

  • At least 5000 square feet of growing space, but 1/2 and acre or more might be nice for possible expansion (I am also considering contracting, so maybe less space?). 
  • I need at least 5 gallons per minute of clean water (more is better). 
  • It needs to be within a 12 mile radius of North Portland.
  • No pests whatsoever (I can dream can't I?)
There's more too, but I think that covers the starting point (I was joking about the no pests thing).

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Slug Heaven

Seems that the weather, or something, continues to be prime for slugs. Generally I think of radishes as a pretty easy, safe crop, something that will work even if nothing else does. The radishes have been decimated by the slugs. The must be tasty radishes because the slugs aren't stopping at their usually shallow dimple that leaves most of the root in tact, but mars them badly enough to make them unmarketable. No, the slugs are eating pretty much the entire root. And they're doing it to the turnips as well.  The shares do have a few of the pink beauty radishes and hakurei turnips that were mostly left alone by the slugs. The lettuce and spinach are looking pretty good as well so there's a small head of lettuce and a handful of spinach. The garlic keeps on plugging along so there are two more green garlic in the share this week. I've thinned two of the three beds now so expect it to keep coming in small quantities for another few weeks until they actually mature and we pull the rest of the planting.

On the farm today, between the rain showers, and even in the rain showers, we stripped tons of sod, moved old sod piles and made way for the soon to be planted summer squash, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers.  I also did a bit of hoeing, as the weeds are appreciating both last week's sun and this week's rain, taking advantage and growing quite vigorously. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thanks to Kji

Kji was kind enough to harvest and deliver for me. He also sent me this lovely photo to post on the blog. Looks like today's share has a bit of gold browning romaine lettuce, which is still quite young. There are also a few hakurei turnips, sweet and crisp raw, and the greens can be cooked as well. Chive blossoms and oregano make up the rest of the share. The blossoms can be used raw crumbled over salad, or try soaking them in white vinegar to make chive vinegar. The oregano is good fresh but you can also hang it in a paper bag with holes to dry it for later use. There is also a handful of spinach that should be good raw or cooked.

I'll be back next week, and I hope we'll continue to have excellent weather so I can catch up on plantings.

Monday, May 14, 2012


It was a hot one, and so the drip tape and sprinklers came out today. Lots of plants in the greenhouse are waiting for me to get beds prepared so they can be planted. I did manage to finally get the shallots and onions in the ground, as well as a few leeks.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fava Tips?

For a long time I’ve heard that you can eat Fava tips, but I’ve never actually had them, or harvested them. Today’s share was feeling a little thin so I thought it was time to try them out. Due to cold and wet and a lot of slugs the first planting of radishes didn’t really work out, and neither did a number of greens that were seeded early in the season for the early and mid spring shares. The fava tips are standing in, and with a little internet searching it looks like they are used very much like pea shoots, and not surprisingly they are closely related. Basically they will be good raw in salad, or cooked as in a stir fry. They taste very much like fava beans, which we’ll have later in the year.

I also cleaned up the thyme planting today and so there’s a good sized bunch of thyme in the bottom of the bag. Left out on the counter to dry in a shady spot, this will last indefinitely. Some of the thyme as woodier stems and with those you can just rub the leaves off. Some of it is newer shoots that can be chopped up whole to season dishes. 

Lettuce and green garlic round out this week’s share. The lettuce is Kweik green butter and the green garlic is thinnings from a soft neck variety that I don’t actually know what the variety name is. I was talking to a garlic grower I know in Southern Oregon today for an article I’m writing on tools for garlic growing and he recommended making green garlic pesto. The ingredient that stuck in my head that seemed like it would really make the dish was a bit of miso.

On the farm I’m trying hard to catch up on plantings. This dry weather is providing an excellent window for preparing beds, and there are a lot of them that need to be prepared. A light frost last night was a bit unexpected, but it made me happy that I hadn’t actually gotten my tomatoes out yet. Nothing that was in the ground seemed like it was actually affected.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Three Lunch Day

Today one lunch just wasn't enough. I spent about six hours stripping  cover crops, weeds, and sod from beds. That allowed me to prepare beds for planting lettuce and fennel, and to seed a bit of mustard. I also have the space cleared for the leeks, onions and shallots. I think I'm going to have to work an extra day this week to get those planted. 

The photo above was my nice shady middle lunch spot which looks out at the fields. The sun was nice but I definitely had to take a few shady breaks.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Spring Rains and Slugs

Today was a day filled with drizzle and slugs on the farm. Harvests are getting a bit slim due partly to all of the wet weather we've been having. The wet weather is slowing some of the plant growth, and it is definitely increasing the slug population, which in turn is having a negative impact on the plants that are growing.

Even so, there always seems to be something out there. For example, the chives are starting to blossom and the flower stalks and leaves are deliciously sweet right now. The new growth of the sage is also beautiful so I've tossed in a few sprigs which can be used in cooking, or in my favorite: honey tea. I hadn't planned on harvesting chard this spring, but quite a bit overwintered, which is a reflection of the mild winter we had. I'm keeping it in order to harvest a bit of seed, and the spring growth looked good so I'm tossing a few leaves into this week's share. The lettuce is slowly getting larger, at least the heads that the slugs haven't skeletonized. Some folks are getting Flashy Lightning, some Emerald Oak, some both. Radishes were on the schedule for today, but that schedule is definitely out the window at this point. I did toss a few small radishes into a couple of random shares as a little surprise bonus. I harvested way more radishes that had more slug damage than I've ever seen before. They were so eaten that there wasn't even enough root left to get a slice or two out of them.

Looks like we might get some warm dry weather soon. We need it to get a bunch of plants in the ground. I'm keeping my fingers crossed (although it would also be great if it would not completely stop raining so that I don't have to set up the irrigation yet).

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Garden Class This Week

For the past three years I've been teaching a class on vegetable gardening through the City of Portland's Urban Growth Bounty Series. This Thursday and Saturday will be the fourth version. Thursday evening we'll be meeting at Beaumont Middle School in NE to talk about some of the basics and planning approaches. On Saturday we'll be out at Cully Neighborhood Farm for a day full of hands on demonstrations with lots of tips and tricks. There's still space in the class, which is $95. I'd love to see you all there, if you're interested you can register through the City's site here.

Loaded Up

I know, I know, enough of the bike photos. Just this last one (for a while at least). I really do love riding to the farm though.
Yesterday, despite constant mini showers, I was able to make good headway on clearing the onion and shallot bed, as well as a bit of the leek bed and space for this week’s lettuce planting. I also managed to get the majority of the rocks out of the 8’x4’ space for the lettuce, I’m guessing it was 200 lbs or so of fist sized rocks. During the worst of the rain showers I took shelter in the greenhouse, at which point the sun came out in order to bake me under the plastic. But, I did get the brussels sprouts and summer squash seeded before having to retreat.
I did not take any time to take a photo of the farm however. That will have to be remedied next week, and thus, the bike photo today.

Loaded Up