Thursday, January 26, 2012

More Office Time

What's exciting on the farm right now?  I'm not sure, I haven't been out in the field since last week, but I have been in the office.  The big news is that the spring shares are basically full and I'm starting a waiting list (frequently the first few folks on the waiting list end up getting a share).  The other thing that's exciting is that the seed orders are starting to come in, and I ordered a few new tools for the farm (including the one in the photo above).  Other than that it's book keeping season, lots of time in front of the quickbooks trying to sort out the mess from last season.  I don't recommend Quickbooks for Mac. It's mostly good, but when it screws up it makes a mess (and no it wasn't me, it was a bug that Intuit knows about). If any of you out there have an accounting program you like for the Mac let me know, I'm very tempted to switch before I get too far into another season.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

More Winter Veggies

A bit of a wet harvest today. I emptied the overflowing rain gage when I started harvesting and two plus hours later when I stopped for lunch it already had another half inch in it. Other than all the mud I had to clear off of the roots, it actually didn't make too much of a difference. Now that it's warmer and wetter, as opposed to the cold dry weather we've been having, I am noticing a lot more slugs and a but more rot.
I'm very happy with the shares today. The deer have just started to find the brassicas but they left all of the cabbage for us. The gold ball turnips are looking beautiful and have useable leaves on them as well. I pulled the last of the root parsley and kestrel beets, and the voles left enough radicchio for everyone to get a few slightly immature heads. With the radicchio if I had left it any longer to mature they probably would have eaten them all.

The above picture shows what happens when the voles have their way. They start with the root and then eat the heart out leaving the outer leaves behind.
As far as suggestions go for using the share, radicchio is the item that we've had the least of. In the past. It's a great salad "green," slightly bitter but also sweet and crunchy like romaine so a Caesar dressing works well with it. I also like it with a little oil, blue cheese and candied nuts. The gold ball turnip is another newish one. The greens are good sautéed, maybe with a little hot pepper vinegar. The roots are good roasted in chunks, and you could roast the parsley root and beets at the same time. Cabbage I like to prepare just like the turnip greens, and the have them with rice and beans and tortillas. All of these vegetables will keep well if you don't use them right away.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Ordering Seeds

I finally got the seed order compiled today. I always shoot for having it done before the new year, but I frequently find myself finishing it up in January. There are a few seeds on the list that I actually need by the end of the month. Strange as it seems it's almost time to get the mini greenhouse cranked up again and in a month or so I'll be planting outside, weather permitting.

Inventorying my seed on hand took almost as long as putting together the new seed list. I have a good bit of seed from last year. There are a few new varieties I'll be mixing into the line up this year. Mostly early spring greens (or at least I hope they're early) and a complete revision of the bean varieties.

The bulk of my seed is coming from Wild Garden Seed and High Mowing Seed. Both of those companies deal with organic seed only. I still get a bit of seed from Johnny's Selected Seeds, which really does do a great job of selecting quality varieties for production. Seeds from Italy is the one other source this year. The quality of the seed I've gotten from them in the past has been excellent and they have really interesting varieties. Unfortunately they don't have a lot of organic seed and I don't love the idea of long distance shipping, but for a few special varieties I think it's a fun connection to have.

Seed feels expensive when I'm making the order, but quality in the variety selection and the vigor of the seeds makes a huge difference in the end product. I always notice that seed I save myself seems to be extra vigorous, but it's so much cheaper to buy the highest quality seed than to grow the little bit I need that I only save a few special varieties and I leave the rest up to the seed houses I trust.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

No Harvest Week

A quick reminder to our winter CSA members, no harvest tomorrow means no pick up either.  For the winter we're on an every other week schedule.  Kji and I are getting together to do a little collaborative planning.  The seed order needs to go in soon.  The end of January will mean cranking the greenhouse up and starting to seed the first starts of the season!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Welcome to Winter

A beautiful share today for the first harvest of 2012.  We pulled all of the remaining carrots today, mostly Napoli but a few Yellowstones and Cosmic Purples as well.  Fortunately the voles left enough celeriac and castlefranco chicory for everyone to get some.  The frisee continues to look good in the field, as do the leeks and they round out the share.  Cabbage was on the schedule for today but with all of the chicory in the share I thought I'd leave it to size up another two weeks.  One of the real tricks this time of year is trying to figure out what will keep in the field, and what to harvest.  Everything is more or less ready to be harvested, some will keep, other crops will either get eaten by voles or will rot, or suffer cold damage if they're left.  

If you're not familiar with chicories like the frisee and castlefranco, they're particularly good this time of year with the cold weather.  Chicories are known for a slight bitter taste, but with the cold they also have a lot of sugar and make great raw salads.  Chicories are also strong enough to hold up to a bit of heat, and are good sautéed or even in soup or roasted.  If you're going to eat them raw they benefit from soaking in cold water for up to 1/2 hour after cutting up the leaves.  Use a spinner to get them dry.  Celeriac is another new one for many folks.  The tops can be used like celery for flavoring soups or other dishes.  The roots are the main attraction here, and are great grated in salad, or boiled and mashed with potatoes.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Final Numbers for the Year

I'm not sure how many of you are the kinds of folks that love sitting in front of spreadsheets, seeing what kind of information you can pull out of the data from the year.  I have to admit I enjoy it every once in a while.

I sat down today with Kji and we ground out a few numbers on the 2011 season, adding up hours, expenses and sales.  So, it looks like we're somewhere in the ballpark of making $9.50/hr in the 2011 year (net income, before taxes).  That's our best year yet, but I think it could get even better (by a dollar or two).  Our expenses were actually a little higher this year than in previous years, about 20% of gross, up from about 18%, so perhaps not really that different.  On a per acre basis we're not as high as I would have expected, coming in at about $53K/acre gross income.

Going through the numbers for the year is so interesting.  There are patterns in the work hours that are really obvious looking at the calendar, but don't show up as clearly just looking at things from week to week.  The same is true of looking back at expenses.  In some ways I'm surprised by how much we spend on things like seed ($700), but also on how few expenses we actually have.  Low expenses are certainly one of the keys to making any money for us.