Wednesday, February 1, 2012

We've Moved!

Testing the limits of "Better late than never," it's time to get back in the swing of updates and we've got a few, most notably, we've moved, both online and physically. Online, you can now find us here. Physically, we jumped the creek and are now in Washington. We hope to see you soon as 2012 is off to a great start.


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Garlic 101

We had a great response to the garlic we grew this year so we thought we'd grow a little bit more for the 2011 season. The trick up here of course is to catch a dry day(s) to get the soil prepped for planting. As noted in every gardening, hobby farm, and trade magazines at this time of year, one thing is absolutely undeniable . . . plant the tips up. After that, it's experience on your piece of land that's going to tell you what types, to mulch or not to mulch, 3, 4, 0r 5 line, and 4, 5, 0r 6 inch spacing in line, fertilizer types, the list goes on. And then you get to play with all the different seed sources. We went with a local grower, Northwest Organic Farm up in Ridgefield, WA for three varieties: Purple Glazer (20 lbs), Chesnok Red (15 lbs), and Shandong (4lbs). It was great to meet with Greg and Joyce to hear how they approach growing their varieties out each year. I also ordered a few varieties from Peaceful Valley: Metechi, Bogatyr, Spansish Roja, and German Red (3 lbs each), Russian Red (6lbs), Music (8lbs), and Dujansky (10 lbs). I also managed to salvage a couple pounds of my own Music, Chesnok Red, and German White. The common theme amongst all varieties, they are all Hardnecks, meaning they'll all produce a flower stalk, or scape, which will be snapped off in the Spring and sauteed in butter, or sold to a chef who will do something very similar. I had a lot of time to read this past June, while we were getting record rains, and managed to get through most of Growing Great Garlic for some great history and sage advice on things to consider while growing garlic. #1, don't get too big too quickly. It is really easy to look at all the seed sources and get excited about all the potential varieties that are out there. In the end though, it is obvious that while growing garlic out into a mature bulb takes a lot of good planning and attention, it is just as important to have enough space to cure the cloves down properly so the true flavor of each variety can really stand out. So begins our adventure with a few different varieties. In the end we'll have planted about 9, 100 foot beds of garlic, some on 3 line, some on 4, one on 5 (why not) and one dry farmed. The photo is Jason prepping a raised bed with the Berta Rotary Plow. The movie is not, but just in case you wanted some Italian instructions on how to use it . . . Happy November.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Thank You!!!
You can find us on Page 39 of the Summer 2010 issue of Edible Portland.

This is a much belated thank you to all the people who have played a part in our continued existence out at Sauvie Island. I have been meaning to get this thank you out as soon as the issue came out and something about the middle of summer got in the way. We sincerely appreciate anyone and everyone who has ever asked about how the farm is doing, who ever gave us the time of day when we wanted to share what we were growing for the year, and those who continue to want to get out to the farm and see what we're up to. No thank you is large enough to our families who have been behind us 100% of the time. We simply can't do this alone and your support and energy keep us going. To Sauvie Island Organics, thank you for the opportunity to learn from you. To all our customers, thank you, thank you, thank you for your patience this year, and your continued support of local, sustainable produce. To those that came out to learn how the farm is operating this year, thank you very much, your interest is humbling as we feel we are just at the beginning of a constantly evolving experiment. Thank you to all who have written about us, shared our name and story, and continue to be a voice for our real good food.

We'll continue to grow, in all senses of the word, and we hope that you'll be there with us as we do.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Peppers 2010

Saturday June 5th, the only real dry day where we had a chance to get our peppers in for the year, and while overnight lows still are hovering around 50 degrees, we decided this year to try out "plastic mulch" and hooping our peppers with a combination of row cover and plastic. The family affair started with Katherine and I amending the beds, setting up the drip irrigation system, prior to rolling out our plastic. These beds had been in a winter cover crop or rye, vetch, and cow peas and had been turned over four weeks prior to this bed preparation. What's the white stuff? Lime, organic, to increase the pH of the soil so the nutrients in the soil are actually available to the plant. We rolled out the plastic, modifying our drip tape roller by taking off the roller part and inserting a long pipe into the grooves of the frame (sitting on top of the garden cart) and slipping the plastic mulch roll over the pipe. I held, Katherine walked, and we went down each bed, stapling the plastic to the ground. After that we set about taking inventory of how much of each type we had. We committed 3 beds to sweet peppers and 3 to hot peppers on 12" spacing. I'm thinking of covering each hole made for the pepper with compost/mulch as a means of inhibiting weeds at the base of each plant. Once the plants were in we began installing the 4' diameter hoops that were made with Johnny's Hoop Bender. Unlike the video, we used some heavier gauge electrical conduit and big props to Damon Quade for cutting and bending the majority of those beasts. The heavier weight of these hoops allows for larger spacing between each one, at least for remay applications over the top. Finally, at twilight, after having covered 2/3 of each hot pepper bed with plastic row cover, we finished the final 1/3's with agribon. The sweet peppers we covered only in agribon. This weekend is our first trial with how the peppers survive in some real heat. The soil is saturated from a month's worth of rains and the earliest we may start irrigating will be next weekend. To view a slide show of the steps, see the top right part of our blog. Clicking on the slide show should give you the option of seeing it in full screen format.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Early Spring

May 31, 2010....

What better time to update a blog than when you thought you'd be in the dry(er) by now and getting all the crops in according to schedule? We're entering our third week of pretty consistent wet, and cooler than average weather. So, time to reflect on very early spring. The garlic we planted last fall came up pretty well considering we didn't get a mulch on it and the farm endured some mighty cold weeks in winter. The fall planted onions are another story. Regardless, just one more reminder that even a light straw mulch can aid in keeping the topsoil from getting hammered. When we experienced our warmer weather in April, the soil dried smooth and firm, eventually cracking. We walked through hand weeding and scraping to get some more air into the soil. Garlic is pretty hardy stuff, especially the hardneck varieties we're growing this year. However, I could've saved some early spring soreness had a taken some time in the fall to mulch. This is our backfield parcel which is now home not only to a couple of 100 ft rows of garlic, but also to some fall planted onions (Walla Walla, Red Baron, Red Wing, Gladstone), and the majority of the rest of the field is now home to around 12,000 spring planted onions and shallots, and ~2000 Tadorna leeks. It's an increase from last year and we're hoping to sell them through the fall, and with any luck have some good keeper varieties that take some restaurants into the winter. In the far background of this picture is the new field that we've since broken. More pics of that soon.
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Friday, January 15, 2010

Red Truck Farm at Cooking Up a Story

A friend of ours, Peggy Acott, recently wrote a story about us for a creative writing class in town. The folks at Cooking Up a Story have published an excerpt of it on their website here:

Thanks, Peggy, for telling our story! Keep an eye out for other versions of her article in the coming months.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Search for Good Ground

When we first brainstormed names for our farm business we sat around the table and created a page-long list of possibilities. Apart from some serious attempts at naming there were plenty of jokes and puns in the mix, most of which were based on the fact that when we started the farm we didn't really have a secure piece of land to call our own. Wandering Farmers, Field-less Farms... you get the idea. For the first couple of seasons we were able to begin our dry bean production on a 1/4-acre plot on loan from our former employer, Sauvie Island Organics, with the understanding that if we were serious about farming we would find our own piece of ground eventually. We decided that we were serious, and so the search for good land commenced.

We followed a few leads from friends who knew people who might have some land to lease on the Island, but it can be difficult to find a good fit, even when people think they might want a farm in their front yard. First of all, leasing rates for farm land are not particularly high and often times folks who aren't farmers themselves are surprised at how little the going rate is for farm acreage. And then there is the realization that with a front yard farm comes equipment, and people, and that doesn't always work for everyone. We completely understand. So the search for some good ground is not always as easy as finding an open field that does not grow food at the moment. It's a process that is more like dating, checking out to see if you are a good fit, if you'll get along, if the dog likes you, if it's okay for the parents to come to the farm too. So we dated around a bit, and thought, "maybe there isn't anyone out there for us." Good thing we had a box spring to sell.

Like most good relationships, our search was answered when we least expected it. On a rainy night in North Portland, our new landlord showed up at our house in response to a craigslist add for a queen-sized box spring that wouldn't fit up our narrow stairs to the attic room. Thank goodness for narrow stairways. We had actually met Tom before, over a year before, in the early stages of our landlord dating, before we were ready for a real commitment. But there Tom was, buying our box spring, and there we were ready to dive in for a long-term thing. It turned out that Tom's business had bought a 40-acre farm on the Island instead of a space in a strip-mall to run their field office for their environmental consulting firm. They rented out most of the acreage to one of the family farmers on the Island, were turning ten acres back into wetlands, and did have a few small parcels that might work for us to use. We ended up with three small fields, making up a total of one half an acre surrounding a picturesque and dilapidated falling down barn. We were allowed to use any space that we could clean out so the old milking shed became our storage and pack-out area. Before we could even start prepping the ground thousands of 4-inch plastic pots needed to be unearthed and cleaned out of the fields. Prior to Tom, the land was used for a nursery business, and while his company did their best to clean out the remnants of the old hoop houses, we continue to find pieces of nursery pots, ground cloth, and even steel legs of the houses when we till. It is nice to know we've left the ground better than we started.

This past summer we realized that for our business to continue to grow we would have to get better at growing more in the same amount of space, and also continue to look for a little more ground for the future. We also found out that the old barn would be taken down this winter, possibly affecting some of our fields with heavy equipment in the process. We did get better at using our space well, and we started to date again, to see if we could find a perfect fit. When I originally sat down to write this story, I thought it would end with the frustration of the search, of trying to secure access to the most basic foundation of the farm operation. But today, I'm in the honeymoon stage of a new relationship. Last week our landlord let us know that the other farmer was willing to have us use an acre of the main field on the property. Red Truck Farm may have a new home.

It's not easy to dive right in on new soil (we've done it twice in the past four years!) and we won't know how it will produce for us until at least a season or two have passed, but we are hopeful at the thought of getting to set down some roots and invest in the soil. While the old barn on the property comes down this next season, our crops will have good ground to grow in, and our walk-behind tractor won't have to move too far. Wendell Berry writes in Prayers and Sayings of a Mad Farmer, "the real products of any year's work are the farmer's mind and the cropland itself... Make the human race a better head. Make the world a better piece of ground." We're working on it Mad Farmer, we're working on it.