Sunday, April 13, 2014

Photo Update 4.13.14

The pictures just get more exciting as time goes on! Here's some pics from around the farm and one must-read article.

Article: Why You Should be Skeptical of Walmart's Cheap Organic Food

If you have a bee house make sure you clean it before setting it out for our friendly native pollinators. Want to build one of your own? Check out the Mason Bee House Project.

Mason bee house tucked in the lilac bush. We want
to promote these native pollinators as much as possible.
 This little house is in the kitchen garden, providing a cute backdrop to these lovely prairie onions. I hope to see more pop up this year and I sprinkled some of the seeds out in our native prairie buffer.

Prairie onions in the kitchen garden.
 The tree swallows are back nesting in the bird boxes on the property line and in the large silver maple we have seen the wood ducks two times now! Hopefully they will stay :)

Nesting boxes are part of our effort to provide wildlife habitat
and conservation practices.
 Also in the kitchen garden the chives are making a strong comeback. That's a nice little clump of Autumn Joy sedum coming up too.

Green in the kitchen garden.
 The pasture from last season was tilled and seeded over the weekend. We used a pasture mix, which we added a legume to. The pasture will be expanded beyond this and maintained as permanent pasture from here on out.
New pasture seeding.
John is finishing up work on the farrowing (birthing) hut for the pigs, which is made out of up-cycled lumber.

Farrowing hut.
The rhubarb is coming up! It is a welcome sight in the vegetable field. This will be the first year  of harvest for the rhubarb. These Glaskins Perpetual rhubarb plants were nurtured from seed, so we could have an heirloom variety of our choosing on the farm.

Rhubarb, a welcome sight in spring.
 Strawberries are another perennial we will be harvesting for the first time this year! There are many greening plants in the bed.

Sparkle heirloom strawberries.
 A third new perennial - bunching onions! These Evergreen Hardy bunching onions were a great addition and we have Ishikura variety in the kitchen garden looking equally as hardy. Sweet.

Perennial bunching onions.
A look at the vegetable field from up a tree! The soil is getting closer to ready every day. We can now walk in the field without sinking. Soon we'll be tilling and marking out the beds. I am ready any day!

Vegetable field April 11, 2014
The seed starting station is starting to fill up! We're looking to complete the green house when the transplants start overflowing the basement ;)

Tomato seedlings.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

2014 CSA & Farm Shares Sold Out

Our CSA and Farm Share programs for 2014 are officially SOLD OUT!

Members make a CSA and we have just been thrilled by everyones enthusiasm for the coming season. Thank you for not only investing in your health, but also our farm and local foods. The seeds are growing - I can't wait for that first week of delivery!

Monday, March 31, 2014

CSA :: Monday SOLD OUT

CSA Sign Up Update!

Monday CSA Delivery :: SOLD OUT

Wednesday CSA Delivery :: 2 Full Shares (or 4 Half Shares) remaining

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Farm Shares Update!

One Farm Share Remaining

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All details available here on our website. 
Don't be shy, email or give us a phone call if you have any questions!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Chickens and Compost Bins

CSA & Farm Shares Update! Only one (1) Farm Share remaining. Only two (2) Full Shares, or four (4) Half CSA Shares remaining--Monday and Wednesday delivery both available yet.
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What a beautiful weekend! The sun and warmth fueled a fabulous weekend on the farm.

What new signs of spring did you see this weekend? Geese have been flying for weeks now, but they are still a beautiful sight. We spotted a Great Blue Heron in a little space of open water, surrounded by ice. The pair of killdeer have returned to the yard, making sure everyone around knows they are back.

Saturday morning the ground was frozen enough and all the snow in the way had melted, so we were able to get the chicken coop moved to its permanent location. Hooray! Then the coop was given a thorough spring cleaning--all the litter was removed, coop cleaned out with orange peel-vinegar and roosts inspected for potential slivers, etc. Lastly, the fence for the permanent chicken run was flagged out for planning. The chickens got to explore a whole new area of the yard and we added an outside water source as well.

The litter from the coop went straight into the new 3-stall compost bin John built. The stalls are 4' wide x 3' deep with a removable front. Litter will be composted all season and added to the field as organic material when beds are finished produce food for the season.

The compost bin has been on our to-do list for a while, so it feels great to get it done. Don't get me wrong, we've always been composting, but now we will be doing so with greater intention. The first thing we did when we moved to the farm (very literally) was build a quick, 1-stall, pallet compost bin. This serves as our "sacrifice" compost bin, where we put everything we will not apply to the field; it serves a great purpose in reducing garbage, etc., but we needed a better system to utilize our vegetable scraps, organic plant matter from the field, as well as manure and bedding from the animals. Now we have it! Stupendous!

Speaking of chickens...the new flock of chicks has been ordered! We will be getting some heritage breed chicks as the very beginning of June.

Have a great week!

Brooke and John

Some Handy Dandy Links:
Natural Chicken Coop Cleaning
Homemade Orange-peel Cleaner (for the coop and home)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Photo Update 3.28.14

We're staying busy around the farm with the warming weather. Projects galore! This weekend is going to be a fun one. Here's some pics of what we've been up to...

Brooke continues to go to the New Ulm Community Market and Cooperative (facebook page link) Indoor Markets, as long as we have CSA and Farm Shares available. The next indoor market is on April 5th--it has been a great way to find local and sustainable meat!

Here's the ladies of the farm munching on some fodder--sprouted, homegrown barley. It kicks up the protein and vitamin content of the grain for them, as well as giving them something green to much on!

The chickens also get fermented food. Soaked for three days. While being more nutritious for them it also saves us money on chicken feed, because it goes farther. They love it!

Giving the fodder a stare down, chickens are so funny.
John took a trip down to Seed Savers Exchange to cut scionwood for grafting new heirloom apple trees for our orchard. As you can see in the picture the scionwood is like skinny little whips, that gets grafted onto rootstock with a special technique. The newly grafted trees will spend a season in the nursery, then get transplanted out to their permanent home. The first set of apple trees will be transplanted this year!

Harvesting heirloom scionwood.
We are excited about our heirloom varieties...such a wide variety, like Knobbed Russet (super ugly, extraordinarily delicious), Black Ben Davis, Bottle Greening, Hubbardston Nonesuch and many more. Some which we had the opportunity to taste at a Heritage Apple Tasting last year.

Some of our orchardist friends stopped by to visit. Bob Purvis (left), Purvis Nursery and Orchard (Idaho), has been a valuable mentor for John regarding all things apple. Dan Shield (right) was a fellow Farm Beginnings classmate in 2011-12 who is starting a stone fruit based orchard up by the cities. It's great to have farmer peers to share our adventures with!

Mucky and muddy, we won't get in the fields yet, but there are plenty of other projects to work on! The pink flags on the right are marking where some apple trees will go. I am excited to see how our shrubs on either side of the driveway grow in their second year--red osier dogwood and a willow.

Around the fields you can see the different sorts of cover we had on the soil over winter. Above, the barley residue on the left protects the soil much better than the mostly bare ground left after buckwheat. Below, the corn stubble protects the soil great and held snow for retaining soil moisture. When these residues get tilled in we will add that organic matter to the soil.

A look at the vegetable field. Mud city. Can't wait until it's time to plant!

Red clover pushing through and looking strong.

The red chair has finally melted out...where should I move it to?

The home orchard lone Honeycrisp got a major pruning and it's looking beautiful!

A favored sign of spring--lilac buds! Time to get those bee houses out, cleaned up and hung outside!

More green, in the kitchen garden...thyme, phlox, dianthus and I spotted my new walking onions poking out too!

The celery is adorable, I have to say. These are our big seedlings right now :)

Along with the celery we have planted broccoli, peppers and tomatoes. The peppers and tomatoes had a spa treatment prior to seeding--an overnight soak in a fish-seaweed blend. Three days in the tomatoes are all germinating nicely!! Incredible, I think they liked the soak.

Well it's Friday and night and John and I have a date with Menards! I think the first project on the list is a new compost bin. Have a great weekend!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Grant Awarded!

We are super excited to have been awarded our first grant. Alternative Roots Farm is one of eight recipients of the Lakewinds' Organic Field Fund for 2014. The grant is supporting our organic certification costs. I called my mother up right away, as Lakewinds Food Co-op is her co-op up in the cities--I had to tell her how cool her co-op is! 

It's so important to have organizations that support farmers, especially organic farmers, as we need more of them! “Our goal for this grant program was to strengthen our support of the local farming industry. Supporting the local food system is an integral part of who we are as a natural foods co-op,” -Dale Woodbeck, General Manager. 

 We are excited and so grateful. It's an exciting year, or third and final transitional year leading to organic certification. It's a big investment for a small farmer, but not one we would ever question!


Friday, March 14, 2014

Seeds Sown & Signs of Spring

Wednesday the first seeds were started for the season, the ball is just going to be rolling faster and faster from here! On top of that welcome mark of spring, yesterday I went to town without my jacket and even needed to crack the sunroof for a little bit! We are enjoying the melting and bits of green popping up here and there (I'm waiting for my trusty chives).

Soooo, let's take a look at our seed starting setup...

Seed starting station (at it's cleanest).
The modest seed starting station. This is where I mix my soil, plant seeds and up-pot transplants in springtime. I've got great light, John installed for me, all my supplies and my handy-dandy clipboard for record-keeping, as well as some tunes.

Seed starting station.
A big project this winter was finishing cleaning up the basement, from items that were there when we moved in, and reorganizing it in a way that worked better for us. The seed starting station really dominates this whole corner now. Those nifty file cabinets, that came with the house, provide great storage! That's a pile of potting soil!

Sifting potting soil and compost.
I use Soil Essentials Potting Soil, and peat moss, for my seed starting medium (add in a dash of lime to balance pH). I recommend this brand, as it's approved for organic use--you can pick it up at The Mustard Seed in Chaska, they also have compost and other products. Skip the organic Miracle Grow, who still supports chemical use, and support this sustainable company from Cold Spring, MN.

Anywho, so the soil and peat moss must be sifted, so no large chunks interfere with the seed germination; also, to ensure that the soil will "block" nicely in my blocking tools.

Here's a photo of our 2" blocker, showing the two different dibble that it can use. The white ones we'll use for starting large seeds in the 2" blocks (cucumbers, squash). The block ones are a 3/4" block, we'll use those to "pot-on" the smaller blocks.

For the soil blocking our seedlings the soil is premoistened, which makes for a welcome environment for seeds and forms good blocks. We start most of our seeds this way, as it creates a healthy root system, and can pack more soil in a smaller space, with the benefit of not using excess plastic pots that go in the garbage over time.

Here I'm ready to block with my damp soil, seed tray and dome, blockers, rinse water and organic buffalo compost. Celery doesn't like to be buried deep, so I'll sprinkle a light layer of compost over the 3/4" blocks.

Celery makes the seed starting debut!

3/4" soil blocks
It seems a little anti-climactic, but TADA! Celery! That's 40 tiny 3/4" blocks, which will be transplanted on to 2" blocks as the seedlings grown. This tray is covered with a dome, sitting on some very light heat, until germination, when the lights will be turned on for them.

Around the farm the chickens and pigs are welcoming the warming of spring. The pigs were basking in the sun yesterday and the chickens have been able to roam all day, each day now.

The snow melt uncovered the garlic bed. The solar heat and mulch did the trick.

Garlic bed.
I was happy to see our red clover cover crop peeking out from under the snow. We hope you are enjoying all the signs of spring! I'm sure you have heard all the geese flying around and I have even heard tell of a robin sighting!

Red clover.