Cover Crop 2015

One of the many things I love about farming is the seasonality of the work. This past week, I have been working on preparing the parts of my fields that are done with their work for this season for next season! I sowed a winter cover crop (rye/vetch mix, Austrian winter peas, fava beans, and crimson clover) to add organic matter and nutrients back into the soil, reduce erosion and suppress weeds.

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Like last year, I broadcast my cover crop seed (put the approximate amount needed into a bucket and walked through the field throwing the seed out by hand). It feels very different this year. Last year, I had owned this farm for less than a month when I threw out the cover crop seed. Here is a picture from September 2014:

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My mom helped and we celebrated the first things planted on the farm. I was so worried it would not germinate and I had no idea how my first year of running a farm would go. Today, it is so weird to see this field with no crops, just cover crop seed…almost like this past season did not happen. Here is the field in May 2015:

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The only reminder being the over-wintering leeks I planted in the middle of the field! Here is a picture taken from a similar spot in September 2015:

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As I sowed my cover crop seed, I could not help but think about everything that has happened in the year since I sowed my first winter cover crop. I am feeling thankful for the past year. Thankful for all the hours, thought and energy my dad put into my dream, this farm and thankful to my mom who is a wonderful, cheerful presence at the farmers market and thankful for everyone who has helped or encouraged me since I started farming three years ago.

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Thankful for all the support of the community and their excitement about local produce options. Thankful for my neighbors who shared recipes they made with my produce! And most of all, thankful that I get to farm again next year!!

I have a new field! This field will help with crop rotations, which is important for pest and disease control and soil health. It will also give me additional space to plant more, so that hopefully, the farm stand can be more reliably stocked next season! In addition to adding nutrients to the soil, the winter cover crop will help loosen the soil. I plan to rotate my brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, kale etc.) to this field next year!

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I am excited to create my 2016 farm plan this winter. To be a good farmer is to constantly be open to learning. I have learned so much this season and I look forward to incorporating what I learned into next season. I know that when I sow next seasons winter cover crop, I will have learned even more!

All that being said, the farm stand is still full of fresh produce for fall! The weather may be cooling down and the days getting shorter, but the farm stand is still open!

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Winter Gardening

This week, I wrote a guest blog post for the NW Healthy Mama website. Since, I am thinking about my fall/winter harvests, that is what I wrote about! In the interest of time efficiency, instead of writing a separate blog for my website, I am just adding the link here to to that post. It is a fun website to explore!!

http://nwhealthymama.com/2015/07/saturday-garden-tour-welcome-to-island-harvest-farm/

Happy Fresh Veggie Time!!

Island Harvest Happenings

Never a dull day on the farm!

The greens and radishes are done in the hoop house. Today, dad and I started clearing and preparing the beds to get ready for…TOMATOES!! The tomatoes are ready for more space and a new home! We hope to have them transplanted into the hoop house by the end of the week!

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photo by Tracie Howe (www.traciehowe.com)
photos by Tracie Howe (www.traciehowe.com)

Thanks to a grant from the HumanLinks Foundation, I now have an automated irrigation system! No more watering entire fields like this…

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The system was delivered in a bunch of boxes

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Little by little, those boxes of parts disappeared!

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Many wonderful people have helped with farm projects in May! If you are interested in volunteering, please contact me!

My brother and my 3 year old nephew helped make the parking lot!

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My mom, grandma and great aunt helped seed flats!

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The RISE Now Seattle Chapter spent a day building beds, transplanted some lettuce and then we had the first BBQ of the year!

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Ben Laine fills in from time to time as the Island Harvest Weekend Farm Manager, allowing me to leave the farm without having to worry about my baby plants drying out in the propagation greenhouse!

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My dad works on the farm everyday! I am so thankful for his unwavering support, his expertise and the chance to spend my days with him creating this farm!

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The farm stand is Open! It is starting slowly, but will fill up as the weather warms up! Watch the signs by the road for an idea of what is in the farm stand!

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Last, but not least, it turns out that I now have a gorgeous clematis!

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Yippee! Planting day!

Today, I woke up to blue sky and a perfect day for planting!! Fueled by the promise of fresh vegetables and over-caffeination, I raced around this morning gathering seeds that need planting, moving flats of seedlings outside to harden off and found the best ground ready for planting!

We started with potatoes! Dad and I took turns using the wheel hoe to dig a furrow for the potatoes…so much easier on your back than digging with a shovel!

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Once the furrow was deep enough and all the big rocks removed, in went the potatoes! Here are the Rose Golds:

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We also planted Huckleberry Gold, Yukon Gold and German Butterballs!

Next, we planted half a bed of carrots, an orange and a yellow variety. The very delicious Carrot is a diva that will grow into funny shapes without a nice fluffy, rock and clump free bed. The carrot is worth the extra effort, so we dug out the paths, adding a little extra depth to the bed and went through by hand to remove rocks and clumps and roots left behind by the cover crop. The second half of the bed will be planted in a week or two.

We finished the day transplanting three varieties of kale and one variety of cauliflower. This bed did not get the same attention to detail that the carrot bed enjoyed. It was measured, the path walked out and we raked it once to get out the really big rocks (There is quite the rock pile growing, I wonder if the Whidbey fighter jets that fly over can see it yet).

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Tomorrow, if it stays dry, we will plant more outside (chard, spinach, radishes)! If it rains and storms as predicted, there is another bed that is waiting to be planted inside the hoop house and more flats to be seeded!

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2015 Vegetable Challenge!

I was recently told that there are over 200 produce items available at the grocery store, but the average person only eats about 15 of them. Next time I am at the grocery store, I plan to count everything in the produce section or perhaps I will start with asking someone who works in the produce section.

Anyway, it got me thinking! I looked at my seed list and I have everything divided into 39 categories (these are not official categories, just my categories) with 155 different varieties!! The 2015 Vegetable Challenge is to pay attention to how many different things you eat from the produce section or buy from a local farmer and then see how many you can eat in 2015! I would love to hear about new favorites and good recipes!

Today, we planted two beds in the hoop house! The tiny white tags tell you that we planted 2 varieties of lettuce plus a lettuce mix, 2 varieties of radish, 3 varieties of mustard greens and 1 variety each of spinach and arugula!

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If you are interested, here is my list of categories and the number of varieties per category…

  • Basil: 1
  • Bush Beans: 5
  • Fava Beans: 1
  • Garbanzo Beans: 1
  • Beets: 5
  • Broccoli: 5
  • Brussels Sprouts: 4
  • Cabbage: 8
  • Carrots: 8
  • Cauliflower: 3
  • Celery: 1
  • Chard: 1
  • Chives: 1
  • Cilantro: 2
  • Dill: 1
  • Popcorn: 1
  • Cucumber: 7
  • Eggplant: 1
  • Fennel: 2
  • Kale: 3
  • Leeks: 3
  • Lettuce: 11
  • Melons: 5
  • Mustard Greens: 7
  • Onions: 3
  • Peas: 1
  • Peppers, Hot: 2
  • Peppers, Sweet: 5
  • Potato: 4
  • Pumpkins: 1 baking; 3 jack-o-lantern
  • Radicchio: 1
  • Radish: 3
  • Rutabaga: 1
  • Shallot: 2
  • Spinach: 3
  • Summer Squash: 10
  • Winter Squash: 9
  • Tomato: 22
  • Turnip: 1

Dramatic End to Deer Fence Saga!

Yesterday, as we stretched the last section of fence, I spotted two deer…INSIDE the fence. After chasing them for an hour, one jumped a short section of fence leaving the other one behind. I left all my gates open, hoping the remaining deer would find the way out overnight. No such luck…

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We knew this deer could not jump any part of the fence, so the plan was to herd the deer around the perimeter of the property and out the one gate.  For this to work, we needed to create a barricade to keep the deer from continuing on past the gate…we lined up 3 cars and the tractor and covered them with tarps.

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Some friends headed over to help and we needed them! On our first try, the plan nearly worked, but the deer turned at the last second and took off in the opposite direction of its gate to freedom. Every time we successfully got the deer up to the front of the property near the gate, it would turn and sprint back to the shelter of brush and trees. More than once, the four of us thought we were herding the deer through the brush, while the deer had snuck past us and was on the opposite side trying to find an opening in the fence.

It became clear that the biggest flaw in our plan was the deer felt more comfortable on the backside of the property in the brush and trees than in the open fields near the road where the gate is. New Plan! We cut a hole in the fence at the back corner of the property and after a few tries, the deer found the hole and was gone! We patched the hole and our fence has passed the test!

Getting that deer on the outside of the fence was a dramatic end to a huge project! The deer fence almost four weeks to build and 8 rolls of field fence (2,640 ft). This project took me to parts of my property that I had not yet seen and it turns out that building an 8 foot fence is a good way to meet your neighbors! Working near the road gave me a chance to chat with some neighbors who were out for a walk!

NEXT PROJECT: Construct hoop house! I ordered a custom made hoop house kit from Steve’s Greenhouses (http://stevesgreenhouses.com/) and it has been patiently waiting in the barn for the deer fence to be done! The hoop house will be 20ft by 96ft!

Deer Fence Saga Continues

Progress is happening on the deer fence! We are half way!! The North side is done! Half of the west side is done!

This morning started in the back corner with a view of what the deer now see from my neighbor’s property!

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Last week, we got the north leg of the fence up. Thanks to our handy fence stretcher tool, the first 4 feet went up pretty smoothly! You can see in this picture that the first half of the fence is up and dad is rolling out the next roll of fence to be attached above to make a total of 8 feet tall.

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I thought attaching the second roll of fence 4 feet off the ground would be the hardest part of this saga, but it turned out to be the task that produced the least amount of head-scratching and loud declarations that deer are difficult!

2 x 4’s held the fence in place, making the stretching and attaching almost easy!

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Today, we got half (330ft) of the west side of the property fenced!

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So far, the weather has been perfect for this project. We only got rained on the very first day of clearing the fence line! It has been quite foggy in the morning and sunny in the afternoon!

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