Friday, May 25, 2012


I briefly mentioned our tomato planting system in my previous post, but thought i would give  a little more detail about the whole process.
We received the plants this week from Goodness Grows who did an amazing job with them and grew some very healthy and happy plants for us. We had them grow eleven varieties of tomatoes with such great names as Black Prince or Jeanne Flamme or Brandywine. We have a total of 325 plants to put in the ground, so we will be working on that for a while as each plants gets a lot of attention, so the process is a bit slow. 
First off, we have laid out lines in the market garden so that the plants are all planted in a straight line. This doesn’t just look good, but it makes watering, weeding and harvesting much easier. Plus, we are going to lay down drip irregation, and the straight lines will make that an easy job to accomplish. 
We are planting the plants in rows of fifty plants, spaced at 4 feet apart, and the rows spaced at 15 feet apart. This might seem like a lot, but we are going to plant all of our peppers in between the rows of tomato plants, and we want plenty of space for the afore mentioned watering, weeding and harvesting. 
Once we had the lines all laid out, the planting process begins, and this starts with a hole. And its a pretty darn big hole for a plant that;s only about 8 inches tall. We go about 16 inches deep and 12 inches wide. We want this hole to be so big because we want to amend as much soil with nutrients as possible to give the tomatoes the optimal environment. But before we do that, we fill the hole with water and let it drain. This ensures that there is plenty of water deep into the ground so that the roots will grow down. If the soil deep down is dry, and we water the plats, the roots will curl and grow up to the surface, which is bad for the plant and therefore bad for us.
While the holes are draining, we transfer the soil that we removed to a large, shallow pan, and remove all the large rocks. We can’t get them all, as we would never be done with it, but we try to get the majority. We then add a custom fertilizer mix consisting of a 2-4-2 nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous mix, some more rock phosphate, kelp meal and oyster shells. This mix provides  a wide spectrum of nutrients for the tomato plant. We mix this in very well, and then dump a small amount into the bottom of the drained hole. We then sprinkle a small amount of mycorrhizae fungus directly on the root ball. Mycorrhizae?? This is a naturally acuring fungus that lives on almost all plants roots. It works with the plant to increase it’s ability to absorb water and nutrients from the soil and through that help, it increases the health and the yield of the plant. So even though it takes quite a while to get one plant into the ground, it will be totally worth it when we are swimming in tomatoes come August! 

Once this is is all done, we give the plant a final watering and move on to the next. we have done 50 thus far, so there are a few more holes to dig yet, but we have new volunteers with more on the way, so we have plenty of hands to make this go quickly. If it would just stop raining....

Monday, May 21, 2012

Quick Update

Well, its again been way too long since I posted anything, and for that I apologize. I tend towards long posts, and I think I need to just do more, and keep them short and sweet, as there is plenty happening here to write about. But there is so little time!! 
Anyhoo, so things are happening!! Tons of stuff has germinated and we now have tiny lettuce, pea, chard, spinach and beet plants. I cant wait till they all get big enough and we can start eating them. The few kale plants that made it through that April cold snap are looking great and we should be able to eat some in a week or so. The Napa Cabbage is looking great and we are hopeful that they will get large enough to use before it gets to warm. As soon as it gets hot, the cabbages stop growing, that’s why we wanted to get them in so early and gambled with the weather, which only sorta worked out for us.
We also have apples! Well, they are marble sized growths that will eventually become apples, but it’s just nice to see that the bees did their work and that we didn’t loose it all to the cold days we had while the trees were in bloom. Another thing to be looking forward too! 
Our tomatoes have arrived on farm. I drove out to friends farm a few ridges over to pick them up. They have a greenhouse business and started all of our tomato and pepper plants, as we don’t have the space or the time to deal with 325 tomato and 325 pepper plants. But they’re here now, and we have been planting them. We have fifty in the ground now and a good system worked out, but it’s raining now, so we will have to wait till the weather improves before we can get back to it...
More to come soon........

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Aaaaaah! Mange!

We are pretty vigilant here on the farm with checking the pigs overall health. This is easy to do because we spend so much time with them, so if there is something seriously wrong, or even slightly off, we notice it almost right away. There are a few things, however, that are only noticed through a more thorough inspection. Two of these issues are worms and mange. Worms are pretty easy to notice as they will be visible in and around the anus. Once we see this, the whole group will get some de-worming medication added to their feed and it goes away pretty quickly.
The beginning stages of mange are hard to find. It usually starts in the ears, and we  therefore check the inside of the pigs ears on a regular basis. Upon one such inspection, Dan saw signs of mange in two of the eldest piglets. It appears as a white and flakey crust (if I were writing about pie, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing) rather deep inside the ear. The mange is caused my a small mite similar to scabies. It’s usually carried by one pig (or other animal) and spread to the rest. It’s relatively easy to get rid of; a medication called Ivermectin does the trick. But this is administered as inter-muscular injection, so we had to prepare ourselves to give the pigs a round of shots.
The piglets weren’t going to be the problem, they are small enough to wrangle, and Garnett hasn’t been given a shot before, so she doesn’t know what’s coming. But Ruby, poor poor Ruby. She still kinda hates Dan and myself, and she can tell when things aren’t right. Thus the chase began, and after 10 minutes of running around, trying to pin and tackle her, we finally got her into a corner and gave her the shot. Garnett, on the other hand, behaved like a champ! 
Giving the piglets the shots was easy, catching them was very tiring. They are darn fast and there is a lot of room for them to run around in. But all you gotta do is get a good grip on one back leg, and you’re golden. Then you need to pick it up by both back legs and take it to the other side of the electric fence all the while trying to avoid to a pair of very angry mothers! I was a bit worried as Ruby had actually cut Dan’s leg yesterday when she got cranky with him, and I was thinking that this was the moment when she was going to get her revenge: get the guy with the screaming piglet in his arms!!
Yet we were successful and the medication should take care of the mange in a matter of days. We are off to the woods now to see if any of the larger pigs have mange, if so, we are in for an exhausting day, as none of those pigs are small enough to wrangle and there are almost no spots to pin them down in, so I have my fingers crossed...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


So, if you were wondering why there hasn’t been a post in a while, it’s because I have been off farm for the last 5 days. I went down to DC to do some marketing, you see. I spent two days making sausage, pate and slow smoked pork shoulder, as well as packing up really nice pork chops and canning lard. We wanted to send down a very nice sample package so that any potential buyers could try as many parts of the pig as possible so they could get a really good idea of what our pigs are all about. 
I had appointments at seven different places across DC. Some were small, local spots and others were huge restaurants that are part of large restaurant groups. The majority of them seemed very excited about the product and the story behind it, so hopefully we will get some business out of it. If nothing else, we now have an outlet for all of our eggs, so that’s pretty fantastic.
I spent the rest of my time away in Riner Virginia at my friends square dance workshop weekend, which was more fun than should be allowed. It will energize me for months to come.
When I got back to the farm sunday afternoon, I could immediately tell that things had changed quite a bit. The potatoes have sent up their greens, and once they are all a bit larger, we will start mounding the dirt up and over the greens. Potatoes grow upwards, so we want to mound the soil over the emerging plants to give them ample room to grow those tasty tubers. 
The peas, chard, spinach and beets have all germinated and are looking great in their neat little rows. Dan and Ed also spent a day planting sweet potatoes. These grow in the opposite direction of regular potatoes, and are therefore planted in raised beds so that they have extra room to grow down. If all goes well, this planting could potentially yield a thousand pounds of sweet potatoes. Sweet potato pie anyone?
The onions and garlic are also looking great, and with the rain we are currently getting and the warm sunny days that are forecasted for later this week, hopefully we’ll have our first garlic scapes very soon. Once we do, I’ll let you know all about these tasty treats...

The piglets look great! They all grew a lot, especially out little runt, Tiny. His color has changed and he looks like he’ll catch up with his bigger siblings pretty quickly. They all came running over when I went to see them and I would like to think that they missed me, but in reality they probably just thought that I had food for them, and once they realized I didn’t, they proceeded to eat my shoelaces, as they are want to do....