Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bamm Bamm!!

North Pulaski Farms is proud to announce that we are doubling our growing capacity! Meet Bamm Bamm the newest member of our "Bedrock" clan.  Bamm Bamm is a 3 acre field adjacent to our farm that my neighbors were gracious enough to lease to me.

Bamm Bamm is slightly larger than Fred and will reduce our reliance on a single growing system for most of our revenue. Another piece of good news is it's only 50 feet from our irrigation back bone so bringing water to it should be fairly easy. 

Most of Bamm Bamm's soil is Leadvale Silt Loam which has good drainage characteristics and decent texture.  It's the main soil type in Fred. It has not had any synthetic inputs for over the last three years so we don't expect any issues  adding it to our certification.

While it will fit with our existing irrigation infrastructure we will have to install deer fencing. Having heard and seen the horror stories of raising organic vegetables only to feed the local deer herds  we will be taking this project very seriously.   The crop list for 2013 needs to be re-worked but to be certain we are adding SWEET CORN to our rotation along with more cantaloupe, squash and beans.   There is TONS of work to be done, adding lime, litter, disking and sewing a cover crop ASAP to start with!. 
Samson made short work crossing Bamm Bamm in this video.
 Thank you CSA Members, Market Customers and Fellow Farmers for your support!
CSA money at work! 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Halloween Update

 This morning I spent a rare Saturday at the farm to host a group of students from EAST eStem Charter School who are producing a documentary, Homegrown Arkansas will attempt to rekindlle the relationship between Arkansans and  Arkansas Farmers.    This group of young ladies demonstrated poise and professionalism far beyond their years and their parents should be proud.   I sincerely hope their work can help raise awareness of the great area of opportunity that exists in local and organic agriculture.  Locally produced agriculture has less than a half percent of the fresh food market share, local AND organically produced fresh food is a very tiny fraction of that!   I wish them luck, maybe in my lifetime we can get to %1!

With the arrival of the cold weather Fred's doors are installed and we will be moving in our row covers soon.  On a sunny morning like today, it was 60 by 9 a.m. and has been in the 80's all morning.

Each fall I struggle with when to let a crop end.  I seem to always hold on to it longer than I should hoping for a bit more production.  There are still blooms on these grape tomatoes, but most of the row is dead.   I need to get a cover crop in and out by spring. When to end the crop has to allow for the time needed for a cover to be sown, germinate, grow and be turned in.

 I think I will hold on to the "crackerries" for another week or so and see what ripens up. Unless it surprises me with unexpected productivity soon, they will be out.

 This years okra crop has been fantastic!  Even-though we have some fatalities, we will hold on for another week or so and see what the sunny days produce.

 Butterhead, Romaine and  Merlot lettuce along with our Brocolini will be here next month!

We are trying out purple hull peas as a cover crop this fall.  They are just starting to sprout in Fred's #11 bay.

Good bye cucumbers, your out of hear!!  

Morning Glory's too, out of here!! (not that they were ever supposed to be IN HERE)

Lastly I want to say Happy Birthday to my mom, Betta Carney.  It seems for the last 20 plus years she has managed to be out of town for Halloween (her actual birthday).  Must be a challenge to have to fly to Venice and catch a Meddterain Cruse or fly to London or a quick trip to New York each year for your birthday. 
I am a farmer today because of the opportunities and love she has shown me all my life and to call her mom is a privilege.  I love you mom, ya'll have a great trip!   

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Skinning Fred's Bay#6 Part Duex

 Back in early August we skinned Fred's #6 bay but failed to tighten the ropes enough to secure the poly and the following weekend the poly blew off and we added that day to the long list of wasted days worked on this farm.  Skinning is the termed used  by farmers when they put the poly on a green/hoop house.  This morning we tried again.   It takes at least 8 people to skin one of Fred's tunnels, 2 Ropers, 4 Pushers, 2 Pullers and we just hope that the wind stays away long enough to do the job.  

Chris Hiryak with Little Rock Urban Farming and Rose Holley were our ropers this morning.  Their job is to run the ropes over the tunnels after the poly is pulled over them.   Chris was gracious enough to volunteer himself and one of his crew to help with the job.  More affirmation that when it comes to farming, there is not a finer group of people I am privileged to call my peers.  

The tunnels are 14 feet tall, 24 feet wide and 327 feet long, which means there is A LOT OF SKINNING to do.

The Pushers push the poly from the gutters to the top of the hoops while the Pullers pull the sides down.

Even I got in on some of the Pushing action.

After a few hours the bay is skinned and ready for the doors to be installed.
We paid special attention to tightening up the ropes so this tunnel should not need attention until next June when we remove the doors and jack up the sides getting it ready for the summer heat.
The forecast is calling for cooler temperatures and our crops will be protected from the frost and most of the cold.    The snow peas and the mini cantaloupe in this tunnel will be able to finish their production run over the next few weeks!

Monday, October 22, 2012

I love mornings

Those of you who know me, know that I wake very early every day without an alarm.  Once my mind starts churning there is no going back to sleep.  This morning was no different and the shorter fall days usually result in waiting around the house before heading to the farm.  So I piddle for a bit, have my morning oatmeal and coffee , feed my starving dogs and then finally head out.  It's always so quiet each morning at the farm and on Mondays I walk around and update the weeks to do list.

We will be skinning Wilma this week to protect her winter Tomatoes. These Early Girls look good and should produce in late December.

The doors are being put on Fred as well as skinning his bay#6 Thursday morning (weather permitting).

It's a challenge to get the scale of Fred in a photo.
Trellising our blackberries is also on this weeks to do list.  This is the inside view of the previous photo.

Time to turn in the buckwheat cover crop between Barney's Blackberries too.  The flowering buckwheat is the closest thing this farm has to pretty flowers.

Oh well this weeks list is not as big as previous ones, but it should keep us busy at the farm.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Third time's a charm?

This fall we have started another round of Strawberries.   I had given up on them because the farm lost money big time on our two previous attempts. We have always managed to grow some berrys and certainly sold every one picked, we just never had the yield to pay for the investment.  After talking with a few of our perspective CSA customers who expressed an interest in them I decided to try again.  This time we are going with the spring bearing variety and not going with the day neutral types.  We never were successful getting a fall crop and the spring bearing plants we used as replacements in the past always had a greater yield.

We transplanted 1100 Chandler plants purchased from G & W Nurseries of Damascus. The NOP rules allow for conventionally started plugs over-wintered in an Organic system to be certified.
Last year we lost most of our transplants because we planted them too deep, it is critical not to bury the crown with strawberries.

We are leaving the advertisement side of our billboard tarps face up this year with hopes that the darker colors will warm the ground better.

We finished off the bay with another 75 bare root plugs that Bob Barnhill had extra from the 35,000 he planted.   So far after a week in the ground, the plants look good and we have not had any fatalities.

Fred's luminace colored poly was originally designed for strawberry growers in the UK and the diffused light it provides does seem to make them grow better than a field crop. If all goes well starting in early April of 2013, we hope to have many of these crates available.   Once our CSA starts in mid May of 2013, the members will have first pick of the strawberries and we will sell the extras at our markets.

And I wonder why we have not made any money growing strawberries!
Let's hope the third time is a charm for Strawberries at North Pulaski Farms!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

I will farm for Gumbo!

If your a farmer growing Okra in Arkansas you will inevitably have unsold okra at the end of a week.  Mine is froze and stored to make vegetable gumbo.  Vegetable gumbo makes it easy to have whatever kind of gumbo you want during the week.  Just thaw it, add whatever meat or seafood you like and dinner is ready in less than an hour.

The first step is to start up this Jimmy Buffett tune to get you in the gumbo mood.

With bell peppers and okra from my farm and onions from Barnhill Orchards I start chopping.

Once roughly chopped, start the roux with equal parts vegetable oil and flour and the pot on high keeping the mix moving.

The trick with roux is to brown not burn it, so don't stop stirring.
Once browned remove the pot from the fire and add plenty of salt, pepper and whatever hot spices to taste.
Luckily for me, one of my best friends dehydrates Habanero peppers.  The Hab's add a great mix of heat and sweet.   Add the onions and peppers and soften them for 15 minutes on high flame.  Then add the most of the okra.  I don't always cut up my okra when I know it's destined for Gumbo because it cooks into nothing eventually.

Add just enough water to cover the Okra, stir and bring to a boil.  Cover and cook all night on low flame.
In the morning stir and add the remaining okra.  I cooked the whole okra overnight and added the chopped okra in the morning.  This makes the gumbo have plenty of  soup and bite sized pieces of okra at the same time.

Cover and cook for another few hours on medium flame and its done!

A gallon of this was moved to a smaller pot with a bag of catfish caught on my fishing trip with Bob a few weeks ago and the rest was bagged and put in the freezer.

Do I farm just to make Gumbo?  Well growing, cooking and storing my own food is certainly one of the reasons.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Weekend in Corn Field America

This weekend has been a triple whammy of fun hanging with my oldest daughter Michelle and my youngest daughter Danielle.  Sarah my middle daughter could not make the trip because she had a directing clinic at UCA and had to be the responsible one of the family and stay home.  Sarah you were missed and missed a great time.  Danielle lives in a small town in IL with her mom and younger sister.  Those of you who know me , know that I try not let a little thing like geography get in the way of spending time with Danielle.  Normally she fly's down to Little Rock to visit us,  but at least once or twice a year I go north to visit her.  Usually my trips are in the off season because of the farm and I miss football season.  This year a farmer  friend of mine agreed to help me with the weekend markets enabling me to make the trip.  Just another example of why being a small farmer rocks.  Anyway it's usually no big deal to see your child march in a parade or cheer at a game, but with Danielle during football season geography usually has had the upper hand.

Danielle is the drum major for the Knoxville Junior High School and she can walk backwards and conduct very well.
Watching Danielle lead the band made my heart swell with pride.  Music is such a big part of our lives and seeing your child not just embrace it, but excel in it can't be described with words in a blog.  Needless to say Michelle and I had tears in our eyes as Danielle gave us a glare for screaming her name as she passed by.

The next morning Danielle had to be dropped off early for the game to re-take pictures for her cheer team.  So what does a farmer on vacation do on a Saturday morning?  Visit a local farmers market is what this one does.  The Galesburg Farmers Market is a modest market in a parking lot with a few farmers selling their fall goods. This morning is was 32 degrees and the growers had RIPE tomatoes!

A check in with the Hillcrest Farmers market found it to be a good 10 degrees warmer than this market in IL.  Puts the cold weather in perspective.

The homecoming games for the Junior High started at 10a Saturday morning and the cold feel of the bleacher benches reminded us we were not in the south.   It did not seem to put a chill on the cheer squad as they did their job of getting the crowd in the game.

Danielle really seemed to enjoy doing what she was doing and this shy little girls voice could be heard clearly calling out cheers with a passion.

With the games over we headed to Peoria so the girls could do a bit of shopping and I found a warm bench to hang out while they went on their bargain hunt.  A few new outfits in hand we decided to go to a sushi place that Danielle and I had visited last winter.

For the last 6 years Danielle has been telling us about the 'famous' Gilson Haunted House where she works on weekends in October. Now I have to admit that I have never been impressed with haunted houses and just because she had always 'said' it was so cool had not swayed my opinion.  That changed last eve.  The haunted house is a converted three story school house and the attention to detail would impress Walt Disney.  Sure they had goblins jumping out from the shadows to scare you, but a whole 3D floor where you walk through (with 3D glasses on) a revolving simulation of a black hole, a dark maze with ZERO light , a hydraulic cat walk that drops a few inches while you are walking across even startled this old skeptic.  If you ever find yourself in central IL during a weekend in October, go to this haunted house,  you wont be disappointed. 

This weekend in the land of Lincoln has been a joy and affirms what I do for a career, what I have done as a dad, and what great kids I am lucky to call mine.