There Will be Snacks There Will

This is a great post (complete with photos)  from Jessie. Last year she was a volunteer on the farm. This year we plan to pay her for some hours. That this post’s title references one of my favorite songs about the apocalypse makes a good thing even better.

Sure, it’s winter, but we’re busy planning and preparing the farm for the imminent growing season. (We’ll be flush with seedlings soon!) I started working on the farm last May. I met Mike and Gheda more than ten years ago and our lives lead us down different but occasionally convergent paths. I am very glad to know them and I am perhaps even more glad that they have started the farm. It has been a joy to come by every week and spend time with my friends and young Milo and work on the farm. A slightly back tweaking and at times a sweaty joy, but an absolute joy nonetheless.

I also got to meet and work alongside other interesting and kind people. They were funny as well, which is a bonus when you’re looking at crates of shallots that need to get in the ground or rows upon rows of tomatoes that need harvesting.

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2012 – Off and Running

This week we seeded out our first 600 plants for the 2012 season. We started kale, lettuce, pac choi, broccoli, bunch onion and broccoli rabb which we will transplant to the field (under low-hoops) in mid-March. For the last couple months, I had been feeling a lot of nervous energy and apprehension about the new season. [...]

Tomatoes

I’m convinced that every year we’ll mess something up horribly. For us, this year, it was tomatoes. Boy we blew it! Way back in February, for inexplicable reasons, we started three-times more tomato plants than we needed. This meant we spent 3x  more time and 3x more energy than we should have. This inane effort left [...]

Seeders


If there’s one thing I’m not it’s a pitchman. That said, I’ve been using our seeders a lot lately and boy do I love our seeders! They’ve transformed the most painfully-tedious job in the garden into a quick and efficient joy. Most cheap seeders do little more than dump seed in a straight line. In contrast, we run two precision seeders on our tiny farm. They are a bit more expensive but they are very worth it as they reduce both wasted seed and time spent thinning.

Our first unit is a four-row precision seeder we bought from Johnny’s Select Seeds. It’s a great little tool that we use for lettuce, spinach, arugula, radish, turnips, pelleted carrot and sometimes beets. The seeder runs on a axle, drilled to accept different size seed. By sliding the axle back and forth between the drive wheels, one can select the hole size appropriate for the desired seed. We fill all four hoppers to “carpet seed” our cut and come again greens. We fill the first and third hoppers to seed our root veggies. Either way, the seeder drops a predictable amount of seed with uniform spacing. We’ve had very good luck with this seeder.

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Multicropping The Urban Farm

This year we’re multicropping the 1/4 acre garden plot at our home in downtown Longmont, Colorado. That’s to say we are growing multiple crops on the land within a single growing season. Our goal is to plant all the beds two or three times this year. And now, with spring arugula and spinach done, were laying in our second plantings.  Multicropping complicates rotations and puts a lot of pressure on the land. But we have no choice. It’s something we have to do at Longmont this year.

Regular readers may know we are working two pieces of land this season. The first is the urban 1/4 acre. The second is a two acre parcel in Gunbarrel, Colorado; about twenty minutes from our home. It sounds fantastic and we are very grateful but it’s not perfect. The problem is that we have a very serious weed issues at Gunbarrel that prevent us from direct seeding there. We’re okay transplanting that land because the transplants, being relatively large when they go in, have a leg up on the weeds. But when we seed directly the weeds rise ahead of the crops and shade them out. We can’t even hand weed the seeded bed because the disruptions caused by weeding are enough to foil germination. Continue reading Multicropping The Urban Farm

First Carrots

Well, the first beets and carrots of the year are in and I’m pleased to say we were among the first farms to have them (We were the second farm at the Longmont Farmers’ Market by a week and the first farm at the Louisville Farmers’ Market). This is great news for us because demand is [...]

Transplanting with the Tiny Tractor

I love our tiny tractor. Sure it’s tippy and I’ve often worried about rolling it, but it makes almost all our farm tasks much, much easier. We’ve spent the last couple weeks frantically transplanting our summer crops and the tractor has helped a bunch. When transplanting we run the irrigation as much as we can, turning [...]

Kale: The Bones

Here are a couple pictures of kale I share mostly because I enjoy pictures of kale but also because kale, in a lot of ways, is the foundation of our farm.The best advice I can give folks wanting to farm on tiny plots, in close quarters, is to grow kale. Looking at it in a “yield [...]

A Dispatch From the Front

Boy, I just went a month and a half without a post. Shameful. Sackcloth and ashes. All I can say is things have been incredibly busy and I lost control. So, to get everyone up to date, here’s a quick recap of our last 90 days:

  • First, to do the initial prep on our new land we called in the cavalry (we’re farming two properties this year; one is a 1/4 acre at our home in downtown Longmont, the other is 2 1/4 acres, about 20 minutes away in Gunbarrel, and is new to us this year). We hired a very experienced local farmer named George to bring his big tractor and break the land. Prior to us the land had been untended weeds and grass for decades. So, to begin George brought his moldboard plow and flipped the soil 18-inches deep. This is good practice for new land that’s thick with weeds. The plow blades cut the weedy rhizome roots a feet and a half deep, giving us a big head-start on our cultivation. (The pictures in this post are of Milo in the field right after moldboarding.)  We then let the land sit for two weeks, to dry and germinate any weed seeds. Then George came back, this time with his cultipacker and knocked the clods down to seedbed size. Now we just need to compost, till in our beds, install the irrigation and plant it up. We don’t have a tractor yet but even if we did, we’d have hired George to do this custom tractor work for us. Small tractors can’t pull heavy enough implements to do a good job of primary tillage. Everyone I know who tried to do this themselves was disappointed with the results.

  • Next, we finished and submitted the application and paperwork for an Farm Service Administration (FSA) start-up loan. Our tiny farm model is super cheap compared to starting a large conventional farm, but the expenses can still be daunting (we’re budgeting $30-$60k). Also, it’s impossible to get a start-up loan through a traditional bank. We know because we had to go through the unpleasant process of getting rejected in order to qualify for the FSA. They just don’t understand the business model and so they either charge way too much or are just not interested. Thank goodness for the FSA. It’s a branch of the USDA dedicated to financially supporting American farmers. They make low interest loans under reasonable terms to growers of all sizes. Unfortunatly, as is the case anytime you deal with the government, the paperwork is legion. Things were especially difficult for us because this year, until last week when the federal government finally approved it’s budget, the FSA didn’t have any money to lend. That meant that despite our application being complete and approved we couldn’t close the deal. Things are looking up now that the federal government has funded itself. We’ll sign the papers tomorrow and then be able to move forward with things like an irrigation system, a market stand  and a small tractor. Continue reading A Dispatch From the Front

And Away We Go!

Over the weekend we started planting out the basement grow room. And now, a couple days later, we have 1,200 plants happily germinating away. We start all our plants in soil blocks because they require no ag plastic and are much better for the plant (that’s what you’re seeing in the picture above).  So far we’ve started [...]