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Agrarian Harvest

Wholesome. Organic. Experience. All about our farm, food, and small farm life.

Swarm Finds Us

 

Last year we captured a swarm, put them in a brand new hive and were so excited to have honeybees. Apparently, they were not impressed with our hive because they left sometime during the summer. We were disappointed, but left our hive set up thinking that one day we would have bees again. The positive-thinking farmer told me that maybe it would attract more honeybees and a swarm would find the box and make it home. My response was, ”Yeah right, that’s a long shot.” Since then, we got a used hive box and supers with comb already in it and set it next to our new box.

Well, once again, I was proven wrong. We had a swarm find us and move into one of our hives, the used hive with comb and honey still in it. It was the most amazing sight! I walk around the house to hear a loud buzzing sound. I started looking around wondering what the heck is making that sound. Then I see it and know immediately that is is swarm of bees even though I have never seen one before. The air between our apricot trees and the hives was full of bees, thousands upon thousands. I have never seen that many bees at one time. I walk out to the apricot tree look up and there is a large ball of bees clinging on one of the limbs. For about 15 minutes, they continue to fly in a loop between the apricot tree and the hives. Then they started settling in and on the hive boxes, covering the outside of the box and hanging in a large ball from the tin that is covering the top. It was such an amazing sight, it is one of those once in a lifetime moments.

The bees eventually settled inside the box and now they are busy flying back and forth between the hive and all the plants that are in bloom. We are so happy to have bees on the farm again. It is great walking about the farm, hearing and seeing them at work and I imagine the plants are smiling too.DSCN9951

Time to Plant

There is a time for everything . . . A time to plant and a time to uproot . . . What do workers gain from their toil? . . .  He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time. . . . There is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil – this is the gift of God. Ecclesiastes 3:1-13

There are many cycles in life.  And it is time for us start our cycle of planting, growing and toiling, which we pray will have a beautiful and blessed outcome. With the time change and a little warmer temperatures, we are more motivated to get to work and work longer into the evening. Lettuce is growing in cold frame 1. We built a third cold frame this Spring. This is where most of the seedlings are going to be started. Planting is already underway and seedlings are coming up. Potatoes are planted too. We will be planting many more seeds in the near future. DSCN9903

Cold frame 2 has been taken over by the cows. They decided it is a nice warm “shed” to take shelter in when a storm hits and where they spent their nights during the winter. We decided to let the cows have that cold frame for the time being. It is our largest cold frame and also our most problematic one. It’s so large it is hard to keep the plastic on it, the plastic rips or wind picks the whole thing up. Really, it’s issue is the height; it’s just too tall. We have decided we like and can maintain the shorter longer cold frames better. And have had a discussion of a abandoning it or taking it down. Although, the farmer is now talking about experimenting with growing sweet potatoes in cold frame 2 this year. So the cows may lose their “shed” for the summer. They spend most their days and nights out at pasture now anyway since the weather has warmed and the grass is growing.  

Another cycle taking place on the farm; chicks are hatched. They are in that cute phase of life with yellow fuzz covering their bodies and have adorable little “cheep, cheeps” coming from their tiny beaks. In the near future, they will lose their baby fuzz and start to grow feathers; growing into that awkward, ugly phase. Then into a full sized bird so we can have chickens available in June.

The seasons will keep cycling along with all the other cycles of life, but for a brief moment, we can look around and smile at all the joy that Spring brings before the real work begins.

Wrapping up the Year

It was another busy year, as usual. We did not have an employee this year and adjusted our farm accordingly. We only sold at one farmers’ market this year and that was plenty. Farmers’ markets tend to take an inordinate amount of time.

It felt like an odd growing year with things ripening later than usual and not producing as abundantly. The heat of the season usually means summer abundance. But this year, we didn’t seem to have the heat early on and in turn a lack of abundance of anything. Some weeks this summer, we had a hard time filling the orders we had, leaving none or very little for the farmers’ market.Then there was the usual annoyances like aphids taking out the kale and squash bugs killing the zucchini and summer squash plants.

The drip irrigation system proved to work well, allowing us to harvest while we were irrigating. It took us two full days to harvest enough to fill orders for the Wood River Valley and to take to the Ketchum Farmers’ Market, then another two days for product for the Magic Valley. Since we were harvesting so often, the dip irrigation was very helpful. We can irrigate and harvest the same days and not be wading in the mud. Before we had to schedule our irrigation days at least two days before we had to go into the field to harvest. A challenging fete when we are in the field four days a week and half the time we were still harvesting in the mud. We still had lots of weeds between the rows because of the rain we had early in the growing season. But with no corrugates between the rows, it was easier to walk and mow between the rows also.

On to our solar power project, it didn’t quite meet our expectations. We didn’t calculate enough watts for our anticipated needs for the solar panels that were installed. So the solar isn’t generating enough power to cover all our usage to date. This means a power bill and a solar payment.  In the spring, it may be necessary to evaluate our production and possibly add a panel or two. This has not gone exactly as planned, but you never know until you try.

Overall, it was a good year. So far we are enjoying our slow, calm winter days. But maybe . .  just maybe . . the farmer has had too many winter days already. He is currently mapping out what to plant where and ordering seeds. By Spring, he will be planning on farming 5000 acres and planting every variety of every vegetable there is seed for. Somebody help me!

Down on the Farm

Not up as early as I should be to get the work done before it gets hot. I should be getting up around 5 in the morning, but who wants to get up that early, then be tired in the afternoon and have to take a nap. Not me, I’m not the napping type. Nothing annoys me more than having to delay my day by having to lay down in the middle of the day to nap or be sluggish because I got up too early and I don’t like to go to bed early either. So I roll with the natural rhythm and routine my mind and body wants to take. Up around 7:30, cup of coffee to wake up with, computer time with my coffee to check email and to keep up on the book work for the farm. Breakfast and then I head outside to get work done and see what the farmer needs help with; whether it is weeding, harvesting, mowing or bitching about something (I’m really good at this one). Some may say that I have already wasted half my day, but for me my day and the warmth of the day is just getting started.

 

Meanwhile, the farmer was up at 5 am and started his day by making the coffee. Then headed straight out the door with yesterday’s leftover cold coffee to get things done while it is cool, but is always out there all day no matter what time he starts his day. There are always kinks in the day’s plan and we never get enough done so we try to just roll with it.

 

The farmer starts the day with irrigating the green beans. As he is setting water, he is wondering how the bean picker is going to handle picking with all the weeds. There seems to be more weeds than beans this year. There is definitely more weeds than last year he thinks. This means a lot of hand sorting. He walks down a few rows to check them. The plants just aren’t setting beans on, this means a very, very poor yield for the first planting. Over 8 rows he checks the second planting, the top of this planting was flooded with one of the early summer storms when we had a huge downpour and the canal ran over. The rest of the planting didn’t germinate well. On to check the third planting, it looks better but this means there won’t be beans to sell until the middle of August.

 

Shaking his head in disgust, he walks to the other side of the field and he checks the peas. He would like to pick peas today and get just one more picking from them. But nope, they have gotten too big, the heat has gotten to them. He’ll have to tell the farm wife to email our customers and let them know they are done for the season.

 

Next, he is off to the small plots by the house to pick basil while it is still cool. There he finds the weeds between the rows are taller than the basil. So it necessary to mow between the rows before you can successfully pick the basil. The mowing will take a few hours, so now the basil will have to be picked this evening when the mosquitoes are thick so he’ll be feeding them while the basil is being picked.

 

Now it has warmed up for the day, so the harvesting has to be focused on items that don’t wilt. The leafy greens can’t be harvested in the heat. The farmer heads out to harvest summer squash, with boxes in hand, he find the plants wilting. So is because of the heat or the squash bugs? Don’t know, possibly both, so the farmer turns the drip irrigation on them and then plants another planting of summer squash. He’ll go back to check those plants and harvest them later so he leaves the boxes out there. The farmer has a constant battle with squash bugs every summer. And the bugs always seem to win.

 

On to dig potatoes, that can be done in the heat. Luckily, we have a one row potato digger now so that helps takes some of the labor out it since we always seem to be digging in the heat of the day. The digger digs them, takes them up a short chain and drops them on top the ground. The farmer, farm wife and sometimes the farm kids go behind the digger with buckets to pick up the potatoes. We haul them back to the house with the tractor to be sorted and boxed up for orders and market. Finally, something that goes smoothly.

 

And when we think we have a schedule and have figured out how to get it all done, there is a steer in the sweet corn having a feast. 

. . . . Or the pigs are rooting up the neighbor’s pasture and he jumps the fence and hunts us down not happy about it.

. . . . Or the county sheriff is knocking on our door asking if we own pigs because there are pigs on the highway and no one else in the neighborhood is claiming them  . . . and the farm wife get to deal with this on her own because for some reason the farmer is suddenly no where around. Next time this scenario happens . . . I’m going tell him, “No, officer. Not anymore. My pigs got into my garden one too many times. They are now in my freezer. Would you like to see them?” These scenarios seems to happen every year. And this year there are way more things going wrong than right.

 

Life isn’t always fun on the farm. Most often, it is stress and sweat happening on the farm. Some days, it is unbearable to work your ass off day and night, put everything you have . . . financially, physically and emotionally . . . into what we are doing and have almost all of it fail.  And the misery of seeing your partner in life, marriage and farm dealing with all this, is just way too hard on a person. Sometimes . . . we can look back and laugh at our days. But usually not until the season is over and we are sitting on a beach hundreds of miles away from the farm, which doesn’t happen if there are too many crop failures for the year.

Gone Solar

We are getting even greener. We have installed solar panels, actually, we had a solar company install the panels. The farm and our home is now functioning on solar energy. Last year the farmer started investigating solar energy, but we weren’t planning to install it for a few more years. However, it just happened to work out that we stumbled across this solar company in the Spring. They got their bid right to us and we decided to go for it. We gave them the go ahead and a few months later, here we are, operating on solar energy. It is turning into a year of change for us and that is not what we intended for this year. We are experiencing lots of changes this first half of the year: solar, biodegradable row cover, drip irrigation, covered driveway in wood chips and making the house more energy efficient with siding, windows and insulation.

This switch to solar has definitely made our family more conscious of energy being used. We have changed all our lights to LED, unplug anything that is not in use and make sure lights are off as soon as we leave a room. It’s a new goal for the whole family to produce energy and not use it; that’s something we never discussed, it’s just happening. We are trying to use less and less energy everyday.  The real goal is to save money in the long run and not have to pay a power bill while producing our own clean energy . . . living off grid. In short, we feel we are doing a good thing for the planet, using less energy, producing clean and renewable energy, and being environmentally friendly. We’re living sustain-ably and that brings joy to our lives!

If you are interested in solar, ask the farmer about ours. He loves to talk about solar energy. Actually, he just likes to talk, so he’ll talk about anything . . . just ask him. 

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Our beautiful, black solar roof. We are still waiting for the siding to be put on, then the house will be picturesque.

Capturing a Swarm

Another day, another experience. We have been reading and learning about honeybees for three years now and even considered buying a hive of bee this spring. Last year we had a local beekeeper put a hive on our farm. We loved having the bees be a part of the farm. Then this week we had the opportunity to capture a swarm and make them our bees. So we jumped in the pickup and set out to have a new experience.

20180507_164717The swarm of honeybees were on a lilac in Kimberly. We went to town to buy bee boxes, full of excitement and a little anxiousness, not sure what to expect when we got to the bees. The bees were there for three days and we felt they were waiting for us. Actually, we are wondering if they were going to make a home right there on the lilac brand. They had started building comb, which was surprising to see. We didn’t expect to see that when we swept them into the box.

We backed up to the lilac, set our deep super box on the ground with the base and to our surprise some of the bees that were buzzing around started going in. We cut the branch and shook part of the bees in the box. A large clump still clung to the branch and each other. So we used our bee brush to gently brush them off the branch and into the box and put the lid on. This whole time the farmer and farm wife didn’t have on any bee coveralls, glove or hat. In our regular clothes, with bees buzzing all around us, even landing and crawling on us. And not getting stung. There were several flying around so we hung out for a couple of hours until it cooled down and they went in the box. We taped cardboard over the opening and took them home to our farm.

They have been busy making their home and comb. We’ve been feeding them sugar water so they don’t have to work so hard to find food when they are working really hard to get home built. Everyday we spend time watching them and the hive. It seems they are venturing farther from the hive everyday. It has been a great experience and love being so close to the bee. Getting to stand in the middle of them, feeling we are part of their community and they a part of our well-being and the functioning of our farm.

Farmer & A Dream

This farmer has a dream . . . . . . .  another dream. Some days I would say, “Oh-no, I don’t want to hear it because I don’t want to raise another type of animal!” But this dream doesn’t involve another animal. And without the farmer dreaming we would not be here or be farming today. We are both big dreamers and believe everyone should dream and work toward your dream until your dreams come true.

We started with dreaming to farm, that evolved into organic farming, then to organic farming of a large diversity of produce and herbs (almost 20 acres worth). Now the dream is opening up a storefront on the farm, an on-farm market. It’s an idea that I’m liking. A farm market in our garage; a market that we don’t have to load up . . . drive to . . .  unload and set up . . . take down . . . load up again to then have to drive home exhausted . . . to have to unload yet again all that wasn’t sold (which is usually around 10 or 10:30 pm for the markets in the Wood River Valley). . . then go irrigate and feed the animals before bed.

An on-farm market is less work for the farmer and more time on the farm so we can sell at wholesale prices. The vision for this on-farm market is to offer a one stop shopping for fresh food that is in-season. We will be offering all our produce, eggs, herbs, meat, soap and laundry detergent along with products from other local farms like milk and cheese from Old Almo Creamery.DSCN9441

Our on-farm market is open on Wednesdays from 1 to 6 pm. Giving everyone a chance to come to the farm to buy product at discounted prices. 

So here’s to another dream! Fear less, dream more and may life be happier!

 

March Longings

March is here along with thoughts and longings for Spring and greens. March feels like a breath of fresh air after spending our winter months hibernating in the house. Like a bear coming out of hibernation,  we are really craving fresh food, specifically greens. I feel I could eat a large plate piled high with greens at every meal like a cow at the feed bunk eating her greens twice a day. Yes, I referred to myself as a cow. The farmer has compared me to a cull Hereford cow for years due to complications with pregnancy, childbirth and low milk production. And whenever a needle comes out to draw blood, the farmer will compare it and the needle size to bleeding sheep. Growing up on a farm and then becoming a farm wife, I’ve grown accustom to being compared to an animal. Everything is compared to what we are familiar with, which are animals and plants.

For all of us green hungry people, the farmer has planted a couple of beds of greens: lettuce, spinach, and arugula. Although, they are barely starting to emerge from the ground, I’m very eager for those first greens of Spring. They are planted in one of our cold-frames so there is no heat, just what the sun provides. We are at the mercy of mother nature. This past month it was too cold. We are looking forward to March warming up so our cold frames will too. Our farming son, who has the itch to grow plants just like his daddy, has planted lettuce and radishes in pots in the house. He is trying to beat his dad at getting the first greens of the Spring.  

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Radish Seedlings

And the plastic has been put on our smaller cold frame so it is ready to start seeds. We start all our plants from seed right here on the farm. We will be starting seedlings this month too. Our growing season is officially underway!

January Juggle

For most of January, farming took a backseat to house issues and maintenance. We discovered we had a toilet leaking on the second floor of our house. This leak also did damage to the dining room ceiling. After investigating the issue, we figured out the  plumbing was not done correctly. We checked one of our other toilets, and it was leaking too. We have a third bathroom that we have not tore into yet, but that bathroom has been remodeled since the house was built so we’re hoping that the plumbing was updated with the remodel. So we’ve had two bathrooms tore apart and are working on putting them back together. Then the wiring in our well shorted and caught fire. Three issues in one month . . .  crossing our fingers and hoping we are done these home issues. I’m told it happens in threes.

When the farmer realized we had issues with plumbing, he wanted to cry. That is his least favorite home improvement project to work on, especially when it involves tearing out sheetrock and the sub-floor. And with the mild winter we are having, the farmer has been really antsy to be outside getting things done, not in the house tearing bathrooms apart to work on plumbing and replacing floors. So he split his time between house projects and farm projects; one or two days working on bathrooms and then a couple days of farm projects. The farm wife gets really cranky when her house is tore up and especially when it’s the toilet that is out of commission.

Normally, this time of year we have snow on the ground, it’s froze and there is not much to do but order seeds and plan when we want to start the seedlings in the cold frame. But this winter has been very different with mild temperatures and little precipitation. We put up a second cold-frame, got the plastic on it and still need to get plastic on our original cold-frame. We finished pulling up the last of that ridiculous plastic row cover that we put down last year.  And amazingly, the ground is not frozen and dry enough that the farmer ripped, roto-tilled and marked out one of our fields. That is just crazy that we are working the ground the first of February!

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Chickens follow the farmer as he tills the ground.

It was the first week of February when I wrote this post, when we had Spring-like temperatures and we worked the ground. The following week, when I’m posting this, it is back to Winter. There is snow on the ground and things are frozen again. Time once again to stay inside to work on bathrooms.

 

February Happenings:

  • Put plastic on the cold-frame that we start our bedding plants in
  • Broiler chicks arrive
  • Get some lettuce and spinach planted

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