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Agrarian Harvest

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

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summer

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

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. 

DSCN9445
Our beautiful, black solar roof. We are still waiting for the siding to be put on, then the house will be picturesque.

Update: Help Us Be Farmers Again

We have had amazing, positive response to our  post, Help Us Be Farmers Again. We thank everyone for their responses and trying to help us figure out a better way for marketing and distributing produce. We appreciate all the feedback we are hearing. We know there has been some concern and worry among some of our customers also. We would like to share our plan with you and say please do not worry. And a special thank you to all those that are now coming to the farm to buy and working with our partners at Freshocal and Kraay’s Market & Garden.  

At this time, we plan to continue to be at the Ketchum and Hailey Farmers’ Markets. We will also continue to do wholesale deliveries in the Wood River Valley.

In the Magic Valley, we will be cutting down on the days we will be at the Twin Falls farmers’ market. We are planning on being there, the first and third Saturday of the month. However, this month we won’t be there on the third Saturday, but will on the fourth. Watch the Twin Falls Farmers’ Market facebook page or our Agrarian Harvest facebook page , we post on there if we will not be there. Even though we aren’t at market our products are still available, everyday of the week, either by coming to the farm to buy on Mondays or Wednesdays (4 pm to 6 pm) or order and pick up or get it delivered through Freshocal (freshocal.com).

We are a dynamic, intensive farm. We are trying to get that work/ life balance figured out. Balancing family life, production and marketing is a huge challenge and not just for us. After visiting with other farmers, we found that is a very common theme during the growing season that farmers struggle with: the demands of the farm, demands of the consumer, and demands of the family. We don’t only like to farm but also to think outside the box and try new things. We wouldn’t be growing produce for a living if we didn’t think outside the box and want to do something different than “normal agriculture”. So we don’t want to worry our customers, only to inform of issues that may not of been seen or thought. We are honored to be your farmers and to have your help and support making sure everybody’s need are met in the farm to consumer relationship.

Help Us Be Farmers Again

This blog was started to write about farm life and happenings on the farm. Honestly, I’m finding that very hard to do lately. Here is why . . . . .

When we set out to be farmers that grow produce years ago, we never saw ourselves where we are today . . . . on the road four days a week going to farmers’ markets, delivering and paying an employee to do the farming. Our purpose was to grow organic produce and get it in the hands and mouths of as many people as we could without leaving the farm. Our vision was to be a family working happily together to grow, eat and sell organic produce. We are no longer a family happily working together . . . .  we are exhausted and spend our days crowded in the car . . . . we aren’t even doing the farming anymore!

We have become traveling salespeople and delivery drivers. People now expect to be delivered to, for everything, including food. When a farmer leaves the farm most days of the week, he is no longer a farmer. When a farmer is off the farm, the farm work is not getting done. So how are we supposed to be growing food when we are having to leave the farm to deliver it and sale at farmers’ markets four days a week? We aren’t! We have to pay a H-2A employee to do the farming because it’s very hard to find people in our community that are willing to come to the farm to help do the work to grow the produce that they want to buy. So if we are on the road doing sales, markets and delivering most days of the week, are we still your farmers? We don’t think so. Our hands aren’t in the dirt doing the growing anymore. We help with harvest, but we are no longer able to tend the plants and be on the farm as our vision started. That is not what we want to be.  We want and need to be the ones on the farm doing the work. Therefore, consumer need to be willing to go to the farm to buy food or have a sales and delivery service deliver, which we have found for you (details below). We don’t want to be doing three farmer’s markets a week, we would prefer to only harvest what is needed.

Now let’s talk farmer’s markets for a moment. What is a farmers’ market? It is suppose to be a location where farmers come together to sell their food directly from the farm. It is more than just a couple of hours off the farm to sell my goods, it’s full days . . . . the markets have rules that require us to be there two hours before market starts and we have to unload a whole 16 foot trailer of produce instead being able to sell out of our trailer or vehicle.  Here is a huge issue we have with farmer’s markets, we never know how much is going to sell or how many people are going to be at market each week. So we harvest as much as we can and end up with waste! So it is a waste of our time to harvest it and now the excess produce is thrown out or fed to the animals. Farmers’ markets would be great if it was just a couple of hours to do the sales and if we didn’t have to set up a mini grocery store on the street. Honestly, farmers’ markets are exhausting, they aren’t geared toward or convenient for the farmer and we end with too much wasted produce.

We feel we have turned into a mini grocery store on wheels. That is not and never was our vision or purpose for farming. Farmers need to be on the farm growing the food. We would love to see all our customers come to the farm to buy, but we also know that is not feasible for some. So we are very happy to now offer our products through delivery services in the Magic Valley and the Wood River Valley. In the Magic Valley, you can buy our products through Freshocal,  freshocal.com. You order on their website, we harvest just for you, they come to the farm to get it and deliver to you. Freshocal  In the Wood River Valley, you can order through Kraay’s Market & Garden, kraaysmarketgarden.grazecart.com . You order on their website Sunday and Mondays, we harvest, and they deliver on Wednesdays.  Kraay’s Market & Garden  This is a dream come true for exhausted farmers that are trying to find a way to be farmers again.

We may be willing to do one farmers’ market a week, but anymore than that and we are not farmers anymore. We need your help to be farmers again. Our plea to our customers is to come to the farm to buy from us directly or buy through one of the above marketing and delivery services. So try it, let us know what you think and help us figure this thing out. If you have any trouble ordering any of our products from Freshocal or Kraay’s, please let us know and we will help you.

We can’t keep going at the pace we have been of constant traveling to deliver and do markets. Something needs to change. We are setting out to figure this thing out, we want to go back to our roots . . . . our original vision and purpose . . .  to be your farmers, we want to do the growing for you and not pay someone else to do it. And where do you find farmers? On the farm! Please help us be farmers again!

For those of you that already come to the farm to buy and pick-up CSAs, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You share the same vision and purpose with us. You are allowing us to be the farmers we set out to be.

Heat of the Season

The weather is heating up and so is our growing and market season. We are going to three markets a week (Twin Falls, Ketchum, & Hailey). The foot traffic at the markets is also increasing, which is good. That means less produce waste from market that is fed to the animals, which we like, the less waste the better.  We also have CSA pick-up and delivery three days a week. If you are doing the math, that means three harvest days a week, sometimes four which only leaves us with one day of rest. But most weeks we can’t even call it a day of rest because there is still work to be done: animals fed, irrigation water to change, and lots of projects that need to be done, which usually take priority over resting. That’s the life of a farmer, there are no days off or at least not very many of them.

We are busy . . . and about to be in the middle of the busiest part of our season and the heaviest harvesting; when the majority of our produce varieties are ripe and ready for harvest and market. Which means lots of heavy totes and boxes to be carrying, loading then unloading and lots of phones calls doing wholesale sales and customer relations. In the next couple of weeks, we expect to start harvesting cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, okra, fennel and new potatoes. Then soon after that: green beans. This is the heat of the season for us, when the real work begins. We start our days at dawn, we are going all day, and we don’t stop until dark. We are still tired when we get up in the mornings. We just get up and keep moving.

So if we don’t return a call, text or e-mail promptly, know that we will get back you. We don’t have hours to sit and chat or answer phone calls at all hours like in the off-season, but we do have minutes here and there. You are important to us. You are the reason why we do what we do. It is important to us that you eat wholesome, real food.  You keep us motivated to keep moving when our days are long and we are feeling weary. So do your shopping from your local farms. Just by showing up with your smiling face, you are motivating a farmer to keep up the hard work that he/she is doing.

We may have a lot to do, but we really do love this time of year. The sunshine, the smell of the great outdoors, the produce and all the meals we get from it, the sunsets, sounds of all the animals and insects, and people we get to interact with all week long. We hope you are eating wholesome, real food. If not, come see us, we can change that!

Farm Wife Garden & Necessities

I have my own garden and growing space. I call it the farm wife’s garden. When a farmer and his wife both like to grow plants and have different ideas of when and how to plant and what to plant, you need your own spaces. Or at least that is true for us. The farmer has control of most of the farm and I get the yard and my own gardening space. In my garden, I get to design it the way I like (it’s my work of art, my masterpiece), plant what I want, but I also have to feed the family and be able to do all of our canning from my garden.

In my garden (the farm wife’s garden), I’ve been doing a no-till growing method and mulching a lot with wood chips and straw. Last year, the garden didn’t produce very well and the quack grass took over. Reluctantly, I decided I would need to till again this year. I spent a couple of days scooping poop out of the chicken house and hauling it to the garden. I spread a generous amount of chicken manure on it and then attempted to rototill with our small walk behind rototiller. It kept getting bound up on the grass. Before I could even make one pass the full length of the garden, the rototiller die! Apparently, the grass was too hard on it and broke a piece that drives the tines. So we reverted to the tractor and big rototiller. It wasn’t able to get through the root mass either so we hooked up the renovator to break through the grass roots and loosen it up. Then rototilled. We waited a week to let the grass roots that remained to start to grow again and then tilled again. . . . .  wait two more weeks and till again.

After this experience, I have a new appreciation of tools/equipment that are needed to make farming easier . . .  or in my case large gardening easier. If you are new to small farming or just thinking of doing it, here is what I consider necessary tools and equipment: shovel, hoe, small tractor to operate rototiller, mower/whipper, renovator and plastic layer. A shovel is a must and used for so much on a daily basis. From irrigating, to dig holes, scoop soil to dig weeds out or just chop weeds down.  A hoe (hoop hoe preferable, in my opinion)  for planting and weeding; used a lot for weeding unless you cover your whole planting area in plastic. And a tractor and small implements to work the ground with ease, quicker and with less muscle aches. And our new piece of equipment this year is a plastic layer, a purchase I thought could wait until next year  but the farmer insisted it was a need this year. I now know he was right. We have laid so much plastic so quickly and the plastic is so tight and neat on the row; much better than doing it by hand with a shovel. I am very happy with the farmers new toy.

plastic layer
This is the first row laid with the plastic layer. The beds are firmer, more uniform, easier to plant in & the wind can’t pick up the plastic. The rows on the right were laid by hand using a shovel to throw dirt on the plastic. The difference is amazing!

Something new for me this year is straw bale gardening. I have read and heard about it, but don’t know anyone who has done it. So I’m trying it with just a couple of bales because I’m afraid of failing again – like my no-till, mulch gardening method. I’m interested in watching plants grow out of the bales and cover the bale like a hanging basket. If you are interested in trying straw bale gardening too and are in search of straw, look no more. We still have Organic straw bales for sale.   Organic Wheat Straw

Enjoy your growing. And don’t be afraid to try something new! Life is one giant experiment.

June Happenings & Plans  

  • Finish Planting
  • We expect to have sugar snap peas, radishes, & zucchini ready this month.
  • Wood River Farmers’ Markets begin; Ketchum June 13th & Hailey June 29th  Farmers’ Markets
  • And daily weeding begins!

Flurry of August

August has to be the busiest month of the whole summer. I can’t remember ever having a calendar that had a blank day in August.  I have heard it said that August is the month of timelessness. The produce is producing at max, so there is more harvest than normal, more varieties of produce are producing and needed harvested in August, and everything  from apricots, peaches, tomatoes, green beans to pickles needs to be canned, jammed, dried or froze. It is also the time of year when we need to start to think and plan for the school year and then there are all the birthdays and BBQs planned in August. There are so many days in August when my head is spinning and I scream, ” Aaahhh, really, how do we do it all?” On those days, I take a few deep breaths, start with one task at a time and drink a few beers. Everything gets done in long run and all is okay . . . . .. or the produce I was suppose to be canning for winter starts to go bad and I feed it to the pigs or chickens, I have enough canned from last year to last the winter. Right? ? ?

Here is what has been keeping us busy on the farm in August:

We have a wide variety of producDSCN7728e that is producing well: seeded watermelons, muskmelons, cantaloupe, green beans, swiss chard, kale, bell peppers, serrano peppers, chile peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, slicing tomatoes, Sun Gold tomatoes. The san marzano and roma tomatoes are slower to come on but are slowly starting to produce. Our carrots are doing amazingly well this year and we are happy to have baby carrots with or without tops available. The garlic and onions have been harvested and cured, we have  been cleaning and getting it ready to sale.

Last year, our melons grew and produced well. We also had request for melons that we didn’t have so this year we decided to plant many more melons. It has been incredibly surprising how many melons the plants are producing and we have harvested the last tDSCN7722wo weeks. We have had a mountain of melons to sell at the farmers’ markets. They have such a sweet aroma and can be smelled from several feet away. And the smell is nothing compared to the taste. Yummmmm!

Unfortunetly, our eggplants are not producing yet. The plants are big and beautiful, but there are only a few blooms and they aren’t making eggplants. This is very unfortunate since my mouth is watering for eggplant parmesan and baba ghanoush. We are hoping they will start producing abundantly before frost. They better hurry, I’m thinking we are going to have an early frost this year. And our beets rotted in the ground so no beets this year.

I know this season will wind down all too soon. Then it will be cold and I will be dreaming of summer again. In all the busyiness there is lots of joy to be had.  I really do love summer and all that goes along with it. I even enjoy canning, and yes, I do get enough canned, jammed, dried or froze to last us the winter. And at the end of an exhausting day, there is nothing like having a beer while sitting on the porch gazing at the moon and stars and listening to the insects. Cheers!

Summer Heat: Thrive or Hide?

The summer heat has arrived and has been good and bad for the farm and the farmers. The lettuce has just about stopped growing. It’s  like it is saying, “This heat is just too much for me.” The same thing that the farmer says when he goes in search of shade. On the other hand, the corn, tomatoes,  eggplant, and melons are thriving. I image them saying the same thing that I say when the summer heat has finally arrived, “Aaawww, now I’m comfortable, let’s get to work!” So the corn has jumped in height and is making ears, the tomatoes are ripening, the eggplant are getting ready to produce, and the melons are spreading and growing large beautiful melons. The cucumbers are doing well in the heat too. They are covered in blooms and starting to make little cucumbers. This is the part of summer that this farmer’s wife loves: the heat, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, corn, peppers, eggplants and melons. All my favorite things of summer!

In other farm news, the green beans are ready to be picked. The picking begins this week. The peppers were producing well, but were getting sun burnt. So we covered them with a shade cloth and will be able to offer higher quality peppers rest of the summer.

We also have a little experiment going on. The broccoli was so infested with aphids it was either mow it all the way to the ground, till it in and prepare the ground to plant something for fall or mow the tops of the plants off to try to get rid of the aphids and get the broccoli to grow more heads. We decided to mow the tops and wait a week or two to see what happens. So if mowing the tops of the plants off doesn’t take care of our aphid problem or if the broccoli doesn’t grow anymore heads, then we will be mowing it off to prepare the bed for a fall planting.  Either way it’s a win/win situation for us.

As we harvest the garlic, onions and radishes and end their growing season, we are preparing the beds for fall planting. We plan to plant a fall crop of greens, broccoli, cabbage and any other cool season plants we can and cover with them low tunnels to extend our growing season ( or maybe I should  say to extend our working season). We hope to offer produce as long into the fall and possible winter as we can.

I don’t want to think of the cold yet though, the heat just arrived! So the farmer is planning for fall and I’m headed back out into the summer sun!

 

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