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Agrarian Harvest

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

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experience

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.

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.

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!

Garlic Harvest

Garlic harvest is underway! And as with most things on this farm, we learn from experience. Our whole garlic growing season has been a learning by doing experience and now the harvest is too.

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We have learned that you definitely want to get all those scapes cut off (it will produce bigger garlic heads) or at least the major of them. It is nice to leave a few in the field to watch and monitor the curling and uncurling. After the scapes curls twice, it then uncurls and points straight up again. Some say that is when you want to harvest and in our area that usually happens around the 4th of July. Others say wait until the bottom two leaves dry out. So we enjoyed watching all our scapes curl and uncurl and then we couldn’t get a crew together to help get the garlic out of the ground until the bottom two or three leaves were dry.

We started harvesting by pulling it out of the ground by hand. Then decided that was going too slow and there had to be a better way. So out comes the tractor and hay crowner. That worked good for the first couple of rows where the ground was still moist, as long as we went slow and kept it deep. But then the ground was too hard and dry in spots and we couldn’t get the crowner deep enough. We were cutting lots of garlic and cutting into the other half’s patience and temper. So back to hand pulling the garlic we went! It actually went pretty quick with the help of lots of hands of friends and family! We are so appreciative to have so many loving, helpful, kind-hearted, hard working people around us!

garlic harvest

We are only about half way done with the harvest. I’m positive getting rest of garlic out of the ground will be another fun learning experience. There is already talk of using a cultivator or renovator, which will still result in hand picking it off the ground, bundling and hauling it to the shed to dry . . . . . . . if one of those methods of getting it out of the ground works. We are learning that growing garlic requires lots of time, labor and a strong back. Every step of the process of growing garlic requires handling it by hand or hoeing it by hand.

Once the garlic dries, we cut the head off and bag it. Then it’s ready to go. And hopefully, we will forget how much work, frustration, and back pain is involved in growing garlic for rest of the summer so we will be willing to plant more of it again this fall and start the whole garlic growing cycle over again.

Chicken Experience

This is my first time ever raising or being around broiler chickens. I grew up around laying hens. So I have learned a lot the last few months. My husband on the other hand, is experienced, I guess you can say. He has raised chickens, broilers and layers, since he was a kid.

chickens

I had always heard that broiler grew fast (very true), that they are lazy birds or just get too fat too fast so they don’t move much. Now that is not true for our birds. They did grow fast, but those birds move. They started out in a brooder or hoop house as most chicks do and soon after was released or the door was opened and they were allowed to roam our property as they wished. As young chicks, they stayed close to the hoop house and the only safety they have ever known. It was wasn’t long before they were wandering all over the yard and eat anything they saw fit. Wherever they went you knew a whole flock of broiler had been there. This is not like the typical layer who will walk around the yard by herself scratching randomly for bugs and then move on without leaving much trace she had been there (besides her scratched out hole if she gets really carried away). Broilers are a little slower to move but also travel together, laying down to take breaks as they go, smashing anything that may be in the way when they decide to lay.  Which definitely takes patience and deep-breathing on my part when they decide to shade up or nap in my flowerbeds. And when you walk out the door, it is amazing to see how fast these birds can get up and move just to gather at your feet to greet you.

Granted, they go through an ugly phase which is true for most living things, including humans, as they grow from baby to adulthood. There are times you don’t want to look out your window at those ugly birds, but those times pass in the blink of an eye. Just like watching your toddler grow out of the terrible twos and then you miss those times. It has been an amazing journey! It will be one that I will never forget and definitely one we will go through again. And knowing my husband and his love of poultry, will travel that road again very soon.

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