What We Are Up To
A big ol' hornworm eating its' last supper. A single hornworm can eat around 1/2 a full sized mater plant in a single night.
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August 18th, 2005
After a year of looking for a farm we have found one (See Pictures here). It is a 9 acre piece of land that has a couple of barns, a store front and a house. The farm sits on the terminal moraine from the last glaciation (a terminal moraine is a ridge that marks the southern most reach of a glacier. All glaciers leave such features behind). This means the north half of the farm is flat and the southern half is rolling. The locals call this feature the "40 Foot Pitch".
Needless to say, we are very excited about the move. Though I for one am not terribly excited about the physical act of moving. I have never liked packing up my stuff and moving. But at least this will be a move to a place I can call my own. So perhaps this time it will not be so bad, yeah...right, after 12 years of being in one place and being married to a pack rat we have a lot of shit to move. Literally tons and tons of things. Last winter Eugene moved about 3/4 of the farm equipment to the Harris Farm because we thought we would be moving there. He packed the cargo van full to the rafters at least 5 times and took stuff down to Morning Sun Ohio. A good 40 minutes away. The good news is this farm is a lot closer to us than the Harris Farm but the bad news is those 5 loads did not include the 3 door commercial fridge or the 2 massive signs we got a couple of years ago for $50 (and worth $1000) and have been waiting to have a reason to use them. Nor does it include the household goods or many many other things. Yeah, we have our work cut out for us
The farm is located on a busy US highway (US 127) and with the store front has big possibilities for doing a year 'round local foods market. The plan is to grow various fruits veggies and livestock for the store and also buy and resell from local farmers what we cannot/do not raise. There is a big strip of road frontage that would make either a big parking lot or a place for a farmers' market or both. Because the barns have been converted and are heated and insulated we have a lot of possibilities. We have a great place for our refrigeration. For the past 5 years or so we have had our biggest fridge on a porch with a roof over it but basically exposed to the elements and unusable in the winter if it is under 40F.
There are places for Eugene's forge and a workshop so he can work on equipment. And there is tons and tons of potential storage space. it is an exciting thought to realise that soon I will not have a house full of power tools. That these items will soon have a home in a barn. Right now we have 2.5 rooms out of 6 rooms devoted to tools and farm stuff storage. I was a bit concerned that the house we will be buying is a bit smaller than the house where we currently reside but when I figured out by removing all the farming stuff and tools that have to be stored in the house because we do not have barn space here on Crubaugh Rd we will have more living space than we do currently.
We will have space for seed starting. It is exciting to realize that we will no longer be starting seeds in the computer room or drying and cleaning herbs and seeds in the house. All those tasks will now be done in a barn and that will mean a much cleaner house as well as a lot more room in the house.
And all it looks like we will be closing on the place a good two week earlier than was predicted. Yes indeed, on September 1st, 2005 Eugene and Lucy Goodman will be landed gentry and also will be crazy busy as we will be moving and trying to finish up the farming season on Crubaugh Rd while we attempt to get a fall winter crop in at the US 127 farm. And we will still have to go to market in Oxford on Tuesdays and Saturdays for a while. I don't know how this will all work out but I have faith it will work out well for us
June 4, 2005
It is meteorological summer as of June first and it has finally warmed up. We have been having a cooler and drier spring than normal which has pushed back harvest dates by 3 to 4 weeks in many cases. I think this is a direct cause of climate change/global warming, maybe not, but something is up with the weather as we are getting extremes all over the world. At any rate it makes farming a challenge, never boring (though sometimes very frustrating) I should not complain though, it could be far worse. We could be getting weekly hail storms with big hail that would destroy any uncovered plants and probably would also destroy the hoophouses, windshields, roofs, etc.. We could be having extreme rain leading to bad flooding (that has been the state of affairs around here for the past 3 seasons, but not this year).
So we deal with what the weather tosses at us. This year this has meant delaying planting peppers, eggplant, basil, melons, tomatoes until now. Usually such things go in by Mid May but it was simply too cold. It has also meant the most awesome lettuce crop we have ever had. Until this spring I had decided lettuce was not my cup of tea. crispy rather tasteless stuff. A filler for salad or a green to put on a sandwich. But we grew this lollo rossa this year that has been divine. Delicate with a butter flavor that I can barely describe. And the other lettuce types have also been superior, though not as good as the Lollo Rossa. The spring mix has also been most excellent, which makes me feel good because I grow spring mix as a labor of love almost more than a money maker. You see, I tend to be a food snob (aka Foodie)and like I said earlier I tend to find plain lettuce boring but I really like salads. When I worked in restaurants they tended to be high end places that would serve things like mesclun salads and I got a taste for such things. When I got out of resturanting I found it was quite hard to find a decent spring mix/mesclun so that was one of the first things I started growing when we started growing for market. Of course now I am spoiled by our spring mix. It is so much better than anything one can buy at the store (even the organic stuff) that I have to be really jonesing for greens in the depths of winter to even consider buying a packet of the shit. And whenever I do I feel so cheated. The stuff is expensive, tasteless and often part of it has to be thrown in the compost. I want to say it is because it is at least a week old before I buy it (and this does account for the stuff going bad) but I will keep our own spring mix in the fridge upto 14 days before using and it loses very little taste. So it cannot be the age of the greens. It must be how they raise their salad greens and of course their choices in what kinds of lettuces and other greens go into the mix. I feel it also has to do with the size of the farm. We raise small batches of salad, no more than 15 pounds is cut in a week. It is intensively managed as well-hand seeded, hand weeded, hand cut and I choose the most colorful lettuce I can find which translates into intense taste (and likely more nutrient dense too) It is good stuff and sadly as the weather gets hot the spring mix becomes problematic to grow (it don't like sultry weather) plus we start getting into having to harvest a lot of other things that take a lot of time to bring in like strawberries, green beans, snap and snow peas, tomatoes.
In other news, we have been looking for a farm to buy this summer. I am finding the prices for land are insane. Not that they are necessarily high prices (though some are extremely high but on the other hand there are some real bargains out there too) but that the prices are all over the chart. I have seen some farms going for under $100,000 with over 15 acres of land and I have seen other farms with almost no land going for close to half a million. The craziest thing I have just started seeing is medium sized farms (over 60 acres but under 300 acres) going for more per acre than a 5 to 10 acre hobby farm. Don't these farmers realize that no one who wants to farm can possibly afford to pay a premium price for land, especially if they are doing conventional grain farming which is netting farmers around $5 to $10 an acre these days. Perhaps they are hoping a developer will come by and pay them their price and turn their farm into urban sprawl and than they can move away from the family homestead and retire in their RV traveling the southern tier of the US of A.
So we keep looking for a farm and I think soon we will find one and be able to move from what we call Boulder Belt to a place of our own.
The farmers' market have been going for a month now. We started out the season short on food to take to market. This was due to the cooler than normal spring we have been having. Not having much to bring meant the first 4 weeks we generally sold out of everything well before the market ended so by quitting time we would have a few gourds, a bag of lettuce and not much else on the table. When marketing fresh food direct to the public one wants a table brimming with bounty and generally I do not like to sell out of product so that we can pile the tables high right up until the end of the market. It has been good to get back to the farmers' markets. These are social events for me and Eugene. We get to see friends during market that we would otherwise not see much at all considering we live almost an hour away. And we make money which is really nice after spending months not having any cash on hand. Yeah markets are good times...
Of Politics, CSA's and Farming Plans
April 3, 2005
Lots of change in the world these days. The Pope is dead, The brain dead woman whom the politicians took such advantage of, Terri Schiavo, is dead. We have experience our biannual time change last night-spring forward!.
. Here at the farm we are busy. Eugene is into heavy bed prep and planting. I have been doing some transplanting, A lot of soil block making and seed starting as well as a lot of marketing and prepping for the Oxford farmers markets. We are doing the CSA again after a year off and I am writing for money. Oh yeah, and we are farm hunting because we want to be out of here this fall.
I have gotten a writing job for the website Farm and Garden.com. Thus far they have published half of an article I wrote about CSA pick-up vs Delivering the food. Esoteric but something I have given much thought to over the years. In the coming months I will write about things that pertain to CSA and farmers' markets.
Speaking of farmers' markets, the Oxford Farmers' Markets Uptown start in just over a month, May 3rd for the Tuesday and May 7th for the Saturday market. I am a council member and got myself involved in designing the T-shirt we will be giving out as one of the premiums for our "Friends of the Market" fund raiser. The T-shirt started as the poster we will be using as part of the market's promotion. I thought since the poster is so pretty why not make it into a T-shirt. This ought to be simple as the artwork is already. No this was not simple. doing things in committee never is. The council president took the art to a local T-shirt printing business in Oxford and they quoted a rather high price for the 5 color design. This put our FM council pres. into sticker shock and he asked if there was a cheaper way to . There was, by taking all the color out and changing the design and basically uglifying the damned thing we could get it for 1/3rd what the beautiful 5 color shirt would cost. So via email the new design was sent around and rejected by all. So Than it was suggested the T-shirt design be tweaked a bit (drop a phone number from the design and a few other things. That bit of tweaking led to more tweaking and more as all 5 of us looked hard at the design and I played around with things. Finally after 5 or 6 revisions and several near crisis involving cross platform intricacies I believe we have everything ironed out and the Friends of the Oxford Farmers' Market will have a really wonderful T-shirt as a premium
I also have been working on a sign board for the farmers' market. A wooden thing that I had to put several base coats of white on than Eugene stenciled in the letters and I got around to painting the letters this past week after looking at the blank board for over a month. nice to get things that have been hanging around for a long time finished
While we get some things finished we are starting other things like the spring garden. So far we have about 1/2 acre planted. Mostly onions, salad greens, spinach, broccoli, kale, cabbages, peas and other cold loving crops. We will be transplanting early tomatoes, cukes, zukes and melons into hoophouses in the next few days. If all goes as planned, we should have zukes and cukes in May and melons and tomatoes by mid June.
We brought back the CSA. We got to thinking in February that we needed more markets but we did not want to have to find another farmers' market or two and have to drive to those and set up and start developing a customer base at the new markets. So we got to thinking about CSA again and decided to do a CSA but instead of selling a season or even a share cycle we would sell by the week. I also decided to put the CSA shares up for sale on my Local Harvest store because this allows our members to use their credit or debit cards to buy their shares. Well, the website was not exactly set up to sell shares by the week but it can sell them by the month so the idea of selling shares by the week morphed into selling shares by the 4 week block of time. It has worked out quite well so far. The CSA starts in 5 days and our April shares sold out easily and early and the other months are filling up as well, through July.
The farm hunting goes in spurts. We have mostly been doing online searches and just haven't found much that meets out needs AND our budget. But I think patience in a real virtue here. We have looked at a few houses and either they have zero soul or they have a lot of soul but also a lot of problems that will take a lot of time and money to address. Or the house has soul but no out buildings and to farm one needs to have a good selection of our buildings
Politically, I am pretty much pissed off most of the time. The neocons keep getting scarier and scarier. Now they have Wolfowitz leading the World Bank. Though a few good things have happened. the Whitehouse has been embarrassed by Jeff Gannon male prostitute and Press Shill. not much has come of this story yet but I have a feeling this will bite the Bushites hard. The other is the fact that the information about WMD's in Iraq is all false. This will put most bushites in a state of confusion for a while. It was a pleasure to see right-wing propaganda talking head, Jack Atherton of FOX19 in Cincinnati have to choke out the new official statement about the WMD's in Iraq after he has spent years telling lies.
Locally, the state (Ohio) gummint is beginning to both enact and enforce laws and rules that make it hard and generally illegal to get food like raw milk. For more information on the breaking story of how raw milk became an illegal substance like pot or scheduled narcotics go to want Milk Ohio's Raw dairy Activist site.
We Could be Moving
January 31, 2005
So much has gone on here at Boulder Belt since I last wrote. In the entry before this I speak of having a new website, well scrap that. The site was not compatible with my computer set up so I could not change the site and as of a week ago I let it die a quiet death. Thank the God's that I did not trash this site. Yeah it has pop-up and banner ads and a long URL but I can deal with the site and it is free. Maybe one day I will get my shit together and really learn html and the other languages web mastering requires and than design a way killer site. But until than I am okay with angelfire as a website host.
The website change is not a big part of the changes that have befell Boulder Belt and Eugene and Lucy. Shortly after writing the last entry here we were told with less than a week's notice that our rent out here would be raised over 150% and we would be require to sign a 6 year lease. Well that did not wash with us and I researched our rights as renters and found out that any landlord in Ohio must give their tenants a 30 day notice as to any changes in the lease or living arrangements. So I went back to the management and said you cannot raise our rent for at least 30 days and we will not sign a 6 year lease and we will be looking for another place to live. So the rent did not get raised for several more months and we did not have to sign any kind of lease
5 months later we are still at the New Paris farm but we did almost move into a bad situation for us. Back in October we were looking for a new situation and one was offered at a farm I have, at times, fantasized about living on. The farm is in Morning Sun Ohio. It is a certified organic farm that raises beef that is said to be pastured but in reality they are feed lotted and not truly grass fed nor are they raised organically really. The farm also raises grains and has a market garden, that in 5 years, no one has been able to do anything profitably with.
So we got into talks about moving out to this farm in early November (the first meeting was right after the national election and everyone was pretty bummed out that day). The talks never went very far, they would get way off topic but we were able to figure out Eugene and I would manage the cattle, do haying and the market garden. Fine.
After the first meeting we start going out to the farm to start the process of moving and learning what we needed to learn to do the job. The first thing we find is the farm grounds and buildings are chaotic. Nothing has been put away in years, things are broken and equipment is either old and broken or completely unsuitable for this particular farm. Eugene immediately gets busy putting a the cattle feed alleys back together and also cleaning out the cattle feed lot area and repairing automatic waterers that had not worked in 10 years.
Now neither Eugene or I are cattle experts but we could see that these cows were not as fat as they should be and they were not getting fed correct supplements in their feed (it was thought that a salt block bought at the local feed mill would suffice. Only such items are not acceptable for organics) So we go to a nearby organic farm that sells Fertrell products and get many bags of OMRI approved cattle supplements. Took them out to the farm and than got yelled at by the farm owner for buying items from a "competitor".
We find this interesting that this guy who supposedly is an organic farmer and understands organic issues would get so upset about using organic supplements for his cattle. And would look at other organic grain farmers in the area as competitors rather than allies. But as time went on we would find other signs that perhaps this farm ain't as organic as the USDA approved certificate would indicate (and perhaps this is endemic in the organic industry so perhaps it is better to buy local from a farmer you know than to depend on 3rd party certification for your organically raised foods). We could see that our organic philosophy was not the same as the philosophy used on that farm. And this would prove to be very problematic.
Okay, so we start cleaning the barns out, repairing the cattle area and get a lot of our stuff (7 cargo van loads) moved down there over a period of 2 months. During that time we are told we will be moving into one of the houses on the property that was being occupied by this guy and his girlfriend and 3 kids. They do not want to move so the original moving date of December 15th comes and goes. It snows heavily, closing down most roads. Christmas comes and goes, as does New Years and the people are still in the house. Finally they start to move and a full 3 months after we started negotiations we finally get into the house. And it is awful! the house is about 1/2 the size of the house we currently live in (which does not have enough room, if you ask me). The house has been rode hard and put away wet and is in dire need of a new bathroom, painting, lots of wall repair, needs a new roof and several other pretty major repairs before moving in to the place.
For us to move out to this farm with our seed starting stuff meant we would have to be moved in and ready to go by mid Feb. This was obviously not going to happen because so much work had to be done. And not to mention the house is tiny and we have way to much stuff to realistically fit into the space.
So upon seeing the house we stepped back and asked ourselves what are we doing? Why are we trying to move to this farm that is so chaotic? We also were noticing that plans were being changed without consulting us about the changes. one was management of the farm. We were told we would be in charge of the cattle but by the beginning of Jan the person who had been feeding the cattle was now the manager of them. She also was being consulted about crop rotations and other farm issues. And we were being left out. this would not have been bothersome if the person who was being turned into the farm manager had any farming experience but she does not. Eugene likened the farm to a big whirlpool that sucks all things into it and ruins them before spitting them back out. We had come to the edge of that whirlpool and almost got sucked in but we were able to step back before the point of no return.
And than there were the signs that our spirit guides were screaming at us. Things like the carts all broke down a week after we started moving out to this farm. I badly sprained my ankle 2 weeks into the deal. Eugene spewed gasoline all over his face a week before we decided to not move into the mess.
So now we are back at 4526 Crubaugh road with all our stuff and a vastly cleaner house (we had moved and packed enough stuff that we could get into areas to get them cleaned out and even rearranged several rooms). As things stand now we are looking for a farm to buy and have found a couple of likely candidates in western Ohio. We are planning to stay at this farm for the growing season, though these plans could change at any time. We have found plans love to change and change drastically at the drop of a hat. This means we have had to learn how to live in the moment and living in the moment is a good way to live.
CU next time