Check out images from our durum wheat crop this year! We grew about 2.5 acres in Potter Valley. You can get our durum wheat by contacting us directly or through the Mendocino Grain Project.
|September 5, 2011|
With the recent wetness and current sunny warmth, the rangeland is just barely starting to turn green! We welcome this landscape change in color – it means that there will be food in the hills soon for our sheep and cows.
We recently ringed (rung?) our 33 pigs who are also enjoying the hillside views and October sunshine. As they are growing, they are eating a lot now! Along with organic pig grower feed (corn and soy), we’re sprouting triticale which we purchased from the Willits Grange Grains. Before long, we’ll also be sprouting the barley we grew in Ukiah. Sprouted grain is easier for the pigs to digest.
So that we won’t have to buy so much feed for our pigs in the future, we’ll be growing more grain this winter. We were looking at buying land in south Ukiah to possibly grow grain and other higher-value crops but then decided against it. Then we waited…and the City of Ukiah purchased it. And then we were able to lease it, which is what we really wanted to do in the first place! This land tenure is not secure by any means, but the outlook looks good in that we don’t see the city developing the land anytime soon. Most of the grain we’ll be growing will be for feed, but we do plan on growing a couple varieties of wheat for human consumption. We’ll be working the ground very soon, and by June or July next year, hopefully we’ll have a bountiful harvest!
Surprise! The first blog post in a while happens to be on a rainy day.
It’s our first rain of autumn, and it is pouring down this Tuesday evening! Last we checked Accuweather, a bit over 2.5 inches was in the forecast. While we knew that rain was coming this week, we didn’t expect quite this much.
Since we’re not grape farmers, all this rain is not so bad. Sunday evening, we finished seeding a perennial pasture that needed some rehabilitation. We had wanted to do it last year, but the rain always beat us, and the ground was never the right moisture/dryness to work. This year, we had two tractors going until around 8pm on Sunday, but we got it done. Hopefully we’ll see some little green sprouts popping out in the field soon!
The fall vegetable crops are doing reasonably well, too. We just need to keep an eye out for pests like cabbage worms and slugs this time of year.
All this rain will also get the soil moist enough for us to start prepping ground and seeding grain. In our climate, it’s possible to dry-farm grain. Without irrigating, we can over-winter grain, like the barley we grew last year and the wheat before that. So, we’re excited for this watering. Cross your fingers that the weather will cooperate this fall…
Farming is like dancing – there are slow dances and fast jigs and every pace in between. We’re at another hurried hustle this time of year. Summer crops like tomatoes, eggplant, and cucumbers are giving bloated harvests that call for routine attention.
Yet under the guise of bounty, nature is slowly inching toward the quieter time of the year – fall and eventually winter – when crops slow down and the land lays still. So we are simultaneously prepping the ground and planting cool weather crops (those biennials like broccoli, lettuce and carrots) and preserving summer’s warm wealth in curing, pickling, making sauce and making sauerkraut.
With the higher food output this year, we’re also striving to consistently provide for markets we haven’t worked with regularly in the past, like Ukiah Natural Foods Co-op and Ukiah Brewing Company and Restaurant. We’re also finding that the markets and nearby restaurants can’t absorb all that we are producing, and CSAs are not in high demand here, so much of our food is shipping to the Bay Area. Hopefully, we are serving our community not just with our food but by bringing outside revenue in during these challenging economic times.
As busy as we have been expanding farm production this year, we haven’t had much time to write about the process here. But, we’ve been striving to document with photos the daily work we do to grow as much nutritious, flavorful food as possible. Part of the process has been spending money. As they say, you have to spend money to make money. This season alone, we’ve acquired many tools to help us grow more food so it’s more affordable to buy and so that we don’t strain our bodies:
The shopping list goes on, and that’s only major capital investments. Fortunately, we don’t always have to buy things outright. Other farmers are lending us equipment or letting us make payments. A community of growers is so essential particularly when when you start out with nothing.
We’re also raising another round of pigs that will be ready in time for the holidays. Not only is pork really tasty, but our pigs will happily eat vegetable culls or whatever does not sell at the farmers market. Heritage Berkshire pork is delicious, so we’re definitely raising those pigs again!
We also bought a few more ewes and lambs to increase our sheep flock. Hopefully by the end of this season, we’ll have about 100 ewes. Our new Shropshire ram, Macho, should be getting familiar with the ladies now…
So, we continue to refine our farming system – doing trials of different crops to see what we can grow well, trying new feed rations and growing better hay and pasture for cost-effective yet delicious meat, fine-tuning all the mechanical processes, and improving relationships with all our customers. We’re very excited to be growing a lot more food this year. It’s a challenge, but the hard work is rewarding when we are able to partner with nature and people to nourish ourselves and our community.
This past Sunday, Doug and John from the Mendocino Grain Project came out to the field we are farming in south Ukiah to harvest our barley. We planted the entire field (7.5 acres), but the deluge of rain this past winter flooded out some areas, so the field was not consistently very productive. We also had a lot of weeds. Weed management is something we’ll be working on in the future, primarily by getting the right tools to cultivate and kill weeds at the right time. (Yeah, another capital investment…) We got a little over a ton, which was not great but better than nothing. All this barley will primarily be feed for our pigs. Yes, more local bacon and pork chops!
We have not posted news in a while, but it is no wonder – we are so very busy! And this week is no exception. As all the vineyards in Mendo are bustling with harvest, we have been assisting with the grape harvest at Golden Vineyards. It’s always exciting to collaborate with the Goldens, and although we’re doing a lot, we enjoy taking part in the grape harvest madness that has taken over the region. In some ways, the success of our farm depends on the success of the agriculture around us.
In terms of our own harvest, we have been doing a lot of it. Since September, we have been supplying the five NCO Head Start centers in Ukiah with weekly CSA produce shares. Some of the summer’s bounty have been melons, sweet corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, sweet peppers, chard, and more. Periodically, we have supplemented the Live Power CSA produce shares with our vegetables as well.
Since mid-August, we have been supplying produce to the bar and restaurant, Bar Agricole. This week, we are sending some lamb their way. It required us driving down to Occidental and back on a Sunday night to drop off the lamb for processing, but that is what we have to do as there is no place for us to do that in Mendo…
Speaking of lamb, our sheep still reside at 3WG in Potter Valley. They have been very happy there thus far, and we’re still putting in time and labor to rehabilitate a couple of the fields there. Growing hay and pasture is still somewhat new for us, so we are going to try growing a specific mix in one field and see how it compares with the other fields. There is still some tractor work to be done so that the irrigation water flows across the fields correctly. Many of the ewes are bagging up (their udders are becoming full of milk) meaning we will have more lambs soon. If you are interested in buying our lamb for your freezer, let us know. We may have some available right now.
Also, we are in the home stretch of the meat chicken CSA. This Saturday, October 23, we will have the 5th batch of chicken shares available for pick-up at the Ukiah Farmers Market. We also plan to have extras for market sale as well.
Earlier this week, we also got together with Doug from the Mendocino Grain Project to get some of our grain cleaned. Some grain we will be reseeding and some wheat will go toward the grain CSA.
This week, we have also been harvesting and curing the winter squash for the Winter CSA. So far, we’ve harvested a couple varieties of acorn, lots of spaghetti, and delicata. The butternut, kabocha, and other plantings are still maturing.
You may not have heard, but we finally got a 4-wheel tractor in August. Fall planting has been happening much faster with the large disk and shovels for bed-shaping!
With it being autumn now, we are following the weather forecast closely; we must plan for the first substantial rain. While we are doing all this harvesting, fall is when we plant our hay/pasture and grain. This year, we will be growing barley at the south Ukiah property.
Perhaps when the days are super short and we’re inside more, we will have more blog posts for you 🙂