A note from Jo –

This is the first of what I intend to be a weekly newsletter in which you’ll find out what’s you will or might see in your share each week, what’s coming up, projects and other general new about the farm. Being the first issue, it’s probably a bit longer than subsequent newsletter. I’m also going to set up a photo gallery for the farm over on Photobucket.com. I want to include pictures to let y’all see what’s going on, but I figured keeping images out of the newsletter will help those of us who are still on a dialup either as the primary internet connection, or as with me, a back up connection. I’ll do my best to keep the images in the photo gallery as small in file size as well. Even with a higher speed connection, ain’t to sense in taking up more bandwidth than one needs.

As you all know, the 2010 Spring/Summer season began on the 20th of March, the first day of spring. Unfortunately the harvest hadn’t started yet and I was expecting a delay in harvest of lettuces and other greens of 2-3 weeks from the begining of the season. Unfortunately the cool weather looks like it’ll delay the start of that harvest for another week or so, till the third or fourth week of April. I’ve been keeping the row covers on the low tunnels, where the lettuces and greens are, in order to keep the temps up on the cool days, and opening them up on the warm days. The plants are growing apace, but this unseasonably cool weather also slows them down. As always, it’s a balancing act.

Untill full harvest begins, your shares will be prorated according to what and how much is available, as well as wheather and how many eggs you’ve each elected to receive.

Thanks for hanging in there, without all of you the farm wouldn’t be viable.

Joanne Rigutto ~ The Little Homestead Farm

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In this issue –

So, What’s Available This Week?

Weekly planting and seedling report

Weekly Livestock Report

Projected Activity For Next Week

Upcoming Projects and Events

 

~ So, what’s available this week? ~

Eggs, green garlic, fresh rosemary, fresh bay laurel, fresh sage.

Your total share will be $3.00 plus eggs if you’ve elected to receive them.

 

~ Weekly Planting and Seedling Report ~

I planted more lettuces and greens in the low tunnels. I think I’m up to 850 plugs in the ground so far. These are leaf lettuces, endives, romains, head lettuces, and a few greens mixes, both European and Asian. I have yet to plant the kholrabis, spinaches, mustards and kale, they’re still sitting in their trays waiting for the ground to dry out enough that I won’t be planting them in mud. However, Wednesday is supposed to have less rain (oh please ground dry out), and Thursday is supposed to be relatively dry, so I’m shootin’ for more seedlings to make it into the ground then.

The ground has been prepped for potato planting, and I have approximately 70 lbs. of seed potatoes waiting in bags in storage. Hopefully in the next week or two it’ll warm up enough to get them in the ground without too much risk of them rotting. Potatoes waiting to be planted are Yukon Gold, Norland Red, Red fingerling (undesignated variety), Blue (undesignated variety). Having eaten both the Red Fingerling and the Blue last year, I can attest to the fact that they are both delicious, especially when used in a potato salad, or just boiled and served with butter and/or sour cream.

When I harvested the last of the sunchokes (Jerusalem artichoke) a couple months ago, I figured I’d have a few to plant for this season. A few is an understatement! So far I have 40′ of rows planted with enough left over for another 40′. This level of production is up over last year’s 12′-15′ of row. I think there will be plenty for everyone in the fall. (If you have signed up only for the Spring/Summer season, you have first right of refusal for the Fall/Winter season and may continue on untill you decide to end your subscription, or I run out of things you like).

The peas are all up! I have quite a lot of peas planted, and will be planting more for a succession harvest of both snow peas and pea greens. In fact there may be some pea greens for everyone to try out in the next few weeks. The variety of peas I have planted are Dwarf Grey Sugar and Mammoth Melting Sugar. The Mammoth has huge pods, easily 2″-3″ long, are tender, sweet and more or less stringless. The Dwarf are wonderful also, but tend to toughness if not harvested pretty small. Both varieties have excellent leaves which are edible and taste pretty much like the pods. They are tender enough to use as a salad green, or can be wilted or used in stir fry dishes as you would any other tender green.

Onions are all up, I planted both yellow and red bulb onion sets. I planted 5 lbs. of each type, which ammounts to between 600 and 800 sets. Onion harvest will probably start early summer with young onions. I may plant some Walla Walla Sweet green onion sets in the next week or so, depending on the weather and availability. I’ll also be planting more yellow and red onion bulb sets for large green onions, which should be ready for harvest in a few months.

In the greenhouse, I have 15 trays of peppers started, and another 35 trays of tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers and melons started. The varieties pretty much cover all of the varieties listed in the Subscriber Survey. More vegetables, and herbs will be started as soon as the new greenhouse is up in a couple of weeks. I’m also planning on growing some corn starts for everyone to try. Corn starts can be grown from sweet corn or pop corn seed and are harvested as young plants for tender salad greens and can be used in cooking. The seed I’ll be starting for corn sprouts will be Strawberry Pop Corn which is said to produce very tasty shoots.

Some of what’s up in the greenouse – Mizuna, Carbon tomato, Currant tomatoes (both red and yellow), Reisentraube tomato, Henderson’s Pink Ponderosa tomato, Purple Russian tomato, Stupice, Cherokee Purple tomato, Black Krim tomato, Carbon tomato, San Marzano tomato (roma paste type), Early Jalapeno pepper, Romanesco (head vegetable like a cross between cauliflower and broccoli in flavor), Purple Sprouting Broccoli. More will be coming up in the following week. Look for an update in the next newsletter.

The cherry tree is just at the begining of bloom as are the Gravenstein and Fuji cross apple trees. The Asian pear tree has begun to bloom. I’m watching them all closely as well as the weather. If the weather doesn’t put the kibosh on things, we should have a fairly good harvest. Last year was the Gravenstein’s off year, so if things go well, that tree should be loaded. The Fuji and Asian pear usually do pretty well as far as production.

~ Weekly Livestock Report ~

Chickens to the left of me, chickens to the right!

The laying hens (aka landsharks) continue on their uptick in production due to the longer days. We’ve lost a couple to predation (rats), which means the rat production levels are on the uptick as well. Out here we use a carefully managed poisoning regimen for rat control, and we’ll be increasing the bait stations over the next couple of weeks to drop the population density of rats down to a dull roar (you never eliminate rats, they’re just too proliffic). I used to use cats to control the rats, but being right on the highway makes that an unworkable strategy, hence the poison.

The new batches of layers are doing well and growing like weeds. We currently have 45 or so in the brooder shed, where they start being weaned off the heat lamps, and are introduced to the great outdoors and current flock of layers in a protected environment. The new chicks are in the back porch brooder, there are 45 of those as well, which brings us up to 90 new layers, some of which will replace our spent hens when they slow down in egg production. If anyone is interested, I may have some of the spent layers available for sale in the fall/winter. They are best used for ground chicken, or for making stock. They are not suitable for roasting/broiling/pan frying. The new birds should start laying in August and new birds will continue to come on line through September. During those months I’ll have ‘pullet eggs’ available for $2.50/dozen. Pullet eggs are considerably smaller than fully mature hens’ eggs. They are wonderful if you like to pickle eggs and are every bit as rich as the regular egg you get, they’re just smaller.

The broiler chicks are growing like crazy, even though I have them on restricted feed and am feeding them a 16% ration. They will be finished on pasture (in chicken tractors) for their last month. I plan on slaughtering these birds at 3 months of age, primarily because I’d like them to develop a bit more flavor and bone than they would have at 1 1/2 months, and also, it’s going to be a little while before they’ll be able to move to the tractors due to the weather. As many of you may know, I’m doing a promotion with this particular batch of birds. CSA share subscribers who are interested will receive one bird for free to try out. The birds should be plenty tender and juicy and have more flavor than what you can find at the store. If you like the chicken, you can order more, and they’ll be $8 each and must be purchased live. I will also be offering custom growing, if a person wants to order birds fed organic grains/pellets (of course the pasture won’t be organic).

Diva kidded Wednesday afternoon (3-31-2010) and delivered a beautiful kid, a little doeling (girl). Dusty’s due any time now. Dusty (Nubian 50% X Boer 50%) and Diva (Nubian 25% X Boer 75%) were bred by Snow, my Boer buck last year. I was hoping for 2 kids from each, but more realistically the odds are for 1 from each as this is their first preganancy. With Diva delivering only one kid I won’t be surprised if Dusty only has one as well. Dusty is due the first week or so of April. The kids will be for sale at 3 months of age. Custom growing will be available after weaning, although buyers are more than welcome to take delivery at weaning, either for immediate slaughter, to grow out, or just to have a goat for a pet, brush control, etc.. If you’d be interested in a whole or half goat please let me know ahead of time because they won’t last long.

The rabbits were bred on the 1st of April, I know, April Fool’s Day. Really I’m not trying to jinx myself or her. She didn’t care for her first litter, but I’ve had rabbits that were like that and then took fine care of the bunnies every litter there after. Bunnies will be available for purchase 2 weeks after kindling (horses foal, cows calve, rabbits kindle, go figure….). The bunnies will be sold live and will be available for people to take home when they are a month or so old. If you want to buy bunnies to butcher and want me to custom grow them for you, either pen reared or patured I can do that as well. The bunnies will be $10 each and should be ready for slaughter June or July, depending on how large you want them. If you’d like to buy one or more to take home they will be weaned (if everything goes right) the first of June.

I’ll be raising lambs this year, and if you’d like me to raise a lamb for you please contact me in the next two weeks. I’ll get a price for you. If you purchase a lamb, you can have it slaughtered on farm by the mobile slaughter out of Colton, or I can trasport your lamb to the inspected slaughter house in Canby (livestock that will be transported there will be trailer trained to reduce stress in transport).

Veal calves – we will be raising 2 or 3 this year and will be getting the first one as soon as I know that the goats have enough milk for their kid(s) and another mouth. The veal calves will probably be supplemented with powdered milk replacer as well untill they’re old enough to eat pellets from a creep feeder and hay/pasture. Calves do that pretty young anyway, but they really need plenty of milk untill a certain age and I don’t want to get saddled with a calf until I know we can feed it propertly without spending hundreds of dollars on powdered milk. If you are interested in a veal calf (whole, half, quarter) please let me know ASAP so I know who wants what and how much. Calves sold on the hoof can be slaughtered here at the farm, eliminating hauling them to the slaughterhouse in Canby. A much gentler end. I will be having one slaughtered at the slaughter house, and I’ll be trailer training that calf to make the trip to Canby as low stress as possible, but I don’t want to do that with all of them. I plan on using Wimsatt Mobile Slaughtering, out of Colton for on farm slaughter of calves and goats. We’ve used him before and he’s one of the best.

*Special note – If you’d like to purchase half or whole (lamb, goat or calf) or quarter (calves only), I’ll need to know within the next 3 weeks whether you’d like them slaughtered on farm or at Canby (I trust both implicitly and will have both slaughtering for me this year). The reason for this is that the animals will need to be slaughtered in the fall and given the demand for their services at that time of year, it’s always best to book a slaughter time as far in advance as possible in order to ensure that you will not have to purchase extra feed to maintain the animals while you wait to have them slaughtered. Both the slaughter house and the mobile slaughter offer cut/wrap services (if you don’t want to do your own).

 

Projected Activity For Next Week

Next week I’ll be starting construction on the new greenhouse. This will be the first of two new 18′ X 30′ greenhouses I’ll be building this year. This first greenhouse will be used primarilly for aquaponics (the integrating of hydroponics and aquaculture), as well as over flow for the original greenhouse, aka ‘the cube’. The cube is 10′ X 12′ and holds 45-47 plug trays (50 cells to the tray), for a total capacity, as it’s set up right now, of 2,250 – 2,350 seedlings per production run.

This new greenhouse will double the seedling production capacity in addition to adding space that I can dedicate to raising fish for everyone and will make it possible to grow some warm weather crops through the winter. Some of the crops I plan on growing through the winter this year are cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and herbs like basil, stevia, cilantro, etc. If you have a suggestion for vegetables, herbs and greens you’d like to see during the winter, please let me know. Now’s the time to start planning for that time of the year. I’ll also be growing various cool weather greens and other vegetables in the low tunnels outdoors, so it’s not just summer/fall produce that’ll be around this winter.

Also, given the fact that this will be an aquaponics operation, I need to decide what type of fish I’ll be raising for everyone. The two types I’m looking at are tilapia and crappie. Tilapia are a 1-1.5 lb. fish with firm, mildly flavored white meat. Crappie are similar, but about half the size or a bit smaller. I’m leaning more toward the tilapia as they have very good feed conversion (almost 1:1), and are herbivorous fish, meaning that they eat the algae from the sides and bottom of the tanks, as well as being able to eat the trimmings from things like greens. They need warm water to do well, but I think I know how to keep the cost of that down to a reasonable level.

If you have any ideas or fish preferences please feel free to let me know. Other possibilities are trout, bass, catfish, and maybe perch, depending on what kind of regs I need to comply with from Oregon Department of Fish and Game, Oregon Department of Agriculture, etc..

In addition, weather willing, there will be more planting and if the soil dries out, I’ll be able to get those poor, beleaguered ‘taters in the ground.

 

Upcoming Projects and Events

Sunday is pick up day for CSA share subscribers in Portland and the immediate area. I’ll be at dad’s from 11:00am – 2:00pm. There will also be a work party going on for the people in the area who are helping to garden this city lot. Last week planted lettuces, kholrabi, and other goodies, and, unless it’s pouring down rain, this Sunday we’ll be planting peas and anything else I can find that’ll work in this weather/time of year. We may also be tilling the ground, if I ever get the rototiller back from the shop….

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