Mar 182009


Does anyone have the fan control? Keep it on “low” for a while please! Whoever has that thermostat control could you please stop turning the knob back and forth!!! If you can’t keep it above freezing, please hold the temperature in the twenties. However, if you can keep it above freezing let spring come on as everything is turning green after the recent rains!

A week ago last Monday we started noticing the radishes and turnips we planted in the hoop houses are coming up! Rhubarb is showing its head as well and we are even seeing a few asparagus shoots! We’d hoped the asparagus would wait to come up until the CSA started, but we’ve just had too much warm weather for it to do that.

Quite a bit of the day I spent tearing apart the transplanter and finding what needed repaired before I can use it. Later that evening Sam Nisly, a carpenter we asked to build the addition onto the garage, drove up with the lumber for that project so it would be here and ready for him.


 We have planned on making that addition for quite a few years, but never have gotten around to it and had used some of the tin we had purchased for that project to cover our front porch so we could have a little more storage room for the house. With the lumber here and Sam wanting to get started the next afternoon (it rained, preventing him from carrying out our well laid plans) Dad, Jena and I scrambled around and got the tin unscrewed and pulled off the porch taking all the styrofoam insulation out along with the 2×4 stringers we’d screwed the tin down with. It was dark by the time we got done, but we made it!

That night we had heavy wind and a downpour of rain! By morning there was hardly a puddle to be found although the creek had risen some. I also noticed that some of the oats planted in the pea rows were popping up!


  Mom had checked the weather forecast and told me it was basically supposed to just get windier and colder all day. Deciding if it was going to stay cool and cloudy I’d prefer getting the mini hoop plastic over the hoops before the wind got any stronger…it was already coming across the country at a good clip!

The morning kept me hopping between projects; from getting the trailer ready for Granddad so he could haul gravel for the garage addition’s floor to helping G-Jena get set up for planting onion sets, chores, unloading Granddad’s first and second loads of gravel and believe I watered the hoop houses as well. I may have watered that afternoon…can’t remember for sure… We did cheat on unloading the gravel though. I think the picture is self explanatory!


 Our weather basically followed the weatherman’s prediction and hit a high of 60 by 10:00 am. and then started falling and didn’t quit until it found a low of 24 that night! During the day we had a few small cold showers of rain and the wind did increase on average. By that evening it was getting rather chilly!

Since the temperature was getting so cold I decided I’d better drain the hoses, cut what little asparagus was poking through the ground as it was just going to freeze off and mulch the rhubarb that was showing itself as well! Oh yes, had to check out the hoop house heaters and take the 100 lb. propane bottle down to the little hoop house and hook it up along with checking out and setting up a squirrel cage fan that someone had given to us to move air in the big hoop house.

I’d hauled the fan up from our recycle pile after dark the night before since it was supposed to rain. The fan actually worked without me needing to repair it! Transferring the big hoop house’s fan out I hooked the squirrel cage fan up and took the other fan down to the little hoop house.

Jena and Leah playing with horses.


 Wednesday I set up some more lights on the plant shelves as the back green house is full and I didn’t have room for the cabbage and broccoli that needed to be transplanted into larger blocks! I started making soil blocks after getting the plant shelves set up. Since I ran out of the large soil blocking mix, I had to mix up some more. Dad came home shortly after that so I grabbed him for a little bit and got his suggestions on getting the transplanter in working order.

Early Thursday morning I made some more soil blocks and then Sam Nisly was able to come over with his son Nathan to work on the garage addition. Our family was very favorably impressed with the speed they made things happen! Jena helped G-Jean switch out trays of transplant blocks while I helped Sam and Nathan. I was very thankful for Jena’s help!

Progressive pictures of the addition throughout the day!


3-12-2009-7 3-12-2009-14 3-12-2009-413-12-2009-47

 Our family also really enjoyed Sam and Nathan’s cheerful smiles and attitude!!!


 After lunch I got G-Jean started transplanting blocks of lettuce, spinach and radicchio from the back greenhouse to both the hoop houses. When G-Jean was done transplanting she hoed in the big hoop house. Funny, even though the temperatures were kind of cold outside, G-Jean seemed to really like working in the hoop houses! The little bit of sunshine making its way through the clouds sure warmed up the hoop houses!

Sam and Nathan pretty well had everything under control so after getting G-Jean started on the transplanting I worked on putting the transplanter back together. I think it’s nearly ready for a test run!

About dark Dad and I hauled the new drag closer to the garage work area to fix it up. One of the main level adjustment pieces needed straightening. My goodness those bolts were rusted solid! With a little work Dad and I were able to get it back to operational although not in prime condition. (There are still a few warps and bends, some make-do pieces and a quite a little rust.)

Sam returned the next day to put the finishing touches on the lean-to. I helped a little trying to keep him supplied in materials etc. It turned out that we’d had a miscommunication and Sam wasn’t prepared to build doors on the end of the building. He had quite a shock when I said something about building the doors that day! Since building the doors wasn’t on his agenda he hadn’t brought any hinges so I rustled around a bit and found just the right number of hinges in a stash of “extra” hinges Dad had picked up a while ago. We were also running close on lumber so I scrounged around and came up with just about the correct amount of lumber in our recycle pile! The Lord just kept helping us find what we needed to make the doors come together and Sam was very generous in taking the extra time to make them…we are extremely grateful to him!


 Completed project!


 Shortly after the addition was finished we started having company roll in. A family from church came out and fed the bottle lambs and took a tour of the farm. Leah’s family drove up too with some friends. Leah had come earlier so she and Jena could get Storm (Leah’s horse) ready to ride. They even put Leah’s new saddle on so all the kids could ride “western”!

Feeding lambs…


  …saying “hello” to Abigail and Anyque…


 …gathering eggs!


…and on top of the world!


 That evening I tried out the drag to see how it would work. The oats I had disked up a few weeks ago hadn’t decomposed enough for it to work properly. The drag would gather up a big wad of oat “trash” and then either dump it in a pile or start pushing a growing mound of soil. I had hoped it would break up some of the soft, crumbly clods that the rain had softened. Oh well, it was worth a try.

Dad had to work a half day at the cement plant Saturday morning, but we were all very thankful that he could come home about 1:00. Granddad was rolling up wire and after lunch Dad and Mom went out to burn off some more of the big pasture. After Granddad was done rolling up wire he helped Mom and Dad burn and they got about half the main section of the big pasture burned by evening.


The section of pasture we burned off near the end of January has been coming back beautiful and green with the gorgeous warm days and recent rains. You can see the contrasting brown of the unburned pasture in the foreground and on the left.



 Jena and Leah went to trim for one of her Natural Hoof Care clients and didn’t get back until late afternoon. G-Jean worked in the garden and hoop houses most of the day. I, on the other hand, played a little with all the different land levelers and clod crushing pieces of equipment I could think of to find something that would crush the dirt clods and handle all the extra oat “trash”. I didn’t find the perfect piece of equipment, but a combination of a couple pieces of equipment may end up working. Dad found plans for making a “mumbler” (clod crusher) made out of boards and if I get time I plan to try making one.


 Planting a cover crop of peas and oats in one section of the garden was also on the agenda and I was able to get that done.


As many of you are aware the government seems to keep getting larger and larger managing to make more and more rules and regulations that may be well intentioned but could end up squashing small farms. There are now several bills in congress (H.R. 875, H.R. 759, S.425 and H.R. 814) that will make it nearly impossible for small farms to register and keep up with all the necessary licenses, record keeping etc. The cost for the mandatory registration will put most small farms under. In my opinion it’s safer to have many smaller sustainable farms that are customer inspected (on small direct-market farms the customers are the end consumers!) rather than the large mega factory farms that have a government inspector swing by every once in a while… Just look at all the medical problems related to mega factory farms and processing facilities recently!

Another view is if there are many small diversified farms there will be a much more stable food base than a few large farms supplying huge percentages of the food supply. One small 160 acre farm going under for one reason or another won’t make nearly as large a ripple in the food supply as a 10,000 acre farm! For more information on the bills in congress look at: and type in the bill of interest. A good article to read is posted at the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund website:  Also check out the Action Alert located here:


 Of similar concern for small farmers is the NAIS (National Animal Identification System) which will require farmers to implant micro chips in all kinds of livestock including chickens and other small animals! For more information on the NAIS look at:  and

If  you are concerned about maintaining a base of diversified small farms across this country, read up on these issues and write your congressmen to let them know how you feel.

Enjoy the spring weather!

Farmer Josh and the Mitchell family crew


 Jena calling the sheep in for breakfast and counting lambs. We now have 33 lambs and a set of triplet goat kids!




Bloom report:

Many color variations of daffodils are still blooming




Mar 092009

3-7-2009-26  A chilly spring greetings!

My this weather is something else! It was so pretty up in the 60’s and 70’s for several days about a week ago last Wednesday and then wham! Here came twenty degree weather! A week ago last Thursday it was a beautiful and sunny 72 degree day although a stiff breeze was blowing. By bedtime it had dropped down to a comfortable 55 degrees but by the following morning it had plummeted to 20! Burrr, Burrr and double burrr! I’m not acclimated to that kind of weather anymore! The temperature had warmed back up to 79 by this past Thursday and then I made it out Sunday morning just in time to feel the wind to start shifting which cooled the air back down. This morning it was in the mid 40’s and by Wednesday night it’s supposed to be back down in the 20’s!

Saturday, I’m not sure if the weather man missed the overnight low or the daytime high, but it was warmer when I got up than the overnight lows were supposed to be and then a little while after it got light the temperature started falling. The morning had started out around 28, but most of the rest of the day it was around 23-24 and only in the late afternoon/evening did the sun start poking out from around the clouds that had flurried snow on us all day. The sunshine raised the temperature a few degrees, but not much before the sun went down for the night. I’m not sure how much snow accumulation we would have gotten, but the ground was too warm for any snow to stick long and it wasn’t snowing fast enough to keep up with the thaw. The snow was pretty coming down though!

It may have been cold but the big hoop house is looking different! More and more green is showing with the transplants growing and then most of our direct seeding has come up now as well!!!

 Last Monday evening Dad came home and decided it was time to burn one of our brush piles. The sun had started to set by that time, but we got everything rounded up and he lit it. Ended up that G-Jean came out too and we had fun back burning around the brush pile. Actually, we ended up burning off part of the pasture instead of just back burning as we wanted something to do while waiting for the brush pile to burn down and we’d wanted to burn off the pasture anyway.

By the time we felt the brush pile was burned down enough to leave it, and we had about all the fun we could stand burning off the pasture, Dad and I decided to put out the fire. The calm breeze had made it an exceptionally good evening to burn. The section Dad and Jena had back burned a few weeks ago is showing strong signs of green poking up now!

We want the pasture burned partially to kill some of the weed seeds and brush along with trying to make favorable growing conditions for the native grasses to come back. It’s amazing how much the native grasses seem to respond when a pasture is burned off!

Tuesday morning Mom and our good friend Marisa Fritzemeier did chores and then cleaned out the racken house. The farm is never going to be safe again! Now everyone including Mom and G-Jean now how to run the Kubota! We may have flower beds pop up all over the place… Jena fell in love at first sight of the Kubota and it’s been an ongoing fight just to have a chance to drive it. Ok, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but Jena really likes it. Anyway, Mom used the Kubota while Marisa ran the wheel borrow.

Marisa helping clean up the compostable materials pile…


I started discing the garden areas for this year with the Ford while Mom was using Kubota. After Mom and Marisa completed the racken house cleaning I tried hooking the Kubota up to great grandpa’s light disc. It was pulling hard and since the Kubota is a hydrostatic drive I’m still learning how to listen to the machine and tell if it’s working too hard. Not being sure enough I decided to just disc with the Ford.

When Dad got home from work we played around with the walking plow a little while pulling it with the Kubota (since we are still lacking a team of horses.) Dad, Jena and I all took turns fooling with the walking plow, but we never quite got it right. Either the plow is defective, needs adjusted, needs someone on the handles that knows more of what they’re doing or it could be all of the above! I’m researching how the plow should be set and tuned to see if there are some changes that will help improve the plow’s performance a little.


After finishing up the discing next day I hooked up the spring tooth harrow to the Kubota. That little machine is going to spoil me! Well, I’ll admit, it already has. It has such a tight turning radius the harrowing job sure was easier than when using the Ford!

The comfrey patch needed to be moved before I could finish discing. It has now been relocated to the east side of the old 100′ garden.



Wednesday night Dad started digging the post holes for the small lean-to addition we plan to build on to the garage. It got dark too quick though and since there is a waterline buried along there he decided to wait until better light was available to finish digging when he started hitting rock.

Thursday was beautiful although the wind was gusting something fierce. Usually you want to work ground at least one month before planting so the plant matter has time to decompose before planting time. I’d hoped to work the ground with horses and hadn’t gotten around to working the soil soon enough for the area where I wanted to plant peas. Since there was a lot of henbit mixed in the soil from the recent discing I had the privilege of doing bed preparation the hard way by raking as much of the henbit out as possible before planting the peas. G-Jean hoed part of the perennial garden while I got the pea bed ready. When everything was set I let G-Jean know and we started a sugar snap pea planting marathon!





Starting out I made a furrow to plant a row of oats then covered the oats up as I made rows on either side of it for the peas. The idea is for the oats to make a mini “trellis” for the short sugar snap peas. I can see how the concept should work, but the last few years it hasn’t worked out as it should have one way or the other… I hope they do better this year.

After planting the equivalent of 800 row feet I got things set up for G-Jean to transplant the broccoli and cabbage for me while I worked on some other things.




When Dad got home we finished digging the post holes for the garage addition. On the majority of holes we busted a little rock out and then decided the cement would bond just fine to the hard rock that’s currently at the bottom of the hole. One hole was an exception though… I busted a rock out and then Dad started cleaning the hole so we could see what the next layer down looked like. There was rock all around, but right in the middle of the hole there was the barn lot water line pretty as you please! We decided that was deep enough and I never did figure out how I managed to not break it. All I can say is the Lord must have cushioned that pipe well!


A good portion of Friday morning was devoted to baking chocolate chip cookies for Dad’s birthday which we celebrated Sunday! I always enjoy having cook’s privilege! At our house that means the cook gets the privilege of tasting as much as they want! If you’re not cooking, the cook determines if you get a taste or not! 🙂


With lunch out of the way I got the trailer ready so Granddad could pick up some gravel for the garage addition’s concrete project. We were also going to pick up some gravel for the floor of the addition, but they were out of that type of rock! After getting Granddad sent off I started working at getting the mini hoop’s cover ready as colder weather was supposed to move in. Digging the trenches wasn’t too bad and when I started patching some of the holes in the plastic it was still pretty warm, but before long clouds rolled in and the temperature kept dropping! It was getting pretty dusky by the time Jena and Dad helped me finish covering the hoops with plastic and there was a stiff, raw, cold wind blowing!


Our mini hoop pak choi is coming up sporadically so I left it instead of replanting just in case there are more plants struggling to make their way to the surface.

Saturday dawned cold so Dad and I decided to find a project that was out of the wind as much as possible. With snow flurries all day it was beautiful to watch, but having a wind break made it look even better! We had hoped to pour the concrete pillars for the garage addition, but decided to work on the square granary and get some more of it straightened up in order to be better prepared for a team when the Lord sends them along. Besides the concrete wouldn’t set properly in sub freezing weather!

Jena deserted us in the morning so she could go down to Yochams and help her friend Leah pick out a saddle! Jena has ordered a custom made saddle, but the tree (main frame of the saddle) hasn’t come in yet…still playing the waiting game on that part…

By afternoon the snow flurries got a little more serious a couple of times, but despite our high of 24 degrees, the snow still couldn’t accumulate before melting. Sigh… Like Dad says, “If it’s gonna be cold you might as well have snow to play in!”

The onion seedlings are coming along well.



With all the wind howling along the plastic covers blew off both mini hoops. Dad fixed one on his own when it blew off in the morning and then I helped him fix the second one in the evening. We were very thankful when the wind calmed over night!

Jena went out to do chores a week ago yesterday morning to find that we had another set of twin lambs! The mamma had deserted one lamb, but to Jena’s surprise the alpha mare (Tally, Dad’s horse) was standing over it. A shepherdess horse? Tally would just stand still as the lamb nuzzled around on her legs and look it over. Jena picked the little guy up and Tally just sniffed him over real good before Jena took him down to be with the other bottle babies. “Paint”, the new lamb is now up and going, off to a good start! He’s the lump of black and white in the foreground of the picture. Paint, along with Able and Cream were enjoying a nap in the sunshine.



Monday was still cold with a morning low of about 14 so I did chores and looked up draft horse breed associations to see if they knew of any teams for sale in the area. Later in the morning I rounded up supplies to prune, mulch and spread compost around the fruit trees. I had four fruit trees left to prune when Dad got home so I quit and helped him do chores. When all our necessary chores were done we got the transit out and shot each hole for the garage addition to see how much we needed to raise our piers. After finding our heights Dad and I cut the pier extensions out of pipe and got them over the holes. It was too dark to level them though…

Tuesday morning I started out trying to catch up on the e-mails…after sending out our update survey we were a little covered up with e-mails trying to get updates sent out to everyone who hadn’t received them. Sorry for some of the short replies. It looks like a significant number of updates haven’t been delivered. We’ll start using this gmail address and see if we get a better delivery rate. Another possibility is posting these updates to a blog at our website. Though it is still a work in progress, you can see the “starter blog” at At this point we haven’t found a way to efficiently set it up with our dial-up connection…we may or may not continue the blog, so we’ll keep you updated…


Our gardening companion, the mockingbird, has made himself more apparent within the last two weeks and last week he started singing to us again! In this picture he’s hiding in Mom’s rosebush arch.

 This weather is simply amazing! A couple weeks ago the title for the update was “Soggy Farm Update” then this past Tuesday I had to water the seedlings coming up in the mini hoops! After getting the mini hoops and big hoop house watered I ate lunch and got things ready to go on another planting spree. G-Jean came over and started planting a few seeds in plug trays as an experiment. We have grown in the plug trays before and weren’t fully satisfied with the results, but at the same time I haven’t been fully satisfied with the blocks either. That’s why we decided to do a side by side comparison of the blocks versus plug trays. 


Our main planting of cabbage and broccoli was planted along with some more lettuce, spinach and radicchio. All told we planted about 1620 blocks and 560 plugs. While G-Jean was finishing up the planting she shooed me outside to finish pruning the last four fruit trees. I’m really running late on getting the trees pruned, but hadn’t prioritized my schedule to get around to it quicker. A few of those trees are sure getting in too big of a hurry and are starting to swell buds. With the last really cold spell I’m hoping it didn’t hurt some of the trees as the young tender bark on a few of them looked like it may have cracked…

 3-3-2009-25Dad came home shortly after I finished pruning so I jumped on the tractor and headed out to feed and water cows. Coming back through the barn lot I got a Kubota’s scoop full of sand and took it over to the garage addition site. Dad had the supplies ready to pour concrete so I set up the transit. After playing around trying to level the pipes we finally decided it would be simpler to just pour the concrete and then level the pipes! It was about 8:00 by the time we finished pouring the concrete and got everything cleaned up.


The next morning I got feed barrels ready for Granddad. We’ve had so much wind I had to chase down a few barrels that had blown to the perimeter of the fields! Granddad and I also had to unload the unused gravel that we had on the 16′ trailer for the concrete pouring project. We hadn’t used nearly as much gravel as we’d thought which was a nice surprise! That means we have some gravel left for the next project! It was late morning by the time Granddad and I got everything ready. When he came back I had a little over three ton of feed to unload.

Thursday I had to water again as the warm temperatures and high winds have been drying the top couple inches of soil out quickly! It’s crazy! By Thursday afternoon the temperatures soared back up to 79 degrees after all our teen to thirty or forty degree weather we’d been having earlier this week!

3-6-2009-2With the warmer weather the bees have sure come out! I had bottled some honey this week and I decided to let the bees clean out the last of the honey before I washed the buckets. They didn’t find the buckets where I’d set them originally, but Mom mentioned that she had seen some working the crocus blooms. I took the buckets over around the crocus and within five seconds there were three bees checking things out! Within an hour we had bees swarming the buckets! By evening they pretty well had all the honey cleaned up for me so I just have to do minimal clean up!

 G-Jean and I also planted radishes and spring turnips. While G-Jean was planting turnips in the big hoop house and hoeing a little I finished getting the small hoop house ready to plant. After completing my task we both worked on planting the radishes.

That evening I was able to start working on the “potato planter” (we’re improvising a horse drawn one row corn planter) so it can hopefully be ready to plant potatoes in a couple weeks. The full blown growing season is about ready to “spring” on us! The rear set of third wheels were froze up on the planter and it took a little time, some wiggling and a few good persuasion tools before Dad and I got them freed up!


Saturday Dad and I got the anchors set for the garage addition posts and then he helped me work on the potato planter again. We have most everything working now, but need to install the chute for the potatoes to slide down and have some other details to work out. Never having seen one of these planters work Dad and I have guessed a little on how pieces “should be” which have been broken, bent or missing. One example is a couple pieces of metal that spin around a piece of the main frame’s bars. I wondered if it could be for a tongue, but Dad wasn’t so sure because they had so much play in them.

When the wheels were greased and the plow polished a little we took the planter out to the field just to see how it would dig. Hooking up to the Kubota we soon discovered it did need a tongue! As Dad pulled it out to the field, G-Jean was following us in the Blue Yam and I was sitting in the “driver’s seat” of the planter. One of the rear wheels is bent some, but still functional, so it looks a little funny as it rolls. As Dad pulled around a corner the planter followed right along. However, as we kept going I started noticing a pattern develop… Dad kept a straight course heading for the south field, but the planter would weave over to one side a little until the chain would pull it back, but the crazy wheels in back would keep going at the angle the tractor had pulled. The further we went the worse the whip lash got. Thankfully Dad was going slow so there wasn’t any danger of me flying off, but we all got tickled at the crazy planter weaving back and forth on its leash. G-Jean got so tickled she couldn’t drive any more and just sat in the Blue yam shaking with mirth watching me ride the zigzagging planter!

Jena had deserted us for the morning so she could go back down to Yochams and pick up Leah’s new saddle with her! Leah and Jena weren’t sure how Storm would like having a saddle on as they have ridden him only bareback or with a bareback pad, but Leah was very proud of how well Storm accepted having it on!


…then they were off to the races! Not literally, but Storm and Leah seemed to be having a lot of fun together!

A big thanks to each one of you who have helped us keep from getting overrun with the delicious, farm fresh, pastured, gold nugget, hen eggs! We do have some more of those wonderful farm fresh, healthy, pastured eggs available now! Call or e-mail to reserve yours for pick up!

You know, there is only one down side I’ve found to having my Mom proofread my updates… she has the last say in what’s put in them (such as “Mom’s note” in the last update) and sometimes she’ll sneak pictures etc. in! That’s ok though as I love her all the same! : )

Have a superb week!

Farmer Josh and the Mitchell family crew

Bloom report: Our cold weather had slowed up the blooming process a little and then the warm weather came again!

White crocus and honey bee!3-5-2009-4



Purple crocus and pink hyacinths


A yellow daffodil in the background with crocus in the foreground.