Aug 092010

Fooling the gardener seems to be the tomato’s game today! I’d anticipated last week to be the end of our tomato’s peek harvest and they’d decline from there, but not so. Granddad and I harvested tomatoes today and got approximately double what I’ve been getting the last few weeks! We have tomatoes for sale now!

Most of these tomatoes are heirloom varieties, home grown and vine ripened which means they’re packed with flavor! There are a lot of red tomatoes, quite a few pinks (usually a little lower acidity) and a few roma paste type tomatoes. Several other color varieties such as the Great White, Mountain Gold, Green Zebra (some of our customer’s favorite!) Garden Peach (they really are tomatoes) and Aunt Ruby’s German Green are all available for purchase as well!


Throughout the years we’ve preserved tomatoes by canning, juicing and freezing. Dehydrating works great too and when rehydrated they make a wonderful thick paste, sauce or ketchup and store more compactly than any other preservation method. All the methods work well and your preservation method mainly will depend on personal preference.

Regardless if you’re needing a pound to eat fresh or fifty pounds to preserve we have tomatoes for you!

· Salad and slicing tomatoes of all kinds and colors!

o #1’s $2.00 per lb.

o 2nds $1.50 per lb.

o Canners $1.00 per lb.

When ordering 20+ lbs. deduct $0.25 per lb. from the prices listed. If you have a color or grade preference please specify.


· Cured potatoes (like what you’d usually buy from the store only ours are a lot fresher and raised naturally!)

o Red – $1.25 per lb.

o Yukon Gold – $1.50 per lb.

There may also be some okra available for purchase this week. Okra is $2.50 per lb.

Here Mom is removing a batch of dehydrated okra from dehydrator racks.


Tomato grades are as follow:

#1’s are nearly perfect with little or no defects although minor blemishing is possible.

2nds are good solid tomatoes with small blemishes and/or sealed cracks, but there is very little waste.

Canners may be a little rough or have larger cracks. Canners usually need used right away and while there may be slight bruising no rot is permitted.


I’d planned on already having the corn patch cleaned up now, but haven’t gotten that done yet. So, if you would like to purchase a shock of our 10-12’ tall on average corn for fall decorations let me know right away before I cut the patch down!

o Corn shocks – $4.00 each

While our family enjoyed it unfortunately over all the heirloom sweet corn was a disappointment for CSA members as it was tougher and not quite as sweet as hybrid varieties. These huge stalks will still make great fall decorations though so I now have a lesson learned and continue on.


We are now starting week 17 of our 20 week CSA season! It is hard to believe that our CSA season will probably be wrapping up so early this year! In past years we’ve always had to take a week or two off here or there in order to allow the crops to catch up, but not so this year. The Lord has blessed us with the ability to continue the CSA season straight through so far!

Drought has been an issue here of late. Thankfully the Lord sent an inch and a tenth of rain last Thursday morning (August 5th) but it had well nigh been a month since our last rain of any sizeable amount. Besides the duration without rain the temperatures reaching the mid to upper 90’s and then for the last week or so bumping up to the 100 to 106 degree range really dried things out in a hurry! I scrambled to finish fixing up the irrigation system and have now been watering two to three times per week with the drip tape irrigation system.

What a blessing the last rain was! The clouds, breeze and cooler weather for a few days were all so very welcome! Overnight what a transformation in the grass, trees and garden crops. They all turned a vibrant green again from the drab drought stricken color they’d be for a while. We’re still praying for more rain though as the ground soaked up the inch and still has cracks showing.

An interesting critter these walking sticks are! I found this guy along a tree line. They aren’t good bug since they forage on plants, but they are quite interesting to look at!


It seems like we’ve been harvesting berries for much longer than usual this year. G-Jean pointed out why that might be the other day when she said we’d started harvesting strawberries in mid May and we will finish harvesting the last of our blackberries this week! While the berries weren’t always part of the share (we didn’t have enough to divide among all the shares a few weeks) we have now harvested some type of berry (strawberry, raspberry or blackberry) three times per week for 13 weeks! Boy have they ever been delicious too!

While the berries have been a wonderful blessing they have also taken some valuable time away from weeding. Despite the lack of weeding the Lord blessed the spaghetti and butternut squash harvest! We also had the best summer squash harvest we’ve ever had, but they squash bugs have now won the battle and we don’t have a living squash vine on the place as far as I know.



This is the first year our young orchard has ever produced anything and this season we’ve harvested a few apricots, three peaches and will soon harvest a handful of Stanley Blue prune plums. My they have tasted good and I’m looking forward to the day when there’s enough to share with others too!

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There were enough Concord grapes this year to put a few in the CSA’s trade basket.


Dad and my Saturdays and evenings have been taken up working on a hay derek we’re constructing. Once built it will help us unload a trailer load of loose hay in about six or seven “grabs.” This contraption is a little difficult to explain so look forward to some more info once it’s completed! It seems like we’ve taken a step forward and three steps back lately on this project, but we’re praying that the Lord will help us complete it soon as we’re running about three months late on haying this year.

A crane would be very handy in the construction of this derrick which will stand about 30’ tall at the tip top, but since we don’t have one we’re trying to make do with the little Kubota, a tree, lots of rope, ratchet straps, chain, cable come-a-longs, a couple of hay conveyors and extra time! Here’s a few pictures of the construction process.

Peeling bark from some logs


Making the base



We had the privilege of having some friends from Alabama stop by overnight this past week. No one is safe staying here though as the next day we put them to work harvesting tomatoes, blackberries, okra, basil and helping us pack the CSA shares! David and Jamie seem to be elusive around the camera though so the best we could get was a picture of them overlooking the hay derrick construction process.


One of Jena’s foreign exchange student friends from Japan needed Jena to pick her up at the airport last week and they wouldn’t let her move into the dorms quite yet, so Miki has been staying at our house the last few days. We’ve all had fun I think, but once again it’s not safe to stay on the farm without being put to work! Miki has been making some rounds with Jena and helped Mom move the chicken palace along with other projects such as juicing some tomatoes along with many other projects. Here she is putting fresh nesting material in the nest boxes.


I’d better get back to work!

Farmer Josh and the Mitchell crew

(620) 330-1966

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Sep 242009

Wow! Things are really spinning around here! It’s been so long since the last update there has been a tremendous amount of things take place. I haven’t done very well keeping track of everything with notes, but that may be a good thing as this update would otherwise be a full length novel! As it is, I’m posting it in several "chapters."

Our recent CSA shares have been filled with gorgeous colors. Several crops are producing well right now as the weather has cooled off and we’ve had some rain.

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We now have garlic available for purchase! There were a few varieties that did not produce enough to sell this year, but there were several others that did! Here are the varieties available: Polish White, Kazakhstan, Purple Glazer, Lorz Italian and a limited amount of Music. Garlic is $10.00 per pound.

Basil has a very time-sensitive harvest time period and it’s at the prime now! However you enjoy preserving basil, whether freezing pesto, dehydrating or using some other preservation techniques it’s time to take advantage of this window of opportunity! I’ve discounted the one pound and over price until September 29th or until we are sold out. Basil is: $2.50 for 4 oz., $4.50 for 8 oz. or $6.00 for 1 lb. or more.

Jalapeno peppers are: $2.00 per lb.

Fresh, tender okra is now available. If you enjoy dehydrating, pickling or freezing okra we have plenty at this time! $2.25 per lb., $2.00 per lb. for 5-9 lbs., $1.75 per lb. for 10-19 lbs. or $1.50 per lb. for over 20 lbs.

With a few partially sunny days the arugula has been growing well and there is some available now! $1.00 per 4 oz. or $3.50 per lb.

Please place your preorder by noon the day before you plan to pick up your produce so we can have your order ready for you. Regular pick up times are Saturday 9-11 am. and Tuesday 5-7 pm. but we are happy to work with your schedule if you are unable to come within the regular pick up times. All produce is available on a first come first served basis.

A couple things to keep in mind. If you are interested in purchasing pastured pork before we have it available, John Crisp’s apprentice, Alice has some hogs that will be ready by mid to late October. These hogs have been running on pasture and supplemented with a custom ground grain ration. They’ve had no antibiotics or growth hormones. John said that their first batch of hogs have already received many complements from well pleased customers saying it’s the best pork they’ve ever tasted!

To reserve your whole or half hog Alice needs a $100 deposit. Rail weights should run 160-175 and it’s $3.00 per lb. rail weight. Depending on the amount of cured meat you request, processing will be approximately $125 for a whole hog. If you have further questions send an e-mail to John Crisp of Shepherd’s Valley at

Also, pre orders for Black Angus beef are coming up before you know it! Beef pre orders are due by November 15th and the balance will be due in April/May before picking up your beef. There is more information on our website.

Jena was mowing hay on Monday, June 29th (shortly after I’d sent the last farm update) and heard a little bit of an "extra" noise rattling and banging down in the transmission of the Ford tractor. She mowed a little longer and decided to shift down in order to mow in a little tighter corner of the field we were haying in… The Ford wouldn’t shift out of fourth gear! Uh oh! All we could do was shut the tractor down and unhook the mower. Thankfully we could shift the Hi/Low into neutral which allowed the tractor to free wheel. That evening Dad and Jena pulled the Ford back up to the house with the Kubota and then pushed it into the garage with the Kubota’s loader bucket.

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We started taking the tractor apart and soon found that one of the bearings had flown to pieces down in the bottom of the transmission. Of course it couldn’t have been one of the easier-to-get-to bearings! Oh well…the Mitchell family needs a little adventure now and again I guess.

Our first evening of taking the tractor apart we didn’t get very far as we needed the house jack to prop up part of the tractor and couldn’t find it… We knew that at one time we’d used the jack under our house, but didn’t think it was there any longer. I finally got desperate enough to go check and see if we were remembering wrong. After hunting all around under the new part of the house I couldn’t find it anywhere and decided to peak in the old part just incase. Looking under the old part of the house through the crawl space hole that’s between the two houses I smelled a little propane. Crawling back out I got some soapy water in a squirt bottle and clambered back under. Sure enough, one of the fittings that’s between the two houses was leaking.

It was an interesting proposition getting to the leaking fitting with only a small crack between the two houses. There wasn’t even much room for the wrenches. Dad finally took a fitting apart outside so I could pull the line back to the crawl space hole where I could take the leaky fitting off and tape the threads. Taping the threads did the trick and stopped the leak.

Guess where I ended up finding the house jack that started the whole ordeal? In the big hoop house where I left it! Oh well, glad we found the gas leak before it caused a problem.

Each evening throughout the next week was spent taking the Ford apart. Thankfully Dad had a three-day weekend for the 4th of July so we could work on it a little more. I was trying to keep the garden afloat at the same time, so couldn’t always help Dad, but did as much as I could while Jena helped some too. We had to stretch the tractor out and take it apart in three big main pieces. The front section was part clutch and mostly engine, its middle section was the other part of the clutch assembly and the transmission while the back part contained the hydraulic system and rear wheels.

All the covers, fuel tank, steering column etc. had to come off before we could split the tractor apart and we had to construct stands to help support the large cast iron frame. Dad did most of the prep work getting the stands ready while I was in the garden.

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Believe it or not the steering wheel was one of the trickiest parts to get off. It had somehow gotten stuck on and it took a lot of time to pry it off. The final solution was a lot of PB Blaster (similar to WD-40) a wheel puller that didn’t want to stay on, some wiggling and lots of praying that this crazy thing would give up and come off!

There was plenty of grease, dirt and especially a black powder from the clutch, coating everything until we got down to the sealed transmission which was full of transmission oil that needed drained.

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After the main pieces of the tractor were split apart, came the real fun…taking the transmission apart down to where the problem bearing was. We literally had the transmission in as many pieces as it could be in by the time we got down to where we needed to. There were also a couple of gears that had been chipped up from the bearing’s pieces flying around so we had to order new ones.

I about got shaky legged when I called the tractor dealerships and they said the counter shaft gear was $1060 and the reverse idler gear was going to be $500! Thankfully, even though it took a lot of time, many phone calls and Dad looking a lot of things up on the internet we found the same gears for $370 and $60 respectively. Whew! The clutch was also worn and since everything was torn apart any way we decided to replace it too.

A tractor’s fuel injectors are supposed to be rebuilt every so often as well and since it had been twenty years since they’d been rebuilt (way overdue) we boxed them up and mailed them off to be rebuilt.

By the time we had all the parts we needed it was just under three weeks since the tractor broke down. One of the hold ups was the tractor dealer in Bartlesville and I had a misunderstanding about which bearing I needed and we had to make two trips down (an hour drive) before we could start. It was a special order bearing as well (you aren’t supposed to break transmission bearings ya know!) so each bearing (the wrong and correct one) took a couple days each to come in.

At reassembly time the process of getting all the shaft splines lined up and fit back together was a real challenge and took quite a bit of time. It’s a high precision job to get everything lined back up JUST RIGHT so the shafts can slide together.

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Whew! We were very thankful to have the Ford back together. Now, the next problem is that currently we can’t get the engine started! It was running pretty well before all the transmission problems, but now we have to tinker with it for quite awhile before we finally get it started. It will run pretty good for 5-15 seconds and then lugs down hard and dies kaput! After going back and forth with a friend at church that works at a tractor dealership he thinks it could be something like a broken piston ring or scored bore… Without actually looking at the tractor it’s hard for him to troubleshoot it though.

Dad just recently made time to take up the challenge and has taken the head off the tractor, which means all the covers, fuel tank, steering wheel radiator etc. had to be taken apart as well. At this time Dad hasn’t been able to see any problems in the bores or pistons, but he can’t turn them either… We’ll need to take the pistons etc apart and see what we find…

To be continued in Chapter Two!

Farmer Josh