Mar 232009
 

A rumblin’ grumblin’ greetings to you!

It has been pretty warm on average all week with a damp cool wind being the coldest thing just a few days… Friday night we did end up getting a thunderstorm come through and it gave us some needed rain. We are wondering if the rain gauge is leaking a little as most folks around seem to have gotten 1″ of rain, but our gauge read about 4/10″. However much rain it was, the ground soaked it all up and didn’t need any more. Thunderstorms are predicted again for tonight and tomorrow. 

Rain and warm weather are bringing on the blooms! Recognize this beautiful yellow bloom? More blossoms at the end of this update.3-21-2009-23

Dad had to be gone all last week, leaving early Monday morning and not returning until Friday night, to takes a class for his job… our entire family missed him immensely while he was gone!!!!!

We had to start mowing again for the fist time this year!

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Most of Monday morning was taken up working inside on paperwork…I’d much rather be out playing in the garden soil! I did set the older broccoli and cabbage plants outside to harden in along with the onion seedlings. Granddad worked on cleaning up the limbs and other debris in our front yard related to the bee tree that we had to cut down last spring. G-Jean started cutting seed potatoes so we could plant as soon as I got the potato planter ready. We scolded G-Jean when she forgot what she was supposed to be cutting and sliced her finger too! Thankfully Jena is a good nurse though and got her patched back up.

Cabbage, broccoli and onion plants.

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Jena was trimming horses for a client just down the road, and since she had the car, I drove the Honda over so Jena would have transportation back home while I took it to look at horses down in Edna. Several friends and acquaintances have passed along leads on possible teams for sale lately and I’ve been following up on them. Some contacts were dead ends, others led me on a goose chase down through other contacts to someone who finally had a team for sale while one actually led straight to a team of horses that is for sale. I still haven’t made up my mind on some of the horses I’ve looked at, but the ones in Edna didn’t pan out after looking at them.

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When I came home and got chores done after looking at the horses I started gathering up some iron from the scrap iron pile so I could fix up the corn planter that I’m modifying into a potato planter. I ran out of day before I got very far putting it together though.

Tuesday was a little of a mixed up day as I watered hoop houses, helped Mom move the chicken palace, helped get a friend of ours started planting some fruit trees he’d ordered, worked just a little on the potato planter and test drove it (just to see if I could cover the potatoes with the walking plow.) By next year I hope to have “wings” mounted on the potato planter that will pull the displaced soil back over the potatoes after we drop them making one pass do it all.

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Granddad continued working on cleaning up the yard and declared that for every bucket of limbs and debris he hauled out, yet more would sprout up and grow while he was hauling a load off! He did finally get it cleaned up after several more trips than he’d originally anticipated! G-Jean also cut more seed potatoes, this time without cutting her finger.

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Wednesday I fooled with the potato planter about all day which was a little aggravating as I’d hoped to get it done in just a short amount of time. The way things turned out I finally quit working on it in the evening but didn’t get a chance to test drive it until the next day.

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G-Jean was able to finish up the potato cutting by Thursday morning which was good as I wanted to test drive the potato planter! At first Jena and I took rocks out and dropped them down the potato “chute” and seeing how they came out. The planter’s design was such that it worked well just so the person dropping the seed did their job spacing out the potatoes they dropped! Dad had an idea for the spacing mechanism before he left which I used… Taking spray paint I marked every foot around one of the big potato planter wheels. Once you got the hang of dropping a potato every time one of those stripes came around the wheel it wasn’t too bad.

Jena and I also tested out the transplanter to see if it would work for planting the patch of new potatoes and it worked out great!

 The triplet goat kids have started going out to graze with mamma!

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Despite me wanting to start planting early it was about 1:00 by the time we actually started planting the potatoes. Jena’s friend, Leah, came by just in time so I swiped her to help us plant! I had the speed controls though so it was fun! Hooking up to the transplanter I could raise and lower their “thrones” with the three point and go faster or slower as I pleased… If I started going too fast there would commence a lot of squalling behind me and when I was unable to put up with the din any longer I’d slow down. For some reason Jena and Leah complained they couldn’t lay the seed potatoes in the transplanter’s “fingers” which dropped each potato in place when the pace picked up… What’s their problem? I just wanted to get the job done!

Potato planting!

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Every once in a while there would be a potato missing or misplaced and it was sometimes hard to tell which set of fingers missed…mechanical or human. The transplanter and extra hands worked out so well that I didn’t complain any! Although it did pack the soil more than I’d like, we were able to plant three of the four rows in the bed of new potatoes with the Kubota and transplanter. Our wheel spacing was the limiting factor on getting that fourth row of potatoes in with the mechanical help so I just hand dropped the seed potatoes for the last row.

I was in big trouble when Leah left though because Jena got on Kubota and I had to ride the potato planter!!! My! Talk about revenge! There was no way I could keep dropping potatoes down the tube fast enough and get them spaced correctly because I was hanging on for dear life trying not to get bounced out of the seat and keeping as many potatoes on board, in the crate, as possible until I had time to drop another potato between bounces! No, just kidding… Jena was nice and sped up or slowed down upon request.

The weeds have started growing along with the grass so G-Jean has sure been hoeing a lot around the garden!

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When all three hundred pounds of seed potatoes were dropped Jena helped me cover up the ones planted with the potato planter using our walking plow/Kubota combo. I wasn’t able to get all the new potatoes covered with leaves by dark though, so I quit and did chores.

The majority of Friday was spent covering up the new potatoes. It sure was nice not to load and unload the leaves on the trailer by hand! The Kubota’s front loader definitely could load the leaves faster than I could unload them with the silage fork at the potato patch!

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When Dad came home that evening from his week away at school I almost had the leaf covering done, but he came out and helped me finish up! He also helped me work up a little of the garden ground that had a lot of grass coming back as well.

Friday night it rained, but by morning a small section of garden where I plan to grow carrots and radishes was dry enough to plant so G-Jean and Dad helped me get that job knocked off the list. We made the furrows and planted the carrots then sparsely seeded radishes down through the row. Most of the radishes will be up, grown and pulled by the time the carrots are ready to sprout and start growing! I also helped G-Jean plant some onion sets and she finished those and planted turnips while Dad and I headed up to Fort Scott to look at another team of horses.

 

Dick and Buck

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Enjoy spring as it’s rolling in!

Farmer Josh and the Mitchell family crew

www.mitchellfamilyfarm.us

Bloom report: Everything has started exploding into bloom!

Remember the yellow bloom at the beginning of the update? Another view…

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Check out a bit of whimsical dandelion poetry here:  http://burtcraigfarms.wordpress.com/2008/12/30/feeling-whimsical/

A couple of the plum trees in the young orchard bloomed this year!

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Grecian Wind Flowers

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Red Firespray Tulips

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Grape Hyacinths

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The red bud trees have been beautiful

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Rock Cress

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Periwinkle

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More Tulips

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Bluettes (wild flower)

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Creeping Phlox

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Shepherd’s Purse (wild flower)

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Mar 182009
 

 Hello!

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.

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 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!

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  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!

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 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.

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 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!

 

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

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 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!

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 Completed project!

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 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…

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  …saying “hello” to Abigail and Anyque…

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 …gathering eggs!

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…and on top of the world!

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 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.

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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.

 

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 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.

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 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:  http://thomas.loc.gov/ and type in the bill of interest. A good article to read is posted at the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund website:  http://www.ftcldf.org/news/news-02mar2009.htm  Also check out the Action Alert located here:  http://www.ftcldf.org/aa/aa-14mar2009.htm

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 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:  http://farmandranchfreedom.org/content/federal-updateshttp://www.nonais.org/  and http://www.ftcldf.org/nais.html

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

 www.mitchellfamilyfarm.us

Cell:620-330-1966

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

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Bloom report:

Many color variations of daffodils are still blooming

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Glory-of-the-Snow

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