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.


  3 Responses to “Highs and Lows”

  1. Question…I saw your pvc set up for the row covers/cold frame in the photo and wondered how exactly they were put together, how the pvc pipes were anchored, and how you kept the plastic down? Close up pictures around where they are connected would be great! You can respond via email. Thanks!


    • Short lengths of 3/8″ – 5/8″ rebar (12 – 18 inches long) are driven into the ground on either side of the bed where you want a hoop. 3/4″ PVC should work, we had 1″ available from another project so that is what we used. Our beds are 4′ wide and we used 10′ lengths of PVC pipe. The PVC pipe is slipped over the rebar on one side of the bed and bent over then slipped over the opposite rebar.

      A rebar stake is pounded into the ground at either end of the bed. A reused length of baling twine is tied to the end stake then tied to the center top of each mini hoop and finally to the end stake to stablize the whole structure. Small rope would work as well.

      A trench is dug along one side of the bed. We used greenhouse plastic that is no longer useful for the greenhouse because it has crazed or torn to cover the mini hoops. One edge of the plastic is laid in the trench then covered with the dirt that was removed from the trench. The opposite side is held down with anything we can find… boards, rocks, tires… you get the picture! 🙂 The trenched-in side is “permanent” the other side is not so permanent so we can take the plastic off the hoops to take advantage of sunny, warm days and to water the bed when needed.

      Please ask more questions if this is not a thorough enough explanation.

  2. I’m really enjoying all the lovely floral shots! Spring is so colorful and beautiful.

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