Sep 062010

Ahhh…a breath of fresh fall air!

Though a few cool fronts have moved through and some rain has fallen, the heat and drying winds have kept us in drought conditions for most of August. Our 50 degree temperature variables can seem rather overwhelming at times…literally from 101 degrees on Tuesday, August 31st and by Saturday morning, September 4th it hit a low of 46! It’s probably just my imagination, but it seems like this has been one of our overall hottest summers we’ve had. Last winter seemed to be prolonged and a little more harsh, this spring’s rains and cool weather lasted pretty well but when it decided to get hot it has pretty well stayed hot! I figure from last winter to the present we have survived a 118 degree temperature variance! Our winter low was -8 and the hottest we saw Granddad’s temperature chart hit was 110.


Ok enough weather for now, although I’m very thankful for the 1-1/10” of rain we received within the last couple days. Now on to the okie dokie wonderful okra! The okra has finally kicked into gear now and we have a good supply ready for you to enjoy some wonderful eating! Raw, dehydrated, fried, boiled, gumboed, however you enjoy your okra we have some delicious, tender pods ready for you to enjoy right now! Basil is also ready for harvest along with a limited amount of red potatoes as well. These are the last red potatoes of our 2010 red potato crop so if you’d like some naturally raised potatoes now is the time to buy them while the limited supply lasts! Prices are as follows:

· Okra $2.50 per lb., $2.25 for 10-19 lbs. or $2.00 per lb. for 20 or more pounds!

· Basil $1.50 per oz., $7.00 for ½ lb. or $12.00 per lb.

· Red Potatoes $1.25 per lb.

All produce is available first come first served. Please call or e-mail to place your preorder so we can reserve the produce for you!

While we did have some produce available to put in the CSA shares the past couple of weeks our garden’s diversity was limited and CSA members were getting a little tired of smaller than average shares and the same produce being in the shares each week. We took a vote and the majority of CSA members voted that they’d prefer finishing out the last two weeks of our twenty week CSA season with hoop house greens. Upon receiving our CSA member votes Granddad and G-Jean hopped to cleaning out the hoop houses again and now have them ready to plant. G-jean has planted some seed indoors so we can transplant them into the hoop houses as soon as the young plants have grown enough. A few other crops have been direct sown into the big hoop house.


August 12th I started plowing some, but wow was the ground hard! It looked like someone had come along making mud basketballs and allowed them to dry in some parts of the garden. To give you a small appreciation of how dry and hard our ground was we test dug a few sweet potatoes using my heavy duty, Mitchell Family Farm modified and reinforced potato fork. Broke three of the four tines after digging about six hills! Even using the disk and drag after plowing couldn’t break up all the clods. Thankfully we did receive some rain (and a short term cool front) the 14th which softened the clods enough to break up much better. Despite working on it several days I wasn’t able to complete the plowing that was needing done until August 23rd. It was getting really dry again despite another rain we’d had the 17th. Several 100+ degree days were spent plowing and I was very glad that most of those days had a good breeze to help keep everyone cooler even though our humidity was high. One thing about plowing in the heat…it doesn’t take long for weeds to wilt, shrivel and dehydrate after cutting off their root system!


You might remember Jena and I going up to Americus Kansas August 5, 2009 (Granddad and G-Jean’s anniversary) to participate in Ben and Alice Railey’s wedding… Well, we had the privilege of having Ben, Alice AND the newest addition to their family, Nathaniel, come visit us a few weeks ago! It was sure good to see them again and catch up a little! During their multi-day visit Dad and I were still in the middle of constructing our hay derrick and Ben was a huge help by using his welding training and he welded most of the necessary brackets for the derrick.

One part of the derrick project Ben helped us with was shrinking a band that went around the center pole of the derrick.


Family and friends photo! Look at Nathaniel’s smile!


August 28th was a day filled with anticipation and excitement. In preparation for the day Granddad cut some hay for us to try out the newly completed Derrick! It was later in the afternoon before Dad and I were able to complete the finishing touches. After all the sweat, work, trials and challenges it was the moment we’d been waiting for. Miki had come to visit again and the entire Mitchell clan, except for Jena who had to work, was eagerly waiting for the first load of hay to be pulled up.

Dad and I got everything rounded up and greased the field hay loader. Once we had loaded a fair amount onto the trailer we decided to go back to the house and see how this new derrick contraption worked. I set the grapple forks, Dad had a rope to swing the load over into place, Granddad was driving the white subie to pull up the load while Mom and Miki were poised with cameras. Up went the first load. Dad swung it into place (almost with one hand) and I pulled the trip rope. Whoosh! Went the first pile of hay falling to the ground. It worked!!!

Starting to load our first trailer load of hay.


We’re still learning how to operate the derrick and make the hay stacks the most efficiently. Currently we’ve started to get a little larger loads with each grab although we still can’t grab 1,000 lbs. as they say you should be able to once you’ve developed the correct techniques. Our first stack was a little too small for convenient stacking and the second stack we’re working on is a little too wide making it difficult to dump hay on the outside edge of the stack. I also found out I’m not in haying shape yet! Whew it’ll work your muscles, especially when you’re still learning how all this is supposed to work!

Any volunteers? We’d love to have some help putting up the hay! This is about three and a half months past the prime hay cutting so the sooner we can get this hay put up the better. I’m quite sure we could rustle up an extra pitch fork if you’d like to come out and pitch some hay with us! Just call to see when we’ll be putting up the next load of hay. It is a lot of fun seeing how this new-to-us and yet very old method of haying works.


Once our initial test was finished we discovered that we needed to mount a roller over 2×6” board braces on the base to prevent the rope from rubbing on them. Mounting the roller was one project I was able to do the following Monday and it should save our rope from abrading and wearing out as quickly.

Ropes, chains, come-a-long, ratchet straps, anchors and counter weights all in place and ready for lifting the main pole!


It would be fun for me to write a full length article on how we built the hay derrick (it was definitely challenging) using many things we already had on hand around the farm and other items we scavenged up from other peoples’ “scrap” piles. However, time won’t allow me to do that at this time since we have a lot more hay to get put up and stacked. If you would like to see more photos on how the hay derrick was built you can go to our Facebook page at:


I owe a big thanks to Julie who has come out and volunteered a few evenings just to help out. Here she and G-Jean are taking the sprouts off of the last of our potatoes. Yes, naturally grown and stored potatoes actually sprout! Those things you buy in the store have typically been treated with a chemical to prevent and/or retard their sprouting ability


Hope you’re enjoying the breaths of fresh fall air as it whisks by!

Farmer Josh and the Mitchell crew

(620) 330-1966

Most of Mom’s surprise lilies refused to come up until they received a good soaking rain to soften the soil and then they popped up within just a couple days!


A beautiful sky picture our farm photographer was able to capture!