Oct 292010

Up, down, hither, thither, and yon and we still can’t catch our tail… breath either for that matter!

Things are still rolling here as we’re trying to catch up after our marathon hay derrick building and loose hay experiment. The greens are growing and ready for harvest. White turnips and beets should be coming on by next week!


Sweet pepper end-of-season frost sale!!! Our pepper plants were heavily laden with a bumper crop and when I saw the forecast of freezing weather I decided to take action! Just ahead of the freeze I picked all the peppers that were fair to large sized and they are now available at sale price. These will be the last peppers available for our 2010 season and the green ones typically store at least one month. The mature colored peppers usually keep a week or so less. Most of the colored peppers are purple and a few yellow. End of season sale price on this bumper crop is $2.00 per lb. for green peppers and $3.00 per lb. for colored.

Now is the time to stock up and dehydrate peppers to store and use in soups, stews and casseroles throughout the winter!

Also available:

· Bok Choi

· Arugula

· Tatsoi

· Buttercrunch lettuce (limited quantities)

· Radishes

· Garlic (2nds which didn’t clean up very pretty, but have a great flavor)


For pricing go to our website at: http://www.mitchellfamilyfarm.us/this_week.htm

Our fall greens have been beautiful this year once they started coming on and producing! They did jump the gun a little though as I’d anticipated them being ready for harvest about the first of November. We’d planted some of the other root crops such as radishes and beets accordingly so they’d be ready for the CSA. However, because the greens were ready so much earlier I decided to finish out our last two CSA weeks without the fall-grown root crops. This past Saturday was our last CSA day for our 2010 season.

A few of the beautiful sweet peppers that went in our last CSA shares.


Looking forward to 2011…

We have been running short on eggs all year as our customer’s demand has been much higher than our hen’s production! Even at 100% lay rate I’m not sure if they’d be able to keep up! Since we’ve been so short Mom ordered chicks and they came in a few weeks ago as cute little fuzz balls. They’re doing great and already starting to grow in some of their real feathers. These pictures are from newly arrived to just three weeks old!

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There was quite a dry spell through part of September and October. Using the opportunity I started putting preservative on all our wood equipment. From the manure spreaders to mower tongue and plow handles to the very challenging task of doing the hay derrick! That derrick is a little tricky! We also applied some special preservative to Granddad and G-Jeans log house to keep the logs from deteriorating. We also painted the loose hay loader to prevent it from rusting too much over the winter.


Our tractor grain drill has started pitting a little with rust and a couple corners in the seed box had rusted out where the previous owners had allowed some seed to set in the box and get wet. Using some trusty JB weld we patched the holes and put red oxide primer (almost looks like rust itself!) and then a coat of paint. Not John Deere green I know, but it’ll keep the seed bin from rusting out.

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While it was dry the tilled soil areas and the mulched okra patch still had some moisture and I decided to work all the ground I could and plant it to cover crops which help hold the soil over the winter. I’d take on about a half acre at a time and disc, spring tooth then drag and plant it trying to keep the soil from drying out into hard clumps before I could get them broke up and planted!


Most of the soil I planted had been in bare fallow (keeping ground cultivated in order to kill every green weed that comes up) for about two months trying to kill out some of the bind weed and Johnson grass. The repeated cultivation and exposure to the sun is very hard on the soil and depletes nutrients and organic matter quickly, so I wanted these cover crops to cover the soil before winter came in. Some ground is planted strictly to oats while others have some peas mixed in. Another one of the main sections has rye grass and short white clover varieties planted which I hope will be able to be grazed some by Mom’s milk cows as well as pigs and possibly also mowed. I know most pastures don’t have much Johnson grass or bind weed coming up when the livestock start eating it! I hope the repeated grazing and mowing will weaken these two major garden weeds so in successive years they won’t be such a problem to deal with in the garden.


October 9th Dad helped me finish up our last cover crop planting by working on a nearly two acre section part of a day and planting it to annual rye grass and clover while I worked on other things. Afterwards he helped me plow up and disc a small section where the okra patch and sweet potatoes had been. All our hay mulch and a few stray sweet potato vines certainly didn’t make it very fun plowing and it was very difficult to disc as well. I never did get the ground smoothed out, but we tried drilling oats and winter peas in it anyway. The following night we got a little rain and then even more the following evening. Our second rain apparently covered only a small area as I was away on an errand picking up some feed when it came through and only received a few sprinkles where I was, but everyone on the farm said it really poured for a little bit. All total we got 1-1/2” which was a huge blessing.

Just a couple days later the oats started popping! It’s always fun to see all those little seeds die in one respect and give birth to a green, vibrant, living plant! I was a little concerned when the peas and rye grass didn’t come up soon after the oats, but thankfully about a week later, especially after a 7/10” rain on the 18th you could start seeing them poking little green shoots up.

clip_image011 Much of the garlic is also up and growing now too!

I finally set priority on cleaning out the draft horses barn the 13th. Their barn has been needing cleaned out all summer, but I’ve just kept adding more and more carbonaceous material to help absorb the nitrogen and their bedding had really built up! We also received a light frost that morning, but it warmed up in a hurry once the sun came out and it was a beautiful fall day…there’s been a lot of those beautiful fall days this year! Even more than I recall being on average.

Mom found something unusual on her way out to gather eggs one day…


…this is some bee comb built on a weed in the middle of our pasture. All we can figure is a late swarm of bees alighted here for a while and set up a temporary home until they could find a suitable housing location. Unfortunately since they swarmed so late they probably won’t have time to store up enough honey to survive the winter wherever they chose to live.

The following day (the 14th) was very difficult. I had to pull out a couple rows of red raspberries that really haven’t been producing enough to be worth the space they were taking up… It was still really hard for me to purposefully pull them up and kill them though! We have two rows left which we’re leaving for now, but they may come out in a year or two. We had to pack CSA shares the next day, but afterwards I was able to use the tractor to plow up where the raspberries had been. With Dad’s help we then moved the sows in with our boar so we can have spring piggies!

This year G-Jean and Jena had fun with my birthday cake. While not quite as unusual as some she has made, I saw the light bulb come on when the idea hit Jena one evening a month or so prior to my birthday. In everyone’s life there is one birthday that you are half as old as your parents…it’s the number of years old your parents were when you were born. So if your Dad was 22 and your Mom was 21 you would be half your Mom’s age when you’re 21 and she’s 42 and your Dad would be 44 when you’re 22. Just so happens that Mom and Dad are the same age and this year I was half their age at 23. Using this idea Jena made the cake a path to represent life and showed that I’m half way to catching up with Mom and Dad.


As a birthday present Jena gave me a hoof trimming lesson. I suppose I also bought myself a present as Dad went down with me to pick up some horse drawn equipment. All of it needs some work before I can use it, but once fixed up it should help on some of the manual labor. Little adjustable 32-36” grain drills can be used to sow between the garden isles and a 6’ drill will be used in the larger areas of the cover crops. We have a drill for the tractor now that works, but it’s almost too big for some areas in our size of market garden. Two corn planters one of which is for parts and two cultivators completed the day’s haul. It made for one full truck and trailer load! It was stacked a little too.

I drove along the back roads as we hauled our treasures home and just was heading off in the general direction of home meandering on this road then turning back up that one. At one point I crossed a gravel cross roads and noticed the road was a little narrower than it had been on the opposite side of the cross roads. It was beautiful country though and the sun was setting in brilliant hues. What a gorgeous fall day it had been! As we continued on we noticed the road kept narrowing down, grass started appearing between the now one car width road. This was a very pretty scenic route and we hadn’t seen any dead end signs, but after going down a hill and turning the corner at the bottom it really made us wonder what kind of road we were on! Deciding we’d be ahead to turn around while we still could I got out and tramped around to make sure there weren’t any obstructions behind the trailer. Thankfully there wasn’t much of a ditch as it really looked like we were going down a gravel road in a pasture by this time! We finally got turned around and had a good chuckle together as we back tracked to the cross roads and turned back home. After that little excursion the remainder of our trip home was uneventful.

Surprise sunning herself in the pasture with one of the hay stacks and the derrick in the background.


October 22nd we had most of the skirting pulled off of Granddad and G-Jean’s house. That was also our last CSA packing day! Dad had Friday off so he and Granddad started putting insulation beneath the trailer house while G-Jean and I packed the CSA shares. Granddad wanted to build an “box” of insulation around the section of the trailer house where all the water pipes were so they’d not freeze quite so easily. It was a big day, but as soon as we’d finished packing CSA shares I hoped down below with Dad and with three of us working together we finished installing the insulation and putting the skirting back on!

While I was distributing our last shares of the season the following day Dad was at an auction hoping to buy an Allis pull-type combine so we’d have a way to harvest oats if we were to raise our own feed. Unfortunately someone else wanted it worse than we did, but he did make a haul by picking up a sickle bar grinder (no “regular” farmer uses a sickle bar mower any longer) irrigation pumps, pipe and fittings, a clevis, hand tool handles and a small chain with a particular link we’d been wanting to repair one of the cultivators. As in any auction they had to throw in some more miscellaneous stuff that no one really wanted. The two pumps don’t run, but one is a antique Homelite so should be easy to fix if it’s anything like other old equipment we’ve worked on. Never know till you tear into it though so if you know of a Homelite collector we’d be willing to sell it.


Last but not least Dad also got a cultipacker and a 6 row cultivator! While not in wonderful condition the cultipacker is in usable condition. I’m not sure if the Kubota can even pick up the 6 row cultivator, but Dad bought it just for parts to repair the horse drawn cultivators anyway. He bought the entire cultivator cheaper than they were selling the individual sets of ten cultivation sweeps and it even had rolling guards with it as well!


Anyway, Dad called and said that he was definitely going to need the truck and trailer rather than his white subie which he’d drove up in so as to save on gas money if he didn’t get anything. We were glad there was a tractor and loader to load the truck and trailer, but it certainly made for another truck and trailer load of equipment! One thing we did discover was it’s nice to have our own mini on-farm crane now.

We’ve discussed it before, but I’m now convinced that our “hay” derrick can be used for many other purposes rather than just hay. Did you know if you hook up a chain to that six row cultivator and run it through that clevis in the derrick’s block and tackle that our Kubota can then pick it up without any trouble? It was great! With a little finagling we were able to lift the cultivator off of the cultipacker, roll it out of the way and then pick up the cultipacker and set it off of the trailer too!

It would’ve been handy to have used the cultipacker earlier when I was working ground to plant the cover crops. We’re unsure how much of the cultipacker is homemade and how much is manufactured, but there’s two sections of spring tooth between the front and back cultipacker. I believe however much was original used to be horse drawn though as the cast iron end pieces say McCormick Deering on them. If we don’t use the spring tooth part of the cultipacker I believe either the horses or tractor could pull it, but when using the spring tooth we’ll either need to use the tractor or have a couple more horses to hook on.


I’ve now started repairing/replacing our south boundary fence again. We’d started on that project last winter, but never got it completed. We need to rip out some wires and replace them while others need stretched tight and there’s even a few that are good to go! There is always those all-too-friendly hedge trees that are needing trimmed a little so you can get back to the fence as well.

That leads to another experiment we hope to try…planting hedge fences! We’ve read about them for a long time, but with the bountiful hedge apple crop this year we’re collecting them and hope to plant a few fences next spring. They claim that within three years nothing can penetrate the fence and it’s bull tight! The thing we’re a little leery of is the maintenance, but we’ll see. If this experiment works it’ll be a lot cheaper than buying enough wire to do the same amount of fencing and should last at least as long, and probably much longer than a regular barbwire fence.

It’s been a privilege to have several of Jena’s international student friends come over for lunch a couple Sundays. We haven’t been able to get everyone in one picture yet. They ask us questions and we return with rapid fire questions as well. I believe a fun time is had by all learning about one another’s culture differences.


YeoJin holding one of Mom’s new chicks. They’ve had fun seeing some of the farm animals as well.


And the farm photographer having difficulty getting her subject matter to cooperate with her! It’s hard to get seven humans and a cat to all pose correctly at the same time!


Mom has really been enjoying having the international students out as well since they’ve started calling her “Mom” and my Dad, “Dad!” I didn’t realize Jena and I had so many siblings!!! That’s ok, as they all join in the fun, teasing and games.

Grabbing a few hours out of a day I had to cut our first small load of wood to keep the house warm at night. I also took the opportunity of a beautiful sunny fall day to paint the brooder addition’s roof which has needed done for around four years now! Finally got around to doing it!

Signing off until I make time to write down the next wave of farm news!

Farmer Josh and the Mitchell crew


(620) 330-1966

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