Oct 062010

Bone chilling air! So 35 degrees might not be bone chilling, but since it dropped from 95 degrees with high humidity and scarcely a breeze just three weeks ago it certainly seems cold! We’re very thankful for the cooler fall weather moving in!

Our first frost came a little more than a week early on October 3rd, but it was very patchy. That is about a week and a half earlier than average! October 4th it dropped on down a little colder and there was more frost blanketing the ground but, thankfully, there wasn’t too much frost damage over all.

For a current list of produce we have available go to our website at: http://www.mitchellfamilyfarm.us/this_week.htm

Available now for the first time this fall is arugula! It will only be available this coming Saturday, October 9th as the CSA will probably use most of it for the following three weeks.


Relatively there are only a handful of #1 sweet potatoes left for purchase, but there are quite a few 2nds available at a $0.50 per lb. discount. The seconds will store just as well and taste the same as the #1’s but have their own unique quirks like bending odd directions, having “veins” or have dark colored skin.

CSA Note. We will most likely have one of our last CSA pick ups within the next week or two! We will send an e-mail out to all CSA members when we have a set date!

clip_image004 Goldenrod, a wildflower, blooms in the fall and is gorgeous, but some folks are allergic to its pollen!

This fall has been one and maybe the most challenging seasons to get hoop house produce to grow! First off our spinach refused to germinate even though it was fresh seed this spring. We never did figure out what was wrong. Realizing it was probably too hot for the cool-loving spinach seed to germinate when the first planting failed to germinate we replanted and tried finding a cooler location for it. Even placing some planted spinach in a refrigerator that wasn’t cooling properly so it was just cool, not cold, they still refused to germinate. I prefer not direct seeding, but we tried it with no success and right on its heels we planted another batch in plug trays. To no avail though. For all our efforts we may have gotten a half dozen plants…

Next problem was I didn’t raise our grasshopper control squad this year. Since we didn’t raise turkeys this year they weren’t out patrolling the garden for their tasty hopper treats! I had tried using the grasshopper spore this spring, but couldn’t tell as it helped much this season. It only took a few grasshoppers jumping in the hoop houses to annihilate quite a few plants. Thankfully we had several more plants coming on so we could just plop a new plant in where the hoppers had nipped one off. After a few early morning grasshopper hunting expeditions (when the hoppers are moving the slowest) I was able to get the plant mortality rates back down to a manageable level! They seemed to have a special affinity to lettuce thus there may not be any lettuce ready for harvest during our last two CSA pick ups.

While some crops have been a disappointment this fall our tatsoi, bok choi and arugula are taking off while the kale is really hitting a regrowth spurt! The lettuce that’s coming on is doing well and it won’t be long before it should be growing by leaps and bounds! Thankfully grasshoppers generally start dying off once cooler weather moves in so their populations should be declining very quickly now.

clip_image006 Toadstools poking up!

For those interested in raising their own plants I have used both plug trays and soil blocks (pressed soil blocks made with a block maker) and have found them both to have their pros and cons. Early on before we raised a market garden and just gardened for our family we used egg cartons, Styrofoam cups, egg shells all with varied results. Planting in flats also worked although the plants general needed to be bare rooted. G-Jean says most of great grandpa Broadaway’s plants were bare rooted though. For a home gardener I’d suggest using whatever you can find at a reasonable cost – or free. If on the other hand you’re going in for raising a larger garden I’d lean towards the soil blocks or bare rooting pretty heavy unless you consistently are unable to transplant in a timely manner. Plants in soil blocks and bare root beds have a tendency to grow together if they are not transplanted on time.

Pictured below is the mini blocker, but there are several sizes of block makers available. You can see several at http://www.johnnyseeds.com/

Type “soil blocker” into the search bar and you should get several results.


I have experimented with a few different soils and have found that Elliot Coleman’s soil blocking recipe works great for soil blocks, but needs to be looser if planting in plug trays. This year we used plug trays quite a bit because I had some commercial plug tray mix given to me and I didn’t want to let it go to waste. After researching and finding that there were no chemical fertilizers or fungicides in the mix, and the only reason I could find that it wasn’t listed as “organic” was because the wetting agent was not able to be certified. I decided since there was only a small portion of the wetting agent in the mix and the plants would only have a minute amount of that soil compared to the remainder of their root system it would be ok to use. However, I will not be purchasing any of that plug mix in the future.

As mentioned above we knew summer wasn’t quite done roasting us when the weather came back from a cool front moving through to 95 degree weather and high humidity. That was about the time we were hitting haying season the hardest too, so we all felt like we were going to melt down in a puddle! Once a breeze returned it helped evaporate the sweat and made things much more comfortable!

clip_image010 Hauling in a trailer load of loose hay.

Finally, September 29th (late at night) we could celebrate the end of putting up hay when G-Jean hauled the last grapple full of hay up with the Kubota and derrick, I pulled it into place and Dad pulled the trip rope! What a relief it was to have all the hay cut, raked, picked up and stacked!!! With the Lord’s help we were able to put up around 40 acres of loose hay for our first experimental season. There is still much for us to learn, but we’ve certainly found out a thing or two along the way this year…that included me learning to be very careful not to side load the trailer.

One of our last trailer loads of hay Granddad was driving Kubota while I was on the trailer back behind stacking hay as the loose hay loader conveyed it up to me. We were getting along very well and nearly had a full load of hay. After a brief stop we started back up only for me to whistle to Granddad that we needed to stop again! About half the load of hay slid right off one side of the trailer while I was on top. Thankfully I could run fast enough to stay on top of the remaining load, but it took a little bit of work (Dad came home about that time and helped us) to reload the section of hay which had slid off back on our second trailer with pitchforks and the Kubota’s loader bucket. What entertainment we have around here!

In the picture below I’m lifting the overhead electric fence wire with a pitchfork so the hay trailer can go beneath.


After our last load of hay was put up we cleaned our loose hay loader (we’re now extremely thankful the Lord provided one for us) the following day and painted it with red oxide primer so it wouldn’t rust. It was also necessary to “comb” the piles of hay so they would repel water better. As you comb the hay down it forms somewhat of a thatch roof effect which helps repel rain. We’re still learning how to build and comb the stacks properly to minimize water damage, but thankfully our first haystacks survived the 50-70 mph gusting winds and rain that blew through one night. I personally didn’t go out to the wind gauge in the garden to see, but do know the wind was howling in that thunderstorm!

clip_image014 Ready for another load of hay. The “stack” on the left is actually a trailer load of hay being moved into place.

Since the garden was calling loudly from neglect, October 1st I decided we had to plant garlic, do it or bust. It was about two weeks later than I prefer planting garlic, but it should be ok anyway. With G-Jean’s help we were able to plant all the garlic that day!

October 2nd G-Jean and I worked on doing some perennial garden clean up while Dad and Jena went on a morning excursion. G-Jean and I have both been very disappointed in the Heritage red raspberries and have now decided we would be better off pulling them up and planting something else in their place. I also worked on ripping out some blackberries which had never really produced while G-Jean was weeding.

clip_image016 An evening shot of some beautiful strawberries G-Jean has been keeping cultivated for next year’s crop!

Dad and I also fixed up a new pasture pen for Mom’s cows so they could help us eat down some bermuda grass which had grown over some equipment and other things we needed to get picked up. They certainly enjoyed eating the bindweed from amongst the bermuda! Most livestock seem to enjoy bindweed and many times if left on for long periods of time they’ll eradicate that noxious weed. G-Jean and I also made the observation that where we keep things mowed short between the garden isles there really isn’t any bindweed or Johnson grass while right next door in the cultivated land it’s coming up thick!

clip_image018 Surprise has been growing fast on good healthy Jersey cow milk! Some days she’s getting more than her fair share!

Here of late it seems our family has been going twenty different directions especially when we had haying underway, Dad working full time, Mom and Jena carrying full loads of college plus Jena working the equivalent of a full time job (she got a football scholarship so has to work for that plus another part time job) plus Granddad working nearly a full time job too! Seems like we always have someone going or coming in the family! Oh, you might be wondering about Jena’s football scholarship too… She is mainly doing office work, not playing, but it is fun to see some folks expressions when you say she’s going to college on a football scholarship!

Most of you probably already know, but Jena has joined the Air Force and is on delayed entry right now. She had an interesting adventure when our entire family went to the Wichita air show so we could see her get sworn in by the lead Thunderbird pilot. You can barely see Jena in the front row, just to the right of the Thunderbird pilot who is standing with his back to the camera.


Caye going along for the ride!


In the above picture Jena had hitched up Bell and Blaze to the forecart and we were waiting for them to see that the monster coming down the road really was good to eat! Lord willing by the next time we’re haying I can have the horses in good enough mental and physical shape they can help rather than snicker across the fence at the orange ponies doing all their work.

I’d better hop back to it!

Farmer Josh and the Mitchell crew


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Yet another beautiful picture of a Kansas sunset, but pictures can never do it justice…you have to see it in person.