Sunday, January 10, 2010

Deep Freeze 2010

As you can imagine, farmers all across the country are doing a lot of praying this weekend. This Arctic blast is being felt all the way to southern Texas, across Florida and all along the Gulf Coast. As I type this, it is snowing at Disney World!

Last Monday, before it hit north Texas, me and several of our CSA members got our crops as prepared as we could. We watered everything thoroughly with the warm water from the pond, which ironically, has not really frozen over at all, and covered up the youngest plants with frost cloth and the more mature plants with both frost cloth and plastic as they are more sensitive to the frigid temps than the young ones.

Leo, Emily and I have been checking several times a day to make sure the winds haven't whipped up the frost cloth and quickly recovered any flapping corners when it did. 99% of the crops have stayed covered the whole time. We have only seen a small portion of one or two rows that became exposed when high winds tore some of the frost cloth loose.

The tunnel was taken down on Monday as there were a few gaps that the wind was getting in anyway and we'd already picked most of the tomatoes before Christmas. There were about another 3lbs of green tomatoes left that those who came to help Monday had dibs on for coming out to help on such short order. (I hope you all took some!)

We will be working with a new organization called "Feed Texas First" in the next few weeks to build our farm a new tunnel for our early spring warm season crops. This should allow us to get tomatoes and squash started a bit earlier than normally. Those are the two crops that seemed to do the best this fall under our first tunnel. This group is working to help train new farmers with "hands-on" classes which provides some free labor to a farmer while teaching those participating how to do various things such as cultivate, plant, build things, etc. I applaud Trish and her partner/sister for this grass roots effort and look forward to participating.

We'll be seeding trays of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and such soon as this cold snap ends. Our greenhouse is a bit too small for me to effectively build a fire inside - safely anyway - and so I'm glad we waited to seed all of those warm season flats! We carried the few cool season veggie trays into the house when it became clear the heating mat wasn't doing a sufficient job of keeping them warm enough. The only place I would have had space for so many warm season flats is the living and dining rooms and I don't have heat in those two rooms unless we stoke a fire 24 hours a day so they'd not have been much warmer in there. I'm looking into other heating mats and comparing notes with other farmers this week to see who used what and what worked and didn't so we're ready if there is a next time. And I have been in Texas long enough to see this happen twice now, so I'm sure there will be a next time, eventually.

As soon as we are out of the woods for freezing, I'll uncover everything and we'll see what we have going on - I'm hoping for the best. One farmer from Oregon indicated that he had salad greens unprotected during a similar blast up there and even though it burned the existing leaves, the plants themselves survived and recovered putting out new growth once the weather returned to 50's with some sunshine. It may be set us back a few weeks, but I think we'll survive with minimal damage.

I'm ordering organic seed potatoes soon and they'll ship from Colorado, as soon as they get a short window of a break in their weather so they don't freeze on the UPS truck! This is the same farm we got them from last year and any of our last year's members remember they were yummy!
If anyone would like to try growing some at home, let me know. You can see the varieties I'm getting on the shop's website. They are pretty easy and fun to grow - not to mention really tasty. I'll also be ordering onions and soon, 4" organic veggies to plant, too. (As CSA members you all are entitled to a shop discount so you don't have to order them from the website on paypal, but shoot me an email and I'll add them to my order.) Keep an eye on the shop's website for what I'll have coming in. I have started a gardening series on my NeighborsGo blog for those who are interested in trying a little garden at home, too.

And don't forget to keep shooting emails or faxes to your senators about that Food "safety" bill S510. They'll be so distracted with the health care debacle that I'm afraid they'll just push this one through without really looking at it. Let them know it will hurt YOUR food supply by putting way too many restrictions on small, local farms - where the safe food comes from!

You all keep warm and we'll do the same. Looks like we're back to pretty normal this week - let's hope it holds!

Eat Your Food - Naturally!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Life on the Farm - A Year in Review

We've about seen it all weather-wise in 09. Drought, late freeze, record early high temperatures, record rainfalls, strong winds. Organic farming in North Texas last year was challenging, to say the least. I daresay, farming in general up here was a bit challenging. I heard story after story about failed crops, lack of product, wet and flooded fields, etc.

After a late Easter and the usual late hard freeze that often accompanies it, tomatoes and other warm season crops' planting dates were pushed way back due the wet and cool evenings. Some sketchy spring storms blew in and with them, down went our wind turbine! All but 5 days in June saw temps climb into the upper 90's, heating up the soil, where we were trying to get seeds to germinate, in excess of 120 degrees F! Drought persisted all summer until the fall. Then, the rains came and never left. Nearly 30 inches of rain in as many days and all of that rain without any sunshine for a month ruined the hopes of a bountiful fall harvest and most of the 800 sweet potato slips we had planted in the early summer were hostage to the flooded rows and rotted.

A wind burst took down our turbine. Eden's irrigation system is now on its 3rd updated regulator and gets more sophisticated each time. Soon, it will be viewable on line.

We are, however, looking forward to a productive winter crop. Winter greens, broccoli, cabbage and other cool season fare, are in the ground and slowly growing and so far, the weather seems fairly normal for winter. Soon it will be time to put in Irish potatoes and onions and get the seeds for warm season plants going in the greenhouse, where the make-up fall crops such as beets, more spinach and artichokes are trying to get started.

The only thing constant in farming is the changing weather.

The farm is growing in other ways, too. Besides new baby chicks hatching, now that the rooster ban in town was defeated, we have 2 students

Flooded rows were a common scene in 09

living nearby that are helping out frequently around the farm and an apprentice who aims to become a future co-farmer at Eden's some day soon. The gardens themselves have

been expanded and we now plant for 40 CSA families in hopes of attracting that many to our group, with plans to increase it further in the future once we have secured more labor.

Eden's has shared farm activities with local college students from one of our CSA members' AI Texas classes, home schooled kids, many other farmers and those just wanting to reconnect with their food.

Eden's hosted the DFW premiere screening of FRESH!, a food documentary and the 2nd Annual Barn Aid Concert and Dinner at Eden where over 90 people from around DFW gathered to celebrate local food and hear author Pamela Walker talk about local Texas farmers & her book. It was a great time! This blog, facebook and twitter pages are gaining popularity from folks nationally, as small farming and growing at home gains popularity among people everywhere striving to feed themselves and their families better, safer food.

The farm goes “on the road” in 2010 as Eden's sponsors a farm day at the Balch Springs library/learning center in March. Teaching others how to look at their food differently and to grow it, too, is one of the missions at Eden's Garden. Come grow with us!

Eat Your Food - Naturally!