Monday, December 9, 2013

No more tomatoes

Just when it seemed summer would never end, a surprise floats down from the north to put the farm to a test

 The tomatoes lie in a very large pile in the no-grow zone -- where grayish soil rules supreme -- waiting to dry a little and then go up in smoke, along with lots of other plant carcasses.
Firewood puts on a winter coat of frost, top, while a weed shivers in the
morning chill and a hose sticks out its frozen tongue.
 Out here in Singing Frog Farm land, the freeze so far has had only one casualty: a plastic water spigot. And since it was the same one that broke last year there is no possible way to evade responsibility. Other than that broken spigot, however, the nasty freeze has been survivable: The chicken's water bowl must be unfrozen each morning and we must watch as certain of our plants give up the ghost: Salvias, lantana, basil, cardoon, tomatoes, peppers. The surprise has been the parsley, which so far is surviving. We did see a large, hungry-looking coyote along our front fence line and are hoping he doesn't plan on surviving the winter by feasting on our chickens. For sure we will make that at the very least a quite difficult task for him.
 Some of our more exotic plants have found a home in the greenhouse: giant bird of paradise, passion vine and about 25 VERY hot pepper plants, called scorpions.
 While the weather outside is getting icy, farm activity is heating up as we work on our organic certification for next year and look to add a bit more acreage to our fledgling operation.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hold everything ....

Young plants are beginning to outgrow their 2.5" pots
Beauty Kings and Black Cherries wait patiently
Today was going to be the first day of tomato planting at my place, but Mother Nature was in no mood to cooperate. Now it'll probably will be Thursday before the wind dies down enough to make it even feasible to put a tender young tomato plant into the ground. I'm chomping at the bit, too. The plants are getting a bit leggy because while my greenhouse has an automatic exhaust fan that goes on at 80 degrees, it also is covered in shade cloth because too much heat would build up even with the fan when the weather pushes above 80. So it really needs a swamp cooler, which probably will be one of my projects for this coming winter. For now the shade cloth is sufficient with the caveat that the reduced sunlight does cause the young tomatoes to stretch a bit in search of even stronger sunlight. My dilemma will be solved once the plants get into the ground. Not that there won't be new problems to keep me up at night!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

What any sustainable farmer loves to see

Ladybugs are everywhere in my artichoke patch. They come out  like white knights every spring to keep the bug populations in check. And they don't need an invitation, either. They're my favorite party crashers, right up there with the praying mantis. They're not omnipotent, that is, they don't get every single bad bug on the farm, but the numbers of good bugs increases yearly and I hope they are bringing a better balance into my farm's ecological equation. In the larger photo we see a very welcome site to any organic gardener: procreation of even more ladybugs!! The newbies will have plenty of work to do: Soon the tomatoes will be in the ground  and the new crop of beautiful beetles can migrate over to them to patrol for white flies and the like. I wish ladybugs were big enough to gobble up the the stink bugs and cucumber beetles that attack my crops, but only the mighty mantis has the size to make a meal of them. Speaking of eating ... it's time for lunch!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Coming soon ....

It was inevitable. Eventually the name Whaley Heirloom Veggies became a little too flawed to keep. The main problem is that it sounds more like a wholesaler than a farm. And pretty soon (well, sometime this year) we will be adding eggs to our offering. Beautiful dark, brown eggs from Black Copper Marans chickens. The problem is, eggs are not vegetables. And chickens, if we butcher any, are not vegetables, either. So a name change was called for. But what to call this shoestring operation? Well, there's this fabulous chorus of tiny frogs on the property that we have totally fallen in love with, so we are going to build a pond to help them better survive. And so, presto chango, Whaley Heirloom Veggies will morph into, ta da,  Singing Frog Farm. We filed the paperwork in Yuba City yesterday and set up ads to run in the Marysville Appeal-Democrat on the next four successive Wednesdays. Now we will have to change the words on the logo, get new checks from the bank and add our little friend into the logo somewhere to complete the process. Wow, a lot of work to do .... guess I better hop to it!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Excuse the interruption

There have been a lot of things to post, but somehow updating to the latest version of Mountain Lion, the Apple operating system, has made it more of a challenge, and frankly, I've got enough challenges on hand getting ready for a new planting without having to sit down and stare at a computer screen for untold hours. In fact, that's it: It's always an open-ended proposition when you sit down to figure out something new on a computer, and some level of frustration is a guarantee. Hell, you're already frustrated because you can't do what you used to do by just typing it in and then hitting a button.  All because you bought a new photo program, in this case an Apple app called "Aperture" so you could help a friend figure out how to do some special effect and then, after you pay good money for the program, you find it won't work unless you have a newer operating system on the computer. In fact the newest iteration is required. So you spend hours downloading the new system via your feeble 3G connection (that's life in the country) and then discover you can't post to your blog anymore because  it always come up "error" when you push the button. And to top it off, the friend hasn't taken up your offer to help with the special effects. Needless to say, situations like this are good for my land because it sends me directly outside, pulling weeds, tilling soil, thinning beets .... anything but staring at a computer screen. So if this post is up, that means I am making progress and I will try a more meaningful post tomorrow, with a picture, maybe? Cross your fingers!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

World's hottest pepper, anyone?

The Trinidad Scorpion, Butch T Strain, has the worlds highest Scoville rating.

For those who like hot peppers, the Trinidad Scorpion, Butch T Strain, is the Mt. Everest. It knocked off the Ghost Pepper a couple years back as the worlds hottest. The seeds aren't cheap but I sprang for 20 of them this winter and now they are in the process of germinating. Cross your fingers, pepper lovers! Here's what one Website ( had to say about them:

Trinidad Scorpion Butch T

In June 2011, the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T Pepper beat out its competition from India and Southern England as the hottest pepper in the World. It was made official in the Guinness Book of World Records, measuring a whopping 1,463,700 SHU (SHU = scoville heat units). SHU measure the amount of Capsaicin present in a food. For the purposes of comparison, a typical Habenero pepper has a rating of 100,000-350,000 SHU and a Jalapeno pepper is rated at 3,500-8,000. That makes the Butch T a very HOT pepper!
Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to eat any of these or even throw them in a pot-roast! We will see how many germinate, then try to harvest a few in early fall. The Butch T will be one of many varieties of peppers we'll grow this year. On the sweeter side will be the Aji Dulce de Panama, a great one for making sofrito. And of course there will be some bells, pepperoncinis and quite a few others.  It could be a hot summer!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Making the most of a dry winter

Exotic pepper seeds soaking in tea before being transferred to germination trays.
You probably have been hearing a lot of farmer doom and gloom over cutbacks in water allotments and such, particularly down the valley a bit where the Sierra runoff could basically fit in a thimble and the giant agricorps continually turn a lustful eye northward in hopes of securing some of our precious Northern California water. But we need it here to keep salmon runs growing and the Delta Smelt from extinction. Even north of Sacramento, where water is fairly plentiful, farmers have worries in times like this. For one thing, some hay farmers drop seed aerially on their fields and wait for a spring rain to get it growing. No rain, no hay. And farmers on wells, like me, worry about tapping too heavily into the aquifers. But it's not all bad. For instance, in many winters most ground would be unworkable right now because it would be to darn saturated to get equipment onto it. And continued dry weather could lead to early plantings. Don't get your hopes up if it's early heirloom tomatoes you're talking about. Those plants have a mind of their own.