Saturday, January 7, 2017

 My little orange marvel

What to do when an atmospheric river is heading toward your cabbage patch: Grab a trenching shovel and start digging!

That's exactly what I did this morning. Dig trenches to carry water away from the onions, garlic, cabbage and Brussel sprouts. While this storm really doesn't seem all that threatening, the wind is picking up and I don't want to get caught reacting too late to a major downpour. I think we're ready enough. So ...
Now Susie and I are going to see "La La Land".

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


New farmers have lots to learn

But sometimes there's just no-one to learn from. Lucky for me, I got some help and here's the lowdown

The discs were refusing to turn on one row. The first row, right behind the tractor. So I was pulling the discer through the soil but it, the soil, was just bunching up with the dead weeds in front of the non-turning discs and making an ugly mess. So I talked to Jack up the road when I was there to pick some of his delicious pomegranates and he told me my discs needed tightening and he was right, so I set about to get the tools for the job. Thankfully my brother-in-law came to visit his mom, who lives with us, and I knew he had the tools I needed so I showed him the problem and asked if he could bring a couple of his big wrenches. However he noticed that thing in the photo above and said it was a thing to inject grease into the discs. I had wondered what it was! I'd say it's a grease nipple but I have lots of those on the tractor and they don't look  like that. It's apparently old-fashioned, like the discs, and so Marty Thorpe, my brother in law from Stockton, brought up a big can of grease and the attachment, and the discer got a good feeding. Probably the first in many a year. At the same time, we were able to tighten the bolt. Of course to do so required cutting a piece of pipe to make a big washer. And it worked. That's because Marty brought along his friend (and mine) Steve Eales, who grows walnuts. He knew just what to do. Now my job is to go get real washers for the little thing-a-ma-bob that keeps the nut from unwinding and then tighten her back up. So if the rain stays away for a few days maybe I can get my garlic, cabbage, onions and brussel sprouts in the ground! If that doesn't sound exciting to you, well, I can only assure you it's VERY exciting to me and I'm just very thankful to Marty and Steve for the help!!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The beat goes on


Where the garlic will go

For 2017, we will have six garlic varieties: Music, Spanish Rojo, Rose du Lautrec, Blossom, Metechi and German Red. These are all hard-necked varieties of one or the other persuasion (Rocambole, Purple-Striped, Creole). We had three sources of seed garlic: Harmony Farm Supply in Sebastapol, Fillaree Garlic Farm in Oregon and the rest from Peaceful Valley farm supply in Grass Valley.  Now getting all those cloves in the ground is a top priority.  Also on tap this fall is an expansion of the green house and upgrades for the shade house as well as the addition of 8 or 10 more solar panels onto the barn roof. I'd also like to better insulate the cool room and freezer room. Hmmm .... guess I better get busy! Next season will be here in the blink of an eye!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Putting spring together

Brandywine tomatoes ready for planting
Rhubarb plants growing in shade house

Tomatoes protected by frost cloth as more rows readied

Black cherry tomatoes are silhouetted against frost cloth pulled up to facilitate a morning inspection.

Weather being unpredictable, and time being of the essence, we here at Singing Frog Farm decided to plant a few rows of tomatoes early this year. Early for us, anyway. Last year we got them in around May 3. This year it was April 6. It's always risky to do that, but this year has been pretty warm and it may just continue that way after this unseasonably cool spell. Besides, we hedged our bets a little by covering the young tomatoes with frost cloth that boosts temps underneath by 6 to 8 degrees. And let's talk about the rain! The rain was perfectly timed for me: I have been waiting for it because, unlike other years where farmers wait for fields to dry out enough to get tractors onto them, this year I've been waiting for a storm to WET the fields up enough to get my tractor onto them. If not for that storm, the only way to get my fields ready for planting would have been to put big sprinklers on them for long hours so the tractors could get in there and do their work. Just one of many things making this a very interesting farming year. What will the rest be like? Only time will tell .... 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Cry me an electrified atmospheric river, please

A rabbit's eye view of Mizuna growing under a shade cloth
Envious onions lust after straw mulch
When I was a kid, back in the last century, there was no such thing as  an atmospheric river. What we had then were big storms and such. We even had warm storms coming up out of the tropics once in a great while.   If someone had said "atmospheric river" or "El Nino" back then they would have received a blank stare in return, at least that's how it was in Stockton, where I was fortunate enough to have grown into adulthood. But that was then. Now I'm a grown-up and am in the midst of enduring my second atmospheric river in one year! And this one is flowing along dropping off lightning bolts here and there, which I didn't hear any of our weather forecasters predicting. Ha! So since I'm the first to notice, I hereby call such a storm "an electrified atmospheric river." This should be picked up by all the weather talking heads, who will start pronouncing it and not even think a second thought about the name. Why should they? If it appears on the tele-prompter, they say it!! Who's in charge of those tele-prompters, anyway? Sounds like a good job for a subversive progressive liberal. But I like farming too much for a career switch. Anyway, it sounds like one would have to spend a lot of time looking at stuff on a monitor for that job. Then figuring out how to tweak the stuff on the teleprompter to subtlety reflect the progressive, liberal outlook would take creativity. Plus you'd be thwarting the ultraconservative owners of the media, who are so very busy trying to do the same thing, only in the opposite direction. (As an aside, it looks like they are winning.) A labor of love for sure, regardless of what side you are on. Nevertheless, I think a higher call might be growing wonderful, organic vegetables! Like that Mizuna you see growing under shade cloth above, or the leeks lounging in a bed of straw. In fact, time to get back to reality: I've got some stainless steel mixing bowls to fasten to the tops of posts! Part of my great secret plan to channel Marxian spirits into my soil.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Hay, what's going on here?

Hardneck garlic pushes through plastic mulch in a sea of straw. It's already been in the ground four months with four to go.

Straw is the latest thing to happen to my 50' x 50' garlic plot. It's just part of the ongoing saga for this little piece of land, commonly known as 5A around here. Last October, after a hard year's work growing melons and peppers, the plot was cleared, tilled and then had 7 cubic yards of prime organic compost added, followed by another tilling and mounding up of 11 planting rows, putting in drip irrigation and then covering each row with plastic mulch. Spread over a matter of days, it was pretty manageable. As Ron Popeil would say, "But that's not all!". The final step was to make about 4,000 slits in the plastic, then push a clove of beautiful Russian Red hardneck garlic through each slit. So, that was four months ago.  Now the garlic has burst through the slits and all the weeds that came through with it have been pulled. However, in between the rows, where there is bare dirt, weeds are growing and that is where the straw comes in.  Some of those weeds were pulled and tossed, others left untouched. As of this morning all the bare dirt and weeds have been covered with a nice layer of straw, 3 bales in all. That's going to be a powerful suppressant. Now all that's left to do is three or four foliar feedings over the next four months. Then, in late spring, this plot will begin giving back: First it will be a harvest of tasty, young garlic scapes, followed by the harvest of the garlic bulbs themselves, which will be pulled, bunched, and hung for a few weeks before making their debut in discerning kitchens around Sacramento and of course doing their part to ward off devils, werewolves and vampires!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Something tells me

 When Herman's Hermits recorded their hit "Something Tells Me I'm Into Something Good" back in the '60s, I'm sure they weren't referring to a shade house for an organic farm. However, working on just that project this winter has me humming that tune ... mostly in the fog. It's no huge project, only 30x30, but it will provide a little home out of the bright sun for tender plants coming out of the greenhouse. As a matter of fact, some of those little plants have already poked their heads out of the potting soil (see bottom pic). And with a tiny little greenhouse, they soon will need to make way for the stars of summer: tomatoes! Well, maybe some zucchini, cucumbers, melons, herbs, greens and watermelons. Last year it was a struggle to juggle all these various plants while waiting for that perfect moment to pop them into a nice warm spot in the ground. This year may be different, but only if the project is finished in time for the plants to make use of it. And we also want to sell our organic heirloom starts to gardeners right off the farm and this new structure will provide an appropriate place for them to be set out for perusal by browsers. And while something tells me I'm into something good with this project, something is also telling me this bleak midwinter is going to end all too soon. So I better get back to work!