We've sure had nice weather for January. The garlic is 8 inches tall. Other things are slowly growing again. After the hard frost in December, I yanked out most of the mustard greens. It turns out that they spring to life again when it warms up. My helper has been scolding me and muttering nasty things in Thai for a month. I showed her pictures. She hasn't been there since late October. Too cold. Last week it was warm enough for shirtless digging on my drainage job. On those same days, Thong dressed for Arctic blizzard conditions.
Ha! If the temperatures don't dip! Surprise, surprise - we got as low at -4C near Swartz Bay this week.
Not that I want to discourage you, but if you're already having a slug problem, you may find that if you plant new stuff before you've got sufficient hours of sun, that the slugs will eat faster than the plants will grow. Three things that will help are:
1. Dry any egg shells you use in a metal pan on top of the stove, crush them and spread it around seeds or plant starts - the slugs don't like crawling over the sharp edges and the shell will gradually dissolve in our acid soil.
2. Start things in large "tree-sized" pots or half barrels. I've had entire snow pea crops in large pots and it seems easier to spot the slugs and deal with them when you're paying attention to a few square meters of pots instead of a whole garden.
3. Adopt a duck - picking slugs is so much more fun when you've got an appreciative audience! I wouldn't have believed that Eloise Runner Duck could eat a banana slug without choking, but she managed it!
A whole week of freezing temperatures was more than enough for me. I had to wear a winter jacket on 4 of those days. Today I got soaked to the skin when it started raining while I smashed some concrete. Still, I was warm enough for the short time this took. I did 5 shirtless minutes after it was wet, just so I could call my brother in Ontario about it.
I've found that slugs won't cross a line of dry seaweed. The owners of the place said they were getting chickens 7 months ago. I'm not holding my breath.
I have no desire to have a duck. I will consider 100 at my farm eventually, but one of anything isn't worth the management hassle.
The garlic saw some frost damage. Chard is a little wilted and the Thai kale is almost dead. The roots may carry it through until spring. Only the mustard greens and regular kale made it through unscathed. We got down to 27 F. It was nice and warm at the garden today, but the rain pails still had some ice on them. I've heard that some places got even colder !!! Sure glad that's over with.
I have returned. The kale roots did survive. Some greens were ready to eat in March. Most survivors are being allowed to go to seed. Hundreds of these plants have been produced so far and there is room at the farm for many more.
The garden was started much earlier this year. It's been producing since May. The garlic in the raised bed was ready on June 3rd. That's really early for Canada.
These photos are about a month old. Last year, we started on July 09.
A single giant lake leaf has more volume when cooked than $3 of store bought spinach. Not bitter when grown fast.
I planted potatoes under the plastic this morning. It was laid out 3 weeks ago to kill the grass. Other potatoes are well established already. As the weather heats up, weeds will be dumped here to die and shade the plastic. Only a small hole was dug for each potato. Other amendments were laid on the dead grass.
Garden #2 ------- That's right. Six weeks ago, another much larger garden was aquired at a community allotment. It is just over 1200 sq. ft. with full sun. It already looks better than others that were begun years ago. Thong and her friend Mike, are handling most of the work here. I helped with fencing and digging. There are about 150 plots in the allotments. My money is on this one to outperform all of the others.
Mike was a retired man who led a life of leisure before he was enslaved by Thong, to construct raised beds, a greenhouse and other things with meals as his only payment. If he sleeps in, she calls him and in a very sharp voice, she says "Mike !!! Get up! The garden needs ... He has lost some weight.
I cut down about 20 young trees in order to get better light. About 50 sq. ft. of bed was added. Several other muddy slash piles await planting. All are hemmed in by cottonwood and alder that will be dropped to within 20 ft of where the wood will be used.
Thong goes to the public pool each morning. The bike carrier holds about $8 worth of vegetables. People help themselves. So far, everything has been paid for and nobody has made off with the plastc yogurt tub of money that attaches to the bike.
The garden came with a row of raspberries.
It's quite crowded. The initial plot started last july, was 300 sq. ft. Now, we have a total of about 2500 sq. ft.
I gathered 600-700 lb. of coffee grounds today. This took almost 2 hours. Much of that was chat time at 5 different Starbucks locations. People have questions. I place it on the surface. Worms and bugs do the rest. This batch is enough for 3/4 lb. per sq. ft. over the whole allotment garden.
The garden is 7 weeks old now. The greenhouse is about 3 weeks old. It is useful for tender plants and it provides a dry work area during showers. Mike used to be able to get a break when rain arrived. Now, rain is a minor inconvenience. Little trays of kale and others, await open spaces. The bok choy is in it's 3rd generation. There will be 7 by autumn.
I've applied to lease a plot at the allotments. The price is $65 per year. That's less than the tax on this much land. It includes water along with grass clippings and leaves that the city drops off. Most important to me, it gives a production location within city limits. This could be valuable when I want to get into certain public markets.
A former customer has asked if I would be interested in producing food on a half acre of his one acre plot in Oak Bay. An extended family lives there. He has to get several others to agree to the scheme which would see them share the production. I give this a 10% chance of going ahead.
I returned to the farm yesterday. It rained a few times during the month that I was gone. Deer and rabbits consumed all kale and most beans, squash, strawberries, chard, and beets.
Potatoes, tomatoes and peppers were untouched. The hugel bed is about 95% potatoes now. I spread potatoes evenly throughout the mound in anticipation of this happening. Most are as tall as a 5 gallon bucket. 300 lb of wet coffee grounds were added this morning.
The side of the road is a great spot to gather leaves for mulch. Vehicle traffic blows them there and they get ground against the dirt. I rake them up to cover bare soil. They don't blow around.
The whole bed is now covered in about 2 inches of scrunched up, dirty leaves. It may not rain again before September. Summer drought is normal here. I'll water it well and abandon it for another month.
The tenant's excavator is home now after being gone for more than a year. I cut 30 trees this morning. They will be stacked and buried with the machine. I expect to add about 200 sq ft to the bed. Dozens of evergreens ranging from 2 to 8 inch diameter have been cleared. They will provide rocket fuel for the cottage.
The maples in the second photo are coming down and the bed will cover that spot.
The bush to the left of the maples produces these long, skinny stakes. Sticks the size of a quarter can have 10 clear feet without significant branches. It's a medium hardwood similar to silver maple. I'm taking some to the city garden. Large specimens can produce coppice 6 inches in diameter.
The big bed at the farm is now about 1000 sq ft. Even using an excavator, this is hard work. I dropped every cottonwood, alder and maple within 40 ft of the bed. Trees were felled in the direction of the bed, with much of it landing exactly where needed. Most are between 40 and 60 ft tall. About 10 tons of wood was piled during a 5 day run.
Leila Rich wrote:I'm impressed!
One minute it's awesome boutique community production, the BAM there's heavy machinery moving tons of wood.
Maybe I missed a post
I'm currently involved with three gardens. The excavator is at my farm. It has taken 10 days in total to produce 1000 sq ft of bed. I'd like to do an acre or more. At this rate, it would take 430 days to do an acre. Future efforts must rely more on the machine.
The Nanaino Water District has an easement under part of my road. I hope to secure a contract to keep a couple miles of that corridor free of trees. The ditches on both sides grow massive volumes of cottonwood and alder. These trees must be cut before they reach a foot in diameter, so that they don't damage the underground pipe. The specimen with my hand on it is from 15 ft up the trunk of a 13 yr old tree. The section from my place to the hiway has around 9 acres of trees and roadway. I will do the clearing with my tenant and the excavator if things go ahead. The trees naturally lean toward the roadway that lies over the pipe. Big bins or dump trucks could haul the debris to my hugel beds. The average haul would be about one mile. I want this job ! I would never run short of materials.
I blanched and froze all of the greens in this big tub. We get enough to fill the tub 3 times a week. I currently get more than half of my diet from the gardens. When I'm invited somewhere for dinner, I bring vegetables or wild harvested fruit.
Wood from the farm has been used at the allotment.
The plant in the foreground is guy lan according to a Chinese lady who is an avid gardener. I was previously told it was Thai kale. Thong, the Thai lady who works in the garden, has named several leafy greens as some form of kale or as spinach. I called her on it and she told me " It's how you cook. Not the real name." All of these vegetables can substitute for kale or spinach.
Ron and his wife Rung (a Thai friend of Thong) have the adjacent plot. Their scarlet runner tower is 9 feet tall. Ron produced a 40 lb cabbage last year. The women say it was too tough. He made sourkrout and says it was fine.
The greenhouse has served its purpose in producing early starts. It will be occupied by peppers, eggplants and tomatoes until October. Then it will produce hardy greens until March.
Garden #1 is one year old today. It is triple the original size. Some expansion is still possible. It's about 800 sq ft now. Add to this 1200 sq ft at the allotments and 400 sq ft at the farm for a total of 2400. The farm has another 2000 sq ft of hugelkultur mounds that will be ready to plant next year. Production is bound to increase.
Here is 60% of today's haul in photo 1. Some stuff is being pickled.
I processed 15 lb for the freezer tonight. After greens are blanched, they cool on big trays.
The freezer is almost full with at least 3 more months of surplus to go.
The original garden has been enlarged again. Black plastic was used to smother and cook the grass. After 2 weeks, potatoes were planted and boards and weeds were laid over the plastic in order to prevent overheating. I removed the plastic yesterday, on July 10. This is July 11. I'm 50 today.
Nothing was done to the soil except for the removal of a small plug of soil for each potato. Other stuff will now be planted in the large gaps and all will be mulched.
The little greenhouse is about 32x32. The larger one is about 60x32. They are kept at about 100 F in the heat of the day. Thai basil and other heat lovers fill them. There's constant condensation but no rot.
Thanks Roger. My main job is to conquer new space, drive stakes and supply green and brown mulches.
Thong has enslaved both Mike and myself. We do the heavy lifting. After another fertile area is ready, she plants every inch and shoos us away. Two men are being bullied by an older lady who is the size of your average 12 year old The work at my farm is all me, but the profusion of food in the two city gardens is mostly her.
Thong is quite rigid concerning the management of a market garden. I have prevailed on two points. The brick enclosure is a hugelkultur. She's now a convert after a June 3 garlic harvest. No till potatoes were new to her until I sold the idea with a little help from YouTube.
My best guess is that she is growing enough to feed 10 people. Tomorrow is market day.
I made dinner for everyone on Thursday. She examined my stew and said it looked like food for a pig. Then she ate two bowls of this fine swill.
Few customers walked across the road from the public market. A couple thousand people came within 40 ft. She sold $10 in 4 hours. Many people walk by her condo on the way home from work. She has sold $20 worth of vegetables between 5 and 6pm. This is a better choice. Also, the school let's out at 3pm. The parents park 20 ft from this boulevard. There are no other vendors on school days. There were many full time producers yesterday. Big tents and tarps obscured the view of Thong's modest offerings.
I found comfrey growing wild along the stream, about 80 ft from the allotment. It may be removed for stream improvements. I harvested several big armloads. They want to get salmon to come further upstream. It is about 5 ft wide and 2 ft deep. Non natives are being removed.
The potatoes are now 3 ft high.
Several rows of lettuce are at different stages of maturity.
These beans are in a heavy clay area where other stuff does poorly. The lady who owns this one is from Congo. She grows a kitchen garden at home and only does beans here. Next year something different will be tried. Amaranth is a common weed. She clears it from common areas and from the gardens of those who don't want it. On a really hot day, the lady wears a giant hat that shade head and shoulders. Other gardeners are admonished for not being prepared.
Thong sat in the sun for 4 hours on Saturday and sold $6 worth of stuff. On Tuesday, I gave it a try. I set up in front of her building and engaged the 8 people who walked by in 20 minutes. It's a quiet street. Five of them bought something. I brought in $16 and packed up since I only had celantro left. My sales technique is simple - " Hello, I'm selling organic vegetables. Everything you see is $2 each". Most people stop and try samples.
Today, she had more stuff. I set up a proper table and sold a respectable $54 of which $10 was a spicy coconut paste in jars. I don't keep the money. I did the sale to demonstrate the need to speak to customers. I'm not sure that Thong will ever be comfortable doing this. I try everybody. People who are getting into their cars and those on the opposite side of the street are invited over.
I could see the gardens producing $100 per week in sales until the end of September. That's not a lot of money to a big farm, but an extra $100 per week is huge for Thong.
With the grass dead, other stuff will go between the potatoes.
Another free freezer is being sought. The chest freezer and the top of the fridge are packed. We've gone from being net consumers of food a year ago, to growing enough vegetables to feed 10 today. Mike, Thongs friend/slave is a meat and potatoes guy. We all had supper and he looked at his plate and said sarcasticly, Oh good, more leaves. I don't mind them at all.
The center is cut from another piece. I ate the sides raw.
A friend has become our first weekly customer. For $15, he gets 8 of our $2 items. Naturally, regular customers will get a little extra whenever there is surplus. He's the first one I tried. 100% isn't bad We can probably handle 8 weekly orders right now. Thong lives in a cluster of condo buildings. Most customers who bought the other day, live within one block of her door. Of the 12 or so who have bought, most said they'll watch for the sales table to appear. There's a good chance that many could be converted to weekly delivery. Several people from her building have said they will buy some, after they consume the free stuff that she gave away as samples. They came home to find grocery bags of samples hung on their doors. I can see that our limiting factor is supply. I could sell $1000 worth every week. Time to do more at the farm. The 2100 sq ft area in town is maximized.
Thong has become obsessed with her new found little business. She plans every day around it. She's not a natural salesperson, but is very diligent in production and filling orders. I'm pretty sure I'll eventually set up a delivery service for farm production with her as the delivery person. She rides a bike everywhere. A little trailer and some containers are all that are needed. Well that and another 20,000 sq ft of garden and the time to tend it.
I've decided to clear the trees from a large area near the site of a future pond. It's about 3/4 of an acre or about 30,000 sq ft. It's covered in cottonwood, alder and maple, all around 15 years old. This will be done incrementally, with the first big effort being 3-5 days.
Three big firs will be kept. They are used by eagles and may be hundreds of years old. This area was a clear cut when I bought it. I decided 12 years ago to let the hardwoods take over so that I would have massive amounts of compostable materials. Now I've decided to harvest this crop and bury the wood instead.
All soil and rock will be moved by the excavator. Most of my time will go into dropping hundreds of 50-60 ft trees and cutting the logs into 4 ft chunks. Wood will be put in bite sized piles for the excavator to stack onto a single giant mound running roughly along the contour of the gentle south facing slope. The mucky area where the pond is desired, is three excavator reaches and 15 ft in elevation away, when the machine is rotated 180 degrees. This soil will cover the wood. It is the least rocky soil on the place. This mound will dwarf all other hugel beds on the property and will be the largest I've seen in Brutish Columbia.
Trouble in paradise --- Thong has been quite pushy when it comes to decision making. She waters fanatically. Things have rotted. Aphids have bred like --- aphids. Cabbages have split. Potatoes have split. Lettuce has rotted. Tomatoes continue to grow more leaves and green fruits as fall approaches. Nature provided hot, dry weather when rot should not be a problem.
Photos --- Many little potatoes will not mature. We have had a few words about planting too tightly and over watering.
Tomato plants had their leaves pruned so much that the fruit sunburned.
Still, the harvest has been amazing. Thong works constantly, but she is her own worst enemy. If something is good, she thinks more will be better. She waters too much, prunes too much, plants too much and handles the plants too much. She spends far too long at the garden and has alienated her best friend Mike. He is tired of being yelled at and has been avoiding her. Today is the first time that she has admitted that things have gotten a little out of hand. It's become an obsession that has affected her work and personal relationships. For years she longed to be a farmer, after being raised in a little village in the mountains of northern Thailand. Thirty years ago,she moved to a bustling city and slaved away in a factory. Now, later in life, she's a farmer once again. I'm hoping that she can patch things up with Mike and make it fun again. I've tried to get her to emulate Cecelia, an old Slovenian lady who works smart and has the best garden of the 150 or so at the allotment. Cecelia plans well and then lets nature take care of it all.