This growing season has been fantastic!. We have just 3 weeks left in our winter CSA, then onto the work of prepping for the next season/chapter.
Thank you for following our FB page, Instagram page and especially for reading my blog, (sorry for my grammatical errors, in advance) and to ALL of our CSA members, volunteers and supporters everywhere.!!
I'm humbled and thankful.
This next season, 2019 will be the most special and important for me personally.
It will be because I will be offering "classes in action", this is what I am truly passionate about, sharing my many, many years of experience as a farmer, rancher, market gardener, flower grower and CSA Manager with anyone that is interested in learning tried and true techniques. Keep reading..
We are excited to finally complete the first acre in slab wood retainers on the west end, this will fully complete Phase 1 of the market garden which included;
An acre of no-till grow space,
a 750 sq. ft. hoop house, water lines, wash station, microgreens set-up, faucets and fencing.
A few touches this winter in our "down time", and phase 1 will be 100% complete.
Phase 2 will include;
fencing the upper and lower pastures in permanent fencing.
Adding additional space for;
"bio-intensive livestock and crop rotation".
Building another hoop house
Installing additional water system
Building a small greenhouse
**CLASSES IN ACTION**
Are you interested in learning how to restore your soil and increase your overall crop yields?
There are numerous ways we can restore and replenish the soil and protect the atmosphere by sequestering carbon.
Food can be grown in a variety of ways to improve soil. Here on our farm we teach and practice a variety of methods; whole system, no-till, hugelkultur, permaculture;
diect drill, cover crops, composting in place and a stacking method for fruit trees.
We feed the soil, not the plants
The plants uptake the nutrients they need from the soil and some plants and crops are returned to the soil for the cycling of nutrients all over again.
We are not re-inventing the wheel here,
some of these methods have been used with great success all over the world for thousands of years.
However, whole system is a new and cutting edge form of farming and it is my focus.
Classes in action
It is my passion and goal to teach these methods that are incredibly successful.
The whole system farm takes patience and time to develop, it requires discipline, focus as well as intention.
The gardens here at Orchard Creek Farm were build with the intention to be used as a hands-on classroom from the beginning.
There will be opportunities for all levels of experience for both farmers and gardeners to use orchard creek farm as a living classroom, literally "classes in action" for students to see, feel and touch the living soil and witness its symbiotic relationship to the plants and insects, both good and bad.
Soil is just a sampling of whats in store for those whom are interested in learning things that may change the way you look at our entire ecosystem, forever!
I'm excited, are you?
When I talk about building great soil, I am literally saying that we are building "life in the soil".
So what does that mean?
It means that there is a profound difference between "soil" vs. "dirt"
Dirt is inert; lifeless, it is neither chemically or biologically reactive, it does not interact with anything. Dirt contains no organic matter, and therefore is not significant for growing plants. The color of dirt can give you clues about mineral content it may contain; example red or yellow hues is an indicator of oxidized iron, the darker the red, the higher the iron content, but is is not alive.
Soil is ALIVE;
One teaspoon of living soil is said to contain more microbes, than humans on earth!
How's that for excitement?
Now hang on all you out there that are shrugging your shoulders and shaking your heads!
Because some of you brilliant minds are now thinking, yeah right!
Entertain me for a moment.
Yes, there are bad microbes, phytophthora an entire genus of oomycetes, a water mold, is a plant-eating microbe that causes potato and tomato blight.
But the good news is that the beneficial microbe community works tirelessly to out compete with the bad microbes, many of the good microbial species will kill or inhibit the bad bacteria, fungi, and nematodes.
It is all about microbial balance, the plants have a symbiotic relationship with the soil microbes, therefore if we feed the soil food web, the soil food web feeds your plants and keeps them healthy.
We can use our own bodies as an analogy, we have bacteria and germs in them and on them at all times, waiting for the right combo recipe to make us sick. (I have been in healthcare for 22 years, I can attest to this. LOL)
However, research has shown, our gut has its own microbes that help us ward off these bad bacteria when we feed our bodies the proper nutrients. Scientific studies are showing that consuming
whole foods, eating local nutrient dense fresh fruits and vegetables grown without pesticides or herbicides are paramount to our health. We see new products hitting the market everyday, there are many microbial products out there; live cultures kefir, probiotics, fermented foods, etc... all aimed at balancing the bacteria, both good and bad in the gut. (I am neither endorsing or encouraging these products)
The soil is very much the same, there is an underground world of biodiversity, and its interactions with the plants is essentially doing the same thing, warding off bad bacteria to the plants.
When plants photosynthesize , the energy that is created sends healthy chemicals to the roots that secrete in the soil. These chemicals are proteins and carbohydrates that activate the microbes in the soil.
The organisms feed, digest and give the nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus back to the plant. This is called cycling of nutrients.
If you are interested in learning more about the "Classes in Action", a hands-on series at Orchard Creek Farm in 2019, send me an email of your interest, so that I can keep you updated as the time nears for classes to begin. You may also let me know what days/times will work best. This will help me to arrange a schedule that meets the majorities needs. These classes are for adults age 18 years or older. If a person 12 years and up is accompanied by a paying adult at all times they may attend for FREE, please confirm with me ahead of time. These classes will be taught in a series of three subjects, each subject is $10.00 per person.
This fee is extremely low for the knowledge
given. The goal is to provide opportunities of learning at an affordable cost and to cover the costs of materials.
I am ready are you? Let's get growing right!
The tobacco hornworm (manduca sexta), are often confused with the tomato hornworm (manduca quinquemaculata). These rather large worms can decimate plants of the night shade (solanaceae) family, examples; tomatoes, peppers and egg plants. They also both eat tobacco plants. Both start out as an egg that hatches into a tiny caterpillar that grows and becomes a huge sphinx moth, both can be parasatized by tiny wasps that make cocoons on the worms (cocoons in photo), the wasp larvae feeds on the worm eventually killing the hornworm. Both worms have similar droppings. When I check my nightshade (solanceae) family plants, especially my tomatoes I look on plant foliage for dark green to black droppings which is a good indicator of where to look for the worm, usually near the top of the plant. They blend in really well and they are sometimes hard to locate quickly.
So how do you tell them apart?
The tobacco horn worm (shown in photo), has a red horn and black margins on it's white stripes. The moth of the tobacco hornworm has six orange spots and thick dark bands on the bottom wings, manduca sexta, describes the moths six spots ("sexta" means "six" in latin)
The tomato hornworm has green margins on it's white stripes, a dark blue horn, five orange spots on the moth, and a thin dark band on the bottom wing. Manduca quinquemaculata, describes the moths five spots. "quinque", means "five" and "maculata", means "markings" in latin.
So how do we eradicate them?
The easiest way to eradicate them is knowing how to identify them, as I have described above, then simply find them on the plants and hand pick them off and feed to your yard birds, or put them in a coffee can filled half way with soapy water. The BEST way however, is to create a balanced, healthy ecosystem, which will encourage parasatoid wasps to enter your growing areas and lay their eggs on them, which will eventually destroy the hornworms and increase the beneficial wasps presence in the garden, fields and/or indoor grow spaces.
Host defenses can occur, for example, some insects secrete poisonous compounds that kill or drive away the parasatoids. Ants that are in a symbiotic relationship with caterpillars, aphids or scale insects may protect them from attacks by wasps. I have witnessed both red ants and aphids doing this very thing on a patch of my kale plants with cabbage worms. The parasatoid wasps are winning the war however, as I have noticed and documented more cocoons and a significant decrease in caterpillars and damage to foliage. Please understand that I do not use ANY harmful herbicides or pesticides of any kind on my farm. My goal is to balance the immediate ecosystem through natural balance of both the beneficial insects and the non-beneficial.
Like any ecosystem, gardens involve an intricate web of life, from the soil microbes, (we can not see) that live beneath the ground, to the birds we see in the tress and everything in between. It's easy to grab a bottle of spray to kill the dandelions or knock off the aphids or other pests eating the plants, but what are we really doing when we do this? We are essentially creating a domino effect of destruction to our environment, are we not?
Use of chemicals disrupts the food chain of the weeds, plants and animals. Many of these weeds, plants and animals, we may think of as the bad guys are essentially providing services that we often can't comprehend, or even begin to understand.
Many species of flies and wasps are actually pollinators as adults, and as larvae they help control many of the pests on our plants and/or decompose organic matter. Small reptiles, like lizards and geckos eat garden pests, like mosquitoes, crickets, caterpillars, moths, grasshoppers and slugs.
Plants that are often looked at as weeds have benefits too. Clovers and dandelions provide flowers for ladybugs, hover flies and bees. Clover has the ability to transfer airborne nitrogen into the soil to be used by neighboring crops. It is also a nutrient accumulator, it accumulates phosphorus. It also makes an excellent egg laying site for beneficial lacewings. Did you know the flowers of clover are edible? Clover as many useful benefits in the garden or fields.
Dandelion (Taraxacum Offinale) One of the most beneficial of ALL weeds. Nutrient accumulator, accumulates potassium, phosphorus, calcium, copper, magnesium and more, while loosening soil. Attracts numerous pollinators. Dandelions are edible, the entire plant can be used, the flowers medicinally. I allow both clover and dandelion to grow in and around my farm as part of my whole system no till farming approach. The less we disturb the soil, insects and the plants, the healthier the immediate ecosystem.
Whole system farming and thinking is the ability to see the interrelationships of all living things, rather than all living things as individual or separate. It is a focus of looking at patterns of change, rather than static pieces. All living things are interconnected with one another. If we disrupt a negative, we can create two negatives. If we allow a healthy balance, we create harmony.
"You can't solve problems with the same thinking that created those problems" - Albert Einstein