Monday, April 24, 2017

Pickup Instructions for this Week's Farmshare

  We have three pickup options this year.  You signed up for one when you sent in your membership agreement.  That will remain your pickup location through the entire Farmshare.  If you don't know which one you signed up for, you need to contact me!  I'm going to give three sets of instructions specific to each location.  If I have information specific to one group each week, I will always preface it by highlighting that group's name.  So don't panic if something I've written doesn't make any sense to you, check to see if the info is meant for a different pickup location!  Cool?  Ok.

So first up this week, on April 25 will be the Tuesday, Little Rock pickup at the home of Julie Majors, 1600 Tarrytown.  Her address works in GPS but if you have trouble finding it, holler.  My husband, Robert, will be dropping this food off before he goes to work.  He comes straight to LR after dropping off at school in Conway in the morning.  Barring no traffic accidents on I40 coming into LR, he should always have the food dropped off shortly before 9.  If you show up at 9 and he's not there, check iDrive.  He will be there rain or shine as long as he's not stuck in a wreck.  Your food will be arriving in large coolers that he will set under the tree in Julie's yard.  I will send a clipboard with a list of your names on it as well as instructions regarding what you are supposed to take.  Please mark next to your name that you have picked up your food.  If it is raining, this clipboard will be in one of the coolers so open them up.  If you signed up for an Eggshare, your eggs will be there in a cooler, don't forget them!  This pickup will be from 9-11 every Tuesday.  Robert will come back and pickup these coolers around lunch, so if you don't make it in the 9-11 window the coolers will be gone.

Next will be the Thursday Farm pickup.   Y'all get to come see me!  Your first pick up will be April 27.  There are two windows of time that we need you to try to hit for pickup.  The morning window is from 9-12 and the afternoon window is from 4-6.  I will actually have to leave the farm on Thursdays at 11 to pickup from school, however, our farmhand Mike will be here to cover until I get back.  If you need to pick up in between these times, it's not a big deal, just message me and we will make arrangements.  If you and I have talked about bringing your food to Conway with me, now's the time to remind me and we'll work it out.  
Directions to the farm: Our address is 1780 Hwy 64 East, Vilonia.  However, it does NOT work well in GPS, please go by my directions!
From Conway:  Head east on Oak St/Hwy 64.  Stay on 64!  Don't get off of 64 to go through Vilonia!  We live on 64!  When you hit the light at the intersection of 64/107 you will be about 5 miles from the farm.  When you see Gunter's RV on your left, you are super close and our driveway is just around the next curve in the road and will be on your right.  You will pass our first driveway which has a green gate across it and our second driveway will have our mailbox that says 1780.  You will see a few large hoophouses and a green metal building.  Come to the green building!
From Beebe, Cabot, Jax:  Make your way to El Paso and head west on Hwy 64.  Our driveway is 2 miles from the stop sign in El Paso and will be on your left.  You will see the hoophouses and a green metal building.  The mailbox says 1780.

Finally, the Saturday pickup at the Hillcrest Farmers Market:  Your first pick will be April 29 and your pickup will run in conjunction with market hours.  For the next two weeks those hours are from 8-noon.  After the first week in May the market opens an hour earlier and everything starts at 7.  You will come to our market booth and directly behind our market booth I will have a second tent set up specifically for you.  I will be there to answer questions but I will have signs on crates of food telling you how much you need to take of each item.  While we will be there until noon, I would encourage you to come as early as possible since we have no way to keep your food cold all morning, especially as summer hits.  

Please text or email me with any questions or if you need to use your skip week!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

First April Newsletter to Farmshare Members

Hello Farmshare members!!


I can't believe it is already time to start writing newsletters!  We've had our heads so buried in planting that I haven't thought about  much else.  I need to start by saying thanks to all of you for taking this ride with us this summer!  It's exciting to see so many returning names that have signed up season after season as well as many new names on the list this year as we continue to grow the Farmshare program.  This spring has been relatively mild for us and we are leaps and bounds ahead of past years in our planting schedule.  I'm excited for the season and ever hopeful for what the spring is going to bring us.  

Since I tend to get a little bit wordy in these newsletters, I'm going to hit the most important point first.  The start date.  Returning members are aware that we always target the start of the Farmshare for the first week in May, plus or minus a week.  Last year we started a week later while we waited for the sugar snaps to ripen.  This year it looks like we will start a week early.  Our start date this year will entirely depend on strawberries.  We started picking ripe strawberries at the end of last week.  So far, not enough of a bowl that any of them make it back to the house before the boys hit them.  I expect the bulk of them to hit though in about two weeks.  Strawberries are such a rare occurrence on our farm that I absolutely want the Farmshare members to get as many of them as possible.  Now if we get nothing but rain the next two weeks, it may push us back to the first week in May, but right now, I'm planning on starting the week of April 24th.  I will totally keep y'all posted over the next two weeks though.

Beyond strawberries, we have a few other new crops being added to the Farmshare baskets this year that we've never grown before.  Based on the survey I gave Farmshare members at the end of last season, we decided to try our hands at potatoes, sweet corn and cauliflower.  Cross your fingers!  Another change this year is actually due to our sales to the co-op we belong to, New South Produce. Instead of just having head lettuce this summer, we are going to alternate with a bagged lettuce mix.  I'm pretty sure most of you would like the convenience of a pre-washed bagged lettuce, so this year we are going to pilot this process and see if it can make sense financially for the farm to offer this.  



To give a quick overview of how crops are looking around here, we have multiple plantings of broccoli, cabbage, carrots and lettuce that are growing well and right on schedule.  Our heirloom tomatoes went into the new high tunnel almost a month ago and are knee high and looking beautiful. With the mild weather we've had, we've actually only had to close the tunnel up two nights since they've been planted.  Pretty unbelievable.  In our middle tunnel this year I planted Japanese cucumbers that I think y'all are going to love.  We planted these at the request of the group of restaurants that we work closely with so y'all will reap what is hopefully an abundance as well as see these on your salads at Zaza's in Conway and Little Rock.  Our cherry tomatoes are behind this year.  Most of you know we've made our name on our orange cherry tomatoes the last eight years.  This year when we saw we were going to outgrow our greenhouse space we actually decided to work with an organic nursery in Van Buren to grow our broccoli, cabbage and cherry tomato seedlings.  Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the greenhouse manager chose not to plant our 1000 cherry tomato seedlings.  And I found this out four days before we were expecting the seedlings to arrive ready to plant.  Gulp.  Nonetheless, I expedited seeds, cleared out greenhouse space and started our own seedlings.  Y'all will still see these cherry tomatoes, just not in May as you have past years. 

 
Finally, a little update on farm operations.  Many of you will remember Mike, that worked for us last summer.  Thanks in no small part to the commitment of our Farmshare members, we were able to keep Mike employed all winter long and he is just as excited about this season as I am.  Y'all will see him around all summer.  So far we've committed one intern and one more farmhand to start in May and are looking to fill a crew of six for the year.  We found out a week ago that the NRCS is offering us another high tunnel this year so construction on that will begin mid-summer.  This is really great news for those of you that loved the heirloom tomatoes we produced in last summer in our old tunnel.  Having three large high tunnels will allow us to have a three year rotation on tomatoes and keep those heirlooms protected every year from now on.  The first construction y'all will see though will be up near the high tunnels and will be a building that doubles as a pumphouse for our irrigation system and a wash station to help increase efficiency in our cleaning process.  

Allright.  I think y'all are almost up to speed!  You'll hear from me weekly from now on, typically, late on Sunday evenings.  If you know someone that is thinking about signing up, please forward this newsletter to them, it's not too late and we have about 20 spots to fill to hit our goal of 85 members this year.  Please feel free to email me (rattlesgarden@yahoo.com) or text me (501-941-0331) with any questions!  Thanks y'all!


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Planning and Planting


Despite last night's cold and sleet, the planning and planting continues.  With sun and 60 degrees on Thursday I planted our third round of beautiful Napoli carrots.  Carrots have been a huge hit in the Farmshare baskets for the last two years so this year we doubled down with large succession plantings hoping to see carrots in Farmshare baskets for the first half of the season.  We are excited about this growing season!  Join us!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2017 Farmshare

photo by Kevin Shalin

Even though May is 5 months away, even though Christmas is barely behind us, it's time again to make plans for the summer Farmshare.  I've spent the last couple days finalizing decisions regarding the logistics of this summer's Farmshare and updating paperwork and the website.  The summer Farmshare is now officially open for membership!

To find out details, go to 2017 Farmshare.  To sign up, download the Membership Agreement.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Building a new high tunnel (part 1)

Last week our new high tunnel arrived on a truck.  
This week we started putting it together. Luckily for us, Robert has access to survey equipment through his job.  Over the years he has surveyed all over our farm.  Our project began with him using this equipment to drop pin flags I the ground where each of the posts for the tunnel would go.  Then we used the tractor and a level to push each post in the ground and make sure they were straight.
This morning we strung a string across the posts of our existing tunnel and used it to determine the depth we needed to push the new posts in.  Then we finished the first driving the first row of posts in to the correct depth.  
This evening we ought to get the second row of posts leveled off as well.  More to come...


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Tied to a Chicken Coop

For the first six years that we kept a flock of laying hens they roosted at night in a permanent coop and roamed during the day on about half an acre of ground fenced in around that coop.  For six years, morning and night the chicken coop had to be opened and closed.  When we went out of town it meant that whoever took care of the animals for us had to make a separate trip to the farm in the morning just to open the coop.  Not being tied to a chicken coop door was one of the more appealing aspects of putting our birds in a mobile coop and rotating their pasture.  Now our birds have been on  pasture for two and a half years.  They roost inside a trailer with a coop built on top.  Their pasture is surrounded by electric fence which does a really fantastic job of keeping out predators.


A year ago in January the battery went out on our fence charger and it took almost two weeks to get it replaced.  During those two weeks we lost almost one hen a night to any number of predators.  I believe it was multiple predators because we've found over the years that different predators have different patterns of behavior in what they do with the birds.  For instance, a hawk will eat almost every part of a chicken.  They leave only a backbone attached to wings.  Raccoons and possums tend to eat a large part of the bird and almost always try to drag the bird back through the fence to a treeline. Owls on the other hand eat a chicken's head.  And that is it.  To me they are the worst kind of predator because of the waste they create.  They are also the worst kind of  predator because they mean we have to be tied to the door of a chicken coop again.

Last year after we replaced the battery in the fence charger we continued to lose a bird every couple of nights.  The difference this time was that on all of these birds, only the head was eaten.  At the time we had little experience with owls and were still guessing at the predator.  Until one night we got a few inches of snow.  I had closed the coop door that night and went out early in the morning to open it.  In the middle of the fenced in chicken yard started one set of large bird tracks.  It walked to the front of the coop and then all the way around the trailer.  After a little more research we were pretty sure we were dealing with an owl.

Eventually as spring came around we started taking chances again leaving the coop door open in the evenings.  We didn't have a problem again until about a month ago.  Always in the evening, always just the head pulled off.  So once again we are tied to the door of the chicken coop.  Hopefully just until spring rolls around and other prey become easier to find.  Until then, I'm greeted with relief every morning as I open the door to the trailer and chickens begin to roll out.