Friday, March 30, 2012

Mudbug Chimneys

The Monster man simply cannot pass up the opportunity to drop mud down a mudbug chimney.  I almost feel sorry for the poor little dudes and all the work they go through only to have big chunks of mud dropped back down their hole.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Strawberries are an experiment for us this year.  We've been told repeatedly that we can't grow strawberries in Arkansas without any chemical.  It may end up being true but we thought we'd experiment with a few anyway.  Over the course of this project we've taken bits and pieces of information regarding growing strawberries in the home garden and mixed it with pieces of information about growing strawberries commercially..

Commercial strawberry growers in Arkansas use a growing system called plasticulture to grow berries.  To combat many insects, diseases and fungus these growers fumigate their strawberry ground with chemicals like methyl bromide and then cover it with plastic in the fall.  Then they put their strawberry plants directly into this ground to overwinter and produce strawberries in the spring.  Methyl bromide is a nasty, carcinogenic chemical with a number of negative environmental side effects that is currently only still permitted in a limited number of states whose agricultural economy depends on it's use.  Personally, I will not eat a commercially grown strawberry that is not organic.  Luckily, my parents have a large strawberry patch in their garden in Iowa and they supply us with our strawberries throughout the year.  It appears though that the Monster has inherited his father's love of strawberries so we decided to try to grow a few of our own.

Last fall we followed the schedule of the commercial growers and put 500 plants in the ground that we had heavily fertilized with feather meal.  We then ran irrigation lines and mulched them heavily with hay.  Like the commercial growers, we intend to remove these plants from the ground when they are done producing late this spring.  We actually left the plants uncovered all winter which I don't think is what the commercial growers do.  This may be why we lost around 30%  of our plants.  We weren't sure when to cover and when to leave them uncovered so we just left them uncovered.  Luckily for us it was a warm winter.  I need to do a little more research on this aspect for the future.  I think the plants that made it through look pretty good, although I don't have much to compare them to, and we have quite a few green berries.  We'll see if any of them make it to harvest.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Feeding Goats

We have three little goats.  We don't milk them or make meat out of them.  We just have them.  They don't require a lot of effort from us and maintain their own pasture as well as keeping the chicken pasture clean all summer long.  Last summer we discovered they eat pigweed.  Anyone who has experience with pigweed like we do hates pigweed as much as we do and will understand how satisfying it was last year to have a place to dump wheelbarrows full of pigweed and see it disappear.

Monster Milan doesn't yet have strong feelings for weeds but does get some satisfaction from feeding them to the goats.  The goats on the other hand didn't have a great appreciation for his desire to dole out grass one blade at a time.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Garlic & Peas

I took a few pictures around the farm tonight that I'll try to get posted over the next few days.


Sugar snap peas.

I love pea tendrils wrapped around the trellis.  

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Beginning Farmer Workshop

I know several people who read this blog do so because they are interested in starting their own small farm someday so I thought I'd pass on a little information.  Our friend Kelly from North Pulaski Farms is hosting a NCAT workshop for beginning farmers on April 6 and 7.  The workshop is free and designed for new farmers or individuals interested in starting a farm.

The information I found on the NCAT website described the workshop as an "educational workshop (that) will teach specialty crop farmers how to manage risk through business planning, recordkeeping and budgeting, and marketing strategies. It will also combine educational presentations with a tour of North Pulaski Farms and hands-on training on topics including season extension, succession planting, and organic certification."  I don't know which of the topics Kelly is actually speaking about but I know firsthand that business planning, recordkeeping, budgeting and marketing are strengths Kelly brings to his farm and I consider him an excellent resource in regards to these topics.  Many new farmers could benefit from lessons he has learned over the past three years.

I am encouraging my interns to take advantage of this free workshop and hope to get this information out to a few others that could benefit from it as well.  Register here!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Harvesting Monsters

It rained practically all day yesterday.  When the skies finally cleared late in the afternoon I went out to check on things in the garden.  That is when this popped up.

Rather than help him out of the mud, first I took the opportunity to catch him completely still for the first time in a long time and ran for my camera.  He put on his best smile.

When I finally got him unstuck it was business as usual.  Sloshing in wet boots and saggy britches were not about to stop him in his quest for the ever-elusive of the farm cats, Peace.  

Persistence almost paid off.  He got close.  

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bees, Bees, Bees

For the last two years I've had a touch of bee fever but not enough time to do anything about it.  This spring I have it bad.  So bad that when I went into research mode again two months ago I made III promise to keep me from buying a bee hive this year.  We already have a few new projects in the works and we've had a tendency in the past to get spread too thin and end up not doing as good a job as we should with a project.  I don't want that to be the case with bees.

Another reason I decided to wait is that most of my research indicated that you need to place an order for bees by at least February.  My dilemma back in January was that the beginning beekeeping workshop I wanted to attend wasn't happening till mid-March.  So I had to decide whether to place an order with very little knowledge of what I was ordering or take a chance that I would still be able to get bees in March.  I decided that since I was dealing with living creatures rather than plants, I would wait till I knew a little bit more.

February came and went and my bee obsession was put aside in place of starting seedlings, taking care of monsters and ordering chicks (critters I know how to raise).  Everything changed on Monday evening when I attended the first night of the beginning beekeeper class put on by the Central Arkansas Beekeepers Association.  I actually missed last night's class due to my unwillingness to drive into Little Rock in the middle of the thunderstorms rocking our area but have poured over the book they sent me home with and can't wait for tomorrow night's class.  From what I understand, the extension office helps put on these classes around the state and I highly recommend attending one if bees are an interest.  I learned so much.

I learned so much in fact that I feel like I am definitely not ready for a hive this year.  My interest in bees lies in that fact that I find them fascinating and need them for pollination.  I'm not really interested in honey production.  Don't get me wrong, being able to produce one more portion of our diet here on the farm would be great, but I don't intend to get into honey production for market sales.  I had hoped to find out I could set a hive out and be pretty hands-off with it.  It doesn't sound like that is the case.  So, until next year...maybe I can luck on a beekeeper in need of an extra bee yard like I did two years ago.

Anyone feel like keeping bees on our farm?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Flowers are "Nice"

Last week Milan Monster had a surgery that we've known was coming for over a year.  It was supposed to be no big deal and he handled it like a champ but it doesn't change the fact that it's scary anytime you have to take any child to the hospital to be operated on.  Especially one that is so healthy to begin with.  Ironically, while the surgery didn't slow him down much, the cold he picked up from the hospital knocked him down for a few days after the surgery.

The surgery gave my parents a reason to drive down for a visit.  (As if they really need reason).

When my parents are here my mom goes into full-time babysitting mode and she's really good at coming up with things to teach him and challenge him and entertain him.  The on-going activity for this trip was picking flowers.  While I was busy cutting tulips and my dad and III were putting up fence, Grandma and Milan were busy picking clover and phlox.  Over the course of the week, Milan decided flowers are "nice" (must be accompanied by a wave of the hand).

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Few Tulips

We started cutting tulips a week ago and while most of them made it into cold storage or have already been passed on to customers, I cut a few for Milan Monster to give Grandma this week.

Almost all of our tulips are French tulips primarily because they are late season tulips which we need if we have any hope of holding them off until our markets start in April.

This year I couldn't help but order at least one variety that just looked really cool-even though they weren't late season tulips.  They are a red and yellow striped variety called Banja Luka.  I wasn't disappointed!

This is why I plant tulips.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Fungus Injustice

I was told that the mushroom pics I'd posted so far were not doing the mushrooms justice.  So....a few more.  Before the mushrooms looked like this on their way to my kitchen yesterday,

they looked like this....

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mushroom Explosion!

Last week I posted a picture of this mushroom.

Today it looks like this...

The logs must have liked all the rain we got this weekend because all of a sudden I am seeing mushrooms everywhere!

Milan monster and his grandma liked all the rain too.

III was in Alabama for work today so I had to text him these pictures.  He seemed pretty pleased with the mushrooms but said this was the best crop I was growing.  

We're keeping him well watered.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

More Rain

When it looks like this outside

the natives get restless and start looking for ways to escape.

One whole day stuck inside makes me really thankful it has been such a mild winter.  I think we've been outside for long periods of time every single day.  I am glad though that the rain allowed me to see this.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mushrooms Pinning

It's been so warm and windy here for the last week that we've been misting our mushroom logs several times a day to help keep them from drying out.  

Last Saturday we noticed that pins were beginning to form on a number of logs.  This was exactly two weeks from when we shocked the logs for the first time.  Seeing the logs start to pin is the first real sign that we are actually going to get mushrooms so it was exciting.

Yesterday was even more exciting when I rolled a log over and saw a cap beginning to form!

I can't wait for mushrooms!!