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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Farm Update - Vegetable Area!

We started planting our winter crop a month a half ago and continue planting to have a steady supply.  We have various types of lettuce, peas, cauliflower, broccoli, beets, cabbage, cilantro, parsley, and collard greens.   Here are some pictures of the rows.  Some of the lettuce is ready to harvest.    My parents are also repairing a drip line to one of the rows.   Some of the rows have small seedlings that were planted in the last week.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Bored Parents + Grapefruit order = Grapefruit picking party!

I received a order for 6 cases of grapefruit the other day.  My parents are also visiting from South Dakota.   I took them to the farm to pick grapefruit in the orchard.     They didn't complain, but I guess picking grapefruit in 60 degree sunny weather is better than being knee deep in snow and below zero weather.     The trees are old marsh grapefruit trees.   I have 11 of them in the orchard.   I am happy to find someone interested in grapefruit because the pharmaceutical industry has destroyed the grapefruit demand.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

No Till Planting - Back to Eden Method!

This is my second year planting on this property and after tilling a lot of compost into each row,  I have decided to stop tilling and utilize a variation of Paul Gautchis back to eden gardening method.   His method involves using raised beds with thick layers of compost, organic material and wood chips.   I am not using wood chips because the compost I purchase has a lot of wood particles in it.  
My rows are 3 foot wide and 50 feet long.  I have 26 rows so a total of 3900 square feet of planting space, so I will need a lot of organic material.

I am covering the row with 3-4 inches of compost before planting.   This will serve a few purposes.   One is to rebuild the soil because the compost will be worked into the soil by planting and earthworm activity.   It will also provide nutrients to the plant when I water by compost tea washing into the soil.  It will also hold moisture in the soil reducing water use.   Finally, it will eliminate the need to weed because the compost layer is so thick, weed seeds will not be able to sprout.    This will save a lot of time.

Here are images of the row being prepared.  The base soil had a lot of compost added last spring, but still has a lot of clay as you can tell by the reddish color.   The images will show the layer of compost being added and my dad surveying the work after we were done.

We laid out drip lines that only use a little over a half a gallon per hour for each 100 feet so basically I can water each row with 3 lines for a hour and only use 1.8 gallons.    Considering I have to use city water, this will save a lot of money.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Planting Cilantro

We prepared a row yesterday and I got Duane to come out to the farm to help me plant Cilantro.      We planted two plug trays of cilantro.   I have a restaurant and a Mexican market and Carniceria who want to buy cilantro from me.
My mother was busy in the kitchen preparing christmas dinner so we decided to go to the farm to plant.   Duane came along and help which is great because it took half the time.  

Seedling Party Update

We planted 14 plug trays of seedlings on 12-23-15 and we have some of the seeds already sprouting after 2 days.   Lettuce and brassicas (cabbage family) seedlings sprout very easily.      They are sprouted under grow lights and the trays are placed on a seedling heating mat set at 72 degrees which speeds up germination.  
Here are a couple pictures of them poking through the soil.

Seed Starting Party!

Its time to start another round of winter vegetables.    I had help from my mother, Sarrah, who helps me on the farm and Alanah, a UCR student who is interested in farming and permaculture.     We started plug trays of varous kinds of lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, swiss chard, spinach, cabbage and and basil.    we planted 14 plug trays or about 3500 seeds.     Here is a picture of my helpers, and all the plug trays under the grow lights.   The trays are set on heated mats to help warm the soil and improve and speed up the germination.     Sarrah was the boss and the second picture is of here ordering us around.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Vegetable Cooler is up and running!

The cooler is finally built.   We wired the cooler the other day, and installed the air conditioner.   We installed the coolbot cooling system, and started it up.    It lowered the temp from 65 to 51 in about a hour.   It appeared to keep the temperature without running the A/C that much.   We will have to see how it works when its 100 degrees outside this summer.     The coolbot system bypasses the window air conditioners thermostat and runs it at a much lower temperature.

Here are some pictures of the cooler, exterior, interior, and coolbot.

Monday, November 30, 2015

A Farm isn't a Farm without Chickens!

I have started building a chicken coop with the remaining funds from the Kiva Zip loan.  

I am adding chickens for several reasons.   They will give me access to organic fertilizer to improve the soil on the farm.   They will be a source of income in egg sales.   Finally,  they will help with weed and pest control in the orchard.

I have chosen Silver Laced Wyandottes.    They are a multi-purpose breed as they are big enough to raise as a meat bird and also are very good layers of brown eggs.   Here are some pictures of this breed.  They are also know for being very calm.  

 There was an old chicken coop on the property, but it wasn't secure.   The racoons would have gotten them the first night if I would have used it for chickens.   Here are some pictures of the old coop.

I am placing the coop in the same spot, so the old coop had to be dismantled before building the new coop.

Here are pictures of the coop under construction.   The chicken run will be installed where the old one was located on the side, but with much stronger fencing to deter the racoons and fox that live on the farm.  

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Vegetable Cooler built by a community.

I needed a vegetable cooler for my farm.   Its very important as I don't have a produce stand where I can sell what was picked that day.   This is what a couple farms in Riverside without coolers do.  They sell their produce they pick that day at the stand and don't have a need for cold storage.

I pick my produce for sale at a day or two later, for delivery to restaurants.    Its also very important to get the produce cooled quickly.  The longer is sits in warm air, it starts to deteriorate and doesn't last nearly as long as produce that is quickly cooled after harvest.   This will allow me to sell a much fresher looking product.   This especially applies to lettuce that will start wilting immediately after picking if you don't get it into refrigeration

I applied for a Kiva Zip loan which is a interest free loan funded by friends, family, and 55,000 lenders internationally.    Thanks to 30 people I know and another 68 Kiva Zip lenders, I reached the $5000.00 loan by the 45 days.    I want to thank my friends, associates, and especially the RFSA (Riverside Food Systems Alliance)  and Riverside Food Cooperative who made a last minute appeal to the members who helped me reach the goal.    I have already made the first payment, so those of you who made a loan should see it in your account.

I was originally going to buy a commercial cooler and expected to spend 6000-8000.00  but after I started the loan, I learned of another method.   I saw a cooler at Uncommon good in Upland and they were using a basic shed with a window air conditioner.    They were using the coolbot controller which turns a simple window air conditioner into a vegetable cooler.

Here are some of the images with the coolbot system

I decided to utilize this method.   I hired someone to build the shed - so with the air conditioner with was $538.00,  The coolbot controller - $299.00 - and the shed with insulation for 1680.00  My cooler cost $2517.00.   Although I had received $5000.00, I only used half of it.   I am using the other half to build a chicken coop, which will help on the farm by providing weed control, bug control, organic fertilizer, and eggs to sell.   I will post about that on my blog in another entry.

Here are images of the shed being built and finished.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Another Tomato Story - The good, the bad, and the amazing!

I received some pictures of tomatoes from a friend of mine who also manages a restaurant.   They are typical of what most large restaurants receive.    They are picked green and then gassed with ethylene to help them ripen.  The problem is they don't ever get the same flavor or color as if they were ripened on the vine.
This isn't a slam on the restaurant, because when you have contract suppliers for produce, this is what you get.  

Another option is to visit small restaurants that buy locally grown produce as much as possible.

One option is Riverside, is the Woodfire Cafe at 3965 Market St.   Its on Market and downtown, across the street from City Hall.   Here is a picture of a caprese salad that he serves.   The tomatoes were sourced locally by me, and the basil was grown on my farm.    Take a look at how red the tomatoes are.

This dish shows the amazing color of a vine ripened tomato.

Here are the images of the typical tomatoes that are available to restaurants.
They are still very green and there is a red lid beside the tomatoes to show the contrast.
As I said - this isn't mean that restaurants are serving bad produce.   These tomatoes will work fine, but could taste better.   This is why it's important to have a vibrant farming community in Riverside growing local produce.   Please don't email me and ask which restaurant, because it really doesn't matter as any restaurant in the US could have tomatoes like this delivered from their produce supplier.