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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Pest Control on the farm - Preying Mantis Egg Case

I was walking through the orchard the other day and noticed something on the branches of a young apricot tree.   I stopped to take a closer look and also take some pictures of it.   I then searched under insect egg cases and realized its a preying mantis egg case.   This makes me happy as preying mantises are insect predators and will help control the insect pest population.     This is also a by product of utilizing organic growing methods because if I sprayed insecticides, there wouldn't be any eggs cases of good or bad insects.

Preying mantises are insects that are closely related to cockroaches.   They will eat almost any other insect they can sneak up on and will also eat smaller preying mantises.   They will also eat small lizards or frogs if they can catch one.     Here is an image of a typical preying mantis found in most gardens or farms.


Here is an image of a baby that I found last summer so I took a picture of it before I released it.


Here are images of the egg cases on the apricot tree along with a picture of my finger along side for scale.    I will watch it closely and hopefully take some pictures of it when it starts hatching.



Thursday, February 2, 2017

Planting Update - Carioca Lettuce

I have started planting all the seedlings that I have started.    Today I planted a 50 foot row of carioca lettuce.   This variety is a red lettuce that forms loose heads.     I plant 3 rows within each row that is about 3.5 feet wide.   The seedlings were started in a plug tray.  

Here is a image of the seedlings.   They have decent roots so should start quite easily.   Lettuce plants are very easy to transplant.


Here are images of the rows after they were planted and finally an image of this variety when it's mature.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Battle of the Rabbits - aka - The Rabbit Apocolypse!

I have been having an awful problem with rabbits.    As anyone who grows vegetables will tell you, rabbits love to eat and will eat everything if not kept in check.   I planted 1000 lettuce plants and they ate them all over a week.   They also ate 200 feet of pea plants down to the ground.   They also ate the trays of plants that I worked hard to plant and grow.     Here are some pictures of the damage.



There are quite a few rabbits on the farm.   They come from the neighbors who have a big back yard that is full of weeds.   There are holes in the wood fence.  They may also come from the river bottom which at at the back of the farm.   Here a picture of one of them out during the day.   They are so common, that it hopped right by the chicken and the chickens are so used to them, it didn't even react.



I don't really mind them on the farm as they keep the weeds down.   The problem is they spend all night eating in the vegetable growing portion of the farm.  I am fine with mother nature taking some of the plants.   I consider it tithing.   But instead of taking 10% and leaving the rest for me, they take 90% of the plants.   The vegetable growing area is surrounded by a horse corral with some fencing, but they crawl right through.    I stopped planting until I can get the rabbits under control.   I decided to enclose the entire 1/3 acre corral fence with rabbit fencing at the bottom.  Rabbit fencing is very narrow at the bottom so they can't crawl through.   Here's some picture of the regular fence and the rabbit fencing attached.   If this doesn't work, I'm not sure what to do.





Monday, January 23, 2017

Rain and Drought Update - More Rain is helping!

We had a series of 3 rainstorms over the last 5 days.   The last one was the strongest which left 2-4 inches of rain in Southern California.   2-4 inches of rain is what some cities receive in a month during the rainy season.      I haven't had to water on my farm since Thanksgiving which is reducing my water bill tremendously.   The average water bill is around $500 a month so having a financial break is good.   Here is a picture of the water gauge after the 3rd storm.  
Here are the pictures of the orchard and farm after 4 days and 4 inches of rain.
There is a picture of the pond which is almost overflowing.   I haven't added any water to the pond since thanksgiving.







Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Fox Farm - A Urban farm is also wildlife habitat series - Hummingbirds

One of the benefits of a urban farm is a farm provides habitat for wildlife that would not do well in a suburban neighborhood.     I have quite a few hummingbirds on the farm.    They were wonderful birds and its fun watching them dart around the trees, and flowers on the farm.   They also will be flying above the pond catching mosquitoes in mid air.    The hummingbird is a small bird that will thrive in any urban neighborhood, so don't necessarily need a farm to survive.   If you want to see their antics, just place a hummingbird feeder near a window and they will arrive shortly.

I noticed a hummingbird buzzing around the front gate of the farm and saw it land on a branch.  I realized it was sitting on a nest, so I took some pictures.   I am amazed how big the eggs are compared to the size of the humming bird.   The nest is very small and about the size of a half walnut shell.   Its made out of leaves and spider webs.  The hummingbird will spend a lot of time, collecting enough spider webs to make the nest which looks nice and soft inside.  


Incubation last around 14 days.   After 5 days, there were babies in the nest.   Here is a picture of the babies,   They are really small.   


They seemed to grow fast, and I took another picture about 5 days later.   You can see one of them begging for food with it mouth open.  



They were gone a week later.  Hopefully they were all big enough to fly away and make more nests to raise babies.    

Friday, January 13, 2017

Wasp vs Caterpillar - Mother Nature's Pest Control at Work

I was planting transplants last summer when I noticed some movement on the ground by my knee.    I saw some type of flying insect struggling with a caterpillar.  It looks like it was trying to fly away while holding on to the caterpillar.    It appeared to be some type of wasp.   Caterpillars are very destructive to plants, especially small plants as they can eat half the transplant which will kill or stunt the plant.

These insect predators are one of the reasons why I grow naturally and don't utilize insecticides.    Mother nature and a healthy ecosystem is better at controlling pests than spraying.    Even insecticides approved for organic use will also kill ladybugs and other predatory bugs.    I choose to skip spraying.   Spending money on improving the health of the soil is a much better way.  Healthy plants can fend off insect attacks.   I have noticed that the weak and stunted plants are what draws aphids, not the healthy one.

Here are some pictures of the wasp, with the first being a close up.   I have no idea what type of wasp it is, but it had killed the caterpillar and was hauling it away to eat it or feed to young.





Thursday, January 12, 2017

Rain! Could this be the end of the drought!

My farm is located in Southern California which does have a winter.  Winter here means highs of 60-70 during the day and lows of 40-50 at night.    Residents of areas that have cold winters are probably jealous.   Winter is also the rainy season for us.  We generally only get rain from November to April.   Its quite common not to have any rainfall in the summer.    That is why water use and costs are a important component to farmers.   We rely on imported and well water during the summers.   Most cities will try to capture as much rain in the winter as possible to recharge ground water aquifers.  

California is in the midst of a 6 year drought with annual rainfall totals 1/3rd of normal, causing the reservoirs, lakes and aquifers at dangerously low levels.     This year appears to be different.   My farm has 3 inches of rain in December with the average around 1.3 inches.   We just has a 3 day storm that just left 1.5 inches of rain on the farm.  Here is a picture of the rain gauge.


I haven't had to turn any of the watering systems on at the farm for the entire month of December.  This will provide a great relief to the owner who pays a monthly water bill of $500-700.00.   I expect the same relief to continue through January.    Here are pictures of the orchard after the rain store today.   There is water sitting everywhere and its taking longer to soak into the ground due to the pre-existing moisture levels in the ground.







Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Compost - A vital component of my farm!

I used to use compost sparingly because a cubic yard would cost around $30.00 which is about enough to fill my Ford Ranger truck bed.     Burrtec waste management has started composting the green waste that they pick up in our green trash cans.     They make really nice compost that is certified by the National Compost Council.   They make compost in long covered rows.  These are pictures of their compost rows in the Fontana, CA facility.



After the composting process, they screen it through a 3/8 inch screen and dump it in a big pile for sale to the public.   Here is a picture of a large pile of compost available for sale.


They charge $8.00 a cubic yard which fills up my truck bed.      

I utilize the compost covering up the rows with a thick layer of compost to keep moisture in the soil and cover up weed seeds keeping them from germinating.    This is the "back to eden" growing method.  I plant the transplanted seeds into the layer of compost, and the roots go down into the soil below the compost.    The compost also nourishes the soil because when it rains, it provides compost "tea" to leach down into the soil.  This is the 2nd layer of compost I have placed on the rows and I have noticed the soil is much better with a very healthy earthworm population.   I have stopped tilling the compost into the soil and rely on earthworms in moving the compost down in the soil.   Here are images of the rows.  One shows a row with the start of the row and with the row all spread out.   I then place the irrigation drip lines down the row.