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Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Flames on Peaches = Very sweet peaches!

 When you purchase most peaches in a large grocery store chain, they tend to be rather hard and will not taste the same as a tree ripened peach.   The reason for this is that tree ripened peaches are very fragile and do not ship well.     Most commercial peach growers will pick them firm and usually under ripe.   The reason for this is that peaches will travel two weeks on average from grower to the produce aisle.   That means the peaches aren't allowed to develop that full and sweet peach flavor.

I have 6 peach trees at Fox Farm and I planted different varieties that produce at different times of the year.    I allow them to  remain on the tree until they are completely ripe and soft.  What happens  that the sun will make parts of the peach red, but the leaves will leave shadows on the leaves.   This doesn't happen with commercial peaches because they aren't left on the trees long enough for this to happen.   I call them flames.   I have attached a couple pictures of peaches from last years crop and you can clearly see the outline of the leaves where the sun was blocked.   This doesn't mean the peach isn't ripe in the shadows, the peach will be fully ripe.   It makes for a very pretty peach.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Greenhouse installation at Fox Farm - Conley Greenhouse

 I purchased and installed a greenhouse for starter plants for Fox Farm last spring.    I borrowed $10,000 on Kiva which is a crowd lending organization.   Its a great way to loan money to businesses, individuals and people who want to improve their life with a kiva loan.    

Here is a image of my loan.  I have almost completely paid it off.   

I am also a kiva lender and have made over 1270 loans over the past few years.    

The greenhouse I chose was made by Conley Greenhouses and I purchased it from    Turns out I probably overpaid because it was manufactured in Upland CA which is 30 miles from me - but shipped to Indiana and then shipped back to me in Riverside CA.    I didn't realize that when I ordered it.

The size is 9' X 12' and was a kit with fans, and a propane heater.   

Images of the greenhouse flyer and plans

The first step was installing the concrete pad.  I wanted to make sure it was firmly anchored as sometimes we have high winds that will blow through the farm and didn't want my greenhouse blowing away during a Santa Ana Wind Event.

Next was installing the frame support brackets to hold the greenhouse to the foundation.

Once the supports were installed -  its time to put it together which was a challenge.  here are all the parts before installation started.

Here are images of the installation process.   I had various people help whom have never installed a greenhouse.    I did call Conley greenhouses to see if they could install, but the Pot growers were keeping them busy installing large greenhouses.

Here are images of it completed along with some starter plants inside.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Peruvian Apple Cactus or Cereus Repandus blooming and fruiting!

 My Peruvian Apple Cactus was blooming heavily this summer and the tasty fruit are ready to eat.    The bees were loving the blossoms and there will be 4-8 bees in each bloom - bathing in almost bathing in pollen.

This plant is great for water-wise landscapes as it doesn't take much water and if very majestic when it matures.   It will actually get quite large so some people will cut it back.   

Here are pictures of mine and also a close up of the fruit.  The edible fruit starts forming as the base of the blossom and will swell into into a round ball.  It will turn red when it's ripe

The fruit is a sweet white flesh with little black seeds.   It's similar in appearance and taste to dragon fruit.   Its my favorite time of the year as I will take one off and eat it while I am walking around the farm.   They are very tasty.    There are little thorns on it so be careful when picking them.

They are easy to propagate.  Break off a branch and the end where it was connected to the mother plant into some soft damp soil and it will root over a 3-5 weeks.    You will see new branches growing when it's rooted and established.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Botta's Pocket Gophers - A farmers headache!

 A common pest for vegetable, grape, or fruit growers is the pocket gopher.      They will tunnel throughout the orchard or fields and will pull the crop into their burrow to eat safely, safe from predators.  They are known at Botta's pocket gopher.  Here is a picture of a pocket gopher -with it cheek pockets full

They will also leave piles of dirt where they pushed the dirt out of the tunnel when excavating.  
Here are some picture of dirt piles in my vegetable growing area.    

They are very prolific and if there readily available food source, they will have up to 4 litters a year with up to 12 pups per litter.      They are also considered beneficial as they will aerate the soil with their tunnels and also bring minerals to surface for plants.   They are also voracious pests.   They cleared out an entire row of fennel last summer over 2 weeks.   They also love lettuce, peas, and carrots.   I had an entire row of carrots that I started harvesting and realized that every carrot was missing the bottom 2/3rds of each carrot because they had tunneled under the entire row and eaten the bottom of almost every carrot.

Common predators of pocket gophers are badgers, hawks, owls, fox and coyotes.   Barn owls will consume hundreds of pocket gophers in a breeding season and they hunt at night when the gophers will leave their burrows to eat.  

Another control method is to put poison in the holes, but the problem with poisons are that you risk killing predators who may come across a poisoned gopher and eat it, thereby ingesting the poison.   

Trapping is a common method as an alternative to poisons.   One trap is a Macabee trap.   I personally don't like them because they will not kill the gopher right away and cause it to suffer.     You have to tie the trap to a stake as the gopher will pull it into their tunnel before they die.

Here is a picture of the Macabee trap.

I use the Victor Gopher trap which will kill them instantly.   I want them to die, but I don't want them to suffer in the process.  The Victor gopher trap is so powerful, I think it would break your finger if it snapped on a finger.   

I had a gopher that was eating my Romaine lettuce so I found it's tunnel while I was harvesting.  I decide to set a victor trap.  I dug out the tunnel and put one trap on each side of the tunnel because I didn't know which side the gopher was currently located.   Here is picture of the traps.

I checked the trap the next day and was happy to see that the one on the left was snapped and it had a very large male gopher in it.   You can see how it snapped down on the gopher killing it instantly.   You can also see its large yellow teeth.      One down and probably 10 more to go.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Barn Owl Nest Box Project off to a start! First two nesting boxes placed!

 I plan on placing as many barn owl nest boxes in Riverside CA farms as I can afford to purchase.

A pair of barn owls will catch and eat over 1000 rats, gophers and other pests when raising a nest of young.   The main restraint on the population isn't a reliable food source (there are many gophers and rats in the farms and citrus groves) but rather lack of nesting habitat.  They require either an old barn or old tree with hollow cavities.   Both are in short supply in Riverside.

Here is a picture of a barn owl inside a nest box.

Riverside California is blessed with a 5000 acre voter protected agricultural preserve.   The main method of rodent control used by farmers is poisons or rodenticides.   The issue is that whenever a predator such as a owl, hawk, fox, or other predator eats the poisoned rodent, they will become very sick and more than likely succumb to the poison.  

Barn owls are an environmentally friendly way to control rodents in farms.    They hunt mostly at night when rats and pocket gophers are out.   They are also comfortable with humans so will live on a urban setting.  

I decided to fund a project placing barn owl nest boxes in farms in Riverside farms.    I placed my first two nest boxes over the past two days.    One at Gable Farm near Victoria Ave and Tyler and another out by Lake Mathews in an citrus orchard.  I have 5 more to place in Riverside and already have farms who want one.

I am currently running a fundraiser on gofundme to raise funds to purchase another 16 boxes.  I want to get them placed before the barn owls start looking for nesting sites in March.  

Here are some pictures of the boxes at both farms.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Oranges Are in Season

Its naval orange season in Riverside CA.   I picked some bags of oranges for one of my customers.
They are packed in 25 pound bags.  I charge $9.00 for each bag which is .36 cents a pound.    The trees are around 30 years old which means the oranges are very sweet.   As an orange tree ages, the oranges get smaller but they become sweeter. 

Friday, November 23, 2018

Pilgrim Geese Nesting and Hatching Babies!

I have a trio of pilgrim geese that were laying eggs and were becoming broody.   Broody means they want to start sitting on the nest to hatch the eggs.   If you cannot provide them a safe place to sit,  it isn't good to let them hatch eggs.   They will sit on a next and become easy prey for predators, especially at night.  You will usually loose the nest and often the hen to predation.    I decided to put them in a covered kennel to let them sit on their eggs where they could be safe.   Both hens made a large nest and had 17 eggs between the two of them.   The gander (white) loved to sit up high and watch over them.

I wasn't expecting that many to hatch as they were young hens and this was their first next, so sometimes they don't know what they are doing and only 1-2 will hatch.      Much to my surprise  12 of the 17 hatched.   Here are images of the babies.  Pilgrim geese are a auto-sexing breed which means you can tell the males from the females based on color.  Males are white, females are grey.  Even as babies, the females will be darker with a grey beak.   The first three pictures show a baby female.    Baby geese are very cute.   The male also plays a role in raising them.   Geese are very social and are constantly chattering with each other, including the babies.