I love taking the time in the winter to think about the year and our successes.
The garden – we grew lots of early spring vegetables enough to take to Hood River Gorge Grown Market as well as offering them as box shares until our regular season started. In the summer we grew an increased amount of produce for market and had enough for 7 CSA shares. Our soil health is improving each year by leaps and bounds. Things that did especially good this year were melons, cucumbers, tomatoes, leeks, sweet peppers, and corn. The early spring had us planting early and scrambling to get things in the ground. We set up plastic covered caterpillars and lots of black plastic mulch to get the ground warm quickly which made us the first to market with our cucumbers and a full three weeks earlier on tomatoes and sweet corn than last year. We experimented with sweet potatoes, enough to have a few pounds for each CSA holder. The apple tree that the turkeys have been fertilizing and keeping the bugs away from gave a large harvest, and the asparagus that was introduced our first year here had its first pickings. The same heat that gave us the plethora of sweet strawberries, did make it difficult to do succession planting and our fall crops did not germinate as well as in past years. You win some and loose some, that’s one of the joys of diverse cropping. Our late fall harvest gave our family more than 40 pounds of dried beans and about 25 pounds of flint and popcorn which we are happily eating by the fire in the evenings.
Random other plant related accomplishments – We made significant strides in learning about seed saving and will be able to provide many of our own seeds for next year. The pasture has improved so much it’s hard to recognize it as the scrubby grass it once was. Our one field mowing had grass so high, it was difficult to get through. The wheat proved to be a fun learning experiment. Although we only got 21 pounds or so, we learned a lot about planting, harvesting, threshing, and cleaning the product. The process is not for the faint of heart, and it gave a deep appreciation for what modern farming, at its best, can do for society. We activated our first bio char, and got a system set up for making compost tea. The side by side experiments that we made, show what a difference a bit of homebrewed tea really makes. We also made at least a full 12 yards of compost to enrich our soil, in part by partnering with the nearby girl scout camp to take their kitchen waste.
The poultry – The heat made it super difficult keeping up with shade and water, but it was a point of pride that out of the 1000 chickens and 120 turkeys that were raised for market this year we had only two birds lost to the heat. The quality and weight of our heritage Delaware chickens improved through our breeding program. we had 17 butcher days all manned with wonderful volunteers and much shared fellowship. We were able to regularly provide chicken for Skyline Hospital, a few for Skamania Lodge, and the pastured turkey option for the Fisher’s Landing New Season’s store. In our processing area we installed an ice machine eliminating the costs of buying ice, and streamlined the processing area so that more people can comfortably work, making our harvest days go faster and more smoothly.
Other random farm, animal, and human related accomplishments – There were preschool trips, and learning days for kids. Due to our increased yields and sales at market, this was the first year we were able to give our intern a small stipend. Seeing her go out on her own and start farming her own property is a huge satisfaction. The little tractor we had been using gave up the ghost and our parents helped purchase a newer stronger one. We built a hive for bees and caught a couple of swarms and now have a lovely domesticated bee colony established. After years of talking about why a small system farm needs ungulates to work properly, this was the year we finally got a cow. Very importantly we secured our site for another three-year lease.
Planned projects for next year – There’s been plenty of dreaming and scheming going on too. Some of the projects we hope to accomplish next year are building a small permanent camping area for our interns so they have their own private space, Increasing the amount of interns. Building a lighted plant seedling and propagation area. Covering the processing area. Start providing milk shares. Upgrading our irrigation in the garden and pasture. Changing our garden area from strict established alternating rows of grass and plants, to blocks of tilled areas, and hopefully the acceptance of our educational proposal would give us some secure funding for our interns’ stipends. We hope to increase our amount of vegetable CSA shares to 10 to 12 families. Ambitious plans to be certain, but hopefully expanding our operations will help us serve our customers and community even better.