Thursday, May 22, 2014

Unity Farm Journal - 4th week of May 2014

Although I’m in China this week, farming never stops.   I did everything I could to prepare the farm for my departure and Kathy has been busy this week skirting (cleaning) alpaca fiber, painting bee hive components, extracting honey, and harvesting vegetables.  

Last weekend was a blur of activity.    I refilled all our animal food bins so that Kathy would not have to haul poultry crumbles, scratch grains, oyster shell pieces (egg layer supplement), alpaca pellets, dog food, or mealworms in my absence.   Yes, you do get strange looks at the post office when you pick up packages from  “Tasty Worms Nutrition”.   Not vegan.

The hoop house is exploding with greens, the benefit of the rich organic soil we create ourselves from alpaca manure compost, moss, and vermiculite.    This year we planted Toy Choi, a variety of bok choi that is harvested when the leaves are young and tender.   Here’s a bin of it ready for steaming,   During the summer our goal is to feed our family of 4 at least 50% from the vegetables we grow.  The chard, peas, lettuce, spinach, and beans are at the peak of their growth with warm sunny days and cool nights.    We planted potatoes in cloth pots and they are beginning to sprout.   It’s finally warm enough to plant peppers, cucumbers, and squash.   The hoop house is 50 feet long and 20 feet wide, giving us 1000 square feet of warm, pest free (and now rodent free) growing area.    One innovation we’ll work on over the summer is an automated misting system.   At the moment it takes about an hour a day to keep everything moist.

In the early spring we removed all our lawns which were a water loving variety of Kentucky blue grass.   We tilled and raked the soil, removing rocks and clay, then planted a drought resistant fescue that will be tough enough to stand up to the constant animal activity we have around the property.    I mentioned the fodder boxes that we built to protect newly planted grass areas.   Between light portable fencing and the fodder boxes, we’ve created duck, chicken, and guinea access zones where grass can grow until it is mature enough to become a salad bar for the poultry.

Our chocolate Indian Runner Duck continues to sit on Guinea Fowl eggs, which have a gestation period of 28 days.   In the next two weeks we’ll find out if she has been successful.    The big question we have - will mom try to introduce guineas to the pond?  Guineas don’t typically swim.

The weather is perfect for mushroom growing and both the Shitake and Oyster mushrooms continue to fruit.   We’re drying the Shitake and eating the Oyster mushrooms.  Likely this Fall we’ll have enough to sell at farmer’s markets, but for the moment we’re not quite yet at commercial quantities.   We’re inoculating 36 more poplar stacks.   The process starts with chainsawing a recently fallen poplar into 12-18 inch segments to inoculate and stack.   Here’s the process from fallen poplar to totems ready for spawn.  The Terex front loader is much easier than my hand cart to haul thousands of pounds of logs around the property.

Now that it's warm and honey is not quite so viscous, we’re using the honey extractor to spin honey out of the frames from the hives that did not successfully overwinter.   We use a wax capping fork to remove the wax caps from the comb, then place the frame in a hand-cranked centrifuge.   The honey is forced out of the comb and drips down the sides of the centrifuge through a filter screen and into a 5 gallon stainless steel tank.   I spun 11 frames and while I’m in China, Kathy will spin 40 more.

I miss the cadence of the farm this week and according to Kathy, the farm misses me.

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