Friday, December 9, 2011

Aerial Views

Google Earth recently updated their aerial imagery of the area where the Red Barn Community Farm is located. In the second picture, you can see that at least two gardners were working (by the cars) when the image was taken.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Common Security Clubs

A Common Security Club (CSC) is a small group of people -- extended families, neighbors, church groups, etc. -- who band together for their common good. An example might be a group of neighbors, some of whom have money earning power, some of whom have time available and some of whom might have some food growing knowledge (nice, but not essential). These sorts of groups pool their diverse resources for the benefit of the group. If one need of the group is for good, nutritious food (and who doesn't need this), they could participate as as a Red Barn Community Farm 'gardener.'

Let's say that three families, 9-10 people, decide to form a CSC. They could rent a 1/4 acre plot, spend $250-300 on tillage, seed and fertilizer and produce at least $3000 worth of food that they could eat in season or preserve for the off season. One or two people could make a plan for the garden that would include a layout and schedule for planting and a budget or 'business plan' for the project. The whole group then accepts the plan and members contribute to the budget as they are able. Next, the designated gardeners order the seed and fertilizer. As the season progresses, they initiate the gardening activities, arranging for tillage, staking out the rows or beds, etc. On weekends, the whole group pitches in and helps with planting, weeding, watering or whatever else is needed. By mid summer, the whole group begins to benefit from their efforts -- fresh food every meal. In the fall, the whole group participates in the harvest and also in the preservation of the food for the off season.

In our mild maritime climate food production is possible year round with the aid of hoop houses or other crude shelters. For a further investment of about a hundred dollars, a CSC could build a small hoop house and have fresh greens and brassicas (broccoli, brussel sprouts) for eleven months of the year. Increased investments like this could be done over several year's time.

What if nobody in the group knows anything about how to proceed with such an idea? Fear not. We could form classes for group leaders on garden planning, small scale agriculture practices and food preservation. Those people could them take the ideas back and use them in their CSC. If there is sufficient interest in this, we could also use this blog for frequent updates on practices, opportunities and plans. There are other ways the larger group (RBCF) could help: combined seed orders for lower prices, large fertilizer buys (for example, we could buy pelletized chicken manure by the ton and then, with the help of SCS members, divide that up into 50-pound bags for distribution. Eventually, we might even be able to secure the use of church kitchens for shared canning and freezing activities.

Speaking of freezing, most garden vegetables should be frozen rather than canned. That is because of the relatively low acid level of most vegetables. We might be able to buy a quantity of chest freezers for the shared use of the CSCs. Or perhaps each CSC would prefer to have their own common freezer.

If you think you would be interested in this, please call Dean Smith at 425-328-9979 or eMail to indicate your interest. You can also just comment on this blog entry.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Horray! The City Council Approved our Grant

Wednesday, August 31, the Everett City Council unanimously approved a grant of nearly $15,000 to help us develop the Red barn Community Farm. Now the real work starts.

Monday, August 29, 2011

First Delivery

We delivered the first shipment of food to the Everett Food Bank today: 64 pounds of green beans and kale. We should be able to repeat for at least the next 5 to 6 weeks.

First Harvest for the Food Bank

Volunteers from the Canyon Creek Church helped harvest the first crop from The Red Barn Community Farm. They picked an estimated 60 pounds of green beans last Saturday. The beans were taken to the Mukilteo Community garden for weighing and cool storage until Monday when the Everett Food Bank opens.

While some volunteers were picking beans, others were erecting a sun/rain shelter. We will complete the anchoring of this shelter this week to provide a nice resting place for gardeners.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

City of Everett Large Grant

Last spring we applied to the City of Everett for a large grant through the Lowell Neighborhood Association. Our request survived the review process and is now before the City Council and the Mayor. We can expect to receive funding for a number of projects within a month. Here is a budget for what we requested:

I have not seen how this budget may have been modified in the review process. There are several modifications I would suggest that we might want to make:

1) Funds for full restoration of the barn are probably not available until the economy improves. I suggest that we divert barn funds into soil amendments such as complete liming and more compost. I believe I can still get the FREE consultation from at least one local contractor.

2) We can get the bulletin board construction donated.

3) Given the weed situation, I suggest that frequent tillage will be more effective than a cover crop -- at least for several years. I suggest those funds be diverted to tilling.

You may have more suggestions.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

2012 Thoughts

So here is a possible farm layout for 2012. This is just a thought at this time. All your ideas are welcome. For example, this plan doesn't show any winter crops. What should we plan for winter? Remember that this is the flood plain and it may be quite wet in the winter.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Volunteer needs

I am re-doing my estimate of volunteer hour needs based on the weediness and soil conditions of our farm. I now figure it takes 40 hours per week per acre plus 4 hours with a rototiller per acre to operate The Red Barn Community Farm during 5 months of the year. With 6 acres under tillage for the Food Bank, that means 240 volunteer hours per week plus 24 rototiller hours. This is with the soil all prepared in the spring and ready to plant. Preparation time is extra. We're just talking abut planting, weeding, watering and harvesting here.

If we can get volunteers who will offer 4 hours per week, we need 60 volunteers -- all at 4 hours per week. We also need 2 rototiller operators each contributing 12 hours per week to keep the weeds under control.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tilling progress

Tilled over the "halfway" mark on the north area after a couple of hours of effort last night. The remaining area will start shrinking fairly quickly, and by the time we get done with that I'm sure the first section Dean did will need it again... never ending tilling fun. So far, the Kubota is able to knock out about an acre every three hours. That is with a reduced 40" wide tilling width due to having to relocate the tines to replace broken ones. I have a new set coming that should arrive this week, and will allow more thourough and quicker tilling. So far, we're looking at 2-1/2 to 3 quarts of fuel per hour.

The last two tilling sessions I have been visited by some local residents taking advantage of the local fauna. The picture is terrible, as it was taken from a shaking tractor by a shaking hand with a 5 year old camera phone - but you get the point.
These coyotes are excellent hunters - I've been able to watch them catch several rodents within 100 yards of me. They listen for their prey moving in the grass and then with an impressive vertical leap, they pounce on the unsuspecting rodents. They miss more than they catch, but they aren't starving. It sure is entertaining watching them "fly through the air with the greatest of ease." Keep your eyes peeled on the edges of the field in the evenings to watch their antics.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Kubota tiller

We have the good 20" wide tiller in the Ariens, and we now have a 48" wide tiller in the little Kubota 4X4 tractor with tiller attachment I picked up last night. It needs a little cleaning and a few tiller tines (man, those are expensive!), but I hope it will greatly increase the speed of the cultivation we can accomplish while sipping fuel until the money tree drops the $40K +/- we need for the real tractor. I plan on keeping a log of work produced vs. fuel consumption, with a goal of 2hrs of max-rated output per gallon. I'll keep you all "posted"!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Water, cont'd

As an add-on to Dean's post, I've received a donation from my employer of 300 feet of drip line that has a small amount of damage mid-line - nothing a little duct tape can't handle. It is not a rain-barrel soaker hose setup, but actual pressure irrigation drip line with 2 gph emitters every 12". As an experiment, I am going to run this east-west the length of my plot after I set up a barrel system as Dean describes. I'm hoping I can get enough pressure due to the height of the barrel and lay of the land to get the emitters to leak a little. I'll report back with news when I get this set up.



The well didn't work as well as I had hoped. the shallow aquifer was too thin. I still think we could make it work for relatively small amounts of water, but it wasn't the gushing success I had dreamed of. If anyone would like to help dig, we could make a hole about 2 feet in diameter and 5 feet deep. We could sink a 20 gallon tub (Lowes) in the hole and let it fill from the thin shallow aquifer that would be above it. Then we could install a small pitcher pump and a cheap plastic pipe down into the tub. We could pump 20 gal. at a time and then have to wait for the tub to refill.

The rain barrel that I installed at the Demonstration garden is a better success. I have refilled it three times from another barrel in my truck by means of a small 12v pump that runs off my truck battery. Perhaps a larger rain barrel (250 gal tote $75 used) would last longer and be able to water a much larger area with a drip system.

Soil Acidity

At The Red Barn Community Farm, we have very acid soil -- the pH is down around 6.0. We need to apply lots of lime to raise the pH. We probably need 500 lbs per quarter acre or about 20,000 pounds (10 tons). In our large grant application to the City of Everett, we asked for $3000 for lime application. Lime costs about $5.00 for 50 lbs at the Cenex co-op in Everett. That's $2000 worth of lime. It will cost us for delivery and application. We might have enough funds to cover that for all 10 acres. However, given all the other factors such as soil condition, fences that people have erected, our ability to actually use the land, etc., we might be well advised to spread the lime application (no pun intended) over a couple of years.

Raised Beds

When I walk around the gardens, I see lots of raised beds. It takes a lot of work to create a raised beds, especially in the fairly heavy soils what we have. I see two results for raised beds: 1) They get the roots up further away from the water, and 2) they require lots of hand work to control weeds. You can't use a tiller or even a hoe very well on a raised bed. Neither of these results are desirable during summer months. The only time I would use a raised bed is to get an early start in the spring in a very wet garden. I might create a raised bed in the late fall to have it all ready for early spring planting for freeze-hardy vegetables. That's the only time.

If I were lame and could not get down (and up) from my knees in the garden, I might also wish I had a raised bed. But a container garden would serve me much better in that case.

My advice: don't make raised beds. If anything, dig troughs for your plants to catch and contain water.

Monday, August 1, 2011

"Till" we meet again...

I answered Dean's call for tiller operators and tried my hand at it yesterday. I've used front tine tillers in smaller areas before - this Ariens tiller that we have is a real treat to use compared to those machines. In 6 solid engine hours I was able to double the size of the tilled ground as well as knock back the weeds (and peas, carrots and corn that were in there somewhere) on my plot to prep it for winter greens and brassicas.

The tiller work is fun and relatively easy - and a lot more of it needs to be done. I'll take another shift at it soon, but I don't want to hog all the fun for myself! If you think you'd like to take a shot at it, get a hold of Dean and see if he'll check you out on it so you can put in a few hours to knock back the weeds and work the soil for the food bank for next year's plantings. Don't forget ear protection...


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Water at 3 ft

I dug a hole yesterday to look at our soil profile. I struck a pretty good stream of water only 3 feet down. Unfortunately, the soil does not wick that water up to the surface very well, not that we need it this year. But water that close to the surface means that shallow wells will work well in our gardens. This afternoon I plan to install a shallow well with a hand pump. When I have it working, I will post a diagram and parts list for how to do it.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Organic Gardening Classes at the Farm

On Monday, July 18th at 7 PM and again on Saturday, July 23 at 1 PM, Master Gardener Doris Olivers will be teaching short, practical gardening classes at the Red Barn Community Farm. The sessions will cover crop rotation, plant spacing, uses of mulch, wind protection, watering and a general walk-around of the garden plots. If you're new to gardening, you won't want to miss these classes.

The Saturday, July 23 class will follow a work party (10am-1pm) at the Food Bank Farm portion of the garden. We will be planting more beans, carrots and perhaps a few bedding plants. We will also be weeding. If you haven't noticed, a lot of weeds are appearing in our newly tilled farm. Within a month, those weeds will be knee high if we don't get them now.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Green Drinks July 13, 5-7 pm

Snohomish County has an informal organization known as Green Drinks. It's not really about drinking, but it does contain the conviviality of "going for a drink after work." It is a meeting of environmentally conscious and social justice people to network, bring each other up to date on activities, etc. On Wednesday, July 13, Green Drinks will be held at the Red Barn Community Farm. All gardeners are invited to meet, mingle and make friends. Featured will be our new demonstration plot that is being planted with weekend. You will also be able to see several methods for dealing with the need for water at the farm. We're expecting a big crowd and parking will be limited so please carpool.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

September 24. Mark your calendar.

Moving Planet.
Moving Produce, Lowell to Everett

On September 24, teams of volunteers will gather in the morning at the Red Barn Community Farm. They will gather potatoes and whatever else is ripe in the Food Bank Farm. They will move the produce from Lowell to the Snohomish County Campus in downtown Everett -- WITHOUT USING FOSSIL FUEL!!! Wheelbarrows, garden carts, bicycles, any way produce can be moved. 4 miles! There will be contests for the most produce moved, the fastest, the funniest, most creative, etc. Get your team together now.

In Everett, the movers will be greeted by a festival of music, food, art and community. All is sponsored by Transition Port Gardner as part of the Move Earth Day.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


We don't have a water source at the Red Barn Community Farm. We expect to have a 1 inch potable water line in next year, but that won't be enough water for serious irrigation.

There is water down about 5 feet, but the soil doesn't seem to wick the water up to the root zone. Some plants (corn, tomatoes) will send their roots down to that water. Here are two solutions for water:

Rain Barrel: You could install a rain barrel on a stand about 2 ft high -- to get a bit of pressure -- and run drip irrigation to your plants. You'd have to haul water in to fill the rain barrel. I did that for the last two years on Ebey island and it worked OK. I invested in a small 12v pump connected to my truck battery to transfer the water.

Shallow Well: For about $100 you could put in a shallow driven well. You can get the parts (a 1 1/4 inch stainless steel wellpoint, driver cap, one or more pipe couplings and a pitcher pump) at Several of these simple wells have been installed at the Lowell Community garden and they work very well. They are easy to install and can be removed at the end of the season or left in place for use next year.

This summer, I hope to install examples of each of these at the farm.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Green Beans, green beans, green beans

My nickname used to be Green Bean Dean. I do love green beans. They're easy to grow, prolific and freeze well for winter servings, soups or mixing with other vegetables. Most bush beans mature in 60 days or less so they are ideal for the kind of late springs that we've been having in the Puget Sound Basin the past few years.
I like to freeze green beans. We have a large freezer but if you don't have anything more than a typical rental apartment refrigerator/freezer you can do it. I wash them and stem them (break or cut off the tips) and then blanch them in rapidly boiling water for about 3 minutes. Then cool them quickly (ice water is best). Drain and put them in 1 1/2 pint zip-lock bags. One bag will hold 2 servings. Squeeze out all the air and seal the bag. In 1 cu ft of freezer space you can store 200 servings.

First Work Party June 25, 2011

We had a great turnout for the first planting of the Food Bank Farm portion of the Red Barn Community Farm project. About 25 people planted potatoes, green beans, carrots, kale, cabbage and tomatoes. We will go another planting of green beans in two weeks (July 9, 10 am). Maybe by then we'll find something else to plant also.

Friday, June 24, 2011

It's almost July 1. What can I plant now?

We're getting a late start this summer. Everyone in the Northwest is. But that doesn't mean the season is totally lost. There are lots of vegetables that you can still plant.

Bush beans (NOT pole beans). Most bush bean varieties mature in around 60 days. If you plant them now, you'll enjoy beans by Labor Day. Plant the seeds 1 inch deep, 3-4 inches apart in rows 2 ft apart for easy weeding. Be sure the soil is well-worked. Soil chunks should be 1 inch or less. Pack the soil firmly around the seeds when you plant.

Corn -- sorry, probably too late unless we have a long, warm fall. But you could gamble.

Lettuce -- matures in 50 days. I like to plant small quantities every two weeks up until early September.

Tomatoes -- will probably make it, but hurry and plant nursery-started plants. Too late to sow seed.

Summer squash -- 60 days. Go for it!

Good fall and winter crops:

Now is a good time to sow broccoli seeds in a finely prepared seed bed for later transplanting into your garden for late fall (November-December) harvest or even for next spring.

One of the best crops in this area is kale. There are many varieties. Most are quite winter hearty and will produce right up to and past frost. Most will survive nicely through the winter and burst into profuse production in the spring. Kale is very nutritious.

Carrots -- There is a new variety (Merida) that you can plant now for harvest in the spring.

What other crops do you know that can be planted late June?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Foodbank Farm

Part of this project is a Foodbank Farm to benefit the Everett Food Bank and the 28 other foodbanks in Snohomish County that are affiliated. "Food to help our hungry neighbors." When the whole 10 acres are developed, 4 of those will be used to grow fresh 'nutrition-intensive' food for the more economically challenged among us.

I spent 4 hours today rototilling areas for carrots, bush beans and potatoes. We also have a few starts (peppers, tomatoes, etc) that have been given to the Foodbank. We will also make as large a planting as we can of kale so that we will have good food throughout the winter and into next spring.

Any seeds you might wish to donate would be much appreciated.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rototilling Complete -- for this year

John and Chris helped survey the plots this evening just as Jerry was finishing the tilling. Jerry worked for 12 hours for us today. He did a great job. All the plots have been tilled twice. They might need a little raking or hoeing but for the most part they are ready for planting. Tomorrow I will send everyone their plot assignments. We have the equivalent of 4 40x40 ft plots available.

Jerry Foster did our tilling for us.

Chris and John marked out all the plots.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Long first post!

Allow me to introduce myself - I'm Chris, and I'm new here. Brand new. I read the article in the paper on June 12th, and immediately knew I was gong to be a part of this. The Red Barn Community Farm (permission to use RBCF from here on out?) fits perfectly into what I envision is our next logical step as consumers of food - eat local. I still had a multitude of questions, however, and Dean was kind enough to meet with me to address them. A excerpt below, the accuracy of which is possibly tainted by the effects of some great Scuttlebutt IPA (my apologies to Dean for any substantial misrepresentations):

Me - So, if I sign up ten people, and THEY each sign up ten people, I'll get rich, right?

Dean - You're in the wrong meeting.

Me - What is the Transition Movement, and how does that play into the RBCF?

Dean - The Transition Movement is a plan for dealing with the post "Peak Oil" world. In uses an incremental approach to helping people understand that there is no master plan for what will happen when oil is not as inexpensive and available as it is now, and we alone are responsible for putting the effort in to prepare. The RBCF is a community-based project that will be one aspect of Transition Port Gardner's overall Transition plan.

Me - Well, sign me up.

He did. And, deciding I was less of a lunatic than he probably expected, Dean also invited me to post on the blog about my successes and failures in my gardening experiments over this first year. So, I'll be dropping in here every once in a while to use up some of your bandwidth.

In our conversation I discovered that there are other people that think along the same lines about the oil issue as myself. I don't consider myself an extremist. I suspect there are some who wouldn't even call me an activist... I'm just a consumer who grew up in a consumerist society and is looking for ways to integrate a little less conspicuous oil consumption into my daily life. I have a full-size diesel truck (to be honest, bought with running on BioDiesel in mind, but the reality of that experiment on my particular engine was not looking like a model of success). I work for a manufacturer that outsources a lot of the manufacturing overseas. I don't own a pair of Birkenstocks.

But I do have a concern for our collective future, and see this project as an avenue for me to contribute in some small and meaningful way as part of a unique community, and help others do the same. I really look forward to meeting the other gardeners out there this year. Feel free to stop by my plot at any time and introduce yourselves, and I'll do the same. I should probably come up with some clever tag line that I end every post with, but for now it'll just have to be...


Tuesday, June 14, 2011


The Farm is along Lowell-Larimer Road, one mile south of Lowell River Road in Everett, WA.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Welcome to the new Red Barn Community Farm blog. This is the place where we can share news about our gardens, learn more from each other about gardening and find out what is working and not working here in the Snohomish River Valley. If you would like to be a co-author on the blog, please contact me at 425-28-9979 or

This first week has been very busy. In the last two days since the article appeared in The Everett Herald, it has been picked up by the AP and appeared in dozens of newspapers across North America, including all the major papers in Washington state. At least 25 people have inquired about having a garden. The best way to get a plot is to go to our website: Transition Port and fill in an application. Your name goes into our database and you will get your plot assignment as soon as the spring tillage is complete. The land has been plowed and we expect to get a tractor back in this week (June 12-17, 2011) to disk or rototill or both.

Speaking of tractors, we really need our own equipment. If anyone knows of an idle tractor with a rototiller (at least 60 inch width, that can go over rough plowed ground), please contact us.