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...