Friday, June 10, 2011

Early June Greenhouse Activity

Lettuce, ready to find a home in the great outdoors! Getting so big in the greenhouse it is a chore to get water to the roots...the umbrella of the plant can often be obtrusive when trying to water, additionally, the roots begin to dominate the soils capacity to absorb water and the plants dry out much faster. These flats of lettuce are on their way out, following recently transplanted flats of celery and, of course, the hundreds of chiles an tomatoes plated out earlier this spring.

Cabbage? I didn't even check...if not cabbage, broccoli. This stuff comes in waves throughout the farm as Lee and Wayne try to always keep it available as staple crops. In fact, this is what we were sowing again this week. The stuff we seeded this week will be the fall harvest and some of it will go into winter, for example the brussels sprouts. Other crops seeded this week include another succession of lettuces, cauliflower, cabbage (lots of sauerkraut to come!), broccoli, romanescos, etc...All of that sea-green stuff. All of this is done according to the moon phase and we were in a hurry this week to get seeds into soil while the timing was right.

An overview of celery to plant out in coming weeks. The Thanksgiving crop? Perhaps. Planted too early the celery will flower as it is a biennial and reacts to temperatures that are too low. Planted too late it will never mature prior to fall/winter frosts. We have a good time trying to get the perfect celery specimen to harvest each season. It is one of my personal favorite growing experiments. Not to mention the tiny seed size. It is a challenge to drop just one seed per cell, one must focus very hard or else thin later on which can prove to be a lot of extra work.

Number one all around assistant Dominique and her side kick, Marisol, work hard to drop seeds in soil, organize flats, follow instructions from Lee, brew soil to fill flats, water greenhouse during high afternoon temperatures, etc.... This is a nice shift from the farm stand, the CSA, the commercial kitchen and all the other places Dominique had divided her energy for the farm these days....not to mention she is trying to invest time and energy into her own farming adventures this season! If there is one thing for certain, farming offers way too much work all the time. If you could do ten things at once, you might be able to get to it all...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Barn Construction Photo Tour, Early June

The second story is going up, the barn is getting its full vertical won't be long now. The further along the construction goes, the more tangible the use of the barn seems a reality. Viewing perspectives and spaces as they are brought together on site is like a dream manifested and it is wonderful to come along for periodic barn tours with Wayne. This view is what you might see coming towards the farm from the Fulton/Airport intersection, it is the "front" as you would pull into the farm.

A similar perspective as above, but further back. Omit the weeds in the foreground....the rhubarb and nopales never seem to get quite the attention as other needy annual crops.

With early spring brassicas and the Chandler strawberries in the foreground this is another look at the "front" of the barn. The left parallels Airport and the cluster of trees left of the barn is where the existing farm stand is located. Following completion of the barn, the farm stand will move to the right exterior of the barn. This will be a timely migration for the farm stand as freeway construction will impact the historic location when Cal Trans makes it up here to the Fulton/Airport phase of their work.

Another close up of the front. Again, the farm stand/sales area is planned to be on the lower right where you see dirt piled in this image. The central portion of the barn is designated for CSA packing and other work spaces. Up top, storage! This farm could never have enough of that! Grains, onions, garlic, winter squashes, you name it! A "lift" will be employed to get these crops up through a second story entrance on the opposite side. The large harvest bins will then stack and store crops, safe from rain, thieves, pests, etc...

Another front view...I hope one day I can squeeze some flower crops into this front crop area. It would look nice!

And this is the opposite perspective finally. Facing to the southeast, nice spring crops frame the foreground of this image as the tractor passes by the barn on it's way to pick up plants for transplanting. Soon it will travel no further than the barn where the primary activity area will be concentrated.

And here are the views from within...this is looking out towards the area the previous photo was taken from. This is where the upper level will have a doorway for "lifting" crop bins. The broader frame you see around the existing window cut out will become a larger opening, allowing large white harvest bins in for long term storage. Additionally, a small exterior patio space will be added, allowing for optimal human vantage point of overall farm views to the north.

Another of the same opening, head on. In the foreground of the farm field below are strawberries and tomatoes...chiles to follow. Well planned this season to have the cash crops and customer favorites nearby!

This interior perspective is a look into where the farm stand will "store" itself overnight and on rainy days. Sales will be conducted for the most part on the exterior of the barn here, but the set up of the sales operation will now be able to pack away on this lower east side of the barn rather than the storage shed at the existing stand that has honestly become a sentimental archaeological investigation of the last ten years of business operations and farm fun!

A lot of changes lie ahead! It is exciting for everyone involved and the support throughout the process has been so greatly appreciated. This could not have been possible without the help of so many, a truly magnificent example of the community coming together to support their local farm. Soon it will be time to indulge and enjoy this grand new tool, shelter, storage and work space.

Good thing it didn't get demolished, huh?

Transplanting Celery

Look how long and tall these baby celery plants are....more often they are about half this height when they are move out of the greenhouse to find new home in the field for the season of growth. This is a prime example of a "leggy" plant, or something that has been greenhouse grown. It may remind you of a nursery plant that looks big, lush and green, but also seems to lack the strength and vigor of a more hardened off specimen that might better endure the challenges of nature that the outdoors is bound to introduce. Either way, these plants were going into the ground yesterday. Lee could only hope that the next few days of environmental conditions would not damage the perfect little celery plants, loved and coddled for weeks in her greenhouse. Celery is always a focal point as it is a nice staple for the CSA....additionally, Lee is always trying to time the harvest to correspond with Thanksgiving (good in stuffing and other harvest season recipes).

Here the celery is placed in a bed just north of the chiles. If you walk far enough into the field you will find them and may observe their progress along with all else. This is just one of many phases of planting, we were working in the greenhouse with a younger generation of plants yesterday too.

Lee and Jose follow the tractor driven by Pablo here. An attachment that draws duel furrows in the bed as Palo slowly drives creates space for the plants to be inserted quickly in the ground, soil falling back over them as the tractor proceeds forward. Transplanting at Tierra is one of my many favorite activities to observe...mechanically efficient on a small/large farm scale versus the back breaking methods I might employ in my own garden.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Friday, February 4, 2011

Foundation poured

Good weather equals busy times for everyone....planners, farmers, operators, and farm dogs alike. The foundation for the barn created a lot more work for everyone than initially anticipated...

Note the sweet pea trellis made out of recycled drip tape in the foreground. A great re-use of old plastics around a farm...I love it when Pablo does this. I'm sure it will be beautiful!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Creating a foundation

Dry weather permits dirt work, thank goodness for that little false spring that occurred for the second half of January. Otherwise, this farm turns into a marsh, very rarely permitting vehicle, tractor not to mention heavy equipment onto it's heavy and rich soils. Now a foundation is being built for the barn skeleton that resides in patience nearby, ready for reassembly. Lost is it's old home, now a construction site for Sutter Hospital so changed I would not recognize the location where I wandered about picking blackberries last summer if I did not know better. We are changing history and landscapes right attention.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


What's in season? Here you go....another fun and BEAUTIFUL root. Scorzonera, AKA black salsify, is coming out of the Tierra field right now. And it is not only us, I noticed other farmer's vending scorzonera in our area this last weekend. Follow this somewhat dated link to a Mother Earth News article that will educate you further on this seasonal root vegetable.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Barn Migration

The barn is migrating it's way down the road to the Airport Blvd destination in pieces now....piles of old redwood layered more recent refurbishing=quality structural materials waiting to be reconstructed on site. Cross your fingers the field dies up enough to allow a foundation to be established for all this business! As usual, a farmer's life revolves around weather.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The season of winter is upon us...don't miss it

A typical array of Tierra goods that might be available this time in the season is shown above....this was actually Dominique's purchase last season prior to her joining the staff and committing her time and energy to the success of the farm. Included is one giant parsnip, a colorful carrot array, sunchokes, puntarella, romanesco, Sangre de Toro beans and perhaps a few beets squeezed into the back drop.

While this is a tough time in the season that always includes failures and items missing that you may desire (perfect spring lettuces or luscious summer Seascapes), it is also a time of unique bounty that must be enjoyed now before it is time to move on to other seasonal spring bounty (for instance, asparagus is not far away) and while the plants are in their winter prime. This includes items such as the chicories, or hearty winter bitter greens. Yum both raw and cooked, it is hard to get enough of these. They will not remain when warmth kicks in in another month or two. Enjoy them now! Dried beans will store, but this is a darned good time to make use of them when other things are lacking. We are thankful to have carrots remaining in stock as long as we do not sell them all and as long as they hold under wet and freezing soils....I think the deer have even started demolishing the carrot tops to some extent, the challenges never end. Pretty soon it will be time again to try the cardoon, a seasonal stalk that takes like artichoke, but looks more like celery. The winter squash do not hold forever and now is the time to enjoy storage crops like these and onions and potatoes before their storage time is up! Brassica plants like broccolis, kale, cabbages will eventually want to flower and set seeds, destroying their edibility for the most part, so these almost must be enjoyed throughout the winter period.

Brussels, celery root, parsnips, beets, and dried beans. To some it may seem like the dark period in farming, for me it is hard to begin to choose....

Enjoy your winter veggies, they are waiting to be harvested for your tables!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Field Status

Flowering cabbages and kales are the way to ensure off season floral influence in a winter garden. Lee planned this splash of color back in summer time when she first sowed their seeds....rewarding now during the season of puddles, plants frosted to death and carpets of green grass. When the sun hits the purple of these plants, not even a rainbow could draw your eyes away from their deep purple glow. Immediately to the right of the plants in this photo is the recently graded foundation area for the upcoming barn re-construction....chances are the purple cabbages could be in danger if they fall in the path of construction!

Broccoli frosted! Sometimes it gets too darn cold out here in Sonoma County even for the cold hardly crops. Brassica family plants tend to take the frost with more ease than their flowers....that portion which we so desire as edible including broccolis and cauliflowers. A frosted floret may turn translucent, brown or yellow, and quite simply ugly and for the most part inedible. Eventually it will rot and die off. It is unfortunate that many of the tasty brassica florets have been hit by frost, but others have not. This is where the benefit of crop diversity kicks in. Some lose and others win.

And sweet peas have emerged in time for the Christmas Farm Report. Thank goodness care was taken to sow them at the appropriate moment in fall...exactly when this was I am unsure as I was absent, but perhaps late October to early November? These tiny seedlings are located front and center right out the backside of the farm stand for easy harvest access and full consumer appreciation. A second spring sowing will occur right next to them for an extended harvest and bloom time. I think many of us fell in love with the sweet flowers last spring if we weren't already. I know I certainly cut and sold a ton and look forward to seeing what the season to come will bring. We did save the seeds from last season's crop, of course, so variety and beauty ought to be comparable to last season.