It’s late January and the farm has been “resting” over the winter. During this time of the year we mainly focus on getting things ready for the upcoming season. For us this means prepping beds, starting our tomato seeds and placing orders for bulk seeds. With our crop plan in hand and our planting schedule updated we are ready for the start of another year.
This season we are taking a streamlined approach to our farm by growing only a handful of crops seasonally. Our original plan was to be a diversified farm and along the way we started focusing heavily on annuals to make a living from the farm. Taking a look back we have now realized that a diversified farm needs a diversified farmer. In order to accomplish this we have decided to grow more perennials for the long term and only a few annuals during the short term. We are doing this for several reasons:
- We are a very small farm with limited space for annuals but plenty of room for perennials.
- We work with the seasons to grow whats best when it should be grown and not when we want.
- We want to specialize in leafy greens as these grow the best on our land for annuals. For perennials we are focusing on a few specialty crops that will do well with our climate and our land.
The main annual crops we are focusing on are: Spring Mix, Spicy Mix, Arugula, Spinach, Red Russsian Kale, Pea & Sunflower shoots as well as Heirloom Tomatoes.
With each passing season we learn from the land and we learn about ourselves. The farm is a teacher of all things and the lessons learned are important ones. I feel grateful to have the opportunity to grow food for my local community.
Green tomatoes. Whats your favorite recipe?
As the weather turns to cooler nights and the first frost is nipping at the foothills, the last of the Tuesday Farmers markets are upon us. Two more Tuesdays and we will take our winter break (at least from the markets). You can still find our greens at Heartwood Eatery & The Stonehouse (in Downtown Nevada City).
Almost a translucent core. This radish is sweet and spicy.
We will be bringing lots of root crops like beets, carrots and radishes along with our seasonal selection of salad greens. As well as green tomatoes. Here is a great website with 15 different recipes for green tomatoes. We have baby carrots by the bunches this week and red/golden beet mixes by the bunches. Our heirloom radishes are French Breakfast, Purple Plum, and Scarlet Long (pictured above). Hope to see you at the market!
My first attempt at gardening.
In my early days of gardening I was fascinated with the idea of zero waste, closed loop systems and agroecology. They were ideas that appealed to me because of the ways in which they viewed nature – as a partner, something to work with and not against. This notion of working with something instead of against it captured my mind, and forced me to think differently. When working with people we learn to change them, when working with natural systems we learn to change ourselves.
What our lawn looked like before.
A former front lawn converted to a market garden, an area roughly the size of a football field. Growing up on this land since the age of 5, I watched as each sibling would mow the lawn. At first with a push mower, which I was fortunate enough to be too young to remember, and eventually my father purchased a riding mower. A beautiful green lawn for half the year and a field of star thistle during the summer. Although most of the lawn is gone and converted to beds for crop production the beauty of the market garden far outshines the lawn on even it’s best day.
As I look back on the start of this gardening exploration I often wonder where all the time has gone. Working with the living systems to benefit each other mutually is a time honored way of living a fulfilled life. There is no greater purpose than to serve one another while caring for the land. I consider my profession as a farmer, someone who works with the earth to provide a nourishing harvest for his community, to be the highest honor. I am grateful to be where I am because of where I came from.
What a beautiful time of year, especially after a brutally hot summer. This summer did not feel as long but the intensity in August was devastating. It’s times like these, cool mornings and rains that have watered the garden, that you forgot about how hard it can be to grow food during our Mediterranean summers. You often forgot that there is no rain between June and October.
For nearly half the year there is no rain in California and the ground dries up. The grasses turn “golden” and the wildfires rage. The lakes and rivers that flow through the Sierra Nevada foothills are the only areas of greenery. Farming in the foothills without water would be certain failure, yet farmers are gamblers in the respect that they will do whatever it takes to make it work. Ditches were put in place years ago and lakes damned and diverted for irrigation water.
When Fall comes rolling around the rains are a welcome reprise for the parched soil. The earth breathes a sigh of relief and so to does the farmer. Days are shorter and the plants grow a little slower. Living without moisture for so long we are often ill prepared for the first rains, as if we have never seen this miracle before. It is easy to take for granted the water that pours from a faucet. Often that water is used but for brief moment and gone down the drain.
Our farm reuses water from our drains to water perennials like fruit trees, goji berries and hop vines. The farm is designed with water in mind, we have strategically located our gardens in areas that would benefit most from seasonal rains and created contoured beds to harvest runoff water. Drip tape is used for all long season crops and micro emitters for quick turnover annuals.
Red and Golden beets, rainbow carrots planted for fall. Cucumbers still coming on strong.
We are prepping up beds on the farm for fall and winter. Plantings of beets, carrots and greens are going in and we are working on our stale seedbed practices. Last season we had a number of weeds that overwintered and clogged up the beet beds pretty bad. This year we are really looking to be as proactive as possible.
New starts getting ready to go through fall and we will see how far we get into winter.
With each new passing season we learn some more tricks of the trades. Always trying to do things more efficient, because in the end we strive to have a balanced life. Not just one filled with meaningful work but also one in which there is time to cultivate meaningful relationships.
With the new irrigation in place and the cooler weather, germination has been much better.
When I first had the idea of a homestead it conjured up ideas of a place of rest, an oasis. Often now when I look around I see nothing but work. The grass is always greener on the other side, but how did it get that way and who watered and cared for that grass? Sometimes it takes hard work to make that grass green and in the end is it really worth it. Nature will always reclaim the land, our minds will always wander and in the end everything falls into line.
Starts hot and then feels like fall, thanks August for messing with my emotions.
August started off blazing and now it feels like that Fall crisp weather, at least in the mornings. It’s still warm out there and September to October have often had some hot days of there own. For the most part I am writing off this Summer and moving onto Fall. There are days when you question the choices you have made in life. Well, the first few weeks of August was filled with many of those days. Time to regroup and move forward with planning a resilient farm in a world that will, most likely only get warmer.
Some call it dirt, some call it soil – to a farmer it is life.
We utilize cover crops and add organic compost to our soil every season. When prepping our beds we utilize a practice of minimal tillage, this prevents weed seeds getting tilled up from the depths. This also helps to reduce the impact to the soil ecology by reducing compaction and minimizing disturbance below 2″. We cover our beds with giant tarps when not in use to smother out weeds, giving our crops a better advantage and creating less work for ourselves.
Di-hydrogen monoxide – an essential item needed when farming.
H20 – chemically know as dihydrogen monoxide or better known as water, is the essential element needed to grow. We use a combination of drip and overhead irrigation with micro sprinklers. Our overhead water is as clean as it gets coming straight from our well. We conserve water on our farm and reuse our grey water for perennial plants. We have just excavated out our pond and are looking forward to greening up more of the property. This will help with fire protection, growing more crops and providing forage for our livestock.
“There is always something to do but only so much that really needs to be done.”
White Wonder Watermelon. Take the time to sit back and enjoy a watermelon with friends.
The old work/life balance is a tough one to master. On the farm there are so many things out of my control that you are forced to accept what mother nature provides. Sort of. Here in Northern California we don’t see rain after June usually, and not again until October. So we have to provide water for the crops we want to grow during Summer.
Red Sails Lettuce. Growing greens in the heat of Summer is not for the weak.
It can be a lot of work to keep the soil moist in our clay rich soils of the foothills. There is rarely a time that you can leave the farm for more than 6 hours without having to re-water a crop during the Summer. Sure, there are timers for irrigation but if there is a problem with a timer it can mean major crop loss in just a matter of hours on a 100 degree day.
There are many days when the work is hard, things don’t go right and you lose crops -which means you don’t make any money. As time goes on you learn and things become more efficient. The weather teaches you patience, working with the soil teaches you respect and running a farm teaches you balance.
Tomato season is here! Black Beauty is the darkest tomato out there.
Tomato season is in full swing on the farm and we are picking some amazing specimens this year. The Blue Beauty has an amazing red color under that dark skin and the Black Beauty just the same. Both have very dark skin, tender meat that is mostly seedless and an amazing flavor.
Making pasta sauce with a special ingredient!
We grow heirloom tomatoes and look for unique and flavorful varieties. This year we have some amazing grape tomatoes that look crazy but have a sweet and complex taste. As well as some Black Pineapple varieties, with a multi color center and a lip smacking flavor, that starts out sweet and ends with the perfect amount of tang.
- Ananas Noire – The Black Pineapple. A swirl of colors awaits at the heart of this mater.
I love to make a homemade pasta sauce with fresh tomatoes and herbs from the garden. With a medley of heirloom tomatoes there are so many wonderful recipes to make this time of year. We will have tomatoes at the farmers market in Grass Valley on Tuesday at the Pine Creek Shopping center.
Friday night feast. The bounty has arrived – tomatoes are ripening, basil is a plenty, and the temps are high. The work day starts early and finishes late. Life is good on the farm.
Cooking with all things from the farm…
Our crops are in high demand at local restaurants and there is always something to be done around the farm. Each day brings new challenges and excitement. At the end of a long work day, it is always satisfying to cook a meal that is made from your own harvest.
We will be offering a weekly box of produce coming soon. This will be very limited to only 10 shares a week. Each box will contain a seasonal selection of goods. When in season may include: Heirloom tomatoes, Free Range Eggs, Spinach, Cucumbers, Arugula, Radishes, Zucchini, Beets, Kale, Microgreens, Head Lettuce, and more.
Send us an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org to be placed on the list.
Mt. Cucmore. You really have to stay on top of these guys!
I have never had a fresh turnip before I started farming. To be quite honest I never really ate that many fresh vegetables before farming either. Sure I would eat vegetables but not fresh from the field, picked moments before biting into type of vegetable. There is something so different from a vegetable at the store to the one you grew in healthy, happy soil.
Once you taste the difference between a carrot or any other root crop grown from a local farm there isn’t any going back. Sure, it sounds dramatic but the thing is your senses know the difference. The senses start to crave this fresh taste because they know that there is real nutrients in these foods and the body wants them.
A homegrown salad consisting of arugula, spinach, turnip slices, our own eggs from our small flock and topped with radish micro greens.
I’m always looking for great ways to mix up our greens to make a healthy and tasty combination. This year we are introducing our new Sierra Super Greens mix. This blend of baby greens consists of rainbow chard, spinach, red russian kale and beet greens. It is truly a powerful combination of nutritious and delicious that looks great and tastes even better. Perfect for smoothies, as a salad and even sauteed – a very versatile mix.
Sierra Super Greens – makes ya feel superfull!
Only a few more days till our first farm stand of the season! This coming Tuesday, June 12th (and all Tuesdays till October) from 4 till 7 p.m.. Our farm location is at 10567 Gautier Drive, Auburn CA 95602 – there is parking along the street. It will be a hot one but we will be in the shade. Can’t wait to see you all.