DIVERSE VEGETABLE AND FLOWER FARM IN THE HEART OF THE PUGET SOUND

Author Archive

the end of summer

the season is closing soon. one more csa distribution, one more farmer’s market. farmstand open indefinitely.

here are some photos, all taken by leila.



King County Fall Harvest Tour

We will be open on Sunday September 25 from 10am-4pm. Here’s a chance to check out a lot of neat farms & take free tours. Our good friend Meredith Molli will be doing a cooking demo at noon. Hope to see you then!

 

CLICK HERE to download a free copy of the 2011 Fall Harvest Tour Guide

(pdf 10 MB)


skillet farm dinner

We felt privileged to host this benefit dinner brought to us by Skillet Street Foods for our friends at Farmstead Meatsmith. Here’s Andrew‘s fantastic interpretation of the afternoon and evening:


a summer glance

bing cherries in front of the house

first tomato harvest

the butcher's benefit, or caitlin loves babies

caitlin frequently makes beautiful bouquets

see?!


Take a Look….

My foray into farming began a decade ago, in a forgotten corner of Ballard, within the raised bed confines of a wonderfully overgrown backyard behind the shared house I was renting with good friends.

Although I spent many hours attempting to stave-off rampant Morning Glory by pulling out yards of intertwined roots extending in jute-like strands up-to thirty feet long beneath the eaves of our peaked, brown house, it was all about the food for me. Vegetables I wanted to grow, and vegetables I planted.

At the library, I stumbled across a copy of Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades, by Steve Solomon, which remains an oft-referenced book on my shelf to this day. My indoors-focused roommates wondered what I was possibly doing for hours outside beneath the canopy of cherry, Italian plum, and maple trees that draped over the food I’d planted.

I dug in the dirt, strung trellises for peas, and watched aphids devour my broccoli before its trophy-head even began to form. Very little food came out of that space, but it built upon a curiosity I’d gained while travelling in New Zealand, WOOFING on organic farms and harvesting apples to earn money for gas. I purchased a beat-up Austin Mini while travelling that southern nation, and the need for funds to keep travelling propelled me later in life in a direction I don’t think I otherwise would ever have seen. 

Meanwhile, my parents grew flowers in the yard of their place in Bellingham. Driven by ideals and wanting to share them, I complained.

“Try growing vegetables,” I urged them.

“But we like our flowers,” was the reply.

“You can’t eat them!”

“They are easier to grow.”

“What do you do with them? They are not food!”

“We enjoy them,” was the consistent message voiced from my grounded and patient parents.

Now, years later, as I cultivate two relentless acres with my partners-of-the-farm, flowers have squeaked into the rotation here on Vashon–and my father’s veggie patch in Bellingham is getting more significant with each seasonal turn.

We grow flowers at Island Meadow to attract pollinators. They increase our crop rotations. Sweet peas have also been a good seller in the farmstand since they came on this year in June. But, most importantly, we grow them because they are beautiful. Those flowers stand tall with their multi-colored blossoms and force you to appreciate life’s temperate and subtle charms.

I was reminded of this earlier today, while cutting the sweet peas from our two trellises. Usually on harvest days either Caitlin or Chandler sneaks out early to the tune of, “I’m going to cut the sweet peas now.” Without thinking much of it, I’d not yet had the chance to bring them in this season. They were crafty, and had a corner on the flower harvesting market at our place. Until today. The scent of nectar and swath of pastel colors, drying from a rain that lasted through the night and well into the morning, relaxed me upon standing before the fragrant blooms. A friend visited the farm for a few days recently and dragged her sleeping bag out to the sweet pea rows to sleep during a stretch of clear, warm nights. I can see now clearly why.

All of this is to say two things here.

It’s interesting what life bestows upon us, and how. In my case, that gift is flowers. Once the bane of my veggie-growing aspirations, a unnecessary occupier of precious and limited space. Now a charm, a requirement, an unsaid parental “I told you so.”

Secondly, it is always amazing what you can pass by daily without fully appreciating. I’d seen those flowers hundreds of times, but not like I did this morning.

Neither of these are new ideas.  But it took the sweet peas to make me notice.

– Greg Reed


the spark that started the engine

Wendell Berry is speaking in Seattle on Tuesday.

The old idea is still full of promise. It is potent with healing and with health. It has the power to turn each person away from the big-time promising and planning of the government, to confront in himself, in the immediacy of his own circumstances and whereabouts, the question of what methods and ways are best. It proposes an economy of necessities rather than an economy based upon anxiety, fantasy, luxury, and idle wishing. It proposes the independent, free-standing citizenry that Jefferson thought to be the surest safeguard of democratic liberty. And perhaps most important of all, it proposes an agriculture based upon intensive work, local energies, care, and long-living communities—that is, to state the matter from a consumer’s point of view: a dependable, long-term food supply.

…though we feel that this work must go onward, we are not so certain that it will. But the care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope.

—Wendell Berry, from The Unsettling of America, 1977


lessons learned

1. I cannot plant onions before May in an overwintered sod field at the bottom of a big hill in the coldest year since 1950. And if I try, I will plant into very grassy, clumpy messy soil. But at least I can do it with my best friends on a Friday night while watching the sun sinking into the Olympic mountains while listening to Stevie Wonder.

Chandler


spring is finally here

it’s rock and roll time. here’s a little visual taste of our latest endeavors:

herb beck tilling at timken farm

potatoes in the ground

our "flair" mower

tom and the cherry tree; grill time

happy cress & arugula

we're a happy team

oh wait, those are the pigs.


an introduction to the farm bill

A short talk on the farm bill from Ken Cook, co-founder of the Environmental Working Group.

Chandler


glorious salad

It’s that time of year again. Wet, muddy messy farm. Old flimsy carrots and the bottom of the parsnip bin. Mashed potatoes–AGAIN.  But there is hope in the greenhouse. The onion and tomato starts, yes, but I’m talking about something even better.

Look down. The beautiful mass of green below our feet comprising of an amazing blend of mustards, asian greens, lettuces, cress, chicories, weeds and herbs to make one heck of a salad mix. The lifeblood of spring. Just like a dramatic dip in blood sugar, we begin to crash and burn with the lack of fresh food in March.

Slowly but surely, all winter, the greens have been popping up underneath floating row cover, and now they are flourishing. Salad for breakfast with a poached egg on top. Salad for lunch surrounding a sausage on a heaping plate. Salad for dinner with chicken soup. It is time! So rejoice, and fear not. Spring is around the corner.


All Potential

Last week, I was reminded of the roller coasters I gleefully rode as a kid.

Not of the the neck-tweaking banked turns or upside-down loops that were drawn out into slow motion experiences of sensory overload–these adrenaline pumping moments will come later in the season. What last week evoked was the slow, rhythmic sensation of ratcheting upwards at the very beginning, leaning back while the roller coaster cars were pulled up to the top of the first anticipated plunge down into the rest of the fabulous ride; the view from above which preceds the long, and nauseously quick, initial free-fall.

At Island Meadow, we are nearing the top of that incline. The first car is nosing over the edge. It is, as if riding in the back, I can feel myself accelerating even though we are not quite over the hump and on to the thrilling downhill ride.

Our greenhouses are chock full.  Salad greens started in the ground during January, tucked into their small indoor beds beneath a layer of floating row cover to contribute additional warmth to otherwise chilly soil, and to encourage germination, are now nearly sizable enough for picking. In February we seeded our first trays on the heating coils inside. First we laid down sweet and storage onion seed, followed by shallots and early summer leeks. Since then it’s been a steady procession as we use the heat to germinate our wee babes. The Allium were followed by more fancy mustards for salad–varieties titled with descriptive names like Green Wave, Golden Frills and Ruby Streaks. Those we succeeded with sweet peas, cabbage, broccoli, chard and kale.

Once sprouted, the seed trays are moved onto unheated greenhouse tables to free up room for the next batch of promising seeds. The place is all potential now, each bed planted, each table full of seedling trays. Last week we placed tomato seeds into germination mix. Tomoatoes! Those ones sure generated daydreams about long afternoons, warm evenings, and the sweet sensation of sitting outside at dusk for hours watching the sky shift through hues of blue, lavender, pink and explosive oranges before finally calling it a night.

We keep bringing more objects into the greenhouse and using them to set up additional tables, allowing us to move more trays off the heating coils and therefore to plant more seeds. Meanwhile, the rain keeps falling, the field rows remain inundated by moisture, and we keep waiting for that long and exhilarating roller coaster free fall to really begin. The weather forecasts I am looking at call for periodic rain and cold through the end of March. That leaves me with high hopes for April. Meanwhile, we keep working on the farm edges, performing off-season chores, and heading for home early in a last-chance effort to save energy for when the work really gets going.

Caitlin Carnahan holding seeds.

My partner Caitlin and I moved to Vashon in mid-November to collaborate with Chandler at Island Meadow Farm. Through the winter, we’ve been planning, forming our business, clearing blackberry vines from forgotten corners of the farm, and planning some more. The three of us will work the small farm on Cemetary Road together this season, growing food for sale in the farmstand started by Bob and Bonnie Gregson many years ago, and at the Saturday farmers market, as well. We are thrilled to be here, leasing land from Greg and Julie, growing food for our community, our families, our friends, and ourselves. Full of potential, the greenhouse represents our ambition, and our hope that earth will offer normalcy with a proper shift in seasons. There’s a lot of food growing around here, and it’s bound to be delicious. Come find out!

—Greg Reed


winter still

It’s been a while since I’ve written on the blog–amid the comments from family members & curiosity of my new farming partners–I thought an update was due. Not much has changed in the field since the kiwi harvest. Perhaps the most exciting report from soil level is that the rye & vetch are slowly taking off, with the minutes more of daylight added each day, and after a much-needed break from the deer pressure this winter. Leeks have sat patiently for spring, cabbages have winced with the deep frosty mornings. The sprouting broccoli died; could not handle the extreme cold we saw briefly. Chickens have meandered across the grass, adding their manure & searching for bugs.

Raise your eyes to the rest of the farm, though, and you’ll find the scenery a lot cleaner & more organized than when snow fell before Thanksgiving. The arrival of Greg & Caitlin, two very good friends, has ushered in an emboldened era. They are helping breathe new life into the farm, and the energy we’re putting in is already showing–an organized tool shed, a renovated storage room, pruned fruit & nut trees, a hole-less deer fence, new chicken tractors, downed blackberries, and a giant pile of trash awaiting a ride to the dump. It felt great to clean up the farm, and it feels like we’re extra prepared for the season ahead.

Last week we started the first of our seeds in the greenhouse–sweet onions & salad mix for early spring. As soon as the seeds germinate, we’ll fill up the heat coils again with more shallots, onions & salad. After that–tomatoes. And so begins the process of creating an abundance of food, starting at our dining room table when we sketched out a crop plan, ordered seeds & a month later, dropped the tiny capsules of life into their freshly made bed of peat moss & vermiculite.

We’ve closed the farm stand today. The potatoes are down to the bottom of the bags, and starting to sprout. The kiwis are dwindling as well, and most of the cabbage has been harvested, save for some heads for a batch of sauerkraut. We’ll likely open again in a month or so, when the salad greens sown into the floor of the greenhouse reach a good size & there is enough to sell. And once we get a break in the weather, we’ll sow spinach, bok choi, radishes, arugula & other greens for an April harvest.

Winter has been bearable, and I have Greg & Caitlin to thank for it–flooding the place with joy, excitement & love. Get ready 2011, we’re ready for you.

Chandler


kiwi delight

Now available in the farmstand–Island Meadow kiwis!

Just ripen on the counter in a paper bag, like you would a pear.

Enjoy!


praise be pork

From this:


to this; via salt, sugar, spices, time & alder smoke:

and this; via salt, sugar, spices & wine:

How good it feels to be rich.

Rich in friends, rich in community, rich in support. Rich in food. Rich in bacon.

Many thanks to the amazing Sheards at Farmstead Meatsmith for their help in harvesting our pigs with the utmost integrity & respect.

And thanks to the pigs who gave their lives so that we may feel so rich & full of delicious food.

Documentary on the process from friend Andrew Plotsky of Farm Run. Enjoy.


global agriculture policy and the border

photo by Anya

Here is a fantastic essay by fellow farmer, artist & No More Deaths volunteer, Brooke Budner. She touches on NAFTA & how U.S. agricultural policy affects the migration north of so many people.

This summer I took a month off of this urban farming pursuit and went down to the Arizona/Mexico border to work with a humanitarian aid organization called No More Deaths whose mission is to end the deaths and suffering of folks migrating to the United States. The organization is completely initiated and run by dedicated local volunteers and visiting volunteers from around the country. Its work is based on the ideal of Civil Initiative, the belief that communities must organize and take power to uphold humanitarian rights when states or nations cannot or refuse to do so. Every day members of the group hike trails, drop off hundreds of gallons of water and food in remote parts of the desert, and are available on encounter with migrants to provide medical attention. No More Deaths also staffs a desert medical aid tent and Resource Centers in the border towns of Nogales and Agua Prieta. (For more info about the work and mission of NMD check out the July blog post or visit their website: http://www.nomoredeaths.org)

A complex political and human tragedy is unfolding on our border. It is devastating and confusing to witness even just a slice of it. Every year hundreds of thousands of Mexican and Central Americans set out on a life-threatening journey across mountainous, desert terrain in order to meet family and find work in the U.S. Every year hundreds of these migrants get lost, injured, raped or attacked along the way. They die from hyperthermia, hypothermia, other illness or acts of violence. In the desert on a summer day, temperatures can soar to 120 degrees and flash rainstorms can produce instant rivers. Ironically on the same day that one migrant might die of hyperthermia–dehydration and heat-exposure, another could die in the same terrain from hypothermia–exposure to cold and wet. I arrived in July and there had been 51 recorded deaths in the month of June alone. The statistic would double or triple if it included the bodies of people who had perished in places so remote that they were never found.

The Sonoran desert is heart-wrenchingly beautiful at times. The sky is so broad and clear, the mountains peppered with flowering cacti and craggy canyons shaded by silver oaks. Living in it for one month and hiking across its wild topography gave me a vivid sense of just how treacherous this migration is. I had to drink water constantly and if I ran out towards the end of a hike I quickly lost energy and got a headache. Medical experts have evaluated that the average adult needs to drink 17 litters of water a day in these conditions to stay healthy, making it practically impossible to carry enough water to maintain proper hydration for even one day. Depending on their route and their luck, migrants are walking between 4 and 10 days. We were counseled to assume that any migrant that we met on the trails would be either moderately or severely dehydrated.

I had so much to say about the border it was hard to stop writing. If you would like to read more click here

Read the rest here.


a little young farmer press

photo by Cienna

With the Greenhorns Washington Young Farmer Mixer coming up, we’ve been getting a little press. Thanks to Leslie, Merilee & Cienna for your coverage of issues concerning young farmers. Look out for a KBCS piece next week.

The Stranger – Plotting a Revolution

The Beachcomber -Growing a New Crop of Farmers

The Beachcomber – Pioneering Farmers are Pointing the Way


speak to us of work

photo by Anya

From The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, via Karisa’s amazing farm blog:

Then a ploughman said, “Speak to us of work.” And he answered, saying: You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth. For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life’s procession that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite. When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music. Which of you would be a reed, dumb and silent, when all else sings together in unison? Always you have been told that work is a curse and labor a misfortune. But I say to you that when you work you fulfill a part of earth’s furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born, and in keeping yourself with labor you are in truth loving life. And to love life through labor is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret. But if in your pain call birth an affliction and the support of the flesh a curse written upon your brow, then I answer that naught but the secret of your brow shall wash away that which is written. You have been told also that life is darkness, and in your weariness you echo what was said by the weary. And I say that life is indeed darkness save when there is urge, And all urge is blind save when there is knowledge, And all knowledge is vain save when there is work, And all work is empty save when there is love; And when you work with love you bind yourself to yourself, and to one another, and to God. And what is it to work with love? It is to weave cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth. It is to build a house with affection, even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house. It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit. It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit, And to know that all the blessed dead are standing about you and watching. Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy. For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger. And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distills a poison in the wine. And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle man’s ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night.


on the king county farm tour

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Vashon Island 10AM – 4 PM

We’ll be open to the public all day, giving tours of the farm. Lots of other farms on the tour as well, check it out: http://king.wsu.edu/foodandfarms/harvestcelebration.html


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