Monday, January 10, 2011

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A place on earth

  The title is a book by Wendell Berry, to me it means the Hood River Valley. My place! When doing farm planning one becomes more attentive to climate, soil, slope, drainage, and 100 other details of the land. The gorge is a special place, especially Hood River. The valley is a place of transition where the west hills look completely different than the east hills do, just a few miles away. If you drive 20 miles to the west the annual rainfall is almost 80" but if you drive 20 miles to the east the annual rainfall is only 14". Many times in the spring the west side of the valley will be getting rained on and the east side will be dry. Several times this fall I was hoping that rain would fall on the garden as I watched rain falling west, north, and south of the valley. We are situated in a huge river gorge between two volcanos in the Cascade Range; weather can be crazy here. Like the willamette valley, we get very dry summers and wet winters. But our summers are hotter and winters are colder and we get less rainfall. I think this place is a unique micro-climate that has great potential for diverse farming.
   One thing we will be trying is dry-farming (that is, not irrigating our crops). Over-wintered things such as garlic, onions, or wheat are natural canditates for growing without supplemental irrigation since they need a dry summer at the end of their growing cycle. Many other crops can do well without irrigation and since we have wet springs the soil will provide ample moisture at the beginning of the plants life cycle.
  The soil in the valley is usually a sandy loam which is great for growing veggies, it drains well in the spring and warms up quickly.
  The main crops in the valley are from fruit trees, mainly apples and pears, but many growers aren't making enough money so some are trying other things such as grapes and blueberries. I'm excited to grow a variety of things (perennials, grains, veggies) and think that garlic is going to become a big crop in the valley. Also I'm looking forward to growing some crops for seed. Our dry summers and fairly mild winters make a great combination for annual and biennial seed growing. I'm hoping that by not putting our eggs in one basket or growing mono-culture style we'll be able to round out a living and be able to pace out our work and income levels. So much to learn!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

December harvest!?

Harvested some cilantro, arugula, and parsley today for Solstice Wood Fire Cafe in Bingen. Hard to believe that I'm still able to harvest in the middle of winter without any cover on the veggies. Because there is no cover, the leaves are fairly mangy and not nearly as tender, but still flavorful! Next year we will use some row cover to help things cope with the wet cold weather better. The leaves will be more insulated and more protected from the elements so should be a bit better fresh eating quality (aka better looking and more tender). Sorry no photos.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What's the damage?

Results after the early season abnormally cold hit! Some things died. Some things survived. Most look dead but at closer glance just the outside and bigger leaves died while the small inside leafs were just partially damaged, these plants should resume growth in late winter.

Many of the semi-hardy cover crop (oats, favas) were planted a bit to soon and the result was large lush plants that are less hardy. Ideally you want small youngish plants that are close to the ground and can be covered and insulated easily by snow. Its somewhat counter-intuitive, but many times the bigger plants are less cold resistant.

But enough babble, here are the results:

Spinach is happy and hardy.

The turnips are somewhat hardy but the roots are done growing so its harvest time.

 The big outside leaves died but the plant should still be fine and regrow.

Cilantro is ok.

 Kale is happy, I swear there are new leaves since the last time I looked.... impossible!!

  The favas are dead, the oats maybe will grow more, we'll see...

The overwintering broccoli looks fine.

And the vetch and rye could care less if its cold.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


A brief photo history of what we've done since this summer to get the farm started.

Soil testing to know what we needed to add to the soil for good veggie production.
First bed tilled!
The maiden soil block voyage.
 Tilled and planted, mostly cover crop but some veggies. Doing small trials of different crops to see how they do during fall and winter.

Fall Beets

Lacinato Kale
Tennis Ball Lettuce

Home-made transplant trays we'll be using next season to hold the soil blocks while the transplants grow.

The cover crops were probably planted a bit too soon. They are very lush but will probably not be as cold hardy.

After frosts things are still rocking

Tennis Ball lettuce with first snow!

 Things are going good. We didn't have much expectation so we have been pleased to see how things have done so far. Last week we had abnormally cold temperatures for this early in the winter and some things didn't make it. I'll post soon with the details.

Monday, November 29, 2010


So, Facebook wasn't exactly what I like for updates and pictures so we're going the blog route. Should be fun, easier to follow I think. Check often!!