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It’s Spring again!

It’s Spring again!

The trees are blooming and sprouts are coming up! We got our first seedlings started in early march and continue to start more as we get closer to warmer and drier days.

 

You can see our newly  constructed veggie wash station. I’ll do double duty, the grill on top allow us to wash things like carrots, potatoes, radishes etc. Removing the grate lets us fill the tub and insert a bubbler to wash fresh greens with. I’m also constructing a giant salad spinner out of an old washing machine!

Our garlic has over wintered wonderfully! Look for garlic scapes to be available at the Farmers Market (proctor)

 

I was able to till up a portion of our garden and get our drip irrigation in during this recent dry spell! Got some early seeds started for carrots, lettuce and nasturtium to use in salad mixes!

 

Can wait to see everyone at the Proctor Farmers Market this spring! Look for us in late may!

 

Planting Garlic

Planting Garlic

We’re so excited to put our first crop in the ground! Garlic! Since it needs to be planted in the fall we skipped ahead and got some raised beds prepared. Here in western Washington we get a decent bit of rain through the winter so to keep the bulbs/cloves from becoming water logged we decided to put them in raised beds, with a little drainage help at the bottom.

To set ourselves apart from your average farmers market vendor we’re going to be offering some unique types of garlic you won’t typically find. All organically grow.

  1. Italian Red
  2. Vietnamese Red
  3. German Hardy
  4. Northern White
  5. Georgian Fire
  6. Romanian Red

Our first step was getting the beds prepared. We removed the top layer of grass before setting the bed up, I should have taken more pics but the bed is made of ordinary hemlock fir 2×6 boards so we get a depth of 12 inches (11 technically) and with a length of 16 feet and width of 4 feet we’re able to get 248 heads per bed. We used 6″ spacing to maximize our space. While not visible in the picture, I’ve marked out a grid on the edges of the bed and I used the thin wood strip marked at 6″ intervals to keep my plantings in neat rows.

This is one of 8 raised beds, though not all will have garlic.

 

 

 

 

 

Next we needed to separate the cloves from each bulb. The cloves will grow during the winter/spring to form new whole bulbs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then needed to sterilize the cloves, we want to be sure we’re not introducing any pathogens from a foreign farm into our own. We used cheap vodka for this but you can also use isopropyl alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. Soak the cloves for about 20min in your solution of choice. You can also reuse it for several batches, especially in it’s full strength form.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next we want to give the cloves a little nutrient boost by soaking them in liquid fish fertilizer. We used 1 TBSP of fish fertilizer and 1 TBSP of baking soda with about 1/2 gallon of water. You’ll want to soak them at least 15 mins but over night would be best. We chose the overnight soak. When you remove them from the soak you’ll want to plant them right away. We’re not endorsing this brand or anything, it just happens to be what we had.

 

 

 

 

 

 

With our beds ready to go we marked off where each type would go and laid out our bulbs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then planted them by just making a hole in the soil with our finger, about 2 inches deep and set the bulbs in each hole. It’s hard to see in the photo but the first bulb has been pushed down to the desired depth, you want to cover it with about 1 inch of soil. Make sure the flat root end is down and the pointy end is up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last step was to cover with straw and water them in for the winter. I’m not going to worry too much about watering them through the winter, the rainy season is starting here in Washington so I’ll just keep an eye on them. I’ll check them in a week or 2 for some growth, we’d expect a little bit going into winter.

Farm Tour 2018

Farm Tour 2018

Thank you to everyone for visiting us during the Key Peninsula Farm Tour this year! We really enjoyed meeting everyone and sharing what we’re doing here at Foxglove. We hope to see you next year and share with your our progress!

 

Apple Cake!

Apple Cake!

It’s apple season here in WA so it’s time to make all the delicious apple things. I came across this recipe and wanted to share it, since it’s definitely one of the best apple cake’s I’ve ever had. This was supposedly an ‘award winning’ recipe. I made a slight modification so it’s even yummier.

 

Ingredients

For the cake:

1 cup Butter

2 cups sugar

2 large eggs

2½ cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/8 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

3 cups apples — chopped finely, nice crisp variety for baking

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

2 to 3 Tbsp milk

Directions:

Grease and flour a 9-inch-by-13-inch pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar.

Add 2 eggs and continue mixing.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a separate bowl, stir well to evenly distribute the cinnamon

Mix dry ingredients into creamed mixture to make the batter. See note below about batter consistency.

Add chopped apples, walnuts and milk to batter. The 2-3 Tbsp is a rough guide, it will be a fairly thick batter, almost like a dough but the moisture from the apples will result in a moist and delicious cake. The milk will help to get it to a spreadable consistency so don’t add too much.

Spread batter evenly into pan and bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes until done.

For the glaze:

3/4 cup sugar

½ cup butter

¼ cup buttermilk (or combine regular milk with a little lemon juice to make your own)

1 Tbsp light corn syrup

¼ tsp baking soda

1 tsp real vanilla extract

Directions:

Combine all of the glaze ingredients, except for the vanilla, in a sauce pan and heat to a boil while stirring. You can stop here for a nice sugary vanilla glaze or continue boiling until the syrup begins to caramelize. Who doesn’t like caramel and apple?

Remove from heat and add vanilla, adding after boiling will ensure you retain most of the vanilla flavor without boiling it off.

Pour and spread glaze over the cake immediately after removing it from the oven. It’ll seem like a lot of glaze but the cake will absorb it.

Allow to cool a bit but warm apple cake is the best.

 

 

Codling moth trap

Codling moth trap

This is our second year with our orchard, I have to say we didn’t take as good of care of it last year with all the remodeling we were doing and our apples were pretty infested with codling moths, among other things. So this year I’m trying out some homemade traps and a widely used attractant recipe.

First you want to find an empty milk jug (or something similar), maybe 3-4 or 12 jugs depending our your orchard. Cut 2 large holes in the upper portion of the jug on opposite sides. Some say leave a flap on top to keep the rain out, I’ve found I get more moths if I cut the holes out completely, this allows air to pass through and disperse the smell of your trap. Plus it doesn’t rain that much here in the summer so the just end up drying out rather than getting water logged. Check the traps once a week and empty/refill to keep the scent fresh.

 

1-cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1/3-cup Dark Molasses
1/8-teaspoon Ammonia, 
6 drops of liquid soap
Add enough water to make about 1-1/2 quarts of Attractant. 

 

I put the traps out in mid may, they seem to be working so far, I can’t say I’ve caught a LOT of moths but I have caught quite a few along with other various bugs. I’ve also been vigilant about spraying with Neem oil this year as well. Our trees are looking much healthier this year I have to say. The proof will come soon once the apples start to ripen!

Raspberry Pi controller – Part 1

Raspberry Pi controller – Part 1

This is the beginning of my project for a water system for the farm. My Raspberry Pi 3 B+ arrived yesterday. I’m beginning the prototyping for monitoring soil moisture in each of the 12 watering zones of the garden (1/2 acre), control sprinklers in those zones, monitor weather and record total water usage.

 

Parts so far:

 

Software:

Raspbian is fairly barebones, I used the Stretch Lite install without a desktop. No need for it in this case but I did have to install all the other software components and associated libraries. To access the MCP3008 I’m using the Pi’s SPI interface and a python library from Adafruit.

To get the total number of I/O ports I need I’ll ultimately end up using I2C and SPI. I’ll need 12 ports for moisture sensors, 12 ports for sprinkler control and one for water meter connected to the main line. Which totals 25 ports. I’d like to add weather station features too so there will likely be 2+ Pi’s in the garden, I’ll put one in the green house eventually as well.

A basic test shows the sensor working. You can see below that port 0, where the moisture sensor  is attached, is fluctuating as I put a wet sponge on it. It’ll still need to be calibrated to determine the proper range for dry vs wet. I chose a capacitive sensor over a resistive one. The resistive sensors are fairly crude with two exposed metal prongs you insert into the soil. They’re more likely to corrode and since they measure moisture based on resistance, each sensor will have a different response based on it’s distance from the controller. The wiring itself has a certain resistance to it based on it’s lenght which would add to the resistance of the sensor itself. While each sensor could be calibrated individually I’d rather not have that headache. The capacitive sensors are timing based, they measure the amount of time it takes an on board capacitor to recharge, the recharge time is affected by the amount of moisture in contact with the soil so it’s much more predictable and the way the sensor is constructed it’s less susceptible to corrosion. Although the top portion will need to be encased in resin before putting them outdoors for actual use.

 

I’m building a Drupal module for all this so it’ll have a nice web interface that can be accessed locally on the farm wifi,  from our house, our phone or an LCD attached to the Pi itself in the garden. If it turns out well enough I’ll make the module freely available.

There are lots of tutorials out there on hooking up a MCP3008 to a Pi so I’ll skip that part as far as the basics go. I’ll post my progress as I go, hopefully I’ll have something working in a couple of weeks.

Spring Dandelion Jelly

Spring Dandelion Jelly

It’s spring again and an opportunity to forage and make something wonderful from nature. While we may not like those pesky dandelions, they do make for a beautiful and light jelly. I came across this recipe from a book called Preserving Wild Foods by Matthew Weingarten and Raquel Pelzel. It’s a great book with tons of fascinating ideas for preserving the bounty around us. I’ll be trying more of the recipes soon. Since the dandelions are blooming I thought I’d give this one a try first.

You’ll need to collect quite a few dandelion flowers for this one since you’ll only use the yellow flower petals. The green stems are quite bitter so avoid those if possible. If you have some little hands available it’ll be a fun adventure picking the blossoms. The trimming of the flower petals will require a bit more attention to detail so gather them around a table and make an afternoon of it. This is quite labor intensive with the collecting of the flowers, trimming the flower petals and then finally making the jelly. I did have to use nearly all of these that I had collected to get enough petals. Please only collect flowers from areas you know are not treated with herbicides, pesticides or chemical fertilizers.

 

You’ll need about 2 cups of flower petals. I used a nice pair of scissors to snip off the top petals that were most accessible. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time trying to get every single one. You’ll drive yourself mad trying to do so.

 

 

Ingredients needed:

  • 2 cups dandelion flower petals
  • 2 Golden Delicious apples
  • 2 Tbps Pectin
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 1/4 cups of sugar
  • 5 cups water

Directions:

  1. First shred the apples, peel, core and flesh, you’re using the apples for their pectin as well as a little flavor.
  2. Combine in a medium pot the petals, apples and 5 cups of water. Bring to rolling boil and then turn off the heat and allow to steep and cool for 2 hours.
  3. Once cooled, strain the mixture through cheese cloth or a very fine mesh strainer so you don’t have any particles floating about. The liquid will be semi opaque so don’t worry about trying to get it perfectly  clear or translucent.
  4. In another pot (or clean out the previous pot) combine 3 cups of the extracted liquid, if it’s less than 3 cups simply add some water to bring it up to a total of 3 cups. You can save any excess to make refreshing beverage from.*
  5. Begin heating your liquid and slowly add the sugar, pectin and lemon juice. Bring to a rolling boil again, this will help activate the pectin. Boiling time can vary a bit depending on altitude, sugar content etc etc so aim for a 1-2 minutes at a rolling boil to ensure your jelly sets.
  6. Pour into 4 or 8oz jars and seal. You may store in the refrigerator or you may follow standard canning techniques for water bath canning.
* Add sugar or honey to remaining liquid and enjoy over ice.