Back in the Saddle, Again.

So here we are in another year. The sun didn’t explode, the snows came, and firewood still burns hot. Margaret and I took November and December off to relax, travel, and not think about the farm. The first two we did totally successfully, the last task we did only marginally well.

Thanks to our buddy Bob, we were able to take off for 2 weeks and drive down to Texas to see family, to ride our bicycles (!!!) around Santa Fe and Austin, see some fantastic live music, and eat incredible tacos. No joke, the best tacos we had were found at The Velvet Taco in Dallas. I think I was the only one giggling. Either everyone else shoving tacos in their mouth was already over the joke or didn’t get it. In December, we spent the holidays and New Years with my family in Idaho and toasted to 2012 on the ski slopes.

The goats have been bred, both to freshen in May. Lucy is fat and bossy as ever, the kids are growing nicely, and Ke$ha is still the farm sweetheart. I butchered our whether, Bruno, in early December along with a number of older laying hens from which I made gallons of stock.

Percy the cat had a little trouble with his usual acrobatics and ripped a hole in his belly that we had to get sewn up. He didn’t seem to mind either way, but now he has a gigantic scar to show off to the ladies in town. Since his stitches have been out, I’ve seen him jump from the car port roof to the greenhouse and back again multiple times. I’ve also seen him slide off the roof of the greenhouse on a slippery layer of new snow, landing on his feet. After boring weeks of recovery, he started leaving serious carnage around the house and barn: mice bodies, frozen to the ground, heads staring blankly from a few inches away. He has become an excellent barn kitty, and increasingly skilled at sneaking into the house to snooze by the stove.

Our indoor plants are thriving with all the attention we’re giving them now that they’re our only greenery. I broke the lemon tree pot and built a new, larger, container for it filled with aged compost and plenty of water. It looks healthier than ever and is growing lots of new foliage.

I’ve been reading books galore and catching up on some of the better tv shows out there (and my fair share of really bad shows). We’ve been making all kinds of delicious winter-y dishes with our stored, canned, and frozen produce and have been enjoying experimenting with making cheese from Pattie’s extra milk (thanks, Pattie!).

When she’s not filling in at the Good Food Store, Margaret has been whirring away on her new sewing machine, making me a couple incredible vests and fixing up all kinds of stuff in the house. She also carved a super cute holiday card linoleum print of Coda running with a zucchini.

Now that 2013 has hit in full force, we’ve been pouring over seed catalogs, editing the website, and recording all our 2012 info. We harvested almost 13,000lbs of produce this year, not including plums, apples, or pears! 850lbs of arugula, 1,300lbs of salad greens, and 2,500lbs of english cucumbers.

We’ve lined up a full time intern for 2013, in the hopes that we’ll get more time to enjoy the farm and more help to make harvest and production more efficient. You’ll meet her this summer, she’s super.

Next season will see a few new things from County Rail. We’ll be trying some specialty greens on for size (in addition to our arugula and mizuna, of course) and we’ve decided to cut our losses and quit doing things that don’t work for us. Melons, for example, are falling by the way-side to make room for other stuff we grow well. Support our neighbors at Dixon Melons, instead.

We’re keeping our CSA small at 25, and thanks to a hugely generous donation from a local philanthropist, our SNAP members will get an incredible deal on their shares this season. Check out the SNAP page for details.

Margaret and I are psyched to be heading into our third season. Pommes de Terre has brought us nothing if not the feeling of home, fulfillment, and community. Farmers always say that next year will be better, and dog gamit, so it will. We’re always learning new tricks, tackling new challenges, and tweaking our system to make it more productive and sustainable.

So here’s to 2012, and here’s to 2013 in all it’s day-dreaming winter glory, for “January is just the tail end of a dog called Spring.”

Seed Saving 101

So last year we saved a little bit of arugula and spinach seed. This year we went all out and let an entire planting of spinach and arugula (about 45′ each) go to seed for next year. I wound up with 4lbs of spinach seed and almost 5lbs of arugula seed… that’s a lot of seed. It should carry us through next year, and we’ll save more for the year after. On top of all that, we also saved about a pound of red mustard seed, accidentally. I forgot about the little planting that was in the middle of the new asparagus and it went to seed before we got to it… oops.

And then there are the beans! Oh, I love growing dry beans. Despite the low return per bed foot, they are incredibly satisfying to clean and then to eat. I may not hunt, but damn can I grow some protein. We wound up with almost 50lbs of dry beans total, including black beans (not pictured here), Jacob’s Cattle beans, and Golden Beans. We be eating these for a few years, and won’t have to plant them next year, leaving more room for something else!

The seed saving process for seeds that develop in some sort of pod (eg. NOT squash or tomatoes or peppers) is simple. If it’s dry outside, let the plant go to seed and allow the seed to dry and harden in their pods in the field until you can hear them rattle when you shake the plant. If it’s not so dry, make sure the seeds have grown to complete maturity and then hang the entire plant in a barn, garage, or other well ventilated and dry space. Once dry, simply pile the plants on a tarp and stomp on them until most of the seeds have fallen out of their pods. Shake and pile again. Repeat as necessary. Remove the plants and compost them (aware that they will still have some seeds in the pods which will likely germinate next spring).

Dump the seeds on the tarp into a large bucket. Get a large box fan. Turn it onto high for things like dry beans which are really heavy, and medium or low for little seed like arugula and spinach. Put an empty bucket in front of the fan and slowly pour the seed from one bucket to the other, allowing it to pass in front of the fan so that the chaff and dust blows away and the seed drops directly into your empty bucket. (Photos for that part of the process next year). And voila. Seeds for next year and/or dry beans for eating.

2012 For The Win

Our seed order is in. Everything from eggplant to watermelon to kale ordered and (mostly) received. In a great feat of concentration, our 2012 Organic System Plan has been sent in to the Montana certifying entity, and the planting plan for 2012 is on the verge of completion. To cap it all, our taxes are done.

Margaret and I spend most of our time on a ginormous puzzle or with a nose in a book. As the season creeps closer and closer, the Farm Shares begin to roll in and our pantry is relieved of more and more jars.

As of 2 weeks ago, the bees are still alive and well. We’ve begun to sprout roughly 400 asparagus seeds, which will be a challenge to fit in our greenhouse before they’re transplanted in the spring. The goats are fat and happy and one is (fingers crossed) growing a couple little goats inside. We’re looking forward to 2012 and hoping to fill it with baby plants, baby goats, and honey.

Our 2012 mascot, Hipster Coda, wishes you a very happy new year.