Monthly Archives: May 2015

Aww Nut…sedge!!!

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SPRING TIME IS ENDING!!!  I’ve constantly been humming the bambi song “drip drop drip little April showers” and now its the end of May and we are getting closer to the 90s in temperature than I would like to admit on the hotter days.  In the high tunnels it feels like 100 degrees, so I am really looking forward to experiencing the high tunnels in the summer time!

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Jessica posing after pulling up some strawberry plants!

Our group has finally started to feel more like a family.  We eat together often, and I must say, Jamie can cook one delicious pork tenderloin!  🙂 Life off the farm has started to become more planned and routine.  Wednesdays I have choir 🙂 which always brightens my week.  Although I absolutely love working on the farm, their is something nice about going home after work and doing something familiar like church choir, it makes me feel like I am just a little closer to home and family.  We have also had the chance to meet our awesome neighbors and could not have been luckier with our apartment situation.

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Nutsedge with its roots. PURE EVIL!!!!

Life on the farm has been very busy, and our arch nemisis “Dr.Nutsedge” has been invading our happy farm making weeding very very VERY difficult.  Just last week we spent a good portion of our Friday picking out all the nutsedge from our garden spaces only to see the evil weed come back over the weekend as if we did not even do anything.  It is truly eye opening to see how powerful a weed can be and how hard it can be to maintain organically sometimes.  We have learned that organic farmers have had to suspend their organic certification for a few years and then later come back just in order to contain certain weeds.  It is really crazy to see how much labor it takes to battle such a invasive and fast growing weed.  On the brightside, even though we lost a portion of our spring field, and our summer field is COVERED in nutsedge, we have managed to produce lots of delicious produce.  I’ve really enjoyed sharring some of our food with the local community, including our neighbors and community projects.

Speaking of community projects, I am becoming involved with the Goldsboro Library.  They have a BEAUTIFUL garden that has been filled with all kinds of summer goodies just starting to blossom in time for the first day of the junior master gardeners program that will start in June.  It’s looking like we will have a large group of children.  Donna has tasked a group of folks (including me) to be part of the task force for planing activities for the younger children up to the fifth graders. I am really excited at the opportunity to share the things I’ve been learning with the children.

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Goldsboro Library Community Garden

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Purple Cauliflower!!!!

Right now on the farm the biggest producer we have these days are the cucumbers.  We have donated hundreds of pounds of cucumbers just from one days harvest to meals on wheels.  I’ve enjoyed all the cucumbers myself and have discovered an amazing Thai Cucumber Salad recipe that has me addicted.  Marisa was especially excited over the cauliflower, and last week I got to do a mashed cauliflower demonstration for the cooking class at the extension office.  It was actually pretty good!  Teenagers came back for seconds, so I figure that has to mean something.

189Pests have started to show themselves now that the weather has warmed up.  Cucumber beetles, potato beetles, flea beetles, cabbage worms, groundhogs (he really likes our pointy head lettuce), and a mouse (who keeps finding its way into my lunch during the day time before lunch time…)

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Piglets are growing up fast!

The experience so far on the Small Farm Unit has been eye opening and simply amazing.  Marisa has done everything in her power to make sure we have a balance of classroom learning and hands on experience. The rest of the CEFS staff have all been wonderful as well. I have really enjoyed my Twice weekly time on the swine unit  playing with the baby pigs and feeding the mothers or soon to be mothers.  The staff really enjoys sharing their knowledge and they go above and beyond what they are required to do in order to make sure we learn as much as possible.  They are really great people, with generous hearts and respect for the world around them.

Stay tuned for my next blog!! It should be exciting as my fellow apprentice Jessica and I work with the Bee clubs president (Summer) to learn care and maintenance of the CEFS bee hives!!! I seriously can not wait!!!

Here’s The Dirt

Well Francis, you have some artists here at CEFS.

Well Francis, you have some artists here at CEFS.

One reason I enjoy the spring is because it offers the opportunity to turn goals into action by using up all the stored energy collected over the cold winter months. Simultaneously nudging us out of our collective slumber, the spring rewards us with beauty and the reminder that life goes on, like it or not! I was under the impression that spring in eastern North Carolina would be more like a week long oddity but it has been more of a steady unfolding with comfortable temperatures overall. I have begun to recognize that within the group of us, we have all established a common ground in terms of our work, and supporting one another in the stuff of everyday life. Marisa had all five of us attend a workshop on team-building where we were able to express individually our values, interests, and challenges. This exercise was beneficial in giving us insight into how respect means more than just getting along with a person because they like the same things as you do or do things the same way that you do. Respect, in fact, has a lot more to do with upholding a respectful environment within which people who share different beliefs can move freely. I take this lesson to heart and appreciate how much each person brings to the job everyday, because everybody is bringing something different.

It's not just a salad, it's a health insurance plan!

It’s not just a salad, it’s a health insurance plan!

A major incentive for me to become an apprentice was the opportunity to integrate agricultural work with community outreach and leadership training. So you might imagine I was looking forward to making this hearty vegetable salad for the EFNEP cooking class demonstration.

All of us are delving deeper into our community worksites in terms of understanding what the goals are for the summer and how we can best provide support. I am working with staff at Dillard Academy and attended a cooking demonstration for fifth graders, hosted by Maria Limon of FoodCorps, where the kids harvested lettuce grown in their school garden. I was impressed with how many questions the kids had about growing food. Next time I see them I will need to have some peer reviewed research at hand.

Baker Creek radishes during a taste test

   Baker Creek radishes during a taste test

We have been conducting evaluations of vegetables from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds, which means we are looking at consistency of color, texture, and size, as well as determining quality in flavor and sweetness. A great variety of produce is harvested and weighed, and we hope that this data will assist Baker Creek with their work in preserving and marketing heirloom seeds.

We have acquired four steers on the small farm unit, and they teach me to find a balance between wanting to pal around with them in their pen, and realizing that they could in fact, end me. So I admire from a distance unless I am on animal duty. We have them on a rotational grazing formation so every couple of days the boys are moved to a fresh plot of pasture of diverse plants such as dock, fescue grass, vetch, lespedeza, and crimson clover to name a few.

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We have named them: Justin, Jamie, Ray, and Jessica.

We have been learning a lot about cover crops as well as cover crop and animal interaction. The idea is that you take leguminous plants (which are plants that fix nitrogen in the soil), and grasses which add carbon, and the ratio of these mixtures should increase soil organic material and provide a supply of nitrogen. The main advantage to keeping soil covered at all times (whether it is in production or in cover crop) is to prevent soil erosion and to increase soil organic matter over time. The order of operations for cover cropping systems goes something like this: Plant, reach maximum biomass (the end of flowering), sample biomass, flail mow depending on circumstances, and then disk the soil to incorporate the cover crop, which may have to be done twice.  There are other methods of killing cover crops besides flail mowing, and for no-till practices rolling/crimping the cover crop down when the seedhead is starting to form but not fully formed provides a mulch to plant directly into.

Ray taking a biomass sample.

Marisa and Justin in the freshly crimped rye and clover field, where we will plant summer annual vegetables.

Marisa and Justin in the freshly crimped rye and clover field, where we will plant summer annual vegetables.

The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association held its annual Piedmont Farm Tour last weekend, and the four of us went off to visit a variety of small farms throughout the Piedmont region. This was an excellent opportunity for us to ask some questions and see for ourselves what full operations look like on diversified small farms. Thank you to CFSA for allowing this opportunity and for all the farmers who took the time to open themselves up to the public for a whole weekend.

Coon Rock Farm in Hillsborough is hosting a trial of this hydroponic shipping container system. Does 600 heads of lettuce per week sound like enough to you? This could work wonders for areas of the country and of the world that have difficult growing conditions.

Coon Rock Farm in Hillsborough is hosting a trial of this hydroponic shipping container system. Does 600 heads of lettuce per week sound like enough to you? This could work wonders for areas of the country and of the world that have difficult growing conditions.

It’s been a busy spring but we know how to keep our spirits up.

Our resident jester, Justin, playing air guitar while hoeing nutsedge.

    Our resident jester, Justin, playing air guitar while hoeing nutsedge.

HAPPY PLANTING!

HAPPY PLANTING!

~Jessica

ps) Happy Mothers Day 😉

Fueling Our Dreams With Greens

Now that spring is in full swing we have all been working really hard. For starters, we have harvested the last of the lettuce and greens in the cool season tunnel which has been mostly donated to the O’berry Center, which is a facility for people living with developmental disabilities.

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Our strawberry project has been going well. We have been getting a plentiful amount of berries in our recent harvest, which too have been donated to the O’berry center.

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Our trip to Alex Hitt’s place in Graham N.C was a pleasure. A very wise man who has been very successful in the small farm world. Peregrine Farm has been around since 1982. If you ever get a chance you should check out Peregrine Farm at the Carrboro Farmers Market.

Here's Alex with Marisa showing us his transplant hole puncher he uses.

Here’s Alex with Marisa showing us his transplant hole puncher he uses.

We have all our cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers planted in our warm season high tunnel. We also have a grafted tomato and cucumber project going on in our other warm season tunnels.

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Our community work has begun too. We all have been getting our plans ready for the summer camps and programs Goldsboro has going on this year. We are all excited and ready to start. I have chosen the Parks and Recreation center and hope to teach the kids about how to garden successfully and the importance of local food. We have also begun our involvement with the extension service in the EFNEP cooking class, which is teaching people about healthy food choices and a healthy lifestyle.

A delicious veggie scramble

A delicious veggie scramble

In conclusion this program is teaching me something new everyday and I cannot wait to see what else lies ahead of us on the farm.

Peace,

RAY GRADY