Category Archives: Small Farm Unit

Beetle Juice. Beetle Juice. Beetle Juice.

No, not the Tim Burton movie. (Although, I love that film. What a classic.)

I’m talking about the stuff you encounter when practicing organic pest control and squishing buggies off your plants. Like this guy. The Colorado Potato Beetle.

ImageThis bad boy is a serious pest for potatoes. So every couple of days we go through our potato plants and try to get rid of the eggs and adolescents before they get too much of a head start. They are soft bodied until they reach adulthood, so squishing is the tactic to use! Hence…beetle juice. You really have to get over any bug phobias when you decide to be an organic farmer.

Here is what the eggs look like.

ImageAnd they develop in to this.

ImageAnd then this, before they become adults.

ImageThe Colorado Potato Beetle is particularly difficult to control with insecticides even, because they have developed a resistance to most kinds. With small scale potato production, however, managing them the way we do works just fine.

Other than squishing bugs, all of us on the farm are preparing for the arrival of the interns! We will have 14 of them coming THIS weekend. They are from all over the country and come from a wide range of backgrounds. It will be fun to have new energy around here.

The summer is heating up! Quite literally… But its going to be jam packed full of activities…and opportunities!

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Today…I castrated a pig

That’s right. Today, I castrated a piglet all by myself. Not like a bucket list type of achievement but I think it’s a pretty big deal! I’ve come quite a long ways from pushing paper at a desk in the big city.

The new mama gilts had their piglets over at the swine unit late last week and over the weekend. We’ve been back and forth trying to catch them during the process. The babies are just adorable! Here’s some proof in case you had any doubt.

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I mean, look at them! This litter just conked out as soon as their bellies got full. Some with the teat still in their mouths!

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What an amazing experience. There certainly are ups and downs when it comes to working with livestock, but being around the animals and giving them the best life possible is what it’s all about.

It was a great day actually. This morning, we also attended a workshop about enhancing your land to provide habitats for wildlife and insects. It was fascinating. I even caught myself considering going back to school for entomology! Guess that’s a sign of a good workshop.

Here is Dr. Orr from NCSU showing us the early successional habitat we have at the organic research area on Cherry Research Farm.

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And to top it all off, I made dinner with turnips and beets from the farm. Sautéed turnip and beet greens and roasted turnip and beet roots. (Plus sweet potatoes from the farmers market here in Goldsboro.) Just ignore the beer battered frozen fish. I do what I can… 🙂

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-Kellyn

The abundance of harvest time

Yesterday we had a big harvest! We took about 275 lbs of food to the soup kitchen, crisis center and a developmental disability center. We have turnips, beets, and heads of lettuce coming out our ears!

We started first thing in the morning as usual.

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It was fun to pull out those root veggies and find the treasure underneath the soil!

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Evan was quite proud of the turnips. 🙂

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Our beets are a bit small still but we hope people will use the greens as well. I know I will!

We also wanted to thin them a bit so hopefully we will have bigger roots next harvest.

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And the lettuce could not have been more beautiful!

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We did not have any pest issues on the field lettuce (aphid is a bad word around us after washing all those lettuces from the high tunnel…) and the heads were just sooooo much healthier than the ones in the high tunnels. There are several reasons for this, the biggest being that we fertilized the field and not the high tunnel. The high tunnel lettuces were part of a research project and weren’t supposed to be fertilized. It was a good opportunity to see the impact of soil nutrition!

’twas a successful morning!

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In the afternoon, we spent some much needed time in the office planning our CSA! Boy it’s gonna be good! I’ll tell you guys more about it later…

Now time to visit the Raleigh farmers market finally! Happy Saturday!
-Kellyn

Save the bees!

Happy Thursday, everyone! It was a gorgeous day on the farm today. It gave us a little preview of the summer heat to come, although we were assured several times that we haven’t seen anything yet. Well, I’ve lived in Austin and San Antonio for the last three years, so hopefully I’m hardened off to stand the heat. (Like my greenhouse lingo?)
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This morning I got to take part in splitting a few of the bee hives in an effort to increase the number of hives in our bee yard. Bees are such an integral part of growing food, so I have jumped on the opportunity to learn how to keep them. I recently read that they pollinate something like 80% of all flowering crops, which makes up a lot of what we eat! Having a healthy hive around can really make a difference in fruit/vegetable size and yield.

So, I knew how important they are but I didn’t know how fascinating they are to watch!
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I’m pretty much just observing at this point but I’ve gotten to see the inter workings of the hives. It’s so amazing to spot the queen bee, see the honey, nectar, and brood in each cell of the comb, and even watch a bee “hatching” from one of the cells!

Just another reason I love doing this work.
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Hopefully as I learn more about beekeeping, I can share again in a little more detail.

The rest of the day was split between measuring trees at the farming systems research unit (more on that another time) and planting tomatoes and peppers at an after school program garden. It’s good to get off the farm every now and again!

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Thanks for reading!
-Kellyn

From BT to feather meal

It’s really amazing to me how full and varied our days are on the farm. And I just love it.

We started out with a farm wide safety meeting. Then we came back to our farm and scouted for pests in our spring block. We found quite a few worms amongst our cabbages!

Can you see him?
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He did a good bit of damage.
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We believe they are clover worms and not cabbage loopers because they do not “loop” up when you touch them.
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We counted how many we could find in a small area and it was more than the threshold for treating. So we pulled out the BT and got a little experience with the backpack sprayer. BT, of course, is a biological pesticide that infects worms with a nasty fungus which kills them. It was strangely exciting to use BT since I’ve heard about it for so long. It really is the small things…

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Next, I wrestled with the bees for a bit (which will be a separate post altogether one of these days) and did some tractor work prepping our summer field.

Then we applied feather meal fertilizer to the tomato and pepper beds to make sure they have enough precious nitrogen to grow big and delicious.

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Finally we laid plastic mulch for the tomatoes and peppers. I would be so bold to say that we are experts with that plastic layer by the end of today… Smh. Suffice it to say we learned the hard way, but learned nonetheless!

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All this, of course, was intermingled with the routine watering, caring for the cattle, and what not.

See what I mean about a full and varied day! You really can’t beat it.

Until tomorrow’s adventures.
-Kellyn

Failure to launch

We set out these chard transplants about three weeks ago and they have not grown a bit! Perhaps it’s been too cool?

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I hope they take off soon because I think they are so nice bundled together as rainbow chard! And they make a great CSA addition since they are pretty. Speaking of which, we are going to put together a “mock CSA” this summer! More on that later…

-Kellyn