Onions

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Henry hates cleaning onions. Photo: TwoFish Photography

Onions have been hard for us but this year we just freaking nailed it. Primarily the change was that we paid attention to them (and had newly opened fertile ground to work with).

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Using a Planet Junior (thank you Jason from Joe’s Garden for all your incredible support and insight on those machines) to weed the onions was a success.

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Also, they got enough water, which makes a huge difference.

We also got a shade cloth to hang over a greenhouse to keep the onions from baking as they cure.

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Photo: TwoFish Photography

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Carrots

Look at these beauties!!!

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Photos courtesy TwoFish Photography. Thanks guys!

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Our “custom” Greenhouse

2016-03-30-10-31-34We decided a year ago to build our own greenhouse and decided to do all of it on our own. This included bending our own 1 and 5/8″pipe, which Nick did with some friends and was so strenuous that he swears he will never repeat it (one person threw up).

2016-05-16-14-36-28We finally got the greenhouse erected this March, and while it’s not exactly “square” it worked beautifully for us all season long. With the threat of a huge storm this October we ended up taking the plastic off for the winter.

2016-07-26-20-19-07It is truly amazing what you can produce in a space like this. Here are some photos of the tomatoes we grew there, in particular a variety called “Gardener’s Sweetheart” from Uprising Seeds that was by far our most popular. The two incredible photos below are from TwoFish Photography (our very talented friends Jamie Kovach and Zach Edick).

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springtimefarm-12And this photo was taken by my mom at the Bellingham Farmers Market. The fruits of a custom greenhouse.

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Spring Flowers

Spring is the best time for flowers.

Tulips:

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Ranunculus:

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Peonies…

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Nick and Dusty patiently hauling flowers around:

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What’s not to love. Here’s some lupine. So much more not pictured.

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Narcissus

Here are some fancy daffodils! To come home to them after a few days away was incredible. We are noticing a huge difference in stem length and sturdiness two years into these babies, particularly in the Bridal Crown variety – a double narcissus with a heady intoxicating fragrance, probably my favorite…

Happy Spring!

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Dry beans

cropped-img_03661.jpgDry beans come in so many varieties of color, texture and flavor (not to mention growing habit) that there is always something new for us to try. We’re not certain that growing dry beans is economically viable but we love them so much that neither of us can imagine stopping. You feel a tangible wealth admiring totes full of multicolored beans and we have die-hard dry bean regulars who validate our work almost every week at the Farmers Market (hey guys!!!). Beans grown with care and sold “fresh” are worlds away from the tasteless, cardboard dry beans you find at conventional grocery stores. We keep experimenting with our methods to try and make the whole process more efficient, but sometimes the simple ways suit us best.

Dry beans either have a pole or a bush habit. Pole beans require trellising to climb – without it, they’ll reach for anything close by – especially each other.

This year we experimented with interplanting sunflowers as additional trellising for our 14 rows of pole beans. We chose Mammoth Grey sunflowers which end up 12-14 feet tall.

The beans appreciated the extra vertical space (and the birds feasted on the seeds) but ultimately we feel the giant flowers provided too much additional shade, compromising our beans’ productivity. It was beautiful, though.

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In the fall comes a mad rush of harvesting the beans at their driest stage, before it starts to rain in earnest. We usually give them a few days in a greenhouse to get them nice and brittle and then thresh the beans from their crispy pods. We are lucky enough to have access to a bean thresher from the ever-generous Dusty Williams, which works well so long as we actually take the time to pull the pods from their plants.

After this, the beans need to be winnowed to separate out the remaining chaff. This is Nick’s favorite part of the whole process. By pouring the whole mix in front of a powerful fan, the chaff is blown away and the beans fall into a tote.

Henry is learning to get out of the way of the fan, sometimes.

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We sometimes feel a little sheepish that we charge a hefty price for our beans, but they are truly a labor of love. They are worth it.

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Garlic and Quickbooks

This winter we have finally invested some time delving into Quickbooks. We bought the program in February 2015 and had an intensive and helpful how-to session with a truly patient woman, Diane, in March. Despite our best intentions we didn’t touch the program again until about three weeks ago, in late December, as we started to try and untangle the farm’s finances.

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But now that we’ve done so, my fear of the program is gone and the benefits are clear. Among many other fascinating and mundane details impossible to truly appreciate as you’re hurtling from place to place around the farm all season, Nick and I have realized how important garlic is to our business. For a small and highly diversified vegetable and flower farm, we devote a fair amount of space, time and energy to this one crop, and last year 14% of our income came from garlic alone.

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Garlic necessitates bursts of concentrated energy. Planting in the fall and winter is a steady clove-by-clove march to finish one bed after another. Each year we’ve put more in the ground, and this year we planted 20 beds.

Then comes mulching the whole lot with straw to keep down weeds, retain moisture, and not least add organic matter to our already-fertile Nooksack soil.

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IMG_3064Depending on the seed load of the straw we sometimes do a cursory weeding once in the spring, although we skipped it last year.

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Summer rolls around and we use the tractor to lift the heads of garlic out of the ground, tie them into bundles and finally hang all of it to dry and cure.

At a certain point in the summer and early fall we begin to sort our garlic, putting aside particularly desirable heads to use for seed once again in the coming cooler months.

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The cyclical nature of all this blurs the boundaries between each year and can really make you question the validity of a Gregorian calendar in the first place. Generally speaking, we are fine with that. But for less romantic purposes such as “budgeting” and “taxes,” that’s where Quickbooks can come in, helping divvy up the harvests and bursts of effort so that we actually know where we stand – which is up to our ears in garlic.

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Cafe au lait dahlias are a dream

 

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We feel so rich !

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Summer

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Carrot harvest and stringing up dry beans

Summer has been good to us – as well as relentless in its dry heat. We have nothing to complain about compared to many regions of the country, but for the far northwest corner of Washington state this year has demanded near-constant irrigation. Without a few rainy days tucked in here and there we feel like we have been running full speed for months.

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Our giant romaine looks perkier than we do

We’ve grown far more food than we did last year and everything is feeling just a little more streamlined. There is so much to learn – it is overwhelming – but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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A fiery market bouquet we were proud of and new fingerling potatoes

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April already?

We are getting busy! Spring has been by turns lovely and tempestuous here. The colors are getting vibrant for us even while it rains and blows, and farm life goes on regardless of it all.

The Bellingham Farmers Market has started up in earnest, too, so we’ll be there every Saturday from now until November. We have a new spot under the main “pavilion” roof – come and say hi!

We’ve built a hoop house and are in the process of fabricating a movable greenhouse. Nick and some very kind friends bent our own pipes for the framework using a hand-cranked pipe bender (Aaron from Altility Art Studio and Bill – you are the best).

Otherwise we continue on our merry little way, planting early potatoes and harvesting overwintered and delicious leeks. Happy spring!!! Your farmers love you.

 

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