Thursday, June 23, 2011

Field Day at Tomato Mountain Farm

Last week I attended an afternoon field day at Tomato Mountain Farm. I was happy to see many of my CRAFT friends!

I took lots of notes - here are some of the highlights.

If you are going to have a commercial kitchen, a steam kettle is needed. A good one runs $8000-$9000. Don't buy a bread oven as a roaster; the BTUs aren't high enough.

Get a pH pen. pH of tomatoes should be less than4.6. You can keep this pH by sticking to a 90% tomato 10% non-tomato mixture.

The 6 seeder from Johnny's allows you to plant greens beds that look like this! (I thought that was a hoop only tool.)

The Greens Harvester from Johnny's actually works!

A couple of good green varieties: Magenta, Tropiciana (bolt tolerant!!), and Concept

Spacing of 1 x 1 on lettuce, brassicas is a-OK. Look at how beautiful this is!

Strawberries are beautiful but a big time and money suck. (Look at those hoops in the background! He has 22 hoops that are 26 x 96.)

Hoops are great for crops because it protects them from the night dew. Also keeps lettuce clean. I had such hoop-envy!

Finally - and this made a day with great info even more worthwhile. Chris plants white clover between his beds and uses a wheel hoe down the row and then mows it to keep a clean and easy-to-access corridor. This is an idea that we are going to utilize on our garlic fields/beds.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Farm and Church house Gardens are (finally!) in

New bed on the southside of the hoghouse

I had trimmed down the buckwheat smother crop the day before

Decided to incorporate the buckwheat residue with the rototiller

Please note: Bill installed a new carryall on the tractor for a water bottle, phone, and a couple of tools. It is the mailbox mounted vertically below his left should behind the tail-light. It has the name of the farm owners 2 owners ago.

The tractor/rotovator are sigificantly easier than the wheel hoe!

Tomatoes and peppers were planted in bio-film

I have never had the pleasure of planting in bed prepped like this

Spoiled hay to use as weed suppression on the edges and paths

All planted!

28 tomato plants. All my varieties were mixed up this year so I just planted the healthiest looking plants.

48 pepper plants. Jimmy Nardello, Serano, Beaver Dam, Alma Paprika, Marconi Red, Thai Orange, and a doghouse blend at the end of the row.

Beans: chinese long bean, black beans, Christmas lima, tiger-eye, Cherokee trail of tears.

Onions: a bag of onion set that I got on sale. Variety unsure. Way too late to be planting onions.

Beets: Detroit red and Bull Blood

Squash: 4 hills of a variety that I saved from a fairy squash.

After the beds were prepped and I was getting ready to plant, Bill looked over at me and said, 'are you crying?' I was. I was so happy. I have never had a garden this large with soil this beautiful. I've been waiting for this day for the 5 years that we have owned our farm - and even longer than that as my Chicago yard is small and shaded.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Buttresses II

These were the concrete buttresses at the beginning of the day on the Sunday of Memorial Day.

Bill and I got down into the holes and pulled the nails from the top level of the forms and manually removed the braces and the top level. We tried to pull the bottom level out with the truck on a come-along but our 2000 lbs come along broke. So we went with the tractor - as was the initial plan along - we just tried to cheat by using the truck. This spring we bought a set of hayforks; what a useful tool. In this photo, you see the hayforks along side the concrete. Using a massive, heavy-duty logging/towing chain, we attach the fork to the lower form. Work it loose slowly and then heave it out.

The holes were dug narrowly because we need to minimalize soil displacement as much as possible to not diminsh the structural integrity of the current walls. Frankly, we are worried that removing more soil than this could result in further structural loss of the walls.

Top level is gone - Bill is attaching the logging chain

This photo shows how embedded this form is

Sparky pulls out the form in no time flat

(Yes, our tractor's name is Sparky)

No more forms -

of the 12 lower ones; we only have 1 that requires significant repair;

they all came out clean and ready for re-use

Me - at the end of the day. Having the time of my life.


I finished This Life is in Your Hands. It was interesting, fascinating, tragic and horrifying. I enjoyed the writing and probably felt kinship to Melissa Coleman because we are the same age. I finished it on the Chicago El with tears running down my cheeks.

I recommend it.

By the way, Eliot had 4 children.

Monday, June 6, 2011


I'm reading This Life is in Your Hands by Melissa Coleman. Daughter of Eliot Coleman. My favorite part so far - the Nearings sold 60 acres of their land to to Eliot for $2,000. As I am a back-to-the-lander/homesteader wannabe, this is a really fascinating read. The snippets of life with the Nearings as neighbors is an added bonus.


Changed my Comment moderation so anyone can comment.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I won 3rd place in a dirty girl contest

Not that kind of dirty!

Dirty as in soil, manure, mud, sweat, or oil from a day of hard work. Many of the women that read this blog know what I'm talking about (Barb, Penny, Judy, Gribbey, Jenna Gayle come to mind!)

Check out Rosie's Workwear for Women. Rosie's is workwear designed for women that is also cute and pays homage to Rosie the Riveter from WWII. They sponsored a contest for the Dirtiest Rosie and I submitted a photo after our work day on Sunday. We were stripping the concrete forms in the rain.

Go to the facebook site of Rosie's - I'm on the photo wall in the yellow jacket (or the entry on 5/31/11).

I won a free t-shirt.