Sunday, December 2, 2012

3 Flat Acres is interviewed by CRAFT!

We were recently interviewed by CRAFT (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training).  See our interview here: 
Interview with 3 Flat Acres

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

2013 Garlic Crop is in

My garlic popping station

During my week of vacation from my day off-farm job, we planted next year's garlic crop.  We doubled the amount that we planted last year:  ~4800 to ~10,000.  That is 22 100 ft beds; each bed has 3 rows.  It's a lot of garlic!  And of course it rained almost all week but we planted anyway - thankful for rain gear! 

a bit hard to see, but the wooden stakes are the variety markers

The new addition to the house is moving along.

And the barn cats are doing nicely.  They are great companions while working.

Oscar on top of the straw bales

Saturday, September 8, 2012


Our cabbage experiment - direct seeded in the field - worked pretty well.  Next year I'll go back to transplanting seedlings, but since we were moving year during seedling starting time we put them straight into the field. 

We are dreaming of homemade kraut.

Monday, September 3, 2012

House Update

The house construction is moving along.  The basement and crawl space walls have been repaired, tuck pointed and/or re-poured and all have been sprayed with structural foam.  The basement floor has also been repoured - after Bill and some helpers dug down an additional 10" in the basement and hauled it up and out.  Tomorrow brings a crew of carpenters to help Bill pull off the old roof, reframe and prepare for the new roof.  This week also brings the excavator to dig the foundation for the addition (a/k/a the new house where we will live) - we hope the foundation will be poured early next week.

 The gray is the exterior foam which is structural.  The yellow are interior foundation walls which only need insulating
Interior shot.  The space where the ladder is going down will be the commercial kitchen (at grade) and a basement underneath
Labor Day found us seeding cover crops.  Bill cultivated with the tractor on Fields 1, 2, 4, 9 and 11.  I followed behind with the hand seeder.  1 and 2 got white clover while 4, 9, and 11 got a mixture of peas, oats, vetch, winter rye, and crimson clover; which will be tilled in next spring.  Fields 1 and 2 will be replanted with garlic in - yikes - 6 weeks.
The drought has claimed a fair number of our orchard trees, planted this spring.  We anticipate a 50% survival rate.
The barn cats are settling in nicely. 
All 4 sleeping
(Left to right:  Sylvia, Mr. White, Oscar, Thomas)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Organic pest control

This post is for Susan.  :)

National Organic Program (NOP) standards state that producers must use management practices for pest control.

When our inspector asked us how we plan to control pests, Bill and I asked, "are barn cats allowed?"  She said absolutely.

We don't have an issue with an overload of barn pests - although we don't have any feed supplied in our barn to draw them yet - when our neighbor's cat (who is a skilled mouser) had a litter we thought it would be a good time to get some kittens.  We took the whole litter:  3 males, 1 female.  We had them neutered/spayed and vaccinated under the "barn cat sterilization program" at the local animal hospital.

 Clockwise from upper left hand corner
Mr. White (we are watching Breaking Bad right now. 
This cat has professor-like patches on his elbows.)

Sylvia and Oscar both see a barn swallow swooping by
Mr. White - paws crossed, doesn't care
Thomas - well (can you tell ?) he's the alpha

They are 7 months old, friendly, and enjoyable to have around.  3 Flat Acres first official animals!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Harvest is curing

The garlic harvest is in and curing. The 100 degree heat and the rock hard soil slowed us down but we got it in.
We anticipate having our sales page activated by mid-August.

Hanging in bunches of 10 bulbs

The drying racks are 12' tall and each have six 5' bars

5000 bulbs m/l

Friday, July 6, 2012

New website is up!

Soon our garlic varieties will be for sale!

Sunday, July 1, 2012


The garlic harvest has begun. The soil is rock hard due to Wisconsin's drought situation so the digging is challenging. We've gotten the Asiastics and one of the Porcelain varieties hanging to cure. We are curing this year in the shop due to the barn still being under construction.

Bill devised a drying/curing system with untreated wood and conduit. The bundles are hung with hemp twine.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A visit to Mecca

We visited the Twin Cities last weekend. In planning out our route, I discovered we could drive through Decorah, Iowa. Lovers of heirloom plants will know what is in Decorah. Mecca!!! a/k/a Seed Savers Exchange!

Our visit was short - less than 1 hour, but it was so inspiring.

We are planning another visit - it's only 2 hours away from SW Wisc to spend the day hiking the trails, viewing the heritage breeds and perhaps fishing the trout streams.

Friday, June 8, 2012


We are inundated with scapes - and it is great!!

Freshly harvested scapes
Add Image

Getting ready to pickle

Done! And we have already given them all away...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

We took a day off on this holiday weekend and did no work on Sunday. Monday we were back at it and now the irrigation is finally fully installed in all 3 fields.

This photo shows the onion, leek, beet and turnip bed (and a few radish stragglers which will be harvested any moment now). The 2nd planting of beets went in Monday (Memorial) and the turnips got their initial sowing. The drip tape is watering it all in.

I'm standing in Field #2 (which is in garlic) and looking past the grasswater way can see Field #3 which is in food crop production this year. I've had to buy many seedlings, the most of which I got from my pal Penny at Wishful Acres Farm ( I trust her growing methods and she is a like-minded farmer and friend.

I have an additional day off from my off-farm job so today we are pickling scapes.
Doing some weeding in a garlic bed, I pulled this strand of quack grass. As much as I despise it, I also am impressed by it's tenacity. Look at the length of that root!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Finally some rain...

It finally rained on Fri, 5/25. Our farm rain gauge showed 2.7 inches.

The vetch is blooming a beautiful purple. We really like this cover. It kills easily by low mowing / cutting with the tractor or with hand trimmer. It kills into a thick mat helping to further suppress weeds and we envision it will be quite an addition to the tilth of our soils when we turn it in this fall.
The blue at the lower bottom is an irrigation header line
And it's scape time! We noticed them last week and now several varieties have produced scapes:
Bavarian Purple
Russian Red
Spanish Roja
Polish Hardneck

We harvested some and grilled them for dinner last night. They are so delicious and have much more garlic flavor than the green garlic.

We were walking the farm to document if we had any rain/watershed areas of concern and while standing behind the shop looking at our low growing fields (not yet in production), I happened to glance to the side and only about 4' away from me was a sleeping fawn. I'm sure the mom was somewhere near watching us closely.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


The 3 Flat Acres irrigation system is up and running.

We are pumping water up a significant hill to the growing fields. Our flattest land is up on our ridgetop - far, far away from our well.

The white PVC runs up the side of the barn and OVER the barn drive access and then hits the fence line continuing up

We need to replace the barn roof first - until then, we'll be filling from the well.

We are collecting the water in the water retention tanks (~1500 gallons each - only one shown in the photo above), pumping it via PVC up the side of the hill to a PVC distribution array along our mid farm fence line with take-off valves along the PVC. The take-offs are large, flexible irrigation lines (similar to fire hoses) which are then linked to the drip tape in the fields. We anticipate that we can irrigate 3 fields from the barn set up.

This pump is fed from the tanks and sends the water up the irrigation lines
(yes, the stand is black locust)

Blue flexible lines feed the drip lines in the beds

We plan to repeat the entire process on the shop roof to irrigate our summer growing fields. These fields aren't in production yet.

This was a major undertaking. The current (almost) drought that we are experiencing demanded that we fast-track this project. Our garlic was thirsty.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Designers in mags and permaculture

One of our fav designers paid us a visit this past weekend. Julie deLeon and Bill worked together for years and they still collaborate on many projects. She is also a dear friend. Julie is portrayed in the recent edition of Chicago Home and Garden. Her new design firm Groundwork is up and running. She even mentioned Grow Modular as one of her fav's in the article.

She joined us on a day trip to Westby, WI for a day long presentation by Mark Shepherd, the guru of permaculture. We were awed by his knowledge of design, ecology, plants, water conservation, farming and environmentalism. Mark was helping the farmers of Ella Bella Farm craft a farm design in their ~15 acres of former CRP ground. He takes the typical farmer's ideal of flat, empty farmland and turns it into swales, trees, berries and alley cropping. It is a lot to get one's head around. We learned a lot and are not looking at our hilly farm in the same way!

We spent Monday (I took a vacation day from non-farm job) running drip tape in the garlic beds.

We aren't J.D. name brand folks but the drip tape is good stuff.

3 rows per bed = a whole lotta tape. We only got the fields half done!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Onions! Leeks!

Bill prepped the soil in field 3. This field has been in a manure mix (field peas, oats and hairy vetch) since last August. I have to say that hair vetch may well be my new favorite plant. It is so amazing. Spring brought it back to a vibrant green and it is growing well and smothering weed cover. It is a nitrogen fixer and adds organic matter to the soil.

About 10 days ago, Bill mowed and then cultivated and finally ran the rototiller over beds within the fields. He then shaped the beds by hand.

Today we planted onions, leeks, beets, radishes and spinach. A red, white and yellow storage onion. Leeks. Beets. (wow, 40' of beets!). Radishes. Spinach.

1 bed down. 8 to go.

Tomorrow we are off to a permaculture seminar with a friend in Westby, WI. Taught by Mark Shepherd. We are excited to meet him!

Red onions

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Planning the Planting

Being a certified organic grower has forced us to sit down and put our plans to paper. We are significantly scaling up our operation this year; we are expanding from the 3 fields that currently certified to 11 fields. All told the fields total just under 3.5 acres. Included will be the orchard and our vegetables. Although this year we are growing our vegetables for mostly our own use, we decided that certifying them is good practice for us and in case of a glut of harvest we can sell them.

Under review is also our 3 Flat Acres branding, logo and website.

We celebrated Earth Day by organizing seed and putting the plan to paper. I finally went through my seed box and weeded out (yes, pun intended) all of the outdated seeds. I found seeds from 2004!

I will also plant some more greens in the church-house garden today - seems the thing to do on Earth Day.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

orchard photos

(I found my camera cord.)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Garlic update

I have a lot of great photos of the garlic progress but alas, I can't find my camera cord to get them downloaded.  The weather has been tricky - the garlic is about a month ahead of where it typically is at this time of year.  We had some frost several nights last week (and forecasted again for tonight) and the garlic is definitely getting some frost damage on the tips. 

Last weekend we got the orchard planted.  24 heirloom varieties and 4 pear trees.  How I wish we had done this years ago and again I was down to the wire on making choices, but in the end we just placed the order and planted them.   We've got Liberty, Freedom, Duchess of Oldenburg, Northwestern Greening, Lodi, Wealthy, Northwestern Greening - several others that I can't remember off of the top of my head.  We planted the trees in a swale - permaculture-like. 

Bill plowed 4 more fields with the two-bottomed plow last week.  After several days he disc'd once and broke down some of the sod.  SW Wisc desperately needs some rain to help break down the plowed fields and allow him to disc again.  Then once thru with the cultivator and the tiller and we'll get it covered with a spring manure mix (vetch, oats and field peas).

Additionally, we are mapping our fields and progress on AgSquared.  It has a free trial for several months so we'll give it a try to see if it meets our needs for fieldwork, mapping, and tracking.

This is the first spring in years that I haven't started my own seeds.  We'll be buying what we can from our pal Penny who farms in Freeport.  Looking forward to seeing them and their progress on their farm!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Here we are!

We have officially moved - and the garlic is up!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Moving next week

We are doing a lot of packing.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Still a work in progress but the shop (almost) has full sides and a full roof!

The windows are from Rebuilding Exchange in Chicago and the doors are repurposed from the farmhouse.

This is the view from the back. The large white covering on the right will eventually be a garage door (it's a tarp for the moment).

Progress on the farmhouse too. Both upstairs and downstairs are almost fully demo'd. We also have a building permit and Bill has done a first pass on the plans on CADD and we are in conversations with a passive house engineer and architect.

Oh, and the week of 3/12? We will become WI residents....!