Bugs for Chickens

Thanks to the people at the Marin Master Gardeners I found out my farm is infested with grubbs!

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Bugs for Chickens

These pesky and strange looking soil mongrels hang out about 4-6 inches below the the top of the soil and reek havoc on the roots of your plants.

I learned earlier in the summer that when you find certain critters in your fields you need to look for them at a certain time of the year to prevent the next generation from returning. One idea was to turn the soil in the spring just before planting.

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Cleared bed of grubbs

So I went ahead and turned the soil now as I’m preparing the beds for the winter. That’s when I found all these guys! Turns out the Marin Master Gardener had a good suggestion. They recommend placing the bugs out on an open space for birds to come and get them. I did that last weekend and gave a bunch to the crows. When I told my neighbor about the bugs she said her chickens would love to eat them. “They are full of fat!” she said.

Now when I dig up a new area on the farm I look for the bugs and collect them for Helen’s chickens. Now, Helen brings me eggs! How’s that for sustainable farming?

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Urban Farming Promoters Look to Transform Food Production

Urban farming is still in it’s infancy but there are plenty of  efforts to bring food production into our cities and closer to the populations we are trying to feed.

These newfangled farming methods combine urban buildings, new technology, hydroponics, and big data to build scalable vegetable and fruit production to our cities.

In Boston, Caleb Harper is the Director of the City FARM, which is part of the Open Agriculture Initiative located in the MIT Media Lab. Harper wants to address the needs of a growing world population and the dwindling sources of land and water. Also, he points to the need to bring farming closer to the consumer. But he doesn’t necessarily see his ideas replacing current large scale farming methods.

Lula Farms in Montreal

Lufa Farms Rooftop Greenhouse

In Montreal, Mohamed Hage is taking a commercial tack on this idea. His Lufa Farms is another large scale effort underway to bring farming to the urban environment. Beginning in 2011, Lula Farms built the world’s first commercial rooftop greenhouse. This 32,000 square foot polyculture facility now delivers 70 metric tons of food to the local population. Lula built a second facility in 2013. This 43,000 square foot facility delivers 120 metric tons of food per year.

The Lufa Farm system is designed to be sustainable in terms of water use, energy use, and pest controls. They also deploy technology in their delivery system which utilizes marketing and e-commerce tools to allow customers to select what goes in their $30 basket of food that can be delivered to more than 150 local pick up sites — even on the day the food was harvested.

These urban agricultural advancements are not planning to replace the large scale farming that delivers the vast majority of our food. However, it does expand our capabilities to deliver fresh food locally. Perhaps more importantly, these efforts may lead to similar advancements to our current framing system to improve our environment and food production.

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Today’s Harvest

Picked a few fresh items for dinner today. The eggplant was not that successful this year but it tastes good. Tomato and basil always go together and the peppers went well in the salad.

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Today’s harvest

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October Tomatoes, Hornworms, and Sunflower Harvest

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Tomato plot cleared for the winter.

This week we cleared a small area of the farm on the side of the house for winter.

This 20 square foot plot was where we first started successfully growing food on the farm. We pretty much only plant tomatoes there because it’s so warm. This year we had a couple of heirloom plants but it also got overgrown with volunteer cherry and yellow pear tomatoes.

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October tomato harvest

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Sunflower harvest 2015

The October tomatoes are amazing and fresh. We’ve had a small trace of rain over the past few weeks but it’s otherwise been very warm and perfect for tomatoes. The soil in this area seems to hold up nicely despite the fact that our neighbor has a very large apple tree on the other side of the fence. We grow some roses and mint there too.

This year next to that area we also planted sunflowers which were started by Tony Mekisich, the garden teacher at my daughter’s school and planted by Mia. We also harvested the sunflowers which were very prolific. I tasted them too and it’s amazing how good and fresh they are just picked!

Tomato hornworm

Tomato hornworm

One thing we also found this week was two very large tomato hornworms. It’s amazing how large these little guys get when they have so much food to eat. Thankfully they didn’t take too much of our harvest.

I read up on this pest a bit and it seems like we should be able to prevent them in the future with a few simple organic methods. The best method I found was to till the soil in the spring before planting to disturb the pupa.

I also a found some products that claim to have naturally occurring bacteria that may also help. One had “Spinosad” in it’s ingredients and the other had “Bacillus Thuricide.” I’ll be looking into this a little more closely for next year.

Happy fall harvest everyone!


Posted in Crops, Farming Education, Food, Fruit, Hornworm, Lakritz Family Farm, Organic, Pests, Plants, Vegetables, Wildlife | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Sunflowers!

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Sunflower!

It’s that time of the year when the sunflowers are blooming nicely. They are such a joy in the yard. Sunflowers brighten the area and bring such beautiful color to yourenvironment.

These flowers were started at a school garden nursery and brought to our farm by my daughter Mia. They are such a blessing to have on the Lakritz Farm.

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Sunflowers!

We are growing them along the north side of the house where we usually have tomatoes and hot peppers. The area and soil proved to be excellent habitat for sunflowers.

I am not sure what we’ll do with the seeds as yet but there will be many. We will certainly try to grow more with the seeds we get.

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Sowing the Seeds for Future Farming

Seed giveaway

Organically grown seeds. Free!

We gathered a good harvest of seeds this summer and are planting new crops for the fall. But we had plenty to give away so that’s what we did!

Enjoy!

Lettuce Flowers

Lettuce flowers going to seed.

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Summer Sunshine From the Farm

Here’s a little summer sunshine sunflower from the farm.

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Sunflower

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If A Plum Falls On The Farm Do You Eat It?

A couple of days ago I was watering plants and standing next to the Santa Rosa plum tree we planted in the spring of 2014. The tree was part of the early plans for the farm which included the idea of a small orchard of fruit trees.

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First harvest of Santa Rosa plums from the Lakritz Farm

After planting the plum and a Fuji apple tree the family decided we needed to grow vegetables so we threw out the plans for six to eight trees and built the rest of the farm.

A year later the two trees are doing beautifully and already bearing fruit!

Growing up we always had an orange tree and a grapefruit tree. Although we weren’t farmers we experienced the power of nature and the beauty of eating from your own home grown fruit trees. Annually each tree produced as many as 700 pieces of fruit!

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First harvest of Fuji apples from the Lakritz Farm

There is nothing better or healthier than growing and eating your own fruit right from the tree. We are looking forward to many years of healthy eating from these trees.

So, when a plum falls from the tree on the farm . . . eat i!

Posted in Farming Education, Food, Fruit, Lakritz Family Farm, Organic, Plants, Sustainability, Urban Farming | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wildlife Visit the Farm

We all know that living in the natural world means facing wildlife from time to time. Depending on where you live and what you grow you might have a variety of animals as visitors.

Here at the Lakritz Family Farm we try to be prepared for the critters as much as possible. Thankfully we don’t have to worry too much about predators though we do get them from time to time. Last month we had a coyote boldly travel through the neighborhood in broad daylight.

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Our fence keeps this animal off of the farm and it’s probably looking for some meat anyway. This is one of the many reasons we don’t raise chickens.

Earlier this year we had a bobcat running through the backyard with a chicken in its mouth. I was able to get a picture as it went over the back fence. If you look closely you will see the feathers of the chicken. The chicken came from our neighbor’s yard. She had let them out of the coop during the day.

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Here’s another one of the bobcat and coyote’s potential victims. Jack rabbits are pretty common in our area but we usually only see them at night. The hog fencing is good enough to keep this little one out. It prefers the lawn of our next door neighbor anyway.

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One thing that surprised me this week was seeing birds nibbling on the large leaves of the sunflowers. I’m not exactly sure why they are eating the leaves because we don’t see any bugs on them. Given the deep drought happening in California today my theory is the birds are eating leaves for their water content.

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We’ve also had crows eating our kale but we were able to slightly cover them with some mesh and they stopped coming in to eat even after we took away the mesh a few weeks later.

Thankfully, we’ve had very few serious battles with critters this year. Because of the drought we do expect to have many more encounters with wildlife this summer.

Posted in Animals, Crops, Drought, Food, Lakritz Family Farm, Urban Farming, Water, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Reading From “On the Concord & Merrimack” by Henry David Thoreau

Being outdoors is a big part of farming. Unless you are doing hydroponics, have a very large greenhouse, or using grow lights you need to be outside to grow plants. I find it fascinating that more people don’t embrace nature in the way farmers do on a daily basis.

Thoreau is one of the best examples of a writer who espouses the environment and celebrates life in the natural world. Here’s a short excerpt from one of his writings. This particular book chronicles his adventures exploring the Concord and Merrimack rivers.

On the Concord & Merrimack
by Henry David Thoreau
pg. 407

From Wikipedia

My books I’d fain cast off, I cannot read,
‘Twixt every page my thoughts go stray at large
Down in the meadow, where is the richer feed,
And will not mind to hit their proper target.

Plutarch was good, and so was Homer too,
Our Shakespeare’s life was rich to live again;
What Plutarch read, that was not good nor true,
Nor Shakespeare’s books, unless his books were men.

Here while I lie beneath this walnut bough,
What care I for the Greeks or for Troy town,
if juster battles are enacted now
Between the ants upon this hummock’s crown?

Bid Homer wait till I the issue learn,
If red or black the gods will favor most,
Or yonder Ajax will the phalanx turn,
Struggling to heave some rock against the host.

BWL_1922Tell Shakespeare to attend some leisure hour,
For now I’ve business with this drop of dew,
And see you not, the clouds prepare a shower, —
I’ll meet him shortly when the sky is blue.

This bed of herd’s-grass and wild oats was spread
Last year with nicer skill than monarchs use,
A clover tuft is pillow for my head,
And violets quite overtop my shoes.

And now the cordial clouds have shut all in,
And gently swells the wind to say all’s well,
The scattered drops are falling fast and thin,
Some in the pool, some in the flower-bell.

I am well drenched upon my bed of oats;
But see that glove come rolling down its stem,
Now like a lonely planet there it floats,
And now it sinks into my garment’s hem.DSC_0239

Drip, drip the trees for all the country round,
And richness rare distills from every bough,
The wind alone it is makes every sound,
Shaking down crystals on the leaves below.

For shame the sun will never show itself,
Who could not with his beams e’er melt me so,
My dripping locks — they would become an elf,
Who in a beaded coat does gaily go.

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