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Posted 6/4/2017 9:12am by Lettuce Boy Farm.

So I could pine on about woodchucks eating entire plantings of broccoli, kale, and lettuce. About our onion plants dieing. About a cool spring and now a dry early summer.  About flee beetles in our baby greens.  About disappearing chickens.  But that would be silly, because these kinds of hardships are normal just about every year.  I always face problems and challenges that I must adapt to.  It would be just silly to feel sorry for myself.

And besides, what about everything that is going well on the farm?  What about the cover crops and soils that keep getting better every year?  What about the grains for our chickens that are looking sooooo much better this year?  What about the abundance of help this year? What about our new mobile coop that is working so well for our pastured hens?

That's how you keep your sanity in farming- putting your head down and problem solving while focusing on what is good and going well.

But those dang woodchucks!

 

Posted 5/8/2017 11:56am by Lettuce Boy Farm.

So it's already May.  When did that happen?

We've been busily working away transplanting onions, spreading compost and getting new plants started in the greenhouse.  Have you ever planted onions in your garden?  Many people plant onions sets in the spring and that's usually what they think of when I talk about planting onions.  At Lettuce Boy, we transplant little baby onion transplants.  We start them from seed in early February (this year I had to buy them instead) and let them grow until early April.  By this time they are close to the size of a pencil.  This year, however, we were delayed until the end of April.

To prepare the garden beds for the onions, I first make a pass with the rototiller set shallow.  I then go over the beds a shaper to pull the edges of the bed back up and firm everything up.  After these two steps I lay drip tape for irrigation and plastic mulch.  We use the mulch because onions do not compete with weeds in the slightest and will otherwise be quickly overcome without lots of hoeing and hand weeding.  It's just much easier and cost effective to use the plastic.  Now its finally time to plant the little buggers!

I built a 6-hole punch to both mark the locations for the onion plants and make a small home in the plastic.  Then my minions and I push onions into the holes that have been made and we're done!  Irrigate until well done.  Yields several thousand pounds.

Something new for us this year is our mobile hen house.  Over the winter and early spring I slowly build our hens' new pasture home from both new and old materials.  More coming on this later!

Be Blessed friends!

Posted 4/9/2017 8:09am by Lettuce Boy Farm.

Seems like the older I get, the faster time flies!  It's already the second week of spring and I don't feel ready!

So what's been going on around the farm this spring?  As usual, I have too many projects, all vying for my time and mental energies.  So far, the new mobile egg house is winning out.  We are trying to get it finished as soon as possible so that we can get the hens moved out of their winter accommodations and onto the pastures.  It's where they want to be anyway!

We're also taking a second stab at trying grow our own chicken feed this year.  Last year's experiment kind of worked, but the grains weren't balanced enough.  The peas in the mix did not do well because we got it in a little too late and the peas are one of the main sources of protein for the birds.  This year, we are getting the seed sooner and its looks like next week may actually be dry enough to plant!!

The greenhouse is filling up too.  The cherry tomatoes, kale, broccoli, lettuce, swiss chard, peppers, leeks, etc. are off to a fine start.  In a week or so, tomatoes will be transplanted into the hoop houses and the lettuces along with them.  Seed starting is a weekly occurrence now.  My mom (Paula) does most of the seeding.  Bless her!  It can get to be quit a job to keep up with the schedule especially in the spring, so having her here to help me with seeding frees me up to make sure other tasks are being accomplished around the farm.

About those other projects......

 

Posted 1/8/2017 8:24pm by Lettuce Boy Farm.

It's that time of year again.  Time to finish planning for this year and get the first of my seed orders in.

It is also an exciting time for me.  I look over all the seed catalogs (I get a lot!) thinking about what new things I could try growing this season or perhaps a new variety of something that I already grow.  I am always looking for the varieties that will have the best flavor and eating quality, but also varieties that will thrive in our soil, weather, and growing systems.  How do I find crops that meet these standards?  Trial and error!  Every year I (attempt) to test at least a handful of new things.  I will grow them in small quantities and then observe, make notes and taste test to see if it’s something that I will want to trial again or perhaps even add it to our crop plan.

The chickens are enjoying themselves in their 'hoop-coop' and the new hens have really started laying!  We are feeding them a non-GMO feed, whole grains grown here on the farm and past-prime squash, which they love. 

I have received a few questions about the conditions in the hoop-coop verses being in the field.  In weather like we have been having this week, the hens don't wander out of their coop much, but we do vent it during the day and we maintain a deep bedding system that the hens keep turning over in their quest for those morsels of grain they must have missed!  The scratching action keeps their manure well mixed with the bedding.  The carbon in the bedding captures the ammonia from their manure that causes the nasty smell.  It is actually quite pleasant.  In good weather, they spend most of their time running around outside, digging up the compost pile and everything else looking for worms, bugs and whatever else they can get their beaks on.

The inklings of spring will be here before we know it!

Know your Food, Know your Farmer.

Jonathan

 

Posted 12/9/2016 3:53pm by Jonathan Wenger.

Hello friends and customers.

It’s been far too long since updating you and so much has happened.  I want to share with you some of the struggles and victories from this last year.

This summer was by far the toughest and most trying of my farming career.  In mid-May I was struck by a complex migraine which manifested as stroke-like symptoms, so I spent the night in the hospital.  I am quite fine now, but over the following months the frequency of my migraines and headaches increased greatly.  I was missing as many as 10 work days every month.  As you can imagine, missing that much time really put the squeeze on the farm.  Some tasks got delayed, others forgotten about completely.

At the same time that I was having health trouble, I was not able to find enough help to ensure that we had enough hands to get farm tasks done on time.  This was a horrible combination.   You may have noticed less consistency in our offerings and the complete lack of some items this season.  That was because we had crops failing and weeds taking over large portions of the farm.  With all this very demoralizing stuff going on around, it was tough to be motivated and optimistic.

So far I have painted a pretty sad picture of this last season around the farm.  I admit that it’s been tough psychologically and even spiritually, but not everything was bad.  Our winter carrots have turned out great and I learned some good lessons from my no-till winter squash.  We were finally able to put in the irrigation well that we have been needing for some time.  And of course, the pastured chicken was awesome!

I’ve also learned a lot of good lessons regarding leadership, organization, and planning.   Doing simple things like writing down my plans so others can easily pick up the slack and learning to de-stress will make a huge difference in the future.  I am so pumped for next year and I can’t wait to start implementing some of the many new ideas running through my head!

If you have bought from our online store or patronized our stall at the farmer’s markets, THANK YOU!  Thank you to all of you who voiced your support and appreciation for our produce this summer.  You have all been so encouraging.  With your help and support, I know next year will be our best yet!

Know your food, know your farmer.

Jonathan

Posted 7/27/2015 12:00am by Jonathan Wenger.

Its been a bit too long since my last post, but I suppose that when I try to do it all, that's what happens.  So we've been plenty busy around trying to keep up with the markets, orders, weeds, and planting.  Some areas have gone better than others, but we are just trying to do our best.

It might sound a little crazy to say it in the middle of summer, but this is the time of year when we have to start thinking about winter around here.  I just planted our winter storage carrots last week, rutabagas next week, the winter beets have to be planted in 2 weeks, and our sweet onions starts have to go in around the end of August.  I really do love planning and planting for the winter season and there is something about those root crops that are harvested in the fall, they just taste so good!  Don't get me wrong, I love the summer crops, but its just not the same.  The cool temperatures and the shorter days bring out the flavor.  It might also have something to do with the fact that when we harvest the storage crops, it means that our hectic summer schedule is almost over!

But enough about fall right now.  Those of you have been with us for several years now may have noticed that we have fewer cherry tomatoes this year than in the past.  We pushed some other stuff out to put in 30% more plants and are experiencing about a 40% drop in yield.   Needles to say we were hoping for better.  I think its because the soil is getting worn out.  I haven't been building and encouraging good soil health like I should have over the last three years we have had the hoophouse.  Next year I will be using more compost, mineral calcium, and white ground cover to keep the soil cooler and thus promote more life.  Its been a bit discouraging, but I believe that I have learned from it.

Another lesson learned this year- I cannot do it all!  Next year I will have to find more help to make sure everything is done when it needs to be done.

Posted 6/15/2015 7:00pm by Jonathan Wenger.

So the rain forced us in for the afternoon.  Gave me a chance to catch up on bookwork and, more importantly, to sit down and talk with you!

I thought I would share a little about what my Dad and I have been doing over the last 2 or 3 weeks.  Last fall, we seeded about 10-ish acres of winter rye- a cover crop commonly seeded in the fall because it will overwinter and continue growing in the spring.  Our plan was to harvest the rye straw around the beginning of June.  Fortunately, Dad still had the necessary equipment from his previous farm life to make this happen.  The first piece of equipment is what is called (at least by us) a haybine.  It mows the crop, crimps the stems between two rollers, and lays the crop in a nice, neat windrow to either bale or chop.  Which brings me to the 2nd machine, the forage harvester- or chopper in our farm slang.  This machine picks the mowed crop up and chops in into little bits before blowing it into a trailing wagon or truck.

The "Chopper"The haybine

So the first step was to get the old farm equipment up and running again after 15 or 20 years of sitting in the shed.  We had to put new tires on both wheels on both the haybine and chopper, so 4 in total.  The haybine required some new knives and sickle bar parts, but was more or less ready to go at this point.  The chopper likewise was also relatively easy to prep, just adjust some things here and there and put it back together.  

Dad started mowing the winter rye at about the beginning of June.  After we mowed the rye, we waited for several days for it to dry out a bit more than before we chopped it.  I got the ol' 1970 Chevy dump truck going and put the tall sides on it.

 

Chopping goes like this- Dad drives the tractor, operating the chopper, and I follow alongside to collect all the crop that blows out of the machine.  When I have a load, I dump it to form a long pile.  Everything was going swell!

 

Until a bearing went out in the chopper.  And wouldn't you know it, the bearing was one the hardest and most pain-in-the-backside parts to get at!  I wish I had had the wherewithal to take some photos of the 2-day process to tear the machine apart, pound and cut the bearing off, put on the new part, and assemble the chopper back together.  A frustrating and irritating process indeed.  But, as my Dad said, I'd rather be irritated and frustrated farming than be doing anything else.

Now, the reason for all this extra work (cause you know, we could have just tilled the rye into the soil) is so that we have mulch and composting material.  I am using it as a mulch between our sweet potatoes, peppers, and in our hoophouses, among other uses.  It works great as a weed barrier, cools the soil to promote a healthy environment for soil fauna, and protects the soil from harsh rain and erosion.  

And that brings me back to today, when we were spreading this wonderful stuff as we got rained out!

Posted 6/3/2015 12:40pm by Jonathan Wenger.

The title says it all.  I think that I (I should say 'we') have been going non-stop for the last 10 weeks.  We have expanded our acreage this year, mostly to give us more flexibility, but also to grow more crops.  The total inside the deer fence is around 15 acres with about half of that actually for veggie crops.  Still, we are trying to do a lot more this year both for the regular summer season and for our winter storage season.  And we have been trying to do it all (or mostly) ourselves.  So, here is a short list of new things going on here on the farm:

Home Deliveries-  Yes we are going to start delivering to your home this summer in the Ada and Cascade area!  The feedback that we have received from our mailer has been amazing and, frankly, a little overwhelming.  If you were one of the earlier ones to sign up for our email list, we will be starting with you.  But don't worry, if you are not on that short list just be patient.  I will add more people into the pool as we get better and better and we can handle more people.

A New Greenhouse- So this is mostly new.  I put up a new greenhouse last fall to replace the old way-too-small one.  I built it from scratch and designed it myself with a little help from Dad.  We now have around 600 sq ft of growing area for our transplants, but I have found out this spring that I could easily use more space.  I just might have to build another in the next year or two!

A New Washroom- This was a long time coming.  I started working on the addition to our garage about 18 months ago and Dad and I have been trying to finish it ever since.  It is still not completely done- the inside walls still need their final water proof coverings, plumbing needs to be completed, and the outside walls need sided.  But it is done enough so that we have a place to wash and pack that is out of the wind and enclosed to keep things clean.

Asparagus-  Yes!  I finally was able this year to plant some asparagus crowns after several years of being limited by the budget.  We put in about 1/4 of an acre.  So in a few years we will have this wonderful spring veggie for us all to enjoy!  Now, where can I put another acre of the stuff next year......

It really has a challenging and tiring spring, but we remain optimistic and enthusiastic about the future.  I am excited about all the potential this year is bringing.  I'll learn alot (as usual), be challenged further, and come out a better farmer no matter what comes.  There is more that I could tell you about, but I'll save it for future installments of this 'Lettuce Boy Blog'.  

Stay safe and eat well! 

 

Posted 2/3/2015 6:46pm by Jonathan Wenger.

Good Evening! 

I hope you are well! I want to thank you for your kind words of encouragement and your continued support through our not-so-smooth growth.  Having a pickup day is always good for pumping up my enthusiasm!  I write this with a question and an opportunity.

Question- If you have enjoyed our produce, would you be willing to write a short testimonial for us?  It could be as simple as a sentence or two or a couple paragraphs if you wish.  We would like to use 'Jane Doe, Sometown' as the format to accredit the testimonials because we think having a full name and town lend credibility.  However, if you are uncomfortable with this, we could use a first or last name instead of a full name.  We will be using these on our website and marketing info as we try to start a delivery service for those who are not able to make it to a farmers market, but still want quality, local veggies.

An opportunity- We are offering gift cards as way to buy in advance- to give you more value and us some capital in the cash-strapped spring.  Here is how it will work:  1)You can purchase as little or as much credit as you like.  2)It never expires and is re-loadable.  3)We will give you a 10% premium, so if you spend $100, you will receive $110 of credit.  4)When the farmers markets start up, we simply swipe your gift card at checkout and you are done!  We are hoping to use the money to help pay for things like asparagus roots, pastured laying hens, and a new well for irrigation.  You could get one for a friend or family member to introduce them to our produce.  If you are interested, please contact me.

Also, to allow our winter spinach time to regrow and gain back some of its earlier vigor, we will not be having a pickup until sometime around the end of February.

Please call (616 307-6124) or email (jlwenger6475@gmail.com) me with any and all questions, concerns, or comments.  

Thank you!

Jonathan Wenger

Lettuce Boy Farm LLC

                                                                         

Hardships this SpringJune 4th, 2017

So I could pine on about woodchucks eating entire plantings of broccoli, kale, and lettuce. About our onion plants dieing. About a cool spring and now a dry early summer.  About flee beetles in o

New recipe: Veggie SoupMay 23rd, 2017

Ingredients: 6 Quarts Chicken Broth 2 Cups Sliced Carrots 2 Cups Chopped Celery 4 Cloves of Garlic 1 Large Onion, Diced 1-2 Cups Miscellaneous veggies or leftover veggies from the refrigerator-Broccol

New recipe: SLOW COOKER HONEY GARLIC CHICKEN AND VEGGIESMay 23rd, 2017

    INGREDIENTS: 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs 16 ounces baby red potatoes, halved 16 ounces baby carrots 16 ounces green beans, trimmed 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves