Tag Archives: Sustainability

A History of Willows

July 2, 2010

Years ago folks came to the Farm from Pacific Grove, California.  We spent time with them at another farm that had a number of different types of willows.  We trimmed branches, brought them back to the Farm, and placed them in five-gallon buckets of water.  Most of the willows on the Farm are from that day.  Now, each year we take a moment and trim our own willows, place them in a bucket and then transplant them once their roots have developed and the weather is good for transplanting.  It doesn’t take much time and we figure it must help in our carbon footprint!

Are you interested in estimating your carbon footprint?  Try The Nature Conservancy’s footprint calculator at http://www.nature.org/initiatives/climatechange/calculator/?gclid=CMyMh8SpzaICFQxubAodDhxkwQ.

© David B. Bell 2010

Summer Fun Program Begins!

The Summer Fun Program started yesterday.  Many parents and grandparent were surprised when they showed up.  Surprised because we had to let them know that as of this morning we could not provide transportation during summer for their children should they need it.  As one might suspect there were many questions.  Like many folk who have a long history with the Mission, most never really grasped that when the denomination ended (Disciples Mission Fund) funding to the Mission in 2007, sooner or later something like this was bound to happen.  The day was hard because it meant some children who have come to the Mission during the summer, all of their young life, would not be able to come this year.  But then this is the reality for youth, families, communities, and structural entities like the Mission who are of poverty.

Just the same, twenty-five children arrived and the day went great!  With food, games, crafts, and staff and children remembering one another, everyone settled in for another summer.  Now we begin living into the creative time that can only arise out of this soil, these people, and the visitors who make this home during the summer.

© David B. Bell 2010

Omen of a Mountains Kippah

May 11, 2010

No clouds envelop Pahto this morning.  The Cascade Range, from Toppenish Ridge in the south to beyond Ahtanum in the north, is clear with white peaks and ridges against a blue sky.  One long and drawn out cloud floats between the farm and the range.  Pahto has a cap of a cloud hovering above it—a mountains Kippah, promising more than can be seen.

How long will we have clear skies and should the first cutting of alfalfa begin today?  We need at least ten days of good clear weather between cutting and baling and the mountains Kippah seems a good omen.  That and online weather forecasts keep the chance of rain low during the next ten days.  The alfalfa could grow longer and we could wait for a better forecast, but weeds are on the far end of their bloom.  Since we don’t use herbicides in the hay fields, we try to cut at the end of bloom and before seeds ripen, with the hope weed seeds lessen with each cutting.  Since weed going to seed and alfalfa reaching its full tonnage seldom coincide in the spring, we’re thinking of cutting in favor of fewer seeds than greater tonnage.

Cutting depends on the tractor and swather though.  With both pieces of equipment being new to us this season, I don’t know exactly what to expect other than the unexpected.  Air and hydraulic filters were replaced in the JD 4230 tractor yesterday.  Both the tractor and swather were greased and oiled.  The hydraulic reservoirs on each need filling this morning.

Sun, blue sky, and a Kippah to remind there is much good, let’s see where that takes us today.

© David B. Bell 2010

There is more than Plant Life in a Greenhouse!

May 10, 2010

Pots of different sizes hung from overhead rails.  Blooming plants cascaded over their sides.  No hardboard ceiling here, no drop lighting frames and plastic diffusers either, rather green leafy tendrils with yellow flowers, red flowers, pink flowers, and white flowers fill overhead space.  Belinda and I entered the Wapato High School greenhouse and found in this broad, but confined landscape, students busy preparing for a full day of customers who would look and touch and pick through hundreds of plants they had nurtured and grown from seed over the course of the last semester.

A greenhouse landscape is like no other.  Over the years we have been blessed to spend time in many in the lower Yakima valley.  From White Swan High School to the RicOrganic Co-Op, each greenhouse is a little different.  They speak their own dialect and tell their own story.  Some are landscapes of plants spread across tables while other has plants growing directly out of the soil under foot.  Some are full of flowers and bushes and trees while others are focused on one singular type of plant.  Some are in backyards where one or two people are the only to enter the space while others are large with people coming, going, and interacting with plants day in and day out.  The latter is the landscape of the Wapato greenhouse.  But more.

We arrived early in the day.  When we entered young women and men met us.  Some were watering, others building an inventory of boxes, others still were moving plants around, all were full of energy telling us part of their greenhouse story in word and deed.  Those stacking boxes ask if we would like a box to put the plants in, for surely we must want to buy a dozen or better!  We hardly had found and placed a few plants in our first box when women with cameras stopped and asked if they could take our picture.  We said yes, but with a caveat.  We would like to take their picture as well!  The surprise on their faces said few folk ask if they might take their picture during the annual plant sale.  After a little coaxing, some laughter, a blush here and there, we all stood together and took photos of one another!

More years than not the annual plant sales at the local high schools are a lifesaver.  Unlike our neighbors at RicOrganics we too often have not started our garden seedlings when we should have.  Thanks to wonderful, healthy, agriculture programs—such as that at Wapato H.S.—we have the good fortune to attain vegetable and flower seedlings while knowing our food is tied to the wellbeing of community because teachers have helped our youth become more intricately tied the betterment of our communities soil, water, air, and plants.

The landscape of high school greenhouses really are like no other.  Greenhouses are a “web” place, a place where all that is within their walls enter into a unique relationship.  Teachers and youth, plant and human, water and air, neighbors and students, cannot be within this space and not be affected by the other.  In many ways the wellbeing of one is the wellbeing of all.  And that sense of wellbeing beyond the greenhouse structure as well.  For each plant that leaves its world of birth and is given home in another place reminds the transplanter, each time they observe a flower or eat a tomato, of the day the met a house full of young folk caring for plant, place, and community.

© David B. Bell 2010

Alkali and Salt

April 20, 2010

The landscape of the Farm has multiple soil types.  For such a small area, the soil changes often.  Some of the areas are great for growing hay, and then, some of the areas are high in alkali and salts, not so great.  A few of the alkali and salt areas are located in or near our hay fields I would like to bring them into hay production sometime in the future.  Alkali and salts are not the only problem though.  Where the alkali and salt have existed, for who knows how many years, little vegetation has ever grown.  Which has left the soil not only high in alkali and salt, but with little organic material.

There are at least two trains of thought when considering seeding these areas.  One is to know what plants you want to grow in the soil and then work to change the soil—additives, soil builders, etc.—until the soil will support the plant.  Another thought is to know the soil and then find plants that will do well in that type of soil.  I want to do both.

What I would like to do is to seed plants that do well in alkali and salts.  Let those grow and then turn them into the soil.  The hope is if we do this for a few years the soils humus will build to a point that the soil will open up and the alkali and salts will flush out with watering.  After a few years of working the soil with plants that “like” it, I hope the soil changes (using plants as the additive in this case), and I can grow hay in the areas now full of alkali and salt.

I had some time with my neighbor the other day who has the same problems, but has been farming (and farming this soil) years longer than me.  Over the years, he has used Sudan Grass in these areas.  He is clear that where the alkali and salt are very high, the Sudan doesn’t grow there either.  But slowly with time, the edges are slowly playing out and crops are closing the alkali and salt areas.  However, like he said, this takes years and there are no guarantees.  He also suggests taking some time to see what other seed is “out there” that might do well in alkali and salt.

So I am searching for a seed that enjoys alkali and salt.  If you have any suggestions, let me know.

Tractor’s, Goat’s, Food

April 17, 2010

We spent the better part of yesterday preparing for today’s “Nursery Day.”  With safety as the priority, we put away tools, moved implements to areas where children do not have access, tractors cleaned up, a little repair on the combine, and an overall straightening up.

This morning the flatbed trailer will be transformed into a hay wagon for hayrides.  Goats are in a new pasture where their kids will have access to the kids who show up today.  Food needing cooking is on the stove.  And RicOrganic’s are out this morning picking fresh greens for the mid-day dinner!

Ready, set, go…It is 7am and time to get the last bit of work done before folks arrive!

First Water

April 16, 2010

We finished moving the wheel line for the hay fields into place last evening.  Around 5:30, we turned on water for the first set of the season.

Getting water turned on for the first time of the season is always a bit of a chore.  From checking gaskets to make sure their still pliable to sprinklers and checking to see if the nozzles and levelers are good, to flushing the lines for any nests where a bird or a mouse might have made the line a winter home, to checking the engine for running order, it takes some time to get everything in place.  Chore or not, the grass field will appreciate the water—it has been awhile since we’ve had any measurable water fall.

Cool Pasture

April 14, 2010

Nights continue to cool down to below freezing, but days are warming up nicely if a storm isn’t moving through.  As a result, our pastures are growing, but not very fast!  However, it looks like they may be growing just enough, that with rotation, we might be able to keep the goats on a little grass every day.  In the meantime, they are getting along on sustainable alfalfa, just fine.

Wheel Line

April 6, 2010

We’ve begun adding six more lengths of wheel line to our water system.  We are going to add a few acres this year in Hard Red Spring Wheat, Emmer, and about a half-acre in dry beans—thus the need for more waterline.  The wheels and lines are out in one of the areas we keep from farming.  Near an irrigation ditch, this area has been a stand of willows with bushes and grasses long before we arrived.  The willows provide great habitat for quail and songbirds, we don’t need the soil to survive, so we couldn’t come up with a good reason to change it.  The plus is we can also store quite a bit of stuff out among the willows and bushes and have them hidden from sight (Good to know that unless I need a piece of metal, miscellaneous iron isn’t pretty to look at.  Unlike my brother-in-law who welds and thinks it’s the greatest stuff in the world!).  We packed out six sets of wheels and 4” aluminum line pipe to the shop for assembly.  We got most of it assembled and just need a few sprinklers to wrap it up.

Emmer, Camelina, and Hard Red Spring Wheat

March 22, 2010

This last week, Eric and I had the opportunity to get up to Quincy, WA and pick up Emmer and Camelina seed.  The search for this seed has gone on all winter long.  Finally, after many emails and phone calls, Eatwell Farm in Dixon, CA turned us on to Lentz Spelt Farm in Marlin, WA—just down the road you might say!  It took the better part of a day, but we came home with 120 lbs. of emmer and 2 lbs. of camelina seed—enough seed to plant a half an acre!

Emmer, an ancient grain, has its roots as an ancient grass.  Folks believe that as a wild grain, our ancestor may have consumed as long ago as 17,000 years.  Glutton free, emmer becomes a wheat-like flour that can be used for bread and pastries, though it preparation is different.

Camelina is also an ancient seed.  High in oil content, camelina has considerable levels of Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E.  This seed is used in salads, roasted, and as a binder for baking.

In addition to the emmer and camelina, we wanted enough Hard Red Spring Wheat to plant an acre.  We were able to get the Hard Red from Connel Grain in Toppenish.  Hard Red is traditional wheat, high in glutton, used for bread making.  With the Hard Red, Emmer, and Camelina, we will begin our learning curve in growing small-scale grains.