October 16, 1-4pm All are welcome to stop by for our 4th annual open farm and tasting event.
We’ll have a tour of the farm starting at 2pm, and ongoing sampling of garlic, roasted winter squash, and fresh pressed cider. You may think garlic is garlic and squash is squash, but there are surprising differences when you get the opportunity to taste different varieties in succession, and it’s kind of fun. Romanian Red Garlic has won first prize for the last two years. Which variety will come out on top this year? Only your tastebuds will tell. We’ll have garlic, chicken and other fall goodies for sale as well.
We’ve now had a couple of good frosts, and many crops have finished. Don’t expect to see pristine gardens at this time of year. However, there are still some hearty cold lovers out there to behold, and we love to talk about our farming practices and plans. We decided it is better to share the farm with folk that are interested in seeing what we do, than to hide our weedy fields and close it off to the public until perfection is reached. It is becoming fairly obvious that weed free garden perfection may never arrive, so might as well come see it like it is! Bring your friends, questions, and if you have extra unsprayed apples that you want to make into cider you can bring them along too.
Peace of Earth Farm is at 43 West Griggs Rd. in Albany, VT
you can find directions here or give us a call 802-755-6336
Our batch of 75 Freedom Ranger chickens will soon be headed to the freezer, and available for sale. They’ve lived a good life I think. Room to roam, pasture, and good organic feed. Here’s a pictorial timeline peek into their lives.
Day old chicks arrive in the mail, extra special delivery by our mail man on his way home, photo by Lisa Robinson
Chicks spend 2-3 weeks in the brooder in our garage. We’ve made it by hinging 4 old windows together, which gives our dog Willow a nice viewing opportunity.
“Teenager” chicks are transported out to the field in batches via our dog kennel. Rounding them up is always entertaining. Photo by Lisa Robinson
Growing and exploring the grass
The chicken shelter is bottomless. It is moved daily so their sleeping/ hang out area is fresh. They are only confined to the shelter after dark, otherwise they are free to roam within the electric fenced area.
Getting all grown up and looking like real chickens. We feed organic pelleted grain and lots of scraps from the garden. They are big fans of overgrown cukes and zukes, kale, chard, piles of weeds, and sunflowers. As they get bigger, just about anything you throw in there will disappear. We have been experimenting this year with fermenting our grain for all of our animals. That entails soaking the grain mix in water for 2 days with a little bit of soaked grain from an earlier batch (kind of like a sourdough starter). Because you are plumping the grain up with all that water it feels like more food and it is supposed to be more digestible for the animals. The goal is for us to purchase and feed less grain while the animals are still feeling satisfied and growing at a good rate. Is it working? It’s hard to tell. They all like the soaked grain, and we are feeding about a third less. We won’t know how harvest size is affected until that day arrives.
We’ll have fresh chicken available for pick up on the farm late in the day October 3, and October 4 for those that reserve birds. After that they will be available from the freezer if you make arrangements for pick up. Or stop by on October 16 for our Open Farm and Tasting Event and pick up some birds then!
Chicken is sold for $5/lb, and individual birds range from 4.5-6 lbs on average. Give us a call at 802-755-6336 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your birds
The last of our tree orders have now arrived and been planted. Our focus this year has been getting the swales that were dug last year in the lower field planted with a mix of trees and bushes. We’ve focused on apples inter planted with shorter shrubs like seaberry, aronia, siberian pea shrub, and beach plum. The siberian pea shrubs are mainly for nitrogen fixation, though their flowers and seeds are edible, and may be a fodder source someday. The other shrubs bear berries that are highly nutritious and low maintenance, though not necessarily great eaten out of hand. Last year the swales were seeded with all kinds of clovers, sunflowers, radishes and other cover crops, so we expect to see a lot of those popping up again this year. We are currently propagating more comfrey and other perennial flowers to mix in to the plantings to help with mulching, soil improvement, and pollinator support.
Tools of the trade for grafting: root stock, scionwood, pruners, utility knife, parafilm tape, electric tape and markers for labeling and of course a cup of coffee
To save some money we ordered a bundle of standard apple root stock. We got a bunch of varieties of apple scionwood from friends by hosting a scionwood swap with our local permaculture group. Then we grafted 11 cultivars of apple onto the root stock, making 20 trees for $3 each instead of $23 each. We are not expert grafters, so perhaps we won’t end up with 20 successful grafts, but as long as the root stock survives, we can try again next spring if necessary. We’ve potted up these grafts to keep an eye on. By the fall we should know if the grafts are successful and will plant out the new trees at that time.
Grafted apples in pots
The swales have served their function of slowing and sinking water into the field, but have certainly not worked perfectly. The main problem has been that so much water has flowed through them during heavy rain events that they have filled up with silt and water has busted through in a couple of undesired locations. Frey spent much of the weekend moving logs and branches to help fortify some problem spots in the swales. We then dug out much of the silt that collected last year in the first two swales, adding it to the top if the berm and around the log pieces to try to solidify the weak spots and direct water to participate in the swales fully, rather than cascade down the road. It is a lot of work and will require continued monitoring and adjustment- not a quick fix. Water is powerful. We’ve also just planted willow whips in first swale that bears the brunt of the force from the water flow. The hope is that the willow will help stabilize the berm and land along the water channel.
reinforcing the outside of some berms with branches
filling in a swale impact point with logs chunks, this will get covered with silt to solidify
A hard earned break after a lot of silt digging
Willow the dog and a bucket of willow whips ready for planting
Posted in Farm updates, perennial plantings, Uncategorized
Tagged aronia, beach plum, grafted apples, pea shrub, perennial polyculture, seaberry, silt build up, swales, willow
As spring arrives, the hoop house is filling with germinating arugula, spinach, radishes, carrots, beets, and cilantro. I don’t have much to say about that, except it is nice to have my hands in the soil again and anticipate the fresh foods that these little cotyledons represent. I did want to mention a couple of other things we’ve got going on in the hoop house that are more unusual.
Peach tree being trained into a fan shape by directing growing branches along wires
Last year we planted a couple of Reliance peach trees in the back of the hoop house. That cultivar is about as hardy as a peach gets and is still on the edge for northern Vermont. We like to try plants that are just on the edges of our zone 4, and hope that the little bit of extra protection that the hoop house provides will be enough of a buffer to make the peaches successful. We don’t want to sacrifice too much space to our peach experiment, so we are training the small trees into a fan shape along the end wall and will continue to direct and prune them into that “flat” plane. This is our first foray into espalier, so we’ll see how it goes.
We’ve also been blessed with the weed like attributes of Claytonia. Last September we planted 3 beds to spinach for overwintering. With the weirdly warm Fall/Winter we had, we ended up picking the spinach a few times before “real Winter” hit. Then in March when the spinach normally would start producing, it was worn out and getting ready to bolt. So we pulled out the spinach. Under the spinach was this lovely carpet of Claytonia that we did not plant, but will be able to harvest. We’ve struggled with getting the timing and temperature needs right for growing a good stand of Claytonia, so at some point in the past years we have either spread Claytonia seed in these beds or allowed plants to go to seed. It seems the seed will hang out in the soil and kick into gear when the temperatures are just right for it all on its own.
The thickness of sowing and intermixing with other obstacles like grass make the harvest less than ideal. But, we can’t complain, it’s an extra yield that we never planted, ready for salad in April.
Agriculture is a major contributor to climate change, but with a little (or a lot) of change it can also be a solution to the problem. This past weekend, I was fortunate to attend a two day workshop with Eric Toensmeier, author of “The Carbon Farmng Solution“. His excellent book is over 500 pages long- so I’ll in no way try to summarize it here. I can share a few points that I took home though.
Most people are aware that we need to drastically reduce the amount of emissions of gasses like CO2 and Methane that are contributing to changes in Earth’s atmosphere. That is absolutely true, but we also need to sequester carbon into our soils and living organisms (like trees). Living systems and healthy soils have the ability to hold and store carbon from the atmosphere into a fairly stable form.
Our current agricultural system is headed in the opposite direction needed. While the scale and scope of change that needs to happen seems insurmountable, the solutions are not all that complicated and they actually yield more food. Simmered down, here are few basic ways to sequester more carbon.
Increase organic matter
- till less or not at all
- keep the soil covered with mulch or living plants
- add compost and biochar, use cover crops
PLANT TREES AND OTHER PERENNIALS!
- even in large acreage of mechanized systems, trees can be intercropped with other annuals like grains without sacrificing yield, even if the trees are just on the edges as windbreaks or riparian buffers
- we need to convert a lot of acreage to perennial crops and change our diets to match
Integrate animals into farming systems to build soil and fertility
- done well, rotational grazing can build soil in places that are less appropriate for growing crops
- combining trees/shrubs with pasture can build more soil, sequester more carbon, and grow crops in place for animals or for sale
here’s a blog post by Eric Toensmeier with a bit more explanation about some carbon farming practices
I was happy to find that we at Peace of Earth are already doing all of these things. Not specifically to sequester carbon, but because all of these practices also increase your yield, make your farm more resilient to change, add diversity, add nutrition, store water, stop erosion… That is the good new I think. The solution is full of agricultural practices that already make sense, are beautiful, and grow more food. It’s not a bitter pill to swallow, but obviously there are a few large industrial and governmental forces that are not currently on board. These changes need to happen now, not in 20 years. We can all affect change in our own yards and gardens, communities, and nations. Live by example, talk to your farmers, support the change you want to see, and vote.
Willow is resting easy, with the campaign being over and all. We’d like to thank everyone that has supported our project so far! Contributors, people who helped to share the campaign and tell our story, as well as those that have helped us come up with the plans for the project, blog writers, and crowdfunding adviser friends! We raised more money in the last day of the campaign than the whole rest of the month. Though we did not reach our intended goal, we are very happy with the resulting total. Now that we know the amount of money we have to work with, our next steps are to re-evaluate the design of the root cellar to see if we want to scale down the original plans and look for some cost saving areas, or continue to seek some additional grant or loan funding.
We feel very loved that so many friends and family wanted to support us in this endeavor. And it is also exciting that those same friends and family as well as many total strangers want to support this passive cooler research because of its implications for energy and cost savings! In spreading the word about this project thousands of people may have read about the idea. Even if those people didn’t choose to support our campaign, we are happy to have planted the seed of this passive cooler concept. Perhaps many more experiments of this type will germinate and grow!
We look forward to reporting our progress during the building process and beyond! Knowing that so many people have invested in this root cellar/passive cooler concept will help light a fire under us to complete the project and do some comprehensive record keeping to share.
Several people have asked about making direct contributions to us for the project. We are happy to receive personal checks for the root cellar/passive cooler project at any time. Find our address in the contacts page here, or stop by! Even though you can no longer sign up for perks on our campaign page, you can still view them here, and we’d be happy to honor those same offerings for anyone contributing late.
Our farm sign just needs one more coat of sealant and it is refreshed and ready to re-hang. Also, there is just one more day in our crowd funding campaign to build a root cellar/passive cooler! We’d appreciate all the help we can get sharing our project. There are some pretty nice perks for donors as well. Ranging from farm art to t-shirts, garlic, tea, CSA shares of all sizes and dinner parties on the farm, there is something for everyone. All the information you need to know about our project can be found