Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The farm so far: news since October

The first post! Very exciting. Let's see if I can summarize the ten million things that have happened since I've started this amazing operation.

#1: First things first. Here's a photo of the land I'm farming. I am a tenant farmer, which means the land owner allows me to farm there for a small fee, usually fresh veggies or eggs. This is a great system because it allows me to get started without buying land and allows the owner to qualify for great property-tax reductions.

There's Dave my tractor guy plowing it up!


After plowing. You can really see how fertile the soil is now.

My plot is near 4th Street and Roehl. The land is all ready for winter. There will be more plowing and tilling in the spring, but for now she's ready to settle in for the winter. 

#2: It's garlic time! Maybe even slightly late for garlic time. I've finished planting about 9000 cloves of garlic. Here's a few facts about garlic. It  must be planted in the late fall if it's to form a bulb (head) of garlic in the spring/summer. It must be exposed to ~3 months of short days and cold nights. It will mainly grow roots in the winter and will poke out greens when it warms up in the spring. It can be harvested as green garlic, similar to a green onion, in April-May and will be ready to harvest as bulbs in late July-August. Pretty awesome! Who doesn't love fresh garlic?

I planted each clove 5" apart along the string. Having a guide was great... planting in a straight line over 90 feet is muy difficult!

#3: I've moved ten guinea fowl onto my land. Here's some photos of the loud, bug-eating birds.

These guys are about the best pest control an organic farmer can have. They've got amazing eye site and their diet consists solely of bugs and insects. And the best part? They don't eat any vegetation. They'll hunt and destroy squash bug and aphid populations, but will leave the squash and lettuce for us to enjoy. They create quite a cacophony when they all get to squawking and carrying on, but their feathers are beautiful and their poop is great for the soil! Shoot me an email if you'd like some of their polka dotted feathers.

#4: The garlic just got mulched with a heavy layer of leaves. This will retain soil moisture and help it stay warm throughout the winter. And even better, the leaves will block out any pesky weeds that try to poke out in the spring. The leaves were donated to me from a local yard clean up service. And on that note, the city of Albuquerque provides free green waste removal until December 17th. They compost the stuff and avoid valuable organic matter from filling up landfills. Here's a link: 

#5: My chickens! Let's hear it for 130-ish chickens who don't seem phased by the cold temperatures at all. I've got a really great flock of about 15 different breeds who produce a whole range of egg colors. They live in my backyard and get tons of greens from the farm and local grocery stores. Here's some pictures of the mamas.

Dust bathing in fresh soil and weeds pulled 
from the farm.

Chowing down on carrot greens. One of their favorites. 

Is that snow? Nope! Just a ton of garlic peels from the cloves I've planted.

More garlic peels! By the end of breaking up garlic, I had about 30 gallons of the papery skins. 

Thirsty mamas in the morning. A frosty night froze their water.

My greatest escape artist. She's pretty fearless.. I always find her roaming in a mesa near my house.
I've been spending a lot of time (and money!) preparing the mamas for winter and boosting their immune systems. They've been getting poultry-specific vitamins, electrolytes, and calcium. Also, a great mineral for the chickens to eat and dust bathe in is diatomaceous earth (the wonder mineral, good for just about everything). It controls external mites and internal parasites and worms. 

Their egg production has naturally dropped in the winter. This is due to shorter day lengths, not temperature. A hen will not lay an egg if she feels rushed (not much daylight left) or is winter-molting (shedding feathers to regrow new ones). They don't get cold easily, they've got a ton of down feathers packed in there. Even on a 12 degree night, they were out there poking around and sleeping outside!

You can find me selling eggs at the winter Los Ranchos Farmers Market every second Saturday of the month. 

Now that's I've typed your ear off, I'll be off! Stay tuned for more updates. Information on joining my spring CSA (community supported agriculture) coming soon! 

Visit my facebook at www.facebook.com/ziamananaharvest

Happy farming! 

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