Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sprouts at the Sprouts

When we say we feed sprouts...  We are talking real sprouts!  Not soaked grain that is almost sprouted  but grain with inch long roots and green sprouts! 

Not every batch turns out this good,  depending on the heat of the sun,  but we try!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pear Harvest 2013

Pear Harvest time is here!  This year we asked for volunteers to help harvest the pears which worked out beautifully for everyone. The farm received many extra pounds of pears for animal feed, and the helpers took home as many free pears as they wished, as well as having a grand time !

We give a special thanks to the owners of the old pear farm, which has not been worked for several years, in allowing us to harvest these pears for organic animal feed. 

These pears will go a long way to finishing both the pigs and the turkeys at a great savings to the farm.

At the end of the day, best estimate is that we collected close to 6000 lbs of pears! Good job everyone!

Everett sees a pear he wants!
Can he reach it?


The farmer in the trees... with knee pads?

Levi wears daddy's hat for protection from falling pears!

Noey and Kaelyn sitting on the kubota waiting to fill pear buckets

Hunter found one, or two, or three...

And Uncle Bradley fills many buckets

Grandma with the most important job... Baby watching!

Add caption

The team hard at work

Did he just eat a pear?

Marissa picks pears and holds the little ones, talent!

Daddy, Hunter, and Levi hard at it

Why is this man smiling?

Everett returns to the kubota for another bite....

The line of cars for the volunteers

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Little Sprouts Pear Day is Here!

We would like to extend an invitation to you that we just sent to all our customers for a fun day picking pears from a local wild growth orchard. 

here is the invitation we sent to our customers:



You are invited to join us for another Little Sprouts Work Event! The project this time will be fruit harvesting!

We have made arrangements with one of the local fruit companies to strip the fruit from an unused pear orchard. These pears are organic and "wild growth" since the orchard has not been worked in several years. There are good pears on the trees yet ready to pick, preserve, eat, whatever... and fallen pears on the ground great for animal feed. We will be doing both.. collecting fallen fruit from the ground as well as picking what can be reached on the trees without a ladder. NO LADDERS will be used nor allowed for safety reasons. 

You are welcome to come and work as much as you like, and take home your own set of pears at the end. You are welcome to make it a family event, bring the children, plan for a picnic lunch or dinner, and enjoy yourself!

Date:  Wednesday 9-18
Time:  630am till dark (around 8pm) you are welcome to work any hours between this, just let us know your preference. 
Bring: buckets for collecting and taking your own pears home, plenty of water (no running water at the farm) and food for meals. 
Wear: dress for cool morning and evening, hot day, and prepare for tall grass and burrs in places.
FYI: there is no restroom facilities on or nearby the farm. 

This is a great family friendly way to work on the farm, help us feed these animals, keep pour prices down, and just have a good time!

Please RSVP by email or phone by Tuesday evening if you plan on attending! 

Dave, Brenda and the Little Sprouts

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Honey made from... High Fructose Corn Syrup?

Most people just dont realize, we didnt, that most commercial honey, even local, is not actually "pure " honey.  There is a common practice of bee keepers harvesting all the honey at once, and feeding the bees sugar or even HFCS to sustain them until they can replace the honey.

Now, sure, I understand that this doesn't actually get into the honey itself. But stop and think, is this good for the bees? The bees do produce the honey, so doesn't it make sense that something that compromises the health of the bees will compromise the quality of the honey? do you want to buy honey from weakened bees?

One promise we make to you is that Little Sprouts will never follow this practice.  Our bees retain enough honey at each harvest to live on until the rebuild the supply. In essence, we only harvest the surplus. AND if feeding supplementally is ever necessary, we will only feed honey, not sugar water.  This does increase the cost of the honey by lower production per colony, but it is well worth it in the end to us. We simply wont sacrifice any of our farm animals or insects for the sake of o higher profits or production.

Here is a link to an interesting recent study that shows a link between HFCS and bee health decline. Worth a read.

The new Bug Hotel

If you have been following along the blog, you may remember I recently cooked our first batch of Blaptica Dubias inadvertently putting the boxes in the greenhouse on a warm day.  Since then we re-ordered another set of 500 adults.  When this second set came in, we first placed them in a single big tub with some egg cartons to let them acclimate to the climate of southern oregon and rest from their long journey.

Today was the day to get them into their new breeding homes.  We have come up with our own preferred method of housing after trial and error and much research.  I call these "Bug Hotels". Let me explain:

We are starting with 3 colonies, each in a separate tub, about 3 feet long,  1.5 feet wide wide smooth tall sides.Each colony will start with 1/3 of the initial breeders, or about 150 - 160 in this case.

At one end is a snuggly packed set of  six   18 egg cartons, paper of course. This forms the "living quarters" where they will spend they daytime sleeping and hopefully breeding.  Then there is the "patio area"  formed by two more 18 egg cartons opened and laid across the ends and tops to form sort of a transition area and play area.

At the other end is the "feeding area".  There are 2 paper plates side by side. one with chicken feed (non-gmo, organic with high omega 3 ). The other plate contains fresh moist veggies.  This provides a much cleaner area for them to eat separate from living If hte paper plates get soils or too wet, we just replace them. It makes keeping track of food consumed and any chance of mold much easier.

This design, with separate areas for living, playing, and eating make it easier to maintain.  If anything molds, its easy to see and remove, the bedding stays dry always, the amount of feed available is always easily visible, cleaning is simple. Overall, I like it for breeding colonies.

The eventual plan is to have this connected to a growing colony via a climbable tube. The tube will be too small for the adults to enter, too slick to climb the outside. But as the babies are born and grow they will be free to explore the tubes and find their way to the growing colony. at that end they drop out into the new colony and cant reach to get back so they stay.  This makes it sort of auto harvesting.  Since the breeders live for 12 to 24 months,  this shoud be a useful system to allow collection of use of hte offspring while maintaining a consist breeding colony.  Thats the theory anyway.

Here are some pics of the new setup:

Kaelyn helped sort out the new breeders and get them divided into the three colonies.  Can you believe she is holding 500 bugs that that bucket?

Here is the new colony layout, with living on the left, eating on the right, play space in the middle. Its like a vegas hotel for bugs! 

Here are the three colonies stored in the corner for now. We still need to decide on a permanent home for them. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Hunter: is that mullen?

We were out at a local organic farm collecting excess squash for animal  feed,  when suddenly hunter exclaims... "is that mullen?".  He was pointing to the large "weed"  in the picture below.

Hunter has spent his summer learning about medicinal herbs.  Through several books and such he has memorized many plants and their uses.  A drive through town these days is littered with his announcements of "thats xxxxx and its good for yyyyy,  can we stop?" 

In this case he was right.  I didnt know what it was but the farmer did and verified it was wild growing mullen.  He even was kind enough to take hunter a bit further to show him some wild growing stinging nettles.

It is so refreshing to see the children intrigued and excited with such useful things instead of the latest video game or tv show. We credit this well placed enthusiasm to growing up on a farm and our education system centered on the natural love for learning.

Here he is with his find

Friday, September 6, 2013

Bananas in southern oregon?

Yep...  Bananas in Southern oregon!  We have run across a variety of banana ghat apparently can grow and produce fruit right here in southern oregon!  In fact this variety can be a productive house plant.

Ok  I admit...  It was Hunter that Initially researched and pushed for this addition to the farm.  Our up and coming plant expert.

Cavendish dwarf banana.  Some say it can stand the harsh oregon winter,  others recommend moving the plants indoors in winter. Either way it grows back each spring to produce a single grower and one bunch of tasty bananas.

We ordered 4 plants.  Each year they will Make one or two shoots that can be left or separated into new plants.  Each plant makes one bunch of up to 90 bananas each.

Do yep..  We are now a mini banana plantation in oregon!  We will be able to offer exciting things like banana cottage cheese,  banana yogurt,  banana kefir,  banana milk,  chocolate covered bananas   etc.

You just never know what is coming next around here!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Dry Farming ? How to grow food without water

I ran across this article about dry farming.  Although innovative it isnt truly anything new.  I remember my dad (an ex farmer from the 60's)  taught me these same principles.

The basic approach is to water well in the beginning to get the sprouts started and established, watering deep  is more important than often. You want the moisture to be under the sprouting plant.  Then as the plant grows, you cut back on watering frequency, but make sure that any watering is DEEP, meaning soaking through the top foot of soil at least. Then you wait until the top is completely dry, and the moisture level is 4 to 8 inches down (dig down to see). You want the moisture level to be normally just UNDER the root level. As the plant grows, let the moisture level go deeper before the next watering.

While not truly "dry farming" as in this article, you get the same effect. The roots grow down deeper and deeper in between each watering in search of the ever falling moisture.  Finally they get deep enough so that you dont need to water any more.  The roots are down in the area where there is enough moisture to maintain the plant.

The only thing i disagree with the article is, I find it better to water well as above, then let the ground sit untouched instead of tilling lightly to dust.  When you water and let it sit, the soil forms a hard crust on the surface that provides a good shield form evaporation.  Experience has shown that this crust is more effective at holding in water than dust.

Of course thick mulch also retains water, if available. a couple inches of mulch will almost completely block evaporation between watering.

Another innovative way to block evaporation is, <gasp> weeds! or should i say ground cover. I have found that if you let the weeds grow (depending on type of course)  they form a type of living mulch that not only keeps water in but provides for a lot of life. To keep them from overwhelming hte plants you can mow or trim the weeds between the plants, but leave a couple inches for "living mulch". Perhaps a dangerous approach but it works!

SO yes, this does work, within limits. yield is lower, while quality is higher.

Here is the original article :

The Beauty of Raising Heritage Pigs

There are a lot of reasons to raise heritage pigs instead of the highly bred for production conventional varieties. One of these reasons is their ability to forage for their own food on pasture.  Conventional hogs pretty much live off commercial feed all their life while heritage hogs eat whatever they can find.

Our hog pasture is dry right now, awaiting the rains to sprout grass and weeds. BUT, we do have a nice crop of weeds growing in the "pig garden" just outside the pig pen. The goal is to put away pumpkins and squash for later, then let the pigs in to harvest all the plants they want.  Until then, we are pulling hte larger weeds from the pig garden and feeding them.

These Large Black and Black Wattle pigs LOVE these weeds! Especially the wild mustard that grows easily here.  They munched these weeds as fast as we could pull them.

Saying thank you to the bringer of the weeds

The young boars enjoying a community stalk

Mom and baby eating together

Here is a quick video here you can fully appreciate their eagerness for the greens. Be sure to turn the volume up!