Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Dehydrating at Scale

We started working on our feed dehydrating operation today. The garden is producing more veggies than we need on a daily basis, so now it is time to start storing for the winter.  Plus, we need to start our annual pear harvest again, where we hope to grab about 10,000 lbs of pears this year.

why dehydrating?   Several reasons:

1. It is fairly quick and cheap if the sun is the power source
2. It can scale easily
3. It preserves sugar (where fermenting converts sugar into acid)
4. It separates juice from bulk, so both can be utilized

The overall plan is simple... the extra produce goes into our chipper/shredder to pulverize it and separate the liquid juices from the bulk.  the juice is captured and stored in buckets to freeze. The bulk is placed on drying racks for a few days and then bagged for storage.

Today we built an initial drying rack to test the design. The cost per rack with this method is around $12 for a 4' x 8' rack covered in standard fiberglass window screen.  2x2 and 1x2 pine form the frame to make it sturdy but light.

Here are some closeup pics of version 1:

The finished screen, version 1. 

Closeup of the design

Standard 45 corner braces

I cut a slot to accommodate the standard spline to hold window screen. this might need to be reinforced.

Here it is in the garden, on blocks and ready for use!

The Chipper / Shredder is a large PTO driven model with a wide screen. I would like an even wider screen to make larger chunks, but too expensive to warrant buying one. Some adjustment of the exit door should make things flow nicely.

We placed the chipper / shredder into a kiddie pool, so that the juice is caught and can be easily removed to store in buckets separately. When we do pears, there will be a LOT of juice.

the produce is slipped into the branch chute, not he brush entry at the top. This makes larger chunks with less shredding.

The finished working setup, a tarp underneath keeps the dead grass down and out of the way.

And here is the finished product.. a tray full of dripping pulp and chunks, drying in the sun. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Lettuce almost ready to harvest

We will start harvesting the lettuce this week. It will probably bolt soon due to the high heat, but the plants are doing great right now. The plan on lettuce is not too continuous harvest, but rather pull whole plants to feed the animals. It's quicker and easier, and with the heat i doubt the plants will go for long anyway.

Nice color!

Today's menu... Kale!

With the garden in full swing, the animals get a nice variety of feed from day to day. Today, the menu was fresh kale with a side of dandelion greens. And Lots of it.

The kale is super easy to harvest compared to the itchy zucchini! We pulled a load of kale, about a third of a row, in about 30 minutes. Enough for a full feeding for pigs and some for the milking goats.

I'm really happy with this variety of heirloom kale. Super producer, easy to harvest, and oh so nutritious! Farm animals never had it so good!

Trouble in paradise

So far, this year's garden had been a tremendous blessing. In fact, the best set of veggies since we started in Oregon. Except for one thing... Trouble with the pumpkins.

At first I thought it might be over watering. A few of the plants actually died and appeared to have rotted of the root. Very odd. But then more and more started yellowing. Now it seems about half of the plants are stressed.

I tested cutting the water back, but it seemed to get worse, so now we are trying more water. Time will tell. Unfortunately, some pumpkins are maturing early due to the stress.

This will undoubtedly lessen the pumpkin harvest this year.

You can possibly see the yellowing across the patch

The melons right next door are doing great

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Crash, Burn, Rebuild Air Conditioning Control

Remember when I rebuilt the air conditioner thermostat in the farm kitchen / fermenting room? Well.. yea...  sometimes things dont work out so well.. that one  sort of.. exploded.

The mistake was.. while the relays inside the temperature controller were large enough to handle the load, the actual connectors are not. After running flawlessly for a few months, one of the connectors overheated and the eventual result was... disaster.

So yesterday after deliveries I rebuilt the controller into a more robust unit... another  temperature controller just like before but  I added optoisolators to handle the compressor / heater load.  Should work beautifully. The whole thing is mounted inside a plastic storage bucket for safety (with ventilation holes cut in the sides).

Completed unit, installed and running

Here is a top view, you can see the two optoisolators, one on the left and one on the right. one does cooling and one heat.

side view showing hte heat sinks on the optoisolators. you can also see the vent holes up the side.

Here is the fancy schematic (hand drawing) of the wiring.

This is a gret temperature controller for projects, capable, cheap, accurate. 

And.. last years model after the accident

As you can see, the connector on the right end overheated and melted, shorting out he unit and blowing the fuse. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

First full zucchini harvest

Today was the first full harvest of zucchini. About half the plants had full size fruit, so this is about half of a peak harvest.

Very nice way to end the day... Harvesting feed from our own garden under a summer Oregon sunset. Beautiful! Cool weather, and a full family event.

This load was split between hogs, goats, and birds. Everyone are fresh today!

The hogs enjoying dinner
Even the babies got in on the fun

Tomorrow... It's back to greens (chard, kale, and dandelion greens).

Saturday, August 6, 2016

First hog / goat produce feeding

Another first today for the season... Produce harvest and feeding from the garden. After deliveries today, we had just enough time for a quick harvest and feed.

On the menu tonight is zucchini and dandelion greens. We harvested about 7 dozen zucchini, not bad for the first picking. And then about 30 lbs of dandelion greens. Add to that some weeds... Maybe another 10lbs of weeds for dessert.

Heirloom gray zucchini... First harvest

Heirloom dandelion greens, roots and all. A tad small yet but very tender and nutritious.

Tomorrow we will harvest the Swiss chard, kale, and some more weeds... Then rotate back to zucchini and dandelion plus weeds. That's the plan until the lettuce comes in.

We believe that this method of feeding the pigs good fresh organic heirloom veggies instead of commercial feed or wastes is much better nutrition, yielding a healthier pig and thereby more nutritious pork.

The big change coming up will be the added fruit... Mostly plums and pears. Yum!

Have you tried out pork yet? Sausage? bacon?  It's hard to find pork like this!

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First Harvest for Delivery

Today we did the first harvest for delivery route in ashland / phoenix / talent today.  Hunter had lots of help!

Looks like a government job, right?

Hunter doing the actual picking
Everette on climate control (umbrella)
Ollie equipped with a fly swatter just in case of.. well.. just in case
And Levi supervising

How many people does it take to pick some greens? apparently 4... or 5 if you count the photographer!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

How does your garden grow?

The garden is doing well this year. This week we started harvesting kale, chard, zucchini, dandelion greens, and arugula.  The melons are showing up and lots of baby pumpkins. The new lettuce patch is sprouted and going. All looks great!

So far we have been pulling the over sized or"ripe" weeds as feed. Yep... Feed. We harvest most weeds and feed the goats, plugs, and sheep. They love em and so nutritious. Once the weeds are mostly gone we start feeding the veggies. Timing works out well this year.

As always, we only use heirloom vegetables. We find them more hardy, more dependable, and capable of seed saving. Plus... The resulting veggies are just tastier and more generally prolific. Hybrids are a compromise on some way...

Here are some pics...

Kale patch

Red chard

Green chard... The bug's favorite

Zucchini patch

Gray zucchini ready to pick

Watermelon Patch

Baby Watermelon

Another Baby Watermelon

Pumpkin Patch, some areas are becoming impassable!

Baby Pumpkin with bloom in full beauty

An even babier pimpkin.. 

Hunter  showing off the extra large pumpkin leaves

The Crenshaw Melon patch, slowest to get going, no fruit visible yet, but lots of blooms. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Giant Pumpkin Leaves!

We grow the heirloom Connecticut Field Pumpkin for the hogs (and will sell the extras if there are any). these plants are HUGE!

Hunter Hiding behind  a pumpkin leaf!
The actual pumpkins are small yet, just starting. Most are the size of a marble or ping pong ball, but with these leaves to support them...  they will get huge. Last year the largest pumpkin was over 20 lbs!

A baby pumpkin. It starts so small, and grows so big!

FordHook Giant Swiss Chard Available Now

We are now offering Fordhook Giant Swiss Chard for sale through delivery.

(B. Vulgaris) Fordhook Giant was introduced in 1924 by W. Altee Burpee. This variety is known for its huge highly crinkled, leaves that reach 2 feet tall. It produces a harvestable crop in about 60 days. Swiss Chards are among the healthiest of all cultivated vegetables. Fordhook Giant leaves are thick and tasty. Stalks start out green then mature to a lovely ivory color.

 All of our veggies are organically grown, on our farm. Although not certified organic, they are grown beyond organic requirements. We pick fresh the day of delivery.

Vulcan Swiss Chard Available for Sale Now

We are Offering Vulcan Swiss Chard for sale now through delivery.

An improved rhubarb chard developed in Switzerland. Very attractive and uniform red chard; this variety has great flavor 

All of our veggies are organically grown, on our farm. Although not certified organic, they are grown beyond organic requirements. We pick fresh the day of delivery.

Russian Red Kale Available for delivery now

We are now offering fresh harvest Russian Red Kale

"Very tender and mild, a pre-1885 heirloom variety. Oak type leaves have a red tinge, and stems are a purplish-red. One of our favorite kales. Great flavor.:"

All of our veggies are organically grown, on our farm. Although not certified organic, they are grown beyond organic requirements. We pick fresh the day of delivery.

Is this a garden?

Take a close look, can you see the garden ?

Can you see the garden here?

How about this shot?

There it is.. in the background!

Yes, all three pics are the SAME area,  The amazing thing is.. only 1 season apart.  The planted areas were just plain grass and weeds, never before planted, just 6 months ago. We literally ripped, tilled, and planted about 2 acres of area, to produce the beautiful plants you see below, virtually weed free in ONE season.  Nature is amazing when you learn how to manage it!

Does it always work out this well?  NO... but sometimes it does. We have spent the last few years learning how to take a previously unworked piece of land, turn it into a usable fertile garden in only 1 season with minimal labor.  IT CAN BE DONE!

Here is a better view of the before and after...

The area on the far right is the pictures above.. 6 months ago this patch looked just like that.