Friday, September 30, 2016

Cauliflower in place of watermelon

Today we finished planting the cauliflower patch where the watermelons used to be.  This section took about 6 hours start to finish, to convert from growing watermelons to freshly planted cauliflower.

This is a new approach to the drip irrigation setup. The header pipes were spaced wide, for watermelon vines, by using the spacer pipes between each spigot pipe. To convert to narrow spacing was a simple process of unscrewing the spacer pipes and screwing on the spigot pipes. This took the area quickly from 6 wide row to 11 narrow rows.  But the Crenshaw melons are not ready to come out, so this narrow spaced section simple screwed right into the existing wide melon header in place. No changes required to the rest of the setup. I am pleased with the flexibility and ease of change with this drip irrigation system we are developing.

So.. as of today we have 11 rows of 70 yards each, with two types of heirloom cauliflower.

Here is the new patch... right next to the crenshaw melons in the background. 

You can see where the narrow spaced cauliflower  row header connects into the wide spaces melon header.  as easy as screwing two pipes together! 

Imagine this filled with cauliflower plants, half purple, half white.. ready for the slow  winter growth.

Winter Beets are in the ground - Milker area is resting - and we MADE lots of Dirt!

We managed to convert the milker barn area into a winter beet garden this week.  27 rows of about 25 yards each, planted with heirloom beets that grow to about 5 lbs each over the winter.

This also gives the ground behind the barn, where the milkers have lived for a couple years, a well deserved rest. There wont be any goats on this ground or in those barn stalls for at least 6 months. That rest, combined with the tilling and cleaning, will prevent a parasite overload that could come after constant use through multiple winters.

This ground, I must say, is absolutely AWESOME! I mean.. this plot is like intensive grazing on steroids! Taking measurements, the goats have produced an impressive 1 to 2 feet of .. dirt. Fresh, organic, fertile dirt.  yes, made.  that's the beautiful thing about mixing plants and animals the way nature intended... the animals consume the plants, and in turn make the best dirt possible, for even more plants to grow. It's a marvelous synergy that life on earth is based on.  This dirt looks just like what comes out of bags of premium top soil, rich, moist, plenty of variety and biological material. When I first tilled it, there were literally millions of earthworms.. the surface of the ground was .. moving, with a life of its own.

This is a great combinations, as the fertility of this soil is higher than any in the ground we manage, which means the later than desired planting date should be helped through fast growth in this soil.  At the same time, the ground can recover from intensive animal use, produce winter feed thats organic, heirloom, and so nutrient dense.

The other good news is, our drip planting system is paying off well. The conversion from goat stall to planted stand alone garden took about 8 hours.  Just clear, till, build headers to size (just screw together), drop seeds with our Hoss seeder, install water controller, and walk away.

The area is laid out as 3 sections of 9 rows, about 25 yards long. We left enough space for a road on the end to the right, and a run on the end by the barn.

You can see the controller, filter, and feed mounted to an old table. There are 3 controllers on the timer (one per section). 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

First Pumpkin Harvest! - a Prize Winner

We pulled in the first picking of the "cinderella pumpkins"...  the heirloom variety that looks  like carriage wheels if you hold them on end. They are quite a bit sweeter than the normal field pumpkins, and really dense without the hollow center, but don't store as well do to their thin soft skins.

We found the prize winner for the year, and a close runner up! The biggest one weighed in at 39.5 lbs, and the runner up at 29 lbs. Not bad !

Hunter and Kaelyn are quite proud of this one!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Major Announcement - Changing to Monthly Delivery and Adding Grants Pass!

WE HAVE EXCITING NEWS! Please read in entirety, becasue this DOES affect your account with Little Sprouts!

We are making three major changes for our customers:

1. Changing from bi-weekly to once monthly delivery

2. Adding Grants Pass area to our free delivery routes

3. Moving beyond just good food

The Details:

Monthly Delivery - starting October 1

We are changing to the monthly delivery instead of every two weeks for a variety of reasons. It seems the right direction to take the farm forward to the next level. We will still offer all the same products through home delivery, and in fact we are adding many new exciting products soon. The only difference will be monthly ordering. We are assembling "packages" that you can "subscribe to" on a monthly basis to make things easier.  For instance, our "pork variety pack" has been quite popular... where you receive a set amount of pork products each delivery for a set price. The contents may change, but you always have dinner ready to go!

Your delivery will take place during the first week of each month. You will be assigned a day based on the delivery address. Most deliveries happen in the afternoon hours.  You do NOT have to be home to accept delivery, just be sure to leave out a cooler in a safe spot for perishables.

Grants Pass Delivery Route!

We are now, after many requests over the last few years, accepting customers in Grants Pass are for home delivery. Just like Medford and Ashland (and surrounding areas) the Grants Pass delivery route will include any products we sell, delivered free once a month. There is no charge for delivery service as long as your in our delivery area. You can pay online or in person.

Be sure to tell all your grants pass area friends and family that they can now participate in the most convenient farm fresh food and feed available!

Beyond just good food

While it is true that Food is Health, we have come to realize that for a family to be truly healthy (especially with already challenged health conditions) there is more than just food. The environment we live in , the personal care products we use, the air we breathe is all part of our total health package.  We ourselves have don't many things to improve our family health, and want to bring these things to your family as well as food.

Some products we will make ourselves, some will be resold from trusted manufacturers. Our promise to you is that we will only offer the products that we ourselves trust and use. Just like the food we offer, this is how we changed our family health. You don't have to go through all the trial and error that we did over the last few years.. you can follow our footsteps (the ones that worked) and adjust from there. The starting point is already worked out and packaged for you.


Keep an eye open for a steady stream of new products, Often we will offer first the ones we use from manufacturers, but then start making the comparable products here locally. Many of the best products like cleaners, personal care, cooking, etc are DIY type things, but so few of us have the time to make everything! Let us do the DIY part for you!

Stay Tuned, Little Sprouts is going through a major upgrade between now and end of year. Each month will bring new things. The changes above start as of October 1 and will be rolled out over the next few months as time permits.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The official water melon harvest has begun

It's time! Time to pull in those deliciously juicy watermelons that have been growing for a while.

There are two varieties growing this year, a pink flesh heirloom and a white flesh heirloom. the pink flesh one has a hardy rind, good for transport and storage. But the white flesh one, not so much. In fact, these are so fragile that just thumping them in the traditional "is it ripe" test will cause them to burst. But oh so yummy! Because of this, we have decided to leave the white flesh on in the garden, and feed daily the ones that burst (besides what we steal for ourself) but the pink flesh one we are harvesting and storing in the walk in cooler (the back end of the farm kitchen / fermenting room / cheese cave).

 So far.. a rough estimate is about 120 melons harvested, averaging 15 lbs each, for a total of 1800 lbs of watermelons. That accounts for about 3/4 of the total harvest expected of the pink flesh heirloom. These pigs never had it so good!

If you would like to purchase a organically grown, vine ripened, heirloom watermelon of either variety, please contact us. We may not put these in the online store, but will sell them for about $1 per lb if you care to come pick up at the farm. There are all sizes from 1lb to 25 lbs.

The watermelon patch before harvest... the blank spot in the middle is our initial test harvest (yum!)
This is a good example of the pink flesh heirloom variety, this one is about 20 lbs
These striped ones are the white flesh heirloom, smaller and much more delicate but no less tasty
Kaelyn's favorite... its a pink flesh but as heirlooms go, there is a lot of variety. This gem has beautiful markings!
The harvest so far... about 30% left to pull in when time permits. This end of the kitchen stays around 70 degrees year round, perfect for melon storing. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Test 3 of dehydrating zucchini

Today we finished the third round of dehydrating the zucchini for animal feed. So far is going beautifully!

We are adjusting the recipe by including various fresh greens with the zucchini. Available is kale, chard, dandelion greens, and arugula.

First we did a mix of about 75% zucchini and the rest a blend of chard and dandelion. The mix cane out beautiful, but the chard didn't work well in the chipper. Kept plugging the exit screen from the soft fibers. The dandelions worked OK though! We only harvested the plants that had talk hard stalks, so they chipped up much like twigs.

Then we did a batch of about 50% zucchini and the rest dandelion, arugula, and kale. Unfortunately the kale plugged the screen almost as bad chard. The heavy green mix made a very different final product, more like balls of fiber. Hopefully it will dry ok.

All in all, the 75%mix seems the best. But... Let's wait a few days and see how it dries.

This is the setup, I had to block the exit flap open to get enough flow. You can see the 50/50 harvest ready to chip on both sides of the machine.

This is a look at the 75/25 mix.

This is the 50/50 mix right out of the chipper. Notice the heavy fibers dominating.

A close-up of the 50/50 mix shows mostly balls of fiber with pockets of zucchini chips.

And here it is on the tray ready for sunshine

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Feed Dehydrating - Round 2 Success so far

We are on round 2 of our feed dehydrating operation.  The first test was very successful, but of course left room for improvement.  The second test, slightly larger, now drying in the sun, holds even greater promise!

To Recap, we are experimenting with solar dehydrating of "chipped" zucchini as storable winter animal feed. The goal is to harvest all the extra zucchini while we can use melons and fruit for feed, run the Zukes through our PTO (tractor driven) chipper / shredder, lay them out on trays to dry, then store in food grade buckets for use later in the winter.

The first test showed that each 4x8 tray produces about one 4 gallon food grade bucket of feed. That's a HUGE compression ratio! That tray was holding about a quarter RTV bed load of zukes.  Basically compressing a typical RTV bed load of zucchini into a couple small 4 gallon buckets of dry feed.

The improvements made this time around are:

1. Raise the exit flap on the chipper to allow freer flow of zucchini chips. This means less "minced" and more "chipped" giving a better texture of final product, plus holding more juice in while dehydrating.  When the juice is held in, and evaporated, all the nutrients in the juice are transferred to the feed. If the juice drains off, so does that portion of nutrients. Simply allowing the chips to exit more freely improved the nutrient ratio dramatically.

2. Adding Salt. Redmond RealSalt or Himalayan of course. (not that toxic white stuff).  the salt adds those important mineral nutrients to the feed, but also aids in drying. Salt helps to "pull the moisture" of food to the surface where the sun can dehydrate it faster. It appears to help a lot, as this round is dehydrating maybe 50% faster in cooler weather.

The overall layout. we now have 6 trays in use. The design seems to be holding up well. Easy to use, light, strong enough, and fast drying with airflow.  The "kiddie pool" on the right is where the chipper sits when in use, to catch the chips and mulch. Then we simply shovel it into 5 gallon buckets and pour out on the drying trays. It takes about 4 to 6 5 gallon buckets to fill a tray.

Here is a closeup of the zucchini chips at one day in the sun. You can see that this has a lot more chips and less minced "sludge" than the first try. 

Here is another closer view. After the chips are laid out, salt is sprinkled across the entire top surface, then every day or two the chips are "stirred" or "scratched" as the kids call it. 

Based on this success, we may be building another half dozen racks so that we can dry an entire harvest at once.

Next time, we may even add some greens to the mix by running the greens through the shredder part of hte chipper / shredder. That will nicely mix the greens and provide even better nutrition.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Labor day watermelon celebration

The pigs enjoyed their first watermelon this labor day weekend. And they loved it!

When we actually got around to checking the melons, they are so ripe that just a good thump will cause a burst. And oh so yummy!

Hunter chose an heirloom pink and a unique Japanese heirloom whit flesh variety. Mmmm. MY favorite!

We might offer a few for sale, not sure yet, but stay tuned!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Almost lost a good RAM - bloat

Perhaps the most dangerous thing about raising sheep is.. bloat.  Any sudden change in diet can cause the overproduction of gas almost immediately and the poor animal's stomach swells up to the point where, left untreated, they suffocate from the lack of ability to breathe. It is a very common problem with ruminants, but sheep in particular.

We just had a near miss today. Yesterday the entire herd managed to escape the pasture and run free in our yard... which means full access to the barn where some nice fresh "hot" alfalfa was sitting. By the time we got everyone back under control, a few had gorged themselves on alfalfa. That is deadly to a sheep that has lived on grass hay for a while.

Sure enough, one of our best rams was found today on his side, unable to stand. Not only that, but the whole herd broke out AGAIN and AGAIN found the alfalfa. So now the entire herd is a risk and one sheep already down.

Given the severity of the situation, we decided to run to town and pick up a commercial sheep bloat remedy. Last time this happened we successfully used dill weed tea, but we are too low on dill right now to make enough tea, so this time we chose to go commercial. Its a mix of antacid and vegetable oil. The antacid stops the formation of gas and the oil breaks up the bubbles to let the gas already made be expelled.

Giving the remedy to the ram with a drench tool. This is like a syringe that holds a accurate amount of liquid  for slow delivery right at the back of the throat, enabling swallowing even when the animal cant drink. I held his head up while Brenda administered the remedy.

The boys added plenty of baking soda to the herd's drinking water. this is a precautionary measure for the rest of the herd. The baking soda water provides enough ant acid to prevent bloat in minor cases of overeating. 

After a good dose, Hunter and I stand the ram up. At first we have to hold hi up as his legs are too weak and he is too dizzy to stand on his own.

After about 10 or 15 minutes, he has burped enough to expel quite a bit of gas. I massaged and thumped his belly to help break up more bubbles and release gas.

After 2 doses, some therapy as above, finally he is able to stand on his own! He doesn't want to move yet, but can stand. Huge improvement. 

Maybe an hour later and he is able to walk slowly around, even ate a little dry grass. Looks like he is going to be ok!
So today will be hourly checks to see how everyone is doing, and taking whatever measures are necessary. So far it looks like tragedy has been averted!