Monday, March 16, 2015

Compost!

You Can Compost! 

Why make compost? For one thing, its cheap. You can make your own compost from your garden and kitchen, recycling the nutrients back into the soil. Second, it's great for your soil. Adding compost increases soil aeration, water holding capacity, soil structure and texture. Amending your soil with compost rather than synthetic fertilizers can save you a bundle as well. 

As soon as we moved out to the farm last November we started our own compost piles. While we had to wait impatiently until the spring to start growing our own food and getting most our livestock, we were at least able to start composting. We have 3 compost piles that we framed with pallets. Now we're letting them sit and mature and starting 3 more piles! 

You can compost all your kitchen scraps (save dairy and meat), cardboard, non-glossy paper, hair, dryer lint, grass clippings, pine needles, weeds and fallen leaves from the garden. Doing so cuts your garbage output by easily 1/3! Check out what all you can compost at this helpful site, and what to avoid as well. Make sure to shred or tear up the paper and cardboard and compost into smaller pieces  so it composts more quickly. 

You don't need a fancy bin to compost, there are plenty of cheap and easy ideas out there, from recycling pallets, to using chicken wire or a 55 gallon plastic barrel. 

Now for the how-to. Making compost is all about gathering the materials in the right ratio (called the C:N ratio, or Carbon: Nitrogen ratio), then providing the aeration and moisture needed to let these decompose. The preferred ratio for composting is 25 or 30 to 1. This means you need farm more Carbon-rich materials in your compost pile than nitrogen. Here's a handy dandy C:N chart that breaks down common ingredients. 

Carbon-rich ingredients are often called the "browns," and include items like leaves, wood chips, pine needles, and cardboard. This will make up the bulk of your pile. The Nitrogen-rich ingredients are often called the "greens," these are your kitchen waste, garden waste and grass clippings. 

Now to aerate and moisten you pile, we recommend flipping every 1-2 weeks with a large garden fork, spraying down the pile as you do so if it needs to be moistened. Your pile should be as wet as a wrung out sponge. The more often you flip your pile, the faster it will mature, but you can leave it unflipped and do passive composting, but you won't get a finished product for 1-2 years. By flipping, moistening, and managing you pile, you can get compost in 4-8 months! 

Still Don't Think You Can Compost?

Having lived in the city, in apartments and houses with landlords who shudder away from the phrase "compost pile," we understand that not everyone has the space to start their own compost pile. We weren't able to for years because of where we lived. Every meal I'd find myself looking sadly at scraps of vegetables and wishing for some way to make some thing useful and productive out these inedible bits, a compost pile or a pig or something! 

Which is why we are opening up our compost piles to your trash! Want to compost but don't have the space/ability? Buy two 5 gallon buckets and collect your scraps and compostables every week, you can drop off your 5 gallon bucket with us at the Farmer's Market, at your share pick up, or drop it off with us at The Shire Farm. Use your second 5 gallon bucket the next week and we'll swap you! 

Yes, you can vicariously compost through The Shire Farm, and feel assured that your waste and scraps are being put to good use, fertilizing and improving the soil for your vegetables!


Links:

Our Pallet Compost Bins

What You Can And Can't Compost

Carbon: Nitrogen Ratio Chart 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

New Crops and Varieties for 2015 CSA Season


Hello Hobbits! 


It's finally March and we're getting excited to get growing again! We'll be starting the first seeds of the season today in the greenhouse and we wanted to share what crops and varieties we'll be growing on the farm this year. We're getting our seeds again from Seed Saver's Exchange and Johnny Seeds. 

If you are interested in any of these crops for your home garden, please let Farmer Figgins know by emailing ShireFarmMI@gmail.com and we can grow some plant starts for your home garden! Plants are sold in 1 gallon pots for $3.50 each , or 3"x3" pots for $2.00.

If you're interested in our CSA and meats, get in contact with us. We need to order chicks and reserve piglets soon! Please get in contact with us before April 1st!



Produce from The Shire Farm for 2015:



Brussel Sprouts




We'll be growing much of the same crops as we did last year, for cold season crops we'll have turnips, radishes, lettuce heads, lettuce mix, arugula, spinach, swiss chard, beets, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. New varieties this year are golden beets, mustard, and tatsoi and we'll be trying for those fractal broccoli romanesco again! In the fall we'll be having celery, parsnips, and a new crop this year, brussel sprouts.









Golden Midget Watermelon
Next to mature in the garden, we'll have green (and yellow and purple) beans, summer squash and cucumbers. Last year, the cucumber beetle took a particular fancy to our variety of pickling cucumber, so we'll be trying a different variety of those this year. We'll be having regular slicing and lemon cucumbers, an old favorite, again this year. We'll also be having onions and trying for better results with shallots and potatoes and carrots again this year. Our soil has not favored those crops so far, our garden sits on what was a hay field for decades so is very compacted. We're going to do some deep soil plowing for compaction and adding our own aged home-grown cow manure for the first time this year. We're very excited to see how productive the soil will be this year.  




Ground Cherries

For warm season crops we'll be trying orange and purple bell peppers this year. We'll also be seeing cayenne, jalapenos, anchos, and some new Italian sweet frying peppers. We'll be growing ground cherries again, and trying a cousin of garden huckleberries instead this year, called Sunberry or Wonderberry. It is a specially bred crop related to garden huckleberries but edible to eat raw! We'll be growing eggplant (less than last year!), green tomatillos, more cantaloupe and charentais melon, and moon and stars watermelon of course. 






Hill Country Red Okra


We'll have jack-o-lantern and pumpkin pie pumpkins, luffa again, and those colorful acorn squash, spaghetti squash, butternut and the delicious delicata squash from last year. Other new varieties this year are Golden Midget Watermelon, Hill Country Red Okra, zephyr summer squash, and a sweet variety of snacking peppers called Lunchbox Pepper Mix.








Black Cherry Tomatoes



Last year we lost our tomato crop to late blight just as they were starting to mature, so we really missed out on our favorite crop. This year we'll be growing a lot of the varieties from last year--Black Cherry, Black Krim, Kellogg's Breakfast, Amish Paste, Brandywine Suddith's Strain, Wapsipinicon Peach, and Riesentraube cherry. This year we'll also be adding Wisconsin Tomato and Beam's Yellow Pear Tomato to the mix!






As for herbs, we'll be seeing much of the same as last year--chives, dill, catnip, sage, oregano, thyme, parsley, cilantro, basil, lemon basil, and tarragon. We'll also be trying stevia and chamomile again, let us know if you're interested in dried chamomile or stevia.




Jostaberry


New this year, we'll be adding some perennials to the farm! We will be turning some of the garden into a permaculture area for the CSA herbs. We'll be transplanting wild black raspberry and red raspberry bushes and currant bushes that grow around the farm. We'll divide and transplant more rhubarb from our old plants, and take cuttings from our own gooseberry bush. We  also purchased some everbearing strawberries, a jostaberry bush, and asparagus for this area. 






Mulberry



We also will be putting in some trees this year. Trees are wonderful for providing shade and shelter for livestock, as well as a possible source of feed. For these reasons we're going to be planting a walnut tree, pecan tree, and two mulberry trees! It will be a few years before they're producing a crop, but we'll be adding much of this to the Produce CSA Shares. 




We're especially excited for the Mulberry trees, these are fast growing large trees that bear huge crops of mulberries, dark large berries much like blackberries, great for jams, preserves, wine. We're looking forward to mulberry ice cream and pie. They also are great feed for chickens and pigs, and I know ours will be glad to have it added to their seasonal menu.