Sweet potatoes, statistics and inspiration

A bumper crop of sweet potatoes. Credit McCune Porter
A bumper crop of sweet potatoes.
Credit McCune Porter

After a week of drizzle, it finally eased up and we started harvesting our sweet potatoes. I wrote a lot about this topic last year, so I won’t go into many details here. As usual, we set the dug roots in clusters, so we could see which plants yielded most and chose medium-sized roots from those to grow our slips next year. In the picture above, we are crating the sweet potatoes after someone has gone through selecting the seed roots. In the right background you can see our grid-linked solar array. In the left background is our hoophouse, and to the left is our dying last sweet corn planting. We have one last picking today, from the Silver Queen at the far end. We used a low electric fence around this patch to keep the raccoons out, and either it worked, or the beasts didn’t notice this planting. We didn’t get any visits from tigers or elephants either! Also visible in the photo above are remaining bits of the bioplastic biodegradable mulch we used. It’s made from non-GMO corn, and is great for warm-weather loving vining crops.

Not everyone likes jumbo sweet potatoes, but for those cooking for a hundred, they
Not everyone likes jumbo sweet potatoes, but for those cooking for a hundred, they save a lot of time. Credit McCune Porter

This year, the Georgia Jet seem more productive than the Beauregard – I think that’s usual. We dug about a third of the crop the first day and got 86 boxes. The second day we had a lot of other harvesting (beans and broccoli being the most time-consuming), so we only dug another 36 boxes. We’re still only 45% of the way down the patch, so we could end up with 250 or more boxes. Probably the yield will taper off closer to the end of the field as the deer were browsing on the vines all summer.

Friday update: Well, we finished harvesting yesterday, and the yield dropped off a lot where the deer had been browsing (memo: fence out the deer in future!) We got a total of 177 boxes of various sizes, perhaps about 3939 pounds, almost two tons. That’s not a record-breaker, but is second best in the past ten years.

Our yearly harvest of sweet potatoes has varied a lot, from 31 boxes (a sad year) to 243 in 2009. An average over ten years of 112 boxes, each weighing perhaps 23 pounds. We grow about 800 row feet. We always hope to have enough to last till the beginning of May, when people start to lose interest in sweet potatoes, and start hoping for tomatoes.

Now I’ve glided smoothly into the statistics section of this post, so I’ll tell you some figures for my book sales while I’m at it. New Society has sold 3320 to mid-September, from a 5000 print run. They say the book is selling well, not many returns. At Twin Oaks we’ve sold 150 of the 250 we bought in February when it came out. I’ve just set up an Author Page at Amazon, so I can tell you they have sold 940 print copies up till 10/6. They also provide me with ranking info (this could get addictive if I let it!) and my book was #40,116 when I looked. That sounds pathetic till you realize that’s out of 8 million titles. Anyway, enough vanity! As far as its usefulness to readers, having an Author Page means that if you go to Amazon, to my book page, and then click on my name, you can read my bio, and see my upcoming events, and get back to this blog.

Getting perspective on the bookselling world, I was encouraged to learn that there is being a resurgence of small booksellers, despite the Big Online One. Here’s a link to the story in the Christian Science Monitor in March this year. I learned about it from Wendy Welch of the Little Bookstore at Big Stone Gap, who I met at the Festival of the Book in Charlottesville. She has written a memoir about her bookstore, called The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, which you can buy via her website, or, I’m sure, at her store.

And now on to this Inspiring story: At the Mother Earth News Fair I met a young woman of 12 who had borrowed my book from her library. She got inspired and decided to start market gardening. She succeeded in clearing $6000 in her first year, when she was 11!

Report from Mother Earth News Fair, and more to look forward to

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”https://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming/coldhardy-winter-vegetables-pam-dawling-2013″ title=”Cold-hardy winter vegetables – Pam Dawling 2013″ target=”_blank”>Cold-hardy winter vegetables – Pam Dawling 2013</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming” target=”_blank”>Pam Dawling</a></strong> </div>

While I was checking SlideShare.net for my slideshows, to re-post my Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables one, I found this lovely one, from Alison and Paul Weidiger, two of my gardening gurus. They farm in Kentucky, which is the same winter-hardiness zone as us (zone 7) and the same latitude (38N).

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”https://www.slideshare.net/awiediger/fall-and-winter-production-presentation” title=”Fall And Winter Production” target=”_blank”>Fall And Winter Production</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/awiediger” target=”_blank”>awiediger</a></strong> </div>

Alison and Paul will be presenters at the Virginia Biofarming Conference Jan 31 – Feb 1, 2014 in Richmond, VA at the Doubletree by Hilton HotelThey will give two workshops Growing Cool Season Vegetable Crops in High Tunnels  and  Greenhouse Herb and Transplant Production for Profit. There’s a great line-up of speakers including Mark Cain (another grower I much admire) on Cut Flowers, Harvey Ussery, The Modern Homestead,  the $43,560 Project by Clif Slade and our dear friend  Ira Wallace, of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange on How to Germinate Seeds Year-Round.

Also some speakers I haven’t met before, who sound really good: Successful Management of a Diversified Organic Farm by Stacy Brenner and John Bliss, of Broadturn FarmProfitable Vegetable Farming on 1.5 Acres: BioIntensive Market Garden  by Jean-Martin Fortier, of Les Jardins de la Grelinette, and Ray Archuleta, Conservation Agronomist, NRCS .and several more. See the VABF website for more details.

I left for the Mother Earth News Fair in PA on Thursday, and got home on Monday. It was a huge event! Over 240 workshops at 14 different locations, some indoor stages, some outdoors. Saturday was rainy, Sunday cold. I think it’s the first time I’ve given a presentation while wearing my jacket. but these Fair-goers are a hardy lot. The tent was packed. As well as the presentations, there were almost 400 booths with exhibitors, vendors and demonstrations, and the large MEN Bookstore, where I did book-signing on Sunday after my presentation.

Here’s a lovely piece of feedback I got: “I thought your presentation was excellent – best I went to. – you seem to really love your vocation and your information was all practical with no trite filler (like some). Well done.”

I also (at last, after a few years of emailing), had the pleasure of meeting my editor, Ingrid Witvoet, and my marketing person, Sara Reeves, from New Society Publishers. At the NSP authors’ reception, I got the chance to talk with other writers, comparing our experiences.

I joined the MEN Blog Squad at a lunch meeting, and signed up to also blog for them. Don’t worry, I won’t close this one down any time soon.

I hope to go to the Asheville, NC MEN Fair April 12-13 2014. I might need a new slideshow – so many of mine are intended for winter and fall conference audiences.

And now, back at home, fixing irrigation systems, sowing seeds for winter hoophouse crops and unpacking my cold weather clothes. there has been a decided shift in temperature in the past few weeks. Fall is beautiful here.

Fall spiderweb photo from Ezra's blog ObserVA
Fall spiderweb photo from Ezra’s blog ObserVA

Skunks, sweet corn and packing for Mother Earth News Fair

Fruit Label Sticker Card 3

I always hated how plastic fruit labels concentrate in compost as the huge piles of mixed ingredients convert into much smaller piles of lovely fertilizer. So I invented these Fruit Label Sticker cards, which we pin just above the compost bucket. they work a treat! Everyone loves to put stickers on cards, it seems, even if the “card” is just a hand-drawn scrap of paper like these. Hardly any plastic labels make it into the compost these days. Look what happened when we were given several boxes of ripe avocados;

Fruit label Sticker Card 4

Look more carefully! The labels all say Golden Del. I suppose that’s why they were given away. Wrong labels. Crazy world. Perfectly nice avocados. I’m a locavore, but I like treats from warmer climates from time to time. And gifts are always to be appreciated.

We’re harvesting our fifth planting of sweet corn (Bodacious, Kandy Korn, Sparkler and Silver Queen), and I beefed up the raccoon traps following the suggestions from Joanna Reuter of Chert Hollow Farm, staking the traps down and smearing peanut butter high on the stake in the back of the cage. Well, the first morning I caught a small, very white skunk! I let it out carefully. The next morning I caught the same skunk again. And the third morning, again. The little animal never seemed ferocious or scared, more curious about how to get out. I was more scared than it was, I think! I bet you’re wondering how I released it. Well, I gently laid a large plastic bag over the top and nearside of the trap (just in case. . . ) and gingerly unlatched the door. Then  I used a strong stick to lever up the door a bit, as it is a tight fit. Then I bravely put my foot on top of the trap and pulled the door up by hand. Then I dropped the stick and ran! Later the skunk ambled out. By the third morning I think it was happy with the arrangement. A small can of cat food is a big meal for a small skunk, after all. But I was tired of the game, so I took the traps away. Raccoons don’t seem to like Silver Queen as much as Kandy Korn anyway, maybe because the husks are tighter and harder to rip off. Actually I like Kandy Korn better than Silver Queen too.

Meanwhile we are working on setting up a temporary electric fence around the last corn patch, with our new solar charger. The corn looks to be Raccoon-Ready, so I hope we get the fence up soon. I’m leaving it in someone else’s hands, as I’m off to the Mother Earth News Fair at Seven Springs Pennsylvania tomorrow. I’ll be speaking on Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables, twice. and here’s breaking news for Mother Earth News fans in the Asheville, NC area: A MEN Fair April 12 – 13, 2014, at the WNC Agricultural Center.

MENFairLogo

Heritage Harvest Festival, corn, more raccoons, stray cat.

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”https://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming/succession-planting-for-continuous-vegetable-harvests-2013-pam-dawling-26037044″ title=”Succession planting for continuous vegetable harvests 2013 Pam Dawling” target=”_blank”>Succession planting for continuous vegetable harvests 2013 Pam Dawling</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming” target=”_blank”>Pam Dawling</a></strong> </div>

You can watch my Succession Planting slide show here, and my Asian greens slideshow at SlideShare.net. I presented both at the Heritage Harvest Festival this weekend.

While at the festival I also did two sessions of book-signing at the Museum Shop, toured the booths, and attended several other workshops.

Cindy Connor ‘s workshop was entitled Grow a Sustainable Diet, which is the name of her book. It will be published by New Society in March 2014.

Also busy at work on a book is Criag LeHoullier, aka NCTomatoman. he spoke on Tomatoes for Southeast Gardens. He has grown hundreds of tomato varieties, mostly in 5 gallon pots along his driveway. Here are some of the open pollinated varieties her recommends for the southeast:

Reds: Red Brandywine (not the pink one!), Livingston’s Favorite (a canner), Aker’s West Virginia (delicious and disease tolerant), Nepal (salad size from Johnny’s).

Pinks: Salzar’s Ferris Wheel, Anna’s Russian (heart-shaped, wonderful and very early), Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter, Cherry Pearl (pretty pink cherry with so-so flavor)

Purple/black: Cherokee Purple, Black Cherry, Purple Calabash

Chocolate: Cherokee Chocolate (really good)

Green: Cherokee Green, Green Giant (great flavor), Aunt Ruby’s (wonderful).

Yellow: Lilian’s Yellow Heirloom (delicious), Hugh’s, Yellow Bell (Roma type)

Orange: Yellow Brandywine, Annie, Orange Strawberry, Jaune Flamme, Kellogs Breakfast

White: Coyote (cherry)

Bicolor: Lucky Cross (tastes like Brandywine)

Stripes: Don’s Double Delight, Striped Roman

I’m sure I didn’t write down all the good ones, but these ones appealed to me.

Next I went to hear Clif Slade talk about his $43,560 project. Clif’s goal is “to demonstrate that farmers working with limited resources and using organic methods can make an average of $1 per square foot growing and marketing vegetables from one acre (43.560 square feet)” as explained in the Virginia Association for Biological Farming document I’ve linked to here. The Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote up the project in early July. Clif used to grow 10 acres of vegetables, but it didn’t pay much. He once planted two GMO corn varieties and 18 non-GMO. The deer ate the non-GMOs, but didn’t touch the GM ones. Since then he has gone Organic, grows some seed crops for Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, and has developed his 43560 project, finding crops that produce a head or a pound of crop per square foot. As well as growing the most suitable crops (and ignoring the others), he stresses the importance of building good soil, putting a quarter of the land into cover crops at any one time, and paying attention to marketing.

Later, On Saturday, I went to an inspiring presentation by Cory Fowler, a founder of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway. His slideshow includes pictures of the village of Svalbard and the vault, outside and in, and the surrounding ice, snow and wildlife. Norway donated the structure, including the Norwegian requirement that every construction project includes 2% (I think) of art. The daily workforce on-site is zero – they monitor from close-by and remotely, but they really don’t want people coming and going!

Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Credit Mari Tefre, andCroptrust.org
Svalbard Global Seed Vault.
Credit Mari Tefre, and Croptrust.org

He spoke about the incredible achievement of setting up this “fail-safe, state-of-the-art seed storage facility, built to stand the test of time – and of natural or manmade disasters.” Each country (and a very few non-governmental seed-saving groups) can submit sealed boxes containing 400-seed samples of each variety of each vegetable and grain crop they can obtain. This is as a backup to their national seed bank. The vault at Svalbard steps aside from political and individual self-interest. They are holding the boxes in safe-keeping, and do not open them, but will return them to the source if asked. There are some false stories circulating about what Svalbard is all about, so I encourage everyone to read the website – it’s an impressive project and a heart-warming success story.

The presentation ended with a beautiful short video Polar Eufori which you can see on YouTube.

Meanwhile, back at home, we are using the dry weather to start to catch up on hoeing and weeding. Here’s our fall broccoli (These photos are from Ezra’s blog ObserVA, which I’ve mentioned before.)

Fall broccoli rescued from weeds. Credit Ezra Freeman
Fall broccoli rescued from weeds.
Credit Ezra Freeman

and here’s our late corn and our sweet potatoes:

Sweet potatoes next to our last corn planting.  Credit Ezra Freeman
Sweet potatoes next to our last corn planting.
Credit Ezra Freeman

We are planning to set up a solar-powered electric fence around this corn, before the raccoons find it too. Maybe also to keep the deer out of the sweet potatoes. The previous corn still has new raccoon damage, but the most recent animal to go in our live trap was a stray cat! Not the first stray I’ve caught this year (I think it’s the third). Our spinach came up well this year, thanks to the cooler weather. We’re still working on getting enough kale established. Soon we’ll plant our new strawberries (a bit late, but the best we can do).

 

Back from Allegheny Mountain School

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”https://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming/coldhardy-winter-vegetables-pam-dawling-2013″ title=”Cold-hardy winter vegetables – Pam Dawling 2013″ target=”_blank”>Cold-hardy winter vegetables – Pam Dawling 2013</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming” target=”_blank”>Pam Dawling</a></strong> </div>

I’m just home from a trip with Ira Wallace of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, to the Allegheny Mountain School, where we each gave several presentations. My new one, Cold-hardy winter vegetables, is embedded here. For my others, go to SlideShare.net and search for Pam Dawling. Here’s titles I’ve up-loaded previously, if you’d rather cut and paste than browse:

Fall vegetable production (60 min)

CFSA 2012 – Growing great garlic

Southern SAWG – Producing Asian greens for market

Southern SAWG – Intensive vegetable production on a small scale

VABF Farm School 2013 – Sustainable farming practices

VABF 2013 – Crop rotations for vegetables and cover crops

Ira Wallace contributes to the SESE blog and to the Organic Gardening blog on Mother Earth News. Click to read her recent post about planning a tomato tasting party. Here’s more about AMS from their website:

“Allegheny Mountain School (AMS) is a not-for-profit experiential fellowship program designed to serve our region’s communities in developing a more secure food system.  AMS is located in Highland County, VA. Allegheny Mountain School (AMS) has assembled its third cohort of nine Fellows where they are working and studying sustainable food cultivation and restorative, nourishing traditions.  Our goal is to teach Fellows to train others to grow their own food and to understand the benefits of eating local, whole foods. AMS is a fully funded intensive 20 month two phase program.  Phase I (April 28,2013-November 1, 2013) takes place on a mountain farm in Highland County, VA where Fellows experience a full growing season to cultivate and harvest their own food, prepare nutritious meals and put up/sow food for winter.  In addition, Fellows engage in mentored research on topics relevant to food or medicinal cultivation and health.  During Phase II (January 1, 2014-December 31, 2014), AMS Fellows are provided stipends to work in positions for our Partner Service Organizations, local nonprofits focused on food systems activities which positively impact community and environmental well being.”

The nine energetic and enthusiastic Fellows are a small temporary community farming together and learning about sustainability. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting them, as well as Kayla and Trevor, the two farm managers, and Laurie Bergman. They farm in a splendidly isolated zone 4 mountainous area. Their gardens are almost weed-free, and their onions and leeks are stupendous! Brassica flea beetles are the main insect challenge. The fresh air was a lovely change from muggy central Virginia. Several of the crops we grow outside (eggplant, peppers, watermelon, sweet potatoes) are creatively packed into their hoophouse.

On the radio

The hoophouse winter crops are an important part of feeding ourselves year-round
The hoophouse winter crops are an important part of feeding ourselves year-round

What pictures can I give you of a radio interview? On NPR they always say the pictures are better on the radio, so you might have to use your imaginations.

A while back I was interviewed by Patricia Stansbury (also known as Sunny Gardener) of Lightly on the Ground Radio, Here’s Sunny Gardener’s description of her program:

“Lightly on the Ground is how we travel when go consciously. It’s how we dance when we really dance. The wealth of information gathered while living this life becomes wisdom only if used and shared. Lightly on the Ground Radio is a way to use and share life’s wisdom by casting light into shadowed corners of our culture. The show emphasizes how our daily choices affect how we live and how others on this tiny planet live.  The advice to “live simply that others might simply live” informs life daily as long as some semblance of consciousness is maintained. This requires looking at local issues as part of a larger picture. Our daily choices in food, clothing, activities, transportation, childbearing, values, and association make up a fabric that can either be shabby and worn to bits or woven tightly and mended when needed.  Lightly on the Ground Radio imparts information through news reporting and story telling, conversations with those who know the subject; and commentary to bring personal perspectives on issues and events.”

Lightly on the Ground is a program on Richmond’s Independent Radio WRIR. 

I talked about How to Feed 100 People Year ‘round from the Garden, and about my book Sustainable Market Farming “which addresses the topic splendidly” as Sunny Gardener wrote.  You can listen to the podcast of my interview herehttp://www.radio4all.net/index.php/program/69076 

 Radio4All.net 

Fall vegetable production – my presentation

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming/fall-vegetable-production-60min” title=”Fall vegetable production (60min) – Pam Dawling” target=”_blank”>Fall vegetable production (60min) – Pam Dawling</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming” target=”_blank”>Pam Dawling</a></strong> </div>

Here’s the presentation I gave at the VSU  2013 Commercial Berry and Vegetable Filed Day at Randolph Farm, Petersburg on Thursday (6/27). Actually this slide show has some extra slides that I had to cut out to fit the time available. Registration for the field day had doubled compared to last year and reached 500. I don’t know how many were at the presentations, maybe 250. The other option was to continue the outdoor exploration of the research plots.

One section I would have loved to have seen, if I hadn’t been signing and selling books, and answering questions about VABF, was Clif Slade’s “43560” (Forty-three five sixty”) plot. He is aiming to demonstrate the viability of earning $43560 per year from one acre (43560 square feet) of intensive vegetable production. There are some You-Tubes about this project on http://www.youtube.com/user/VSUCoopExtension/videos

Around mid-July, check out http://www.vsuag.net/
for a video compiled by Michael Clark, combining my slideshow and me speaking.

Our sweet potato plot doesn't look like this yet. We're weeding as the vines start to run. Credit Kathryn Simmons
Our sweet potato plot doesn’t look like this yet. We’re weeding as the vines start to run.
Credit Kathryn Simmons

Meanwhile, back at the farm, I’m sowing fall broccoli, cabbage and senposai, weeding sweet potatoes, sowing another succession of beans and one of edamame. More of our time is spent harvesting these days. Today we pulled a bag of beets, 2 buckets of beans, 2 buckets of lettuce (we’ll have a short gap until the next bed comes in), 6 buckets of broccoli, one bucket each of cukes, squash, zucchini, turnips and kohlrabi. Most of our crops are getting harvested every two days at this point (except lettuce, cukes and zukes). So no cabbage, kale, chard, scallions, blueberries or celery today.

Upcoming Workshops June-December 2013

262994_482614085095986_31252026_nJune 27 2013 Commercial Berry & Vegetable Field Day, Virginia State University School of Agriculture,  Randolph Farm, Petersburg, Virginia. Steps in Planning for Fall Vegetable Production http://www.virginiafruit.ento.vt.edu/2013BerryVeggieFieldDay.pdf

AMSlogotransparentBACKGROUNDwhitenewTEXTAugust 19-20 Allegheny Mountain School, Highland County, VA Planning Fall Vegetable Production, Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables, Crop Rotations for Vegetables and Cover Crops and Succession Planting for Continuous Harvests. http://alleghenymountainschool.org/workshop-leaders/

home-hhf-2013September 6-7 Heritage Harvest Festival, Monticello, near Charlottesville, VA. Producing Plentiful Asian Greens and Succession Planting for Continuous Harvests. Click Premium Workshops for Friday and Saturday. http://heritageharvestfestival.com/

MENFairLogoSeptember 20-22 Mother Earth News Fair, Seven Springs, PA. Cold-Hardy Winter Vegetables

http://www.motherearthnews.com/fair/workshops-pennsylvania.aspx

October 12-13 Mother Earth News Fair, Lawrence, KS not this year, they over-booked speakers. Probably next year.

http://www.motherearthnews.com/fair/info.aspx

LFH_Logo2December 12 Local Food Hub, Scottsville, VA. Succession Planting for Continuous Harvests, and Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables http://localfoodhub.org/get-involved/events/

Frost, tomatoes, sun, rain, mistakes and future events

Tomato Seedlings in the greenhouse earlier in spring. Credit Kathryn Simmons
Tomato Seedlings in the greenhouse earlier in spring.
Credit Kathryn Simmons

What a week! With the forecast for low temperatures on Sunday and Monday nights this past week, we back-pedaled on our transplanting plans. The tomato plants in our coldframe were very tall. In order to cover them we extended the cold-frame height by balancing plastic crates on top of the blockwork walls. Setting the lids on top of this construction was a bit precarious, but it worked well. Only a few of the taller tomatoes got nipped at the very top on Monday night when the temperature plummeted to 30F. 5/14 is very late for a last frost for us. Our average for the past ten years is 4/30, but in 2009 it was 5/19. In 2011 it was 4/14. Farming is full of surprises!

Tomato Transplants in the cold-frame. Credit Kathryn Simmons
Tomato Transplants in the cold-frame.
Credit Kathryn Simmons

On Tuesday we started transplanting tomatoes. Hot dry windy weather. On Wednesday 5/15 it reached 90F. On Thursday afternoon we planned to continue the big transplanting of our Roma paste tomatoes. Three rows are in mowed no-till rye, vetch and winter peas cover crop and one row is on black biodegradable plastic mulch. (Here’s an interesting link to a comparison of the two biggest brands of biodegradable plastic mulch. http://extension.udel.edu/ag/files/2012/03/2012DegradableMulchWM.pdf) But Thursday’s shift was inauspicious. We started with only 5 of us (we plan for 7). One person had to leave at 4pm. One person was called away to bale hay. Another person agreed to provide childcare for the person baling hay, from 4-6pm. Then another person started to feel ill, and left the scene. The 3 of us still working at 3pm started to sow our second zucchini and summer squash. We each used two dowels to make holes every 6″ in the biodegradable plastic mulch. We got the holes popped through, but then another community member cycled by and warned us of a strong thunderstorm heading right for us. Discretion being the better part of valor, we retired for a tea-break and to consult the local radar on Wunderground. An intense “red and yellow” storm, not very wide (ie not very long-lasting), was due any minute. Once it started to rain we decided to quit trying to garden for the day. good thing too. We got an inch of rain in an hour. Too bad the soil hadn’t dried out enough for us to do a second hilling of the potatoes before this new rain. or make ridges for sweet potatoes. Now we’ll have to wait another week, during which there is 20-80% chance of some rain every day except Monday, when it is forecast to be foggy. So I’m getting closer to finishing reading my library book. . .

April 2013 Growing for Market
April 2013 Growing for Market

Meanwhile, in the Mental Gardening Department, I found I had made mistakes in my Growing for Market articles on parsnips and fennel, about which plants can cross-pollinate each other. So I wrote an apology and correction. One of these mistakes is in my book. In case you are reading my former, deluded, beliefs, here is the correction: On parsnips, the facts are that parsnips can cross with wild parsnip, but not with carrots or Queen Anne’s Lace, as I wrongly claimed.

On fennel, the facts are that fennel does not cross with anything except other fennel. It is widely said (even by some seed companies!) that dill and fennel cross, and some even describe the terrible flavor of the resulting crosses. Clearly this is a superstitious belief that continues because acting on the belief produces good fennel (or dill) seed. Similar to how someone might snap their fingers to keep away tigers – no tigers – complete success! I’ve long believed dill and fennel crossed. It’s good to know I don’t need to worry about that any more.

This is the first error I’ve found in my book. Soon New Society wants a list of corrections from me, for when they do a reprint. I’ve only found this and one formatting glitch so far. Embarrassing, but I repeat my Mantra for Consolation: “The only people who never make mistakes are those who don’t do anything.” On Monday I did an interview for Lightly on the Ground Radio on wrir.org (Richmond Independent Radio) with Sunny Gardener. I’m learning how to find and download the podcast (so many technical skills to learn!) I’m working on a powerpoint presentation on Planning Fall Vegetable Production, for Virginia State University’s Summer Vegetable and Berry Field Day on June 27 at Randolph Farm. This will lead nicely to my Last Chance Sowings article for the August Growing for Market and a Cold-Hardy Winter Vegetables presentation for the Mother Earth News Fair in September

Here’s my list of upcoming presentations and workshops:

June 27 VSU Randolph Farm. Planning Fall Vegetable Production

August 19-20 Allegheny Mountain School, VA

September 6-7 Heritage Harvest Festival, Monticello, near Charlottesville, VA. Asian Greens, and Succession Planting for Continuous Harvests

September 20-22 Mother Earth News Fair, Seven Springs, PA. Cold-Hardy Winter Vegetables

October 12-13  Mother Earth News Fair, Lawrence, KS perhaps

December 12 Local Food Hub, Scottsville, VA. Succession Planting for Continuous Harvests, and Winter Hardy Vegetables

VABF Farm School and Virginia Festival of the Book

I gave a presentation at the  VABF Farm School  at J Sergeant Reynolds college, Goochland, VA, with Ira Wallace of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange on Monday evening (3/18). It was one of three classes on Sustainable Farming Practices. You can see my half here:

Between us, we covered garden planning, record keeping, crop rotations, succession cropping, storing seed and doing a seed inventory, (mostly me). And production efficiencies, online planning tools, growing healthy plants, seed growing and ripeness indicators (mostly Ira). The purpose of this program is to help beginning farmers and ranchers in Virginia to make informed farm planning decisions as part of a whole farm plan. It’s a  six week comprehensive program (Monday evenings from 6:00-9:00pm) covering:

  • Introduction to Whole Farm Planning
  • Marketing
  • Sustainable Farming Practices
  • Holistic Business Management
Virginia Festival of the Book
And yesterday, Thursday March 21st, I spoke at the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville, Virginia.I talked about the process of writing my book Sustainable Market Farming, who I wrote the book for, the gaps in the available books about ecological vegetable production that caused me to write it, and about my experience growing vegetables sustainably to feed our community at Twin Oaks.My panel discussion, the Locavore track, was at the JMRL Public Library, 201 East Market Street. 

Also on the Locavore panel was Jackson Landers, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Hunting Deer for Food and Eating Aliens (about hunting invasive animal species for food). Here’s an interesting interview with Jackson Landers from 2010 and his blog The Locavore Hunter.book_detail

book_detail