Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Vanessa asks, "What service do service berries provide?"   A good question, that can be answered seriously.  Service berries are one of the earliest flowering and fruiting trees of the summer.  The fruits are small reddish maroon berries that look a bit like blueberries that are edible to both birds and people.  They make great jam and are often picked with their little woody stems and all, like mulberries.  A folk legend suggests that the name comes from the belief that when the trees flowered the ground was thawed enough to bury corpses that died over the winter.  The more likely reason is that the tree is a close relation to the European Sorbus berry. Serviceberries are also called juneberries. 

Friday, April 24, 2009

tree planting

300 pepper plants popped up yesterday.  This is very exciting since peppers are a little fickle seed.  They need lots of heat and just the right amount of moisture.  I guess we provided the right stuff.  Also I received a cold call yesterday from a local restaurant called Radish, that wants any vegetables we can sell them.  From what we've found up here, demand for local vegetables far outstrips supply.  The pressure is on to grow it -- selling might be easy.  Today we are going to plant some longer term investments: trees.  We'll put in 5 hazelnuts, 5 serviceberries and 3 american chestnuts.  The chestnuts are a present from my grandpa.  He's always been famous as a bit a of pessimist, but really, what's more optimistic and future thinking that trying to help resurrect a nearly extinct tree?  Too bad I can't get the camera to upload pictures -- yesterday I spent part of the day atop a tractor disking the field.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Trip to town

Today Jess and I went into Traverse City for some supplies.  It being a cold cloudy day, it felt good to be away from the farm.  In Traverse we acquired valuable items like a heat lamp for the soon to arrive chicks, some Carbon-Fluorescent lights to reduce our electricity bill, 100 pounds of potatoes to plant, some chicken and duck feed, 1 mile of wire and and charger for an electric fence.  We were all sure we wouldn't need a fence the first year, but every day there are more deer prints in the field and the stories abound of whole gardens consumed in a single delicious night.  We also learned that baby ducks cannot eat most baby chicken food.  The medicine in the chicken feed kills the ducks.  We bought un-antibiotic laden feed so the ducks will be all right.  Of course we also stopped into Right Brain Brewery for the best beer in the state --- and got free samples.  We also visited my old friends at the Michigan Land Use Institute where I was mistaken for a pirate!
Now it it back home to Northport where Jess has Knitting club. 

Yesterday we planted 2000 onions and 500 tomato seeds.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Coming up

Lots of things are coming up: spinach, kale, arugula, claytonia, chard, sage.  Other things are in the ground: radishes, peas, fava beans, onions, carrots, turnips, parsley, cilantro.  Over the weekend Scooter and Anna and Shasta came up and helped us set up our cold frames.  Cold frames are like little mini greenhouses that rest on the ground and provide some protection from the cold and elements for young plants.  We build six of them, 9 feet long by 4.5 feet. It was a lot of work and a little bit of cursing and a few bent nails but they are all together and looking great. Our plants should be protected from the cold winds that sometimes blow in off the lake. 
Our chickens and ducks and geese have been delayed for a week, which is disappointing, as we are a little lonesome up here. Still, the community is wonderful.  It has been a huge treat to meet all the people here.  I don't like to generalize (well actually, I love to generalize) but the helpfulness of little towns certainly surpasses my high expectations. 

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hurry up and wait

Immediately upon arrival I drove the Ryder truck into the mud, leaving the tires spinning. I was happy at least that I was in the driveway to our new home and it was only a short walk to unload everything. But in the warming spring air, the soil became softer and muddier thoughout the day. After the move-in was complete, we went back out to try to unstuck the truck from the muck. No luck. We tried pushing, rocking and pulling it. We put boards under the tires. We had people stand in the back to get some extra weight over the tires. At one point we set up a winch and tried winching it out with chains and gears. Just spinning tires. I was frustrated and a little worried -- Brix and Susie needed to drive thr truck back the next day. Brix advised me to take a breath and not worry about it for the rest of the day, "We'll get to it tomorrow. Let's relax and then go down to the beach."
"But what if it's still stuck tomorrow and you can't get back in time for work?" I protested.
"Well, then I guess I'll be late for work, no big deal."
Brix's calm reassurance won the day and I enjoyed the rest of the day, but was still worried in the back of my mind.
The next morning we got up and went to try the truck. Over the night the ground had frozen up and on the first try the truck backed right up and out the driveway.
Lessons: Sometimes it pays to just wait. Some problems really do solve themselves. Don't get too stressed out about things I can't change right now.
All good things to remember on the farm.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Leeks in a new home

We have arrived at our new home and the leeks now have a view of Lake Michigan.  As you can see, it's a wavy and windy day.  Rumor is that Ann Arbor got smacked with 6 inches of snow.  Us northerners missed all that and there is not really any snow here.  Yesterday Jess and I planted spinach and swiss chard and arugula and kale and a bunch of herbs.  Hopefully they can go outside soon.  It's still pretty cold and we fired up the wood stove this morning.