Monday, January 26, 2009

The Organic Frontier + Surround WP + (post additions on 1/28 added below)

The new In Good Tilth, January/February, is here. Randall Cass interviewed me on my top 10 favorite amendments in the Cool Tips for Hot Gardens section. That inspired me to write, "Organic Gardening - Soil Amendments & Fertilizer," including application rates and detailed information for you (a wee bit nicer than me scribbling notes on your receipts I hope...). I've got copies here, just ask for one when you come in. The issue has loads of goodies. There is another great article by Kathy Dang, this one is on Preparing your garden for spring and they've got classes coming up this spring, info in my previous post. They've also started an issue archive! Yay!!! Cover art by IGT Editor, Andrew Rodman.

In the shop, our renovations are coming along. All roof repairs are done!!! The center wall is down and Dale is working on some ceiling repairs. I'm painting the window trim this week, Mary started on it last week. Tiny is working on the bathroom. If you've used it, that means you were desperate and I tried to talk you out of it. Urban Rustic.. ahem. Honey Bucket here in the meantime if you need it. It is an old building. And yes, it is for sale and we rent. It's a very large property and right now it's looking like we should be able to stay on, as those with an easy 3 million and the funds to demo the old mill and head up new construction are slim. So we're continuing the sprucing : )

The wind seems to have settled down, there was that bit of snow again this weekend... At home, we're almost done with the deck of the greenhouse, have half of it in place under a tarp and are beginning to frame out the walls. It suddenly sounds like our home might be up for sale, too, but we also keep to hope renting there, so after some discussion, we decided to still grow a pretty similar garden plan and it will be what it will be... Peas going in soon, lots of beans this year, more motley sunflowers, cosmos, strawflowers, berries, veggie herd. Perennials and hens will travel with us anyway when it comes to that.

We've got Surround WP Crop Protectant in stock! It is 95% Kaolin clay, which combined with water, creates a broad spectrum protectant from UV and heat-caused sunburn, along with helping to control or block damage from insect and disease pests. Very popular for fruit trees, cucurbits, basically any fruit or veggies you can rinse the clay off for aesthetic reasons (versus berries) and for shading greenhouses. Deer don't like the chalky taste, the pests on wings and not hooves.. can be confused by clay on their 'feet' and don't like having their mouthparts unhappily clogged up. They may also pass by an orchard or planting entirely as the light reflects off the foliage differently. Many great farm reports from a number of you and from Patrick Peterson, one of Marion Ag's Horticultural Specialists in St. Paul, OR. Here's an ATTRA link on Insect IPM in Apples: Kaolin Clay. And thinking of apples, a Home Orchard Society customer just recommended Cyd-X for codling moths - an OMRI listed insecticidal virus, available by mail from Peaceful Valley.

The Multnomah Master Gardener course is packed and run very well! This Thursday will be the second section I attend. This week covers IPM: Integrated Pest Management and Understanding Pesticides.
The days that those of us from the Organic Gardening Certification program attend are also attended by many veteran MG, so it makes for a lively class.

Have you heard of The Who Farm, two guys with veggies growing on their bus, trying to help get an organic farm started at the White House? Look at that lawn! My brain is fast forwarding to an amazing example of a functional organic farm integrated with the community right there! There is a petition on their site.

----- Post additions on 1/28 -----


We'd like to welcome a new neighbor, the Urban Farm Store, just up on 19th and Morrison in SE. They'll be opening this Sunday, February 1st at 1pm. They'll be carrying chicks, feed, pet food, lots of other goods and keep a blog with lots of chicken and gardening info. This may be our closest urban ag neighbor since we started in the 1930's as a feed cooperative and it was a lot more rural down here around 8th and Division & inner SE.

Up in the north, Pistils, a pioneer of the urban chicken keeping & backyard farming / nursery shops, has their spring workshop list up, which includes one on Urban Goat Keeping! I know a number of goat keepers both urban and many rural, and I'm excited to see a workshop for all of you who are thinking about getting into it... Interestingly there are pretty serious protection needs as there are with chickens, which doesn't come to mind as easily since goats are a decent sized mammal. Dogs are a potentially lethal urban threat. ...Back in happy chicken thoughts - Pistils is also taking breed requests if you're looking for particular special chick and will be fully stocked starting February 18th! (I am teaching the March 8th Urban Chicken Keeping)

We do not sell chicks, but most shops in town and further out will have chicks by mid Feb / early March and if your further out and looking for recommendations, just call or email me.

Also in the north, Generacion is starting a CSK, Community Supported Kitchen and holding workshops, too. They also have goats who are now protected from dogs by a dog run to keep them safe inside, as they sadly lost one to a dog last year.

Remember with chicken keeping, that as you know right where your favorite restaurants and grocery stores are, the raccoons, rogue dogs and other hungry creatures know right where all the plump tasty ground birds live. If I did not talk to so many of you while working here, I would never have imagined how many urban chickens become another urban creature's sustenance. Little padlocks work really well on everything that opens... we have 4 on ours. They look like masked bandit bears for good reason.

Growing Gardens also just posted their 2009 workshop schedule! It is budding with an awesome array of neat things to learn throughout the year - check it out!!
They've also added all the Urban Livestock & Permit information to their Chicken Resources section and the date of the 2009 Tour de Coops. I am teaching this one with Lisa Ewing at my home with my Hens for Obama peckies:

Advanced Urban Chicken Keeping

* Monday, July 13th, 6:00-8:00pm
Designed for chicken owners with some experience; troubleshoot problems with your hens’ health and home at an established North Portland coop.

FEED UPDATE - I've been working with our nutritionist and our organic feeds by Payback now list the specific ingredients on the tag, instead of the certified organic groupings. Yay! I need to check in on the Organic All Breed labels, but all chicken feeds are switched over. And I know goat owners would like a higher protein level on the OAB for your does, I am working on that, too and open to your thoughts. The feeds are milled locally in Harrisburg, between Corvallis and Eugene. At the mill, they are also working on the magic pellet balance that has the good ingredients and right levels, along with minimal fines, which has been an issue lately. I turn mine into mash, but that's not so easy on farm-scale. They've got some ideas and thanks to your excellent steady support at 2 to 3 tons of the Payback Organic Layer alone each week at our shop and it's also carried by other farm stores, they want to keep us all happy. We are lucky to have this mill and please give me any feed back to help! The Urban Farm Store is carrying an organic blend out of Spokane, that is as locally sourced as possible, which sounds very cool. I hope it goes well - it would be nice to have more organic options to try and it's all because of your demand. They'll have Payback as a back up organic feed if they have transportation or mill issues with their custom feed up there.

How cool to be in such a thriving, caring place here in the NW. I love our neck of the world and am so glad there are so many of you inspiring people out there.

Happy full moon,

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Happy 2009! *Workshops & Conferences* + Urban Food Initiative + HENS

Here's the full post with additions on Sunday, January 11th! : )

Urban Growth Bounty 2009 - Sustainable Food Classes - Dates throughout the year!
North Willamette Horticulture Society Meeting - January 13,14 and 15
North Plains Community Garden Club - January 14
Modern Organic Farming on Small Acreage - January 17 to March 21
Growing Farms: Successful Whole Farm Management Workshop Series - January 21 to March 11
Permaculture Design Course - January 24 - June 20
Organicology - February 26 - 28
Let's Get Growing - March 19
Intensive Vegetable Gardening - April 16

I will be at the Organic Crops day of the NWHS meeting on the 13th and maybe half of the Vegetable day on the 14th. I'll be in North Plains on the 14th, where we farmed in 2007, speaking to the garden club at 10am. I'm excited to meet the people that grow such beautiful flowers at the intersections I used to drive through. This Thursday the 15th, is the first of the Master Gardener sections here in NE Portland (yay!!) that will compliment the Organic Gardening Certification I took this fall. So I will see some of you around at these and not so much in the shop this week.

On February 14th, I'll be speaking at the
Modern Organic Farming on Small Acreage class on soil amendments and fertilizer through WSU & Fresh Earth Gardens. Hoping to carpool to the Small Farms Conference in February. I will be at Organicology and hope to see you there! The Urban Bounty workshops all look excellent - definitely check them out and sign up, they'll add more depending on demand.


Neil and I went to a meeting on Food Sustainability this weekend and will share more about that as it unfolds. Invigorating! The Urban Food Initiative was described by Kat West, sustainability manager with the Multnomah County Sustainability Program. She said Mayor Adams wants to support urban agriculture, but has not heard much from constituents. That's you and me! Let's contact our new mayor to let him know we care about URBAN FOOD. Whether you write one sentence saying just that or write more in depth about what you want, what you're doing, community garden space & access (1,000+ on waiting lists), urban and rural farmers & land availability and affordability, food banks, food related non-profits, composting, farmer's markets, csa support - WRITE, CALL and/or EMAIL to tell him! He's eager to hear from you!

Learn more and share your thoughts at Portland Multnomah Food Policy Council meetings, open to the public. The next one is Wednesday, January 14th from 4-6pm in City Hall's Rose Room, 1221 SW 4th (second Wed of each month).

Check out the Sustainable Food Resources section on the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.

The Diggable City project, is an inventory of land suitable for urban agriculture. Their report opens with this quote,

“There is a need to bring life into the city, so that its poorest inhabitant will have not merely sun and air, but some chance to touch and feel and cultivate the earth.”

Lewis Mumford, 1961


If you plan to raise baby chicks this year, it's already a good time to be studying and preparing where you'll raise them indoors and the coop you'll build or buy for them to move into. Most shops will have chicks by mid February / early March. I'll try to keep you posted on that. On March 8th, I'll be teaching a chicken workshop at Pistils Nursery, check with them for more dates taught by others. In mid July I'll be teaching an advanced chicken care workshop through Growing Gardens with Lisa Ewing of the Avian Medical Center - she is awesome! Growing Gardens will have beginning workshops, too, as will Pistils Nursery, Livingscape and the Urban Growth Bounty classes. Additional sources to buy chicks are Linnton Feed & Seed, Aloha Feed, Burns Feed,, or buying 25 at a time from a hatchery to raise and share or sell yourself. I also know a local farmer who is raising chicks so you can buy them as pullets, contact me to find out more.

Remember in the city, buy sexed chicks for the best odds of females, not straight run - to minimize rooster heart break.


Another chicken keeping idea is to take on a few older hens looking for love. If you would like to adopt hens or have some up for adoption, please let me know and I'll help connect you. On a production scale, tiny or commercial, hens are often culled between 2 to 2 1/2 years of age. Something very important to think about before you decide to raise them - are you planning to cull them on a schedule or will you plan to care for them until they pass on naturally? They continue to make wonderful pets after their egg laying slows down. They are adorable with unique personalities, love healthy scraps from your kitchen, entertain all of us humans and provide awesome poo for compost & fertilizing your garden. Their feed at about 0.25 cents conventional or 0.50 cents organic, is a lot less than cat or dog food, which averages 1.00 to 2.50 dollars. With the right coop design, the poo maintenance is also much less than the cat litter box or walking the dog.

I hope you are enjoying this welcome spell of mild weather. We're working on a mobile greenhouse at home of old windows and salvaged wood (mobile, as in, we're renters who might need to smoothly dismantle all and move on short notice, hens, plants and all...) and have been cleaning up the garden. All 6 worm bins are rocking, the leeks are still delicious, most of the favas died, but their are some rogue survivors and the other cover crops are delighted. There is an endless amount of projects we dream of and try to work on. We think a lot about how in order to really live with and care for your plants that will sustain you over time, nurture your soil life, learn about and shape your micro-climate - you need permanence. We desire permanence. To be rooted in relationships with our neighbors and our walkable, bikeable community. Permanence to grow food and friendship. Permanent Agriculture that lead to the coining of Permaculture. That leads us to mort(death) gage(pledge). A desire to spend and pledge that debt on an empty city lot and build a tiny integrated home and grow as much as we can in every nook and cranny.

Warm new year wishes,