Thursday, March 26, 2009

Volcanoes, Glaciers, Sea Fossils, Oyster Shells & Limestone, Oh My!

I am so giddy right now, my heart is leaping, my cheeks hurt from grinning!

The analysis for the mineral amendment blend I've been working on just came in and it looks like we'll be able to do it! Ingredients are heading out to make the test batch early next week when our rail container of soft rock phos lands...

The mix will contain Glacial Rock Dust, Azomite Volcanic Ash, Sea Fossils from both Soft Rock Phosphate and Greensand, Oyster Shell Flour and good ol' Washington Limestone. I've also got a Linseed Meal (flax) and Alfalfa Meal blend up my sleeve that we hope to start mixing next week. Yay!!!

Today is the new moon and the floor is happily sprouting little bits of wheat from the straw this morning as it dries down. Tiny just took this cool photo. His venus fly trap, Lou, is flowering, too. Handmade chicken-adorned birthday cards and cupcakes Mary brought from Sweetpea Bakery have all helped make this a pretty special start to my day!

Joel from the Magpie Messenger Collective was in today picking up 150lbs of goods for his chickens and rabbits. He is always on bike, so his human power discount is set to be automatic, like a few other dedicated cyclists. Their coop sounds pretty special, hoping he'll bring in photos soon for our binder.

*** Two great events this Friday 27th through Sunday 29th are Chicken Fest at Livingscape with affordable workshops, fiddling and events & the super neat Better Living Show at the Expo, which is free with loads of workshops. ***

See you soon!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Spring Equinox

There are so many things I am bursting to share with you and do I start now and go back or... maybe I jump around... Spring has unleashed hidden bulbs to flower! The sun is passing over equator - here's a bit on how our Gregorian calendar operates at 365.2425 days a year to keep in line with this vernal equinox. As the days are now becoming longer than the nights, this city, region and country seem blooming all things farming!

* * * The first half of our earthen floor by Sukita is in! It could sprout... but it is meant for all of us to stand and walk around on. Right now it's drying and the straw we got from Linnton and chopped loudly in the parking lot is looking shimmery golden. You may have seen Emily Gowen from Growing Gardens chopping and sifting with me on Thursday and then Neil and I were sifting the rest of the clay on Friday and then it was batch mixing with Neil, Mary and I & Sukita and her crew, Bernard and Jeremy pouring, leveling and creating the floor. The materials are all what we stand on, grow in, live by and the energy is in our labor. love it. * * * (Will try to put a slide show link here)

The Lettuce Grow Organic Gardening Project for women at Coffee Creek Prison in Wilsonville, Oregon, just broke ground today on their 10,000sq' site! They have a really neat website, and an incredibly meaningful endeavor. I put together some amendment and fertilizer goodies for them and Debbie Rutt, just wrote with today's update with Dawn, the first inmate hired to work in the garden, "Dawn started 90 tomato plants and a tray of leeks under the grow lights. We are still waiting on compost delivery so we can till, but none of us want to wait, so we dug part of a bed by hand, added amendments and planted Walla Walla onion starts so you can already see a row of beautiful green sprouts in the garden. Next week Dawn will keep digging by hand and will plant lettuce, radishes and peas." I'm so excited about this project and hope to be able to volunteer there.

Now the beautiful website above leads me on a brief diversion... I envision what I would magically like to appear on the computer, and then..... I want to go plant something. I have been eyeing the lovely wordpress and the idea of moving over, but she alludes me and so today I forced myself to sit and make friends with my dear blogger site here, and did some very crude html tinkering to make "pages" with links, to... FARMS! (lists in progress) and other wonderfulness. And in doing so made the rounds and saw the amazingness. Wow! See Patty & Bonnie, the gorgeous work horses on Laura Masterson's site, who will work her new ground on Grand Island. There are so many awesome farms and this winter they have created and dialed in their sites, oh my!!! Check them out! They are making me drool. And that is dangerous for my computer.

I will creak gently forward for now and embrace my free google spreadsheet, which lets me give you up-to-date pricing and someday maybe it will be a nifty pdf that will print pretty for you and a smooth, multi-page site. In the meantime I hope you enjoy the patchwork.

Back to speaking of breaking ground, my lovely neighbor Maria, whispers that big ol' White House is cracking open a 1,100sq' patch of the 16 acre lawn for an organic garden visible from E Street. "The plots will be in raised beds fertilized with White House compost, crab meal from the Chesapeake Bay, lime and green sand." They're going to grow veggies, berries and one of the carpenters is also a beekeeper who will tend two hives! Here are a couple of articles in the Chicago Tribune and NY Times. I have a feeling beets will unite and find their way into plantings...

On the rest of that lawn, they're going to use mycorrhizal! Here's a link to the post, How the garden grows, with Michelle Obama on the White House blog about the decision to plant gardens at all USDA facilities.

And switching back to LOCAL - Mayor Sam Adams was at the March Portland Multnomah Food Policy Council meeting and plans are in the works for an organic vegetable garden at City Hall!

...back in February Neil and I went on the Worst Day of the Year Ride and before we flew out the door, I stuffed these chicken tea cozies and strapped them to our helmets to make more of a costume. I got them at thrift stores years apart and before I had the remotest inkling I'd have my own chickens some day. They are normally reserved for silly arguments. If you start one or are caught in one, you put on the tea hat, it's a bit of comical surrender. There are also scraps of paper slipped under doors with drawings of Banti holding a little white flag...

Tiny is a volunteer motorcycle escort for this ride and the upcoming annual Reach the Beach. And he went to a three day nutritional seminar, Payback University and happened to hoist a doctor over his head. For fun, not emergency, photo to come...

Don Tipping and Kimberly Brown are seen here, (a number of years ago), with a couple of smart bantams who liked to come in when the door was open. Their farm, Seven Seeds, is part of the Siskyou Sustainable Cooperative. Don wrote me that, "Working with them (chickens) and seeds and thinking plant breeding has been directing me towards doing on-farm varietal improvement with our poultry, basically selecting for the traits we want to see in a diversified permaculture farm. So we now have our own little Noah's ark of Khaki Campbell ducks, Royal Palm turkeys and a whole melange of chicken varieities centered around a Black Australorp rooster...I think we need to move in this direction in order to move away from seeing poultry as little grain converters and more as a tool to cycle biomass (plant, insect, animal, fish (from our aquaculture systems) through our farm system and into edible protein for our local community." You can find their biodynamic seeds directly through Don's blog and Uprising Seeds and also through Seeds of Change, Johnny's, Fedco, Turtle Tree Seed, High Mowing Seeds, and Renee's Garden Seeds. Don also writes about the need for Seedsmen and Seedswomen and was just involved in the OSU Southern Oregon: Growing Farms course. He's also teaching permaculture courses at their farm this spring.

Along the lines of heritage breeds and getting away from the Cornish Cross, Sarah and Conner of Diggin' Roots Farm are doing pasture-raised RedBro Broilers in Milwaukie (photo on the left), in addition to their CSA. They've also got a really nice new website going with great writing about what they're doing.

This leads me to a connection with a newsletter my friend Katie just forwarded about changes in Kookoolan Farms' pasture-based poultry system. Their concerns about meat bird genetics and feed sustainability. Katie also shared her thoughts and asked about mine. It's a big topic. This post addresses a bit in terms of my path with feed (below) and other farmers paths in breed choices and feed experiments and I will try to write more specifically in the future.

There is this wee little subject many of us are interested in, POULTRY FEED. For the past year and a half, I've had Alice Royle's name scribbled throughout many notes. With her husband Bill, she runs Union Point Custom Feeds, a certified organic mill in Brownsville, Oregon. Farmers ooh and ahh about Alice for very good reason. One of the difficulties of working together in the past was being so close, but not close enough, in terms of us not going near enough to pick up feed every week, so the idea would go back on a mental shelf. But! We spoke recently and it looks like we will be able to work together! I could listen to Alice for hours. I am smitten. The woman can describe feed ingredients and combinations with such care and picturing the operation of their amazing milling equipment gives me shivers. I am hoping to go down to visit her soon and work out the rest of our details.

ORGANICOLOGY - Seed Intensives in February. I learned a lot at the conference and it strengthened my desire to try to support locally grown - organic seeds for feed, seed meals (oil extracted) and plant meals (dried and chopped) for fertilizer and cover crop seed. I do have the warehouse and transportation to distribute and also to just try to connect people directly to the growers and resources that exist. I have more to say on all this, but in the meantime please contact me if you have interest as a grower/vendor or grower/buyer. Working with Alice is an important step in the direction I'd like to go. I look forward to making more connections.

ALTERNATIVE POULTRY FEEDS were a hot topic at the OSU Small Farms Conference and I've got a lot of notes. There were a number of different angles between the presenters, Jim Hermes, OSU Extension Poultry Specialist, Melissa and Josh of Barking Moon Farm (see website for more on their upcoming alternative poultry feed project, this Eggmobile on the right, starting a farm and a post about this years conference - over 500 people!) and Todd Waltermeyer of Oakland Bay Farm, with a serious buying club in the Seattle area. Carol Miles, WSU Vegetable Extension Specialist, did not make it, but check out these great poultry links on WSU Small Farm Connection Animals page. One main point is a balance between what you expect from your layers and broilers, in terms of production; making sure they have a balanced feed that suits their health needs; and ideally supplementing or eventually recreating entirely, a feed with locally grown grains and legumes. Research is in progress, more on that soon. Another session at the conference discussed broilers in terms of feed research and also in terms of meat and vegetable buying club farm models in Oregon and Washington (see Todd's site above). See the Gorge Grown Mobile Market - an experiment in bringing mobile farmers markets veggies to rural towns!

CHICKEN FEST! is coming up at Livingscape in Portland, from March 27th - 29th and there are loads of workshops and fiddle music, who can resist? It is also an awareness and fundraising event benefiting Growing Gardens.

My friend Ginger is using free shredded paper from the local Cart'm recycling center for chicken bedding at her permaculture farm in Manzanita, R-evolution Gardens. She's also got a great posts on her St. Patrick's day potato planting ritual, the seasonal return of eggs and information on the yummy network of farms and bakeries she's brought together to create a coastal CSA.

Tour de Coops 2008 - We found this great slide show, I've been meaning to put up, all photos by Melinda Stiles. It was very fun to find pictures of our pink Montacre Coop #4 in the dark of winter and experience so many other coops through her photos. There is a lot we'd like to do to our coop, but we're trying to find a few limits, so maybe there will be a sign for this year's tour with what we plan to do in the future for sprucing and security..... Here's the beginnings of the info on this summer's 6th Annual Tour de Coops 2009 on Saturday, July 25th from 11 - 3pm!

Copies of the spring In Good Tilth and Edible Portland are in. There's a neat story by Liz Crain, who was in my Kabocha squash group in the Organic Gardening Certification Program this fall, on taking the course and an article on attracting native bees - check out these fact sheets from The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

> > > > > WORKSHOPS < < < < <
Sign up now for Oregon Tilth's new Comprehensive Organic Gardener Class! It will be held at Luscher Farm April 23rd to May 14th on Thursday evenings 7 - 9pm and Saturdays 10 - 3pm. Short, sweet and intense! This is a dynamic hands-on organic food gardening course with super neat instructors. Kathy, Conner and Randall will give you the specific information and experience you need to be excited and empowered to get growing. Mary is taking the class and I will be helping teach on the Soil day, so hopefully we will see you there!

Better Living Show - March 27 - 29th. So many cool free workshops! And the whole deal is free. My mom and I think it's one of the very best shows, but it's our birthday weekend and such a busy time of year, so it's hard to envision having a booth there, but it is so neat! Maybe next year we will postpone celebrations... this year, though, snuggled between our birth dates, Bill's daughter Kayla is getting married on the 27th and that's quite a show in and of itself. If Bill looks a little tired..... : )

On Sunday, March 22nd, Pistils is hosting an Urban Goat Keeping workshop from 1:30 - 3pm with Tracey Tiret. She may bring her La Mancha, Elixir, seen on the right butting heads with her little buddy, Frodo, a Nigerian Dwarf wether.

Just in with our latest container shipment of Greensand.

Tiny, I can hear you know. He likes to bring up photos of goats like Frodo and talk poetically about the little pen he'd make on the dock and the bike trailer he'd rig up for my bike... Oh! Speaking of serious bike!

Melanie Plies was nominated for a BTA Alice Award!! She's also got a neat new website for her urban CSA farm, Backyard Bounty - great writings, photos and info. She's farming at Lovena Farm this year, one spot versus 20 individual plots farming in partnership with Sunroot Gardens last year.

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CSAs in Oregon and Washington were just featured in the Oregonian article: Doing farming (and your shopping) the CSA way. And the Portland Area CSA Coalition website is another great resource along with Local Harvest, which is nationwide.Link

David Knaus of Fresh Earth Gardens will be teaching another session of Modern Organic Farming on Small Acreage this spring. I enjoyed talking to his class about fertilizers and amendments this winter. He also provided delicious salad and micro-greens for the Farmer-Chef Connection - we got to see part of the new documentary, Ingredients, watch clips on their site! And there was a diverse discussion session on the challenges of food and new farmers. The opening speaker discussed the negative impacts of the proposed LNG plants - take action here at Environment Oregon and learn more about how the pipelines could severely damage our farms at Gales Meadow Farm website - Anne and Rene provide links to learn and do more (separate note, David worked at Gales Meadow before starting his own farm). Here is an article on him in The Columbian = An Agricultural Mystery: Why aren’t there more farmers like David Knaus? An answer in four parts

The Urban Farming talk at People's in February was packed and had a wonderfully diverse panel of urban growers. Lots of discussion. The next morning, my head swirling with thoughts, I got the latest Mother Jones magazine in the mail titled: Let's Grow America! with an article, Beets in the Hood, about Will Allen, the farmer from my hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He won a MacArthur Genius Grant and I meant to post this article in the NY Times back in October - An Urban Farmer Is Rewarded for His Dream. And then my lovely neighbor Maria pointed out the Spring 2009 Food For Everyone theme of Yes! magazine. It has Will and his daughter Erika Allen in the article - Growing Power in an Urban Food Desert. She started the Chicago growth of the project in Cabrini Green, and was able to "transform a basketball court into a flourishing community garden fueled by Will Allen’s beloved red worms. Growing Power also has a half-acre farm in Grant Park, in the heart of downtown Chicago. The Grant Park project focuses on job training for young people, involving them in all aspects of growing the 150 varieties of heirloom vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers the farm sells in Chicago farmers markets and through the Farm-to-City Market Basket program, like the one pioneered in Milwaukee."

My chickens made the Portland Tribune's Sustainable Life section in February in a positive story titled, Urban chickens top green pecking order: Chickens beat dogs in sustainability, make locally produced food.

Lima, is an intense Ameraucana, who was not afraid of a big camera and knew I might have more worms when I opened the nest box. She gamely jumped in and kicked around the brown Australorp egg in the box. She lays greenish blue eggs and wants me to say on the record that she's a great layer, too, not just a pet. Ahem! She is the top bird. I do not mess with her. This is in print. See Lima? I love you, too.

The news does not stop, it comes back local and shoots up north to Canada, where Heather and her chickens are making news!

Chicken Laws in Vancouver, BC - In January's Vancouver Sun, (1) The lowly chicken may get its day in urban Vancouver, there is a long article and this super cool photo of Heather and Zilla, a gorgeous hen, not lowly by any means.

Then in February, Cheeks and Zilla, Portland ex-pat chickens, lead a campaign of sustainable pets on CBC News - (2) Vancouver's chicken bylaw clucks, resident says.

And then victory in the National, (3) Vancouver approves backyard chicken coops!!! VANCOUVER, BC — "They cluck and bob around backyards from New York to Victoria, providing endless hours of delight to their owners, along with a few freshly laid eggs every other day. Backyard chickens have become the new “it” animal for urbanites striving for simple, sustainable living habits." And Heather is helping the city write the new bylaw! Heather, you rock!
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Chicken Laws in Forest Grove, OR - Meeting March 30, 7pm, Forest Grove Community Auditorium - 1915 Main Street, Forest Grove, OR 97116. And the proposed code is at this link. More info on BackyardPDXChix

Chicken Laws in Salem, OR - Recently I heard pro-chicken peeps made their presence known in order to get on the agenda... and I hope to have more to share with you soon. Checkout the Statesman Journal - Salem's chicken ban faces debate: Proponents say having fowl in residential areas offers economic, other benefits
* Video clip of Salem group - Chickens In The Yard - on the Living Culture website, featuring Kyrie and her chickens here in Portland *
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Buffalo Gardens moved closer in to 23rd and Alberta and Sandra just set up this new website! She opened her nursery back in 2001. Make sure to find her new spot with her charming tea house style garden shop, unique Japanese tools, seeds, row cover, organic amendments, a wide variety of affordable plants and her chickens clucking about while she helps you find what you need for your farm or garden.

LOWELL'S TOOLS - I had the pleasure of talking to Lowell and his wife at the OSU Small Farms Conference and buying some tools from them. They are a really great couple, affordable and excellent tips and tool care information.

Premier1 Fencing - very popular electric netting for mobile pastures!

Plastic bags are not being accepted at Far West Fibers for recycling, we are doing our best to reuse bags for bagging up any damaged bags, packaging coco fiber bricks in, giving out to compost projects or other ideas.

BATTERY RECYCLING - Bring in yee weary little batteries. I never know where to set them when they die, so I bring them to work and now you can, too. I'd been thinking about starting this and recently saw an article in the BEE about Wallace Books in Westmoreland collecting batteries, yay!! We'll follow her lead on "AA, AAA, 9-volt, 6-volt, C and D sizes, as well as others used in cell phones, toys, etc. No car batteries, please" for our community collection and then take them to Metro.

Have you heard about the Chicken-sized Dino Found in Museum Drawers?

Maybe this relates.. collecting our current moment creates a history. I've started binders of photos of Farms, Gardens, Hens, Goats, Landscapers and other neat ag related businesses, School Gardens, Non-Profit projects... As a place where we can visually share a piece of what we're up to. You are welcome to bring or mail in photos and text if you'd like, up to 8.5" x 11". We've got clear plastic sleeves in binders and you can change out or add to what you share in the future. I may collect photos to set up slide shows online, too. I've also been working on a few Surveys, but that might not come about until the fall when life quiets and winds back down a bit for you and me.

** ooh! there are so many neat things, I know I'm forgetting, but, a couple I'm remembering! Seed Library project of the NE Portland Tool Library! And Connie of Tabor Tilth is teaching an Urban Farming-Permaculture course at her place, through PCC (checkout their other Horticulture offerings) this spring April 7 - May 12th and is in a little piece in the ever quirky Willamette Week... **

At home, we're close to finishing our mobile greenhouse. Instead of continuing to store the windows and lumber we've gotten free under tarps (our landlord may not have been fond of the "tarp town" pent-up builders make with no other storage...), we've designed based on the windows, deconstructed pallets from our industrial metal shop neighbors, hiked treasures back from the Rebuilding Center (we do love that place) and stimulated the economy at Parr Lumber for our roofing and all the big bolts to make it 'mobile', ie. dismantle on 30 days rent notice. In the meantime our starts are yelling at me to get off the internets and get my tail outside with Neil to get the second section of roof on so they can move in and take advantage of the growing daylight, darnit! And the sun is out and one of the ladies is making a laying or sunshine induced.. joyous ruckus.

Naomi Montacre

Friday, March 20, 2009


Okay, this is my combination landscaper and garden designer section... and list is in progress. If you're one of them, let me know what contact info and link you'd like and I'll keep adding as I go through the computer.

I hope those looking for services can connect with these awesome folks - Thank you!

As the Crow Flies

Black-Eyed Susan Gardening - Susan Wiencke 503-460-7620 & susan.wiencke [at] gmail [dot] come

3 E Gardening

Jaqueline Authier

Living Gardens

Natural Cycles

Rejuvenation Artisans

Monday, March 2, 2009

French Farming Gets a Makeover

When my alarm went off this morning, with the NPR Morning Edition show jingle, it was like part of me was still caught deep in farming dreams. I hear the pleasant voice of Eleanor Beardsley say, "In France, nearly every industry is laying off workers except one: Farming."

My ears perk up. I am awake.

It describes that, "...French farmers say they are unable to fill thousands of positions each year. In an effort to attract new recruits, the French government has launched a campaign to jazz up farming's image." And there is a campaign, "Tomorrow I'll be a Farmer." Listen to the 4min clip here: Morning Edition, March 2, 2009. I found a snippet of the.. hip-hop cow and.. purple mohawk punk sheep commercial ad........ Do we have ads like this here? Should I be watching TV?

The radio piece ends saying that some worry this will attract "neo-rurals." I say, if it attracts anyone, yay!!! If government properly supports sustainable agriculture in that there can be a true livelihood for small-scale ag, people will figure it out - either grow into farming or find it's not right for them and continue on to something else, hopefully having discovered a greater respect and understanding of agriculture to share with others. It may be that this is another time where many of those who have grown up on farms want another life and those who have not, do. It is important for new people to learn from current farmers so that knowledge grows forward and the craft of cultivating our own food continues.

I am still working on this myself. Not signing up for a boat to France, punk dairy sheep may baaah beckoningly to me in my sleep tonight... but hoping to find a long term patch of land to love and grow food on, to deepen roots here in Portland, surrounded by a greater PNW community of so many amazing people of all stripes.

"To be a need to be passionate and hardworking," said President Sarkozy in a recent speech on The future of agriculture. "A farmer is firstly, and I’ll never tire of saying it, an entrepreneur, one who doesn’t count his (her) hours, who bears responsibility for significant investments, who has to take up a large number of significant human, financial, technical and administrative challenges. He (She) heads a business, but, being a farmer, must constantly adapt to the climate, market, technology and regulations."

There are some tricky bits to this speech as it relates to small-scale, organic farming... France is second to the US in terms of exporting global agricultural products. But this whole section below is interesting and I would adapt to say NEW Farmers, because people of all ages are very important!


At the heart of this ambition lies a sine qua non. France is the world’s second-largest exporter of agricultural products and leading exporter of processed agricultural products. We must bolster our farms and food sectors and encourage those who choose the fine career of farmer.

In the next eight years, 50% of your businesses are going to change hands! It’s a colossal challenge! We pledged a year ago to reform the support given to young farmers starting up. Today the pledges have been honoured and in 2009 we are going to increase start-up allowances, which will total €350 million a year, with the aim of helping 7,000 young farmers get established every year. Let’s be clear about this: a profession which doesn’t see young people joining it is a dying profession. The issue of the start-up allowance for young farmers is non-negotiable, because on it depends the future of farming in our country.

Concurrently, the question of upgrading small pensions and maintaining purchasing power for retired farmers and farm workers is crucial. If young people are to decide to go into farming, the situation of their elders must be settled fairly. (…) So as early as 2009, we have decided to increase the minimum vieillesse [minimum level of income required to live] by 6.9%. (…)"

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Okay, I've got a big post brewing with all sorts of goodies from February that I will finish writing soon. The shop has been really busy, so if we're a bit harried or don't respond as quick as usual, that's why - and thank you for keeping us so busy, it is great!!! Just spent 3 days at the Organicology conference, attended the Organic Seed Intensive and listened to Vandana Shiva speak, my heart and tummy were tingly with inspiration, she is a profoundly amazing woman.

Our earthen floor by Sukita,
(oiling a floor in the photo above), begins here March 14th, more on that in the next post : )

Flowers are blooming and I hope your heart is too.

Support ORGANIC SEED this spring. It is grown, selected and harvested in conditions intimately connected to your own land and practices. It is vital we sustain a thriving demand for and cultivation of organic seeds. ***