Archive for May, 2010

May Farm Update

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

As you will all have noticed, it has been a very cold spring with lots of rain. That has done the winter grains lots of good because they were very late developing. As of early April the red wheat and barley were well headed out but the white wheat and oats had lots of stalk but no heads. The rye was barely a foot-and-a-half tall and no heads. Two weeks later the white wheat, and oats were fully headed with a bumper crop and the rye was double in size. As of last week the rye was about half headed. Unfortunately, the heirloom white Sonoran wheat had been knocked down a lot by the wind since the stalks are so tall. Modern wheat varieties tend to be short-strawed for that reason. Late rain also really helps the weeds, particularly wild radish, so there will be the usual long cleaning job this year.

flowering mustard cover crop with a blue sky above it

The rain also really worked for the oats, bell beans, peas, vetch cover crop I put on half the fallow ground. I finally disked it down when it was chest high on me at 6’4″. I am hoping that the crop will provide enough nitrogen for the grains I plant this fall. It would save a considerable amount of money and time, but there is a time lag before using it, I’m not sure how that will turn out. The purple vetch, triticale mixture I planted at the Bierwagen farm in Chicago Park also was nearly the tallest Chris Bierwagen had ever seen there.

Planting of dry beans in Wheatland is a month behind schedule. The soil has just been too wet and cold and now rain is predicted for Monday night. This crop is a joint venture between me and my host there, Jim Muck. It isn’t a disaster if we plant by June as long as rain doesn’t come too early in the fall. I had hoped to plant quinoa first in Chicago Park, then amaranth, then corn but that soil was still too wet to work on Thursday. In the meantime I’m working on my corn planter swapping various used parts, and my antique harvester that I plan to use for the amaranth and quinoa. I’d like to test it on the small plantings of oats, barley, and rye in June as well.

My son who works in the social networking world is helping me set up my website for online sales of products. You can already sign up for the CSA there. He is also setting it up for me to blog. This is a new world for me, but most small farmers are seeing the value of these electronic connections in marketing so I’m grateful for his help.

For those of you who have been receiving my emails over the last couple years where I have documented my difficulties in making a small grain operation work, I want to report that I am currently in the black. A fair amount of that money should be counted towards my loss and labor last year, but there is still some left over. If I don’t have too many expensive repairs this year I expect to make a small profit. This is good in the short term and the long because someday I hope to hand this over to somebody younger. Sorting out what works for CSA share members and for me is an ongoing project and the CSA is the lynchpin for profitability. Let me know what you like or dislike about what’s in your shares and how the whole thing works. Recruit your friends too.


Welcome to the new Grass Valley Grains blog!

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

We’re busy farming right now, but we’ll be posting some great stuff up here shortly! Interested in something specific? Post it in the comments below!

-Evan Hamilton
Son, Website Guy