Sunday, July 15, 2012



Too much data! Donald attended another New Farmers and Ranchers Class at the Kerr Center yesterday. Each class results in more information to be digested. One would think that a year-long course would allow sufficient time to not only learn, but put newly gained knowledge to work. Not so - there are just not enough hours in the day, days in the week, and weeks in the year. If only we did not have to work to support our habits (and farming is definitely a habit).

Yesterdays class included an update on how we were all doing with our gardens, how the Kerr Center's trials were going, an overview of weeds, insect, and disease management, demonstrations of various pieces of equipment, a walk-through of the trial plots Kerr Center has established for the class, and a very informative presentation on Bio-intensive growing. In addition, a tremendous amount of literature was provided, including "Identification, Biology and Management of Insects Attacking Home Garden Vegetables in Arkansas", "Resource Guide for Organic Insect and Disease Management", and "Weeds of Arkansas". The primary instructor of the course was involved in each of these publications and this class was the beneficiary of the information as this is the first (and trial) of three classes.

While the handouts, publications, and other materials received each class and in-between each class, are extremely valuable, the presentations during class are just as valuable. A number of ideas are gained from each class, but there is never enough time to put them into practice, though we attempt to at each stage of our farming efforts. During Saturdays session, the various classes and types of insects, weeds, and diseases were discussed, as well as the tools that can be used to combat them. In organic gardening, the most effective controls come from the organic system itself. Using traditional organic cultural practices increases soil health while:

  • Increasing the impact of beneficial insects while reducing the impact of non-beneficial insects;
  • Decreasing weed invasions; and
  • Controlling diseases.
As you can probably guess, there are a number of insects, weed seeds, and diseases that are airborne rather than soil borne, which results in infestation regardless of soil practices. These issues are addressed using cultural tools (rotation, mixed planting, cultivation tools, etc.) as well as the availability of allowed natural and synthetic chemicals (used as a last recourse).

After the information from the class is absorbed, and as time permits, more information will be provided.

There was a very interesting presentation by Kerr Center interns on Bio-Intensive Growing. This trial is based on publications written by John Jeavons, a master gardner and ecologist. The concept claims that anyone can grow vegetables using less water (67% - 88% less), 50% less purchased organic fertilizer, and providing a 100% increase in soil fertility. If you have 9,000 square feet of land, you too can grow enough vegetables each year to sustain one person. This is based on a 4,500 square foot garden (so you can probably do it with 5,000 square feet, the amount of land usually available in a back yard). Donald is considering running trials on this method (it uses smaller plots with a double-dig system) but it will be a year or two before we are ready. As time and space permits, more on this system will be provided in this blog.

The presentation of some of the tools that are useful for for backyard or small acreage farming was excellent and we will be looking into many of these tools.

 There are numerous cultivators available that make weed control much easier and result in a higher rate of effectiveness. They are wheeled cultivators and come with attachments. We will definitely be looking into purchasing one as we will have weed problems until we can get them under control through the use of cover crops and rotations.

Other Tools
Did you know that a hoe is not a hoe? I should have learned that years ago, I break too many of them. the garden tools you can pick up at Walmart, Home Depot, or Lowe's, are not designed for farm work, and are not really even designed for gardening, unless the garden is small and you have perfect soil. As all of our "gardening" tools have taken a beating this year, we will be looking to replace them with higher quality tools (real tools). We expect that this will be much more expensive then going to Walmart or Home Depot, but we should be able to save much of the additional costs as we should not have to replace them as often.

This past Friday Donald was able to get the balance of the actual garden section mowed between pop-up storms (more on these below). We need to get our soil samples pulled next Saturday and sent in as Donald has worked out arrangements with Kerr Center for assistance in reading and interpreting the results as well as planning for our winter cover crops. He just learned that the cover crops should be planted in August (and he will be traveling the entire month).
Main Garden Section
The main garden section will be in front and will be approximately 2 acres, with 3 - half acre plots and miscellaneous plots on the west side.

Our test garden is looking like it may do something, we not sure just what that may be. Remember, we are planting totally natural this year, no fertilizer, no planning, and little organization.
Section I - Sweet Corn, Sunflowers, and Weeds
This was the first plot planted in the test garden. The deer ate the sunflower leaves, though they are still growing. The corn never matured; however, we do have some corn on the plants.
Black Beauty Zucchini
The Zucchini is doing great and is starting to flower.
Moon & Stars Watermelon Patch
The Moon & Stars Watermelon seems to be doing ok. Looks like animals are trying to eat it, but it may also be a combination of soil and weather conditions. It started great and went downhill since.
Scallop White Squash, Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans
The Scallop White Squash (Patty Pan) seems to be doing well also. The jury is still out on the pole beans. They are doing better in some places, worse in others.
Sumter Cucumber, Sweet Corn, Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans
The cucumbers are acting like the watermelon, they started good but have slacked off. The beans in this area seem to be doing well. The sweet corn may surprise us yet, it is coming up.
Big Max Pumpkins
Again, the jury is still out on the pumpkins. ?They are growing, which is good. Now all that remains is to see how well they will do.
Congo Watermelon
The Congo Watermelon are doing about as well as the Moon & Stars Watermelon, all we can do at this point is hope for the best.

We have had pop-up thunderstorms 8 out of the last 10 days. Unfortunately, the storm Saturday was apparently a wild one, with several trees down on the property. Two trees came down across the small drive up to the barn from the main house (one of them by Danielle's house), one came down barely missing the chicken coop (ok, it missed it by a good foot), and one came down across the road to the back pasture (above the barn). David and Donald were able to get them cleaned up Saturday and today.
Tree across road to pasture
We were very fortunate, as a very large tree went down across a neighbors drive and we had a friend in town that had one fall on their house. Our prayers are with them as their house move 3 inches off the foundation from a tornado in March 2011 and now is move even further off the foundation, tilted at an angle, and with a sunroof in their kitchen.

Blessings to all from Baker Heritage Farms

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