Tag Archives: DIY

What’s in a name?

Before I get into all that, some quick farm news.  We hear back from the county next month….I am pretty wore out with waiting, luckily work has been busy and keeping me somewhat focused.  Somewhat.  The apples from the old tree at the Bunion are excellent, and we put as many as we could to good use.  I think it is a Gravenstein.

this was really good pie.

this was really good pie.

And, they have finally finished the logging.  I am really glad that they got the bulk of that work done before we bought, as they have grrred all over the farm.  The upside, we got a lot of new rock on the farm roads and should have quite a stash of firewood from the slash piles.  The downside, well, you can see the downside.

progress? progress.

progress? progress.

 

 

I have been spending a lot of my spare time in the last few years trying to acquire the skills and information I’ll need to make my business and farm work.  I have never had my own business before, and while I feel pretty good about my abilities to raise animals (at least rabbits and honeybees and chickens) and grow vegetables, and in general build stuff like greenhouses and fences and animal housing, I am much more nervous about the business end of things.  In particular, marketing.  The first thing I need?  A good farm name.  I played around with this for a long time, and came up with a lot of names:

Here’s a partial list:  corny names (Soggy Pocket Farm),slightly off color names (Horny Goat Farm, Dirty Hoe Farm), just plain bad names (Silly Goose Farm) names that were already taken (Sidewalk’s End), Portlandia style names (Do It Yourself Farm), minimalist farm names (Earthy), obscure literary reference names (Yeasty Ferment Farm), brutally honest farm names (What You Really Want is a Pony Farm, Midlife Crisis Farm), bad pun farm names (Wiseacre Farm, Rural Growth Boundary Farm), low moment farm names (Invasive Nonnative Farm, Weed and Feed Farm), homage to Joel Salatin farm names (Your Ass is Grass Farm), gen X farm names (MudHoney Farm….may be some trademark issues with that one, but a pretty good Oregon farm name I thought!), AC/DC inspired farm names (Dirty Deeds Farm)….the list went on and on.  And there, at the very end of the list, maybe 4th from the bottom of over 60 possible farm names, there it was.  Long Run Farm.  Now this farm name has a story, which is the second thing I need for marketing.

Long Run is what my family has always called that beautiful piece of land outside of Shelbyville, Kentucky that my grandfather Roscoe Dalton bought with his cousin Ed Dumesnil back in the late 50’s.  Papa D bought that place I think not with an eye to its usefulness as a piece of agricultural ground (the soils are mostly clay, though there is some decent bottomland along the creek) but because it was beautiful, and in particular, it was really good foxhunting country with its gently rolling ground, brushy thickets, and year round streams and ponds.  It was also good for raising some beef cattle and hay (and a LOT of white tailed deer), which is primarily what that farm has done ever since.  But my grandfather started Long Run Hounds, and was famous for sweet talking all the neighboring farmers into letting him and his friends ride through the country chasing red and grey fox every winter, and he may have even convinced the horsier ones to come along.  The creek that runs through it was always known locally as Long Run creek, though it was not officially named so until the 90’s (the name is actually redundant, as a creek in that part of Kentucky is often referred to as a ‘run’).  When the hounds get on the scent of a fox and take off, and the field of riders follow behind as fast as they can get across the country, that is also called a run, so of course the name for us has always been a double entendre.  When I was a kid we would have a big fish fry by the creek every summer, under a beautiful old sycamore.  In the fall we would go to the Blessing of the Hounds, the opening day for hunt season, and of course, whenever Dad could drag me out of bed (which I am very sorry to report was not very often!) I would join the hunt in the winter time.  The best part of the hunt really was when the day was over and we would all gather for a potluck around a roaring fire in the lodge, and I would listen to my uncle Stuart and Carl Rankin in particular tell hilarious anecdotes with the particular dry low key humor unique to that region (if you have read any Wendell Berry fiction you have had a taste of it).   A lot has changed over the years, most of the surrounding countryside has been lost to development, the old sycamore is gone, but my family still owns that land (and the ‘back farm’, an additional property that was purchased later on).  The hunt lodge is still there with it’s millstone step up to the porch, with pictures on the walls of my grandfather, my uncle, and lots of other colorful characters that are gone now too.  Every time I go home my father and I make time to go out there and ride (or lately, drive) around the place.  It is as beautiful as ever.

So, I will take the name Long Run for the Bunion as my little piece of family and of Kentucky that I can put into this Oregon venture.  If we land the Bunion, I will have a little clay, a little bottom land, a year round creek (though it is by no means long, I think it heads up less than a mile from its mouth in the Tualatin), and lots of brushy thickets.  And of course, it is a double entendre for us too, it has been a long run getting to where we are now (currently we often refer to it as Long Wait Farm), and we hope we will be there for a good long run, and of course, we will farm it with an eye for the long term too.  Maybe I will plant a sycamore down by the creek some day…though perhaps it should be a red cedar, and we should have salmon bakes instead of fish fries under it, Oregon style.

an early attempt at a logo

an early attempt at a logo….time to pull in the professionals!

Completed garden cart

The cart has been completed, and is now out at Square Peg Farm for testing.  It is very light and well balanced, and turns on a dime.  I think the flexibility of it will be very useful, and am already envisioning add ons like a drop in frame of expanded mesh or screen for harvesting and cleaning root vegetables like carrots and parsnips.

Here is the completed cart:  I used two 26″ mountain bike wheels/tires for the wheels.

completed garden cart

Here it is being transported on the rack of my Civic Hatchback…it fit just perfect.

cart on car

Here is how I reinforced the corners, as I was using a smaller tubing for the handle and was worried it wouldn’t be sturdy enough for regular farm abuse:

corner reinforcement

Here it is with the drop in plywood top for hauling flats, amendments, harvest tubs, etcetera.  These may need some additional work to keep things from sliding off in transit.

-4

I also took some seed balls out to The Bunion (the little farm).  Seed balls are very fun to make, and even more fun to distribute.  I went through my seed stash and made up a mix of red clover, white clover, hulless oats, native wildflower seed, with a few brassicas tossed in for good measure (mostly kales).  I then mixed this with dry red stoneware clay, compost and a little water, and then formed up the seed balls and let them dry.  Here they are in a bucket (parents, this would be a super fun project for kids, though adults should do the materials mixing as powdered dry clay is hazardous to your health).  Here is a seed ball recipe for those who may be interested, or have some old seed to distribute.  bucket o seedballs

At 1 1/2 inches in diameter and several ounces each, these are super fun to toss out into a field or any site you are interested in introducing guerrilla seed to.  I am interested in replacing the clovers in this pasture that were killed by the broadleaf herbicides used by the timber company when they planted the field in doug fir seedlings, and in increasing the diversity of the plants there.  I don’t know if any of it will ‘take’, but that will be fun to see down the road!  To distribute the balls, you just walk merrily about the site hucking balls in all directions until you run out or feel seeds have been appropriately distributed.  The seed ball in theory, helps protect the seeds from predation and desiccation, until conditions are right for germination.

seed ball application

Since then, the thistles have made their appearance in spades.  I will have my work cut out for me trying to reduce their presence without cultivation.  A second seed ball application in conjunction with a lot of hand pulling is in order for the next two months.  I also got my swarm bait hives in place, at last!  We will see how they do.  We finally saw the colony that lives in the house in action, they seem to be thriving and live in the corner of the N dormer.

Put this on your calendar:  next saturday is the Mcminnville Historical Society farm fest and plowing competition.  I will be helping with a team of Shires this year, which should be very exciting.  Lots of old tractors and other equipment, plus plowing demos and competition with some of the best draft teams in Oregon.  Hope to see you there!

Bee Season

The grass is growing, the bees are flying, the trees are budding, the spring chinook are in the river, and that all spells one thing to this beekeeper.  Swarm season!  I plan to stash a couple of swarm traps out at the little farm-to-be this week (which is late!  I should have them up already!).  The earliest swarm I have heard of around here was on Easter Sunday, and that is next weekend!

For those of you new to beekeeping, swarm catching is a great way to expand your apiary.  It is also good to know how to catch your own bees if/when they swarm.  If you have never done it before, go with an experienced beekeeper once or twice to see how it is done.  I often teach a swarm catching class this time of year, but thought I would post for the world at large my swarm kit and some good basic recommendations for the would bee swarm catcher.  All of this is common sense information, but good to refer to when bee fever is in full swing.  A few good questions at the start can save you a lot of time and gas money.bees closeup

BE AN AMBASSADOR FOR THE BEES

  1. Be courteous, calm, confident, and prepared to answer a lot of questions about bees.
  2. Don’t get in over your head.
  3. Don’t commit to removing the bees unless you are absolutely sure you can, and don’t feel obligated to put yourself in unnecessary danger.  You are a volunteer, not a superhero. Tell people you will do your best, but make sure they know that you can’t fly, for example, and that those bees 40 feet up in a tree really pose no threat to anyone.  Use phrases like “I will check it out and remove them if I can” instead of “I will take care of those bees for you”.
  4. Save yourself a lot of unnecessary driving around by asking a lot of questions before you go (see below).  Ask the property owner to call you if the bees leave before you arrive.
  5. Make sure the relationship is clear.  There are some kooks out there that want to charge You for removing their bees for them.  If people offer money I often suggest they make a donation to Zenger Farm  or the Xerces Society if they want to help bees.  Or you can accept it to cover some of your costs….
  6. Carry some printed information to hand out to people if they want it.  Make sure your contact info is on there, as other swarms may occur in the same area (or you might have left something behind!).

SWARM KIT

 

  1. Ventilated cardboard box or spare hive body.  Make sure it has a bottom, lid, and an entrance/exit that you can seal up for transport!  I use #8 (1/8th inch) hardware cloth and duct tape to seal the entrance….make sure the bees get plenty of air!
  2. Protective clothing:  I use a Tyvek suit tucked into boots, gloves, and veil.
  3. 1/1 sugar syrup spray in a spray bottle.  Mine usually has a few drops of lemongrass and mint essential oil.
  4. Ladder
  5. White sheet (lay this under the swarm and the swarm box to prevent bees from getting lost in the grass and stepped on)
  6. Time.  The process can take an hour or two, not including travel.
  7. Bee Brush, dust pan, sheetrock knife (this is less annoying to the bees than a brush if used gently).
  8. Duct tape (for sealing up box/hive body for transport).

    Swarm in my apple tree

    Swarm in my apple tree

Non essentials that are nice to have:

9.  Benadryl and Epinephrine just in case….

10. Loppers/pruners/pruning saw.

11. Long handled broom.

12. Bait for the box:  lemongrass essential oil, old brood comb.

13. Assistant (if possible).

14. Referral Cards and Information handouts, these bees may swarm again!

15. Cell phone.

16. Bee Vac/extension pole with bucket or net/other tricky high swarm gear

QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE YOU GO

  1. Sure they are honeybees?  (not wasps, not bumblebees?)
  2. Sure they are swarming? (in a clump in a tree or on a fence etc, not an established colony in some cavity).
  3. How large is the swarm clump?  (if they are the size of a lemon, it may not be worth your time, if they are the size of a soccer ball then…Bonanza!).
  4. How far off the ground?  (people are terrible at judging this, but if it sounds like you need wings then don’t go unless they have a cherry picker to loan you).
  5. How long have they been there?  Minutes?  Hours? Days?  (This question will often sort out the swarms from the structural removals and established colonies in bee trees)
  6. Location:  Street address, contact person’s phone number, description of exact location (“in the apple tree in the front yard right at eye level”) if the property owner cannot meet you there.

Don’t forget to ask that they call you back if the bees leave before you get there!

This information is only partial, I would take a class or at least have a good handle on bee behavior and the biology behind swarming, and go with someone who has experience a few times if possible.  I am currently reading the book Honeybee Democracy by Thomas Seeley, which I would say is a must read for anyone wanting to set up swarm traps or bait hives.  Here is another excellent reference on catching swarms (and I think Matt has now caught more than anyone I know!) from the Beethinking Website.

And finally, of course, you must be fashionable when catching swarms.  Diamonds are perhaps a bit much, but pearls (and cowgirl boots!) go with any occasion.

bee fashionistas

In other news:  the cart is finished, it turned out great and is currently being tested out at Square Peg Farm.  I will post about that soon…like when I relocate my camera.  Also, we got our first batch of baby bunnies last week!  So far I have counted seven, but they should be out and hopping about in a few days.  Happy bee chasing!

building a farm cart

I went to the Small Farms Conference in Corvallis last weekend, and was once again inspired and edumacated….one of the best things about farming for me is there is so much to learn!  There were definitely more breakout sessions that I wanted to attend than I could fit in the schedule.  My friend Amy had reminded me of Josh Volk’s cool farm cart plans a couple of weeks earlier, turns out he was a presenter at the conference and also happened to be delivering a couple of the carts to farms in the area.  So I got to see one, and give it a good hard look, and even chat with him a bit about it in the lunch line.  The design is very simple, and I realized I probably had all the scrap I needed to build one in my shop at work.  I took inventory in all the scrap bins on Monday and sure enough, all the parts were there.  Most were rusty, some were coated with paint, none had been even looked at by a student in at least a decade.  So, a few mornings after I set up the welding shop and before the students arrived to work, I ‘tested out’ some of my grinders, saws and welders to make sure everything was working properly.  They were.  I got the main frame cut, ground and put together in probably less than three hours over a few days as I had time and space.

yet another fine use for 5 gallon buckets ...and rocks

yet another fine use for 5 gallon buckets …and scrap marble slabs

I am at a stopping point here, I really need the wheels on before I set the handle angle (and thus handle height).  Josh is a lanky 6’1″, and I am a much more efficient 5’4″, so a comfortable height for him is likely too high for me.  Happily there is a good chance I can score a couple of 26″ bicycle wheels from the campus bike co-op, which is what the design calls for.  My handle material is a little smaller and lighter than the specs call for, so I will have to beef up the handles some with additional crossbars or corner braces (or both).  Josh’s commercially produced carts are adjustable in width, height, and handle angle.  The only adjustment I would say looks really useful (assuming one’s bed widths are all the same) is the one that adjusts handle height.  The wheels on this cart are set at a 36″ distance, which should easily straddle a 30″ raised bed (which just happens to be the width of the tiller I intend to use).  Not yet having a farm, this cart may go out to my friends at Square Peg for a trial season.  Amy is about my height so hopefully if I set the cart up for myself it should work for her, though I think her beds may be a bit wider.

cart 3 detail

playing with handle angle/height

The other thing that occurs to me is that this cart would be much more transportable if the handle was removable, as it doubles the length of the cart.  If the handle was removable I could also make it adjustable….hmmmm.  An all welded cart would be stronger, and there would be no hunting for thumbscrews in the long grass when you really need to be doing something else, like using the cart….so I will ponder that awhile.  I think I will also put an additional tube in the middle of the cart for added strength, which also could be used for some on farm MacGuyvered (maybe I should say MacColeman’d) bed markers or seeders or cultivators that can clamp or strap to the frame.  A plywood platform that drops in for carrying flats or amendments or pulled weeds or totes full of produce is also part of the game plan.  I will also most likely tack something on to the bottoms of the legs so they don’t stuff full of dirt.  The proof will be in the pudding, or use, of course, but so far this has been a very satisfying project!  It has me thinking about other things I could build while I still have a welding shop to play in, like a horse drawn stone boat.  I will be curious to see how the bicycle wheels hold up in a farm environment.  Would solid wheels make more sense?  They would certainly add weight, and if made of something like plywood, eventually rot, while a bike tire is easily replaced.  Just thinking what a drag it is to have to pump up or replace wheelbarrow tires, and how solid ones seem much more sensible for that application…..also thinking of my friend’s  Garden Way Cart that uses similar wheels that has lost its tubes and tires and whose rims have been stuffed with walnuts, making it jarring to use.  Maybe it will just depend on whether or not the farmer is also a bike person, who has all that stuff lying around.  Bike tubes and tires are certainly universally available and easily obtained, and rims still roll even with flat tires or stuffed full of walnuts, so there is that.

The tools required for this project:  mig welder, 4.5 inch angle grinder with cutoff wheel and flap disc, metal cutoff saw, Vise grips, magnet clamps, 5 gallon buckets or other props, tape measure, sharpie pen, drill and 3/8″ metal bit (I used the drill press, because I had one, but the holes could be drilled by hand).  Safety gear:  welding hood, safety goggles, earplugs, fireproof clothing, leather gloves

once wheels and handle are attached, this view could become familiar

once wheels and handle are attached, this view could become familiar

Important note!  Having just looked at Josh’s cart again I see I have set up the handle backwards, thank goodness nothing is welded yet!  I can put the handle parts together before I decide how and where to attach it, so that will be the next step.  Please check out Josh’s website, he posts all kind of useful small farm info, links, spreadsheets and ideas free on the web.  His drip-tape roller is another really brilliant idea you may want to look at.  I will have to kick down a few bucks to him for the use of his cart plans.  Thanks Josh! ( And let us know when you design that lie-down pedal-powered one person transplanter….)