Hi Friends & Farm-ily,

It’s the first week of February and we’re moving from a period of reflection to action here on the farm!  The Celtic Festival, “Imbolc” was on February 2nd which is the exact halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.  Which means the days are getting longer and a new growing season is upon us!  It feels more and more real with every passing day.

Can you believe we’re halfway through the Winter CSA season?  Just 9 more pick ups to go!  Our expectation for the Winter Shares was 8-12 items (dependent on weather) in each weekly share.   Over the course of 9 weeks we have had 13-17 items in each weekly share.  We have also been impressed with the variety of veggies we have harvested through the winter months – most weeks we had more fresh picked produce than storage veggies which is amazing (even in the coldest and darkest of winter days)!   So far we’ve harvested 270lbs of produce per weekly share (21,000lbs total)!

Update! Our Spring, Summer & Fall CSA is over 3/4 of the way full and we’d love to have you back for the 2018 CSA season.  Please pick us, Jess and Brian, to be your farmers this upcoming season.  Check out our website workinghandsfarm.com/csa for all the details!  3 Steps to Signing Up:

Thank you for supporting local! And for all those who have signed up already, word of mouth is the best way to help us grow and sustain our small farm. Please encourage interested friends, family, neighbors & community etc… in signing up for their WHF CSA share.

Purple Cape Cauliflower forming, greens in the high tunnel, Farmer Brian with our new seeding set up in the red barn…

We’ve been busy gearing up for the 2018 season!  Last month we cleaned out the propagation house and got our seeding area organized in the red barn.  Brian built a new bench which is now the perfect height and easy to clean debris off between seeding sessions. In just a few days, Brian seeded over 200 trays of storage onions, shallots, bunching onions and cipollinis (over 20,000 onions!).  We were like a well oiled machine as I mixed the potting soil + amendments and filled trays while Brian seeded them all. We even started some beets, lettuce and spinach to be planted as some of our first crops for the Spring and Summer CSA. Whoop whoop! Over the upcoming weekend, we’ll seed our first peppers and tomatoes that will be planted out early in the high tunnels followed by kale, broccoli, chard etc…

We’re pretty excited about the new germination chamber we have established in our old cooler. Our friend and fellow farmer Jason from Local Roots Farm in Washington suggested this idea to us.  It’s the perfect place for germinating seeds because it’s so well insulated and maintains a constant temperature and humidity.   In order to accomplish that, we put one heater in there as well as a slow cooker filled with water (for moisture/high humidity). It’s been keeping it at a steady 80* with 95% humidity and have been germinating seeds like crazy!

Savoy cabbage up close, overwintered red radishes, the first of the PSB (purple sprouting broccoli)

Our current protocol is.. we fill all our seedling trays with seedling mix, seed the trays (and depending on the seed size/shape we either do that by hand or using our vacuum seeder), cover them up and water them real heavy. Then we load them up on the gator and into the germination chamber they go. We had beets and lettuce germinate in less than 24 hours! Onions only took 72 hours. We’ve been really happy with it and it’s much more efficient than the heat mats we used to use in the propagation house. Once the seedlings have germinated/start to emerge the trays are moved to the propagation house where they’ll continue to grow until they are planted later this Spring.

We seeded the first carrots of 2018 in one of the high tunnels last month as well as another round of arugula.   If all goes well, the carrots should be ready for the first Spring/Summer CSA pick up in May. We have plans of weeding the other high tunnels over the weekend that currently house some spring greens for Winter CSA – lettuce, spinach, arugula, radish, bok choy, parsley, cilantro etc.

We went on a crop walk at the beginning of the week and spotted the first Purple Cape Cauliflower with their tiny little buds in the center. We’re hoping that the current dry stretch in the 10-day pulls through as the plants could use a little sunshine and less sog (it was so soggy at the end of January!). Half of the Purple Sprouting Broccoli varieties are all about to take off and despite how different every winter is it is right on time! The Kale Rapini looks like it’s a few weeks earlier than usual and we started harvest on that this week.   Crazy to think that this time last year all the snow had melted and we were accessing how all the crops looked in the field (the ultimate “selection event” – selecting the hardiest ones for next generation) only to be followed by a classic mild Oregon winter this year. We’re expecting a few chilly nights over the weekend but (knock on wood) it’s been a really nice Winter thus far.

Spigarello, taking a cruise around our annual pond & a freshly tilled high tunnel awaiting all of springs possibilities…

We received our soil test results a few weeks ago and are working with our soil guy at Marion Ag to perfect this year’s organic fertilizer blend. We don’t have many inputs into the soil but the few things that we do put into the soil (the omri certified compost, our custom organic fertilizer blend, the organic potting soil mix for transplants) are so important for healthy soil biology. We’ve seen some major improvements since our first season and it feels good to continue making strides in a positive direction for the health of our community, the soil, the plants, the animals, the rivers and the streams…

Speaking of rivers and streams… A week ago, after harvest, Brian & I went for a canoe ride around the annual pond in the back 40 of the farm. This is our annual flood (after a few weeks of rain and rising ground water) where our “said unnamed creek” meets the Tualatin River. Usually by now we would have had several floods but this is the first time all winter that this low area has flooded! I love knowing this piece of land the way that we do. And after just one week of sun (and no rain) the pond has already disappeared… I like making these notes because each season and year is unique (and it helps me remember things more clearly) especially when I go back and read what the previous season was like at this time.

January King cabbages, Farmer Beth coming to help out last month and Gloucester taking in the morning from above…

Harvest help! In the Winter months it’s just Brian and I here on the farm doing all the things (harvest, maintenance, building, growing, planning etc). But last month Miss Beth from @evenpullfarm was nice enough to come lend me a hand during one of our Winter CSA harvests after Farmer Brian pulled a muscle in his leg pretty good.   It was extremely helpful to have her willing hands and it was really fun to have her company. It’s amazing to have a community of farmers around to help out in a pinch or a pull 😉  Farmer Brian is on the mend now though after some rest and some stretching – he’s as good as new and we’ve been kicking some butt and keeping real busy!

This upcoming week I’m heading to an Organic Farmer Conference for a few days (Brian will be staying back to hold down the fort and set up for CSA). I’m really looking forward to hearing different perspectives from other farmers and to go on a few hikes in the woods with fellow farmer friends. It will be a nice refresher as we gear up to Spring into Action!

That’s all from the farm!  We hope you all have a wonderful weekend and are enjoying the Winter bounty.  Fingers crossed it’ll be an early Spring (unlike last year with the record amounts of rain… do you remember that?)  We’re really looking forward to the season ahead and sharing the bounty with all of you!

With Kind Regards,

Your Farmers

Jess & Brian

dirty hands, clean hearts