Archive for ‘A Farmer’s Perspective’

May 14, 2013

A farmer’s perspective 5/14/2013

Dahinda, IL: I have started to plant a few things like tomatoes and peppers. We suffered some wind damage to our hoop house over the winter so we were not able to utilize it much. Smiling Frog Farm will not have a CSA this year. We will use much of what we grow this year ourselves or sell some extra to Knox College; or at the farmers market in Oneida, Illinois. We are still selling eggs this year though from our free range chickens and ducks. These are available from our farm and at Vintages Tasting Room in Galesburg, Illinois. We have also been raising hogs for several years now and had a new litter earlier this year. I am also planning on growing many varieties of hot pepper; okra; and several ethnic vegetables such as Italian cucumber/melon, Italian zucchini, some Chinese melons, Chinese long bean, and komatsuna; some heirloom varieties of other vegetables like Roy’s Calais Flint Corn from High Mowing Seeds.

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May 2, 2013

A farmer’s perspective 5/2/2013

Dahinda, IL: I have started to write blog posts to The Local Beet. It is a Chicago Area local food blog. http://www.thelocalbeet.com/ You may start see some of what I write over there appear here.
It finally warmed up allowing time for some planting. I have some tomatoes and eggplants planted and will get more in this weekend along with peppers. I also planted some shallot starts. I grew them from seed in a previous year and it did not work out so well due to the weather and other factors. I have a flat of King Arthur bell peppers to plant. They performed tremendously the last two years despite the drought. I will not plant California Wonders again. I think that they are for a California climate or any place with a longer growing season than Illinois since they do not start producing in abundance until September. The peppers themselves are small as well.
I also got several Marglobe tomato plants. I have not grown these in years but remember that they really do well. They are listed as an heirloom tomato now as they are an open pollinated variety. Better Boy tomatoes are a hybrid version of these, I believe.
I will continue to work on getting the hoop house back in shape after the heavy wind damage during the winter. We have 3 Mallard and 2 Pekin ducklings that were given to us by a woman who wanted to give them to her grandchildren for Easter. The children’s mother said no and we have them now.
We have set up an area outside for them since the adult Khaki Campbells that we have do not get along with them. We set them out last weekend and turned our backs for a second. In that time the male Khaki went after them driving the Pekin ducklings away. It took us hours to find where they were hiding and they were obviously roughed up. Lesson learned! The adult ducks were not even in the vicinity when we let the ducklings out but a couple of minutes are all it took!
We put our current litter of piglets back in with their mother now that they are weaned and mom is dried up. They had been out on the same pasture with the llamas and goat but they could not stay. As they grow up they would have plowed the entire pasture up leaving no food for the llamas and the goat. They have an area roughly half the size now to run around in and seem happy. They seem to be growing much faster than the last littler. The last litter was raised during the winter and probably had to fight off the cold as well as put on weight. A tall order! This will probably mean that this litter will require less feed to bring to market weight (250lbs or so).

April 25, 2013

A farmer’s perspective 4/25/2013

Dahinda, IL: It has been cold and rainy all spring. It seems that winter does not want to give up! I have not plated much yet. A couple of rows of potatoes and a few tomatoes in the hoop house. The hoop house took a battering over the winter. The windows that I put up on each end last year, to replace parts blown down during the previous winter, were all blown out by the wind. Even the plexiglas windows in the storm door on the west end!

On April 23rd we brought 4 hogs that were raised over the winter to the Elmwood locker in Elmwood, Illinois. These will be processed for several people who wanted farm fresh pork. My neighbor helped out and provided the stock trailer, and his truck, to transport them. Since my truck gets stuck in wet grass we decided not to use it! It was, of course, rainy and cold and we were knee-deep in mud trying to get the hogs into the stock trailer. They ran in all directions except in the direction of the ramp we set up so they could get into the trailer. Chasing them around was not made any easier by the fact that my feet sank down two feet into very thick mud every where I stepped. I almost lost a boot several times. Eventually they figured out where to go and away they went!

August 7, 2012

A farmer’s perspective 8/7/2012:

Dahinda, IL: According to the National Weather Service, drought conditions will continue for at least the next 10 days. It would be nice to get at least a little rain to soften the ground for fall plantings. I have some broccoli and cauliflower started that should be ready in September. This all depends on what the weather is going to do. I am not sure how well they will grow if the 100+ days return. I also have garlic for next year that will have to be planted this fall. This will need rain as well to grow and so it will come up in the spring.
Another problem with this drought is that the pastures stop growing. There is less and less for our animals to eat. I will have to lay in a supply of hay but since this needs water to grow, it may be expensive.

July 23, 2012

A farmer’s perspective 07/23/2012

Dahinda, IL: I have had to put planting of fall crops on hold since the 100 + degree temperatures continue. Seeds will not sprout in that high of a temperature. Later this week it is supposed to cool down and maybe I will be able to get something in at that time. Tomatoes, for some reason, are not ripening for me or for many others here in Western Illinois. Peppers are doing fine but I am sure that the yield would hve been higher if there was more rain. The National Weather Service has said that this weather pattern is supposed to hold on until the end of October! I am laying in a supply of hay early this year. One reason is the fact that no rain means no grass for our livestock to eat. Another reason, of course, is that there may be no hay for the rest of thei year! Better to get it now than find out that there is no hay later down the road!

July 16, 2012

A farmer’s perspective 7/16/2012

Dahinda, IL:  Although there was a little rain, 1/10″, over the weekend, it is still very dry. We really need a good soaking rain to bring the rainfall amounts up to normal. Hopefully we will get more before I start planting fall crops but we will be back in the upper 90’s this week.  I tried several different types of eggplant this year in our hoophouse. The eggplant does better in the hoophouse since it seem that the pests that attack eggplant, such as flea beetles, do not like the hoop house environment.

The eggplant varieties that seem to do the best in the hoophouse are the Italian varieties, several of the white types and a long green variety called Louisiana Long Green Eggplant. Apparently the Louisiana Long Green Eggplant is less bitter than the normal black varieties. I have never tried them before but they seem to be the most vigorous out of the bunch this year. We should start to see them in the CSA bags in the next couple of weeks.

The Melrose Peppers that we have will be coming on strong very soon. Melrose is a variety developed by Italian truck farmers in the Chicago area, especially in Melrose Park,  about a century ago. The variety we have was bred to be larger than the normal Melrose by a man in Melrose Park, Illinois.  Our tomato crop seems to be stalled. It is probably due to the lack of rain. There are many fruits on the vine but they do not seem to want to get ripe. They should start ripening soon and we will have a lot then!

July 9, 2012

A farmer’s perspective 7/9/2012:

Dahinda, IL: We are working hard to prepare to replant much of the garden that has been ravaged by this year’s drought! I am going to do more zucchini, carrots, broccoli raab, and other fall garden types. The tomatoes and peppers are still coming but they have been slow due to the 100+ temperatures oner the past week or so.

Russia, India and few other major agricultural countries are also having droughts. Some of them multi-year droughts. In the past, I would say that this is a great time to be farming because the price of food is going to go through the roof. It would normally be a lot cheaper to grow it yourself in years such as these. But since it has been so rough this year in this country as well, I am not so sure!

July 3, 2012

A farmer’s perspective 7/2/2012

Dahinda, IL: This past week we got a little rain. This is great but it does not mean the drought is over. This summer so far I have lost my carrot, spinich, swiss chard, and chinese cabbage crops due to the dry weather and the high temperatures. Much of the cucumber, squash, and lettuce have been slow to come or, in the case of the lettuce, bolted early. Tomatoes are coming along as are peppers and I am going to make another try at a late crop of carrots,zucchini, and other crops. This week we are not going to get a break. It will be in the upper 90’s all week! Hopefully we will continue to get rain, and break the drought, in spite of the hot weather!