Friday, October 24, 2008

New Website and Knitting Classes

Just a quick note to announce the launch of my website,! It will eventually encompass most of my interests, including pages on eating locally, gardening, and knitting. Included are all of my favorite resources, projects, experiences, and of course, the blog.

Also up is my knitting class schedule: Two beginning level sock classes will be held at Courthouse Coffee: Saturday November 1st will be socks from the top down and Saturaday November 15th, socks from the toe up. See the website for details and reservations.

Please be sure to forward this to anyone who might be interested in my ramblings or knitting classes.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sierra Nevada Small Farm Progress Days

Sierra Nevada Small Farm Progress Day is an annual event that promotes small-scale farming and forestry in the Sierra Nevada region through education, networking and the demonstration of appropriate equipment and production methods. Today marked their 3rd Annual event with a trade show, farmer fair, demonstrations and more.

The Sierra Nevada foothills have historically been an area that has had a large ag industry. However, many of the common tools used today in agriculture only reflect the needs of the home gardener, or the large corporation farm. Lack of appropriate equipment, especially to use on slopes, and the purchasing power of larger groups are the primary setbacks to our small farming community.

Lynn Miller, editor of the Small Farm Journal, was the keynote speaker. I was running the front desk and missed it, but heard several people having interesting discussions after his talk. Drooling Dog from Colfax was on hand for those lucky souls who did not bring a lunch. If you're up in Colfax, be sure to check their awesome Raspberry
BBQ sauce!

Vendors came from as far away as Oregon, maybe further. I'm not sure about a couple of the vendors. There was horse drawn equipment, people drawn equipment, and demonstrations of most of the equipment. A unique farmer show and tell allowed farmers to gather together, exchanging ideas, techniques, and discussing the merits and faults of their options.

And of course there was the Farmer Olympics. There were four events: the pumpkin/wheelbarrow challenge, electric fence setup, a persimmon toss relay, and finally, a cross-cut saw speed challenge. As with other sporting events, there were accusations made about professionals playing as amateurs, questionable judging practices, clever interpretations of the rules, drug use (does ibuprofan count?) and lots of fun had by all.

There was also this sign, "What is this item? Guess correctly and win a t-shirt":

Since the event is over I can share with you that it is a horse-drawn celery tiller. It mounds up the soil onto the celery plant, which would be very tedious to by hand. There were deemed to be three correct answers. Other answers included furrower, potato planter, and ditcher.

There are still two remaining Small Farm Progress Field Days this year: Forestry Field Day on Sunday, October 26th, and Orchard Field Day on Saturday, November 8th. For more information and locations, check out

Saturday, October 11, 2008

First Frost!

Thursday night was our first night of frost, followed by our second night on Friday. It was enough frost to burn the tender foliage of the nightshade and squash families. I want to put frost fabric over the tomatoes to extend the season for as long as possible, although I'll probably pull out the eggplants and squash plants. The peas and brassicas, celery and parsley look quite happy. The upper garden doesn't seem to be as frost damaged, but I'll still need to spend some time winterizing everything.

What do I mean by winterizing? I want to divide and move some plants around, wrap up fall weeding and pruning, pull out annuals, cover the ground with rice straw, which serves as erosion control and organic mulch. Why rice straw? All straw has some seed in it, so if you use a grass straw like oat or wheat, you'll end up with more grasses to weed later. Rice seed will not germinate in normal garden conditions, so it's preferred for use as mulch material. I've also planted a legume mix cover crop in the beds I'm not using over winter, which will fix nitrogen, increase organic matter and keep the soil from being bare.

The weather has been tricky to manage with the chicks. They are not quite feathered enough to stay out all night, especially not with frost in the air. We have winterized the chicken coop to keep it dry and protected from wind, and the coop is placed behind the house where it tends to be calm and protected anyway, but still not warm enough for our 6-week old chicks. They go out each morning and are collected each evening and brought inside.
We arranged the chicken yard with chick havens where the big, bad rooster (Kazoo) can't get them.

I spent the afternoon getting my booth ready for the Placer Farm & Barn Tour tomorrow. I think I'm ready. All of the wristwarmers are tagged, the big stuff is in the car and the small stuff is all packed and ready to be carried out in the morning. If you come out, be sure to stop by Thompson Ranch and say hi!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Placer Farm & Barn Tour

Have you ever been to a farm to pick out a pumpkin, drink hot cider and take a wagon ride? How about festivals featuring local produce? Or visited a winery located in the heart of the vineyard where the grapes are grown? If the answer is yes, then you have participated in the increasing trend of agritourism.

Agritourism is one of the hottest trends linking people to their local agriculture. Many local farms, ranches, orchards and vineyards have open days for visiting their establishment, where you have a chance to meet and greet with the owners, get the inside scoop on the local products and enjoy the open space.

More fun is looking for special event days, when vendors, artists and entertainers gather together for a fun-filled day. The upcoming Placer County Farm & Barn Tour, is such an event, featuring ten stops at local ranches, orchards, farms and wineries right here in our county. Each stop has a line up of artists and entertainment, and is a great time to start on your holiday shopping. For example, I'll be at a working sheep ranch in Auburn, Thompson Ranch, selling knitted items of my own design and running an on-going knitting demonstration area.

When: October 12th, 10am-4pm (Sunday)
Where: Placer County
Cost: $10, kids free

For more information, ticket sales, listing of tour sites and anything else you might want to find out, check out the Farm & Barn website. I hope to see you there.