Tag Archives: kale

massive update

i haven’t written anything since november.

and yet i welcome several new subscribers – surprising given the infrequency.  welcome new subscribers – i hope you enjoy and will provide feedback.

it’s not because nothing has been happening, quite the contrary.  we have been going full steam for the last few months – and it’s only this last weekend that we reached a point at which we could take anything resembling a break.  considering that s threw her back out and have been having to do child care and adult care for the last day or so it’s not really much of a break.

we have been steady working on this house and the yard since we bought the house, but have really stepped up our efforts once we learned that our son had elevated lead levels.

nothing drastic, but cause for alarm. things appear to be under control now, but we have had to take major measures to get them under control.  i’ll likely write more about lead, testing, and dealing with it, later, but in the meantime i’m just gonna update ya’ll on what projects we have done in order to get lead under control.

first was the stripping of paint in areas where encapsulation wouldn’t work.  namely the threshold of the front door.  next was encapsulation – woodwork in the pantry and kitchen had to be encapsulated and then painted to match the other woodwork.  i also encapsulated a couple of walls in the pantry.  they still haven’t been painted yet as i still have some plaster work to do on other walls before we paint the whole pantry.  the hallway leading down to the basement needed to be encapsulated as well, and then painted.

speaking of the basement, as though lead weren’t an issue enough we found out that we had fraying asbestos tile on the floor of the basement.  we paid some one certified to remove it.


my lungs just seemed worth the cost.  what i didn’t think about was all the glue aka mastic that would be left over.  it was a huge pain to get off – taking me weeks of weekends and nights to get it up.  i’m thankful to the following podcast for getting me though it: serial, 99% invisible, radiolab, snap judgement, the champs, and invisibilia.

at least as much time has been spent moving things around the basement, as we had to clear everything out when they removed the tile, and then we had to move it to remove the mastic.  i think that’s what made s throw out her back.

we are now putting the basement back together, and i’m really happy with the way it’s turning out.  it’s making more sense and taking into account how we need to access and use the space.  my favorite part is that we have moved the chest freezer and canning supplies closer to the stairs so when cooking you can quickly pop down to the basement and grab some items out of the larder. larder

in addition to encapsulation and stripping, another strategy for dealing with the lead has been removal.  the back door casing was covered in chipping lead paint, and the door was super drafty so we replaced it.  i could have replaced it myself – but i knew it was going to be serious pain – and i had plenty of other projects to work on, so i also paid someone certified to do that as well.  he told me it would take him a morning.  as expected – it was a bigger pain than expected – it took him until 6 at night.  no more draft! i still need to replace the molding – and since the original was cover in lead paint i bought new stuff – but couldn’t find anything that would match the original, but i think it still looks ok.  door1door2

in the process of replacing the door and molding, we damaged some plaster and realized that much of it was pulling away for the lath.  we wanted to save as much as we could, but some was just to far gone to repair. s and i spent new years eve watching youtube videos on plaster repair and new years day doing plaster repair – we know how to party.  we were really impressed with the ease of use of big wally’s plaster magic – as well as the youtube videos they have to learn how to use the product.  door3

the other major repair project was to put a floating floor down in one of the bedrooms.  it had been painted with lead paint on the floor, and rather than try and remove the paint, we decide the simplest thing would be put a new floating floor over top of it.  i’m impressed with how quickly it went together.  one long day plus a couple hours the next day and we were done, and s is very happy with the result.  super big thanks to my brother in law david for his help. floor

at the farm, the biggest event of the fall for me was starting mushrooms.  i’ve been missing growing mushrooms since i left the farm i trained at over 12 years ago.  i’ve tried to convince folks a number of times to take on the task of growing mushrooms – but it’s never really caught on.  this fall we had a crew from radical mycology come out and lead a beginners workshop on mushroom growing. radicalmycology

we caught the bug pretty hard and harvested all fall and will be starting up a crop of oyster mushrooms again in the spring.  mushrooms

a bit simpler – but equally exciting to those of us obsessed with cycling nutrients – we built new compost sifters.  this is the third iteration of sifters we have been working on – and the big improvement is using slit steel rather than chicken wire.  sifter1

the steel comes from one of my favorite places in detroit: federal pipe and steel. this place is a museum of a hardware store, full of oddball items i can’t find anywhere else.  the staff know just about everything – though they don’t really let on unless you ask.  and the cashiers all seem to be punx.  if you visit you shouldn’t miss out on marcus burger.  it’s the real detroit deal.


this new sifter can accommodate two, count em, two wheelbarrows at once.  i think the slit steel will last a lot longer than the chicken wire – but only time will tell.  i’m happy with them.

on the homegrown front, we have been eating out of the hoop house all winter- at first mostly arugula, but for the last month only spinach and kale.  the big lesson is to plant more kale next fall.  i love having it, but it grows really slow in the winter.  spinach continues to be the workhorse of the winter hoop house – cold, dry, doesn’t seem to faze it, we have had great harvests all winter.harvest

i was hoping for a milder winter, and the temps have been slightly warmer, and snow a little lighter, but we still have been dumped on, almost 20 inches last week alone.


still we prepare for the growing season.  we have already started tomatoes (perhaps a post about them soon)  and sweet potatoes are started on the window sill.


likely way too early, but we all have our methods of trying to stave off cabin fever, mine is starting plants for the next season.

what’s going on with you?


photos from the first week in may 2012

most recent installment of photos from around the farm.  tomatoes planted into kalemustard greenscarrots in the hoopcurrantspuckering and color change on the currant leaves caused by aphid feedinggooseberries apple flowersflowers on some collards that overwinteredpepper transplantsgarlicoverwintered onionsspring kale poking out of the row coverpaw paw planted in the woody area that managed to avoid trampling.  about four years old new bees pulling in pollen spring anemone.  that’s it.  what’s happening in yr garden?

photos from the first week of march 2012

welcome new readers!  we have had several new subscribers.  hope you will make some comments – it adds to the fun.

we made it to march.  as mild a winter as its been, it’s still be a long one.  i’m still ready for spring, and march helps me to feel like it just might come.  maybe.  so lets proceed with this months batch of random photos.

do you ever get sick of these shots of the inside of the hoop house?  i don’t.  lots of little spouts coming up.

freshly transplanted kale in the hoop house.

a praying mantis egg case on one of the currant bushes.

a service berry bud swelling and about to open.

a pile of branches from the recent pruning of the currant bushes.

collard transplants in the greenhouse.

tomato transplants.


new prototype compost sifter.  more on it later.  maybe a short film of it in action.

overwintered leeks.

compost laid down on beds to be planted in peas in a few weeks.

looking down through all the piles of compost.

garlic sprouts popping through straw.

writing soundtrack = can – tago mago

may the growing season begin!

we have been busy in the hoop house, harvesting lots greens and pulling up all the crops we planted in the fall to make way for spring plantings.  lettuce, spinach, arugula, spicy greens mix, beets, radishes, turnips, and mustard have all been planted in the last few weeks and are starting to sprout up.  it will be some time before these are ready to harvest – but we have spinach under low tunnels out in the field that will be ready about the time we clean out the hoop house.

please ignore how crooked the rows are, the farm is a learning facility, so we embrace mistakes.  some more than others.  under lights inside we are sprouting snap dragons.  super tiny and they need light to germinate.  the seeds look like dust.  even though they could be handled to prick out, i think i’m gonna try to wait a little while so these are easier to handle by non veteran pricker outers.   lots to prick out, over 110 flats for community gardens.  out in the greenhouse we have started picking out collards & kale into blocks.  these will go into the hoop house in a few weeks.  onions are sprouting up nicely.  these will be our early onions that will be ready for fresh eating in mid july.  we have also started the first of the tomato starts to go out into the hoop house.  may the growing season begin.

sound track:  celtic frost – morbid tales

first sprouts pop

i’m way behind with getting seedlings started.  these should have been seeded weeks ago to be able to go into the hoop house right about now.  it’s no bother, as the beds in the hoop house are just now getting prepped.

even if we are behind, this rainbow kale took no time sprouting. when i came into work on tuesday they had already sprouted, and we had only planted them thursday afternoon.  more impressive was that the tomatoes started sprouting later that afternoon, and they two had only been planted on thursdays too. usually it takes at least seven days for them to sprout.  they all go under the lights until they are ready to get pricked out into soil blocks, likely the end of this week.

greatest misses pt. 3

last of the greatest misses.  i’m up late, not sure if it’s the late day coffee or something i ate, but i just can’t seem to sleep.  i’ve got a lot of posts in the hopper and several days off so expect several more posts in the next few days.

ma’s first morel to discover, and our only morel of the season.

fall mustard greens in the high tunnel

quick hoops covered with row cover

radishes in the high tunnel

rainbow kale – list it in a seed catalog as being rainbow and i’ll buy it.  this turned out to be the surprise hit of the year, ma and i both loved it.

abandoned rock quarry in maine

romanesque broccoli – never got very big, but no one knew what it was so it wasn’t stolen out of the garden.

serviceberries in bloom

serviceberry fruit – not fully ripe – it was a pretty lousy year for service berries,

trilliums at the henry ford estate.

fall harvest and preparation for winter

the spring greens were truly amazing, but the fall greens are off the chain.  i still can’t get over how good they look and we are not even into the prime green growing season.


while i love all greens and especially kale – of all the brassicas if i only had to pick one, and it would be hard choice, it would be broccoli.  our spring broccoli was pretty much a bust, but the fall broccoli, might be the best we’ve grown.


we harvested the first of the heads this last week – a couple of them are in the fridge right now waiting for me to add them to a tasty omelet or a stir-fry.  with the main head removed the side shoots are already starting to form so we can keep cutting for weeks.

one of the main problems with having such tasty looking greens is that in addition to us picking them for the kitchen we have to deal with some pretty serious theft.

kale with its tops ripped off

while i don’t really care that much if folks take some kale and eat it, i’m extremely frustrated when the tops get ripped off like those seen in this picture.  it kills the plant making it so no one can harvest them, including the very same person who stole them in the first place.  i’m thinking of purchasing a motion controlled sprinkler to soak the culprit.  but that might just piss them off more and cause them to destroy the greens patch in rage.

this past week we also direct seeded 1000 row feet of scallions and storage onions each.  we also transplanted about 300 row feet of leeks.  all of this will be covered with row cover pretty soon, and eventually covered with plastic for the winter, to be harvested in the spring.


the parsley we planted a few weeks ago, despite some hot dry weather has managed to come back from the brink.


this too will be under cover pretty soon.  i’m looking forward to a very nicely early crop next year – and maybe even some winter harvests of parsley on warm sunny days.