Tag Archives: spinach

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?


hoop house planting

we have been eating out of the hoop house for at least a month – mostly arugula, swiss chard and mustard greens for salad.  rather than purchase new seeds i just sowed heavily what old seed we had.  i had pretty poor results, and plenty of spots were left blank.  later i went and bought some new seed and seeded two beds in spinach and one in arugula. spinachandarugulathis photo was taken a few weeks ago – and these plantings are actually further along now, i’m expecting that they will be ready to harvest in a couple more weeks – and since it’s more spinach and arugula than we can eat i’m planning on selling a little to help offset the cost of building the hoop.  plantingwe also planted a mid october planting in those blank spaces left over from the poorly germinating seed- which should be ready quite late if at all this year – it may be the first harvest of next year.

winter harvest carrots and spinach

we harvest the last of the bulk of the winter harvest out of the hoop house this week.  we left a little chard, spinach and lettuce, but all the carrots have now been dug.they are a little smaller than we would like but, on account of getting them in too late, but they are about as sweet as any carrot i’ve had.  i couldn’t resist eating a handful of them raw while washing them up.  roasted with a little orange juice and cumin and they were wonderful.

now that the hoop house is almost fully cleaned up, and the weather is starting to break, we have started  harvesting out of the hoops in the field.we easily harvested eight pounds in about 15 minutes, there is so much under the hoops, and we barely made a dent.  it’s not nearly so big as last years spinach, but very healthy all the same.

it feels pretty good to be able to harvest 50 pounds of carrots, plus plenty of greens on the last day of february.

photos from the first week of february

i’ve been crazy busy.  grants, work, class, board meetings, and strategic planning are kicking my butt.  Not much end in sight until march when hopefully things will chill out.

quick housekeeping

1. i was hoping that my last post of food justice would generate some discussion on people’s thoughts in regard to what food justice means to them.  it’s not too late to start the conversation.

2. for those that are not into the twitter thing – i’ve added a twitter feed to the side of the main page.  lots of the links to media that i used to post are now posted there – so you might want to keep and eye on that. or you can just sign up and follow on twitter.

ok now back to the post.  despite being so busy, i did have enough time to snap a few photos around the farm – if i had waited a day later to take them we would finally see a blanket of lovely white snow. in the hoop house we are still harvesting a little, but much of it has been ripped out and we are replanting.  still too cold to install irrigation, we are forced to water by hand. the first radish sprouts – only a week to sprout even in cold weatheronions under the hoopsspinach under the hoops – it’s ready to harvest, but part of my year round harvest strategy is to not harvest on this until we have pulled the last of the greens out of the hoop house.  it helps to fill that late winter early gapflipping and building compost piles in the warm weathertiny mushrooms in the compost.

writing soundtrack = slum village – fantastic vol. 2

photos from the first week in january

i’m bit late with the posting, but not with the photos – they were still taken all in the first week of january.  its been a strange january, sunny days, several days above 40, and no snow on the ground.  it’s made my mental attitude excellent, and bike riding much easier, but i’m still plagued by the idea that we are gonna get slammed with super cold and snowy weather soon.

on with the photos

bees out on a sunny daydrinking from the bottom of a bucketinside the hoop housespinach inside the hoop houseswiss chard inside the hoop housethe largest garden, no snow, hoops in the background, some kale still holding on. garlic sproutonions under the quick hoops

photos from the first week in december

i’m falling more and more behind with updates! not that i haven’t been writing, but mostly that i’ve been working on other writing projects, more on that later. glad ma is helping take up the slack with soap posts.

we have really turned the corner into winter in the last few weeks, light snows falling most evenings this week.  We have a nice inch blanketing the ground right now, wet and stuck to trees and making everything look so lovely.  since it has become so cold, it means most of our work is moving indoors into the hoop house, where many of these photos were taken.

asparagus mulched for the winter and turning a lovely shade of yellow.the greenhouse, new floor installed and cleaned up.  i feel bad that i have to mess it up by growing in it. a pile of bee equipment ready to get cleaned up and stowed for the winter.compost pile in the hoop house, full of lots of fresh spent grain and worms.  we have been collecting lots of worms out of this pile for worm bins.  this is turning into very, very nice compost once it breaks down.  it gonna be so much fun to spread it out in a couple of months when we begin planting again. row cover over the crops in the hoop house.  we need to get cloths pins to hold this taunt, it should not sag like this.  spinachscallionshakurei turnips! so sweet!swiss chardsnow gathers on the side of the hoop house.mustard greens these are the same ones i took photos of last winter.  they just keep holding on.  row cover over onions and spinach.  still in need of plastic over them.compost piles!  we are just about out of room in our current area.  time to move to the spot by the hoop house!

spinach on steroids

the spinach at work that we overwintered  is of epic proportions.  some have asked what sort of fertilizer we have been using. we have been using none, other than good old compost. as my hand for reference you can see that the leaves are enormous.  huge and yet still tender.   soon it will begin to bolt, but the spinach in the high tunnel will be ready to harvest by that time.  while the use of low tunnels has been a bit of a struggle, in the end the spinach is a testament to their usefulness.  i certainly plan to use them again this winter, with a few changes.  between the low tunnels and the addition of a more user-friendly hoop house we are able to increase our yields out in the fields and the variety of product we have at market.  usually this time of year it’s only asparagus.  this year we have spinach, leeks, scallions, radishes, and salad greens.  next year i expect we will more than doubled that variety, and even greater yields.