Monday, February 27, 2012

NAUF goes to the Crop Mob at Janey's Farm

On a crisp February day there was only one thing a group of 14 crop mobbers needed to stay warm....Hugelkulture!!  So what exactly is Hugelkulture?  Lets consult Appropedia:

Hugelkulture is the practice of composting large woody material to create a raised garden bed. It is a way of dealing with excess amounts of woody garden wastes, for example prunings, hedge clippings, brassica stems, or brashwood.
The name comes from German - h├╝gelkultur translates as "hill culture".
The technique involves digging a circular trench about 1' (30 cm) deep and 5' (1.5 m) wide, in the centre of which is dug another hole 1' (30 cm) deep hole. The material is piled in. Turf (grass) is then stacked face down on top, then layers of compost, well rotted leaves and manure, etc as available. The layers break down slowly and creating rich humus over four or five years. It is claimed that this is ideal for growing hungry crops such as zucchinis (courgettes) or strawberries.
As the years pass, the deep soil of the raised bed becomes incredibly rich and loaded with soil life. As the wood shrinks, it makes more tiny air pockets - so your hugelkultur becomes self tilling. The first few years, the composting process will slightly warm the soil giving a slightly longer growing season, in temperate and cold climates.

Our goal was to create two Hugelkulture beds on contour with a path in the middle for access.  We started by digging out the beds and piling the soil we removed next to them.  We then gathered several truckloads of partially decomposed timber from the surrounding forest and placed it at the bottom of the beds, trying to fill in gaps by breaking the wood up into pieces and filling holes with smaller chunks.  We then gathered leaves from the forest and placed them on top of the wood, followed by a mix of the soil we removed from the beds and some finished compost.  We alternated leaves, compost and soil and then placed the remaining top soil on the beds.  The result was two wonderfully heaping Hugelkulture beds!

The energy from the mob was inspiring.  The beds seemed to dig themselves, materials marched out of the forest and came to rest right where they needed to be, and in a matter of a few hours we were finished!  

After accomplishing so much in so little time what were we to do?  First we spent some time warming up by the wood stove and enjoying cookies that Alexis had made for the group.  After our bellies were filled with delicious treats we loaded the crew in the bed of Tom's truck and went down to the soccer field in the Celo Community to witness the unleashing of a 20 foot wide pendulum constructed out of locust posts, rough sawn lumber and bowling balls!  What a sight!

When we arrived back at Janey's Farm Keenan got right to work preparing an amazing feast.  We dined on trout that were raised in the spring fed pond the Keenan caught a few hours before we arrived.  A delicious salad prepared by Becca and Ryan with greens from Mountain Gardens.  A beef bone, squash, barley and quinoa soup.  Topped off with a smattering of homebrews.  What a meal. 

After such an amazing day how could it get any better?  Waking to a mild sunny morning with buckwheat muffins, an amazing quiche and a fruit salad, thats how.  Thank you to all who made this day possible!  Looking forward to the next one!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A whole lotta goat manure

L-R  Keri, Alexis and Yvonne
That's a lot of kids
A big thanks goes out to Yvonne and HeatherLane Farms, based in Woodfin, NC for the soil boosting loads of goat manure that she donated and helped us load!  Yvonne has close to a 100 milk goats on her farm, so manure is a bountiful by-product of her operation.  She makes delicious fudge with the milk and sells to local cheese makers as well.  Highland's soil and plants were glad to receive a heaping trailer full of organic matter and Yvonne and the goats happy to have a clean barn.  

Monday, April 25, 2011

Of Dogwoods and Black Widows

A dynamic time of year. Is anyone else feeling it? A little coarse, rude, and hard to navigate at times. First sweet intoxication, smelly sensations everywhere, blossoms soliciting their nectar and jubilant demand for attention. We wanna be outdoors. All the time.

Bloom Report says quince, buck eye, strawberry, redbud, dogwood, lilac, sweet cicily, azalea, now iris. Being in the Spring now for 2 months. The soil has worn off our hands now for weeks. And now is about the time where the rubber meets the road and gardening.

I woke today tired. And brittle. My body has been working it for 2 months and is needing TLC and I can't find the reserve to make it so. Gardening activity is tiring. The projects around here are big (and inspiring) and require water and a song to set up a thriving situation.

And that's okay.

In my melancholy morning, I thought to take a seat and try breaking a many month meditation fast. That helped. And smiling to my heart. During the exercise, Mother Earth said to me, "the seeds you sow take time to ripen. You know that. You also know baby steps can be hard to see the progress. The dandelion trusts that at least a few brilliant ideas will find their fertile ground in time".

The newly transplanted elderberry, hops, rosa rugosa, peaches, etc. are needing mulching and our shipment of hay hasn't come in yet. This commitment and devotion to the plant world comes on strong. The obligation can feel overwhelming as a farmer.

"It's an incremental thing", she says. "These activities remind yourself to bend, to fortify yourself, practice self-care for you body mind and spirit. That might not be such a bad thing to be reminded of every once in awhile."

I laid in the hammock for my first visit this year. Before the dreamworld overtook me completely, I stirred to a black widow walking down my arm. I watched her and asked her to be on her way peacefully. Last week in the garden, I had intuitions of asking for protection from the spider kingdom. Sure enough, a black widow was on the bottom of my bucket where I was to place my finger. I'm still sorting out what 2 encounters in one with with black widows means to me.

I ate my first strawberries from the ground after the sow bugs dug a few dents. I asked them to step aside. Bringing the strawberry to my lips, they were perfectly rosey and deep and succulent. Right. I remember. A reminder to tend the joy inside.

~ Keri

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Musings of the last month

Hi Yaw'l. Welcome to Springtime! North Asheville Urban Farmers have been busy sourcing cardboard, getting overly patient plants into the ground, tending fruit trees in urban parks, fortifying rabbit cages, designing and scheming and playing general catchup. The work or farming and sincere cultivation takes a certain temperament: One not too harsh on oneself - there is more to do, more inspirations to catch, plants to tend. Sunsets come fast and deserve savoring, as with the friendships in ourselves, each-other and Momma Earth. Cultivate the happiness of the moment the lest we miss the lessons of life.
Here are photos on my camera of our springtime gatherings. The early season starts of seedlings proved a bit volatile for our seedlings: our starts hung out in an aphid infested greenhouse so the little guys have been through a lot of cayenne, onion, and garlic insecticidal soap and daily bug squashing. They are re-cooperating and a desperate to make it to their official home for the growing season.
The labels are for the Highland Street garden. Over the last few years, we have started a micro nursery of accumulated species and experiments, graftings from Whipple's workshops, and herbal stowaways from Keri's herbal medicine classes. They have been kept in pots produced little, and (honestly)deprived of a just life. Being that we all are temporary here (landowners and renters unite), this year they'll receive a rightful home once we make it. The design has been created (Yes! One step closer). Now we need to source and spread compost and mulch.
Yesterday 4 peaches went into the ground! That's a start.
Enjoy the photos!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Site Feature - West

Hey y'all!

We're planning a big weekend here. Garden planning - log moving - clearing land - ACTION ACTION ACTION!

I thought I would give a little highlight on how things are looking right now at West and where we're thinking we might head as of now.

As I mentioned before West has some different kinds of challenges than our other sites. Once the trees leaf out we will loose most of the sunlight that falls on our wet soil. Two of these shade trees also happen to be Black Walnut's. Walnut trees -those of the genus Juglans- contain juglone, which is an herbicidal organic compound contained in all parts of the tree - especially the feeder roots. Some plants, particularly natives, are resistant to the compound, but many common garden vegetables suffer when exposed to juglone.

So what are we going to do about this?! Well - in the forest only the trees get premium sunlight and everything else has to deal. Among many other things, forest floors support animals, fruiting perennials, mushrooms, and compost all the waste material into nutrients. So I figure-lets do that.

Rabbit Shed -
We have put together a rabbit shed for a small backyard Rabbitry. The rabbits will provide meat, pelts, and high grade fertilizer. I chose the most removed and shady part of our yard for this shed. The footprint is 9 x 12 - a comfortable fit for an 8 cage set up. Below are pictures of our progress.

We still have to put up 4 more cages and finish the walls to call it done. If anyone comes across a cheap/free roofing material let us know!
The rabbit breeds we are starting with are Rex and Satins. We currently have two Rex's a buck and doe, as well as 4 Satin's; 1 buck and 4 does. The Satins are still a little immature but the Rex's should be just about settled enough to start breeding.

Mushrooms -
West will also be mushroom central for the North Asheville Urban Farmers. This weekend ~50 inoculated logs will be brought to rest here and act as a more "mature" batch of logs. Soon we will also be inoculating a whole new batch of recently felled wood into mushroom production. All of the first batch are Shiitake mushrooms on Oak logs. The new batches will include Oyster, Shiitake and Maitake mushrooms on Hickory, Maple, and Oak wood. We will also be working with Blewit mushrooms which will help break down our compost and provide wood. And finally as an experimental project we will be trying to produce oyster mushrooms on waste coffee grounds.

Compost -
Yet still in its early stages, West is on a mission to produce as much compost as possible this year. We have a great connection for coffee grounds and we are trying to make the most of it. For the cost of a short bike ride I get ~ 5 gallons of grounds a day and into the pile it goes! I'm also adding ground wood on the cheap (thanks to Sunrise Sawmill) and pretty much anything else we can get our hands on. If you want to keep your organic waste out of the dump feel free to drop it in our piles :)

Growing -
We're still trying to grow some plants this year and we are definitely expecting it to be a learning process. There is now a bed of brambles including Black Raspberries (Black Cap and Wine berry) Raspberries (Heritage) and Blackberries. Soon we will also be putting in a bed of Jerusalem Artichokes, and from there - I don't know what else. I'm definitely open to suggestions. Let me have it.

Thats our update for now. More to come as things progress.

Lots of love.

Tom C

Thursday, March 31, 2011

An Introduction

Thanks for stopping by!

We are a few upstart urban farmers in North Asheville. There are three yards and somewhere between 4 and 9 people depending on the day. We are lucky enough to have the energy and dedication of all these people combined with the varied opportunities that our three area's have to offer. Like everyone else we all have jobs which require lots of our time. Yet despite that, we have come together to pool our resources and knowledge to produce our own food and develop a community.

At The Sunny Side - there is the largest area and greatest resources. With the help of Smart Feller Tree Works about 10 dead and dying trees were safely removed to open up this garden space to much more southwestern exposure. Watch out for POISON IVY in the brush! The Sunny Side has 4 cold frame style greenhouses, lots of perennial fruit infrastructure and terraced beds with years of compost and attention paid to them. We started our seedlings in the greenhouses here, but just moved them to Highland due to heavy aphid pressure.

At Highland - there is full west/southwestern exposure and the combined expertise of its entrepreneurial residents. This will be the third year of food production at Highland. Like the Sunny Side it features a large cleared area and lots of infrastructure. One of it's biggest assets is the residency of a local business Healing Roots Design. Highland often acts as a central location for the Urban Farmers to get wound up or to wind down depending on the time of day.

At West - there is a very different sort of opportunity - Shade. Where some have thought little space and sun might indicate that urban farming is impossible we are exploring the opportunities bestowed on us by a shady space and a friendly landlord. West features a start-up rabbitry and will be in heavy mushroom production. There is also room for long term composting piles and shade/walnut tolerant food production.

Tom C

Our Wish List

Building materials
Buckets with lids
Organic Material (mulch, chips, compost, etc.)
Beekeeping supplies
Plant material
Pond liner (kiddy pool, old bathtub)
Clear Plastic