Has it really been 18 months since I have written a blog post? Unfortunately, Yes! We have been working and healing the farm hard and heavy over the past year and a half. After a very successful third year we are finally having a bit of rest time. During our "off season" we will be getting our 2018 CSA season sign ups set up, crop planning, move our high tunnel to a new location, and several other projects! One of my resolutions this year is to make our blog a priority and journal more about our adventures in farming. Since life is busy with farming full time, seven children, and homeschooling I don't get a lot of time to sit!!! However, I do update our Facebook and Instagram several times a week so you can see what we are up to. We wish all of you a Happy New Year and pray that 2018 brings us all happiness, good health, and prosperity!
If you play Monopoly, you understand the title of my blog post. If you aren't a player of Monopoly, let me explain. Last Wednesday, around 4:30, the clouds started rolling in and the thunder rolled. The children and I all prayed that we would get some rain on the farm. Our soil was so dry and we were constantly running the irrigation lines to the garden beds and overhead sprinklers.
A customer arrived to pick up her produce and we were aware that the storms were to the south of us with some strong wind and hail reported. We laughed and hoped that the severe weather would miss us and just a little rain would be awesome. Well, we got the rain. Lots of rain. We also got the severe weather. Once the skies opened up it didn't stop raining for nearly six hours. In those six hours we received six inches of heavy, downpour rain, 70 mph winds, and pea to nickel sized hail.
Our garden plots suffered severe damage. We lost a majority of our crops and those that weren't destroyed completely, are most definitely damaged extensively. I walked the garden plots during the storm, the morning after, and then again the following day. Our initial walk through of the gardens consisted of ankle deep water and some hail damage to our leafy greens. The following morning, with further inspection, we realized the damage was much greater. Our tomatoes had the growth tips of their vines snapped off. Peppers were stripped of all of their leaves, summer squash vines snapped and lots of damage to leaves, young melon plants with their leaves completely pulverized, and our cucumber plants completely gone! Our plastic mulch that we use for many of our vegetables had numerous dents and holes from the pounding hail.
So, how does Monopoly relate to Serenity Farm? Well, we get to start over from scratch. We fortunately have some seed available to replant. We can replant our cucumbers, melons, summer squash, winter squash, green beans, okra, and a few other vegetables. It's too late in the season to do anything about our peppers, eggplants, or tomatoes. Our high tunnel did survive the storm (with the same dents and holes as the plastic mulch) and we have around 300 tomato vines in there that are starting to produce tomatoes! We have had a few customers ask what they can do to help. Well, prayers are always great, but we also could use the help to replant. If you are at all interested in coming out to put a few seeds in the ground or pull some weeds that are taking over, we would love the help! Early mornings or early to late evenings (7-9pm) are the best since it's not as HOT outside! Bring your kiddos out and our kiddos can show them all the vegetables, gardens, pond, and more.
To all of our CSA members...thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your thoughts and prayers and for being so understanding. We know that acts of God can overwhelm the best laid plans. We will finish the 2016 season, with less than we had hoped, but as you get to know us you will find that we are not a family that gives up easily and we persevere through all obstacles and challenges that we face.
Blessings to all of you!
Until next time,
We have been busy on the farm non-stop since early April. The children have been a huge help this season getting transplants in the ground, mowing garden plots, winding up irrigation lines, taking care of our new chicks, and helping harvest, wash, and package our produce for deliveries and farmer's markets.
I don't have any pictures, but this past Sunday the girls and I planted over 500 summer squash. We planted yellow squash, three varieties of zucchini, and a couple of varieties of patty pan squash. They were super diligent in their work and kept at it until the work was done. We treated the family to dinner out and ice cream. After getting home, Brad and I went back to work in the fields, using headlamps once again. Brad did a little bit of direct seeding and I transplanted around 250 peppers before calling it a night. The last hour and half we worked in the rain, but it was a nice gentle rain that was quite soothing. We received over an inch and no flooding in the fields, which is an improvement for the last rainfall. Late April we received over two inches of rain and our tomato plot didn't fair too well. Luckily, I hadn't got everything transplanted and we were able to drain most of the water away. We lost some plants, but most of them rebounded.
Besides new chicks on the farm, we also have a couple new lambs. On Earth Day, Ray's ewe Mimi had a little girl we named April. Just last Saturday, Ray's other ewe, Snowball had a little boy named Cherokee. He is just as cute as can be! He is all brown, but has a white head. He definitely stands out in the all white herd.
On April 1st and 2nd we celebrated two birthdays. Samuel turned 8 and Ray turned 10. Sam had a farm cake and Ray a garden cake. They sure love their farming and gardening life!!!!
Today we had 300 sweet potato plants delivered that will go in the field tomorrow. We also have several hundred eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes that need to get in the ground now that the rains have passed and before the next round arrives. We are skipping a CSA delivery this week. With the rain and cloudy weather the crops have slowed their growth. We hope to deliver next week and the feedback we have received from members so far this season has been encouraging. Here is what one of our members had to say, "Local produce is a huge benefit and worth the risk of the “local weather” patterns…We’ve enjoyed the produce so far. The chard was really nice… the kids gobble it up. The microgreens have gone great in breakfast burritos". Another member had this to say, "...we love the greens this year. They look inviting to eat. We are enjoying the variety. Your hard work and the changes to the CSA program are great..." We love hearing what our members have to say. Please send us an email or call with any feedback, questions, or concerns.
Until next time,
Three weeks ago we woke up to the most beautiful snow we've seen in a long time. The snow was wet and heavy and stuck to everything. The children were so excited to FINALLY have some snow to play in and each built their own snowman. Our chickens however, were not so excited about the snow. In fact, our hens had never seen snow before! They were very slow to come out of the hen house that morning and one hen was caught catching a ride on one of our pig's back so that she could avoid walking in it. I hope you enjoy the pictures from our snowy Sunday! By mid-afternoon it had all melted and was one big muddy mess out there.
On this rainy Sunday we are taking the time to rest a bit, clean house, watch some movies, start wheat grass, and family game night to wrap up our day. We hope you had a relaxing day as well and we are so grateful for the rains that have fallen and more that is yet to come. The crops in the field are delighted and our wheat will surely hit a growth spurt now with all this moisture.
Until next time,
Starting next Saturday, April 2nd, you will find Brad or I at the Kansas Grown Farmer's Market (located at the Sedgwick Co. Extension Office on the corner of 21st and Ridge in Wichita) each week from 7am-noon. While we have enjoyed our Saturdays free for the last five months, we are looking forward to packing up the van each week and bringing our freshly picked, organically grown vegetables to all of the farmers market customers. While we prepare for the new market season, keep these tips in mind to make your trip to the market enjoyable and successful!
1. Come early for the best selection. If you want to be sure to get some of our awesome pasture raised eggs or the tastiest tomatoes or tender lettuce, come sooner rather than later.
2. Bring your own bags, cart, and cooler. While we supply plastic bags if you need them, they are not known for being very sturdy. If you have a small cart or stroller, bring it with you. After a few purchases, your arms are going to get tired. Last, during the summer months I highly recommend bringing a cooler along with you, even if you are headed straight home afterwards. If you purchase any meats or eggs, you'll want to keep them cool and/or frozen until you get home.
3. Bring cash if you can, and the smaller the bills the better! While we do have the ability to run credit cards, there is a small transaction fee. Plus, we have cash in hand for expenses immediately, verses waiting three to five days for the transactions to be deposited into our bank account. Our market also has wooden tokens available for purchase at the information desk (all credit, debit, EBT accepted there). Purchase a set amount of tokens and shop with those. Farmers are able to turn those in regularly for cash.
4. Ask questions on how the vegetables are grown. When I first started going to markets years ago, I naively thought that all the farmers grew organically. Boy was I wrong! We are certified organic for our commodity crops, but we just haven't done the paperwork on the vegetables. However, we follow all organic methods for our farm.. Turns out, we are one of only 6 or 7 growers at the market that do NOT use chemicals! If you want to know any farmer's practices before you purchase their produce, just ask. I personally love talking about our farm and I will tell you anything you want to know.
5. Ask for a sample or try a new vegetable that you haven't tried before. If you want to know how our honey drop cherry tomatoes taste compared to our red cherry tomatoes; just ask and we'll let you sample one. Never had Asian greens, winter pea greens, or patty pan squash before? Give one a try, take a recipe card home with you, and expand your vegetable palate!
For the 2016 market season we will not have a permanent booth location. Each week I will put on our Facebook page where within the market we will be on Saturday morning so you aren't having to hunt us down. Be sure to like our page so you know where we will be and what you can expect at our booth that weekend!
Until next time,
Hey ya'll...have you blown away yet? My goodness the windy conditions this past week have made it challenging to get work done, but as a farmer you learn to work with the weather, or at least in it so you can get your work done. We've continued to do farm cleanup and now have a designated spot for visitors to park when they come to the farm and a non-muddy location with shade for us to wash produce this season! We have also done some tree trimming that we'll burn when we don't have to risk burning the whole place down! Brad was able to spread more compost over our garden plots, plant some cover crops, and reseed the pasture. We got an inch of rain on the farm a week ago and now with some warmer temperatures things should really start growing!
While Brad has been busy preparing the beds for the season, I've been busy planting seeds, seeds, and more seeds! We have quite the collection of trays growing in our lean-to-greenhouse and here in the house. The girls and Isaac have been my helpers filling the trays with potting mix which saves me a lot of time. We have run short on seed trays, so we started making soil cubes. We take our potting mix and moisten it, but not too much and we use what is called a soil cube maker. You press the moistened potting mix into the cube maker and then press into your tray and you have a nice soil cube to plant your seeds into. We must water them gently in the beginning so that they won't fall apart, but once the plant forms a nice root mass the cube is quite sturdy. Transplanting will be easier for these plants since they won't be disturbed going into the ground. I will be planting most of our peppers and remaining head lettuces this way.
It's time to head out to the field and begin the transplanting process. We have to use the power harrow to work in the compost, lay the plastic mulch and irrigation tubing, and then we can plant! We have lots of broccoli, cabbage, kale, chard, and head lettuce that are ready to get in the ground!
Until next time,
I do, that's who! We went out to my in-laws to grab a few hay bales last weekend and I walked around the farm a bit, but mostly stayed on the driving paths. Somehow even though the poison ivy plant is dormant this time of year I managed to still get some along my jawline. I had it there once this summer and it spread all over my face. I'm NEVER going to their farm again!
Can you believe the weather we had last week? It makes you wonder if winter is over, but I know in the back of my mind that freezing temperatures and snow will still happen. It is Kansas after all... Three years ago we had snow in May! We took every opportunity we could last week to be outdoors and make preparations for this season. We pulled up old plastic mulch and drip irrigation that lined the garden beds, tomato cages, and more. Brad has started laying compost out over the beds with his new prototype compost hauler. He designed this cart from materials found on the farm to use behind our walk-behind tractor. Our old method of laying out compost with a wheelbarrow and shovel would take us a month to complete, working dawn to dusk. With his new design we will get it done in a couple days. You should see the looks we get when people are driving by. I'm sure they are wondering what the Dilts's are up to now!
We have cleaned up our seedling greenhouse and have already started to fill it. We currently have microgreens, onions, and leeks filling the shelves now, but it won't be long before we have tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cabbages, and more taking up residence before heading out to the field. To keep the weeds down and less muddy we laid wood chips down. It looks really nice in there!
A little fun for you all... We have a dog who digs in the horse pile trying to find the horse. Children who dig in the wood chip pile trying to find the beaver. And then we have a goat who thinks she is a dog! Nothing strange going on around here, nope nothing strange at all!
Until next time,
P.S. Today is farmer Brad's birthday!
How are your New Year's Resolutions coming along? Did your resolutions include eating healthier, shopping local, or trying a CSA for the first time? Guess what? I can help you with all three of those resolutions at once! Join Serenity Farm CSA and we will provide you with delicious, nutrient dense, freshly picked vegetables, pastured pork and poultry, certified organic wheat, and more to help you eat healthier. Are you wanting to shop local more and stay away from the big box chain store? Supporting small farms and farmers truly impacts the life of a small farmer more than you can possibly imagine. Large corporate farms are running small family farms out of business, but you can make a difference. The price of our share may seem like a lot to pay all at once, but multiply that by 100 other members and we have enough to keep the farm running for another year and continue to live out our dream of playing in the dirt with our children. Have you wanted to join a CSA, but worry that you won't like the vegetables or find it too risky? Well, I can most definitely help you with the first concern and provide recipes for some of the lesser known vegetables. Trying new vegetables tempts your palate to enjoy new flavors and possibly learn to enjoy a vegetable that you had as a child that was terribly prepared! Who remembers eating mushy broccoli? Learn how to properly prepare fresh broccoli and you'll love it for life. Joining a CSA has its risks, but don't most things that are worth doing? Our first season last year encountered many hurdles, but we still pressed forward and provided as many vegetables as we possibly could. How will this year be different? We are no longer vegetable rookies! It's a lot different growing a home vegetable garden than supplying food for 100+ families. We have made changes to our farm and CSA program this year which will enable us to be more resilient in the face of difficult weather. If you have already joined our CSA, thank you! Please spread the news and encourage your family and friends to give us a try. If you are still on the fence...give us a call or come visit us at the farm or the February 27th indoor farmer's market at 21st and Ridge. I will be there with our oldest son and we would be happy to answer any questions you might have. You can also see our vegetables up close and take some home to enjoy.
Until next time,
Just when I think I'll start blogging on a more regular schedule, life happens. After the busyness of the holidays settled down the family all came down with the crud...you know, stuffy noses, tummy issues, and wicked coughs. Fortunately, mama stayed healthy just tired from many nights of interrupted sleep.
While we wait for springs arrival we've been keeping busy with farm clean up. We've burned limbs, picked up trash, made piles of scrap metals to recycle, and we've had lots of free wood chips delivered to spread around the farm. We've laid some mulch in areas where it is really muddy, but our plan is to line our walkways with the chips to keep it from being muddy while we travel to and from the garden plots.
We started our onions and leeks the last of December and they are coming along quite nicely! We've never grown onions from seed before and we didn't have much luck last year with the leeks, but we've read a lot and learned that onions are one of the easiest seeds to grow. It keeps our cost down too if we can grow our own onions from seed verses ordering plants. Right now we have one variety started (Red Ruby), which will be a beautiful red onion.
In mid-December we got ourselves a new dog. Sky, our doberman, has been lonely since we lost our last two dogs. She is the most loving dog and just wants to nurture. She is great with the children and often follows them around and lays in the grass while they play. One of our farm cats had kittens and Sky took them from the mama when they were between three and four weeks old. We tried many times to give them back to mama kitty, but she just kept taking them. Sky hasn't had puppies herself for many years, but she started producing milk and took care of the kittens! My mom has a picture of it on her camera that I'll share, but just imagine four to six fluffy kittens snuggled up and nursing on our 75 lb dobie! Well, the kittens grew and we found homes for them. Sky was once again alone. One morning our oldest son found her cuddling with one of our meat birds. She was cuddling with a chicken folks! She was desperate! Over the years we've had terrible luck with dogs chasing and killing our chickens, so we've been leery about getting another dog. Ray was on Craigslist and he came across an ad for a free blue tick hound. We contacted the sellers and brought her home. Zoey isn't like any other dog we've ever had. Zoey has only three legs.. She was hit by a car a year ago and they couldn't save her left front leg. She was fostered and then adopted by a loving couple. Circumstances changed for them and now we have her. She loves the farm, has become great friends with Sky, and thinks her spot to sleep is right in front of the wood stove! Thankfully, at six years old, she is past the puppy stage. With her being more mature and only having three legs, she isn't interested in the chickens. If she ever does try to chase them, they have an advantage.
Until next time,
I can't believe that 2015 is over. Done. I'm so looking forward to the blessings the new year will bring us. 2015 was hard! We faced many challenges in our first full year running the CSA. Not all of it was bad, but to be honest the hardships we encountered time and time again did put a bit of a damper on the year. Let's review the first year of Serenity Farm!
January through March were busy starting a large majority of our plants and dreaming about spring's arrival! We constructed our outdoor seedling greenhouse. This is where our transplants grew after initial germination in the house before going to the field.
Early March we transplanted lettuce, cabbage, and broccoli. We direct seeded our sugar snap peas. We also decided to transplant our peppers and cover them with mini tunnels made of perforated plastic to keep them warm, but allow them to breathe during the heat of the day. Well, mother nature had other plans. The night before our first market the temperature was forecast to get down to 35 degrees. It actually got down to 27 degrees, way too cold for the pepper plants who thrive in warm weather. Five hundred pepper plants died and we had to start again! Luckily the tomatoes in the greenhouse survived the freeze and continued to grow nicely.
April continued to be a bit cooler than normal, but we were able to get most of our transplants out into the field. We planted 17,000 onions, zucchini, yellow squash, spaghetti squash, sweet corn, beets, turnips, green beans, carrots, radishes, cauliflower, and the list goes on. In May, well it rained nearly the entire month. On the farm we received fifteen inches of rain. That equates to roughly 1.3 MILLION gallons of rain water that fell on the 2.5 acres where we grow our vegetables. We were unable to put a single tool, seed, or transplant in the ground during the most critical month of gardening.
While it was too wet to be in the field we worked on setting up our irrigation system (ironic since we were drowning in water!) We were regular vendors at the Kansas Grown Farmer's Market at 21st and Ridge Rd. every Saturday morning. We also prepared ourselves for our newest farmer-to-be!
Our newest little farmer arrived on July 7th! The children and I were out in the field helping Brad get some work done on the irrigation lines before the storms came through (yes! rain again!). Well, the rain got to us before we finished up so the children and I were covering irrigation lines in the pouring down rain. Shoveling, wet clay soil is hard work. Two hours after getting done what we could and cleaning up, I went into labor. Joshua took his sweet time getting here, but once he did it was so worth the wait!
Brad took the two girls to central Missouri at the end of July and picked up our new Idaho Pasture Pigs. Idaho pigs have shorter snouts which makes it so they root around less and graze in the pasture instead. I knew when we bought the van that we would have a lot of cargo room, but I never thought we would be hauling pigs INSIDE the van!
We were able to see a beautiful rainbow at our east side drop one summer evening. Several times the family would all load up and go to the drops together. The children loved playing on the playground equipment and Brad and I enjoyed visiting with all of our wonderful members!
The piggies are growing! This picture was taken in late November and they are about four months old. Pasture raised livestock takes longer to grow and pigs are no different. If pictures had sound you would have heard them squealing and grunting. They thought I was bringing them food when I was really just doing a photo shoot!
Happy Thanksgiving! Fresh turkeys were delivered the day before Thanksgiving and the only hiccup with our butchering was that the turkeys were much smaller than we thought. After talking with other local farmers who have raised heritage turkeys we discovered that they usually take a year or more to get up to the size that the hatcheries advertise.
Ray and I attended the very last market for the 2015 season! Ray and I LOVE going to the farmer's market and seeing our regulars come back week after week enjoying our fresh produce and our amazing baked goods. I was so nervous at first running our booth as I'm not a very social and outgoing person, but as the season progressed I looked forward to the market each week. Thank you to all of you who came and visited us this season!
Our family is looking forward to a wonderful 2016! Follow along with us and see what this new year brings. I have set up an Instagram account SerenityFarmCSA. I aim to put up a new picture every few days, less this time of year, but possibly daily during the growing season! Share this blog post with family, friends, co-workers, and more and help us to make Serenity Farm a success this coming year!
Wishing you all a Happy New Year!
The Dilts family at Serenity Farm
I want to be the best homesteader I can be, while teaching my children at home in the school room and outside on the farm.