Egg Facts

This info comes from our new egg lady, Mary:

Dozen eggs

Egg shells are porous because the chick needs to be able to “breath” as it develops. A hen (or hens) will lay eggs for several days/weeks until she has enough to sit on & hatch. To prevent the first egg/chicks from rotting while she fills her nest with enough eggs to set, the hen covers each egg as it is laid with a thin gelatinous film called the “bloom”. The bloom covers the pours in the shell. Washing removes the bloom. Without it, the egg is more susceptible to bacteria & evaporation. it helps  preserve the egg until the hen is ready to set the nest. Remove the bloom and eggs start to rot, so they need to be refrigerated. This is why most eggs in Europe are not refrigerated in the supermarkets, because they are not washed. Commercial eggs (even the organic ones) are washed in a disinfecting solution, usually bleach or teflex.

Eggs that I plan to sell are refrigerated as soon as I bring them in the house. When I pack them, I dry “brush” the ones that need it with a clean paper towel. Most don’t even get that treatment; which is why you may occasionally find tiny feathers attached. Personally, I have an “old fashioned wire egg basket” that I purchased at the dollar store. My eggs sit on my kitchen table because I like to have room temp eggs for baking. Eggs that have muddy hen prints end up in my wire basket for personal use. Eggs that have poop on them, I usually feed to the barn cats or my Farm Collie.

If you choose to wash the eggs yourself, I would suggest you not do that until right before you plan to use them. Then you should wash them in running water that is WARMER than the eggs. That way the water is less likely to be drawn into the porous shell.

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Disappearing Bees

bee on marigoldWe need bees; to pollinate our plants to produce our veggies. We have been lucky, the bees have always found us. I love to hear them buzzing in the cucumbers and squash, doing their job to help the cycle of growth.

But, as you are probably already aware, there is a problem with the bees. Colony Collapse Disorder is one of the things that’s killing off the bees. There’s lots of theories, but one thing is for certain, there aren’t as many bees and if we don’t have bees, we lose a majority of our food crops. It’s a scary thought.

So I figured, let’s get bees on the property. I thought I’d just make a few phone calls, maybe an email or two and viola, we’d have bees. Ha!!! Well, not so fast. I spoke to a couple of beekeepers today and first of all, they won’t come out unless they can put 100 hives on the property. I don’t think we need or can support 100  hives. Plus, the hives are getting sick and dying. One beekeeper I spoke with said he may not even get honey this year. The majority of his bees are dead and/or sick. He said he’s done everything right and it’s driving him nuts because he can’t figure it out. He’s having problems with parasites. Again, it’s a scary thought.

Ok, so how about we buy our own hive and box. We’ve taken some classes, read some books, have friends who have done it; why not us? Because we don’t have the time. We don’t want to spread ourselves too thin, as we need to focus on the garden and growing the veggies. That’s why I contacted these beekeepers in the first place. They are the experts.

Now where do we stand? Well, there are some other ideas out there and I will continue to pursue them. (One of the beekeepers I spoke with today was very helpful and gave me some info I need to explore before I give up.) In the meantime, I’ll plant more flowers to bring the bees to us and thank each one when they are visiting the garden.

Download this PDF on Bee Facts; two simple to read, nicely designed pages, for more, yet concise info.

Potatoes

blue potatoes

Blue potatoes, cut and waiting to be planted

Time to get ready for potatoes. We are currently digging one bed deeper for the seed potatoes. This year, we will have one bed, about 30 feet long, 4 feet wide, 1 foot or more deep of potatoes. In this area, we usually say to have them planted before St. Patrick’s Day; it’s just a good reminder. So we are getting ready and they’ll be planted in the new bed.

Once you get your potatoes, and you can also buy organic potatoes from the grocery store too, as well as the nursery, keep them warm and in light so they will grow eyes. Once they grow eyes, cut the potatoes in pieces, with about 3 eyes per piece. Let the cut harden over, that takes a couple of days, and then plant, being careful not to knock the eyes off.

Last year we planted 5 per square foot and although it worked, I think this year we will plant only 4 per square foot. As they grow, gently pile on more compost or dirt to cover them. Don’t worry, they will grow through, creating more roots for more potatoes. You can grown them as deep or as high as you’d like. You can usually harvest in about 3 months. With Mel’s Mix, they are so easy to dig up, and easy to clean. Home-grown tomatoes are the best. I know, you may be saying, “A potato is a potato.” But believe me, they are best when you get them fresh from the ground.

There are tons of web sites with info on how to grow potatoes: here are a few:

Tipnut.com, How to Garden.com, Great Garden Info.com

Potato flower

Pests we have had to watch out for: the ever present gopher, and the weird and ugly potato beetle. I won’t post a pic here, they are ugly, but check them out on your search engine. Type in “potato bug old man” or “Jerusalem Cricket” and you’ll see what I mean. These guys are big too! So watch out for them.

You may enjoy this humorous blog post about how to get rid of them. Pretty funny, especially if you know these bugs personally. Yuk!!!

Eggs, Beautiful Eggs

Dozen eggs

Beautiful colored eggs

What can I say. The variety of colors makes these eggs the most beautiful eggs I have ever seen.

These are from our new egg lady. If you haven’t tried farm fresh eggs, please do. Find a neighbor, farmer, anyone with chickens and buy some eggs. Then compare store bought eggs to the farm eggs. Crack each into a small bowl and note the color. The farm eggs usually have larger and darker yolks, which to me, are richer tasting and better for you.

Eggs of many colors

Love these colors

What Snow Does to Tomatoes

Tomatoes After the Snow

What snow does to tomatoes.

This is what 6″ snow does to tomato plants. It freezes the leaves and vines and makes them crunchy. Not the correct sort of farming term, but more like how the plants feel and look.

We are in the process of clearing these now, adding them as compost ingredients. Then we’ll add more compost to the bed, to get it ready for the next planting.

We rotate crops as best we can, so something other than tomatoes will go into this row come Spring.

Frozen Brandywine Tomatoes

Frozen Brandywine Tomatoes

Here’s another pic of what the snow did to the tomato plants. Yeah, it was December and who would have thought we’d have tomatoes at that time, but check it out, in the middle of the pic is a red tomato. It wouldn’t be as good as a summer tomato, but maybe it would have been OK enough to eat.

On Days Like Today….

Sunflower at Zoey Farms

Sunflower at Zoey Farms

I patiently wait for Summer.

Last year we planted more flowers than we had in years past, and this year we’ll plant even more. It was so fun to view the tall sunflowers from the kitchen window and even better, to have them growing among the veggies; the cucumbers using them as a trellis.

News, News and more News

Snowy tomatoes

Snowy tomatoes

We hope you are weathering all the storms, where ever you are. In October, during the zillion miles an hour winds, we had a huge oak hit the barn, smashing the roof. Horses were scared but OK. I was freaked out, I have a thing about trees falling on me. Long story for another time. Due to my anxiousness over falling wood, we had the oak trees nearest the house cut down. I felt and still do, feel like a tree murderer. I was sad about having them taken out, but I needed to do something; my anxiousness was getting bad.

That was 3 days before the snow. We had 6″ by Monday morning; trees and branches were falling all around us. Boy was I glad we had those trees removed. I really think the house would have been hit with some of them.

After the storm this week, more branches fell, I think the ones that were broken by the snow. On the bright side, we have enough wood for many years.

six inches of snow in shingle springs

Garden under snow

FARM: We are moving forward and will have shares available in the Spring. Watch out for emails notifying the when and where’s. I am so looking forward to warm, sunny days in the garden. Plus harvesting and eating good, organic veggies.

We did plant some winter veggies and what we were able to pick was great tasting. Some of the cauliflower was small and full of aphids. I had to throw away a couple of heads, but we did manage to eat about five. Broccoli was good too, and believe it or not, many flowered before we could pick them. The red kale didn’t do very well; small and tough. Broccoli rabe and collard greens grew well. Brussel sprouts are still growing, same with celery. The snow killed all the potato plants; we’re hoping the potatoes under the ground will put out more leaves soon. Spring onions and garlic are doing well.

Snow Angus

SHARES: As previously mentioned, we will advertise shares in the Spring in this email newsletter. More info on that later.

Many times we have been asked if a shareholder has to work on the farm for their veggies. In the past, we have not had this option, but this year, we are thinking about offering the opportunity. We don’t have the particulars sorted out just yet, but if you are interested, let us know. We can sure use the help, as we want to expand the farm.

We are also looking at offering egg shares. We have a new egg person lined up, who loves her hens and feeds them organic food. We are also looking at having honey, flowers, and other items for sale. Also, if you grow veggies organically and have more than you can use, we are interested in purchasing or trading with you. Contact us and we can discuss.

Garden in early summer

PLANTING YOUR GARDEN: If you are thinking about having your own garden this year and don’t know where to start, may we suggest Square Foot Gardening. Last year was our first year that we used the method for 99% of our little farm and we were very happy with our results. It’s very hard to imagine most veggies growing in just 6″ of soil. But we took the leap of faith and rebuilt the top garden with raised beds, filled with soil and planted. Everything we normally grow grew great and we had abundant harvests. Plants grew better with this method compared to the typical method of growing in the ground. We will continue to rebuild and grow with this method as it was very successful. If you are interested, we still have some books for sale at $20 and/or you can check it out on the internet. Hopefully, this Spring, we will have some intro classes on the method in the garden. If you are interested, please let us know.

Now’s the time to purchase your seeds, if you haven’t already done so. Many nurseries now have bareroot trees, asparagus and berries. Seed potatoes should be coming in soon too. If you’d rather shop in the comfort of your home on the computer, you can find all of these items at many seed companies. Just make sure they have the safe seed pledge which basically says they do not sell any GMO (genetically modified organism) type seeds.

Birdfeeder under

CLASSES: Speaking about classes, we are considering offering some garden art classes at the farm. Some ideas are mosaic stepping stones, dragonfly wire art, gourd art, bird baths, bird feeders, etc. If you have ideas or just want to create something fun to place in your garden, let us know. We are open and excited to share new ideas with everyone. More info on that in the coming months.

SHAMELESS PLUG: Now that I have your attention …. many of you know that the company I worked for, as a graphic artist, for the past 18 years sold and all of the employees were laid off. As much as I look for a job every day, I have yet to find a permanent position, so I am in the process of creating my own job(s).

Yes, the farm is one, but the income pretty much covers the expenses. And yes, I hear you say, “Why bother?”. A short answer is, we love to grow veggies, eat veggies and meet interesting people.

I have started to pet sit for Priceless Petsitting in Shingle Springs (ask for me). This is a part time job where I come to your house and/or I will board your dog in our house, as a member of our family. During the Christmas holidays we had two female great danes. They were fun and enjoyed running around our 5 acres with our dog, Angus.

Discoverbowen.com

Along with the pet sitting, I have started my own business providing graphic services and web site design. Recently I completed a logo design and business cards for a local florist and will work on their site soon. I am working on a simple site DiscoverBowen, which is a friend of mine who has the magic touch. Read my testimony on her page. This site is not complete yet, but you’ll get the idea. Another project I am working on is Equine Directory Online. This is El Dorado County’s answer to a horse phone book. I’ve been writing blogs and maintaining the site, soon to have a design revamp, plus design ads and publish the magazine in the coming months.

So, you can see I am keeping busy, making jobs for myself. If you are in need of any of these services, I’d appreciate a shout out. Thanks for indulging my shameless plug.

E-you in the coming months for more farm news.