Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sunflowers & Sun Golds!

 The flowers are coming on full force and they are BEAUTIFUL! We have completed our flower bike trailer (a covered wagon/hoophouse attachment) and have been selling bouquets for the past 3 weeks and folks are quite excited about them. I have discovered that flowers are a rather time-consuming crop to harvest and therefore I'm oh so happy that we completed our walk-in cooler this week. No longer will I have to harvest flowers in the dark or cause myself unneeded stress about being late to market. This week we'll be able to harvest everything on Friday and keep it in the cooler overnight. I'm soooo excited!

The cherry tomatoes are also coming on strong and we're harvesting every day to keep up. Last saturday was the first large tomato harvest at market and they were definitely a favorite amongst our customers. The Sun Golds are just so tasty, they are certainly one of my favorite tomatoes. The yellow pear also sold very well, though I don't  think
 I'll grow this variety next season. The plants are very small, hardly 2 feet, and though they are producing decently, the plant itself doesn't seem very strong.  Plus, the large difference in size makes it a little awkward to string them alongside other varieties. The large heirloom tomatoes are very full with fruit and I've picked off a couple ripe tomatoes from a variety called Rutgers which is nearly pulling down the staking. The Green Cherokee (many Detroiters are familiar with Purple Cherokee, we'll see how this compares) is also producing well but no ripening fruit yet.

we are also happy to have the help of our neighbor Paul Weertz, though probably not the Paul Weertz you all may be familiar with.  This Paul Weertz is only 9 years-old and also known as "PJ" and Paul Weertz's grandson.  So PJ has been helping out a little on the farm, including prepping beds, hilling leeks and planting scallions.  This past Saturday was his first time at market and he really was a life saver.  It was just Jack and I at market which required a lot of babywearing for Jack while doing everything else, including getting all the produce/display to market and setting up, while i was away harvesting flowers.  thankfully PJ was able to assist Jack by weighting out tomato baskets and arugula bags and making change.  all very difficult tasks while wearing a VERY grabby 10-month old.  Thank you PJ!

The guys at work...one of the down sides of having a eastern stall at market, my photos always come out like this! oh and you can see our crazy flower transport covered wagon in the back round.

Last but not least, we had a very productive (though small) workday a couple Sundays ago.  My folks were back in town, so we had the benefit of a very happy grandma to babysit and an even happier grandpa to put to work.  With chainsaw in hand and a grin on his face, my pop cleared the whole side of the house!  Jack, myself and a few friends helped  move cut
i can't say that it looks good, but it looks better i guess :)
 branches and clear out parts of the felled tree.  we also cleared broken glass near the house and generally gave the back/side yard a little love.  Though these were important tasks in general I had specific desires to clean up the place in order to host a birthday party for myself (the bummer about getting old is having to do all the work for your birthday..oh well).

Oh and one last exciting bit of news, we'll be a featured stop on this year's DAN Garden Tour!  So if you are doing the Eastside tour this year, I'll see you tomorrow!

Finn LOVES the Sun Golds!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tree felling and first flowers!

hello all!

it has been a little while and i do apologize but it has been a busy summer and finding the time to sit down, think and write has been a little difficult.  but busy is good, we love busy...so here we go...

Demo time!
Doing a total 180 on our house repair plans, we've decided and begun removing all the plaster and lathe in the house.  Though much of the plaster was still in good shape, as we proceeded with our thinking we came to the conclusion that having a blank slate to put in all the electrical, plumbing and do some room redesign was necessary. 
So a couple weeks ago we got a small group of friends and family together to begin the process.  We now have all the plaster removed from the walls on the 2nd floor but still have a LOT of clean out to do.  We also need to remove the ceiling plaster (or maybe we'll leave it and make it work with the drywall...not sure?).  once we get the 2nd floor cleared out we'll need to move all our belongings on the 1st floor up there so we can begin the demo process on the 1st floor.  looking back at my naive dreams of moving into the house by winter, i can't help but smile and shake my head...we've already learned a lot and its gonna take some time to make the farmhouse our home.  thankfully we have lots of friends who have completed similiar projects and there's no end to the encouragement.
the dedicated father

We've also continued our work on our walk-in cooler.  This time with the skills and experience of my pop.  My dad came for two weekends in a row to help gather materials and continue the build (including hanging the door and laying all the foam board).  We are soooo close to finishing the dang thing.  We now have half the OSB board on the inside walls, the floor down and an electrical outlet ready to go.  We just need to finish getting the walls up, put on the roof, put in the A/C, and attach some shelves and we're good to go.  Of course the plan was to have the cooler finished before the flowers came in but alas they have come and we aren't ready...such is life.

which brings me to the FLOWERS!!  so i've never grown flowers before.  honestly until i took a cut flowers class at MSU i had no interest what so ever in flowers.  if you couldn't eat it then i wasn't interested in growing it.  i still kinda feel that way but i did really enjoy bouquet making so i thought i would give it a go.

Leeann and our first flower customer!
We were able to harvest a small variety of flower last Saturday including zinnas, calendula, amaranth, snapdragons, borage, and gomphrena.  Figuring out pricing, sizes and display were all a new but welcome challenge.  As i mentioned about the cooler, we were not able to harvest on Friday and therefore it required a little harvesting in the dark Saturday morning.  I was of course already all nervous about getting them to market and how they'd sell etc. and harvesting them in the light a tiny head lamp tested my harvesting abilities.
but despite some minor set backs (the trailer we intended to transport the flowers in had a flat and our pump had magically disappeared) the flower were brought to market, made into bouquets and sold to FIVE whole customers (hey! it takes a lot of flowers to make one bouquet).  so lessons learned from our first flower sales: finish the walk-in, check trailers the night before, and plant more flowers next year.

and last but certainly not least...we had an old fashion tree felling a couple days ago.  the huge Tree-of-Heaven or Ghetto Palm as some like to say, which was in front of the farmhouse is, well, still in front of the farmhouse though now it is laying on its side and we have a very large stump and a LOT of wood to chop up.  As is classic Paul Weertz style we had been told that he wanted to cut it down but we just had to bug him about it.  When working with Paul you NEVER  set a work day you just have to come up to Paul when it looks like he in between project and it itching for adventure and you say "hey Paul, you wanna go cut down that tree?!" and usually it works.  and it was an adventure...the plan was to tie a long rope (long enough, hopefully!) to the main branch of the tree and the other end to the Weetz 15 passenger van.  Paul does his best impression of a lumber jack (sans flannel) and his son Joe guns it in the van.  After a couple, heart-stopping attempts in which the whole tree top swayed dangerously, the whole thing came down and broke into many pieces.  thankfully the tree fell exactly where we wanted it and none of the branches even went in the street!  but of course now we have a huge tree to cut up, but once we get our wood-burning stove we'll be set for a while.

it begins...that is a might big saw!

we're keeping our eyes on you Paul!  Don't drop it on our farmhouse!

It begins to lean...

Down with a crash!

Look at all that fire wood

A great community event! ha!

Monday, June 13, 2011

A new season, a new stage

though there have been a couple very summer-like days in the past month, we are still enjoying the last couple weeks of spring here in the D.  warm sunny days with non-stop activity, followed by cool well-deserved nights (i'm thankful every day that i have a child that sleeps well!). 

but the times (and seasons) are a changin and so is our little farm.  all beds are pretty much planted at this point.  we have 4 varieties of tomatoes in on Frederick (Green Cherokee, Sun Gold, Copia & Yellow Pear) and all our flowers (a really nice variety of cut flowers including but not limited to sunflowers, calendula, borage, snapdragons and zinnias).  also, scallions and leeks are growing on Elmwood (and they need a little weeding).

as those plants were going in, the head lettuce has been coming out for the past 3 weeks and if the summer weather will hold off a little longer we should have another couple weeks of harvest.  Yea, one succession plan that worked!!!

we do have a little free space which we're suppose to be planting mixed greens in, but its been a little awkward selling mixed greens right next to Brother Nature Produce, since salad/greens mixes are their "speciality".  not that i'm against competition but figuring out a fair price is tricky and we're all neighbors and friends and are trying to create a new food system model not just falling into the old one.  so i haven't quite figured that one out.

we also purchased another long bike trailer, so you'll soon be seeing two of us biking around with stacks of produce.  we are developing our bike trailer system for tomatoes and cut flowers, which both require a little more post-harvest care and can't just be thrown into a tub.  jack's got a design which involves a platform suspended over multiple bike tubes stacked with bread trays full of tomatoes...the idea is that the bike tubes will give it a little cushion...i think it could work but we'll have to do a test run before the tomatoes start coming in.  for the flowers, i'm imagining a covered wagon type set up.  they need to be upright in 5 gal buckets (with water) and not be in the wind.  again a test run is needed.

the biggest change here at Rising Pheasant Farms is the departure of Gwen.  Gwen has gotten a job with Compuware, which is looking to put in gardens/park space on the site of the old Lafayette building and possibly also the old Hudson building and Gwen will be heading it all up.  so that's really exciting for her, but its rare to find such a hard-working enthusiastic farmer like Gwen and she will be missed.  but with her departure we have an opportunity for a new team member with new ideas, skills and perspective, which is always exciting.  we are finishing up interviews this week and hope to have our new employee at the market with Gwen and I this Saturday or next (Gwen has been so kind as to stay on at market until our new person gets the swing of things).  so we'll see, a lot of great folks applied and its really uplifting to know that there are others out there that want to be a part of our little farm.

here's a couple pictures!
laying out beds on Frederick - 5/8/11
all beds planted & staking first tomatoes - 6/13/11

largest load yet!  thank god we're getting another trailer! - 6/11/11

Sunday, May 8, 2011

an update in pictures....

world's best saleswoman!
first market with our new banner (half painted)

view from our roof...Yes Farm in the foreground, Detroit skyline in the back
Jack fixing the leaky roof aka the stoic mountain man

Gwen spreading compost on the Frederick lots
Our compost hill!

carpentry at its best
Jack hammering together the first two walls of the cooler!

so in conclusion....we now have a sold out weekly market, a fixed roof, a compost pile and the beginnings of a walk-in cooler! 

and we've just begun....


as you may have noticed, it's rained for about the entire month of april! the ground swells with moisture to the point of creating a quicksand-type situation in some areas. the hope of prepping beds in time has been pushed back and pushed back and we're officially 2 weeks late with most of our first crops. ahhhh!!!

breathe...it will all be alright....

on the bright side, we did get one planting of mixed greens in and it is coming up beautifully if not a little too thickly. this is my third year using a six-row seeder to plant my intensely planted greens and spinach. it's a great little tool but it definitely takes some practice and even though i've had it for a couple years, i really haven't had much practice with it....sooooo...i tend to overplant in the fear that i'm not dropping any seeds at all. the beauty of it is the ability to plant an entire 3' x60' bed in about 10 minutes; the negative side is, due to the quick and clean nature of the thing, it is difficult to tell if it's drops seeding at the rate you want (or at all).  so, like i said it takes a bit of practice.

we also planted a little bit of our head lettuce:  a lovely variety called "magenta" which we also grew last year and were very pleased with the results. i say we planted a little bit because there are still more than half of the transplants to go in the ground and all the romaine transplants as well.  we simply don't have the beds prepped to put them in. plus, as you would expect, we are not the only ones being affected by these hardy spring showers.  our compost source, which was supposed to deliver 50 yards two weeks ago, has been unable to sift the mucky black stuff and therefore no compost yet. so even if we did have our beds prepped, we'd still be in want of compost.

so i try to remain calm despite this anxiety-provoking situation and remain very thankful that we have a consistent non-weather-dependent crop like the sunflower shoots to sell at market otherwise we'd just be out of luck.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

farmhouse update, april 17th, 2011

now that the weather is becoming more cooperative by the day, work on the house is starting to seem a bit less daunting . . .

this past week, we did some more hauling junk out of the building and taking stock of high-priority projects such as the blind roof valley (slated for the last week of april) and plaster tear-out. we also took advantage of the drier sunny weather to clear out the weedy overgrowth in the small backyard behind the house.

our newly clear back yard. the tilled area visible beyond the fence is the farm expansion.

to accomplish this incidental landscaping in the most satisfying manner possible, we enlisted the aid of an impromptu fire pit, which we set up in the lot that will eventually become the side yard. even though the wind gusts were quite strong while we were clearing brush, we managed to finish without creating an urban prairie fire.

the modest seeds of what will hopefully become a social nexus

more next week!

Monday, April 11, 2011

the seeds have sprung!

greetings friends!
with great enthusiasm, i introduce to you the future stars of rising pheasant farms!
yellow pear tomatoes!
the sprouted seeds: flowers, lettuce, tomatoes, you name it!
bold and beautiful borage-- these are the largest, most impressive sprouts in the chamber!
i eagerly await a week of warmer (and hopefully dryer) weather. the more beds we prep this week, the sooner the first round of head lettuce can be planted. oh, the joyous excitement that little green life brings in the beginnings of spring!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tilling begins!

ok folks we have officially started the growing season (nothing is growing yet, except sunflower shoots of course, but we're getting there)!

After another sold out market on saturday we borrowed a tiller from a dear friend and gwen went off to break ground.  we decided to completely retill the lot we've been growing on for the past couple years (borrowed from our wonderful friends and neighbors the Kemps) because i've learned my lesson when it come to garden paths.

despite the usually wonderful advice that my mentor/friend Patrick gives me about farming (and life in general), the idea to only till the beds and leave the paths as grass has proven to be less then ideal.  it has been a never ending battle to keep the grass mowed and stop it from creeping in to the beds.  plus since we wanted to get as much growing space out of our land as possible we had 12 inch paths, making it nearly impossible to mow with a standard lawn mower (oh the poor lettuce and greens that would innocently lie out in the paths for an extra bit of sunshine, sheared off without mercy!)

Kemp's lot freshly tilled
We have also begun soil preparation at our new site on Frederick.  it is the first year in production, so it will take quite a bit of work to get this land ready to grow (i think i was a bit optimistic in my planting schedule). gwen and i tagged teamed on tuesday...gwen on the mower and i on the tiller.  we discovered all sorts of lost artifacts in the long grass and i felt good about the work even if we never planted just because the trash was gone.  We tilled about1/3 of the total space planned for this season and we'll have to wait until this rain stops and the soil drys out a bit to get back at it.

I would say the most successful part of our initial tilling adventure was the fortuitous meeting of our new neighbors.  Since jack and i just purchased the house on moran and its been cold and wintery we haven't had a chance to meet the folks near the corner of frederick and moran (we already have great neighbors that we know on moran).  there are only 4 houses on our end of frederick and none on moran north of us, so its very important that everyone is on neighborly terms). though a little skeptically at first, our neighbors were pleased to hear that we were in the process of purchasing the lots and that they would be well maintained. i promised lots of beautiful flowers and help with their gardening if desired.  we talked about the importance of looking out for each other and possibly forming a block club to help communication between neighbors and keep our corner safe.  All in all i would say it was a great first impression and we're looking forward to doing our part to brighten up our little block!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

farm updates from the beginning of april


now that spring is upon us, we have no further excuses for not putting some updates from our projects up on the internet. our goal involves weekly postings, so stay tuned.

about a month ago now, carolyn and i purchased the building at 5228 moran on detroit's east side. after testing the soil of some adjacent vacant lots about whose eventual acquisition we felt rather sanguine, we decided to invest a substantial amount of our time, money, energy and sanity for the sake of the urban homestead dream.

as the rehabilitation of the structure has strategic value for the short-term future of rising pheasant farms, we are committed to regularly posting the progress of the house's rise from the ashes (resvrget cineribvs) on this weblog. if you have ever thought about doing something even remotely along these lines, please feel free to check back often and learn from our experience!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

additional authors

 i'm happy to announce that there will be two additional authors to this blog; my partner jack vandyke and gwen meyer.  both are awesome people and better writers than i.

jack will continue on this year as our delivery manager and gwen is joining us for her first (of many, hopefully) year as an assistant farm manager.  she is also heading up all our transplant production (as we speak) and will be an essential help in the field and at market.  she's already showed off her considerable marketing skills the past couple weeks at eastern market.

it is going to be a really exciting and busy season and i couldn't do it without these two!

a new name, a new day!

what's in a name?

a lot actually...the process of changing one's farm name is surprisingly time consuming and a bit stressful.  cause its not just a name, it really does represent the vision of your farm and farming isn't just a job, its your life.

so why "rising pheasant farms" you may ask?  i love pheasants. i like animals in general, but i really love pheasants.  i didn't know this until i moved to detroit, as there are no pheasants in portage.

the pheasant has really become a symbol of detroit for many of us...like the city it is a product of the emptiness, it thrives in our urban prairies.  it has flourished under rough circumstances, been opportunistic, and made do with what it had. detroiters are the same in many ways...taking a little and making a lot.  finding home in the rubble and always rising up again.

our city motto in which i take great pride, reads

"we hope for better things, it will rise from the ashes"

and so it will...

a wild flash of color rising from the prairie grasses, calling out for a new day.