Are You Ready for Your Winter Veggies???

August 5th, 2013
Laughing Duck Farm | Blog

It’s August. It’s Hot. It’s summer garden harvest central. Dehydrating, canning, freezing, sharing, planting winter veggies….

Say that again? What? Yes, in the throes of the summer heat it is time to start your winter crops from seeds if you are in the Northern California/Sacramento area and similar climates—broccoli, beets, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, lettuce, rutabagas, turnips, etc. Some, like carrots, are better seeded directly in the garden soil. Others take less water, room, and allow for continued harvest if you plant them in flats, pot them up if needed, then move them to the garden beds later. Crops like lettuce can be succession planted.

The Peaceful Valley Fall Garden Planting Calculator has average frost dates and other useful information for timing your fall seed starting and planting. Dr. Norris with UC Davis created a great Vegetable Planting Guild for Northern California that can be found on the California Garden Web.

I like to start my cool season crops in an open (cool) shaded greenhouse or under my agribon row cover, being careful not to let it overheat, (that might mean leaving the ends open.)

I prefer to use a mix of homemade compost, garden soil, and sometimes coconut coir, or a few other amendments. I have the 2-inch soil blockers and might try those for some of the bigger plants like cabbage. Most seeds I plant in the flats about 1/2 inch apart in miniature rows about 1 inch apart, then I label each row. That takes up less room, stays moist longer, is easier to fill, and uses less plastic than pony packs. 



Planting your starts from seed saves you so much money it isn’t even funny. You could start some for friends and trade for varieties they started. You could start extra and donate them to school gardens, church gardens, senior gardens and community gardens. You could start some plants to supplement the feed for your rabbits, chickens, goats, etc. along with your family and friends. If you have a large garden, donate some of the food, or later in the season grow some grains for a cover crop.

John Jeavon’s has a great book with lots of tables on how many seeds to start, how much room they need in flats, how much room they need in the garden bed, how much you should plant for certain yields, and more. He encourages you to grow many of the carbon-creating plants like grains to feed your compost pile along with your belly. Check it out, it is called How to Grow More Vegetables: Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land than You Can Imagine. 

Then keep up the food fight: dig down, get dirty, and eat real food!!

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New/Old Kitchen Gadget

February 26th, 2013
Laughing Duck Farm | Blog

I was so excited the day that I read an email from the Local Food Coalition stating that there was a grain mill for sale. I have been wanting and researching what kind of mill I would want to get for probably 2 years.

The Family Grain Mill at Peaceful Valley was high on my list and probably what I was going to get with the added flaker attachment. I had been eyeing others but kept coming back to that one: quality, versatility, hand/electric, you couldn’t lose. 

But a friend of mine wanted to sell her grain mill from a company I had never heard of. I had to do a quick search and find out if this baby worked. It would be a great relic of past farm kitchens and would probably outlast me. We found out it was created in 1964 by Lee Engineering, and they still made parts and refurbished them. I had to grab this, it was too exciting, but I’m still going to need a flaker.

Why would you want a grain mill you might ask? Most flour we use can be at least a month old, and flour from any grain or seed will lose nutrition and the oils will start going rancid after the seed has been destroyed. 

The beauty of a seed is that it can hold all the information and nutrition for a baby plant to sprout, grow big, flower, and reproduce seed. The closer you use the flour to the time that it was a viable seed, the better tasting and nutritious your food will be.

Now part of the system that seeds use to hold all that nutrition and maintain viability also creates a downside. There are chemicals that bind the nutrients up and inhibit the spoilage.

One way to get around that problem is to look at what traditional cultures did. They soaked their whole or rolled grains and flour in water or whey. When you soak the seed you trick it into thinking that it should prepare itself to grow; the inhibitors release the nutrients, and the seed becomes easier to digest. Sourdoughs and porridge are not so common now. 

Grinding your own flours gives you more choices on the grain or seed used, and saves money as you buy at bulk prices in larger quantities, or grow your own.  The hard winter wheats they use in most foods today have higher gluten content than before, which can equate to being harder for many folks to digest.

If you are interested in growing some of your own grains and seeds you can take a look at “Homegrown Whole Grains” and choose some winter or summer crops that are great cover crops and make lots of biomass for the compost piles.


Dry Winter But the Planting Goes On

February 15th, 2013
Laughing Duck Farm | Blog
It has been so dry this winter I had to start irrigating on Valentines day, the feed in the pasture is almost non existent,and we have been having to feed more hay than usual with less built up from last year. Not so fun when hay is $20 a bale and feed keeps going up.  At Skyridge School the kids and I have been weeding beds, moving bulbs, and started getting the greenhouse ready to plant during January and the beginning of February.  We created a swale to help hold water coming down the… Read the rest of this article »

A Sign of the Times

January 27th, 2013
Laughing Duck Farm | Blog
      “Fresh Eggs.”  I now have a few restaurants using my eggs, two local grocery/specialty food stores Newcastle Produce and Gaia’s Basket are selling them, and I am joining the Sierra Foothill Producers Coop.  I felt it fitting to put a nostalgic sign on the gate flaunting that I have eggs, well a bit at least, I thought it was really cute and have been having a lot more folks come to the little farm for purchases and classes.  I figured it was a… Read the rest of this article »

License and more Egg Cartons

January 22nd, 2013
Laughing Duck Farm | Blog
I’m official - I got my Chicken Wrangler/Egg Handler license back in the mail, so I can sell eggs in a few stores and the Sierra Foothill Producers Coop.  I was waiting to buy egg cartons with Karin Sinclair to save a little money on a bulk order, then saw the company she was ordering from had some very nicely printed open view cartons that had marketing merchandise you could purchase, and a free listing on their website Local Hens.  Those cartons struck me, I really liked the design… Read the rest of this article »

To Everything There Is a Season

January 13th, 2013
Laughing Duck Farm | Blog
    I hope everyone had a great holiday season and New Year.  We were trying to get Christmas squared away and I was going to have two nice ducks from the barn ready to go, but the weather and my schedule didn’t permit that to happen.  Thankfully my friend Karin Sinclair had one big turkey they had raised left that no one had bought.  The day before Christmas she posted on Facebook that she was going to throw it in the oven if no one wanted to buy it.  I jumped… Read the rest of this article »

Egg Cartons and License

December 16th, 2012
Laughing Duck Farm | Blog
Last week I sent in my egg handler license and ordered quail egg cartons. I have to get my paper egg cartons ordered and figure out how I want the labeling on both sizes of cartons.  The tiny plastic quail cartons arrived, and don’t have much room to put something but they are so darn cute and really show off the beautiful little eggs. Read the rest of this article »

Thanksgiving Quail

December 9th, 2012
Laughing Duck Farm | Blog
    We had quail for Thanksgiving—not for dinner, but as house guests.  The week of Thanksgiving we had two sets of our Japanese quail, Coturnix Coturnix Japonica, hatch out and had about 60 new house guests.     Our other guests, Patrick’s parents, loved visiting with them while they were in town. When the quail hatch they are so small and active we love to call them “Pot Corns” because they seem like popcorn popping in a pan.     … Read the rest of this article »

Saving Small Farms for the Future

November 28th, 2012
Laughing Duck Farm | Blog
    Creating agricultural easements or wildlife easements on small farm and ranch land not only helps offset the cost of the land now, they help future farmers and ranchers. They protect that land for the future from development, similar to preserving historical buildings.     Farm land is being lost too quickly. It is a rich part of our heritage that should not only be preserved, but worked in the future.      Farms are living ecosystems that need to stay productive,… Read the rest of this article »
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I Love Tomatillos

November 15th, 2012
Laughing Duck Farm | Blog
    Tomatillos are a great workhorse in the garden, producing a summer long crop you pick before ripe. They don’t seem to be bothered as much by disease, insects, or other pests, and re-seed themselves readily. You can make great salsa, enchilada sauces, and throw them in most any dish with veggies. What more can you ask for?  About the only downfall is you need to pull off the husk and rinse off the saponificated waxy coating off the fruit.     I have been growing… Read the rest of this article »

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