Summer's Fresh Tilt - News From the Farm

By Farmer David Plescia of Green Valley Community Farm

FARMER’S LOG:

One of the most special things about living and farming at Green Valley is that is a very wild place.

It's no wonder: If you zoom out on a satellite map of the address here (13024 Green Valley Rd.), you'll see that this little valley is nestled in the base of a forest that extends Northward, essentially unbroken, up through Alaska!

  A field amongst the Firs.

A field amongst the Firs.

We come in contact with this wildness everyday out here. It is perhaps most noticeable in the bird and mammal kingdoms at this time of year, during the spring / early summer surge of activity, new growth, courtship, competition, homemaking and baby-raising that corresponds with the return of the sun and the all the surge of new life it supports. At this time of year especially, our furred and feathered neighbors weave themselves into our everyday lives, greeting us in the morning, keeping us company throughout the day, and accompanying us on our way home at night as they go about building their lives next to ours.

The bird world is especially rich out right now. Kayta's parents, avid birders, spotted 34 species during their two-week visit from Missouri at the beginning of June. (And that's just the tip of the iceberg.) All the feathered ones seem to be making a go of it while the gettins good and doing all the things that go with that: Courting (those Turkey gobbles of April and May, echoing down the valley) and singing (wow, hear that Swainson's thrush), fighting (the "bird wars" begin in late May as the sky fills with inner/interspecies arial battles and battle cries as they all squat, steal and harass each others nests and territories), eating (where did all our lettuce seeds go?), building homes (check out the Barn Swallow mud nest near our wash-station) and starting families...

In the owl box perched along the 13024 driveway, a barn owl family has taken up residence. Who knows when mom and dad moved in but about a month and a half ago tiny little raspy screeches could be heard coming from the box. Now, our way home at twilight every evening, we watch four barn owl teenagers exercise their flying permits. Compared to their silent, sleek, be-masked parents they are awkward flying monkeys. At first they would just pop their fuzzy heads out of the house, then pop back in. Lately, they have been taking flight, with a tellingly rapid RPM crash landing into the nearest tree, where they screech at each other for awhile, before flying back to the safety of the house. Where they screech some more. All. Night. Long...

Also like clockwork, at twilight, comes a Dark Sentinel. Our main fields are in her route. She has three spots -- that we know of: On a fence post overlooking the center meadow, on a large tree overlooking the main fields, and on the tall power pole overlooking the vineyards. A shadow. The Great Horned Owl. Like the Lady of the Forest, she gives us shivers, reminding us of our mortality. But she reminds gophers of their mortality too, which is quite necessary around here.

Yes, twilight is a special time. Quivers of quail come out from their thickets to forage (a little paranoid and a lot domestic). Mama and baby skunk visit the compost pile to see what's been left, and a gophers flit through the grass like lightning, mindful of the Dark Sentinel.

The gopher army (at its population low near the end of winter, being food for so many predators during that time) explodes at this time of year. Their subterranean networks of paths seem to multiply underfoot, their little portal holes pock the ground, and their boldness grows. One crashed against my leg as I was harvesting mustard mix on Tuesday. They may not visit the barn, but you can be sure that the gophers have been picking up their CSA shares.

And then there is Mama Deer. You may have noticed the fortress of junk in between our greenhouses and the hog panels around Aubrie and Scott's garden. These are protection from Mama Deer. Mama Deer took up residence in a thicket near the greenhouses about a month ago and, pregnant and now presumably nursing, uses a genius and boldness I have never seen in a deer to infiltrate our fortresses and feast on the fare. Who can blame her, she's making a go of it just like the rest of us.

This list could go on: The juvenile Salmonids and the baby turtles in the culvert, the broccoli-obsessed ninja Hare or the demon Racoon that visits our neighbors... no matter how much they annoy us or pillage our greenhouses, we can only but be grateful for their antics, their lessons, their company, and that they are here. This place is alive and wild. Let's make sure to keep it that way.

See you in the fields,


David & Kayta

  Gomphrena on the farm ready for u-pick bouquets.

Gomphrena on the farm ready for u-pick bouquets.

Spring Forth!

By Farmer David Plescia of Green Valley Community Farm

IMG_4321.JPG

Well, it’s official: The natural world has thrown off the covers and drank its morning cup of coffee!

With this week’s warm weather, the farmland is truly abuzz: A motley crew of native and honey bees and other pollinators jets and bumbles throughout the air, alighting on every flower (mustard, vetch, bell bean, tree, and wild flower) that can be found; willow catkin fluffs are floating everywhere on sweet, warm breezes; and the greenhouses, farmyard, and fields here at Green Valley Community Farm are abuzz with human activity, as we dust off, gear up, and sow the first seeds of Summer.

And we’re so happy to be penning to you, dear members, the first of many farm updates during the 2018 growing season!

CSA UPDATE:

Wash your totes and sharpen you flower cutting shears… this train is running on time!

It’s tricky — plant life and weather being what they are —trying to predict the exact date upon which our first plantings will fruit, flower, and fill out enough to cut the ribbon on CSA harvest pick-up. But we’ll always try! This year, everything is running on time for a first week of June start to harvest pick-up.

We have about 12 CSA memberships still open for the 2018 season. If you were a member last year, or have told us that you'll be joining this year, you have first priority! Please sign-up ASAP at www.gvcfarm.org to hold your spot.

IMG_3456.jpg

FARMER’S LOG:

We farmers take our cue from the bees. It’s time to get busy.

Over the last couple weeks, the greenhouses have gone from ghost town to precocious nursery, brimming full of life and expectation: As we speak, all of 2018’s tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and onions are present for role call, bouncing off the walls of their seed trays, ready to get out into the fields. We’ll transplant the hoophouse tomatoes next week. Out in Highgarden, 2018’s first rainbow carrots have been seeded. Next door to the left, the garlic is waking up. And next door to the right, the raspberries are poking their velvety auburn green leaves out of the straw mulch, whispering promises of sweet things to come.

As infrastructure and beautification projects get done whenever we can sneak them in, some big moves are about to occur in the main fields. In late October of 2017, we planted our most important crop... and this week we’ll harvest it.

Over the last five months our beautiful cover crop mixture of grasses and legumes grew into a stately, lush, woven blanket that protected our soil from the battering storms of winter and enriched the microbial life below. In early February, the cover crop was visited by the lovely Jersey cows of Bramble Tail Homestead, where some of it became milk and cheese and cow life!

IMG_4221.JPG

This week, we’ll mow this cover crop down and it will continue its magical life-giving journey as its thousands of pounds of carbonaceous organic tissue will be digested into the soil… feeding, enriching, and building life there this season and for many seasons to come.

Thank you cover crop!

With all the birdsong, the evening light, and the warm breezes lately, we can’t wait for the promises of summer the harvest season. We can’t wait to see you all again in the garden, and to meet our new members. We can’t wait to introduce you to our amazing new farmer, Anna Dozor, who’ll be helping us this season! We can’t wait to share the fruits of the land with you. And we can’t wait to share many more stories and farm updates with you in the months ahead.

See you on the farm soon,

Kayta & David

 

 

 

Soil Fertility + Management Thoughts

By Farmer David Plescia of Green Valley Community Farm

farm.jpg

"Grow healthy soil. The rest will follow." -Unknown

Going into this year, Kayta and I really didn't know what to expect from Green Valley's soil. How would the veggies look throughout the demanding growing season?

Not all soils are the same. Some require much more work out of a farmer than others. Very sandy soils, for example, require farmers to focus much more on the nutritional side of things, as nutrients leach out of sandy soils. Very clayey soils are more challenging to create and maintain healthy soil structure. The "Goldilocks" loams found in places like California's Central Valley and the Great Plains, built up by eons of carbonaceous plant activity, are described as "boy's soil" -- in that you don't have to do anything to get stuff to grow.

Going into this year, we had heard rumors of tougher growing conditions here from the previous farmers: Occasionally stunted plants, discoloration, etc. Our soil tests in the fall of 2016 indicated that with some standard amending (lime, for example, as Sonoma County soils are usually slightly acidic) the "clayey" sandy loam here had much of what happy fruits and veggies need. We could only do our best and see how the plants grew...

stock.jpg

To establish a good baseline here, Kayta and I did some pretty textbook organic amending, based on our soil tests, to the fields and garden in the Spring. We added oyster shell lime and gypsum (to balance the PH and add calcium), sulphur of potash (because the soil was lacking in potassium), bonemeal (for phosphorus), feather meal (for nitrogen), and hefty amounts of compost to add organic matter; the glue of all soil biology and chemistry. If a bed was planted a second time this Summer, we added a small amount of feather meal and bone meal. 

We were thrilled to see that this relatively modest treatment, combined with the native soil composition and biology here, yielded very healthy plants... even some super phatty cauliflower and broccoli heads (a good litmus test of soil fertility.) There were ample earthworms and mycelium (fungal networks). Roots and crop residues broke down very quickly, indicating vigorous soil biology. 

All this is exciting. It means that each year, as the PH and nutrients are balanced, we can rely less-and-less on these outside inputs and more-and-more on closed loop, multi-functional systems like cover cropping, rotating livestock on fallow fields, compost made from farm waste, and the soil biology built from these practices. As we speak, the thick leguminous cover crop sinking its roots into the soil out there should, among other things, provide most or all of the nitrogen we need next year for phat cauliflower heads. The clayey nature of this soil means that nutrients and organic matter will be retained by the soil, those small particles hugging them tight. The soil should only continue to improve by years of thoughtful management and care. 

It's not "boy's soil" out there, but we're all lucky to have fertile little Green Valley.

 

Deepening Our Roots

With our first year under our belts, our minds are ever-turning to our next phase of development and in deepening our roots: forming our non-profit, master planning, finding the right cadence between our personal lives and EVERYTHING ELSE, and - more importantly - actively creating the culture of community that we want to grow in. .

We are not the only ones experimenting in this medium. We wouldn't be as solid as we are without the guidance from the very knowledgeable folks over at Occidental Arts and Ecology Center. And, excitedly, we are joined by other like-minded communities that are testing their hands and lands in finding unity in community - Oak Granary, the new land partners at New Family Farm, Live Oak Farm, and Morton's Warm Springs to name a few. We're inspired by their courageous lens of doing things outside the nuclear norm.

As summer wanes to fall, we hope to see you out here reconnecting with land soon. And, as always, there's an open invitation to become a farm member through our animal or veggie CSA programs. Just message us for more details.

In Community,

Green Valley Farm + Mill
- Temra and Jeremy, Aubrie and Scott, Jeff, and Josiah


LATE SUMMER MUSINGS FROM THE LAND

BABES ARE HERE
Scott and Aubrie are the proud parents of three new baby calves, the eighth year that jerseys have been born on the land. The first two births went swimmingly, despite landing smack dab in the middle of a heatwave.  During the final birth of summer, Scott and Aubrie had to work feverishly to get the calf to take its first breath. Thankfully this calf is doing great despite his rough entry. These boys, yes, all boys!, are growing fast. They spend their days lounging in the shade of the oak trees, sleep through hot afternoons, chew their cud and excitedly look forward to each bottle of milk that comes their way.

You can email brambletailhomestead@gmail.com if you're interested in learning more about becoming a co-owner in this little herd and enjoying in its bounty.


SALMON PROJECT KICKS OFF
There is a hubbub of activity over at the South House driveway as a major creek restoration project gets underway in Green Valley Creek. As you may know, the upper Green Valley Creek runs along our property and is one of last few native salmon spawning habitats. We're proud to have partnered with neighbors and Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District to allow them to reconstruct the culvert on the southern side of our property so that it is fish friendly.

From Gold Ridge Conservation District's Newsletter: "Residents in the upper Green Valley Creek watershed may notice a major project underway this August and September on the Green Valley Farm + Mill property, namely, the fish-friendly reconstruction of an undersized and failing stream crossing. This stream crossing is currently a barrier to migrating coho salmon and steelhead trout. The corroded culvert (seen at top right), perched 11.5 ft above its downstream pool, is impassible to salmonids at many life stages, including adult and juvenile coho salmon, and juvenile steelhead trout. In addition to allowing salmonids access to nearly a half-mile of stream for spawning and rearing habitat, the project will protect the connectivity of Green Valley Creek to its flood plain upstream of the crossing, which is threatened should the current culvert fail. Downstream of the crossing, a narrow and deeply incised stream channel is the result of past flood control management along with regional downcutting. This condition causes water flows to speed up and flush out the woody debris that would provide refuge habitat to fish seeking protection during intense storm runoff events. Green Valley Creek’s hampered hydrology is a watershed-wide problem. If the current crossing was left in place, and failed during a large storm, channel incision could advance upstream, degrading stream habitat and water quality, exacerbating runoff and sedimentation, and lowering the water table.

This project will not only reconstruct the stream crossing, but will enhance grade control over a 600-ft stretch of the stream to improve channel grade and provide fish passage. This will be accomplished by constructing a series of boulder weirs in addition to a step-pool roughened channel and bottomless arch culvert at the stream crossing (as an example, at bottom right, see rock weirs leading up to a culvert in Camp Meeker from a 2009 project on Dutch Bill Creek). The constructed step-pool roughened channel and boulder weirs will enable salmonids to access spawning and rearing grounds upstream, stabilize the grade, and retain essential floodplain connectivity. While some existing riparian vegetation (primarily willows and nonnative blackberry) will have to be removed during construction, the riparian corridor will be replanted with over 650 native plants. Revegetation of the construction site will be conducted by the inspiring local students participating in Point Blue Conservation Science’s environmental education program, Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed (STRAW)."

'RECONNECTING PEOPLE WITH LAND' / FOOD HUB / FARM STORE
True to our mission, our food and farming hub over in the East Mill is abuzz with activity. Parade the Land's organic chickens, our pastured raised Jersey milk and beef shares, a YOU-pick CSA straight from Green Valley Community Farm's fields, bread from the hyper local Hawk Hill Micro Bakery, eggs from Hands Full Farm and more coming, this zone of the farm has been getting spruced up. Want to get in and reconnect with land via your plate? Shoot us a line.


 

Summer's Greetings

Here's a guest post by one of our farmers, David Plescia, from over at Green Valley Community Farm. He and Kayta have done an incredible job getting the farm off the ground just this past winter and have already started pick-up days for their CSA members. Read below and delight in learning more about the wildness of this place through the lens of a farmer's eyes. 

FARMER'S LOG

One of the most special things about living and farming at Green Valley is that it still a very wild place. 

It's no wonder: If you zoom out on a satellite map of the address here (13024 Green Valley Rd.), you'll see that this little valley is nestled at the base of forest that extends Northward, essentially unbroken, up through Alaska.

We come in contact with this wildness everyday on the farm. And it is perhaps most noticeable in the bird and mammal kingdoms at this time of year, during the spring / early summer surge of activity, new growth, courtship, competition, homemaking and baby-raising that corresponds with the return of the sun and the surge of plant life. At this time of year especially, our furred and feathered neighbors weave themselves into our lives, greeting us in the morning, and keeping us company throughout the day and on our ways home at night as they go about building their lives next to ours. And it is striking how similar theirs are to ours...

The bird world is especially rich out right now. Kayta's parents, avid birders, spotted 34 species during their two week visit from Missouri at the beginning of June. (And that's just the tip of the iceberg.) All the feathered ones seem to be making a go of it while the gettin's good and doing all the things that go with that: Courting (those Turkey gobbles of April and May, echoing down the valley) and singing (wow, hear that Swainson's thrush), fighting (the "bird wars" begin in late May as the sky fills with inner/interspecies arial battles and battle cries as they all squat, steal and harass each others nests and territories), eating (where did all our lettuce seeds go?), building homes (the Violet-Green Swallow mud nest above our wash-station) and starting families...

FullSizeRender.jpg

Family of Barn Owls Move In

In the owl box perched along the 13024 driveway, a barn owl family has taken up residence. Who knows when mom and dad moved in but about a month and a half ago tiny little raspy screeches could be heard coming from the box. Now, our way home at twilight every evening, we watch four barn owl teenagers exercise their flying permits. Compared to their silent, sleek, be-masked parents they are awkward flying monkeys. At first they would just pop their fuzzy heads out of the house, then pop back in. Lately, they have been taking flight, with a tellingly rapid RPM crash landing into the nearest tree, screeching at each other for awhile, and then flying back to the safety of the house. They screech all night.

Also like clockwork, at twilight, comes a Dark Sentinel. Our main fields are on her route. She has three spots -- that we know of: On a fence post overlooking the center meadow, on a large tree overlooking the main fields, and on the tall power pole overlooking the entire vineyard and farm. A shadow. The Great Horned Owl. Like the Lady of the Forest, she gives us shivers, reminding us of our mortality. But she reminds gophers of their mortality too, which is very necessary around here.

Yes, twilight is a special time. Quivers of quail come out from their thicket homes, paranoid and domestic, to forage. Mama and baby skunk visit the compost pile to see what's been left, and a gophers flit through the grass. 

The gopher (at its population low near the end of winter, being food for so many predators during that time) explodes in population at this time of year. Their subterranean networks of paths seem to multiply underfoot, their little portal holes pock the ground, and their boldness grows. One crashed against my leg as I was harvesting mustard mix on Tuesday. They may not visit the barn, but you can be sure that the gophers have been picking up their shares.

And then there is Mama Deer. You may have noticed the fortress of junk in between our greenhouses and the hog panels around Aubrie and Scott's garden. These are protection from Mama Deer. Mama Deer took up residence in a thicket near the greenhouses about a month ago and, pregnant and now presumably nursing, uses a genius and boldness I have never seen in a deer to infiltrate our fortresses and feast on the fare. Who can blame her, she's making a go of it just like the rest of us.

This list could go on: The juvenile Salmonids and the baby turtle in the culvert, Aubrie and Scott's carefully timed new calves, the broccoli-obsessed ninja Hare or the demon Raccoon that visits our neighbors... no matter how much they demand from us or pillage our provisions, we can only but be grateful for their antics, their lessons, their company, and that they are here. This place is alive and wild. Let's make sure to keep it that way.

Farmer, David Plescia

Digging In

Want to get updates right in your inbox? Sign up on our homepage

IMG_9235.jpg

Wine | Coho | CSA Sign Ups

Greetings,

As we are digging in here on the land, we are so grateful for the opportunity to share our experience with you. Below are a few updates about what's been happening since we've started to call this gorgeous place home. 

1. Meet our Vineyard Manager: We're excited to partner with Emilio Castelli of Castelli Vineyards as the manager of our small-scale, dry-farmed vineyard. The vineyard had not been pruned for two years so we've been spending time getting it back into shape (see Temra in fast mode pruning below). While there is a bit of Pinot, Nebbiolo makes up the majority of our vines. And while it's not common in these parts, this makes us love it even more. We've always been fans of the underdog.

Back to Castelli, he matches our love of terroir and desire to be a benevolent steward of this land. He and his wife, Laura Bastitch, also live on Green Valley Road where they live, built their straw bale winery and manage their own small vineyard of Nebbiolo grapes. You can read more about them on their website.

2. Bringing Salmon back to Upper Green Valley Creek: As one of the few remaining native spawning habitats for coho salmon in the Russian River Valley watershed, Green Valley Creek provides an important habitat for these critically endangered fish and other species. As stewards of this land, we couldn’t be more excited to be partnering with our neighbors and Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District on a major construction project that will ensure that coho can get back into the creek’s upper reaches.

Starting this fall, Gold Ridge will be doing a major overhaul of a culvert to the south of Green Valley Farm + Mill that borders two of our neighbors’ properties. They will also create a series of pools for spawning and refuge for the juveniles. This project represents one of Gold Ridge’s most significant fish passage projects to date. Stay tuned as we'll be hosting an informational meeting about this exciting work in July that will be open for the public to attend. 

3. Got milk? What about meat? Veggies? We’ve got you. 
Thinking you want to get more connected with where your food comes from? We invite you to eat real local by joining either, or both, of our food share programs. Email us at hello@gvfam.com to learn more about getting weekly access to all that our land offers including milk, meat, vegetables and seasonal fruits. While our fields are still wet, our fruit and veggie program will get going by late June. Our other foodshare program has ongoing sign up and pick up opportunities.