Late February is always a busy time around here. It’s still winter in southern Oregon. That means cool temperatures, especially in the mornings. And before Spring arrives, this is the time to welcome back our farm crew and ready our Certified Organic farm for the long growing season ahead.
Meet Echinacea, one of our most popular herbs especially during the long months of immune season. We grow our own on our Certified-Organic farm in Southern Oregon. Bold and brightly-colored, it grows chest high in the heat of late July.
Well, it has been a couple weeks since my last farm blog. And writing about farming becomes as linear of a task as everything else that needs to be done on the farm. So, I will have to admit this blog is weather induced…..it’s raining outside.
Sweet spring rain turning into a tumultuous downpour that makes Oregon such a great place to love plants. If you live in Oregon, you know spring is for warm sunshine, sideways rain, hard hail, and a rainbow finale all within a five-minute span. Nature is exhilarating! And it is within these short windows that my long-term tasks are completed for future harvest success.
On our farm, we track seasonal phenology. This is the term for watching our natural cycles in a specific location, to make daily decisions. When making farming decisions, I consider things like average rainfall, mountain snowpack, relative humidity, prevailing winds, day length, sun exposure, and heat units influence each crop cycle. Continue reading “Building Healthy Soil Communities: Evaluating Soil Texture”
My first organic farm mentor used to refer to topsoil as “skin of the Earth.”.And each time this fine layer is broken by plow, nature’s response to heal by covering its wound with a green bandage of plants. This moment of healing becomes an opportunity. A chance for farmers to blend their own mixture of plants into a beneficial poultice.
This is where “cover crops” come in. Both preventative and restorative, cover crops are specific species of plants proven to restore soil fertility. On our farm, I make long-term rotational plantings of cover crops such as alfalfa, rye, clover, oats, buckwheat, vetch and sorghum key components of our fertility program.
But how do cover crops work? Why do they help? And why is topsoil so important anyway?
Skullcap is not a liar. No herb is. But you’re forgiven if you have trust issues with it. Actually, these issues are why we grow it ourselves. So we can keep an eye on it, and make sure it doesn’t get mixed up with bad company. Make sure our Skullcap supply is pure and never adulterated.
You see, Skullcap has a long history of adulteration. For more than 25 years, the American Botanical Council has tracked incidents of dried Skullcap getting sold mixed with a type of Germander. What’s worse, this Germander is considered a liver toxin. As a result, Skullcap has been falsely implicated in liver dysfunction cases.
Clearly, this is unacceptable. So we did something about it.
When you look at a photo of our fields they look quiet and pristine. Here’s one:
See what we mean?
But when you step into them, you hear the bees. Our farm is an ecosystem. The health of our herbs depends on the health of the system. 90-95% of plants here are reliant on bees to do the work of reproduction. No bees, no reproduction. Continue reading “Calling the bee rescue squad”