The Flint River Farm passive solar, mobile hoop house was constructed over the weekend of May 14th, 2011! A very committed group of us set up a camper, built a fire pit and camped out on Beach Street for the weekend to watch over everything while we constructed our 30 X 48 hoop house on tracks. Our continually burning fire warmed our soggy clothes and achy hands, we endured the storm of the century! Just last weekend we were able to take advantage of the beautiful Saturday to cover the house in plastic and finish the wind braces. All we have left before tilling and bed prepping is to install the door, vents and roll up sides. Drive by to check it out, it's visible if you're driving south on Beach Street just as you pass over the highway. What an incredible sight! This hoop house will enable us to grow delicious tomatoes and other warm season crops. Tomatoes love it hot! In the fall, we can start cool season crops like salad mix, spinach, pac choi and chard outside, and move the hoop house to cover these crops once we rip our tomatoes in October. This way we won't have to wait until we rip our tomatoes to start our cold season plants.
We have had quite a wet Spring so far. The paths between beds are flooded and our soil is saturated. We managed to plant chard, pac choi, collards, kale and cabbage transplants. We are using onion sets as rodent control, so we've planted beds of onions between the greens. We seeded beets and carrots which have started to come up, but after a torrential downpour, many of these were washed away. Carrots take a pretty long time to germinate, so we'll have to get started on more seeding soon. This past week we seeded baby spinach, easter egg and deliciously spicy black radishes, hakurei turnips and salad mix. On a sunny day we got the chance to get in to weed the asparagus fronds, which stand about 4 feet now and gracefully blow in the wind. We won't be harvesting these until next year, and it'll be a very light harvest. It's been really interesting investing in the future by planting perennials. It's a very tangible and emotional commitment to this place, the planting of blackberries and asparagus and medicinal and culinary herbs.
We have a beautiful beginning herb bed, with chamomile, anise, horseradish, horehound, lavender, spearmint, catnip, oregano, thyme, chives and more. Over the years we will spend a lot of time cultivating this plot for drying, salve making, teas and fresh bunching.
Flint River Farm has its first bee hive on Beach Street! We constructed our hive in Jim Withers' of Withers Mountain Honey workshop. We ordered bees from Turtlebee Farms and I stored them in my spare bedroom until we were ready to install them. 10,000 bees in a three pound package! We installed them by replacing three of the empty frames with frames with some honey and comb, and by pouring about 3/4 of the bees into the hive while leaving the rest of the package inside the hive until the next day. We also took out the queen cage and placed it between two frames, to let the workers eat their way in to her while learning her scent and helping to feed her. The next day we went in to remove the carrying cage and the queen cage. I made a sugar water mixture with a 1:! ratio for the hive top feeder, because we installed them in the Spring before a lot of flowers are in bloom. About 10 days later we checked to see if we could find the queen, or an indication of her, which could be eggs, or larvae. I didn't see either, so we called in the expert, Jim! He came down, we found the queen, marked her with white paint and also saw little larvae, which is a really good sign. About a week after that, in the still of the night after the bees all returned to the hive, we closed it up and transported them out to Beach Street in the back of my car. just last week we added the second deep box, after inspecting to see if seven of the frames were filled in comb. They are now happily collecting pollen, the different colors of which make up the comb, a beautiful mosaic of rainbow hexagons.
Check out this video about urban beekeeping in Hong Kong. I love his connection between beekeeping and the social and physical human environment. Watching bees while being incredibly deliberate and slow is catharsis.
We are very excited for our CSA this year. We will be doing a newsletter with recipes to be included in the CSA share. We'll be getting off to a slow start, because of how wet the ground is. The weather all over the midwest region, as well as the southern states is preventing farmers from tilling and planting, which will have national effects as the season progresses. For the first week, which is still to be determined, we are anticipating delicious beautiful radishes, salad mix, baby spinach, pac choi and some other surprise goodies.
We'll make sure to keep the updates coming,
when the sun rises, i go to work. when the sun goes down, i take my rest. i dig the well from which i drink. i farm the soil which yields my food. i share creation. kings can do no more.
Roxanne and I will be offering these classes over the coming months. Once we have exact dates we'll post those here as well as on the Edible Flint calendar.
-tapping and id'ing trees for maple syrup (late february, early march depending on weather) -starting your backyard garden (early spring) -mushroom production (spring) -processing maple syrup (march, april) -planting by the signs and other garden folklore (may) -foraging for wild edibles (late june) -natural medicine with medicinal and utilitarian plants (july) -everything about seeds: from saving to starting (fall) -everything about growing garlic (october)
These are days we thought would be a good hands on leaning experience for volunteers at the farm. We will be doing these activities no matter what, and would love to have people come out to help.
-establishing a perennial food plot (spring) -setting up a drip system for irrigation (late spring) -diy rainwater harvesting (july) -hoop house build (early spring)
We are also offering 16 week shares for our Community Supported Agriculture program starting in June. We will be posting more information on what you can expect to receive as a member weekly, types of payment, pickup locations and volunteer opportunities.
I spent the holiday season back in New York with my parents, which gave me time to get distance and perspective on this past year, and to get excited about moving forward with Flint River Farm in 2011. This month we'll be presenting to the Land Bank board for the opportunity to secure a lease with an option to purchase for the lots on Beach Street. This will enable us to increase local, residential land ownership, to have security in the resources like time and money and infrastructure that we put into the land, to create a permanent and intentional space for urban agriculture, to contribute to the city by paying business taxes, to make our neighborhood more permanent, safer, cleaner, to increase visibility, to work with and sell directly to neighbors, as well as lots more.
We are also in the process of researching and reaching out to professionals about raising hoop houses in the city. Currently, the Michigan Building Code exempts agriculture buildings from needing a building permit under the Construction Code Limited Exemption For Agricultural Buidings ("building permit is not required for a building incidental to the use for agricultural purposes of the land on which the building is located if it is not used in the business of retail trade), but not necessarily exempting them from zoning. In researching city of Flint zoning ordinances, A-1 Principle Permitted Use claims that "...Customary agricultural uses including noncommercial nurseries and greenhouses, but expressly excluding the keeping of farm animals."
The problem is that while nursery is defined as "a structure or use where live trees, shrubs, or plants are grown, tended, or stored and offered for retail sale, including products used for gardening or landscaping, but not including a structure or use principally for the sale of fruits, vegetables or Christmas trees," Greenhouse is not defined.
In the coming weeks make sure to check back for posts on custom printed t-shirts to advocate for hoop houses in Flint, fermentation journals (yes, saurkraut, kimchi, beer and yogurt), as well as information on participating in a buying club for bulk foods (flour, sugar, dairy, meat, olive oil, onions/garlic, salt).