Friday, May 27, 2011

A Modern Day "Barn" Raising Event

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.
*Chinese proverb


  1. Hello,

    I was just wondering if you guys tested your soil for lead and contaminants? How can i find someone who will test the soil in my garden?


  2. We do tests our soils through Michigan State University. There is a standard nutrient test, and then a separate test for Lead. All of our lots were under the FDA safe regulations for parts per million of lead for food consumption. One of our lots was a bit higher than the others, so we chose to use that lot for compost and our bees. There are remediation techniques you can use to lower heavy metal contents. The big thing you want to watch out for is tilling or earthworks in a high lead area, as it gets into the air pretty easily. I suggest you contact Michigan State Extension offices on North Saginaw and they can help you out with lead testing. Thanks for posting!

  3. I'm a native Flintoid, now living and farming and beekeeping less than an hour from NYC. I am so excited that you guys are there, doing what you're doing. I wish I had a boatload of cash to donate to your endeavors, but I don't. Instead, I'd love to come work with you when I'm in town visiting family. Would that work?
    I'm also the founder of Crop Mob NYC and Lower Hudson Crop Mob. Highly recommend the model!

  4. You should definitely come by the farm when you are in town. The crop mob model is amazing! We've been doing them with our edible flint grower's cooperative, and they have been very successful. Write to us on facebook (or on the blog :) )when you are in town.