Friday, August 14, 2015

Food Grown Slow

Market List- Rainbow Cherry Tomato Mix, Slow Food Cayuga Duck Eggs, Sam's Famous Salsa, some Concord Grapes, Dill Pickles and TOMATILLOS!

It just seems like yesterday I said that we would talk about Slow Food Grant projects and here it is Friday morning and I am just now getting to the Blog again, working against the clock to get finished and be ready for tomorrow's market.

Our Slow Food St. Louis projects have been ongoing for about 8 years. The first one that we received was for a combination of 2 projects; first we tried some heirloom varieties of tomatoes, new to us for drying. We asked for funds to improve our greenhouse to dry them in so they would actually be sundried and protected from insects. These were to be for sale at the Tower Grove and Schlafly Markets. The other part of this grant was for Cayuga Ducks, as you know, my favorite of all the things that we have done. This looks like a painting, bur this pic was taken early this spring on the farm.

The dried tomatoes did not go over super well but we still grow and sell the varieties of Heirloom tomatoes we originally tried and occasionally they are dried. The ducks are a constant source of entertainment and revenue. People at the market are so intrigued with how many different shades of eggs are laid by this one variety of ducks, including green and black.
 They are great foragers, they lay about 9 months out of the year and if young are raised that season, they begin laying when the older hens have stopped, making Cayuga duck eggs almost a year round experience. July/August, they start hiding nests so that they can raise their own young. They love to lay in the pampas grass but we have found them in spare tires, under the brush hog(Not good), in open fields completely camouflaged and in the asparagus bed. They are expert hiders, blending in so well that many times you don't see them until they come quacking out because you almost stepped on them. They are tenacious brooders and ferocious mothers. If you try and stick your hand in their nests while they are sitting or after the babies are born, you will come back with a duck literally hanging off of your arm and bruises from being beaten with their wings.

We did some other grants on Rhode Island Red Chickens and Milo as a non GMO weed deterrent for feed supplement. These chickens, beautiful and docile layers of Brown eggs. The Milo experiment turned out to prove that it would in theory work. We do not have the equipment to harvest our own feed but it does repel Bermuda grass and attracts seed eating birds. The chickens, after adulthood, unfortunately one by one contracted a disease, most likely Marek's for which the breeder should have vaccinated and all over a year long period died. As a rule these are very hardy chickens but non acclimated to this disease that apparently my own chickens have built up a resistance to.
St. Croix Sheep- We started this Slow Food Project in 2014. These sheep are hardy, disease and parasite resistant. This does not necessarily mean that they don't run into disease or parasites, but that those things won't take them down like they would a wool sheep. They are supposed to grow pretty fast and in theory get to market faster. Also supposed to drop multiple eggs in breeding and have a lower bone to meat ratio. This would increase your flock more quickly and allow more profit from each lamb. We have not seen the increase in fertility yet as only one has lambed and that a single which would automatically grow faster. They are extremely wild and untrusting but this could just be because of the Farmer who originally raised them. If they were not handled early on, this is almost impossible to correct. They are tall and seem to be worth raising. We have only had them a year and a half so it's a little early to tell especially as part of the grant was improving our pastures. We used a big part of the grant money to increase our fencing and pasture amount to keep the flock more healthy.

AND Finally, the Heirloom Fruit Production. We were focusing on Quince as it used to be a fairly common fruit but added in some Black Republican Cherries and 3 varieties of Paw Paws. We really ran into a lot of trouble finding the variety of quince that was in the Slow Food Ark of Taste; Meech's Prolific Quince. We finally found a producer but have had to wait until this fall to get them. The other trees came from a Nursery in Oregon called One Green World. The trees looked like this when they came;

We heeled them in in the high tunnel that Bill built using the Route 66 Organics compost we ordered using grant funds. We heeled in instead of planting because sometimes Missouri summers can be brutal on new trees and I did not want to take a chance on losing these. This way, I would be able, theoretically to control water amounts. I say theoretically because many times, inside the high tunnel was deluged with the massive rains that we received until late June. Still, water receded after the rains stopped and the trees might've drowned if outside in the constant rain.
The high tunnel with it's high humidity and hot temps must mimic Oregon in the summer because this is what they look like now.
All but the Paw Paws have put on more than 2 feet in growth AND bloomed in the high  tunnel. The Paw Paws are doing well but have not put on as much height.  
So that's where we are for now. The trees go in the ground in September, with the remainder of the compost. The Cayuga Ducks continues laying. We have 5 on nests right now, and 7 ducklings hatched out last week. The St. Croix sheep continue to clean our improved pastures and provide us with compost for our gardens and hopefully meat for the market soon. As always, Heirloom tomatoes flourish in our garden. All of these things eventually come to the market in one form or the other and so we will see you at the Tower Grove Market tomorrow. Ninety degrees and no rain so stop and get a dozen duck eggs and a cup of St. Louis' Best Lemonade.

God's Blessings on you and yours,


Sam and Bill


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