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Archive for February, 2013

Farm hour: Journey with apples that rock

February 9th, 2013 No comments

apple orchard
Freshly mulched apple trees in the orchard.

The apple compost pile was loaded with fat earthworms, so Vince had us use the rake instead of the shovel to bin it up and move it to the apple trees.

apple rockWe had just enough for the ten trees. The compost looks good, but I’m sure our next batch will be even better now that we’re able to process the carbon inputs with the chipper.

Speaking of inputs, I treated the orchard to Journey’s “Anytime” from their Infinity album through this wireless speaker Vince picked up.

Journey is not on the OMRI list of approved organic inputs for apples, but the official entry to the USDA reads: “This is how we make them rock.”

Living green: moonshine made the old timey way

February 6th, 2013 No comments

This recently aired WCTE Living Green segment was filmed last summer and shows you how we make our award winning 105 proof authentic Tennessee moonshine on Short Mountain the old timey way.

The Tennessean has a nice story on the five courses of amazing Southern cuisine from Loveless Cafe that our moonshine will be paired with at Manhattan’s prestigious James Beard House this Valentine’s Day.

Farm hour: Purple Martins are nature’s bug zappers

February 3rd, 2013 No comments

purple martin housePart of our organic farm’s integrated pest management plan calls for the use of hosted beneficial birds as natural predators. Earlier this week I asked a couple of friends and folks at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) for some advice and was reminded about the amazing Purple Martin.

Growing up in the South, I remember Purple Martin houses on several farms. I never really thought there was a functional reason for hosting them, and later was convinced all they ate were mosquitoes.

I was wrong. State Zoologist David Withers sent me this great one pager from the Purple Martin Conservation Association that basically tells me the Purple Martin is one of nature’s best bug zappers. Check out TWRA’s wonderful online resource on common birds and how to host them.

Even if you are not an organic farmer, hosting Purple Martins can dramatically help reduce any flying insect pest on your property while reducing the use of chemical sprays and inviting a little of nature’s perfect aesthetic back to your home life.

We got two 16 family houses, both made in America, at our local Tractor Supply Company (photo: Vince snaps a Purple Martin house together). We’re using cut cedar posts from the property and will open the houses March 31 or as close to the time we begin seeing younger Purple Martins.

Here are a few points we’ve learned through some voracious reading over the past couple of snow days:

  • Purple Martins overwinter in Brazil and return year after year to the same nesting location.
  • They live exclusively in human made housing (East of the Rocky Mountains)
  • Houses must be over 10 feet off the ground, a minimum of 30 feet from a human dwelling (120 feet maximum), about 45 feet from any tree or bush and have nothing touching the pole, including support wires. Nothing around the housing can be taller.
  • Entry holes must be a specific dimension or competing birds become a problem (3 inches wide and 1 3/16 tall).
  • Purple Martins prefer white colored housing.
  • To attract a colony you must open the house when last year’s young return – 3 weeks after the first adults arrive. In Tennessee, adults arrive March 1-15. Adults will also colonize, but you must be persistent to scare off competing birds.
  • Purple Martins diet includes “dragonflies, damselflies, flies, midges, mayflies, stinkbugs, leafhoppers, Japanese beetles, June bugs, butterflies, moths, grasshoppers, cicadas, bees, wasps, flying ants, and ballooning spiders.”
  • Once hatched, Purple martins develop in about 30 days.
  • You can handle the chicks to manage the nests – parents do not mind human handling or scent.

Short Mountain Groundhog says expect an early Spring

February 2nd, 2013 No comments

That’s word from atop the highest point in Middle Tennessee as the Short Mountain Groundhog fails to see its shadow on a very snowy and overcast Groundhog Day morning.

This 40 year old groundhog belonged to our exterminator until his mamma scared his dog into traffic with it earlier this year. He couldn’t bear to look at it anymore, so he brought it to the Still House where it comes out once a year.

You can see it for yourself next time you visit. It loves posing in family pictures.

It doesn’t have a fancy name like its cousin “Punxsutawney Phil.” We just call it Groundhog and use “it” a lot because no one has bothered to check its 40 year old business.

We use it to figure out when to plant the corn. You might want to as well!