Sunday, May 4, 2008

Busy, Busy, Busy

We've been really busy, tilling, planting, pruning, harvesting, selling, learning, teaching and having fun. Where to begin..... Ok, remember that poplar stump we inoculated with oyster mushroom spawn last summer? Well we harvested our first mushrooms from it last week. Put them in an omelet. Yummm!
Speaking of omelets, I went on a tour of urban chicken coops sponsored by Georgia Organics. I saw 8 different coops and lots of different chickens and some goats too. My conclusion was that chicken raising is pretty simple so we should go for it. The hen house is done except for adding a roost and a latch for the door. All I need to do is add some fencing and we're ready for a flock. I think I'll start with 6. That seems like a manageable number.
Speaking of tours, last sunday we went on a tour of Spring Valley Ecofarms in Athens, Georgia. It is a research farm owned and operated by Dr. Carl Jordan. Dr Jordan is doing some interesting research in ecoforestry but what caught my interest was the experiments they are conducting using perennial legume hedgerows interplanted with annual crops. They idea is that the legume ( they were using mimosa and amorpha), if the roots are colonized by nitrogen-fixing bacteria, will share some of the nitrogen with the annual plants. It seems to be working they said. I decided to try it out in our garden. I have interplanted baptisia australis with my tomatoes. I am inoculating the baptisia with alll the different commercial rhizobium bacteria i can find in hopes of finding one that will colonize the roots. This is not a carefully designed experiment. I don't have control plots. How will I know if it works? I won't know for sure. I will examine the roots of the baptisia to determine if they have been colonized but i can't determine if the tomatoes have benefitted from the companion planting. I chose baptisia because their flowers are good cut flowers and the foliage can be used as greenery in arrangements so they have economic value to us. By harvesting the foliage, we will force the plant to slough off roots to compensate for the lost foliage. Those roots will get broken down by the soil microorganisms which should make any nitrogen in the root nodules (assuming they exist) available to the tomatoes. Anyway we know that diversity is good so we're giving it a whirl.
The next step is to figure out a crop rotation that will work with the perennial planting. I'm thinking cucumbers next year, then maybe greens....
One more thing. Michelle and William from the Weather Channel came out to the Funny Farm to shoot a couple of segments for a series they do called Forecast Earth. One of the segments is about growing worms and the benefits of wormcastings. The second one is about Bugscaping, growing specific plants to attract beneficial insects. We released 1500 ladybugs and played with the worms. Of course Penny the cat star had to get in on the action too being such a ham. Michelle asked me if we used natural cat litter which we do. She's also doing a segment on natural pet care so Penny got to pose for the camera and I got to pour corn based litter into her litter box. 
It was a fun time. The segments should start airing in Late June or July.


kat said...

We took our first leap into suburban farming with chickens and ducks. Granted, my family knows a lot about farming and raising animals, but my husband and I do not. So on our 2 acres outside of Atlanta, we've started our own little farm. The ducklings and chicks are outside now in their house and run and we're starting our garden. I found your site and love reading and getting ideas.

Joel Johnston said...

Thanks for taking the time to talk with me the other day at The Urban Gardener. We were talking about Sicilian eggplant and you said you might know a source for seeds, probably for next year. Anyway it's cool to see the progress on the funny farm.

duane marcus Facebook me! said...

Joel, try seed savers exchange and Seeds from Italy. their web site is