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Greentree Naturals Newsletter - Winter 2006

Today I made myself get around to doing our seed inventory. I always mean to do this the first of January with the thought that the sooner I get the seed orders in, the better chance I have of getting everything that I want. It can be quite frustrating to order a particular seed variety and have it sold out. Sort of like finally figuring out what you want to order on the menu at a restaurant and when you give your order to the waitress, she tells you they just sold the last of it. This is not the latest that I have accomplished my seed inventory and ordering for spring planting, and it is not the earliest either.

Of course, I can't order seed before I inventory what I already have, so it is a two-fold operation. We make every effort to save as much of our own seed as possible every year. Our goal in saving our own seed is to develop more frost tolerant, earlier yielding vegetables and flowers that will survive and thrive the challenges of gardening in northern Idaho. This is clearly evident with the lemon cucumbers and melons we grow. Every year we save their seed, the more productive and bountiful the harvest of cucumbers and melons!

Last year, I decided to order new sugar snap and snow pea seed because some of the seed I saved was not true to its parent plant. What this means is that sometimes in the snow peas there would be some odd sugar snaps mixed in because they had crossed pollination last year; or in a hundred foot row of sugar snaps, there would be a few snow peas. At any rate, after spending the money for new seed and shipping, the new seed didn't germinate for all the reasons that this happens. Last spring was the usual cold and wet, as most of them are. So, I replanted my same old seed that I have been saving since 1996, and had a fine crop of sugar snaps and snow peas. I think I can deal with an odd mix of peas here and there.

I just returned from Boise and a conference titled ‘Reclaiming Our Local Food and Farms'. It was quite remarkable and inspiring to spend three days surrounded by people who were also farmers. Michael Ableman, author of Fields of Plenty, read from his new book and shared stories of his travels across the US with his son. There were a number of workshops that covered many sides of sustainable food systems, from Farmers Markets to eating locally. I gave my first ever keynote presentation on ‘Reclaiming local food Systems' and felt appreciated when all was said and done. Rural Roots and some of the original Idaho Organic Alliance folks presented me with a ‘Steward of Sustainable Agriculture' award that was a big surprise. It was the first time I have ever experienced a standing ovation from my peers.

At the conference, there were many conversations talking about the loss of farm land across the US. We lose 47 acres of farmland every hour in this country. That's 1,128 acres lost to development every day. Everyone needs to be thinking about this and saving acres for growing a local food system. The reality that every city across the country only has 2 days worth of food on hand at the grocery stores. We shouldn't be so reliant on fossil fuels to keep us in food, but we are. The conference made me think about things that I don't think of often enough. It makes me realize that what we are doing, growing a small acreage farm, is important. I am proud to be a farmer, and happy to know that there are so many of us working to feed our local communities.

As we start working on the planning part of our season, we look at the growing lists of things to do. The new project this year is that we are going to be acquiring a 30'X96' greenhouse. It's a big honken greenhouse! The trick is, we have to go and take it down, move it over here, and put it back together again. This will require a LOT of help from our friends. We will have to have some cat work done at the spot where we want to set it up at. Then there is getting the electricity hooked up, and water lines etc. Huge project to add on to the other zillion springtime projects. We are very excited about it. The Kampe Foundation and their New Life Agricultural Project & Grant program is buying the greenhouse for us. We are truly fortunate to be the recipients of something that will so greatly improve our production on the farm. It will be an undertaking, but when it is up and running, it will be grandiose!

We are not certain that we can have Sunday Brunch on the Farm this summer. Waiting to see what the sponsorship will look like with Rural Roots. This organization has sponsored us as a part of their BUY FRESH BUY LOCAL campaign for the past two years. For reasons that I do not comprehend, the Idaho health laws state that unless you have a commercial kitchen, you are not allowed to serve prepared food unless the event is sponsored by a non-profit organization. I suspect that it would not be that big of a deal to build a commercial kitchen, other than the lack of funds for it. Anyhow, the new insurance laws make so many grey areas that it is difficult to make heads or tails of it all. We carry business insurance, but apparently with the wonderful country's frequency of law suits, there are hoops to jump through and issues of what could or might happen. All I know is, we will do whatever we have to do to protect our farm and our lives here. So maybe we can have Sunday Brunch and maybe we can't. As I often say, “We'll know more later!”

This is a photo of Ana with a box of baby chicks that arrived by mail last August. There were 65 little cheepers in that box; we could hear them cheeping from the moment the maillady had them at the end of the driveway! She was so ready to get them out of her car!

Those chicks are full grown chickens now and just started laying eggs a few weeks ago. We are getting about 22 a day now, and should push up to 40 a day when spring comes and the days get longer. This is the most laying hens that we have ever had. The Araucana's are related to Mexico's wild chickens, and they are constantly flying over their fenced yard. These birds lay blue eggs, which look quite lovely with the brown Barred Rock eggs. There is still snow on most of the yard, so the girls are anxious for something green to eat! I am calling everyone I can think of to sell eggs to. When the CSA's and farmers market start up, we will have plenty of customers to sell eggs to. For now, I will become the official ‘egg pusher'. They will have to keep me away from public schools….

If you haven't perused our website in awhile, there are some updates on the Apprentice page that are worth visiting. Our sweet Ana from last summer wrote the loveliest story about the Tomato House, and this is on the apprentice page. The other slight chance on the website is that we are un-incorporating our business, which means no more ‘INC.' It's a long story, but we are going back to a sole proprietorship for Greentree Naturals. We were misdirected and never should have filed to incorporate in the first place.

We are always learning about the business world. We do our best, and learn more as we go along. After this many years, I think we are here to stay with Greentree Naturals that is for certain! Wishing you a healthy rest of the winter.

All the best,




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