March 2014

Our SARE funded Organic No-Till Workshop 2 – took place at Orcas Island High School as part of the San Juan Islands Ag Summit. Thanks to Candace and Peggy for inviting us and putting this huge event together.david montThere couldn’t have been a better introduction to our workshop that keynote speaker David Montgomery who talked about the devastating effects of soil erosion caused by tillage.

audienceThanks to everyone who participated in this event… we think around 50 -60 people came. Its encouraging to see so much interest in organic no-till.

dougDoug Collins from WSU opened the workshop with presentation of research being done at Washington State University Extension. You can see more of it here:

presentingIn our presentation we covered the science of maintaining healthy soils without tillage and then moved on to demonstrate practical applications for those wishing to transition to no-till. We used our SARE funded experiment as a case study and talked about some of our findings and conclusions.

experiment results cover pageYou can download a series of informative and visual pdfs to make up the entire powerpoint on the learn page.

“Thank You! Very beautiful and rich and generous presentation experience; very much appreciate the time and work that obviously went in. I feel enlightened.”

Winter 2013/14

snow carrotsOur SARE experiment carrots are keeping us going throughout the winter months. A hard November frost meant the loss of our greens.

carrot harvestHarvesting is done using a spading fork, but without lifting the soil –  minimizing soil disturbance.

marketThey are a big hit at the winter farmers market and Food Coop

carrot compareOne thing we are noticing with these late season carrots in the difference in size and shape… the one on the left is a no-till carrot. The one on the right is from the tilled bed.

soil bucketIts time to take our last soil samples from the four experiment beds…

soil samplesWe are testing for caton exchange, organic matter and nutrients such as phosphorous and potassium. Other factors we will be analyzing for our experiment results include yields, hours of labor, worm count, moisture content and temperature.

mulch in barrowThese late season beds missed out on all the cover cropping we did in October, so we’re covering them with mulch generated from the garden to protect the soil.

mulch on bed

September 2013

carrot bedIn our test beds – the late season carrots are thriving…

carrot shoulders carrots harvested

doug and garyDoug Collins agrees!  Taking time from his job at WSU he came with his family (on bikes) to interview us for an article he’s writing on organic no-till… see the finished article on our press page

cornflower seedsSeeds are forming on the pretty blue cornflowers…

cornflowers   edible flowersWe’ve had fun with our other edible flowers: calendular and borage…

floral salad mix….adding them to our salad mixes

market 1Our other harvest moon crops include, garlic, tomatoes,

market 2kale, cauliflower, cabbage, leeks, bulb fennel, lettuce, zucchini,

market 3beets….  these colorful beauties are Chioggias

market 5pac choi, bok choi and cucumbers… pickling, slicing and the ever popular lemon varieties


market4and carrots, of course…

ninaAll these delicious veggies take time to harvest. A big thank you to Nina who helped out with picking all summer!

August 2013

carrot damageAn interesting development in the experiment beds… we are noticing a lot of damage from rust fly and wire worms in the tilled bed. Significantly more than the no-till bed. So it looks like our overall yields will be higher in the no-till bed. Its strange that tillage is often recommended as a pest control! Clearly in our case, tilling has disturbed a natural eco-system that would normally contain predators for these pests.

edie beansThe garden is looking abundant…  our wwoofer, Edie took these beautiful photos

edie brassicas edie cabbages edie carrots edie sunflower edie view 2 edie view edie zuc edieThanks Edie!

marketWe have tons of gorgeous produce for market… for our first time inside the new Brickworks building in town.

July 2013

seaweedscapeThe sun is out and so is the seaweed.

seaweedharvestingIt makes a very nutritious compost tea…

compost tea…when placed in a barrel of water…


seaweed weghts…and kept bubbling and full of oxygen so it doesn’t stagnate.

carrotsOur experiment bed Nelson variety carrots are almost ready for harvest

carrot seed johnnysAnd we’ve planted our 3rd and 4th experiment beds with pelleted Bolero carrots, a late variety…

bed wetMoistening the soil first with drip tape, gives the seeds a better start.

carrot seedsOnce sown, we cover the seeds with a fine soil and compost mix and then place the drip tape over them until the tiny seedlings emerge.

Summer Visitors

kid with carrotsWe had some extra help on our experiment carrot beds, from Camp Eagle Rock kids…

kids thinningwho helped us with some thinning… kids with carrotsbeekiteOur new wwoofer Lee, runs a Kite Collective project so we asked her to do a kite-making workshop for the kids. Linking in with the garden theme, she asked them to make ‘bees’….

making kiteskiteflying2 kiteflying1Thanks to all the Eagle Rock kids! Marcella, Spencer, Julian, Kevin, Brandon, Piper, Rhiannon, Diego, Lily, Maddy, Fallon, Charlotte, Tony, Casey, Tobi, Brandon. And Lily and Katie, their counselors.

June 2013

whidbey drawing

We stole a couple of days from the garden to travel across to Whidbey Island and then to Bainbridge Island to visit Suyematsu & Bentryn Family Farms. These community commons have a very interesting history starting in 1928 with the Suyematsu family.

farmmap2This land, now owned by Bainbridge City is really a patchwork of different small farming enterprises. The reason we wanted to visit is to see how they operate cooperatively.

view of farm2walkinggroupThis guided walk and talk was organized by Tilth Producers of Washington

view of farmwomanBetsey Wittick who runs Laughing Crow Farm explained how some of the collaborations work: the 6 farms formed a Guild to help them work cooperatively. They buy equipment together and share an irrigation system. Their shared farm stand enables them to work out who is growing what so that they are not competing with each other. They take turns to manage the farm stand and take a percentage of the sales. An shared internship program also allows interns to work with the range of different farmers and participate in a variety of practices.

drafthorsesFor example, Betsey is the only farmer here using draft horses for her vegetable crops.

white raspberryShe also grows beautiful raspberries!

guy talkingBrian MacWhorter of Butler Green Farms has much experience of working collaboratively since he lived in a commune in the 1970s. He said that although farmers have a tendency towards independence, the Guild forces them to work together. Its not always easy and difficulties can arise between personalities. But as long as everyone understands that co-operation is better for business, there is strength in numbers…

tomatoes in greenhouseWe would love to work more collaboratively with the small farms on San Juan Island – a multi farm CSA cooperative, group buying of fertilizer, and sharing equipment for example… The Greenhorns have published a great resource on Farming Cooperatively:

pumpkin patchEduculture is another wonderful project at Suyematsu and Bentryn Family Farms. Local schools have access to plots for children to grow and learn in the field.

planting tomatoesBack at our farm, new woofers Isaac and Sarah have been holding the fort. Getting the tomatoes planted and …

weeding carrots…weeding our first two experiment carrot beds. We concluded that the tilled bed had far more weeds than the no-till bed.

mikaela seedsWwoofer Mikaela took home some Kale seeds we saved to start her own one seed revolution…

Through Mikaela’s Lens….

One of our June wwoofers Mikaela not only proved herself to be a master harvester, bean planter and quack grass eliminator she also has a wonderful photographer’s eye… here is her blog post.


Washing and sink area…


The trusty Japanese hoe…


The lovely Amy…


The most beautiful Rainbow Chard…


Cute beans that were planted by yours truly….


Faux Honey Bee…




Cheeky Goats! (temporary guests at Talking Horse Farm)


Red Cabbages, Red Pac Choi, Green Cabbages, Green Pac Choi…

mikaela pizza

Beatin’ the sourdough…

gary oven

…for Gary the Pizza master and his cob oven!


Organic Sourdough (hand kneaded), farm-harvested arugula (that day), Amy’s secret sauce, organic local goat cheese, roasted garlic and red onions. Yum…!

May 2013

For our SARE funded experiment we are comparing two tilled beds with two no-tilled beds when direct seeding vegetables. This season, we are growing carrots.

tillingThe rototiller goes down at least 6 inches into the soil. When using our no-till methods for direct seeding we only disturb the top two inches at the most.

garytillingDirect seeding requires very neat rows, to make early weeding easier. We usually use string to mark the rows, but as we are constantly trying to find ways to be more efficient we came up with a new idea….

rowmarkingtoolThe Long Rake Row Marker (prototype)! This long rake is exactly the width of our beds and we added special extensions (metal tubes banged in with a hammer)…

rows marked Now all we have to do is drag it across once and four lovely lines appear – perfect for popping in carrot seeds.

tranplanting kaleNo-till transplanting is even less work. We are scything down the cover crop and making small holes for our transplants such as kale, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower…

pac choi transplants Here are some pac choi transplants with the crimson clover and vetch growing back in between. All this coverage keeps the soil healthy and troublesome weeds at bay.

garyscytheElsewhere cover crops are needing to be mowed by Gary… The rye in the paths…

covercrop biomass … and the vetches and clovers give us a huge amount of biomass for composting.

salad greensMeanwhile our succulent salad greens are being enjoyed all over the island…

April 2013

The new season has begun. Wish us Luck!

fourleafcloverIt’s Rabindranath Tagore’s birthday today. Poet, artist, visionary, educationalist  and sage. A huge inspiration to Good Earth. Peter Gill who has been Wwoofing with us left this quote in the visitors book last week:

When organised national selfishness, racial antipathy and commercial self-seeking begin to display their ugly deformities in all their nakedness, then comes the time for man to know that his salutation is not in political organization and extended trade relations, not in any mechanical rearrangement of social systems, but in a deeper transformation of life, in the liberation of consciousness in love, in the realization of god in man. Tagore

peter plantingContemplating this goes hand in hand with planting the first spring lettuces!

mum&calfThe nurturing of new life is what Spring is all about.

lambAnd the season’s creative energy and joy is expressed in the small animals that surround the garden at Talking Horse Farm…

baby tomatoes… and the small plants in the greenhouse.

covercrops viewThe garden is thick with cover crop.

covercrops rye in pathsA mix of vetches (purple, hairy & common) and clovers in the beds. (the one on the right also has garlic growing in it). Rye in the paths to suppress the quack grasses. Our beds are 3′ wide and paths 18″ to allow for maximum planting area in a small garden. These cover crops are providing bio-mass above and below the ground, nitrogen and other nutrients.

fava beansIn our SARE experiment beds the fava bean cover crop is almost ready to flower.

garyscytheThe cover crops are scythed multiple times…

japanese tool… and we using this small Japanese tool called a Seikobo (?) to get a closer shave.

transplantsincovercropsTransplants go directly into the cover crop residue…

braising greens…as we continue to harvest last year’s chard, kale and mustard flowers for a braising green mix, thanks to a mild winter.