From the Farmer: Swales, Contours & Berries

Lately I have been thinking more and more about how my everyday choices will affect the livelihoods of future generations.  Will my great grandchildren be able to enjoy the beautiful Earth as I do today?  Or will climate change have altered our planet to one I would not recognize?

It is a scary thought, but also an empowering one. As individuals, we can support local farmers, eat animal products less often (and when we do, seek out pasture-raised cattle and organically raised poultry).  As farmers, we can make choices to help store carbon from the atmosphere in “carbon sinks” often through practices such as cover cropping, perennial plantings and no-till farming.

Recently Crown Point farm crew completed a swale and berm project aimed at reducing run-off and improving soil quality for our new gooseberry and currant plantings.  Swales are low depressions in the ground designed to encourage the accumulation of rain during storms and then slowly infiltrate into the soil Berms are raised beds that prevent water logging of plantings and can be used to direct water to swales. The process started with finding our contour lines using a simple A-frame structure.

Sam with our A-frame helping us measure our contour lines

This device allowed us to find the equal level of elevation across our field. After flagging this area we started digging trenches approximately 8 inches deep and 18 inches wide.  Keeping an equal depth of the swales is important to ensure an equal flow of water along the contour.

Next, we created the berm by piling compost on the downhill side of the swales and layering this with our removed soil.  We shaped the beds and prepared for planting our berries.  After planting the berries in a mixture of peat moss, compost, and soil, we covered with burlap and wood chips for weed control. Finally we filled our swales with wood chips to help with water retention.

Soon we will add the final touches by planting a cover crop between our six rows of swales and berms and planting a series of trees behind swales and berms to benefit from the excess water retention and help with infiltration.

Completed swales after last week’s storm.

Although we won’t receive a bountiful harvest from our berries this year, we have invested in our farm, and taken the first step to ensure our soil is improved.  This field will no longer be tilled.  We have aided in carbon sequestration and soil remediation through reduced water runoff.

As farmers we have the choice to care for our land so that future generations may enjoy the sweet fruit we have the privilege of planting. When you stop by for the Organic Plant Sale or to pick up your first CSA share you can check out our sustainable agriculture in person.

Hope to see you soon, Roni

 

Crown Point Earth Day 5k: Race Results

Thank you to everyone who came out to celebrate Earth Day with us during our first annual 5K Trail Race and 1-mile Family Fun Run. There were runners of all ages exploring our fields, wetlands and wooded trails.

Click here to see race results: Race Times 2017 Crown Point Earth Day 5k

Thank you to all of our volunteers, especially, Connie Gardner, who volunteered to coordinate and time the event, and Alicia Thomas, who helped with capturing hundreds of fun photos. Below are a few highlights from the race, and you can check out all of the race photos here.

Some of our race winners pose with their handmade pottery

 

1-mile runner, Lauren Turos, with her seedling donated by RB Stout, Inc.

 

Banana Tent compliments of Mustard Seed Market & Café

April Challenge: Spring Procrastination

Don’t clean that yard just yet. 

April is a season of spectacular changes. Today is partly sunny and warm, and we walk outside without a coat to soak up the 60-degree weather. Last week, the blue Siberian Squill flowers at our entrance rose defiant against the wet snow. When the snow melts, we uncover bits of plastic that are buried and blown about by the winter winds. Go ahead, pick up that plastic – but don’t go on a cleaning raid. Leave alone the leaf litter and sticks that are stacked against the side of the house.

You don’t need to mow quite yet either, so leave the sticks on the mushy ground. Bumble bees like to make their nest in the soil in cavities or burrows.  You can spot the nests when you see worker bees flying in and out of the entrance, or perhaps you drive your mower over it and the very irritated bees will chase you and sting you, repeatedly.  Really, that mower is just not going to start and it is only going to make you mad, so leave the bumble bees alone and go back inside and finish your stupid taxes.

Leafcutter bee brood chamber in a rose cane (photo credit: OSU)

Pollinators in the garden aren’t fooled by the warm days. Their chrysalides are still clinging to last years dried sticks and leaves.  I know, you saw some bees flying around. There are some pollinators that come out early, but they still need cover on those chilly nights.  Last year’s leaf litter provides protection for both plants and invertebrates against late-season frosts.  The cherry trees bloom first in Ohio and the pollinator party starts, but wait until the apple trees are done blooming before you go at it with your itchy green thumb.   That way you will ensure all the late-to-emerge pollinating species also have a chance.

Some excellent resources on pollinator biology habitat can be found here:

Natural Resources and Conservation Services

OSU extension services

Header photo copyright: lianem / 123RF Stock Photo

March Challenge: Dispose of the disposable cup habit

It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world – Chaos Theory

We don’t often think of coffee and butterflies simultaneously, but for this month’s sustainability challenge, let’s make small shifts in thinking and small changes in actions – like thinking twice about the use of disposable cups. Tiny changes you make do make a difference. If millions of people make those tiny changes, the butterfly effect will help us reverse the environmental damage we have created, and we will have a cleaner healthier planet for our children and grandchildren.

Drink your morning cup of tea or coffee as if it were the first time in your life. Enjoy the smell of the roasted coffee being ground or the fresh-mown hay smell of the tea. Hold your cup, your favorite cup, the one that is made of clay, the one with the broken handle that allows you to warm your whole hand when you hold it, the one that says “World’s Best Dad”, the clear glass cup, the high-tech one, or the dainty grandmother cup on the daisy plate.   Sit down and sip, slowly, aware of the beautiful event that this is, every morning and every day.

And if you must travel with your coffee enjoy that too, but use a travel mug instead of disposable. The use of these disposable cups creates a typhoon of environmental consequences.  Billions of cups are tossed annually. And let’s see what it takes to make cups: Millions of trees, billions of gallons of water and the energy to power 50 to 100 thousand homes.   Every four paper cups equals one pound of CO2 emissions.  The number estimates vary between data sources, but we can agree the numbers are staggering. And coffee cups are hard to recycle, because they are often coated in plastic resin.

It might seem far away but choosing to enjoy your coffee in a reusable cup will keep the fluttering wings of beautiful, rare and pollinator butterflies in the coffee forests alive and well.

You can also visit us on Facebook and share your photos on instagram, when you catch yourself doing good. And please remember to tag us in your post!

Monica Bongue-Bartlesman, Ph.D.

P.S. If you missed our last two challenges, you can still participate and it’s easy to catch up! In January, we challenged our supporters to think about food waste. In February, we focused on using reusable bags while shopping.

 

 

Changing weather is simple, and it’s that hard

March, muddy March, a bridge between winter and spring. Green things start popping out of the soil and the urge to go out and dig in the mud becomes irresistible.
Spring comes far too soon, before we have had a chance to rest our bodies and spirit in the winter quiet.  We’re often pivoting between the depths of Winter and the start of Spring.
Tonight I will cook a comforting soup using the butternut squashes harvested last fall and the new spring onions popping out through the snow. Like farmers, they are defiant and fearless – knowing that it is only a few more weeks when we will be basking in the sun and enjoying the spring rains.
One of our high tunnels blew in the strong winds two days ago. While the plastic was flapping in the wind the herb, vegetable and flower seedlings kept growing undisturbed by the commotion in the greenhouse next to the now empty ground.
We protect our peppers seeds from the critters that like to eat them, put our chickens away at night, play with the kitty and keep on coming to the farm. We keep planting little seeds in trays, mulching our new strawberry field, measuring fields, planning, hoping, like farmers always hope, for the promise of spring.
This growing season will not blow us away like a high tunnel in the wind, we have the support of our volunteers and members that anchor our organization.
Thank you for being a part of the foundation that sustains us.