Category Archives: Derby Farm

Spring Garden 2011 – Synopsis

This is my spring garden wrap up for 2011.  It has been a fun spring with some booming successes, a few minor failures and a lot of weird and challenging weather.

The Big Winners:  The big winners this spring were the butter crunch lettuce, Cincinnati Market radishes and Colorado onions.  All three produced phenomenally providing many healthy meals.  Also, I harvested over three pounds of garden (snap) peas which was certainly more than I’d ever had before, due mainly to the large areas I planted with peas at TFF.

The Big Losers:  A couple of notable failures this year were several spring plantings that did not germinate.  They include habanero peppers that were sown indoors in heated beds – zero germination – and salsify (or oyster root) which was sowed outdoors and had a less than one percent germination rate.

Weather  We had both hot and cold extremes this spring.  A late cold snap crushed our hopes for apples and peaches but also helped us by quelling the early grasshopper hatch, according to my friends at Hillside Seed and Feed.  The biggest weather challenge was rain.  In May we got a total of 1.5″ at Turkey Foot Farm and at the beginning of June we were 5″ below average for the year.  Hot/cold, windy and mostly dry is the weather synopsis for spring farming 2011.  We were saved to some extent by 4.5 inches of rain that fell in the latter weeks of May.

Harvest  Despite the weird weather, the harvest was not bad.  The table below shows planting dates and harvest amounts.  The harvest amounts may be low estimates since not everything was weighted, but the numbers are a pretty good approximation.

Notes on Varieties

Collards:  these seeds were given to me by my Uncle Tub.  I think they were supposed to form heads but mine did not. However, they formed a lot of nice leaves.  I both transplanted from early indoor plantings and direct sowed.  The indoor plantings worked well and yielded the best.  In late June I harvested the remaining leaves and froze about a pound of them.   I left several of their “stumps” in the garden and as of July 1, they are beginning to leaf back out nicely.

Mustard:  I planted Red Giant from Morgan County Seeds.  I started them indoors and then moved them outside in late May or early April.  The variety lived up to its name, producing a large number or very big leaves and did not bolt until very late in the spring.  We had some early hot spells where the mustard would wilt terribly.  This is definitely a cool-weather, early-season crop.

A fresh garden salad featuring sugar snap peas. When peas are fresh, young and tender it is hard to bring yourself to cook them so a salad provides a good alternative.

Swiss Chard:  We planted Burpee Ruby Red variety.  Unlike mustard greens, chard thrives well in both cool and hot weather as do collard greens to a lesser extent.  As of July 1, our chard is still going strong with the earliest plantings giving us a second yield.

Spinach:  This year I again planted the Burpee Salad Fresh spinach.  The seed was at least two years old but germinated fine.  Yields were good but most was gone by early June due to hot spells and bolting.  I used up the seed and have now switched to a different variety that was suggested by my friends at Hillside Seed and Feed.

Arugula:  The variety was Oriental Greens from Morgan County Seeds.  I started these indoors and only planted three or four in the garden.  They are nice to have in salads mixed in with spinach/lettuce to provide some zest.  They are heat tolerant but bolt very early.  I find you can continue to harvest good leaves even as they bolt.

Radishes:  This year we planted three types of radishes.  Burpee Crimson Crisp Hybrid, along with two heirloom varieties from the Seed Savers Exchange – French Breakfast and Cincinnati Market.  The Burpee hybrids were the first to go in the ground and were ready in a remarkably short time – 28 days.  The heirloom varieties went in later and took a little longer to mature.  My new favorite variety is the Cincinnati Market.  This heirloom variety grows long like a carrot but has the traditional radish flavor.  It is much better than conventional globe radishes for slicing.  I made two big jars of refrigerator pickles with them.  After I ate the radishes, I made pickled hard-boiled eggs in the  remaining red brine – delicious.

Picked on May 25th, here are some garden fresh onions and Cincinnati Market radishes ready to cut up for a salad. These are my new favorite radishes.

 Salad Onions:  I planted the Colorado variety which I got from Hillside Seed and Feed.  They were a HUGE success, maturing quickly and growing very large.  We ate a lot of these in spring salads and continued harvesting them into the heat of the summer.

Butter Crunch Lettuce:  I’m uncertain of the specific variety, but I bought the seed at Hillside Seed and Feed.  This lettuce did terrific in our raised bed, producing lush delicious heads that made great salad.  We only had a short double row 2-3 feet long but it fed us salads for over a month.  We hated to see it go.

Garden Peas:  We planted several varieties – two were hybrids Burpee Sugar Snap and Shumway’s Experimetnal Lot 10-F-A.   We also planted an heirloom variety, Amish Snap Pea from SSE.  We had a pretty good harvest but did not put any by due to the fun of eating them fresh.

 Potatoes:  We planted three varieties of potatoes Kennebec, Bison and Yukon Gold.  The only ones harvested in the spring were the Kennebec and that was only a single vine.  These are delicious white potatoes that did fairly well at the Coe farm.  We’ll write more about this year’s potato harvest when all the results are in.

Garlic:  Last fall we planted two varieties of garlic, Georgia Fire and Ajo Rajo.  Both were mail-ordered from the Potato Patch.  We harvested 15 bulbs from the plants that made it to maturity.  Most were on the small side but some were rather large and all are delicious.  Both varieties did well.

Tomatoes:  I started a lot of tomatoes inside at the beginning of February.  We had one vine that produced two spring tomatoes.  The two tomatoes had set when the plants were still indoors.  The same plant now has a lot of green toms but the two early ones were clearly an anomaly.  The variety that set early was Shumway’s Experimental Lot 11-F-A.


Just in Time Chicken Tractor

Side view of finished chicken tractor. You can see Sexi Lexi standing in the door of the roost box. You can click on images to see a larger version.

Farmer girl, farmer boy and I just finished the chicken tractor, also called a movable coop, last weekend. It is the newest addition to TFF.  We have a new flock of 14 poults in the brooder who are almost ready to move to the permanent coop so we had to move our rooster and six layers to make room for the new ones.  We moved the layers and the rooster, Sexi Lexi, into the tractor on Sunday.  The plan is that they will spend the rest of their lives living in the tractor when they are not free ranging.  They have spent two nights inside and are doing fine.  The tractor is moved by tilting it up onto wheels mounted at one end.  It’s difficult, but not impossible, to move by yourself.  It helps to have two people.  The lower level is a floorless run that allows the chickens access to dirt, grass, weeds and bugs.  The upper level is the roost that they stay in at night.  The floor of the roost box slides out for easy cleaning and there are two nest boxes with an exterior door for collecting each day’s eggs.  Right now we have 6 hens in there with Lexi and they don’t seem crowded.

Here is the right side view. Lexi is on the outdoor perch. You can also see the rear wheels and the steel pipe we slide into place to lock the door each night.

The coop also boasts a skylight, interior ventilation and easy-access perches both inside and out.

Rear view shows the exterior access to the nest boxes. The visible roof material is corrugated translucent plastic. It sits atop 1/8 inch plywood and there is a hole in the top half to act as a skylight.

Introducing Turkey Foot Farm

In previous posts I mentioned our Derby Home.  This post introduces our new home and describes our expanded farming activities there.  We purchased the property and  home in May 2010.  The property consists of 11 acres and is located just east of Derby Kansas.  We moved in at the end of May and over the past 10 months we have done a number of small farm related improvements and feel it is time to give the new place a name and an introduction.  The name is Turkey Foot Farm or TFF for short.  Turkey Foot has a triple meaning for our farm since we are raising turkeys, have wild turkeys on the property and have pastures with big bluestem grass.  The folk name for big bluestem is Turkey Foot. 

Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) - you can see from the seed heads how big bluestem got its alternate name - turkey foot.

I have listed some of the urban farming features of TFF below with photos. 

1)  360 square feet of raised beds.  The first thing we did at TFF was to construct raised beds using cinder blocks.  The beds were filled with dirt and compost.  The compost was obtained from Evergreen Recycling in Park City Kansas.  A lot of the harvested vegetables described in the previous post “Fall Garden Wrap Up” came from the first of our three beds.  I have included some photos from last summer and from today.

This is one of our 8 x 10 beds. The photo is from last summer when the winter squash plants were getting going. Later these butternut squash plants covered all the grass in this photo.

Three raised beds - this is a shot of our three raised beds looking from the south. The nearest bed is the largest at 25 x 8 and behind it are the two 8 x 10 beds. The red tubs in the forefront are being used to grow potatoes.


Asparagus Bed - In addition to our raised beds we have dug or rototilled another 6 or 7 beds. This photo shows our newly emerged "Mary Washington" asparagus. We planted 50 two-year-old crowns about a month previous to this photo. The bed has a good deal of compost worked into it. We expect to harvest asparagus in spring 2013.

2)   A 16 square foot cold frame. 

The cold frame is used to extend the growing season.  This spring we used it to start radishes, spinach, chard, collards and mustard greens.  

Cold Frame - Here is a shot of our 16 sq. ft cold frame on April 14 2011. The windows were removed a few weeks ago and will go back on in the fall. Growing inside is swiss chard, spinach, radishes, collards, arugula and mustard greens. We have been harvesting spinach and radishes for a couple of weeks at this point.

3) A chicken coop with external runs and solar-powered lighting.   This was a pretty big time and money investment.  The chicken coop was built from an existing three-sided shed.  We poured a concrete foundation in one half of the shed, added a front wall and other improvements.  There was no electricity so we installed a solar battery charger and some 12 volt lighting.  So far we have raised 2 dozen Cornish x rock chickens which are now all in our freezer or tummies along with a mixed flock of layers and one rooster that are shown in the photos below.

Chicken Coop. The space inside the coop is divided in half so that two sets of poultry can be separately raised. There is a run on each side and this photo shows the smaller south run. The north run is not visible and is still under construction. So far we have raised over 30 chickens in this coop. On the roof above the wreath you may be able to make out the small solar collector that powers the lights inside.

Here is our current egg-laying flock. They produce 4-6 eggs per day. Most of the eggs are fertile because we have a rooster housed with the hens. He is named Lexi is on the left behind the black chicken. We have incubated some of the eggs and currently have three chicks in a separate brooder in our garage.

4)  A large pile-based composting operation.  I forgot to take a photo of our compost operation but will try to do so later.  It consists of two large (8′  x 8′ x4′) side-by-side bins where we throw kitchen, yard and chicken waste to help us recycle and enrich the soil at TFF.

5)  Web site.  We also established a web site for TFF to help us establish ownership of the name and to provide a place to conduct online commerce should we decide to go in that direction.  The web site can be viewed at:

We are still growing vegetables at the Coe Farm in Wichita and will continue to report on our progress there.

Fall Garden Wrap Up

I’m finally getting around to posting a wrap-up of my fall garden which was quite good, particularly in comparison with my summer garden in 2010.  Here it is February and we are still eating fresh winter squash and Jerusalem artichokes from the fall garden along with frozen beans.  The big hit from the fall garden was the string beans.  They were extremely productive with over 15 lbs of beans harvested from our 8 x 10 raised bed at Turkey Foot Farm.   Just about everything was a big success except our beets and Swiss chard  which got wiped out by a mole that dug a tunnel right down the rows.  It seems the mole was just digging along the row because we watered there and during the drought it was the only place the mole could find water.   The mole also dug through the bean patches but the beans seemed unharmed by the mole’s tunnels.  Below is a table summarizing the planting dates, harvest dates and yield of our fall garden which consisted of two 8 x 10 foot raised beds made from cinderblocks.

Even after giving many of these away, we ended up with 1.5 bushels in our basement. They store well and we ate them right through February and into March. The roasted seeds became a family favorite.

These are a few of the "purple top white globe" variety turnips I grew. They were delicious and I was pulling turnips almost up until christmas. What a wonderful fall crop. This year I plan to plant a whole lot more.

Fall Garden Dinners

The fall garden is looking great!  Last week we had stuffed cabbage.  This is where you hollow out the cabbage and stuff it with a mixture of meat, rice and the grated cabbage heart.  It was delicious.   This cabbage variety is called “Golden Acre Cabbage” and I planted it on June 30.  This was about 70 days to maturity and included a long hot dry spell in August. This weekend (9-19-2010) we picked the first fall beans.  These were a mix of pole beans and bush beans.  They are currently heavily-laden with beans and blossoms but only a handful or so were ready to pick.  We combined the handful of beans with a head of chinese cabbage, or Michihili, and made a delicious light stir fry of onion, tofu, chinese cabbage and green beans.  Delicious and healthy.  The beans are “Blue Lake Bush Beans”  and “Ferry Morse Kentucky Pole Beans” both were planted around July 15 so about 55 days from planting to harvest.  

Cabbage and grated cabbage heart for making “Stuffed Whole Cabbage”


Finished product, includes stuffed heart surrounded by stuffed cabbage leaves


Stir fried chinese cabbage, beans and tofu. Delicious light summer dining.


Chinese cabbage and green beans fresh from the garden.


Fall Garden Update!

Winter Squash Vines - August 10, 2010.


 I can’t believe I haven’t posted in over a month.  But I have been very busy.  I went to two beaches, one parade, a blue-grass concert, an Old Settler’s day,  a family reunion, two picnics, a pig roast and beer-tasting night.  Those are my excuses.  I nursed my fall garden through the hot drought of August and I am now reaping the rewards.  Lots of winter squash, chinese cabbage, regular cabbage, little green beans that will be ready soon, tons of winter squash and rapidly growing beets, spinach and turnips.  I’ll keep the photos coming as the harvest commences.  

40 degrees celsius in the shade! Yikes. This photo was taken on August 10. The day we returned from a 10 day trip.


Look how cracked the earth was near my raised beds in Derby. This was from the long August dry spell and hot weather.


High Peach Season in KS

For the last few weeks we’ve been picking peaches from our trees in Derby KS.  We’ve been making pies and freezing peaches in syrup.  The first tree to produce is one called Stark Early White Giant.   These peaches are big and juicy but are just so-so in flavor.  The more recent, non-early, variety are much yellower inside and much more peachy flavored.  Unfortunately, I don’t know the name of this tree.  Both trees had a huge number of peaches and we had to prop up several branches and even then some of the branches broke under the load.  We finished picking the last peaches off of the early tree this week and it looked very happy to be rid of its load.   There is still a pretty heavy load of peaches on the second tree.  One way to get rid of peaches is to make pies.

Here's a bunch of white peaches from the early tree.

Both trees had a bumper crop and even with lots of proppnig we lost the top out of the early tree and a big branch out of the later tree.

Delicious peach pie straight from the oven. Peaches picked the same morning.

Another way to consume peaches is to freeze them for year-round use.  We’ve frozen 11 quarts so far this year.  Six quarts were frozen using white grape juice and the rest were frozen using regular sugar water as the syrup. 

Quart bags of peaches in the freezer.