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Tuesday
Dec012015

5 Reasons to Give The Gift of Microfarm this Season

Organic Garden
You’ve been considering growing your family’s organic food in a Microfarm raised bed for a while now. The local produce aisle has become more crowded than a bus ride across the Peruvian countryside, and just this week, your first grader asked you what kind of tree grows tater tots.  You would have bought once for yourself a long time ago, but were reluctant to take the lead on yet another family project.

But ‘tis the season for giving, so you can present your husband with a Microfarm Kitchen Garden or Cedar Timbers raised bed this Christmas. He loves anything made out of red cedar, and since it’s his garden, he’ll be on the hook for all the watering and weeding.

 

Greenhouse
Every time you walk into the den, your son and his friends get quiet, and pause the TV. There are more pretzel crumbs in the sofa than dice in Las Vegas, and you swear you smell pot smoke. Piled up empty pizza boxes and soda cans suggest an larger gathering more suited for a convention center.

Not only would a Microfarm Cedar Greenhouse be handy for overwintering your citrus trees, storing garden tools, and starting organically grown heirloom vegetable seedlings, but you could push the teen party out there. They’re bound to learn a thing or two about gardening, and they’ll definitely thank you later when girls start showing up.

 

Chicken Coop
When you ordered that prefabricated coop kit online last year, it looked so adorable on the computer screen, you just knew she would love it. But when you got it assembled in the backyard, it looked more like the toy in a kids meal.  Your wife’s backyard flock is fully grown now, and when she puts them up for the night, the coop looks like a porcupine with feathers.

This year, impress her with a Microfarm Cedar Chicken Coop.  Whether you choose with the Garden Ark, Playhouse Coop, or the Garden Coop, you’re sure to hit a home run. All three designs feature sturdy cedar frames wrapped with galvanized hardware cloth mesh, and covered runs built right in. Best of all, you can stay in your jams and move on to the next gift, while our experts handle the installation.

 

Compost Station
It’s hard to find words to describe your neighbor’s compost heap, but here goes. It has the unmistakable aroma a Captain D’s dumpster and all the charm of a municipal landfill. It’s a tossup whether the raccoons, possums or rats like the chicken bones best. Luckily you have plenty of time to think of other descriptions, because it’s only eight feet from your bedroom window. 

Otherwise they’re good neighbors  and they throw an awesome holiday party. So why not surprise them with a Microfarm Cedar Compost Station this year? It’s a sharp looking design that’s easy on the eyes, and turns organic material into compost in no time. Just have a talk with them about those chicken bones…

 

Glazed Cedar Cold Frame
It felt like things were getting serious. So serious in fact, that you were just about to suggest some holiday ring shopping. That is until she casually told you that she was “so happy that we can keep things light and fun.” Guess you didn’t quite connect on that scuba diving trip to Mexico like you thought you did.

It’s okay, though, because deep down, you don’t mind another year of freedom. She loves plants and nothing says ‘sure we can keep this casual and fun’ like a Microfarm Glazed Cedar Cold Frame. It shows you’re the perfect combination of attentive, and aloof, you’ll be her hero on Christmas morning.

 

 

Potting Bench
Mom is proud of you, and for good reason. You haven’t lost a case in almost three years and you just made partner at the firm. You’re a great father, and you’re pretty handy too. You only had to call the help line twice to get that IKEA crib assembled, and every year you get the Christmas tree a little straighter. But custom made outdoor furniture? That might be a stretch, even for a renaissance man like you. Not to worry, because mom would be just delighted to get a hand crafted Microfarm Red Cedar Potting Bench this year, and so would the budding little gardener at home for that matter. We can even pack them on our sleigh, for delivery anywhere in the greater Charlotte area in plenty of time for the holidays.

 

 

 

 

Thursday
Nov262015

Extend Omelet Season With Supplemental Coop Lighting

Since you started your backyard flock, you’ve become fresh egg loving maniac. You eat at least one omelet a day, and think cholesterol is just another liberal conspiracy against the egg. You have a bumper sticker that reads, “ my chickens are smarter than your honor student.”  You haven’t paid for eggs in months, and you’re not about to start now just because it’s sweater season again. But how do you maintain egg production during the dark winter months? Supplemental lighting is the answer, and lucky for you, it’s easier than making huevos rancheros.

Begin augmenting daylight with supplemental coop lighting when the day length has decreased to about 15 hours, which is usually around September for most parts of the US. Maintain the supplemental lighting program throughout the winter until the day length has returned to 15 hours, and you can keep the eggnog flowing all winter long.

One 60 Watt bulb is sufficient to light as much as 200 square feet of coop space, and incandescent fixtures may not win any awards for energy efficiency,  but adjusting the wattage is as easy as switching out the bulb, and produce the warm wavelength light spectrum that stimulates a hen’s reproductive cycle.

While it may seem more convenient to leave the supplemental light on all the time, there’s no benefit to egg production beyond 18 hours of light, and it’s wasteful. Use a timer to add time in the morning and afternoon to achieve about 15 hours per day, giving your flock about eight hours of darkness every night to sleep and rest their immune systems.

Is your coop not wired for electricity? Solar and battery powered supplemental lighting kits are easy to install, but timers can sap the battery in these types of systems, and you may have to manually switch the light on and off.

Center the light above the living area in the coop – above feeders, but away from the nesting area which should remain dark. Placing a reflector behind the bulb increases light output, and remember that cobwebs and dust will diminish light intensity, and should be removed in weekly cleanings.

 

Wednesday
Nov252015

Wildlife's New Nemesis ; The Boyd Family's Garden Coop

The Boyd family’s chickens aren’t picky, and until recently their whimsical backyard coop design complete with a metal pipe frame and plastic netting was sufficient. Then local wildlife zeroed in on their once bucolic slice of suburbia. After relentless night time raids by raccoons and more than a few close calls with sharp talons, the Boyd’s decided it was time for more substantial coop.

Like a small town general store, The Garden Coop design had everything they needed. Its beefy red cedar framing wrapped with ½” galvanized hardware cloth is more than sturdy enough to thwart even large predators like coyotes, and the tinted polycarbonate panels that cover the entire run, protect their backyard flock from sun, rain and snow. The coop rests on concrete blocks, which eliminates ground contact and further extends the life of the durable cedar frame.

With relentless digging skills that would inspire even the most dubious jailbreak plots, nighttime raiders like raccoons and rodents can often dig their way into a meal of chicken, eggs, and feed well before the sun comes up. But with up to 12” of hardware cloth buried around the entire perimeter of the coop, the Garden Coop has crushed the hopes of countless hungry critters digging for dinner under the cover of darkness. The piles of rocks that were excavated while installing Boyd family’s coop were placed back inside the trench, giving theirs an even more storied reputation for security among area wildlife.

A full sized entry door makes it easy for the Boyd’s to access the coop for cleaning, and to add food and water.  The roost box is sided with red cedar 1x6 boards, and has a front-placed egg door for convenient egg retrieval. A roomy, covered  nest box with two compartments mean no waiting in line when it’s time to lay, and the large hinged door inside the coop makes it easy to access for cleaning.  The hens access their roost box via a sturdy ladder that leads up to a door placed in the floor.

Real tree branches placed inside the roost box and in the run give the flock plenty of space to spread out and enjoy their new coop.

Friday
Nov202015

The Ruiz Family's Organic Garden 

The Ruiz family’s South Charlotte neighborhood nestles into the surrounding tree canopy like grandpa in recliner. Squirrels forage for acorns while school children hold court in quiet cul de sacs. The busy family of four had already begun taking steps toward healthy living, like buying organic produce from local farmers and joining a csa program. They had even tried a small garden and compost pile, but with limited success.

Recently they decided that it was time to step it up in the garden.  With some thoughtful panning and a little help from Microfarm Organic Gardens, they’d soon be bringing in abundant harvests of organically grown heirloom varieties of family favorites like kale, chard and spinach  - right from their own backyard.

Lots of trees also means lots of shade, but luckily there was a level site in the backyard - just  a few skips from the kitchen sink - with the perfect  combination of morning and late afternoon sunlight. Their plants would soak up plenty of direct sunlight, while getting a welcome reprieve from scorching afternoons. The Ruiz family’s cultivar wish list reads like ‘War and Peace’, so we designed a raised bed layout that offered enough area to grow a diverse selection of edibles all year long. Wildlife is abundant in the neighborhood, so the family opted for our 19” tall Kitchen Garden design, which is often high enough to keep out rabbits and pets, not to mention much easier on the back than other raised bed designs.

Their L shaped Kitchen Garden raised bed measures 4’ wide and 10’x12’, while the smaller Kitchen Garden raised bed measures 4’x6’ – plenty of room for a deep selection of off the beaten path heirloom varieties .  Our Kitchen Garden raised beds are made with locally milled eastern red cedar -  a combination of rough sawed 1x6 boards fastened to 4x4 posts, with 2x4 stakes placed on the inside help reinforce the design.  A border of steel edging and pathways finished with small glacier pebbles eliminate muddy walks to the garden, and gives it a tidy elegance that even the neighbors can enjoy.

Naturally, a garden is only as good as its soil, so ours are filled with a premium blend of pine fines, mushroom compost, and PermaTill. This soilless blend delivers excellent drainage while allowing plant roots to quickly grow throughout the medium and absorb water and nutrients.

The right combination of macro and micro soil nutrients ensures healthy plants and strong production, and our hand mixed organic amendment blend includes blood meal, bone meal, kelp meal, green sand, rock phosphate, and dolomite limestone.

It wasn’t that their old prefabricated plastic compost bin was terrible, but now it fit in with the new garden like an Andy Warhol painting at the Biltmore Estate. Plus it was a little on the small side, and asking it to process enough compost for their new garden would be like asking a Prius to tow a backhoe over to the jobsite. With almost 100 square feet of new garden area, there’ll be plenty of room to continuously work in fresh compost, and we found a perfect nook nearby for a Microfarm single bin cedar compost station.  It’s an open top design made with 1x6 red cedar boards and features a slatted front that makes it easy to turn and retrieve compost.

 

 

 

Thursday
Nov192015

Selecting Mushroom Spawn

What is mushroom spawn?
Mushroom spawn is simply any substance that has been inoculated with the vegetative growth of a fungus, which is called mycelium.

Spawn transfers mycelium onto a substrate, or material in which mushrooms grow. Common substrates include straw, sawdust, hardwood chips, logs, and even paper and cardboard, and it's helpful to first determine the type of substrate you'll be using before selecting spawn type.

Plug Spawn
You’re determined to give this mushroom cultivation thing a try, but terms like inoculation, mycelium  and ‘spawn run’ remind you of that biology class you dropped. Your Uncle Dave loves shiitake mushrooms, and has an overgrown woodlot teeming with spindly white oak trees and a beefy Stihl chainsaw that looks ready to take on the entire State of Oregon. Plug spawn would be a great choice. They’re grown on hardwood dowel pins, and ideal for inoculating newly cut hardwood logs. Plug spawn are also easy to use – simply drill holes, tap in the plug, and seal with wax. They’re sold in small quantities – enough to inoculate just a few logs - and included in most mushroom cultivation starter kits. Plug spawn also easily colonizes other wood fiber substrates like wood chips, paper, and cardboard.

Grain Spawn
Look out old Old Bossy. Rye, millet, and wheat are now often used in making grain spawn, and one big advantage it has over other spawn types is that it contains readily available nutrients for growing mycelium. Grain spawn is used to create more grain spawn, or inoculate mushrooms on substrates like pasteurized straw and enriched sawdust. Some growers even use birdseed or popcorn kernels as grain spawn. They’re great for growing mushrooms, but also feeding hungry wildlife, and for this reason, grain spawn is better saved for indoor cultivation.

Peg Spawn
At first that shady nook behind the garage seemed so promising. But the blackberry patch fizzled like a faulty bottle rocket, and the herb garden just melted into mush. The space is too narrow to squeeze in a compost pile, but perfect for cultivating mushrooms in a bed of wood chips using peg spawn. They’re essentially larger versions of the hardwood dowels used for plug spawn, and ideal for planting in landscape borders, and other tight spaces.

Thimble Spawn
Peanut butter and jelly. Yin and Yang. Brad and Angelina.  Some things are perfect for each other, and thimble spawn combine the convenience of plug spawn with the rapid growth rate of sawdust spawn. They’re made by molding sawdust spawn together with wax into the shape of a plug with a self-sealing cap, which eliminates the need to seal them with wax.

Sawdust Spawn
Do you have the patience of a 6 year old, and the budget of a college student? Sawdust spawn might be the ticket. Sawdust spawn is made by inoculating sterilized sawdust with mycelium. It’s economical , and because of the small size of the particles, can quickly inoculate hardwood  logs, wood chip beds, enriched sawdust, cardboard, and outdoor beds of unpasteurized straw. But remember that sawdust alone does not contain enough nutrients for growing mycelium, and it must be enriched with bran or another nitrogen source for reliable yields.