Thursday, May 26, 2011

Oh My Goodness, This Sunshine is Amazing!

And then I awoke from my long slumber.  Some day, 'they' say, the sun will show it's firey face once again.  Hopefully, before July this year.  It's like clockwork for me.  The last week of May is always the hardest time of the year.  We get teased some nice weather ,and then it seems the rain won't quit.  Alas, this is just how it is.


I've got a full weekend coming up.  I'm doing the Aloha Farmers Market on Saturday and the Tigard Area Farmers Market on Sunday.  Gonna be busy and awesome all at once.  Then, I've got the next two days off to work in the yard and spend time with my wife.  I'm looking forward to it!

If you are out and about this weekend, stop by a market and say hello.  Aloha Farmers Market is at the corner of 185th and TV Highway from 9am-3pm.  I'll be the only booth with plants...kind of like cornering the  concentrated frozen orange juice market.  Except with out the help of a stunning Jaime Lee Curtis, perhaps.  Tigard market takes plasce at the corner of 99W(Pacific Highway) and Hall Boulevard and runs from 9am-2pm.  The sun is actually scheduled to appear for a mid-day performance, but forecasters have been unwilling to confirm this report at this time.

And if that all doesn't work?  You can stop by Barbur World Foods and pick up some fine Winona Farms Plants there as well.  Or simply email me - - to set up a time to drop by and pick them up fresh from the 'farm'.

Take care everyone - enjoy the long weekend.  Hopefully you get to experience some sun.


Friday, May 20, 2011

So, How Did I Get Here?

Early this spring, I was a sellout.  A waffler.  Maybe a little bit afraid.  I recall a moment as vivid as any I've had since I got married.  I was sitting with my friend Dean in his awesome seed room and I thought to myself, "This is what I want."  Then he asked me, "What do you want?"  I wasn't ready to fully admit my own private admission.  I told him something about being unsure and trying to figure out how I would even do this with everything else I have going on currently.  Yet, I knew the answer.  I just kept it bottled up.

Out of the blue, it became absolutely necessary (in my mind) to give my 'hobby' a name.  I sifted thru various iterations before settling on Winona Farms.  Why it became so immediately necessary, I haven't a clue, but it just fanned the fire hotter.  I began looking at bulk supplies from nursery outlets.  Could I possible even go thru 800 pots this year?  That seemed ridiculous.  Ha!  I ended up ordering a second 800...and another 1500 after that.

As the months have rolled by, and we got to experience such a wonderful March and April of historical cold and dampness, that thought just rattled around growing louder.  The weather should have killed it.  The melting of my plants in the poly tunnel should have killed it.  Still, it just got stronger.  I even began to call local nurseries to see if they would be interested in some of the rarer peppers I grow.  No dice on the four I called...and one actually hung up on me.  I remained determined.

I had only planned to sell my plants to neighbors, friends, and the interesting community of Craigslist.  Then, on a wild hair, I emailed the folks at Tigard Area Famers Market.  They said they would love to have me.  I wrote about that experience last week, all the good and mostly bad (not bad, enlightening) that it was.  It  didn't matter, as I was consumed with making my space better. 

A few days ago, the Aloha Farmers Market responded to a Craigslist ad of mine and invited me to join them.  I'm really busy and have an obligation each Saturday morning and would have been defensible to decline the invite.  Of course, by now, you know that wasn't happening.  I'll re-arrange my schedule so I can join the market.

And, now this.  Tomorrow, I will have a stand up at Barbur World Foods.  After negotiating how we would price things and keep track of sales, we agreed to do business.  It's absolutely mind-blowing to me.  From that little private admission at Dean's in February to now having a stand at a store is simply unbelievable.  For whatever reason, this 'little' step legitimizes that little snowball of a thought.  I'm a true nurseryman.  A farmer.

I've spent a lot of late nights potting up plants, covering up seedlings with fabric, and designing shelter after shelter to protect my starts.  I do it because I love it.  There hasn't been once this year where I've grumbled about doing any of it.  Still, I had this sense that I was a madman laughing at the rain.  But not anymore.  Now that I'm a farmer...

Though I'm still not really sure how I got here, I'm certainly ecstatic to be here.   Perhaps you can see the Chessire grin out here in sw Porltandia...


A few of you have commented on my musings and I'm eternally thankful for your giving your time to do so.  This blog is another 'laughing at the rain' activity for me.  Well, at least until someone posts a comment anyway.  Then it makes it seem like I'm some world-class writer.  Don't worry, the feeling quickly goes away.

Please join me at the Tigard Area Farmers Market on Sunday May 22.  The following week I'll be at the Aloha Farmers Market on May 28, and back in Tigard for May 29 over Memorial Day Weekend.  If you want to buy some plants directly from me, just send me an email -

Thanks everyone - have yourselves a great weekend!

Monday, May 16, 2011

School is Now in Session

This past Sunday, I broke my Farmer's Market "innocence".  I'm now a grizzled vet of the 10' x 10' space of parking lot in hopes of selling my goods to consumers of the Tigard area.  That's probably an exaggeration.  I certainly had a lot to learn on the first day.  So much to take in and process; it was quite overwhelming. 

The day couldn't have been more idyllic, in that it rained the entire time the market was open.  Of course, it stopped once the market closed.  The first one couldn't have happened any other way, right?  Still, thru the rain and somewhat gusty wind, I made a few sales here and there and actually made my rent.  I was delighted to reach that, given weather and my limited (re: zilch) knowledge about how to set up a space at a market.

I showed up with two tables and 20 flats of plants.  Not much in the way of signs or advertisement to be had, as I wasn't even sure what I would do.  After seeing other vendors spaces, it became clear I need to highlight my specialties in a far more robust manner. 
1) I have a ton of pepper varieties, but I left some at home (mainly the sweet varieties).  Those, of course, were the ones that people asked about.  I have to remember that most people are more fond of sweet peppers than spicy ones...unlike me.
2) I realized after browsing that my prices were a bit high compared to other vendors.  I don't need to undercut anyone, just pull in line with the other folks.
3) My organization on the tables needs some work.  I need to put the valued product like basil, tomatoes, & peppers as the first thing that people see, not sunflowers and lettuce.
4) I need to cut way back on the flowers, lettuce, and non-basil herbs.  Even with the small sample size, most people wanted (or were at least curious about) tomatoes, peppers, and basil. 

In many ways, I was lucky to have my first day be so rainy.  While it was cold and miserable standing underneath my canopy, I essentially got a free day of school.  Instead of having a crush of people on a nice sunny day, I was able to walk around and observe a bit of how I could adapt my space to better suit potential customers.  I was also able to bend the ear of a couple vendors and get some advice on how to improve as well.  All in all, it was a fantastic day.

Then, I went home and potted up more plants.  The last of the tomatoes and peppers are now outside and getting hardened off to go into a warming garden near you.  Also, lots of basil now coming into maturity.  Sweet, Mammoth Sweet, Genovese, Italian Large Leaf, Serata, Red Lettuce Leaf, Red Rubin, Purple Ruffles, Cinnamon, Thai, Indian, Christmas, Clove, Holy Red & Green, African Tree, Lemon, and Lime basils are ready (or, are very close.)

It's kind of sad, actually.  Not much left in the basement these days.  I'll plant a few more flats of greens and some squash/cukes/melons, but this really is the wind-down period for planting stuff indoors.  One by one the lights are being turned off as they aren't needed anymore.  Only 15 flats in a possible 32 spaces remain.  That will continue to shrink this week as I move more basil and marigolds out. 

Here's hoping that the weather is a bit better this weekend.  I'm ready for a crush of people.  I would love to sell out of plants.  It sure beats throwing them into the compost bin.  If you are in the neighborhood and are having a hankering for some peppers, tomatoes, basil (and/or kettle korn), come on out to the market.  It's pretty easy to find in the parking lot of Young's Funeral Home.

Take care, everyone.  Hope your week has been going well.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Is This Make-Up Weather?

After tormenting us for the better part of six months, has La Nina begun to subside?  A couple 70 degree days in a week is one helluva way to make up for stepping out on us in April.  I even planted a few tomatoes as a celebration of the wonderful change in temps.  Of course, that may be a bit premature, but I've got my plastic handy if the rains decide to set in again.

I want to thank everyone that came out to the sale on Sunday.  That was a great time and I was happy to meet a some new people.  I hope your plants become everything you hope for and more.  While I love starting plants, nothing will give me more joy or a bigger smile than someone who said that their tomato or pepper exceeded expectations.  Like a proud father, I'll be.

I do have one note of regret, however.  In my obsession to start as many plants as I have, I've over-run my capacities to protect them.  As such, I've built one greenhouse after another as way to keep them outside, yet somewhat sheltered from the elements.  In doing so, I've taken up space in my garden that I normally would be now planting things in.  It's a bit ironic, really.  I began growing starts as a way to make my garden more interesting and fun.  Now, they are a bit of an inhibitor of the original desire to do them in the first place.  C'est la vie, non?


So, I decided to tempt fate.  Some time ago, I put up a post detailing my amazing luck with the Early Jalapeno's germinating at 100%.  I couldn't just stop there, now, could I?  Hell no!  Like a derelict gambler, I had to put it all on red.

In my last wave of peppers I started, I planted twelve more EJ seeds.  Amazingly, they all came up.   Well, except for one.  I waited a few extra days longer to see if I would get it to pop from the soil, even a sickly/weak one would qualify for 100% germination.  Alas, it was not to be.  I ended the year 43 out 44 - good for 98%.  Great, but not perfection.  Sigh.

It does look like the rain is coming back for the weekend which is a shame.  After taking in the warmth today and watching all of Portlandia come out of the cave to jog, walk, bike, bbq, and generally rollick in the streets, it's tough to go back to the unpleasantness from before (I'll just refer to it as the month that shall not be named.)  Yet, this little warm patch sure gives hope.  Refreshing hope.

Take care everyone - here's to the sunny days and warming soils.  Please email me if you want something tomato-y or pepper-y or lettuce-y or basil-y to stick in those warming soils -