Monday, November 15, 2010

On a Farm in Ventura, California

FARM NEWS from Fred Owens

November 15, 2010

I drove 1,312 miles from LaConner to this small farm in Ventura, California. I spent $108 for gas and used two quarts of oil. My old Toyota has had a small oil leak for the past 50,000 miles, but it's not getting any worse. I listened to Books on Tape -- CDs, actually -- and that made the drive very easy.

I have a little cabin for myself on the farm. I am working part-time for my room and board. My hosts, Ann and Andy Dunstan, are really nice people and we get along well. And there is plenty of work to do.

The farm has a website, Love House Dahlias.

Here's how I found this farm. I joined Worldwide Opportunities in Organic Farming, or WOOF. All the kids know about this website. It lists hundreds of organic farms around the country and around the world -- places where you can work for your keep and where you can learn about farming, or just for people who want to travel on the cheap.

Back on the farm. First thing, I get up. I let the chickens out of their coop, collect the eggs, and then give them food and water.

Then I go back to my cabin to drink coffee and do some email -- this place isn't primitive - I get wi-fi from the main house, which is about 75 feet away.

Then I go clean up after the horses in the corral. They have four horses here, being boarded. I am getting to learn a lot of about horses, so this is very interesting.

After that, I go to the greenhouse and right now we are getting ready to plant 30,000 sweet peas.

The sweet peas will be a winter crop to fill in the space left by the dahlias. Dahlias are what they grow here on a commercial scale.

The dahlias are finished blooming for the season and slowly dying. But as long as they stay a little green, they will keep sending nourishment down to the tubers -- so we wait.

We wait until they're finished, and then let the plants sit for a couple of weeks, before we begin the big job of digging them all up -- all the tubers, dig 'em up, bring 'em into the greenhouse, wash and sort them and divide them -- some get sold, some get saved to re-plant in the spring.

That will be a lot of work.

Meanwhile, as we wait for the dahlias to finish, we plant the sweet peas in the trays in the greenhouse to get them started.

The dahlias will come out, the sweet peas will go in the ground -- being legumes, they will fix nitrogen to the soil and help the dahlias to grow. They will also provide spring blooms for sale.

That's the job. Plus feeding the chickens, looking after the horses, and I'm doing a bit of landscape gardening around the place as well.

And there's a vegetable garden to work on. Plenty of things to do on a small place like this.

And so much to learn too -- this is a very different climate and there are so many new plants to learn about.

After work, it's a six mile drive to the beach, where it's nice to go and watch the sun setting...... or six miles into town and various amusements.

Corn Harvest. The US Dept of Agriculture estimates a corn crop of 12.54 billion bushels this year -- the third largest crop on record. Average yield was 154 bushels per acre.

Most of the corn was harvested at less than 15 percent moisture. This is very good, because if the corn is harvested when it's wet, they have to run it through a grain drier and that costs time and money.

Dry corn is the best. What they do is order up a weather forecast and have it rain when the corn's growing, and have the sun shine when the corn is ready to harvest --- right!

Twelve billion bushels! That's a lot of corn -- mainly grown back there in the Midwest. All those farmers in Indiana growing corn year after year after year. Nothing but corn for miles and miles, billions of bushels.

U.S. Grains Council. Corn harvest news comes from this website.

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Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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Fred Owens
Box 1292
LaConner WA 98257

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