What a wonderful feeling to finally have spring upon us at Green Willow Homestead! We had a few “Fool’s Springs” in Shell Lake, WI - but I’ve gotten better at containing my verdant excitement and not jumping the gun. In this first video blog, I share with you what’s happening at Green Willow Homestead for the 2021 season - what we’re planting on the farm, where and how we’re selling our produce, and a few long term goals for the future.
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First and foremost - it feels so good to finally be settled at our new 80-acre farm in Shell Lake. This beautiful property is everything we dreamed of as we thought about moving closer to our folks, getting away from the city, and not having to hear a neighbor’s lawnmower if we could help it!
Through the winter I thought deeply about what I wanted this first year to look like for the farm - what would we sell? Where and how would we sell it? What were some long term goals for the farm? The slow pace of the winter season is such a perfect time to re-evaluate and business plan for the farm.
Our 2021 Market Garden Plan
In the fall I did a soil test through the U of M that came back with very high levels of phosphorus, most likely due to years of manure over-application without soil testing (soil testing is important you guys!). This soil result set me down the rabbit hole of researching how to unlock and uptake some of that phosphorus which led me to this paper from the Rodale Institute on using arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) to increase the yield of potatoes in high P soils.
So our plan this first year is to plant 120lbs of potatoes and inoculate with AMF both by dropping in some soil dug up from our heavily forested woods and using Myco Blast and SD Microbes Bierkashi to coat the seed potatoes before planting. We purchased our seed potatoes varieties from High Mowing Organic this year. At our 5-acre farm we planted and harvested potatoes by hand, but this year with a 120’x60’ garden, we purchased a middle buster plow and plan on automating both trenching and harvesting our spuds. I’ll be sure to report back on how this implement does as well as how our AMF experiment affects P levels in our soils.
Between our rows of potatoes, we will be mulching heavily with chopped straw to provide habitat for predatory insects of the Colorado Potato Beetle. We also will be planting a variety of herbs and flowers to increase beneficial pollinators, deter rabbits and deer, and ultimately cut and sell at our local markets.
My husband built me their four-tiered seedling shelf that sits in our south-facing window (thanks hubby!). Then my mom and I planted 600 seedlings two days prior to the full moon (which if you don’t plant with the moon you absolutely have to start, our basils germinated in five days which is absolutely bonkers - here’s an article on timing plantings with the moon). We purchased seeds from the Alliance of Native Seedkeepers and True Love Seeds.
Our Herbs + Flowers include:
Lastly, we will be selling our pastured eggs. Our flock is about 75 hens strong and for the first part of the year our eggs will be available in Foxtail Farm’s Spring CSA box, which gets delivered to the Twin Cities. Then during the summer, our eggs and produce will be sold at farmers markets in the area. Our main farmers market will be a new one at Perlick Distillery in Sarona, WI which I am helping organize with Farmer Sherry over at Chickadee Hill Homestead. I absolutely love organizing and planning events, so being able to collaborate with Sherry has been a blast. If you are a farmer in the area and interested in being a vendor at this market - don’t hesitate to email me!
New Additions to the Farm
Our farm is growing with the adoption of Dezzy, our Kangal Shepherd puppy who will be Spot’s right-hand gal when it comes to protecting our livestock. We found our Kangal breeder, Rachel, at Chippewa Valley Kangals and I highly recommend her. Having livestock guardian dogs (LGDs) is an absolute god-send which free-ranging hens and (drumroll)...
Baby Nigerian Dwarf goats! We are also welcoming four doelings to the farm. I have dreamt of dairy goats for five years and it’s finally happening. Everyone, meet Banana, Olive, Mango, and Nutmeg. We are getting these beauties from Aubrey’s Acres (I highly recommend Nigerian Dwarf goat breeder Lauren as well) at three weeks old so we will be bottle feeding them. My plan is to breed them this fall and have goat’s milk by the spring of 2022 for soap making (and of course for drinking too!)
Thanks for reading/watching our video blog spring update for the farm!
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Thanks for stopping by Green Willow Homestead! From chicken rearing to composting, we've got our hands full and we love sharing what we've learned along the way. Follow along as we turn the 80 acres we call home into a farm that serves its community and a homestead that nourishes us throughout the seasons.
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Favorite Books of 2022
2. Braiding Sweetgrass
3. As Long As Grass Grows
4. The Small Scale Poultry Flock
5. The Zero Waste Solution