Category Archives: Farm News

New Interns

Hi friends,

After receiving a lot of wonderful emails, we found 2 great interns to work with us this season. This is exciting because Katie and I are stretched to the gills during the peak growing season and we really need the extra help. I want to thank everyone who emailed us. It is nice to know that there are so many people interested in urban farming in Chicago. I really think that there is a bright future ahead for small farms in the city.

Thank you again to everyone who expressed interest. We hope to see you around on our volunteer days and our exciting events coming up this summer.

Molly

We’re Looking for an Intern (or two)!

Hey You!  Tell your friends!  Patchwork Farms is looking for an intern or two!!!!

We would love to find either an intern or two to work a four-hour shift on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  We will not be able to pay the intern with money, but we will give the intern(s) a full CSA share worth of food. 

During the internship, you will work alongside one of the two farmers everyday.  You will help grow vegetables from seed to harvest–working in our greenhouse, in all of our westside gardens, and with our customers.    You will learn about growing plants in an urban setting, running a business, as well as preserving the harvest for the Winter.

Be ready for hard, physical work in every season and weather situation.  Also, be prepared to work on Chicago’s westside with its diverse population of people.

If you are interested, please send an email telling us about yourself, and what you hope to get out of the internship to: ChicagoPatchworkFarms@gmail.com

Growing a whole diet

I spent the last weekend starting to clear an acre of land on the property our friends Mike and Clare recently bought in Harvard, Il.  I’m clearing the land so that we can plant a field of dry beans, grains, potatoes, and in the Fall garlic.  We chose to grow these crops in Harvard because while they grow, these plants are lower maintenance than many of our other crops (they will require less watering, less weeding, and no successive plantings), and they are crops that are harvested all at one time rather than repeatedly throughout the year.  I am planning on working for Clare and Mike on their farm two days a week, and for Patchwork Farms 4 days a week.  During the hours while I’m in Harvard, but not working with Clare, I will maintain our land.

We also chose to grow these crops in Harvard because they are experiments for us.  Neither of us have much experience growing grains or beans, so we didn’t want to devote any of our more expensive urban growing area to those crops.  We are putting the potatoes out there, too, because they round out our crop rotation nicely.  We really want to figure out how to grow grains and beans, because we want to see if we can grow our entire diet ourselves.   That’s another reason why we’re excited to be raising bees.  My roommates tapped Maple trees in Ukrainian Village last winter, and I was excited to help them this year.  Unfortunately, the mildness of this winter may have made maple syruping impossible this year, so it will be nice to raise some of our own honey to sweeten up our pantries. 

We are also hoping to find a place to raise laying chickens and ducks in the city this year.  We are thinking we might raise the flocks cooperatively–wherein people would pay to buy their own bird and pay for the year’s upkeep, and we would raise them as a flock and deliver everyone their eggs once a week.   We’ll be sure to post on the website if we decide to try a program like this. 

Also, if not this year, then next year I would love to try to raise some small game for eating (Molly is a vegetarian, and won’t be part of this endeavor).  I’m thinking about raising some rabbits, chickens, and or ducks.  I also want to get some Nigerian Dwarf Goats for milk. 

Oh how fun it is to daydream during the winter!

Seeds Ordered!

Since I got back from Texas in Mid-January, Molly and I have been flipping through and gushing over delicious looking seed catalogs–imagining what we want our gardens to produce this year.  We surveyed our CSA, and asked them what they wanted us to grow this year.  We also looked at all the beautiful vegetable pictures and read all of the glowing descriptions in the catalogs and decided to grow some new and exciting things!

This year we’ll  be growing these new fun things:

Atomic Red Carrots
Broccoli Raab
Cutting Celery
new, beautiful, little Eggplants
a number of different greens for the Spring and Fall
Rainbow Lacinato Kale (whatever will that be like?!)
Larger Storage Onions
Potatoes
Grains
Dry Beans
new Tomato Varieties
Red Turnips
Poblano Peppers
new, exciting (I promise) Winter Squashes
new Gourd varieties
Jack O Lantern Pumpkins
Loofah

I’m most excited about expanding with Potatoes, Grains, and Beans.  I hope that we’ll be able to grow the majority of our whole year’s diet for ourselves and our roommates this year!

I’m also super excited about the PUMPKIN PATCH we will be planting in our Chicago Ave garden!!!!!!  We’re going to have Jack-o-Lantern Pumpkins, Gourds, and Loofah growing in the area around our vegetables beds!  It is going to be soooo fun to open it up on Sundays in the Fall for people to come pick out their pumpkins from a patch in their own urban neighborhood!!!!  I think it is going to be so great!

Once we finish up our seeding spreadsheet, if I can figure out how to, I’ll upload it onto this site.  That way people can look through it and see all the varieties we’re growing, when we are planning on planting things, and the way we plan and organize our gardens on paper. 

Here are some pictures of the pumpkins and gourds we are going to be growing this year:

Gourd, Warted Mixture   Gourd, Dinosaur   Gourd, Ten Commandments   Wooly Bear

        

Back in the Garden

I spent a half day working in the garden today, and it was great to be back digging at my own farm.  The soil is mostly thawed and I was able to build up more of the beds from the compost we generated in our walkways last season.  I filled some walkways with the last of our woodchips, and then another free load of woodchips from A-1 Tree Service.  I hope to spread those tomorrow before I leave for Minneapolis (to dance in an ice shanty).  Sai from A-1 has been really nice to us, dropping of loads of free woodchips whenever he’s in the area.  He also said he might be able to get us some logs to grow some mushrooms on.

I had been feeling overwhelmed and grumpy for the last few days, and a good day of digging and wheelbarrowing really helped me feel good about this upcoming season, and organize my thoughts and plans in a positive way.  Molly and I have been meeting twice a week to solidify our plans for the new season, and it is all very exciting!  Along with a wide variety of vegetables, this year we will be expanding with grains, dry beans, potatoes, mushrooms, eggs, and honey!  I’m really excited to be growing more types of food, and to be growing over a much longer season (our spring CSA will start May 1st this year).

Bike-a-Bee at Patchwork Farms!

Today Jana Kinsman from Bike-a-Bee met with us at the Chicago Ave garden to plot out the location of the bee hive she is going to be installing.  We’re really excited that we’re going to have honey bees on site to help pollinate our plants.  We’re hoping to save a number of our own seeds this year, and those bees will really help them to be viable!  We’re also glad to be working with another rad, Chicago, bike-riding lady!  If the bees do well this year, Jana said she will donate some small jars of honey to our CSA members… how nice!

I brought my new puppy, Billie,  with us to our meeting.  Billie is nine weeks old, and seems to learn how to do a new cute thing every day.  Today her new trick was… Eating Poo!  Not such a cute one today, unfortunately.  It is a helpful trick, though.  It was helpful to see how many people have been letting their dogs poo in the garden.  This is a real problem.  Dog poo in the garden can get on the vegetables and make people sick.  Tomorrow I am planning on putting up a sign at the entrance to the garden that will hopefully discourage people from leaving us their dog’s poopy treats.  If you happen to be passing by the garden and notice people walking their dogs, please feel free to ask them to help keep the vegetables healthy by keeping their dogs out of the growing areas, and absolutely ALWAYS picking up their poo!

Here are a couple of cute puppy pictures to help sell the veggies.  Note:  She’s chewing on a stick, not poo, in this picture.

Soil Lead Tests

We got our soil lead tests back this morning.  We tested the soil we grow in and the soil that surrounds our growing areas for lead.  We imported soil that was certified as clean, so we’ve known that it would be appropriate for growing, but we wanted to test it so that we could monitor the way the lead levels change over the seasons.  We hope to test it twice a year.  Here are our results:

Chicago Ave Garden:

Growing Areas – 23 ppm

Grass Areas – 1100 ppm

St Louis Garden:

Growing Areas – 27 ppm

Grass Areas – 450 ppm

According to Carl J Rosen from the University of Minnesota Extension, “Background concentrations of lead that occur naturally in surface agricultural soils in the United States average 10 parts per million (ppm) with a range of 7 to 20 ppm” and “Generally, it has been considered safe to use garden produce grown in soils with total lead levels less than 300 ppm”.  So our growing areas are very well within the range of safe levels of soil lead.  The grass areas around our gardens, however are too high (much too high at the Chicago Ave garden).

Rosen also noted that soil lead isn’t readily accumulated in the plants we eat, but that we risk ingesting lead by eating the soil itself:

“The most serious source of exposure to soil lead is through direct ingestion (eating) of contaminated soil or dust.In general, plants do not absorb or accumulate lead. However, in soils testing high in lead, it is possible for some lead to be taken up. Studies have shown that lead does not readily accumulate in the fruiting parts of vegetable and fruit crops (e.g., corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, strawberries, apples). Higher concentrations are more likely to be found in leafy vegetables (e.g., lettuce) and on the surface of root crops (e.g., carrots)… There is more concern about lead contamination from external lead on unwashed produce than from actual uptake by the plant itself. If your garden is close to busy streets or highways, remove outer leaves of leafy crops, peal all root crops, and thoroughly wash the remaining produce in water containing vinegar (1 percent) or soap (0.5 percent).”

At our farm, we do wash all of our produce, but after reading this, we are going to test out washing them with a vinegar solution to see if it doesn’t negatively impact the freshness and taste of our veggies.

We’ve also decided we are going to take some stronger measures to keep dust from blowing into our Chicago Ave growing beds.  We’re going to increase the woodchips border/buffer around the garden area in size and depth, and keep the vegetation around that border high to keep the dust down.

Today I also called about testing the grass clippings we have been collecting from mowing around the St. Louis garden.  We want to see if they will be safe to use as mulch on our beds.  We are also going to be testing our growing soil for pH and nutrients (Rosen also noted that: “Lead is relatively unavailable to plants when the soil pH is above [6.5]. If needed…. Lead is also less available when soil phosphorus [levels] are high”).  We’ll let you know how those go, once we get them back!

Chicago Patchwork Farms

Welcome to our new website. We hope for this to become a resource for our fans and customers to learn more about our farm, the vegetables we are growing, and how to participate.