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Barefoot Farmer

Barefoot Farmer - Jeff Poppen

The Barefoot Farmer (Jeff Poppen) uses his farm (Long Hungry Creek Farm) as an example in demonstrating good farming principles. The landscape and atmosphere of the 21st century is leaning away from a small farm economy, bucolic scenery, sustainable agriculture and homegrown meals. The health of ourselves and our environment can only be enhanced by a reliance on local small farms for our needs. To learn more about these principle join Jeff Poppen with his weekly column - Barefoot Farmer.

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Spring Brings Beautiful Things PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Poppen   
Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Spring brings beautiful things, flowers and bees and a bird that sings. Gardeners are busier than bees, blooming in their exuberance and humming right along with mother nature’s display. We’ve added necessary minerals, gently tilled the soil, and livened things up with plenty of compost and biodynamic preparations. Let’s go!

If the ground is damp enough to make a ball in your fist that doesn’t shatter when you drop it, we stay out of the field. Compost piles are made for next year. Dandelions need to be picked for preparation. Horns are filled with ground quartz and buried. Tomato cages get made, chickweed is pulled from around the berries, seeds are inventoried and garden plans jotted down.

On April 1, I got the cold frames ready to grow the tomato, pepper and eggplants for transplanting later. Sifted compost, sand and soil makes up the top few inches, ontop of the same mixture (unsifted) to a depth of eight inches or so. A little phosphate, lime and kelp are mixed in, too. I make rows with a stick, three inches apart, and carefully drop seeds an inch apart in the rows. After firming them in with the side of my hand, I rake with my fingers to cover them up.

As soon as the ground is dry enough, onions and leeks go in. Plants are sorted, and the small ones are healed in temporarily to get bigger. The plants are set six inches apart, and two can be planted together. Onion sets, for green onions, are sown and covered up, but in a different garden, to avoid disease.

Potatoes are cut up so each piece is the size of an egg and has a couple of eyes on it. notice the stem end and don’t confuse it for an eye. They are dropped a foot apart in the furrow with the eye up, and then stepped on before being covered.

After two weeks, a harrow is pulled over the rows to disturb sprouting weeds. This does not bother the potatoes sprouting below where the harrow reaches. A tine harrow or rotary how actually goes over young plants without doing too much damage and greatly reduces weed pressure.

A narrow furrow is made for lettuce, parsley and swiss chard. The lettuce will be dug up and transplanted into beds, at a foot apart, in about six weeks, leaving that row for planting a summer crop.  The chard, parsley, and celery go next to each other because they will stay there all year, even over the winter if protected.

For carrots, beets and radish, we make a wide-bottomed furrow and thinly sprinkle the seed. It is easy to get them too thick. I roll the seed through my fingers and watch as it falls, but not at the ground. I want a few inches between the plants. All seeds are pushed in with the back of a rake, stepped on, or rolled over with a wheelbarrow to firm them in. then they are covered with dry soil by raking.

A few warm days around April fool’s day don’t fool me. Every row of the spring crops will get the soil raked away as soon as the sprouts appear. Then they’ll be hoed and cultivated before any weeds are visible. I have x ray vision and can see weeds sprouting underground. It is so much easier to weed them before they appear to ordinary vision.

We tend what we’ve planted before planting more. Warm weather crops like warm weather, so I don’t push my luck. I sacrifice the honor of having the first bean or tomato, and don’t take chances on a late frost nipping tender plants. Enjoy the flowers, and the birds and the bees, and spend spring with the spring crops. In May, when the ground has thoroughly warmed up, you’ll be glad the spring things are well taken care of.

Lectures PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Poppen   
Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I frequently give lectures as part of my business. It can be to youngsters at Head Start, to an elderly garden club, or to anything in between. I’ve slowly gotten over stage fright and give speeches fairly easily. Although our county executive said my talk to the commissioners fourteen months ago was respectful, he refuses to let me address them again. “We are not talking about chicken anymore, “ he said. People talk to me about chickens all the time.

On March 2nd I gave two lectures in Bowling Green, at the Organic Association of Kentucky’s annual conference. It’s a good bunch of people trying to get more organics going in our neighboring state.

The next day I attended the Nashville Lawn and Garden Show. Many old and new friends meet me there every year for my lecture. It turns into a fun question and answer session. The Davidson County Master Gardeners were represented, and have asked me to speak at their May 19th get together, at the Ellington Agriculture Center.

March 10th found me back in Nashville at Lipscomb University, giving a 3 ½ hour class on gardening. Afterwards, I gave a talk on beekeeping to a different group of people.

The Tennessee Organic Growers Association also hired me to lecture at their annual conference on March 24th. They are a hard working group active in the organic movement in Tennessee, and also had speakers from Pennsylvania and Washington State.

Two local groups, Kirbytown Farm Community and Friends of Long Hungry, still meet regularly to share research on the impact of Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s) coming into Macon County. We believe our findings would be of interest to our local representatives and policy makers.

Whenever a major industry moves into a rural county, people talk about it. Many of our friends and family have been negatively impacted by the chicken houses next door in Clay County, from what we can tell, the citizens of Macon County are uneasy with the prospect of CAFO communities, and can see the truth in this statement.  But it is never too late to admit a mistake and change direction.

Yesterday, Nashville Public Television came here and filmed three more T.V. shows. I would like to continue operating my business at my home, but feel threatened by the huge Tyson (who owns Cobb) chicken houses being erected 450 feet from my kitchen doorstep.

With 300 acres, there is plenty of room to move them back to 1500 feet away from my 1871 log cabin, the public organic garden and the storage cave. Cobb’s own restrictions are “1500 feet from a public area or business.” The Macon County Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution stating CAFO’s must be 1500 feet from a residence. Why are they so close to me?

Hundreds of people visit here every year, and spend money locally. The concern throughout Middle Tennessee, wherever I go, is deeply gratifying. Most importantly, the wide support I have in my local community touches my heart. I didn’t know so many cared so much. As I keep on the lecture circuit and meet all kinds of people, I always can’t wait to get home to my comfortable little neighborhood.

Variety id the Spice of Life PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Poppen   
Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Variety is the spice of life, and gardeners love to try new things. Here is a list of the vegetable varieties we will be growing this year, most of which I have grown before: Arugula- standard; Bush beans- Blue Lake, Roma II, Cherokee Yellow Wax; Climbing beans- Purple Flat, Kentucky Wonder; Ghelly beans- Dwarf Horticulture, Black Turtle, Soy Butterbean; Beets- Detroit Dark Red, Chioggia; Cabbage (Chinese)- Blues, Rubicon, Michihili, Joi choy, Mei Qing, Bokchoy; Carrots- Danvers Half Long; Celery- Utah; Collards- Georgia Southern; Corn- G-90, Incredible, Silver Queen, Golden Bantam, Country Gentleman; Cucumber- Marketmore 76, Straight Eight, National Pickling; Eggplant- Black Beauty, Orient Express; Garlic- Spanish Roja, Music; Gourds- Dipper, Bird House, Crown of Thorns, Small Warted, Autumn Wings; Kale- Flatleaf, Siberian, Blue Scotch Curled; Leeks- King Richard; Lettuce- Nevada, Magenta, Concept, Red Sails, Tropicana, Buttercrunch, Jericho, Winter Density, Anvenue; Melon- Honey Rock, Green Nutmeg; Mustard- Southern Giant Curled, Mizuna; Okra- Burgundy, Clemson Spineless; Onions- Copra, Walla Walla, Yellow Ebenezer; Parsley- Italian Flatleaf, Forest Green, Survivor; Parsnip- Hollow Crown; Peanuts- Virginia Jumbo; Peas- Sugar Snap, Oregon Giant, Skunkpeas; Peppers- Carmen, Pizza, Olympus, Gypsy, Golden Treasure, Hungarian Wax, Jalapeno, Cayenne; Potatoes- Kennebec, Red Pontiac, Yukon Gold; Pumpkin- Old-Time Tennessee, Cushaw; Radish- Cherry Belle, French Breakfast, Daikon, Watermelon, China Rose; Rutabega- Purple-top; Spinach- Bloomsdale Long Standing; Summer Squash- Early Prolific Straightneck, Yellow Scallop, Sunburst, Gold Rush Zucchini, Trombocini; Winter Squash- Waltham Butternut, Table Queen Acorn, Carnival, Delicatta, Sweet Dumpling, Small Wonder Spaghetti; Sweet Potato- Golden Nugget; Swiss Chard- French Swiss Chard; Tomatoes (hybrids)- Better Boy, Celebrity, Goliath, Big Beef, Pink Beauty, Pink Girl, Fantastic; Tomatoes (open-pollinated)- Delicious, Mortgage Lifter, Bradley, Indigo Rose, Black Trifele, Golden Jubilee; Turnips- Purpletop, Amber Globe, Gold Ball, Scarlet Queen, Hakurei; Watermelon- Jubilee, Charleston Grey, Crimson Sweet, Tendersweet, Sugar Baby, Amish Moon and Stars; Herbs- Large Leaf Basil, Pukat Pill, Sage, Oregano, English Thyme, Sorrel; Flowers- Brite Lites Cosmos, Giant Dahlia mix Zinnia, Giant Sunflower, Tithonia, Rosa Rugosa, Valerian, Tuberose.

Warm weather excites gardeners, but do not forget we often have frosts in late April or early May. April 1st is a good time to start tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants in a cold frame. Outside, we can plant onions, potatoes, beets, carrots, lettuce, parsley, peas, Swiss chard, celery, spinach, leeks, and radish. We will wait until May for everything else, and will not plant turnips, Arugula, cabbage, mustard, collards, Rutabega, and kale until mid-August.

Spice of Life PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Poppen   
Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Variety is the spice of life, and gardeners love to try new things.

Everything in Nature is Related PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Poppen   
Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Recent discoveries in quantum physics, microbiology, and ecology verify something gardeners have long known.  Everything in nature is related.  There are no solid lines between the plants’ roots, the soil, and the bacteria and fungi tying it all together.  To help understand why garden crops do or do not thrive, we are led into the enigmatic field of companion planting.

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