THE LAMM FARM REVISED

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REVISIONS—Our blog entries have been limited over the past year. Farm work and family circumstances have combined to eat up “free” time and the blog has suffered. It is time to get caught up and to discuss what some folks already know. When we started The Lamm Farm venture we visualized a physical focal point for the family. A place for the development of shared memories; a place for rallying to in time of need; a place to hold in common for the future. At the same time we always knew that things change and our visions can be reshaped. The time is coming for us to leave the farm and move on to new adventures.

 

CHANGES – In the past year (or so) Dave’s Mom and Gloria’s Dad have passed away, reshaping family responsibilities and needs. In addition, their off farm employment activities have diminished as a result of the economy. Scott, Melissa and the girls relocated to Denver in response to work opportunities; and Amy and Dennis are increasingly occupied with their respective work activities, making time for the farm a precious and diminishing commodity. We shared the opportunity to work closely together and to accomplish a number of our farm projects as a team. We have collectively developed some good memories that we will hold, so one goal accomplished. However, it is no longer practical to hold on to the physical farm. As such, plans change. The Lamm Farm is for sale.

 

MIGRATION – Curiously we find ourselves participating in a migration reminiscent of times past; except in the opposite direction. Scott, Melissa and their family left California to relocate to Denver, and given the mobile nature of corporate living, could move again. Dave and Gloria have found that the signs point to leaving California to be closer to Gloria’s mother, in Nebraska. They met there originally and are looking forward to returning to a Mid-Western lifestyle. Go Big Red! Amy and Dennis are anchoring the family’s roots in California, for now, but the nature of their work allows them to speculate on a relocation of their own in the future.

 

THE FARM CONTINUES – While the farm in Lincoln, CA is being sold, the spirit of the Lamm Farm will continue. We will find opportunities to gather and to create new memories. We will share stories of our new adventures with one another, and with our friends. We expect to continue The Lamm Farm in spirit, in photos and on the blog. The subject matter won’t be much about Lavender, but our new lives will provide new material.

 

FARM FOR SALE – Our philosophy and plans having been addressed, it is time for a little business. The Farm is current listed for sale. We have a purchase contract pending (back up offers considered.). If all goes well, we expect to close escrow on Christmas Eve. In the interim we are selling lots of “farm stuff” and things that are not practical to move to Nebraska. We don’t plan to hold an actual sale day , but if you are local and interested in looking around, let us know.

 

We would like to thank everyone who supported the lavender venture and those who showed support for the farm in general. We will miss all of that activity, but we are looking forward to what comes next. Stay tuned to the blog for more.

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Backyard Eat & Greet with Grange

We’re thrilled to be included in a special fundraising event this Saturday, July 13th to benefit Sacramento Farmers & Chefs.  The project is a documentary photo project highlighting the people responsible for the bountiful food culture of the Sacramento Valley. Our lavender will be featured in a lavender lemonade made by Pastry Chef Jodie Chavious of Grange Restaurant & Bar in downtown Sacramento.

Join us for a backyard Eat & Greet in Land Park featuring seasonal eats from Grange, produce from Azolla Farm, Meat from Flying Mule Farm, wines from Sean Minor Wines, beer from Ruhstaller and, of course, lavender from The Lamm Farm!

Bluegrass music from local band “Big Empty” will play from 6-9pm.

Tickets are $40 and can be purchased HERE.

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Jr. Livestock Auction

Yesterday I sat beside my daughter in the bleachers at the Gold Country Fair, Jr. Livestock Auction. The Jr. Livestock Auction is the culmination of the project year for youth largely associated with 4-H and FFA. Their projects consisted of selecting and raising animals for meat production; training for the show ring; grooming and marketing their animals. The sale is the final step in the process. Buyers at the Auction include parents, families and friends; but even more are small businesses from the community (and a few larger businesses). Buyers represented yesterday included small contractors from many trades; shop owners; truckers; tire stores; agriculture enterprises and much more. It was a real cross section of the community. Even more importantly many of these buyers purchased multiple animals and for many this was not their first year as a buyer. In several instances it was their second or third DECADE. That is community support! You begin to realize how remarkable this community support is when you are told at the beginning of the sale that the commercial market price for a lamb (for example) is $.85 per lb; and then you watch lamb after lamb sell for prices in excess of $2.50 per lb, with some going for $7.50 per lb! (Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champions were substantially higher!)

These prices represent the community’s desire to support its hard working youth, but it is also a reflection of the sellers’ marketing efforts. Every year the young project members approach businesses and ask for their support. They explain the projects; how the auction works; and where needed they help to match up multiple buyers who may not have a enough money to purchase an entire animal (steers weigh 1200 lbs!). Project Leaders and High School Agricultural Instructors work with the members on all of this as well.

My father was a small building contractor when I was growing up. He couldn’t afford to purchase many animals at the auction; but he was able to work with his business contacts to put together a pool that let him purchase a number of animals each year. Some times I benefited, but many times I had arranged for my own buyers, and Dad was able to use the money for others. When my children were showing livestock, I was able to follow my Dad’s lead and use business contacts to collect a number of buyers each year to purchase multiple animals, not always from my own children.

Returning to my daughter, Amy, sitting with her yesterday was a pleasure. Amy is an adult now and had returned to the Auction Ring as a BUYER. Yesterday I had the privilege of watching her bid at her first livestock auction. Amy had suggested to her employer, Grange Restaurant, in Sacramento, that they support a young person at the auction. Since they hadn’t tried it before they authorized her to buy one lamb for the restaurant; and asked her to bid. Amy contacted one of the high school Agricultural Instructors to identify a deserving student who might need a supportive buyer. The Ag Instructor had been in both 4-H and FFA with Amy when they were members, and in traditional fashion she recommended a student who had worked hard and was presenting a quality animal, but due to personal circumstances needed a supportive buyer. Perfect match for Amy and the Grange Restaurant. Amy was able to successfully purchase the desired lamb for $4.50 per lb. A nice return for the FFA student and within Amy’s budget.

We are proud of the community members who year after year support this activity. They are building a spirit of community, and are participating in educating our youth in hard work, community involvement and the importance of agriculture in our lives. Not everyone needs to work in an agricultural field to recognize and contribute to the importance of agriculture in our lives. In our family we have three generations who have been able to contribute to this process, and we are proud of that effort.

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Cut Your Own Lavender at our Open House

After a year and a half of moving dirt, planting, nearly constant weeding, demolition and construction, it feels like we’re finally able to stand out in the field, look around and see the fruits of our labor.  The lavender is blooming and it looks (and smells) heavenly.  We still have tons of work to do, but we’d like to take this opportunity to pause and invite you to join us for an Open House on Sunday, June 10th.

We’ll share our lavender lemonade and baked goods (and the recipes) and have our lavender hard lotion bars available for purchase, along with fresh and dried bouquets of Folgate, Grosso and Hidcote.  If you prefer, you can walk through the fragrant rows and cut your own bouquet, while watching the happy honeybees hard at work making lavender honey.

Feel free to bring a picnic lunch. Seating is limited so you might want to bring your own blanket or folding chair.

Here are all of the important details:

Cut Your Own Lavender at The Lamm Farm

Sunday, June 10th

10am – 2pm

2700 Gage Lane, Lincoln

Please RSVP on our Facebook page

 

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Makin’ Lavender Babies

A few months ago, I did quite a bit of research in preparation for our first try at lavender propagation.  Since then, we’ve been working on other projects (okay, mostly just endless weeding and mowing) and waiting for enough new growth on the plants to take cuttings.  Two weekends ago, I decided that we’d better get focused on the project so last weekend, I showed up with all of my supplies to find that one of the varieties was already in BLOOM!

So, I interrupt this story about propagation to tell you – WE HAVE OUR FIRST BLOOMS OF THE SEASON!  The Folgate to be specific – and it’s casting a nice purple haze over the front field.

Folgate in Bloom

That being said, I wasn’t counting on blooms yet so I had to do a little more hunting around in the plants to find decent chunks of growth without long bloom stalks on them already.  I think I would have been in trouble if I’d waited another week.  So, mental note for next year – pay attention to the new growth in early April!

Bright green new growth next to the silvery gray leaves from last year.

I collected my cuttings – 72 Grosso and 72 Folgate – into plastic bags so they kept a bit of moisture as I worked, and then went to the makeshift workbench I’d assembled in the shade of an oak tree.  After looking at our options, I opted for these Jiffy pot seed starting kits – they’re the same size as the heat mats I already have and two of them fit side by side under one long grow light.  Each one is $5 – and I bought the soil-less mix for $5 to fill them.  If we start doing this in any kind of volume in the future, we’ll have to explore other options, but all of my supplies for nearly 150 potential new plants cost less than $30 – not bad.

Grosso Cuttings

All the supplies ready to go

Once I had my cuttings, I performed a bit of plant surgery, carefully removing the lower set of leaves, dipping it into rooting hormone and placing it into little holes I’d poked in the soil. By the time I’d finished the two flats, the little cuttings were starting to wilt so I quickly put their lids on and took them home to their heat mats and grow lights in my garage.

Cuttings ready to become new plants

Three days later, they are looking very happy and, fingers crossed, they should take root in 4-6 weeks.  By the way – I decided to pick up a a reference book, The American Horticultural Society’s Plant Propagation.  I highly recommend it – from every kind of propagation to grafting and seed starting, along with an index of plants with specific information for each, it will be a great guide to have on hand for many years.

Home Sweet Home for the next month or so

Three Days Later - Looking Good!

So, wish us luck! And, let us know if you’d like to buy any lavender – we’re about to have plenty!

 

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Garden Geek Trip to San Francisco

Every year in mid-March, I head to San Francisco (or rather, San Mateo) for the San Francisco Garden Show.  I always take a day off from work so I can visit the show early in the week and round up whichever of my gardening friends are available to make the trip.  But this year, we kicked it up a notch.  The plans have been brewing for weeks and we made the pilgrimage on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

Carri (front yard veggie gardener extraordinaire) was the driver and I was the fairly competent navigator (GPS reader) and after getting coffee, gassing up, picking up a forgotten FastTrack pass and totally spacing on getting cash, we headed off to the bay area.

First stop:  Our friend Chuck’s place in Bernal Heights.  He took us out for lunch at the Liberty Cafe and then we headed over to Flora Grubb – a fantastic urban nursery that Carri and I had yet to visit.  They had an amazing selection of succulents, air plants and furniture, as well as your typical nursery plants.

They have an enormous old car filled with plants and other recycled materials on display outside.

Inside, there is a brightly colored wall decorated with air plants and an old, ornate window.

On the flip side is a wall of plants!

Check out this old sink full of pitcher plants…

The reason for our trip here was to score one of Far Out Flora’s Staghorn Fern Mounts.  Mission accomplished – that one in the lower left corner is now in my house!

After Flora Grubb, we got a tour of Chuck’s garden.  His blog is called My Back 40 (Feet) for good reason – he has a three story house in SF with the most amazing garden.  It’s chock full of layers of interesting plants that he’s always moving around and changing out.

 

Here’s Chuck – he’s currently babysitting a beehive for a friend that’s residing on the deck above his head. As an aside – he can keep bees on a balcony in San Francisco, but the City of Roseville won’t allow us to keep bees in our backyards.  Ridiculous.

And here’s a look out at the bees and his view of the city….beautiful!

After visiting with Chuck, we headed to Los Altos to a garden party hosted by Rebecca Sweet and Susan Morrison, both garden designers, in Rebecca’s garden.  Her garden is impeccable (as you might imagine) and we had a fantastic time connecting with other gardeners.  Most of us have met online through Twitter, but it was a treat to meet them in real life.

 

And finally, on Wednesday, we headed to the Garden Show at the San Mateo Event Center.  If you haven’t been and enjoy plants and gardening, you must make the trip.  This isn’t a “home show” with a bazillion spa vendors.  This is a garden show with beautiful display gardens and vendors catering to those of us who spend the weekends puttering with plants.  Someone this week said that the garden show should be like fashion week. Over the top displays that aren’t necessarily practical in the big picture, but that have great ideas you can incorporate into your own garden.

The big hit of the show seemed to be the “Dragon Garden” for good reason.  It had a giant dragon!  This was truly the over the top display of the show – more art than gardening, but amazing to see all of the intricate pieces.

Urban Farming is definitely the trend of the past few years and certainly gives us lots of ideas for the farm.  Chicken gardening is “in” – we even hung out with Jessi Bloom, a garden designer who wrote the book Free Range Chicken Gardens who is speaking at the show this week.  If you’re interested in keeping chickens, while keeping your yard and garden in one piece, you should check out her book.

We found this chicken coop with a spiral staircase leading to the hen house:

Composting is also a popular topic and I found this display very interesting since we’re about to start our own compost area soon.

In the show gardens, I loved this bathtub fountain.  They were actually brewing compost tea in it, which gave it a very murky look and it was in a location that made it difficult to get a good photo.  However, we have an extra bathtub or two laying around the farm and I love the idea of turning it into a fountain!

I loved this cold frame made with old windows and reclaimed lumber.  It is sized to fit on a balcony if you’re trying to garden in a small space.

More examples of recycling and reuse were everywhere.  From dumpsters used as planters to a pallet-turned-table with succulents down the center.

Of course, I didn’t escape with my wallet intact.  All of the big, specialty nurseries are there.  I did the most damage at Digging Dog where I picked up an Oak Leaf Hydrangea (to replace one that didn’t make it a few years back) and my new prized possession that I have been obsessing over for awhile now, the Hakuro Nishiki Willow.  I also picked up a Baby Burro Tail at Succulent Gardens and a hanging air plant too.

If you want to go to the show, it’s not too late!  It runs all weekend so escape the rain and start planning this summer’s garden.

 

 

 

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The Projects Continue!

This weekend, we all took a break.  We didn’t really want to – we really wanted to order a dumpster and continue with our barn demolition work.  But it finally rained this week – hard – so we decided to take the weekend off to rest our bodies and our minds.  We really haven’t taken a weekend off since the first of the year – after not focusing much in the fall, we beat ourselves up a bit around the holidays for letting things like weeds get the better of us and decided we’d better really focus and get to work in the new year.

Last weekend, with the metal building complete, we really pushed ourselves to get another section of the old barn torn down.  First, we had to sort through everything that had been stored in that section of the barn for years – old furniture, lots of livestock equipment, construction materials and tools.  What did we want to keep in storage, what could go to the dump and what will we try to sell at a future farm (yard) sale?

Then, with that section emptied and everything sorted, the guys knocked the old metal roof off, cut a few strategic supports and attached a chain to a truck to yank the building down in just a few seconds.

Once it was on the ground, we cut it into a bunch of pieces that we’ll put into that dumpster I mentioned (maybe next weekend?)

We’re now down to only 40 feet of the original 120 foot barn still standing.  After much deliberation, we’re going to rehab this section of barn and tie it in to the new (old) Craigslist barn and it will be either a little store or perhaps the workshop.

The next step will be to grade and level the area where the new barn will stand and start figuring out how to put the pieces together.  We do have one large section of fencing that needs to be removed before we begin that project.

If you’re wondering how the lavender is doing – it’s slowly coming out of it’s long winter’s nap and beginning to show signs of new growth.  We’ve also ordered 150 Abrialli lavender plants from Morningsun Herb Farm in Vacaville to replace some of the plants that we never received last year.  We’ll also be trying our hand at propagating in the next month or so to fill in the spots where we’ve lost plants.

So between our construction projects, lavender growing, planting and harvesting and hopefully a honey harvest, we have a busy spring and summer ahead of us.  And plenty of opportunities for those of you who’d like to join us!  Hope to see you all soon.

 

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Done!

This was a great spring weekend to get things done.  In two days we weeded the back lavender field, mowed between the rows and pulled up the remaining disintegrating weed cloth, did our first full spring inspection of the beehive and swapped the brood boxes, mowed the rest of the garden, planted potatoes and blueberries, cleaned and reorganized the potted plants on the back porch and OH YEAH….finished the metal building!

Not only did we finish it, but we also started moving items into it that need to be stored while we pull down the old barn and build the new one.  Next weekend we plan to demolish the remainder of the old barn, but first, here’s how the metal building came together over the past five weekends:

We selected our location where the end of the old barn had once stood and leveled the area.

Next, we built concrete forms:

A weatherproof barrier and rebar are installed for reinforcement.

We ordered a concrete truck and called on friends and family with tools and experience.

And then….we waited for it to dry….

It took two weekends to put up the three levels of walls.

And then things got tricky.  We had to figure out how to assemble the roof and hoist it 12 feet in the air.  We decided to assemble a few sections outside and then lift it with a 2×4 with a crosswise piece of wood attached.  We probably all should have been wearing hard hats at this point…

 

After that, we took nominations for the person who would work on the extension ladder, bungee corded to a step ladder, leaning against a piece of metal floating 12′ in the air.  Dennis always wins the popular vote on these types of things.

Then it was like the erector set you had as a kid (at least, that’s what Dennis said it was like).  One piece at a time – one person on the inside, one on the outside, burning through batteries on the impact gun as fast as you can say “get me another bolt”.

After all of the pieces were assembled, the roof vent needed to be added to the very top of the building.  Again, there was much debate and nominations were accepted for who would shimmy to the top of the building to do the deed.  I think you know who won our votes….again.  There may or may not have been a long string of curse words that happened during this phase….but doesn’t he make it look easy in this photo?

And finally…..the finished project!!  Doesn’t it look like it’s always been there?

When you see it next to the old barn, it REALLY looks like its always been here, right?

By the way, in case you’re interested in the history of the Butler grain bins (like I was), here’s the quick history: Butler (who is still in business today) was a livestock water tank manufacturer at the turn of the century when they diversified by building grain bins.  They answered an RFP by the government in 1938 when there was a bumper crop of grain in the country that asked for 20,000 grain bins in 60 days.  They refurbished an abandoned plant in Galesburg, IL, staffed it, and delivered all of the bins on time.  The company continued making the bins throughout the war years, even though steel was scarce, and after the war, there was a huge demand for the buildings which they continued to manufacture for decades.

It’s hard to say exactly when our building was manufactured, but it’s fair to say that it probably dates to sometime in the 1950′s.  Who knows where it was and what use it had until my grandfather got his hands on it in the late 60′s or early 70′s, but it’s clear that 60 years later, the building is just as sturdy as when it first rolled off the assembly line, ready for another generation of work on the The Lamm Farm.

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DALLAS IS GONE

 

Every farm has one. A loyal and dependable hand that will do whatever is asked, cheerfully. They live to please and to be close….and unfortunately, Every farm loses at least one of these hands over time. As is often the case, we underestimate the value of this relationship until it passes and then we grieve.

The Lamm Farm lost such a hand this week.  Our farm dog, Dallas, was with us roughly 11 years. He was big … 90 – 100 lbs.; he was fierce to other dogs that strayed onto his property, or the deer passing through, or the neighbor’s chickens who came into our yard to scratch in the flowerbeds; he was gentle with family members, especially the two little granddaughters who loved to hug and pet him, and who will not understand where he has gone.

He was a house dog, if we were in the house, but would not be satisfied with indoors if any of “his people” went out doors. He loved to follow us around the farm and if we were doing something that kept us stationary for a while, he enjoyed finding a comfy spot, out of the way and stretching out in the sun. He slept in our room and sometimes awakened us with his snores, or his dream state barks at who knows what?? As a good watch dog he also told us when there were abnormal sounds outside of the house – often we guessed that it was deer using the dark of night to eat the plants around the house.

Dallas was a “pound puppy”. We found him at the SPCA when we were searching for the “right dog”. He was different in appearance, well mannered for a young dog, and seemed to have just the right spirit. The shelter said he was part Australian Shepherd and maybe German Shepherd. We had raised shepherds of both kinds before and we were pretty sure this was not correct. It didn’t matter. We weren’t looking for “breed”, we were looking for “dog”! And we got one! Over the years we felt that perhaps he was Great Dane and shepherd mix. We had never owned a Great Dane, but he had coloring and markings that were similar to some we had seen. His head shape was not right, but that could have been the shepherd influence. Over the years it was fun to speculate, but again, it didn’t matter. About 8 months ago, on a visit to the vet, a vet tech came out from the back and asked who owned the “Catahoula” named Dallas. I told her that Dallas was mine, but I didn’t know what a “Catahoula” was. She explained that it was a herding and hunting breed from Louisiana and encouraged me to look it up on the Internet. I did exactly that when I got home, and the first few pictures I found could have been litter mates! Reading the background and breed characteristics I realized that we now knew what kind of dog he was.

As large dogs are prone to do, Dallas developed mobility issues. A combination of maladies conspired to slow him down to a hobble and in the final few days he was unable to get up or to stand on his own. There was little more that we could do for him. We took him to the vet and with what dignity was left, relieved him of his pain and fruitless struggles to stand. He is now buried on the farm where he lived and was loved. We will miss him terribly.

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From Winter to Spring

Whether we’re ready for it or not, winter is slowly fading to spring.  Not like there’s been much of a change in terms of the weather.  Most of January was sunny with highs in the 60′s and, come to think of it, so was December.  We’ve seen just a bit more rain in February but the weather has still been mild and we’ve entered a stretch of 70 degree temps this week.  Regardless, there are still ways to mark the seasons’ change, most notably the almond bloom.

Almonds bloom in February every year, but with the bloom also seems to come the wind and the rain making it difficult for bees to do any pollinating before the blooms are knocked from the trees. So, if you were smart (or could expertly forecast the weather months in advance) you bought almond futures last year because this is looking to be a fantastic year for almond growers!  Along with the almonds, there is sign of new life all over the farm with buds and sprouts and flowers popping up everywhere.

Here’s a little tour of what’s popping up at the farm this week:

The narcissus always start blooming in late December or early January and will be gone soon, but they brighten the front yard when nothing else is blooming.

The euphorbia is just beginning to bloom and looks like a creature from outer space.

 

Also in the front yard are these pretty little old-fashioned violets.  My mom remembers that they’ve been there as long as they’ve lived there but that she hasn’t seen them for a few years.  Maybe they, too like the dry weather?

It wouldn’t be spring without the daffodils and these are the first ones to poke up out of the ground.

A perfect almond bloom.

Heading out to the pasture, these little native flowers are beginning to bloom everywhere.  I was thinking they were Baby Blue Eyes, but the foliage doesn’t look right.  Anyone know what it is?

Also popping up this time of year is the Miner’s Lettuce – another native here and said to be named because the miners during the gold rush would eat it to get their Vitamin C to prevent scurvy.  You can add it to salads and eat it raw or steam it, although I never have tried it.

Oh, we did some work this weekend too!  The metal building is going up (a little slower than we would have hoped).  We managed to get two levels done in two days.  Hopefully we can get it finished this weekend.  And then, we move on to the big barn….

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