Archive for March, 2010

March Maddness

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

March is probably one of the busiest months of the year for Acorn.  Our seed business continues to require lots energy because of all the spring orders coming in.  The garden is also starting to pick up steam as we prepare beds and sow seeds.  We are also working on numerous side projects too.  Here are some pictures:

Heartwood Residing

Heartwood Residing

Lynn & Phillip

Lynn & Phillip

One of the major projects we are doing is residing Heartwood, our main residence here at Acorn.  We are replacing the upper half of the siding with new, sustainably harvested cypress trees.  The lower half will be stucco with some kind of mosaic.  The project has actually evolved to greater depths, and we have replaced our main doors and many windows.

Bike Shed

Bike Shed

This is our new bike shed.  Hans made it recently just before he returned home to Oregon.  He did a great job salvaging, using fallen cedar for posts, and old siding taken off of Heartwood.  Now we have somewhere to put all the bikes we fix up!

The Chicken Coup

The Chicken Coup

The Chicken Coup now has a nice fence up, and a shady spot outside for the chickens to hang out underneath.  We were initially having problems with dogs getting underneath the fencing, but it seems to be doing well now.

The Straw Bale Building

The Straw Bale Building

We are also involved in the last phase of construction in the Straw Bale building.  Right now, we are constructing the earth floor, and preparing lime plaster for the interior walls.  By the end of June, it should be basically complete.  That will be exciting, because we are totally running out of rooms to house people in!

Solar Dryer

Solar Dryer

Hans also made us two new solar dryers.   Sunlight will penetrate the glass and heat up the metal plating, and then the heat will rise up into the upper chamber.  It is really useful for fruits, vegetables, herbs, and maybe even flowers.

Irena weeding strawberries

Irena weeding strawberries

I caught Irena weeding the strawberries and took a picture.  Ooohhh, I can’t wait for those to start fruiting.  I wonder if we’ll use the new solar dryer with some, or simply eat them all fresh.

Daffodils

Daffodils

Fruit Trees Blossoming

Fruit Trees Blossoming

More Daffodils

More Daffodils

I thought I would throw in some pictures of flowers too.  We are already seeing lots of beauty, and it is just beginning.  Soon everything is going to explode!  Well, I gotta run, see ya!

Seed Cleaning

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

Here at Acorn, we love seeds, and what we really love  is clean seeds. Nice, healthy, ready to germinate seeds that don’t have any bad seeds or bits of chaff in them. We clean seeds in lots of different ways. We clean wet seeds with lots of buckets and water (look for photos this summer). With dry seeds we use tools as simple as a fan or a hand screen but also some very complex and interesting machines that make the job much easier for us.

There are two very common operations you do when cleaning seed. One is winnowing, this is where you use a fan or wind to blow stuff out of your seed that is lighter than it, usually chaff. Another common task is screening, this is where you are cleaning out seed that is too small and non-seed objects that are too small or big. This usually involves using screens. What you see here is an air seed cleaner which combines those two tasks into one machine.

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This is a small air-seed cleaner we also have a much larger (5 by 6 foot) one.

Sometimes when you are cleaning seed, you have seed that you know is bad but is the same size as the other seed you are cleaning. You can’t screen it because it is the same size but often, bad seed is less dense than good seed. That’s when you use a gravity table. A gravity table is a vibrating inclined plan with air blowing out the surface of the plane. Dense stuff goes up the slope and into one chute, lighter stuff goes down slope and out the other. Once you tune it for the seeds you want you can really do some excellent seperation and make big improvements on a batch’s germination rate.

Gravity table

Gravity table

Those seeds are dancing like crazy! (I know it doesn't look it, imagine though)

Those seeds are dancing like crazy! (I know it doesn’t look it, imagine though)

Out comes the seed

Out comes the seed

Good Seed

Good Seed

Bad Seed. A bit hard to tell the difference visually on this batch, but the germ test will make things clear.

Bad Seed. A bit hard to tell the difference visually on this batch, but the germ test will make things clear.

I hope this exceptionally seed-geeky post was enriching for everyone! I promise lots of delightful photos of flowers and growing things for the next post.

Spring Sowing

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Normally, right around late January/Early February I get a notion that I should probably go out and disk the spring garden and get that soil all prepped up in time to plant some early peas and spinach. This year however, between chronic rains and snow on the ground for 3 weeks things got a bit behind!

I like to put the peas and early spinach in around February 15th but it wasn’t until March 9th this year that we could get our direct sowing done! This is not to say I didn’t try though. Owen and I were out there in the end of February spreading wood ash on the spring garden plot to get it to melt early. (Which worked, but it dried out at about the same rate as anything else.)

So as it was, over 3 days we did all our disking, bed prep, and sowing for all our direct sowed crops this spring and it feels great. We’re forecasted for rain and lots of it, and now I can just sit back and relax and let our seeds germinate. Here’s the early spring garden photos to get y’all excited for the growing season!

Elephant Garlic

Elephant Garlic

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Replanting Carrots to Grow for Seed

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Selling Seeds

Monday, March 1st, 2010

We are really, really, really, really busy.   I mean it, really.  This winter so far, much like last winter, has brought huge success for our seed business, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. This February has been our best month ever in sales, bringing in nearly $150,000. Before that in January, we saw a 40% increase in sales over January of ’09. It seems that more and more people are not only gardening, but also appreciating the value of organic, heirloom varieties of plants. Fulfilling the needs of our customers requires endless work during the winter. Our main office is constantly busy throughout the day with people buzzing around trying to get seeds in the hands of gardeners. There is other labor to be done as well though. Our seed rack services are expanding very much this year, and we are busy creating lots of our new wooden seed racks for customers who distribute seeds in stores. I went around various work areas here at Acorn and took a few quick pictures of people. Now you can see what an average day is like during the Winter at Acorn.

Hans & River shipping out seed orders

Hans & River shipping out seed orders

Irena & Puck picking seeds out in the inventory room

Irena & Puck picking seeds out in the inventory room

Lauren and Ashleigh packing seeds into packets

Lauren and Ashleigh packing seeds into packets

Andy constucting wooden seed racks

Andy constucting wooden seed racks

Hans posting packages of seeds to be mailed

Hans posting packages of seeds to be mailed

Not only is the office really busy, but the snow is melting and we are entering March.  It’s time to start preparing for spring and gardening!  This is of course another important aspect of our business.  We are excited to be doing lots of variety trialing this year to provide the highest quality seeds we can.  It will be an exciting time for blogging, because there will be lots of beautiful things to take pictures of!  Well, till next time.

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