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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I remember growing up watching Peanuts and seeing Linus waiting outside every year for The Great Pumpkin.

This year we decided to take a patch of land in the back that had been overgrown with weeds and make a pumpkin patch for our very own great pumpkin!

Pumpkin Patch 1

The first step was to clear the patch. We chose to use the tractor to scrape the first layer of grass off rather than trying to weed it or smother the grass.

pumpkin patch 2

Next we amended the soil based on the calculations from Steve Solomon and Erica Reinheimer’s book, “The Intelligent Gardener,” and also added a bunch of additional amendments like the KIS Nutrient Pack and some organic alfalfa meal and organic kelp meal. After that, we just watered it for the life of the plant with no additional inputs.

pumpkin patch 3

I used one of our portable chicken cages to protect the plant from deer.

pumpkin female flower

The next step was to hand pollinate a female flower with a male blossom about 10-12 feet down the primary vine.

pumpkin patch 4

Here’s a picture of Hilary with the pumpkin after a couple of weeks, before we did some weeding.

pumpkin patch 5

As the pumpkin grew, we covered the secondary vines by mounding Oly Mountain Fish Compost over them. We also removed any additional fruits that formed naturally on the vines.

pumpkin patch 6

We covered the pumpkin with shade cloth to keep it from ripening too quickly. We also planted sunflowers around the patch to increase the numbers of pollinators and beneficial insects, but mostly because they’re beautiful.

pumpkin patch 6

Hilary was pretty excited to see how much it had grown since her last visit.

pumpkin patch 7

Here’s Leon moving the pumpkin on a pallet so we could weigh it.

pumpkin patch 8

Our employees have a good sense of humor! Came back to find this sign on the pumpkin.

Tiny Treks Pumpkin

After a couple of weeks out front it was time to say goodbye to the pumpkin. Our Tiny Treks preschool class had a lot of fun smashing into it with hammers in our chicken area.

pumpkin and chickens

Lastly, our chickens got to dig in and enjoy what was left.  It was a fun experiment! Final weight: 705 lbs.

A big “Thank You” goes to Don and Geneva Emmons, Jaya Palmer, Hilary Dean, and Ryan Ewing. Don and Geneva were kind enough to donate the plant and answer questions as the season progressed. Jaya and Hilary were the ones who talked me into growing one on that unused space of land and helped in weeding and prepping. Ryan was kind enough to stop in and check out the pumpkin and give feedback based on his years of pumpkin growing.

 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

In 2002 we started an online gardening business with our main product being compost tea brewers.  Since that time we’ve expanded our product lines and also our knowledge regarding organic gardening through both research and experience.

While we are still firm proponents of what I like to call “Biological Horticulture,” which is essentially gardening to promote healthy biological activity in your soil and proper nutrient cycling (see the works of Ingham, Wilson, Lowenfels, etc..).  However, in recent years I’ve found more and more benefits to re-mineralizing the soil as well (see the works of Albrecht, Astera, Solomon, etc..).  Typically these are 2 different philosophies within the organic gardening community.  I believe that both proper mineral levels and active nutrient cycling (healthy, functioning microbial populations) are necessary to grow the most nutrient dense, mineral-rich, disease-resistant crops in our garden.

Along these lines, we have added a diverse selection of organic and mineral amendments to our product lines in the hope that people will work to improve the quality of their soils and grow their own food.  There are many reasons why this is important, and I firmly believe that the growing our own food locally and improving the quality of our soils will be the best investment we can make in the years to come.

I walk through my local grocery store and very little of what I see on the shelves I would actually consider “food.”  How much of it has been over-processed, genetically modified, or inundated with fats and sugars to make it more palatable for consumption?  We pay a premium for “organics” in the supermarket, yet even then we don’t know if the fruits or vegetables were grown in mineral-rich soils.  If the minerals aren’t in the soil how can we expect them to be in our food?  Our food supply has been so highly commercialized with the focus being on yield and shelf life, rather than nutrient density, flavor, overall nutrition.

It would be too much to write it all down here, but feel free to call or email for more information or visit us on the Farm!

Sincerely,

Tad Hussey

Keep It Simple, Inc.

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

We are proud to be partnering with Ann Glaser and Tiny Trek to begin offering preschool classes at our Farm!  Check our events calendar for more information.

Redmond Parks and Recreation, Seattle area, Washington

Tiny Treks

 

Tiny Treks is an innovative program for families who want to teach their young children about the world through the outdoor exploration of their natural surroundings. Curriculum is designed to open the hearts and minds of young children to nature. We believe children learn best through hands-on experiences which build self-esteem and encourage a love of nature.

 New Tiny Treks drop off class!

Tiny Treks Preschool is a new nature preschool class on the Eastside,
Located in the magical Keep It Simple Farm on Avondale near NE 128th.

Give your child the gift of time in nature with creative and structured play in the woods
and farm. We will spend the days outside in the forest, trails and garden.

Some activities include:
·         Environmental awareness and outdoor nature exploration
·         Critical thinking skills development
·         Math and science problem solving skills
·         Arts and Crafts
·         Story time and dramatic play

The Inaugural Preschool class: Wednesdays from 930am – 1230pm
Sept 11 – Nov 20th – 10 weeks @ $330.00

REGISTER: Ages 3.5-5 years of age.  Must be completely potty trained.
Call Ann Glaser 425-503-6953 or email annglaser@comcast.net to get on the list for fall.

Tiny Treks Parent/Child Fall sessions:

September 9 – 30th Mondays 10-1130am Class #47003
September 13-Oct 4th Fridays 10-1130am Class #47004

 Registration 

Register each child separately, one parent per two children max. Under two sibling free in backpack or frontpack. Register on line with Redmond Parks and Recreation at https://www2.redmond.gov/eConnect/Activities/ActivitiesAdvSearch.asp  phone: 425-556-2300, in person: Old Redmond Schoolhouse, 16600 NE 80th Street, o r call Ann Glaser 425-503-6953 for more information.  Classes are located on the Redmond Parks and Recreation website under “Preschool Education” and then “Parent/Child Classes”. $72 for 4 classes for Redmond Residents/ $86 for non-residents

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

So much has been going on since our last blog post.  We’ve expanded our edible nursery, and I’m very excited about some of the plants.  A couple of ones worth highlighting are the Hardy Kiwis and the Raspberry Shortcake Plant.

Hardy Kiwis are similar to fuzzy kiwis, but hardy to minus 20 F.  They grow on a trellis and with the exception of ‘Issai’ they need a male for pollination.  A mature female vine can produce up to 100 lbs of tiny kiwis that are sweet and delicious.  They’re usually available at PCC when in season if you’ve never tried them.  They require a fence or trellis and full sun for best production.

hardy kiwi

hardy kiwi

 

 

 

 
Another amazing plant is the Raspberry Shortcake.  It’s a dwarf, self-fertile, thornless, container raspberry!

raspberry shortcake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly, Runner Ducks have become very popular around KIS Farm.  They are hilarious to watch, they don’t scratch up the ground like chickens, are excellent layers, and stay in a group making it very easy to corral them.  We have 3 full grown ducks that wander our plant nursery and swimming in our pond.  I’m attempting to bond with some new baby runner ducks for my house this year.  Here they are playing in water at about 10 days old!

Baby Runner Ducks

 

Monday, December 17th, 2012

We have been so busy over here at KiS Farm that we’ve neglected our humble blog, apologies for the delay. With colder temperatures headed our way we wanted to pass on a few tips about keeping chickens in winter.

  • Make sure that your coop is draft free, and that there is a steady supply of fresh water (we have heated waterers available)  and feed.
  • Continuing to feed scratch through winter, in moderation, produces energy during the digestion process and also converts to fat, helping insulate your chickens. We now have a KiS Farm blend of scratch that you can find in our bulk section!
  • When below freezing it is a good idea to add a brooder light. The red light will help keep your chickens toasty on those freezing nights, and won’t disrupt their sleeping habits. We have brooder lights (the bulb is covered by a metal cage that reduces the risk of a fire) and timers available in the store.

Hope everyone has a great holiday season!

 

Friday, September 14th, 2012

We have some good news for people who still want to add to their chicken flocks this year – we’ve placed an order for chicks! They will be arriving on Monday, September 24th, 2012 and will be all ready to be taken home to some very lovely coops. So, what breeds are we getting? We’re gonna keep that our little secret until they are here, but we can tell you a few things about them . . . They will all lay brown eggs, be considered a “good layer” (3-4 large eggs a week), and we will have at least three different breeds to choose from. Any guesses?

Typically people add chicks to their flock in the Spring, but there is nothing wrong with adding them in the Fall. You will just want to be extra diligent in making sure that they are kept in a warm and draft free area until they are fully feathered. When you introduce the younger chicks to the flock be prepared to see some aggression from the older ladies. They are letting the younger chicks know what the ‘pecking order’ is, and in time (a week or so) they should have things established between the two groups. The chicks that we are getting in this month will start laying around February to March. And don’t worry, once the chicks have arrived we will announce what we got in!

 

 

Friday, August 31st, 2012

One of the greatest joys that many people have when keeping bees is enjoying fresh honey. As the bees diligently work on pollinating and building the hive, they are also making and storing honey. Bees make honey, their source of food (especially in winter when fresh food sources are scarce), through a process of regurgitation of nectar that they have collected from flowers. As a beekeeper we are able to take some of the honey that the bees have made, it is important though to leave enough honey for the bees to have through the winter. Harvesting honey is not a difficult task as long as you have the proper equipment.

To gather the honey comb you have to gently remove the frames full of capped honey, remove any bees that may want to cling on to the frames, and move the frames into the “honey room”. As you are collecting the full frames you should replace this space in the hive with empty frames so the bees can continue to build comb and store honey. Once you have successfully collected your frames of honey it’s time to extract the golden bounty! You first need to uncap the comb with an uncapping knife (a sharp knife will work as well), place the uncapped frames into the honey extractor, and gently spin the frames. Once one side of the frames has been spun and the honey extracted, flip the frames and gently spin them again to remove the second side of honey. Once all of the honey has been extracted you can now strain the honey through a stainless steel strainer or a fine mesh cloth. After this the honey is all ready to be jarred and put into the cabinet. The best part though is the last step . . . tasting the honey! Enjoy! 

Uncapping the comb

Looking into the extractor at the uncapped frames – almost ready to spin the frames!

Straining the honey

Freshly jarred honey!

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

While most vegetable plants are in the peak of their production, others are just now reaching the perfect time to be transplanted. Mid to late August is the time to transplant and seed those cooler loving plants (hello arugula, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cilantro, leeks, and turnips). One of the more unusual fall starts that we have in the shop right now is brussel sprouts. Some people might not find this vegetable to be too appealing, but roasted with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt, and a dash of freshly ground pepper – trust us you’ll be wanting it all of fall (they are also a good source of vitamin C). Take note though one plant doesn’t produce a ton of fruit, so you may want a handful of plants to feed the family with.

Young brussel sprouts growing at KIS Farm

This is a crop that you would want to transplant at this time of year, but with the expectation of having a harvest in November – December. Brussel sprouts will grow best if they are transplanted in firm, fertile soil and spaced roughly two to three feet apart. As the plants grow keep an eye on them and pick off the growing head of the plant (it should look somewhat like a small cabbage) to allow for the plants energy to be focused on growing the sprouts. As always in the garden good maintenance is key – pull off those dead leaves, watch for pests, water regularly, and give the plants some organic plant food (like Hendrikus Complete 6-4-4) about six weeks after they are transplanted.

Brussel sprouts ready to harvest

When November rolls around your brussel sprouts should be ready for harvest. The sprouts at the bottom of the stalk will be the first ones you will pick, they’ll be between the size of a large marble and a golf ball, firm, and before they’ve started to yellow. The sprouts flavor will be at their best after a light frost, and the sprouts can even be left on the stalk right up until it freezes. And now for the best part . . . eating the brussel sprouts! Here is a great link for a dozen brussel sprout recipes – enjoy!

 

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Again there has been some changes here at KIS, including a few more critters that now call us ‘home’. There’s Paco, another Flemish Giant rabbit, and four Muscovy ducklings. Paco is younger then Luna and Beatrix but he seems to be getting along just fine, he also enjoys receiving pets from visitors. The ducklings are a tad more nervous around people, but we have a feeling this will change as more and more people stop by to say ‘hello’ to them.

Paco

The ducklings

Muscovy ducks are a large duck (some people say it’s closer to a goose then a duck) native to South America and are great to have waddling around your farm or garden. Why? Because they love to eat flies, mosquitoes, slugs, and pretty much any bug that might be roaming around. Besides being on bug patrol they are a great companion/source of entertainment and they will also provide you with fresh eggs. If you’re at the farm make sure you check in on our ducklings to see how they are doing (you might even be able to catch them swimming!).

 

 

Tuesday, July 17th. 2012

No two days are the same here at Keep It Simple, and yesterday was especially an exciting day. As you know we have two bee hives and yesterday one of them decided to swarm, most likely because of overcrowding. Once we realized that this is what was happening we quickly grabbed our cameras to document this natural phenomenon, and the supplies needed to catch our hive. An interesting thing about a swarm of bees is that they display no defensive behavior and have no interest in people, or much of anything besides the swarm. It is an amazing thing to walk through a cloud of bees and not have to worry about the potential of being stung. As we watched our bees buzzing about, they slowly began to form a cluster on a branch around the queen. Wherever the queen bee lands the hive follows and hang onto one another to form a cluster around the queen, while several worker bees take off acting as scouts in search of a new home. Fortunately our bees landed on a branch we were able to reach so that we could capture them and get them into a new hive before the scout bees returned to persuade the swarm to make a home elsewhere. Currently we are monitoring our hives, and preparing to reintroduce the swarm hive back into their original hive. A great website for anyone who has questions about bees and beekeeping is the Northwest District Beekeepers Association. We’ll keep you update on the status of our hives over the coming weeks!

The swarm

Our bees forming a cluster around the queen

The swarm found a spot on a branch

A close up shot of the bees

Collecting the swarm

The main branch that the swarm landed on

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

We’ve been so busy here these last few months with the opening of the store that we’ve fallen behind on updating our blog! While we are still busy tackling the list of projects, the critters who call KIS Farm home seem to be settling in nicely. Our 6 week old chicks moved into our Animal Garden, along with our two Flemish giant rabbits this week. They have all enjoyed scratching the mulch to find goodies to eat and investigating the new territory.

Luna, one of our Flemish giant rabbits.

Some of our chicks coming up to say ‘hello’.

 

Meanwhile, our two laying hens have fully embraced the meaning of ‘free range chickens’ as they have been able to explore the farm property during the day. Keep an eye out for these two when you stop by!

Our two hens taking advantage of the dirt for a dust bath.

Feeding our bees and checking on the hive.

A look in the hive, they are all busy at work!

A closer look at the inner workings of a bee hive.

Thursday, April 19th 2012

Yesterday I brought the chickens from my house to their new home at KIS Farm.  Of course, one got out and I spent 20 minutes chasing it around the neighborhood before it settled in some heavy brush that I had a heck of a time getting it back out of.  We received all of our organic fertilizers and nutrients the other day.  I figured out that I must have lifted over 10,000 lbs. in the form of 50 lb. bags, just getting everything off the truck and into the storage containers.

The 1st building is almost done with the remodel.  I’m going to start moving items into it today and setting up our displays.  Already have a seed display from Irish Eyes.  They carry all organic, GMO free seeds, with lots of heirloom varieties.

This weekend I should be picking up the bees!

Here’s a photo of the chickens last night when the escaped from the cage as I was trying to get them from the lower section up to the roost for the night.

Tuesday, April 10th 2012

Welcome to Keep It Simple Farm’s Blog!

I’m going to do my best to keep a journal of everything we have going on, as I find the process quite exciting.  We got the property back on April 1st and have been scrambling to get everything up and running by May.  Right now we are working with Jessi Bloom of NW Bloom and Dave Boehnlein (a Permaculture expert), in coming up with a design for the property.  They’ve got some amazing ideas that we will be slowly implementing over the coming years.

Today I met Jessi over at her house to pickup some bee hives.  Her bees were swarming all over the hive and the chickens were busy pecking in the driveway.  Her cat was off chasing a butterfly and the dog, Spanky, was barking from the backyard.  It was cool to see all the happy animals and how well they interacted.  We talked about how we’re going to establish an area for chickens and rabbits, to begin building soil fertility.