86 Things We Learned from Farming

January 6, 2011


Over the course of the year we have each kept a liGreen Tomatost of things we’ve learned from the Thomas Farm project, specifically to make a compilation at the end of the year.  It’s fair to say that the year was nothing like we thought it would be, but we still learned a lot about where our food comes from – which was our goal.  Some of us, like Caleb, learned that farming is a passion for them.  For the rest of us, this experience made us more grateful for the farmers who grow our food so we don’t have to.  It’s a lot of hard work, with very little monetary reward.  This list is for you, farmers and gardeners of the America!

  1. Opossums can kill chickens, in fact, they disembowel them
  2. Matt can kill opossums
  3. Raccoons decapitate chickens (more…)


December 14, 2010


heritage-variety tom turkey

This turkey is grateful he didn't wind up on someone's Thanksgiving plate

I was reminded after Thanksgiving that I don’t think about and express gratitude often enough. Going around the table at supper and saying what you’re grateful for may be the traditional thing to do on Thanksgiving, but for me it’s distinctly an untraditional activity within the scope a whole year. (more…)

Favored Photos: Matt’s Top 20

December 10, 2010


I scanned through my photos from this year at the farm, and gathered up my top 20. Originally, my plan was to pick the top 10, but I failed miserably.

I chose these images, not just based on aesthetic appeal, but also because they capture some fine moments, and important events that marked the year (e.g., snowstorms).

Browse the photos at your leisure!


November 27, 2010


Happy Thanksgiving, Blog Readers!

Matt and I left the farm for Thanksgiving and have been visiting our friend Kacey in Blacksburg. We had a non-traditional (not to be confused with un-American) vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner of Chili Con Tempeh, mashed potatoes, Brooklyn Brown Ale, and apple pie and ice cream. I guess considering the mashed potatoes and apple pie we only qualify as semi-traditional. We also had fresh French Walnut Bread that Kacey baked. I think that back at the farm the extended Thomas family enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner complete with turkey (not actually a farm turkey) and mincemeat pie with hard sauce! (more…)

Our chickens

November 15, 2010


I simply couldn’t resist.

First Frost

November 8, 2010


garlic shoot

Frost has not stopped all garden activity

It’s been about a week since our first major frost of autumn, marking the end of most, but not all, activity in the garden.  The frost was pretty late, I think, even for as far south as we are—so we counted ourselves lucky.



November 3, 2010


A motley crew: Whitney, Kristin, Caleb, Ben, Steven, John

Last weekend, Whitney’s parents, Ben and Elaine, visited from Idaho. Their time with us was replete with apple picking at Carter Mountain Orchard, target practice in the woods, and a 10k for Whitney and Ben.

Ben and Elaine joined a long list of visitors we’ve had at the farm over the past 10 months. One of the benefits of the house at the farm is its ample space for guests. None of the four of us have recently lived in places that accommodated visitors from outside of town, so we knew that living at the Thomas Farm would provide opportunities for our friends and family to stop by and stay a while for a change. Therefore, it wouldn’t be particularly complete to reflect on our time here without commenting on our guests and how they’ve impacted our experience. (more…)

Cooking on the Farm

October 24, 2010


Even as the days get colder and shorter and our garden gets emptier there is one thing we continue to do in abundance: cook! We’re getting into the delicious and hearty soup and stew season which fits the autumn weather so well. (more…)

The return of the prodigal kitty

October 19, 2010


This is neither timely nor important, but I want to record it for posterity.  We had a moment of triumph and jubilation here on the Thomas Farm on Friday evening.  A moment I will never forget.

While Caleb and I were back in Minneapolis last weekend, at a high school friend of mine’s wedding, Lena disappeared.  Poor Matt and Whitney turned the house upside down looking for her, not wanting to be the cat sitters who lost the cat.  They called us to let us know, but both Caleb and I figured she would return by the end of the night.  When she hadn’t come back by the time we arrived back in VA, nearly 4 days later, we were worried.  (more…)

It’s Blue!

October 9, 2010


The Ameraucana's first blue egg (click to view larger)

This afternoon, I was pleased to discover that our Ameraucana chicken laid her first egg, and as expected, it’s blue!

As you may recall, in posts dating back to July (Chicken Drama I and II), we’ve been having trouble creating harmony between our only surviving chicken from the original three, Marcia, and our three newest chickens (the kids). After a few days of the four of them living together, it became clear that the Ameraucana (the grey one) was receiving the brunt of Marcia’s negative attention. Even after we separated Marcia from the other three, the Ameraucana’s younger “siblings” continued to pester her; as a result, we separated her from Marcia and the younger two for almost a month. (more…)

Lucy’s Birthday Shindig

October 6, 2010


This past weekend we hosted a farm-themed gathering to celebrate Lucy’s first birthday. We went to Fluvanna County’s “Old Farm Day” and enjoyed refreshments back at the homestead.  Don’t worry; we took pictures.  In addition to plenty of Lucy pictures, we took a couple photos (1, 2) of some machines to see if people could guess what they do.  We think we know.

In other news, things are wrapping up pretty well in the garden.  I planted an oat cover crop and a clover cover crop over parts of the garden.   The clover should give the soil a charge of nitrogen and organic matter, and the oat crop will hopefully provide a bit of cover for garlic that we’ll be planting soon.  I hope to get the rest of the beds planted in the next week so there’s at least a little growth before winter kill.  We expect the three younger chickens we have to start laying in a couple of weeks.  With days shortening like they are, laying will probably not be an everyday thing.

Egg Wagers

September 30, 2010


Any day now we’re expecting one of our three younger chickens to start laying eggs. This past weekend we gathered some bets on when this might be. Feel free to add yours in the comments (some have already lost, myself included).

  • Sept. 26: Matt
  • Sept. 27: Brian
  • Sept. 30: Marilu
  • Oct. 1: Kristin
  • Oct. 3: Whitney
  • Oct. 10: Caleb

Dude, Where’s My Rain?


Matt in the garden wondering 'dude, where's my rain?'

I just finished my third summer in Virginia, and I can safely say that this was by far the hottest of the three. Even more of an issue for our garden, it was also extremely dry.

How dry? According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration*, from June 1 to September 23, Charlottesville (10 miles from the farm) received 6.17 inches of rainfall…total. On average, it receives about 17 inches during roughly the same time period. Contrast this with the several feet of snow we received from December to February.

The dry summer has yielded brown, crunchy grass, and young trees showing signs of stress (just like grad students). (more…)

Last Summer Weekend

September 18, 2010


We’re in the middle of an exciting (almost fall) weekend at the farm – I’ve especially enjoyed it because Matt and I have not been at the farm in the last few weekends so it’s been good to reconnect.

Results of Needs Eatin’ Challenge

September 13, 2010


I think our Needs Eatin’/Iron Chef Challenge a few weeks ago was a success.  Here are the results:

The Sancken team ended up making 3 meals – a Spicy Korean Chicken with a cucumber salad, Curried Chicken with Apple over rice with a carrot walnut salad, and a Bolognese Ragu over rice.  Notice how a lot of things were over rice instead of noodles?  That’s because we had plenty of rice.

Matt and Whitney also made 3 meals – bacon corn chowder with baked potatoes, ratatouille with coconut rice and cantaloupe for dessert, and fried rice with a cucumber-tomato salad.  All of their recipes were from a fabulous Mennonite cookbook called Simply in Season.

Vote and let us know who you think won based on use of their ingredients, creativity and how delicious/edible the recipes sound.  The winning team will win … the other team cleaning their bathroom!  Just kidding, I made that up.  That’s what I wish we would win because I hate cleaning our bathroom.