Friday, March 27, 2015

Bring CMAP to Your School (or take a real Field Trip!)

A couple of weeks ago Tristan and Doug went to Atkins middles school to do some activities with the students in the GATE program. They talked about different kinds of root structures of some of our favorite vegetables like turnips and romaine lettuce. They also led the students in a soil test, shaking a solutions of soil, water, and salt and watching the different elements of soil settle out. Sand settles first, then silt, and finally clay. This kind of test is useful especially for our cob building project. It allows us to look at how much clay and sand (essential for making cob) is in the soil up here at Camp Mitchell. Luckily we are finding some pretty good clay.

If you know of any class K-12 that needs a field trip, put them in contact with us at We've even had a field day with college classes. We can prepare activities and discussions focusing on any of the following topics: gardening, ecology, soil structure, pollination, use of local resources, sustainability, plant nutrients, bee keeping, poultry, integrated farming, nature/spirituality, and just about anything else you can think of!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Hiller-tiller in Action

Friday the soil dried up a bit, meaning we were finally able to implement our new rotary tiller. It's called the King kutter and coupled with a home-made end piece I call it the hiller-tiller. With it we can till the garden and make nice looking beds in one afternoon, saving us a full week of back straining work. 

The garden is almost ready for the transplanting workshop! All we have left to do is install some irrigation and mulch and we'll be ready to go! Look forward to seeing you this weekend!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Crowded in the Greenhouse

We have so many seedlings! Onions, leeks, spinach, turnips, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and more. They are going to be at the perfect stage for transplanting out during our transplanting workshop next week. Hope to see lots of you here, March 27th and 28th. Lend a hand transplanting. Learn about transplanting techniques.

We are waiting on the ground to dry up so we can use our new rotary tiller to prepare our beds. If it continues to rain we'll have to start making rows by hand just to get a few things like our spinach and some snapdragons out of our green house.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Cob Garden Shed: Part 1 - Foundational Experiments

So we are gearing up to build a cob structure behind our greenhouse that will serve as a garden shed so that we can move all of our tools, fertilizers, and chicken feed out of the greenhouse and put them in proper storage.

We tried to dig a trench last year to fill with drainage rock and gravel for a foundation, but hit the camp's main water line and, well, you know the rest. Water fifteen feet in the air. Zero water pressure for all of Camp Mitchell. Luckily our maintenance guy is a real pro. He was out and had it fixed in under an hour.

So we had to move our site and start digging all over. More carefully this time. So far so good. We dug the trench without hitting any lines and filled it with stones. Instead of buy proper gravel we collected sandstone rocks from the woods and busted them with a sledge hammer until they were the proper size. This improvisation may cost us, but it may work out just fine. I'm betting on the latter. Anyway we put topped it off with some SB2 gravel and cement to keep the run-off from flowing into our trench.

Cob is made of sand, clay, and straw. We are testing out the clay and straw we have been able to find so far to see if the materials are of proper quality.

Above is our first cob test brick. It is made of some clay soil we found near our garden. Straw. No sand. We'll add proper sand to another test brick later.

If you know of anywhere we can find clay near Morrilton or Petit Jean let us know!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Winter Star Rockers

Last week's snow melted so all our winter star campers made it up to Camp. 

The campers rolled up their sleeves to sow seeds in the green house: green and red cabbage, Chinese cabbage, chives, turnips, and birdhouse gourds. 

After sowing these fierce youth of the Episcopal Church set to work on our cob tool shed. We collected stones from the woods and packed them into our foundation trench. If any of the stones were too big, the kids busted them up with a sledge hammer.

These kids rock! My favorite quotes of wisdom from them this weekend are: "I like working out here. It makes me feel different." And "I always like working on the farm because I know what I'm doing is going toward something." I always worry that getting kids to collect rocks will seem like cheap labor, but then I see how they enjoy being useful ... And who doesn't feel a good after busting a few boulders up with a sledge hammer?!

Peace be with you Winter Star Rockers!

Doug Knight 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Seedlings Staying Warm

Today we are watching the snow melt at the green house where our seedling are warm and toasty. Join us for a transplanon March 27 and you will get to help us transplant them out. Right now we are planning our farm activities for our youth Winter star camp coming up this weekend. Bring some gloves!