Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Next Hilling: evening of Wednesday July 7th

Our potato plants are looking happy and healthy so far!

You are needed for our second hilling, scheduled for Wednesday evening, July 7th at 6:30 pm when the sun's heat will be off the field. Thankyou for rsvping as soon as possible so we know what our numbers will look like.

The eleven members who made it out to our first official hilling on June 19th worked hard on yet another beautiful sunny day! We shared some fresh organic fruit kabobs to take the edge off the heat, and left hoping that other members absent that day might be able to help finish the remaining rows.

A hanful of members met again in the field on the following Tuesday nite to continue hillng. And now it's already time for a second go at the whole field!

NOTE 1: SPUDS operating field management sub-committee (FSC) would love more member input. Even if you don't have time to join us regularly, there's lots to do to keep SPUDS sustainable as a co-operative venture. Putting the irrigation sytem in place, as well as distributing our hay mulch will also need to happen as soon after our second hiilling as possible, if not on the same day. Thanks to Charlie, the fire department has already filled the cistern for us, and the FSC has been busy prepping the lines for this year's newly configured field layout with the kind assistance of Derek Tanneker.

NOTE 2:  It would also be great to hear from any folks passionate about working the field without machinery as much as posible, for eventual scything of volunteer buckwheat emerging in next year's planting quadrant! (see photos further down)

Please remember to bring a hoe, gloves and water with you on the 7th, and bring along an extra toonie towards refreshments if you like. Hope to see you soon!

Below: here's a closeup of the pea cover crop in the 2011 quadrant, beside this year's potato quadrant. There are a couple of volunteer potatoes visible from last year's planting, and also some buckwheat that has reseeded. This will need to be removed before it goes to seed again, but we want the peas to grow more before we get in there to scythe it down...

Below: We still need to keep deadheading the rye in the upper half of the field for the same reason...we don't want it to reseed. In the second photo below, you'll see how the remaining stalks in the field mature, and what they look like when they've already gone to seed...these need to be deadheaded into a bucket!

Below: the pea cover crop in the upper half of the field as of June 27th - very pretty, but  taller than anticipated! This will have to be cut up before the soil is tilled in the fall, otherwise the machinery will not be able to turn it all under. It's also interspersed with grasses. THe FSC considered cutting it now and using it as mulch in the potato quadrant, but determined it best to leave where it is so that it can properly feed the soil in that section as intended

Below: A Journey Through Time!

Here's how the field looked when it was freshly laid out with planting row strings, back in May...

Next, the May 22nd planting brigade at work...we dug holes 18 inches apart in 14 and a half rows two feet apart, with approximately 60 plants per row.

Because some of the potatoes were planted with their long sprouts up in the air, and others were planted with the spouts mostly buried, the growth rate varied from plant to plant. Both photos below were taken on the same day of different just emerging from the ground, the other showing leaf growth off  its long eyes that were planted straight up

The long spindly plants  required hilling earlier than the rest of the plants, so Lindsey and Jan got in there a week or so before our first 'official' hilling with the membership. They put in an estimated 45 minutes. It seemed prudent to limit soil compaction with fewer feet searching out the plants that we didn't want to postpone hilling while waiting for the others to catch up (like the one below, racing ahead of the pack)

Below: our first 'official' hilling crew, June 19th  (following in Jan and Lyndsey's earlier footstep)
Thanks to Ron Dobie for this photo!

Below: hilling the plants in the rows closest to the fence on the south east side was tough going, so we all took on tackling some of those plants first before filling up the potato holes and mounding some of the other plants where the weeds weren't so thick. Carboard was collected and positoned by the FSC (field management sub-committee) members the week before along the area where the long grass threatened to invade our planted area ...

Above: you can also see here, that weeds dug up from the tough planting areas and elsewhere in the field have been spread out on the cardboard to kill off the roots, and weigh down the carboard  mulch suppressing further growth along that side of the field

Below: take a look at the different heights of the various plants after our first hilling, even though we planted them all at the same depth (six inches down, covered with three inches of soil). Because the long sprouts were positioned in various ways there is  no overall uniformity. Our initial idea was that the first 'hilling' would be simply filling in the six inch hole that the potatoes were planted in, but additional mounding has already been necessary for most plants

Below: Membership attendance for the first hilling was lower than necessary to complete the job. Most members worked for about two and a half hours, but we still had tough patches to weed, and two or three entire rows left to finish hilling and weeding. So a second crew went out on Tuesday nite, June 22nd to continue working... here's Jan depositing some of the weeds and clumps of grass roots collected from the field earlier by Sheila and Rae onto the cardboard mulch stretching out along the southeast side of the 2010 potato quadrant

 Jan and Lyndsey are new members of the Co-op this year, and a great asset to the FSC. Below, Lyndsey demonstrates her talent as a multi-tasker extraordinaire! She does keep asking, though, if anyone else has expressed interest yet in joining the four of us on the FSC...please get in touch if you're inspired to contribute to the co-op this way(no tool juggling actually required!) You can see that the soil is still moist here, just after the Summer Solstice since we've had so much rain this spring/early summer

 Above: the Tuesday, June 22nd evening  crew- Lydsey, Sheila, Jan, Ron, Mike (missing from photo, the photographer, Fireweed) We put in another two and a half hours in the field hilling and weeding

Below: the FSC met in the field on Sunday, May 27th to discuss field management issues, and address the water system. The cistern has already been filled by our volunteer Fire Department, thanks to Charlie. Mike Lindsay and Charlie put on the new spout that hopefully made filling the tank easier this year.

 Above: Lyndsey, Derek, Mike, and Jan (missing from photo, the photographer, Fireweed) stand in front of the shrinking pile of hay mulch we plan to spread over our potato crop as far as it will go after the water system is in place

Below: the various lenghts of plastic tubing for our irrigation system are stretched out in the quadrant next to this year's potato patch for measuring.  Since the photo below was taken on June 27th, Jan has purchased clamps and connectors for reconfiguring the system to suit our current planting layout. And Derek and Mike have started assembling the tubing which had to have approximately fifteen more feet added to each of fourteen lengths for this year's existing number of rows.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


The following update was emailed to the membership on Tuesday June 8th. The Minutes from the last meeting of the membership are in the previous blog entry

! At the bottom of this post, you will find a list of items considered by the current field management team volunteers at their informal get together, Sunday, June 6th. (in green) Please note that if you'd like to be involved on the proposed Field Management Sub-committee to contact Jan or Lyndsey at 3122!

Dear Spudsters,

First of all, please mark your calendar for 10:00 am June 19th for our first potato hilling of the year in the SPUDS patch! In the event of inclement weather, the following day will be a backup. in the event of extremely slow growth in the field, you will be notified of any necessary delay as soon as possible.

Members will receive a reminder next week about what to bring (hoes, etc), but if you are unable to participate on the date currently anticipated, please get in touch! It really helps to know how many hands are or aren't going to be available at a given time.

Gentle Reminder: We all know that in many respects our field dates are dictated by Mother Nature! Membership does involve representation in the field 4-5 times per year, however. There are a variety of ways you may be able to pitch in if making it out to the field, or finding someone to represent your membership on a group field day is problematic. So thanks for checking in with the Communications Team if you would be so kind.

Secondly, highlights from the minutes included in the previous post include an update on the progress of our cover cropping and potato planting (photos on the blogspot included with the previous post there!)

Also, please note that the proposal (below) announced in the last email outreach was carried by the membership present at our May 31st meeting and so has now been adopted in principle. Out of consideration for members who may have wished to attend the meeting but were unable, members present opted to extend the invitation a second time to any others interested in weighing in on the proposal before it is considered formally adopted.

Proposed: that the membership strike a SPUDS sub-committee mandated to oversee field management organization and keep the membership fully apprised with regular updates.

It was suggested that a deadline for any further input on the proposal be set as June 12th, so that a field management sub-committee could move forward knowing they have a clear mandate from the cooperative membership to proceed with field management planning on its behalf.

It was agreed that any member is welcome to join the field management sub-committee (FSC) at any time, but that with our Basis of Unity Statement now in place to guide us in our co-operative venture, and a four year crop rotation plan in place, subsequent deliberations should no longer necessitate alerting the entire membership.

This will significantly reduce the amount of emails SPUDS members have been receiving, and meeting invitations!

It was suggested that in order to keep members fully apprised however, that news from the FSC (field management sub-committee) would be regularly posted [here] on the blogspot for member access at any time. Scroll down for related info added in green at the bottom of this post. Hard copies will also be added to the library binder so the co-op maintains an uptodate record of all deliberations, expenditures, growing conditions, planting dates and observations, etc.

As per the attached minutes, four members volunteered for the FSC at the meeting. Anyone else interested is requested to get in touch with Lyndsey or Jan at 3122. An informal followup was held on the weekend to determine timing for the first potato hilling and assess other upcoming field management needs. Please scroll down for details, and refer here to the blog for additional updates from the current field management volunteers, and/or get in touch to be involved in this important aspect of the co-op!

NEWS FLASH: You won't find this update in the Meeting Minutes posted in the previous entry. The Regional District has awarded SPUDS a grant of $200, which will be available to us at the end of July!

The goal of regular updates is of course to keep everyone fully apprised, and engaged in both successful potato growing/care of the land and community building! Hope to see you all on June 19th. As mentioned, a little reminder will be coming your way next week, via phone and/or email. As always, thanks in advance for your RSVP!

Below, here are notes from the first (informal) meeting of the current field managment sub-committee (FSC) on June 6th, 2010

In attendance: Mike, Fireweed, Jan & Lyndsey Recorder: Lyndsey

In no particular order:
  • Fireweed/Mike checked field today, June 6th, and found some potatoes already need hilling.
  • Jan/LJ to perform above adhoc hilling this week. Less feet on the field will result in less compaction, since the long tubers needing attention are scattered throughout the field.
  • Jan/LJ to obtain cardboard and place on rows nearer fence where no planting took place to suppress weeds.
  • First field-wide hilling planned for June 19 --- or June 20 should it rain.
  • Second (& final) field-wide hilling date TBD --- might include applying hay mulch (TBD - see below).
  • Whether watering system is put in place after second hilling or after hay mulch is applied TBD.
  • Advice on watering system to be sought from Derek - Fireweed/Mike to contact.
  • Jan/LJ to be contact for FSC - should other members wish to join the sub-committee.

SPUDS MINUTES for MAY 31st, 2010

In attendance: Karl, Rae, Fireweed, Mike, Jan, Lyndsey, Charlie

Hosted by Fireweed and Mike

Facilitator: Rae Notetaker: Mike N.


1. Field Updates:

Correction- 14.5 rows of potatoes were planted on Saturday (not the 16 previously reported…in the area closest to the fence where the sod was tough going, a row and a half were not planted. A few holes reportedly received two small potatoes, so there was actually less than a whole row’s worth of seed left over at the end.)

Weed suppression- it was suggested that the unplanted row and a half, as well as the adjacent grassy area be sheet mulched to suppress growth and encroachment into nearby potatoes.

Standing rye- about another hour of dead heading the standing rye has been done by Fireweed and Mike. Rae will contact deNeen about helping keep upcoming rye in check where we don’t want it to reseed.

Peas- sprouting well in the area planted by Rae, Karl, Mike, Derek, Bill, Susan Marie, Charlie and Fireweed prior to the potato planting.

Pea Purchase- the pea seed purchased last year was left exposed in the Hermitage barn over the winter where it became contaminated, so it was necessary to purchase new seed, including enough for the fall planting. Total cost: $79.99. Buying a whole bag was more cost effective than just replacing the lost seed now and waiting to buy the fall seed separately later. Mike will be reimbursed. Some discussion about proper seed storage ensued, with L and J offering the use of a metal bin for our next cover crop seed purchase. Current supplies are now safely stored in a sealed plastic tote at FW and Mike’s.

2. Financial Update by Mike:

a. Balance as of April 30, 2010: $197.17

less check for DI Old School meeting -$15.00

less check to Mike Lindsay for tilling -$50.00

less check to Charlie for water tank accessory -$40.16

plus extra money from donations exceeding costs

for our chili and cornbread lunch at the planting +$14.00


Outstanding bills:

Twine for marking rows $14.41

Peas for spring/fall planting $79.99


b. Bank statements:

…the bank offered to print out an account summary for 2008 and 2009 that lists checks and deposits, so the remaining missing bank statements are no longer an issue.

c. Memberships:

…stands at 14 family/group and 2 individual. Velda and Bob no longer active this year, but would like SPUDS to keep their membership fee.

d. Recycle Bin:

….we are second in line for a bin. The Recycling center reviews requests at year end (Jan.) Note: There was some question about whether or not we should have a bin.

3. Communications Committee Update:

Rae reported that thankyou cards have been sent to Doug & JoAnn Wright in appreciation for the donated hay, and Brian Miles for loaning us his roller for use with the cover cropping. Mike Lindsay will also receive an appreciation from SPUDS for his help with the field.

Sheila has done a great job compiling hard copies of SPUDS meeting minutes and more in a binder now available in the Denman library. The group agreed that there is probably no longer a need to keep current Minutes copies in the Free Post., so the envelope there will be removed and the membership reminded to visit the library, OR the SPUDS blog to review Minute records.


1. Field Management:

a) rye still growing in field will be monitored and deadheaded by Rae who will contact deNeen, also interested in helping.

b) First Hilling- tentatively scheduled for Saturday, June 12th at 10 am with Sunday, June 13th as an inclement weather backup plan date. The following weekend if potato growth warrants waiting. Bring hoes.

c) 2nd hilling and mulching to also be determined by sub-committee (see proposal below)

d) water cistern adaptation- Charlie has new fixture and will arrange for installation assistance from Mike Lindsay.

e) watering system discussed including how to adjust for current configuration of field, and whether or not it should be flushed. FW will also talk to Derek again about best likely placement in rows.

f) fall cover crop- peas purchased for fall, clover from South Country can wait; FW reports interest from Ironwood Farms, as well as Nature’s Way in possibly sharing hairy vetch purchase to come. Anticipated costs are estimated at around another $50 for cover crop seed this year.

g) Harvest/celebration planning deferred. Discussion around divvying up the harvest included concerns about different levels of membership involvement in the field, and the need to keep reminding folks to get in touch for other ways to pitch in if they are able to attend few field dates. It was recognized that 4 or 5 visits to the field remains a membership requirement, but that sometimes circumstances preclude the best of intentions.

2. Proposal:

Mike: that the membership strike a SPUDS sub-committee mandated to oversee field management organization and keep the membership fully apprised with regular updates.

There was no dissent to the proposal, so it has been adopted in principle by the membership present. All SPUDS members to be notified and invited once again to weigh in before it is considered official. It was suggested that any objections be made by June 12th, the first possible next group field activity date speculated.

It was agreed that the field sub committee (FSC) will always be open to anyone interested in participating. Members Lindsey, Jan, Fireweed and Mike volunteered to be on the FSC and will get together soon for a field visit and report on readiness for hilling so we can better anticipate the next field gathering date so the membership has some lead time. Fireweed is also on the Communications Committee and so will help make sure pertinent updates from the FSC are made available to all SPUDS members.

3. Fundraising:

Grants- Veronica’s update on the seniors grant was mentioned as determined not to be applicable to SPUDS (a proposed composting toilet for the Hermitage site where the grant is intended to create raised bed gardens for seniors may be available for our use eventually!)

The status of the other grant Veronica had offered to look into was unknown at this time.

Mike reported that there is no word yet from the Regional District regarding SPUDS grant application, and that any money’s wouldn’t be available before the end of July.

Other fundraising ideas include selling baked potatoes at the market. It was determined that the Fall Faire would predate our harvest in the field. We are second in line at the Bottle Depot for a bin, and some discussion ensued as to whether or not SPUDS should take advantage of the opportunity.

4. Other items:

Laying of the Hoses:

All members present agreed that they would help with the laying out of the watering system in the field when the time comes. Charlie will connect with the Fire Department around the filling of the cistern.

The meeting came to a close after fits of laughter were linked to the innocent refreshments made available by the meeting hosts. There is no next meeting of the membership as a whole planned at this time outside of the next field hilling date TBD.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Meeting, Monday May 31, 2010

our cover crop peas sprouting a week after planting (maybe soaking them first helped, but the rain sure hasn't hurt!)

Yes, both our latest round of pea cover crop and now this year's potato seed are in the ground and sprouting!

A total of 14.5 rows with approximately 65 plants each have no doubt benefited from the subsequent rains (weatherwise, our timing was blessed!) and before we know it our first hilling will be necessary. So please stay tuned for our next field day announcement.

As you can see by the above photos, the potato seed we planted was long and leggy! We had even slowed down the sprouting by storing them in Rod and Vlasta's apple barn over the last month, as we were waiting for the soil to dry out enough for a tilling in the field.

At the planting last Saturday it was agreed that on Monday, May 31st at 7:00 pm, all members interested and able to attend would gather to plan for next steps and ongoing field management requirements. It's a busy time of the year, but do come if you can. Every member's input is valuable to our co-operative endeavour so please take a moment to look over the proposed agenda below.

Herb, Veronica and Jan at work planting our spring potato seed.

A reminder for new or renewing members: membership in SPUDS only requires a commitment of four or five gatherings in the field over the course of the growing season, so folks who don't have the time or interest in participating in additional meetings are not required to do so. However the shared leadership inherent in our recent adoption of consensus process provides everyone interested in helping coordinate SPUDS infastructure the opportunity to engage in this important aspect of the co-op. With our Basis of Unity in place to guide us as an egalitarian community and a four year crop rotation now underway, our next meeting agenda is likely to look something like the following (and please note the proposal at the bottom of the list!):

basic AGENDA so far:

Old Business

-field updates
- book keeping

New Business

1) Fundraising (baked potatoes at the Fall Faire?!, etc)

2) Field management including....
-cutting the volunteer rye before it reseeds
-First Hilling
-Second Hilling
-Water sistern adaptation
-Water system Installation
-Watering schedule
-Fall cover crop ordering
-Potato Harvest/celebration
-Fall tilling and cover crop planting

3) Proposal for adoption of a field management sub-committee*

* Proposal: that the membership strike a SPUDS sub committee mandated to oversee field management organization and keep the membership fully apprised with regular updates.
Anyone with thoughts, ideas or concerns is invited to provide input regarding the proposal, or any other item on the agenda, as well as to add other items. If no one in your family/group membership was available to participate in the field on or around planting day, you'll see there are other ways to pitch in!

Below are a few excerpts to do with the consensus process model SPUDS recently adopted, from the Seeds for Change website also listed under the LINKS column on the right hand side of this blog. New and old members are invited to visit the link for further information about the shared leadership approach in SPUDS evolving co-operative adventure!

Last but not least, the meeting on Monday, May 31st will take place on the farmhouse veranda at 2910 Northwest Road, (on the other side of the road from Lone Pine Farm The date is so soon due to immediate requirements in the field. Thankyou in advance for your RSVP!

Scroll down for more photos!

Madigan Wright, our second youngest SPUDs family member (sister Ivy is in a photo with Madigan and mom below) shows off a sprouting potato seed about to be planted by papa Vern.


Notes on Consensus Process
- from Seeds for Change

-In contrast to majority voting consensus decision-making is about finding common ground and solutions that are acceptable to all. Decisions are reached in a dialogue between equals, who take each other seriously and who recognise each other's equal rights.

-Another benefit of consensus is that all members agree to the final
decision and therefore are much more committed to actually turning this decision into reality. -Nobody must be afraid to express their ideas and opinions. Remember that we all have different values and opinions, different behaviours, different areas and thresholds of distress.

-Not every decision needs to involve the whole group. Set up working
groups on different areas, such as publicity, fund-raising, research. These sub-groups can then decide the nitty-gritty business that they are responsible for, within certain limits that the group has defined beforehand.

-Consensus is about participation and equalising power. It can also be a very powerful process for building communities and empowering individuals. Don't be discouraged if the going gets rough. For most of us consensus is a completely new way of making decisions. It takes time to unlearn the patterns of behaviour we have been brought up to accept as the norm. Consensus does get easier with practice and it's definitely worth giving a good try!


Kevin entertains in the field.

The spuds were all planted in alignment (mostly!) with the strings that marked each row, exactly 18 inches apart. (each row is a tight squeeze of only two feet apart, which should suppress weeds inbetween the rows, and help conserve water)

Visiting family members help supervise the planting!

Rae deadheads self-seeded rye in the upper half of the field to help prevent it from reseeding where we don't want it anymore!

a big pot of organic veggie chili warming up in the Hermitage barn for the workers to chow down on with organic cornbread and refreshments after their hard work planting in the field.

chili salute from the 2010 Spring planting brigade: Veronica, Herb, deNeen, Sheila, Bob, Ron, Mike, Rae, Kevin, Jan, Lyndsey, Barb, Vern and Karl. Missing from photo: Fireweed (the photographer- and your devoted blog mistress!), and Herb's son who also pitched in a helping hand. Mike helped plant the pea cover crop a few days earlier with Charlie, Bill and Susan Marie. (along with non-member supporter Derek T, as well as myself, Rae and Karl)

and for a little more fun...