Wednesday, January 19, 2011

SPUDS Newz - January 19th, 2010

Happy New Year Spudsters!

In the previous post on this blog please find the minutes from our end of the year membership meeting (November 28th, 2010)  for a long overdue update. The following communique was sent to members with those minutes attached.

Please take note that this coming Saturday, January 22nd, we have a chance to raise a little cash for our Co-operative!
I was asked to provide food for the lunch that is part of the Transition Denman initiative at their official launch this weekend, and have decided to donate all proceeds after expenses to SPUDS, in support of our desire to improve water access for the field by way of a rain catchment system for our cistern. 

The request  received was for bioregional fare, so of course my choice to include potatoes was a natural one. Hopefully you are already planning to attend the launch, but whether or not you can make it, please spread the word: our SPUDS fundraiser 'lunch for the launch' will be available between noon and 12:45 pm…then pause for a brief presentation in the Front Hall by visiting Green Party leader Elizabeth May.  I'm told food service can resume by 1:30 pm and continue to  4:00 pm (or until we run out of goodies) 

I have rounded up lots of great Denman veggies, so every item on the menu contains homegrown ingredients- beautiful beet borscht, potato and sweet pea samosas with local fruit chutney, crunchy kale chips, creamy squash soup, savoury potato and sunflower seed pate with basil pesto and roasted tomato puree on rye, pumpkin pie, apple spice muffins, hazelnut spelt squares made with blackberry/plum preserves, local apple juice, etc.

ANY VOLUNTEERS? I am hoping that a couple of other SPUDS members may be interested in lending a hand on Saturday for any length of time at all…the food will be readymade, but Mike and I will be serving out of both the front and back windows of the kitchen, so it will be a bit of a juggling act with just the two of us. It may or may not be busy, but I'm not sure how we'll be able to retrieve used bowls that don't come straight back to the kitchen, for example... if you are interested in helping out the cause, please get in touch asap! -Fireweed


And now for news directly related to the field...

1) Today we received word on our potato seed order pricing for 2011's spring planting. The farmer who organizes a bulk purchase for Vancouver Island had to secure a 40 box order (2,000 pounds) before receiving a cost break, and has just announced that she was successful. Good thing, because the price for organic seed has gone up! Our order will cost $100 for a 50 pound box (up from $75 a case last year) plus $10 for shipping.

It was proposed at our last meeting of the membership on November 28th,  that we reduce our seed planting this coming spring, commensurate with membership labor availability, and our very limited water supply. Please refer to the  minutes (previous post!) from this meeting for conversation highlights, budget report, etc.

2) SPUDS welcomes new 2011 members Stephen Cooke, Dave Graff and partner Tanya Quinn (Dave joined last fall and is now a very welcome addition to SPUDS Field Management sub-committee), and Yvon Raoul. Yvon lives part time on Denman, so will be a supportive member 'at large', joining us in the field whenever he can. 

3) One other highlight to note that won't be in the minutes…SPUDS' request for a refundables bin at the Bottle Depot has been accepted. We now have the opportunity to raise at least $100 a year (the minimum amount required to maintain the privilege of having a bin) towards the cooperative's operating expenses, simply  by remembering to donate our recyclables …we must 'use it, or loose it', as the saying goes!

Minutes from Meeting of the Membership, Nov. 28, 2010

SPUDS MEETING of the MEMBERSHIP; November, 28, 2010
In attendance:  Ron Sakolsky, Sheila Nopper, Mike Nestor, Fireweed, Fox, Tanya Quinn, Dave Groff

 Facilitation: we were such a small group that we decided picking a facilitator wasn’t necessary. The following notes have been compiled by Fireweed



Fireweed provided an update on our numbers, highlighting members not in attendance but who are also confirmed for 2011:
Veronica Timmins, Ron Dobie and Maxine Matilpi, Yvon Raoul (who will be a ‘member at large’, since he is only on Denman part time, Susan Marie Yoshihara, Bill Engelson, Vern Wright, Kevin Mitchell

…and 2010 members who won’t be participating in 2011: Charlie Johnston (to remain supportive, he has offered to provide a total of TWO refills for the cistern through the Volunteer Fire Dept. for 2011); Jan Murphy and Lyndsey Jennings (just way too busy with off island work and school); Herb Jones and Barb Heywood-Jones, Bob Vosburg, DeNeen Baldwin, Rae Eckel and Karl Goodwin (who are stepping back for health reasons but have offered to retain a family membership as ‘members at large’, remaining supportive with a standing offer to help with Karl’s truck whenever we might need the assistance)

Mike announced that our 2011 membership stands at 9 family, and 3 single memberships, noting that this total of 12 should be calculated as 10 ACTIVE memberships, since two memberships are primarily supportive, only. [note: newest member Stephen Cooke signed on for 2011 after this meeting, bringing our 2011 membership up to 13 as of mid January, or 11 Active memberships]


Mike provided the following accounting info for 2010:

Memberships-  $420.00               (230.00 +190.00= $420.00)
Grant            -     200.00  Aug. 3, 10
Misc.            -        14.00
TOTAL               634.00

Bank Account:

Balance as of 11/26/10                                           231.01
Pending check from Yvon Raoul                          +50.00
*Pending expenses                                                -208.67

*EXPENSES incurred by members of the Field Management sub-committee

Aug. 8, 2010     Pickseed-                   hairy vetch      63.42      Fireweed
                          (we split a bag with Ironwood Farm in Union Bay)                        
May 16, 2010                                    Austrian pea      79.99      Fireweed
May 16. 2010                     twine for row marking      14.41      Fireweed
July 3,   2010      Home Depot-   clamps for hoses        9.75      Mike Nestor
July 3,   2010     Courtenay Pump House- emitters       9.47      Mike Nestor 
Sept.15, 2010     South Country Feed-  clover seed     29.39      Fireweed
Sept. 24, 2010    DI Hardware-           flagging tape      2.24      Mike Nestor

Check to Mike Nestor for:                                            21.46
Check to Fireweed for:                                                187.21

SPUDS 2010 Expenditures in Total-

Jan. 20,   10      40.00-  Back Hall rental for Feb. 7 meeting
Jan. 29,  10     280.50-  Mary Alice Johson for 3 cases of Sieglinde seed ($75 a case,         
                                                               and .37/lb. shipping- $55.50)
Feb. 22,  10       15.00-  room rental at Old School for Feb. 21 meeting
May 17,  10       50.00-  Mike Lindsay  for tilling ½ the filed (May 8th)
May 16,  10       79.99-  South Country Feed for Austrian peas for spring/fall planting
May 16,  10       14.41-  Home Depot for twine for marking rows
May  20, 10       40.16-  Charlie Johnston for hose valve for cistern
July    3, 10          9.75-  Home Depot for clamps for hoses
July    3, 10           9.47- Pump House for replacement hose emitters
Aug. 18, 10         63.42- Pickseed for hairy vetch cover crop (55.00 + 7.77 freight +.93 tx)
Sept. 15, 10         29.39- South Country Feed for red clover seed for ¾ field coverage
Sept. 24, 10       100.00- Mike Lindsay for entire field tillage

FSC  (Field Management Sub-committee) REVIEW of 2010:

Presented by Fireweed and Mike, with thanks to Jan and Lyndsey for their wonderful assistance on the FSC for the 2010 growing season, as well as Darek Tanneker for his knowledgeable support!

We had a very wet spring, and so the plough wasn’t able to get in to the field until May 8th. The following weekend we planted one quadrant of cover crop Austrian pea in the quadrant where we are planting potatoes in 2011.

We planted our potato seed on May 22nd, thinking it best to leave the turned over sod a couple of weeks to break down before the planting.

We had purchased 150 pounds of Sieglinde seed in a bulk order purchased through Mary Alice Johnson from Across the Creek Organics in Pemberton once again, and ended up storing it in Rod and Vlasta’s apple barn to slow down the sprouting that had taken place in Bob Parson’s barn, due to our need to delay planting.

There were about 300 seed per 50 pound box.

We planted 15.5 rows of approximately 60 plants per row, totaling about 900 plants

The rows were spaced 2 feet apart, and the plants 18 inches apart

We harvested over 750 pounds on Sept. 18th, or approximately .8 pounds per plant.

The plants were in the ground for 120 days, and each family membership got 51 poudns of potatoes, the 2 individual membership got 46 pounds a piece…our appreciation pile, divided by 4 was 47.5 or 12 pounds per recipient.

Watering issues:

Because of our wet spring, our plants got off to a great start and we didn’t need to get our watering system down on the field till July 7th. The cistersn was filled a total of  4 times, however, and the bul of our watering happened between July and Augst during the most severe drought in many years.

July 11th was our first watering, July 19th-22nd our second watering, July 31-Aug 4th our third watering, Aug. 7th it rained, August 21st we watered for a forth and final time. The field received no further water as the weather remained dry. We hoped that leaving the potatoes in the field for as long as possible might plump them up, but without rain any further growth was negligible.

Our plants received approximately 8 gallons of water over the entire dry season from the cistern (which received four fillings), or 2 gallons per watering per plant

Apparently our wire worm problem was shared by organic growers across BC- Ann deCosson said they had the same problem, and also had the worst potato crop in 30 years. West Piercy said his overall production was the worst in 60 years.

So we had a few problems facing us in the field in 2010…decreased soil fertility, which of course we are now well on our way to rectifying with timely and appropriate cover cropping, an unexpected drought right when our plants would have really benefited from more water, and wire worms!


Fireweed reported that thankyous and potatoes were delivered to Brian, Mike Lindsay, Charlie and the Fire Dept., and Derek Tanneker in appreciation for their support at the end of September. DeNeen Baldwin and Rae Eckel were also appreciated for their contributions to SPUDS Communications Team

Library Binder- Sheila provided an update on the binder at the Library, which she is continuing to maintain

Blog Updates- Fireweed mentioned maintaining accurate records on the blog for easy access and agreed to continue uploading meeting deliberations, photos, etc

Hermitage Contact- the new liason person for SPUDS at the Hermitage is Devin

New/additional SPUDS Communications Team members are encouraged!


Seed ordering-
Discussion ensued around what and how much to order for the 2011 growing season. It was suggested that given the reality of our water limitations at the field, and the fact that we can count on only half the quantity of water received in 2010 from the Fire Dept. in 2011, that we would be better off drastically reducing our next planting. Given that even cutting our production in half would not provide healthier, heartier plants if we have the same weather conditions in 2011, it was determined that planting a third of what we did in 2010 would 1) be a better use of available water, 2) reduce labor requirements in the field, commensurate with a decrease in our current membership numbers, 3) possibly result in a much better crop yield, per plant.

Fireweed advocated for planting Sieglindes once again, so we can keep track of how well they do under varied conditions. Ron proposed that we order one 50 pound box of seed. All present were in favor of this proposal for all the reasons under consideration.
[Note: as always, any member not in favor of a proposal is welcome to offer further input for consideration.]

Fireweed agreed to place an order and report to the group when it is confirmed, and to relay 2011 prices . Last year our order was made in December and confirmed on January 10th.

Water Catchment-
The need for a water catchment system over the cistern was discussed, along with ideas about water flow and accumulation in general on the field during the rainy season. One idea made by Fox, was to invite a professional permaculturalist to assess and share their ideas on the site. Drainage ditching, swales, building up low areas, using low lying areas differently rather than altering the landscape, digging a pond- various ideas were touted for long range field management solutions. It was acknowledged that any major activity would require permission from the Hermitage. It was agreed that Fox would pursue permaculture input, and that fundraising for some kind of water catchment over the cistern would be appropriate for at least one filling independent of the Fire Dept. SPUDS members adept in carpentry are needed to volunteer for the construction of a catchment system!

Everyone is encouraged to keep their ears open about grant possibilities for the catchment system.Mike will pursue another CVRD grant, due by the end of February. Veronica Timmins, Sharon Clarke, DICEEC and Freedonia were mentioned as possible sources of either grant information or funding in the case of Freedonia.

 It was stressed that we need to mulch over the creeping couch grass along the edge of the field before it starts to grow up again. And that anyone who can grab some large cardboard from town that is mostly ink free should do so. Last year we obtained about three truckloads of hay mulch, sometime in the early spring (it was suggested that we start asking around in February). Doug Wright, the Scrutons, Tom Dennis, and Dev Murti were mentioned as possible sources of hay.

 Mike Nestor will contact Mike Lindsay to inquire about spring tilling- as we make progress with our cover cropping our tillage requirements are reducing significantly and this spring we will only require one quarter of the field to be tilled if all goes well.

FSC involvement-
 Dave Graff joins Fireweed and Mike on the FSC. Welcome Dave! More members are welcome and needed to help out with  various aspects of SPUDS infrastructure and field management.

Membership involvement-
 Fireweed and Mike calculated that on average (and NOT including FSC work in the field) SPUDS membership clocked approximately 160 hours of activity on field tasks in 2010. This breaks down to about 12 hours per person (again, excluding FSC meetings, watering, checking on the field, etc). To be truly sustainable, we need to increase the time in the field expected from each member to more like 6 visits.
Of course a reduction in planting in 2011 will make a difference on how long tasks like planting, hilling, mulching, etc, end up taking.

Budgeting for 2011-
Mike estimated the cost of seed potatoes, field tillage, cover crop seed and miscellaneous expenses for the year as coming in anywhere between $200-$400. Miscellaneous expenses might include repairs on our drip irrigation system, or new hose; material needs for a water catchment would likely exceed this estimate.

 Mike will ask Rae if she would be willing to test the soil for us again so we can compare data.

Next Meeting: No other meeting date set at this time.

Thanks to Ron and Sheila for hosting!