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lamb, heirloom vegetable transplants, fresh produce, heirloom vegetable seeds|
SalAmander Farms started with a few visits to the Des Moines Farmers' Market in the mid 90s, then I ran a CSA for eight years. Wanting my children to have summer memories that did not involve mulching or weeding, I gave up the CSA and began concentrating on seed saving. In the meantime, the 4-H sheep flock has grown quite a bit and I began selling the lamb produced by my three children. They currently have 6 ewes. The lambs are fed a custom grain mix prepared for us by the local feed store; no antibiotics, hormones, or animal by-products. I continue to sell asparagus and rhubarb from the extensive patch I developed for my CSA business, as well as other produce when I have extra available in the garden. The garden's fertility comes from the sheep, and also chickens raised for our own use and horse manure from our family's horses.
In addition to feeding my family year-round, my garden focus remains heirloom vegetable production. I have over 100 varieties listed this year in the Seed Savers Exchange, an organization based in Decorah that has had a great deal to do with the preservation of thousands of varieties of vegetables from around the world. I am fascinated by the flavors, the colors and the stories that come with the seeds.
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Practices (our standards for raising or making our products)
Lambs are fed a custom grain mix containing no antibiotics, hormones or animal by-products. The sheep are all owned by my three children as a 4-H project, so the best animals are selected each year to go to the county fair and the extras are sold as feeder lambs. The ones we eat (and sell for meat) are usually the ones shown as market animals at the fair.
The garden is a minimum tillage operation with weed control primarily achieved through mulching. I also use green manures and have portable chicken houses on the fallow garden beds, which helps with fertility as well as disease and insect control, since the chickens scratch up the ground and eat every bug stupid or unlucky enough to make it inside the chicken wire.
I sometimes use Bt on cole crops (cabbage, broccoli, kale) if the cabbage worms are bad enough. My only really serious pests are the cucumber beetles and squash bugs, both of which attack vine crops (melons, squash, cucumbers). I tear out the old-crop vines and rotate crops; I use a pyrethrin spray that kills the bugs on contact; and in really bad years, I use Sevin to knock back the population if necessary to save the crop.
Because of the no-till nature of the garden, I very occasionally have a problem with sourdock or Canada thistle and have sometimes spot-treated these tough perennials with glyphosate.
Highlights this Month
It will soon be time to start planting seeds (in the basement). I will be offering a number of varieties of heirloom tomato, pepper, eggplant and other vegetables, but I grow many more. If you're looking for something special, contact me. You can see my complete list of seeds at the Seed Savers Exchange website (open to members only; if you're not a member of SSE, you should be).