A True Family Farm

When our boys help in the gardens they represent the fifth generation of the family to work the soil on Kimker Hill. Four generations still live on the farm today. Strong family bonds and a deep love and respect for the earth influence all of our farm practices.

Our gardens provide us with the best and purest of food, matchless beauty, and the ultimate earth science classroom for our homeschooled boys.

Sustainability is a popular buzz word among small scale agriculture. To us it means giving more than you take. Putting back what you use. Remembering that this beautiful earth will last forever and it's our commision to care for. In our gardens we try hard to follow these ideals and work with the earth's design, not against it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Good News!

Have you heard? The Tower Grove Farmers' Market is being extended an extra two weeks to give everyone a chance to get the produce that is still being harvested. According to the weatherman, the rest of the month is expected to stay 15 degrees above normal. That gives us all a few more weeks to enjoy fresh, local, naturally-grown produce.

Come by and get some for yourself this weekend!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Fall is here!

Fall has arrived and we're enjoying the cooler weather. The flowers are still in full bloom and we're happily bringing in beautiful bouquets to brighten up the house. You can pick up a bouquet for yourself at the market. Bonnie has been doing a wonderful job making the arrangements in assorted colors.

It's been a very hectic summer but the harvest has been pretty good in all of the gardens. The tomatoes have been wonderfully delicious and most of the varieties are still producing. The okra went crazy this summer and are still covered in blooms to be enjoyed every morning. The cooler weather has slowed them down a bit, but they're still producing. The rainbow swiss chard is looking beautiful again. The bugs are finally leaving it alone.

It's finally time to harvest the sweet potatoes. We have two different varieties this year. Danny and Bonnie began digging them last Friday. If you had a savory crepe at Oh Crepes this past weekend, you got to enjoy some of them! This evening, I tried to duplicate the same mixture and filled tostada shells with it. It was delicious!

If you'd like to try it, come by our stand on Saturday and pick up some freshly dug sweet potatoes, an assortment of peppers and swiss chard. Then saute some chopped onions in a little olive oil, add chopped peppers (whatever kind you prefer) and cubed sweet potatoes. Cover pan and allow to cook on medium heat until sweet potatoes are tender. Add chopped swiss chard and cook just until chard begins to reduce. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste. Use this mixture to fill a tortilla shell and fold over. Then enjoy for yourself!

If you haven't had the pleasure of enjoying our heirloom watermelons this summer, you'd better hurry. The Sugar Baby variety is gone now, but we still have the Desert King's. It's a deliciously sweet yellow variety with big black seeds. Bonnie picked the last of them and I'll be bringing them with me this weekend.

It's not too late to fill your freezer with tomatoes for the winter. We have 20 different varieties and they all freeze very well. Just wash, cut in half, take out the core and fill freezer bags with them, squeeze out as much air as you can and put in the freezer. Then take them out as you need them all winter. I love cooking with them. They taste like you just picked them from the garden.

There are only 3 markets left at the Tower Grove Farmers' Market. Don't miss out! Hope to see you there soon!

Monday, August 2, 2010

The virtues of mulch!

Let me once again extol the virtues of mulch!

I'll use Garden #1 as an example. It's the tomato garden. All the rows are mulched with grass clippings. I have had almost no weeding to do in the rows themselves and very little in the walkways. The only walkways that have been a problem are the ones that didn't get a thick enough mulch, or the chickens got in and scratched the mulch away. But it hasn't been difficult at all to pull out the weeds and add more clippings in the open areas.

Other advantages are that there has been almost no need to water that garden. When you pull back the mulch, the ground is very moist underneath. The mulch also allows you to get in the garden and pick the tomatoes even when there's been a lot of rain. The mulch soaks it up and stores it, but you can still walk on it without sinking or getting stuck. It also helps prevents some soil borne diseases from infecting the plants because the soil doesn't splash up on the leaves when it rains.

On the other hand...

We decided to try something new in Gardens #3. We tried going without mulch at all in that garden. Danny bought a new wheel-hoe cultivator that does a wonderful job of getting rid of weeds in the walkways, as long as you use it every couple of days.

Our problem is that we don't have time to redo the walkways every couple days. So the weeds take off and grow at an alarming rate. Once they are more than a few inches tall, the cultivator gets clogged up and is basically useless. Then you have to pull the weeds by hand or use a regular hoe, either of which takes even more time and trouble.

After four long, hot days in a row of backbreaking weeding, just in garden #3, I must declare our experiment of not using mulch in that garden a total disaster. After weeks of intermittent rains, which thankfully kept us from having to water too much, the weeds in a large part of garden #3 were nearly as tall as Nate. The part in better shape took a lot of weeding the week before, and tomorrow I will be trying to uncover the rest of the zucchini and peppers.

The best looking areas of the garden are the last row of okra and the very first row with sunflowers and kale. They are doing so well because I went ahead and mulched them with grass clippings as they were available last month.

My advice to anyone who will listen, take advantage of mulch!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Market tomorrow!

It's been another crazy, busy week here on the farm. It is so hot! Danny has worked out in the heat all day. He's been working on getting the irrigation system in place for the summer. For me, today has been all about getting ready for the market.

I'll be bringing lots of eggs with me tomorrow, both from our chickens and from nearby Sunrise Farm. Plus, we have fresh produce again this week. We have kale, swiss chard, yellow squash, zucchini, new potatoes and green peppers.

Did you see the interview with Michael Pollan on the news yesterday? Take his advice and come and get your locally grown produce from us tomorrow! Bear will be coming with me, come by and say "Hi!"

Monday, May 24, 2010

The sun is shining! and the gardens are drying out!

We had a great day at the market on Saturday. This time the weather cooperated.

We finally feel like we're back in business in the gardens. We're loving the break from the rain! I got a row of tomatoes in the ground yesterday and tomatillos transplanted today. I've got a whole lot left to plant, but it's a start.

Most of the tomatoes I planted before all the rain just drowned. I'll have to replant them. It's disappointing to see, but the plants in the hoophouse look wonderful, and are all just waiting to be put in the ground.

I'm on my way out to transplant more. Danny's been getting the rows prepared for me.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

One new little chick greeted us this morning!

So far, it's still waiting for the others to hatch. We can hear them peeping, but we can't see any sign of pecking yet.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

I won't be at the market today after all.

Change in plans. We woke up to heavy rain again this morning. Now it is storming. According to radar and the local weather forecast, by the time we could drive to St. Louis, the storm will be there too. It's supposed to last all morning.

So, I will plan to see everyone at the market next week.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Join me at the Tower Grove Farmers' Market Tomorrow!

The summer market got off to a wonderful start last Saturday! The weather was beautiful, just a little chilly and windy. The turnout was tremendous. I hope all of you who were there had an enjoyable time and will join us again. To anyone who missed it, I hope you can visit soon. Stop by and say "Hello."

I'll be bringing lots of tomato and pepper plants again. And I've been very busy grinding flours and making mixes this week. Why not try out something new? I hear there will be lots of fresh strawberries again tomorrow. You could serve them over my Healthy Pancakes or Waffles on Sunday morning.

You could even make them with our delicious Free-Range Eggs. Speaking of eggs, I be bringing more this year than in the past. We have added more hens on our farm and they are happily laying. We have also partnered with another local farm, Sunrise Farm, and I'll be bringing their eggs as well. They share our commitment to Naturally Grown and Organic practices, as well as Free-Range chickens for the best possible eggs.

Hope to see you soon!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The chicks are enjoying the great outdoors!

The chicks have all their feathers now and no longer need to be kept in the brooder. So, this afternoon the boys and I moved the old coop onto fresh grass and stocked it with food and water. Then, Bear and Nate helped me move the chicks one-by-one out to the coop.

Panda, our dog, stood by the garage door as we carried out each chick and waited to check them out. He sniffed each one as if he had to get to know them. Since he's not allowed in the garage, it was the first time he had seen them. It was funny to watch. After each sniff, he stood back and then patiently waited for the next one. After all of them were out, he followed us out to the coop and just stood and watched them as they got accustomed to their new surroundings.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Opening day of Tower Grove Farmers' Market is this Saturday, May 8th!

Come and join us! It promises to be nice and sunny and not too hot! At least that what the weatherman has to say!

Read all about it at http://tgmarket.org/

Opening day runs from 8:30am to 2:30pm. We'll be there bright and early.

I've been preparing grains and flours and mixes for days. I'll also be bringing lots of bedding plants. I have 18 different varieties of tomato plants, most of them are heirloom varieties. And I have several different varieties of peppers, both sweet and hot varieties.

I'll also be bringing lots of free-range eggs. We're getting two to three dozen a day now. Taste and see for yourself what a wonderful difference there is in the way they look and taste when the chickens are allowed to roam. And the nutritional content can't be beat.

Monday, May 3, 2010

…with a little help from my friends.

Thanks to the boys and a couple of their friends, Seth & Stuart, the mulch is finally over all the potatoes! These guys worked like champs and I think they even had fun in the process.
The mulch is a lot of work but we think it's worth it. It will help suppress weeds through most of the season, it will hold moisture in the soil, and it will protect potatoes that are close to the surface from sun damage. It also adds a tremendous amount of OM (organic matter) to the soil when it is turned under at the end of the season.

Our potato varieties this year are Desiree, a European red with yellow flesh, Caribe which has a bluish/purple skin and snow white flesh (reported to make amazing mashed potatoes), and Rose Finn Apple, a fingerling style with rose pink skin and deep yellow flesh that is great roasted. We will have them all at the market later in the season. If you want to come help dig them (yes, its all done by HAND) shoot us an email!

(Bear can confirm…it’s all done by hand.)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Queen is coming!

This winter was very hard on the bees. Many beekeepers in the Midwest lost hives and we were no exception. Two of our three hives did not make it. Fortunately the one that did survive is doing very well. It has a strong queen and she is producing nicely.

David Sullivan (my “mentor” from the local beekeepers club) is going to help me make a “split”. That involves dividing a colony in two, leaving the original queen with one half and providing a new queen for the other. It sounds simple enough but there are tricks to it. I’m glad David will be helping. Our new queen is coming from Ohio and should arrive mid May. – Dan

(Nate wishes we had a bee suit that fit him better.)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Eggs for Sale on the farm!

Is anyone interested in buying true free-range eggs directly from us on the farm?

The summer market is open now. You can still buy directly from us, or you can get them at the Tower Grove Farmers' Market on Saturdays from 8:30 to 12:30. The prices are: One dozen large $4.00 or jumbo $4.50. You can e-mail us @ drwissman@sbcglobal.net for directions and available times for pick-up.

Monday, April 26, 2010

19 chicks and preparing for more

Well, no more chicks hatched. I guess 19 new little chicks is pretty good. Almost half of the eggs I started with actually hatched. I suppose that's where the phrase "don't count your chickens before they hatch" comes from.

Oh well, I cleaned out the incubator thoroughly on Saturday and put in another 41 eggs. Now we wait all over again.

Today we moved the chicks out to the brooder in the garage. Bear told me it was time, one of them nearly hopped out of the box in the kitchen. I know it's best for them to be out there, but I miss being able to watch them while I work. They're contented in the brooder, and not too far away to go check on them frequently. They like being held. If you hold out your hand, they will climb on and just sit there and let you pet them.

Friday, April 23, 2010

3 more little fluffballs!

After my last post, 2 more chicks hatched yesterday. Another one hatched today! That makes 19 altogether.

They have had quite a few visitors. Everybody wants to see how cute they are!

There are still a number of eggs in the incubator, we'll see what happens tomorrow. As soon as the incubator is empty, I have another basketful waiting to go in.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

16 baby chicks have hatched so far!

The first one hatched just as we sat down for supper yesterday. The next one hatched a couple hours later. At 5:30am there were 5 more waiting for me to let them out of the incubator. By 8:00am 2 more were waiting for Nate to find them and within a few minutes he got to watch as 3 more hatched. He was bouncing off the walls with excitement.

It's been very difficult to keep the boys focused on schoolwork today. They keep running in the kitchen to see if anymore are ready to hatch. We got to watch as 4 more hatched. Even Grandma Gerke was excited and got to watch 2 of them hatch. I took a picture of Grandma, Bear and Nate hovering over the incubator.

Baruch has been camera crazy. We have so many pictures of the chicks. They are all turning into cute little fluffballs and are providing the entertainment for the day. It's really fun, and relaxing at the same time, to just sit and watch them.

I'll keep you posted about the rest.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The chicks are about to hatch!

Tonight I took the egg turner out of the incubator and then put the eggs back in again. Within just a few minutes I could hear the chicks peeping inside their shells. It shouldn't be long now until they begin to hatch!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Incubating eggs!

Last Friday, I put 41 eggs in the incubator. We are all excitedly waiting to see them hatch.

My neice came to visit on Monday and saw the incubator. She got so excited. She wanted me to lift her up to watch them hatch. She asked which one I thought would hatch first. She was very disappointed to find out they had about 17 days left until they hatch. Last year, she was here almost every day and got to watch as most of them hatched. This year she's usually at school and she's afraid she'll miss out.

None of the hens decided to go broody. At least not yet. I'm still hopeful.

More sprouts!

I have lots more little sprouts in the basement. In the last two days, the sweet peppers, hot peppers, cilantro and more eggplants have sprouted. Soon it will be time to transplant them into larger containers.

To make room, Danny is recovering the hoophouse in greenhouse plastic. When he's finished, we will be able to move quite a few plants out there. It will help to toughen them up a bit before we plant them in the garden.

On Friday, the plan is to plant potatoes and onions and as many greens as we have time for. We also have to get ready for the market on Saturday, so Danny and the boys will be doing more planting on Saturday while I'm at the market.

I will be bringing tomato plants with me on Saturday. I'll plan to bring a few of each variety, but if you want very many of a specific type, let me know ahead of time and I'll bring extra.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

I need more room!

I'm out of space for transplanting tomatoes. Grandma came and helped me transplant tomatoes a couple more afternoons this week. We got a lot accomplished, but we had to stop because we're out of room under the grow lights.

All the transplants are growing nicely and I should have quite a few ready to take to the market on April 10th. It will be the final winter market for the season.

It shouldn't be too long until I have more space to work with. Danny worked hard today getting the gardens ready to move the onions and kale and lettuce out from under the grow lights and into the garden. He got part of gardens #1 & #2 tilled and the raised rows ready to plant. He also got all of garden #5 tilled and hilled, ready to start planting potatoes and onions.

Our seed potatoes are ready to be picked up tomorrow. We ordered several different varieties through the Missouri Organic Society this year and they've finally arrived.

Enough for now, the timer just beeped, I have 3 loaves of my Honey Oatmeal Bread ready to take out of the oven. Mmmmm.....mmmm.......it smells wonderful!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Federal agent on the farm!

Yesterday, we had our first visit from the USDA Farm Service Agency. Actually, it was a very nice, friendly, helpful and informative representative of the agency here in Franklin County. She is helping us in our efforts to expand production capabilities on our farm. Our goal is to set up a rather large hoophouse that will allow us to extend the growing season on both ends.

We recently got to check out a friends' hoophouse nearby, and it got us excited about the prospect of getting one ourselves.

Time will tell.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Transplanting time is here again!

Last night, I transplanted over 200 tomato seedlings into larger containers. This afternoon, my Grandma came and helped transplant almost that many more. Tomorrow she is planning on doing it again. She says she can almost taste the ripe, juicy tomatoes she's been waiting for all winter.

Over the weekend, Danny got chard and basil and parsley and more eggplant started in flats. Last night, I finally got sweet bell peppers planted. Tonight, I'm going to plant several varieties of hot peppers. The only problem is that we're running out of room on the heat mats.

If the weather cooperates the way they're predicting, we should be able to get onions planted in garden #5 this week. That will free up a lot of space on the plants racks in the basement, so I'll have room to keep transplanting tomatoes out of the flats.

Got to get busy!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Getting prepared for chicks

Today was the first day we stopped collecting eggs from the chickens we have separated to try to hatch chicks. I'm hoping it will encourage one or more hens to go broody. If not, I'll hatch them inside the house, in the incubator, like last year.

I actually prefer having them inside so we can watch as each little chick hatches. Last spring was the first time I had ever watched as a chick hatched. If you read my post from that day, you'll see just how excited I was. But, in reality, I know it would be a whole lot less work if the mama hen did the work for me. It would also free up a lot of my time, and I wouldn't have to keep them separated from the rest of the flock for so long if the mama hen was protecting them.

Either way, we should have baby chicks in about a month.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tilling has begun

What a cold, rainy weekend. Good thing it was such a beautiful day on Friday. Danny got the Eggmobile moved closer to the cows and he and Zach cleaned it out. Whew! What a smelly job! It will make great compost over the summer as he slowly adds it to the compost pile.

After that Danny started tilling with the tractor. He was able to till all of garden #5, where we will shortly be planting potatoes. Then he got part of garden #3 tilled, but the rest of it was just way too wet. What we didn't need was more rain.

Tomato Seedlings

I am so excited! I have hundreds of little tomato seedlings in the basement. I just finished watering them. Almost every single seed I planted last Sunday has sprouted and quite of few of the ones I planted just 3 days ago are up too. I'm really pleased with the germination rate of this year's seed.

Next comes the tedious part of transplanting each of them into individual pots. My Grandma is coming to help, she's been looking forward to this for a while now. I took her downstairs yesterday to see the progress. She says this is the best time of the year.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Triple Trouble!

I can't believe it! Trouble got out of the fence 3 times today! We left for just a little while and got a phone call that he was in the neighbor's yard. My dad had to get it back in for me.

Danny had to come home and put up the electric fence after work today. Hopefully that will solve the Trouble problem.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Sir Loin of Beef has a new nickname, Trouble. He escaped again this afternoon. He was roaming down by the Eggmobile. When the train went by and blew its whistle, he went running back to where he got out and jumped back in.

He saved the boys a lot of time and trouble, they had just gotten outside to try to coax him back in. They weren't quite sure how they were going to accomplish the task.

Friday, Danny and the boys are going to have to run a line of electric fencing with the existing fence to keep him where he belongs.

I've started planting!

Gardening season has officially begun for me now. I have 16 different varieties of tomato seeds planted in seed trays in the basement. Just 2 to go. I'm going to try to finish them tomorrow.

There are a number of veges we'd like to get in the outdoor gardens but they are just still too swampy. Even with going no-till on beds 1 and 2, they're too soggy to walk in.

Hopefully, with a couple days of sunshine and warmer temperatures being predicted for this week, they will dry out enough to get at least a few things planted.

Friday, Danny is planning on moving the "Eggmobile" over by the cows. The plan is for them to follow behind the cows in the rotational grazing. The chickens will help clean up after them and keep pathogens from having time to multiply.

There is never a shortage of things to be done on the farm.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

New members of our farm

We now have three really cute additions to our farm. Last week we got three young steers, a black one, a brown one with little horns and a black one with a white face. They are all a Beefmaster/Angus cross. To be sure we don't get too attached and they become pets, my guys have named them all, Sir Loin of Beef, The Duke of Hamburger and The Secretary of Steak (lol).

We have now become cattle farmers, on a very small scale of course. They will be grass-fed using rotational grazing to take advantage of and protect the nutrient cycle of the grasses. Using this method will take longer for them to reach market weight, but they will be much healthier and happy. They will not receive routine antibiotics.

I'm enjoying waking up each morning and watching them out the window. For the time being they are just roaming the field freely and they seem to want to be as close to the house as possible, so they stay very close to the fence most of the time. Yesterday, the one with white face decided he wanted a closer look. Somehow, he wiggled through the fence and it took Danny and Zach quite a while to coax him back where he belonged. Hopefully he will stay where he belongs now.

Next comes pigs, Danny is doing the research and preparing the area.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Planning time is here!

Planning time is upon us! We can't put it off any longer. Our break is over. We've been pouring over seed catalogs and taking stock of our seeds on hand. My brain hurts from trying to decide on what kinds of veges we want to plant this year. Even more difficult is deciding on which varieties of each kind of vegetable we want to try. The choices are overwhelming.

We are very pleased with the ever increasing number of heirloom varieties available. More companies are contacting us with their varieties of heirlooms than ever before.

If you would like to influence our final decisions, please let us know what you are interested in us growing for the market. Were there any varieties you particularly liked that we had last year? Any we didn't have that you were looking for?

Please feel free to leave a comment on here. Or, we have a new way for you to stay in contact with us. We are now on Facebook. Zachary set up the account recently and convinced me that it's the way to reach more of our customers. It's all new to me, but I'll give it a try.

I'm looking forward to hearing your input. We'll be putting in our seed orders over the next couple of weeks.