A farm visit in the spring

Arlie here, and I’m enthused to be able to share some spring images from Purple Sage Farms. Just before the April showers began I took a lovely stroll on the farm with my family and I wanted to share it with you. With all of the babies decorating the pasture at this time of year, we often host friends on the farm and have them help bottle feed bummer lambs. It really feels like a spring salutation to see a green field full of frolickers, be they lamb, kid or human.

Arlie with lamb in the field

Me, Arlie, with a lamb I scooped up to bottle feed. It was so warm on this day that many lambs sought refuge in the shade of some machinery in the field.

One of my favorite things to do on the farm is watch the lambs playing. They hop and wag their tails, giddy for their mother’s milk. Some of the newer mothers need a little extra help, so we bottle feed their 3rd lamb or kid.

Here’s a link to a video of the Lambs herding up at Purple Sage Farms, enjoy!

Shovels hanging on a wall at the front of the greenhouse.

A look at the various hand tools we use.

sprinklers in a tractor tire

This old tractor tire lives out a second life as a sprinkler wrangler.


Rows of lettuce in a greenhouse.

Our lettuces are the happiest in this cool spring weather.

a broccoli plant in the greenhouse.

An exciting new realm for Purple Sage Farms, Broccoli in it’s sophomore year at the farm. Since we have been so successful with Brassicas, we decided last year to expand the varieties we grow.

Arlie Sommer and Tamara Sloviaczek stand in front of a grain bin.

The sky was blue, and our dresses too! Mom and I are in front of an old grain bin from the Sloviaczek farm where Mom grew up.

Happy spring and hope to see you at the farm soon!

PS, here’s what we have available this week: Sage and Thyme are new crops this week. We have other herbs too: tarragon, oregano, lemon thyme, mojito mint, parsley, sorrel, chives, garlic chives, cilantro. Lots of Mustards this week, Ruby Streaks, Tatsoi and Mizuna. Arugula, Dino Kale, Spring Mix, Collards, Stinging Nettle. Spinach – the plants are starting to flower and we will be low or out by the end of April.

Coming soon: Leafy Greens!

Last week I was driving truck for Idaho’s Bounty Co-op picking up lots of potatoes,  onions, squash and meat from farms around the Magic Valley like M&M Heath Farms, Kings Crown Organics and bringing it to the Treasure Valley to sell. Purple Sage Farms produce is also distributed by this online co-op and available for anyone to buy at www.idahosbounty.org.

This week on our farm we are harvesting lots of sweet spinach that survived a bitter cold winter.  The cold wind is blowing outside but on a sunny day in the greenhouse hoeing and harvesting make it feel like spring already.

This spinach was planted in Sept. 2012. Now, in Feb., it is really starting to produce!

This spinach was planted in Sept. 2012. Now, in Feb., it is really starting to produce.

For the past couple years we have been changing a lot of plastic on our hoop-houses. That’s because a lot of them were put on around the same time 6 to 8 years ago and have now reached the end of their lifespan. When the wind gusts get up to 45 mph you can barely hear another person talking inside one of the houses because the the frame flexes and the plastic whips in the wind. Then it tears open. The house that lost plastic last weekend was the oldest out of the 12 houses and I had been expecting it to go in a storm since last summer. Hopefully we won’t have plastic trouble for a few more years after we repair this one.

In mid Feb. a windy night tore the plastic off the house full of curly kale that lived through the winter.

In mid Feb. a windy night tore the plastic off the house full of curly kale that lived through the winter.

We planted our first round of seeds for mustard greens and lettuce in the hoop-houses this past week.  These crops germinate in 3 to 5 days and begin senescence, start to flower and mature, within 4 to 6 weeks depending on the season. If we get a lot of sun in the next few weeks I think we will have our first harvest in mid-March.

These seeds were planted 3 days ago and after 3 sunny days they are eager to get the season started.

These seeds were planted 3 sunny days ago, they are eager to get the season started.

Dill, Cilantro, Pea shoots, lettuce mix, watercress, are all planted in the hoop-houses now but grow a little slower than the mustard greens. All winter I have been missing our wide variety of greens like tender tatsoi, mizuna or miner’s lettuce. Come March and April, we will get those greens back on our plates. I can’t wait!

Michael Sommer

Growing Out of Winter

The ground has thawed inside the greenhouses and our planting is beginning. We have filled up three greenhouses with cruciferous vegetable transplants like broccoli and lacinato kale. In the greenhouses, many crops survived one of the coldest winters ever in the Treasure Valley and many did not. We are clearing the struggling beds and preparing them for our earliest plantings of spring greens.

This is a bed of arugula that went through the winter in the greenhouse under a blanket

This is a bed of arugula that went through the winter in the greenhouse under a blanket

Chervil is a very hardy cold season herb and survived the winter in a greenhouse under a blanket.

Chervil is a very hardy cold season herb and survived the winter in a greenhouse under a blanket.

Starting seeds in the germination room including peas, endive, butterhead lettuce, chard.

Starting seeds in the germination room in January.

Under the lights in the germination room another round of cold weather crops is beginning. Chard, peas, endive and butterhead lettuce have sprouted and they are building the first set of true leaves.  To put all these plants in their own plug trays is a tedious job but essential for fast growth and survival in the cold season. I cringe to have to anticipate weeds this early in the season but I have learned to always be thinking of ways we can give our crops an advantage to out-grow them. I still hate weeding as much as I did when I was ten; I like to let the plants take care of it themselves.

This past weekend we attended the Grower’s Own Conference at the College of Idaho in Caldwell. It was put on  by the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) and some other sponsors with a lot of hard work from Jennifer Miller and Beth Rasgorshek. The guest speaker was Laura Masterson of 47th Avenue Farm outside of Portland, OR.


Sitting together,  Laura Masterson, Beth Rasgorshek, Jennifer Miller

Left to right: Laura Masterson, Beth Rasgorshek, Jennifer Miller

The two-day conference facilitated conversations on all sorts of topics related to farming like how to produce things on the farm to sell in the winter season, farm and food safety, and how to figure your farms expenses and produce prices. There were lots of great conversations and I always get a morale boost from the winter lull after I see a group of the food community in Idaho that I live with.

Michael Sommer

An Introduction, Mid Winter

This is the first entry of the Purple Sage Farms blog. We want to let our customers and friends know what is going on here on the farm and share our experience with our food community. Check here to find out what is going on at Purple Sage Farms each week.

We have 12 large hoop-houses that help us grow crops that are not typical of Southwest Idaho. We specialize in growing fresh culinary herbs during our growing season and we have dry herbs available for the winter season and throughout the year. We also grow salad, spinach, kale, cabbage, broccoli and many other greens. Check in to this blog regularly to see what’s available.

Kelby Sommer feeds the sheep in december.

Kelby Sommer, feeding the sheep this winter.

Our herd of hair sheep help us make our own certified organic compost for the greenhouses and we harvest lambs for meat in the winter when the grass isn’t growing.

The herbs we harvest and dry in the summer are sold for winter cooking and many of the varieties we have are great for hot tea and sun tea. We also brew a fermented tea called kombucha. It’s certified organic and features the dry herbs from our farm.

Frozen fog crystals on trees in our back yard looking at a sheep pen on a cold January morning.

This past month has been one of the coldest Januarys in  a long time. Even my grandmother, who grew up in Idaho, says it’s the coldest she can remember. I took this picture after a foggy night with lows near zero. I’m standing on the patio of “la casita,” where I live, looking out to the sheep pen where I’m about to put out hay for the sheep. They start calling for me as soon as I step out my door in the morning.

I’m standing at GH1 looking down the line of 12 houses after feeding sheep on a snowy day.

The farm looks frozen now, with snow piled up on the greenhouses, but we are coming out of the winter , starting to transplant greens and spread compost, in this last week of January 2013.

Michael Sommer