Dunton Family Farm News

What's Happening Around the Farm as well as a Soapbox for head farmer, Mike Dunton

Quick Update . . . And Big News

Just a quick farm update . . . We went from freezing weather to summer temps in three days.  It has been a nice week.  Plants in the greenhouses are a little on the small side but getting close to being ready to set out.  Ground is tilled.  May start planting by the weekend.

This year planting will be without the help of our son John – the first time since he was a young boy.  He is off at college finishing up his senior year, preparing to graduate in a few weeks, and getting married towards the end of summer.  He is planning on coming back to work here with new knowledge, some different work experiences, and (hopefully :) ) enthusiasm.

Today, after wrapping up office and order fulfillment related tasks, I got outside and worked on brush mowing around the trees along the perimeter.  With that accomplished, I turned my focus towards putting the finishing touches on the drip irrigation system.  Last year, we recruited the help of a young cousin to basically work all summer hand watering the recently planted trees to keep them alive.  This summer she wants to start helping with the seed crop work.  Hence the irrigation system.  Hopefully I have it figured correctly and the survival rate of this year’s planting will be high.

Visit us at booth 908

If you are an longtime supporter and have followed along with what goes on around here, you know that we have basically relied on your word-of-mouth recommendations as our primary form of  “advertising.”  With little in the budget for outreach, you telling your friends and neighbors about us, mentioning us in your blog or Facebook posts, or even writing the gardening editors of your local newspaper is still very important to us – and we greatly appreciate your efforts at promoting us.

But we are going to try something new (for us anyway) . . . this is the “big news” mentioned in the header above (yes, John graduating, getting married, and coming to work full-time here is pretty big too :) ).  We have decided to exhibit at the Mother Earth News Fair in Puyallup, Washington on June 2-3.   This event is just too close to home to not be a part of it.

The Fair is not a garden show.  Like Mother Earth News magazine’s content, this is shaping up to be a very cool mix of sustainable lifestyle related information.  There are tons of workshops, lectures and exhibitors.  I am getting excited (and a bit anxious) thinking about it.

You can learn more about what is being offered by clicking on the picture or by visiting the main web site at www.motherearthnewsfair.com.  If you are planning on attending, do stop by booth 908 and say hello.  If you have not already purchased your tickets, I have a small supply of $10-off coupons.  Email me if you are interested in a coupon . . . I will be sending them out on a first come, first served basis until the supply is exhausted.

posted by Mike in Company News,Farm News and have No Comments

Trees and Earth Day 2012 Here on the Farm

Happy belated Earth Day!  (I wonder how long until we see greeting cards stating this?)  Although I am a fan of the concept and message behind Earth Day, I do not actively participate in a collective or “sanctioned” event.  I guess I have a different philosophy about this subject.

Q:  What is Earth Day?

A:   Wow, have you lived under a rock since the late 1960s? Earth Day is an annual day on which events are held worldwide to increase awareness and appreciation of the Earth’s natural environment.

In the hectic, busy schedules that most people in our society live with, I suppose that a lot of folks need special days set aside to remind them of important events.  A day in February to remind us what we love someone.  A day in May to remember our Mother’s and later in the month to remember those that have passed on.  A day in July that reminds us that we are part of a great nation.  A day in November to be thankful and to give to charities that feed a turkey dinner to folks less fortunate than ourselves.  You get the idea.  There are “reminder days” happening all the time.

But I try and “live” with these ideas.  People you love should know it daily.  You should remember your mother and loved ones daily.  Charities need support every day and not just at the end of the year.  And to me, everyday should be Earth Day.  That is, we should live our lives aware of how we are personally affecting the world around us.

One popular Earth Day event is to plant trees.  If you happen to be someone following the goings on around the Victory Seed Company and the farm, you already know that we have been planting trees since we moved here back in 1988.  We started close in to the house with fruit trees, shade and other ornamental plantings.  Then started working on the woodlot on the hillside for erosion control and a visual barrier and finally, some years back, we started working on the hedgerows and barriers around the perimeter of the whole farm.

To modern corporate farmers, planting dense stands of trees is probably counter-intuitive.  It takes up land that can be farmed and creates shade.  To me however, it is a logical decision.  Aside from their biological function of scrubbing the air, trees are aesthetically appealing, provide habitat and for our seed producing activities, create a barrier to potential pollen and chemical drift from neighboring farms.

In the following picture for example, you can see how stark the property line was last year about this time.

Fence line on 4/20/11

This was what the fence line looked like last year - 4/20/11

We found a “deal” with a local nurseryman and had fifty large ‘Austrian Pine’ trees planted.  They were in the eight to ten foot tall range and the visual change was immediate.  We followed that by planting another 100 smaller, two foot tall, ‘Austrian Pines’ that we ordered from a wholesale nursery.  Even though these were all good deals, for fiscal reasons, we cannot do all of the perimeter planting at once.  The work continues to happen in phases as we can afford it.

Last month we started the next phase which was to plant another row of large conifers, staggered on the row planted last spring.  We were able to find very large (12 to 20 foot!) trees.  All are conifers but we got a mix of four kinds of cedars and a cypress.  The thought is that these will be more tolerant of the extremely wet conditions in some of the areas around the perimeter.

And again, the visual change was drastic (in an awesome way :) )  The following photograph was taken from the same angle as the previous picture to show the difference that a year can make.

The change in one year.

The change in one year and two different plantings.

Even though I probably will not see all of these plantings mature in my lifetime, someone will enjoy them and benefit from my efforts.

If there is anything for folks to get out of “reminder days” like Earth Day, it is that although our individual lives on this planet short, our impact continues long after we depart.  And the decisions that we make, the goals that we sets and our accomplishments do not end when we step out of time.


posted by Mike in Farm News and have Comments (2)


It finally feels like spring has sprung here on the farm.  I have been stuck in the office way too much the past few days but am planning on getting out on the tractor in the early in the afternoon.

Catching up from last major entry, last week we did finish up planting all of the perimeter buffer trees that we are going to this spring.  We still have 100 four year old bare root Austrian Pine trees that we need to deal with.  After school, our youngest daughter has been working on getting them potted up and added to our tree nursery.  We will then keep them watered and growing through the summer with the plan of planting them late this fall when the rainy season starts again.  Every day is Arbor Day here.  That forestry science class that I took in high school all those decades ago was worth it (thanks Mr. Hicks!).

Part of routine maintenance here, although not particularly necessary for function, is keeping the perimeter fence lines mowed.  Because we are Certified Naturally Grown and use no herbicides, and since the perimeter of the farm is roughly a mile, equipment is important to accomplish the task.  Well, with the exception of the road frontage, the back parts of the farm have not been mowed since last fall.

With the hay growing like crazy, the grass was way too high for the riding mower and I didn’t want to take the tiller off the tractor to put the mower deck on so I got out the old standby – the vintage 1994 DR Brush Mower.

Circa 1994 DR Brush Mower

My Old Friend

I checked the oil, did a quick visual inspection (the belt was trashed but I hoped it would hold out), fueled it up, and headed out.  About 45 minutes later, I had made it to literally the point on the farm that is farthest from the farmyard.  And bam!  Not the belt.  The engine.  Good thing I am in pretty good shape because I had to push that heavy thing, with skinny tires, across a lot of soggy ground to get back home.  And as you probably guessed, a new mower is on the way and should be here in about another week.

Order Backlog – The order volume has dropped off to a point where we have no backlog and are able to mail them out within one to two days.  This is natural for us.  Seed sales are very cyclical.  Most folks get their gardens planned out and seeds ordered in the winter and early spring.  After that, we have a lull until it is time to plan the fall / winter gardens.  That is o.k. though.  This lull comes at the same time we need to get out and start planning out our own grow outs and preparing so we have things to offer you next year.

Availability Updates – I know that it is late in the season, but I did just update the inventory status of the following items:

posted by Mike in Company News,Farm News,Seed Variety Availability and have No Comments

When Life Gives You Lemons . . .

. . . plant trees.  We have had a bunch of wet weather again.  But instead of worrying about not being able to till and plant, we have switched gears and started planting more trees.

After talking the other day to a friend who raises Christmas trees, I decided it wasn’t too late this year to plant more trees around the perimeter.  He said that with all of this rain, if we got them in now and if the weather stays damp like this for another month, they should do o.k.  He was confident enough that he just planted several thousand trees this week.  So over the past three days, we got 50 more trees planted in the ground.

This evening and hopefully for a good chunk tomorrow, I will concentrate on getting caught up with bookkeeping and correspondence.

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posted by Mike in Farm News and have No Comments

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