Enter: LAMBS

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPlease join us in welcoming three new farm hands, Feste, Bottom, and Speed. Introducing: our new pasture management committee. They came to the farm on April 1st and are thus named after good fools*. Currently residing in a strawbale nest arranged in the north bay of the garage, these little ones will eventually, this summer, be pastured out in the orchard. We’re looking forward to employing their services for mowing and soil fertility in rotation ahead of the broilers. The lambs will be rotated through the pasture in a fenced area, trimming the grass/weeds/etc. and adding their natural fertilizer, spurring new tender green growth and insect activity. Then we’ll move the birds through in chicken tractors, giving them more ready access to soft tender shoots and tasty bugs. The lambs will help provide good pasture and forage for the chickens and will provide us with happy, healthy meat.

feeding time

These guys are now just over one week old. Bottle feeding is getting easier, especially since building a bottle stand.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAradish and lambs

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They are everything adorable and lively and lovely and loud. We have a new anthem at the farm these days: Baby, don’t you tear my clothes. We’re very much looking forward to the end of their early, frequent feeding schedule and the renewal of our sleep schedule. Neither of us has experience with livestock beyond the chickens and worm wrangling. We have been studying up with stacks of library books and online guides. All helpful, but really, we are most grateful for our tremendously supportive mentors, the Barnaud’s and Kelly Knispel. Thank you for your sage advise and encouragement.

rosemary, celery, salvia

In other news: Pace is quickening with these longer days. We laid out thick mulch in the walkways between beds in the front field to help suppress weeds (the mulching formula: a base layer of imbricated barley bags from our neighborhood brewery, with a thick overlaying mantle of chipped wood mulch). The fruit trees are almost all pruned. We are beginning to prepare beds, planting peas, favas. We’ve resumed cobbing work in the greenhouse. Readying ginger to presprout in the basement. The house is bulging with germinating seed trays. Garlic has sprouted. Jeremy is scooting over to Bozeman to pick up potatoes from the Kimm’s (who grow excellent seed potatoes, hire handsome farmhands, and offer inspiration for land stewardship). The chickens are enjoying the thawed earth and recent surge of available protein; Polly, in particular, enjoys hopping over the fence and eating Jeremy’s field pea cover crop. We are scheming Spearfish Bike Week, ag land preservation options, and outdoor kitchen/vegetable prep area.seeds_preps_cob_starts

*see Shakespeare. Feste, the clever, free-range fool in Twelfth Night; Bottom, the weaver, the comical braggart from A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Speed, a fun, mischief maker in Two Gentlemen of Verona.

 

losing chickens

It was a bummer when we lost a bird to a red tail hawk last summer, but there was also something ok with it… something out of our control, something about the food chain and nutrient cycling. The redtail went after the little one – the baby guinea – and she ate it all up. We watched her pull it apart as she was perched up on the hop trellis. It was a good reminder that we are growing, farming, with nature.  We’re growing at nature’s mercy, really, and we are appreciative.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

However, it is harder to find consolation when losing birds to a dog. It seems a much more careless, savage death. A waste. The dog’s not hungry, just playing. The other night we got about 8″ of snow, and as a result most of the birds were cozied up, comfortable in the coop. First thing in the morning we opened their pop door, despite the snow – we like to give them the option of enjoying the day outside. A big handsome husky found his way into the coop. Radish alerted us to the dog. Jeremy bolted out to chase it away. We lost four birds. Part of what’s so troublesome about this is that it is counter to the attention and love that we have in caring for the animals, which includes providing them a deliberate, thoughtful, humane death.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Makes me think back to when we first got started up here. Radish got one of our neighbor’s birds. A beautiful old hen named Nutmeg. I was mortified. I’m still mortified. Our neighbor actually consoled me, graciously telling me how she was a old hen, probably not laying anymore, not even worth stewing, dogs are dogs, etc., etc. Ever since, Radish has been on leash lock-down if she’s anywhere near birds. And I have a fair amount of work to do to build up my losing livestock calluses.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We’re feeling pretty blue around here. Salvaging the birds for stew and setting to repair the fencing. The ground is still frozen, so for the time being, we’ve “patched” the fence with pallets. Not ever having butchered laying hens before, we got exposure to a little bit of different anatomy. Athena even had a hard-shelled egg right ready to drop. We’re headed over to a friend’s ranch tomorrow to learn about raising bum lambs. Which means we’ll need more/better fencing. And I’ll need thicker calluses.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We just finished dinner. Jeremy made butter chicken curry, with farm potatoes and peppers. Finished with a poem – A Prayer After Eating, by Wendell Berry

I have taken in the light
that quickened eye and leaf.
May my brain be bright with praise
of what I eat, in the brief blaze
of motion and of thought.
May I be worthy of my meat.

pi(e) Day Index


pie

2nd annual π/Pie Day at the farm
50 degrees, sunny
23 people
4 happy dogs
4 years old, youngest pie celebrant
3.14 mile route
6 runners, 7 walkers
2 tandems, 3 bikes and a tag-a-long
2.5 trash bags-full picked up along the route
$189.77 raised for the Spearfish Bike Coop
13 pies!
1 big bowl of whipped cream
4 quarts of hot apple cider
1 car stuck in the mud, same 1 removed

…and some that can’t quite be quantified so easily: so much fun!, heaps of good conversation, delicious foods, merrymaking; and infinite thanks.morepieThank you, everyone, for joining us in celebrating pie, community, the Bicycle Coop, and wonderful, mathematical phenomena! We raised almost $200 in donations for the Spearfish Bike Coop, to help pay for rent on the workshop space and buy tools. Hooray! And we are continuously wowed by your culinary craftsmanship. Russian vegetable pie, salmon quiche, tamale pie, berry, apple, pecan… everything delicious.

pie distributionOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

snowy day farm bouquet

We’ve put together our very first Cycle Farm Seed Catalog! A special Cycle Farm bouquet, just in time to share on this soft, white, snowy morning. Here are some colors from our seed selection to brighten your day, a little something to stimulate your rods and cones. Here is a link to our bouquet catalogue, with descriptions and ordering information. Wishing you happy dreams of spring!

sunflowers

Farm sunflower cocktail

TORCH

Torch Mexican Sunflower

marigolds

Marigolds

echinacea

Echinacea, purple coneflower

calendula

Calendula, Resina

zinnias

Salmon Rose Zinnia

bachelorbuttons

Bachelor’s Buttons

While you are planning out your vegetable beds and what types of tomatoes to grow this year, don’t forget to plant for the bees, butterflies, and birds. Plant flowers. Emerson said it: the earth laughs in flowers.BIRDS AND BUTTERFLIES

We’ve also been saving a variety of vegetable seed, but would like another season growing before sharing these. Look for a new, expanded catalog out next year, including eggplant, tomatillos, tomatoes, squash, melon, lettuce, and herbs.

saving seed: tomatillos

All our seed orders are in and now packages brimming with seed packets are arriving pert near everyday. Our table has been buried for quite some time now in a thick mantle of books, notes, calendars, charts. It’s seed season, our minds are racing with numbers, and our hearts are full of hope.

We’ve got seeds on the brain these days and are extra specially looking forward to the very first annual Spearfish Seed Swap in a couple weeks. Mark your calendar: Saturday Feb 22nd, 2:30-5PM at the public library.

To celebrate the occasion and help muster enthusiasm for the joy of seed saving, I’ve put together a few words on saving tomatillo seed.

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How to save tomatillo seed.

Pick out the very best looking tomatillos from your most healthy, strong, vigorous open-pollinated tomatillo plants. Open-pollinated varieties produce offspring that is true-to-type, versus hybrids where  the next generation may not exhibit the same characteristics as its parents.  We usually pick from 4-5 of the top tomatillo plants in order to help ensure some degree of genetic diversity. You’ll know the tomatillo is ripe, and the seeds are ready to collect, when the fruit has filled out the paper lantern wrapper and the paper begins to split/dry at the base.

Remove the wrappers. Cut up the fruit into wedges and pop them into a blender. And gently bbzZzzZzzzzz them up into a cheerful, bright green tomatillo slurry. The seeds are small and robust and won’t be damaged by the blade.saving tomtatillo seed_blender

Then pour this slurry into a tall container and add water. I would suggest using a clear glass or mason jar for this, so you can see what’s happening. Mix this up with a spoon or chop stick. The good, viable seed will sink down to the bottom of the container.saving tomtatillo seed_pouring

Pour off the floating green slurry and any floating seeds, adding water and pouring again until the water is clear and the seeds at the bottom are all that’s left. Then sieve out the seeds and lay them out evenly on a coffee filter or thin cloth.saving tomtatillo seed_drying

Let the seeds dry in a dark place, with good air circulation. Be sure to fuss around with them a bit while they are drying, mix them up so they don’t dry all stuck together. When they are all dry, seal them up in an air tight container and store them in a dark spot. You’ll know they are dry enough for storage when the seed breaks instead of bends under pressure. Just pick one out and bite it, if it’s bendy or soft, let them dry out more. Also, very important: label your seeds! Make sure you keep track of the seed variety and date grown.

Another very important: Share your seeds with neighbors and friends.

Easy! No stinky fermentation process, no winnowing. And just think of next summer’s gloriously refreshing salsa verde! (…and more salsa verde!)

veggiebeautyshot_tomatillo

Here are some seed saving resources we’ve found helpful and inspiring:
The Seed Ambassadors Project Seed Saving Guide
John Navazio, The Organic Seed Grower
Suzanne Ashworth, Seed to Seed
Carol Deppe, Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties
Organic Seed Production and Saving, the NOFA guidebook
Janisse Ray, The Seed Underground

See you at the Seed Swap!

2013 farm review

We have been taking advantage of the quiet time this winter to pull out the assorted notebooks/ receipts/spreadsheets and synthesize, reflect on, and digest the farm finances from our previous year.  Last year we put off doing taxes until the beginning of April which added a lot of stress to an already busy time. We learned from this, and with the advice from our smart farmer friends at Bear Butte Gardens, we’re tackling this earlier and have blocked out two weeks to review farm finances and get taxes filed before the busy farm season begins.  Now that we have a couple seasons of data, we can start comparing and seeing trends over time, and put more robust thoughts together regarding our farm business plan. Having our management and methods be as transparent as possible is important to us. Here are some of our numbers and thoughts from 2013, a review of our markets and production, and goals for this next season.

A reflection on farm finances for 2013 - In 2013, our second year growing full-time, we increased our gross sales by 54% over 2012 and it looks possible that we might see similar numbers next year. A big part of this increase was due to an increased number of CSA shares offered and an increase in the price per share.  We also increased our distribution to include one local restaurant and one local grocery market.  Our total income from the weekly Spearfish Farmers Market decreased significantly this year even though our average weekly sales increased, due to a shorter season (14 weeks instead of 24).

winterwork

In the process of our review, we have assessed the numbers on our laying hen operation and found it to be a considerable money sink. It turns out we are spending nearly twice as much on the certified organic feed as we are making on sales of eggs. Despite this, we’re keeping the layers and their good diet for their assorted incalculable, intangible benefits. We’ve made the decision to increase the cost of our eggs, this increase will still not cover the full cost of keeping the birds, but it will help.  And in addition to the hens, this year we’ll be pasturing meat birds which should prove to be more financially reasonable for us. (As a side note, we’re taking pre-orders on birds, give us a call to reserve).

winter chickens

An important question in our financial review is how close we are to our goal of having the farm support us.  This year the farm paid for its own immediate operation (seeds, tools, supplies, etc.), but did not pay for our labor, contribute to farm or personal savings, or cover the cost of the land, or walk-in cooler.  We are certainly much closer than last year towards covering all farm expenses, however generating the income to pay labor is a longer term goal.

Many farms (including ours) subsidize operations by not taking into account the farmers’ labor. However, we are aware of this, don’t agree with it, and our long term (5 year) budget planning includes paying a living wage to both of us.  A rough estimate of the income needed to pay for our labor looks like this:

60 hrs/week   (for Trish (working off farm part time) and Jeremy (full time on farm)                                      combined, year average, more in summer, less in winter, includes                                        field work, time at market, advertising, planning, website maintenance, etc).

$15/hour        (living wage and health insurance and overhead costs)

52 weeks/year

$46,800 annual wages for both T&J

+ farm expenses, which are (estimated) between $10-15,000/year (variable value based on having to replace irrigation or other spendy infrastructure, and so on) = $61,800 required gross farm sales. Which is huge.

Considering our current production rates this number is absurd, but it is feasible from our acreage with smart planning and intensive farming.

If we run the numbers with a lower wage, which reduces our long term savings, but is maybe more attainable short term: 60 hrs/ week at $10/ hr for 52 weeks = $31,200 (T&J combined wages w/o farm expenses)

…which compared to our income this year is still huge. We feel a bit more confident that this might be attainable in 5 years.

These numbers are discouraging, but they don’t factor in our quality of life and absolutely incredible pantry.

Projecting our financing into this coming year we expect to increase total sales which will allow us to pay off the walk-in, continue to pay off a portion of the greenhouse (on a 5-10 year plan), pay our health insurance fees, and possibly pay Jeremy something for his labor. In addition, our expenses should decrease as we’ve saved seed, installed most major infrastructure, and accumulated most small tools to allow us to operate efficiently.

A review of our marketing outlets - In 2013, we offered 16 CSA shares for an 18 week season. The cost of our shares was $500 and we are pleased that despite the weather challenges, we filled the shares and exceeded the cost of the shares with vegetables.  Being involved with our customers via the CSA plan has been a tremendous asset to us as beginning farmers. The predetermined market helps us plan plantings and harvest. We really value hearing about how things were eaten, shared, enjoyed and receiving immediate, direct feedback. The CSA allows us to grow a diversity of vegetables, knowing that we have an outlet, rather than focusing on a few good sellers for market. That diversity is also risk management with tenuous weather, pests, crop failure, etc.  Through the CSA, we’ve gotten a chance to know a truly incredible cross section of Spearfish, engaged, thoughtful, inspiring group of people who are almost as excited about eating vegetables and building the local food system as we are. Another perk to the CSA is having potato leek soup delivered to us by a share member after an especially long CSA harvest and pick-up day. The only disadvantages to the CSA we‘re finding at this point is that it takes a considerable amount of planning, and that it can be high stress, especially in the beginning of the season during low production, worrying about filling shares amply.

We participated in the weekly Spearfish Farmers Market in the Park. Attending the Market means we have a weekly early morning bicycle ride to the park and 4 hours committed to being away from the farm and chores there (which has its perks, though is often frustrating).  The Market provides a venue to sell vegetables that we either have surplus of or not enough to fill CSA shares with. It fills an advertising role, a bit.  And the Market gives us a chance to visit with a lively group of area growers each week that we wouldn’t otherwise get to see until October. On the other hand, we are finding the Market does not pay for our time (production, harvest, and time spent selling). We cannot compete with low prices set by home growers trying to off-load their surplus.  And we are often left with unsold produce at the end of a long morning which is a challenge to deal with. We feel strongly that Spearfish deserves, needs, and can support a Farmers Market and we would love to continue to be a part of it – despite it being a drawback for our immediate economics. Ultimately, by supporting the Market, it means we are being a part of something precious in Spearfish and we’re sticking with it.

Last year we expanded our distribution to include wholesale to a restaurant and a grocery market. By getting local produce into markets and restaurants, we’re making locally grown food available to more people than we reach through our direct outlets – which feels especially good.  We found wholesale to be a relatively simple, efficient way to move a fair amount of produce.  We took grapes to the Red Barn Market – at a point when the weekly market had already ended, but we were still sitting on bushel baskets of them. The owner/main chef at Killian’s who we work with is creative, enthusiastic, and incredibly flexible, working magic into the menu with whatever we brought him each week. As a couple of beginning farmers, we are truly grateful for the support of our wholesale markets.

A small percentage of our sales are direct from the farm. A big benefit to this market is that it brings people to the farm and gives them an opportunity to see how things are growing and for us to share and answer questions.  It’s also usually convenient for us in that we are here already and don’t have to pack up and lug stuff anywhere, however it will be more convenient when/if we get a farm stand set up and establish set shop hours. Although direct from the farm is our lowest volume of sales, sales are mostly to people who are not CSA members and we don’t necessarily see at the Farmers Market.

Some of our especially meaningful successes from 2013 – We increased production despite more challenging weather. With much help from Jeremy’s father, we built a walk-in cooler, which has increased our efficiency and reduced our stress. And as a result, during peak season, we are now running one air conditioner part-time vs. 3 refrigerators full-time. We were able to increase our off-farm time, getting more engaged in events in the community (volunteering at the Bike Coop, planning Bike Week, time with family and friends). And we became a bit more efficient with our sociable time on-farm as well. During our first year of farming we had many, frequent, spontaneous visitors come by to tour the farm, ask questions, chit chat and be all-round excited/curious about what we were doing. It is amazing how fast 2 hours can go when you’re visiting about vegetables.  And now consider giving on average 3 farm tours a week. This is something we both love, sharing ideas and engaging with people via the farm is important to us, but as regards managing our farm and time efficiently, this is something we are struggling to find a balance with.  During our first season, the frequent visits were partly a treat and great fun, but also distracting and an unexpected time commitment.  This past year we did a better job of being courteous and taking time to visit, while maintaining efficiency with farm visitors.

Our biggest challenges, shortcomings during 2013 – In part because the season was so truncated by weather, we had fewer on-farm events this past year than we had originally planned. We have already sat down with a 2014 calendar and set aside dates and tentative dates for several on-farm and farm related activities. We’ll keep you posted on the seed swap, food preservation workshop, potato planting, weeding and harvest parties, farmer Jeremy’s big 30 birthday bash, and more. We did not get as much work done on the greenhouse as we had planned. Access to a good source of clay continues to limit progress on the cobbing and plaster of the straw bale walls. A significant challenge we are having is making our produce accessible to a wider, low-income market.  Making good food accessible to everyone is something we are passionate about. We are working out a way to both meet farm expenses and provide affordable produce – and we are very open to suggestions.

Our most successful crops for 2013 - Summer squash, snow and snap peas, chard and lettuces did well. We had a great potato yield and absolutely stunning cabbages.

Least successful crops for 2013 - We are still struggling to get good crops of beets and cilantro. Over half of our garlic rotted in the field this spring. We lost our entire crop of popcorn to the early snow in October.  The short season also meant most of our winter squash did not ripen to maturity.

Goals for 2014 - This next year, we’re going to put special efforts towards more efficient production, increasing yield from our bed space through planting schedules and successions, especially in the greenhouse. We hope to increase involvement with our community through on-farm and off-farm events, educational workshops, work parties and farm tours. We are looking forward to being more proactive in facilitating or opening dialogues on building local economy, small-scale, place-based agriculture, sustainable/adaptive technology, and adaptation as regards climate change. Already this year, we have started implementing better organizational structures for managing calendars and recordkeeping. In the past our recordkeeping system has been an accumulation of scraps of paper, old receipts, several notebooks, spreadsheets and calendars. Enough of that. And finally, we’d really like to get the outdoor kitchen/vegetable wash and prep area all set up and functioning this year.

winter greenhouse

We are looking forward to 2014: building on the good, figuring out the puzzles, and learning throughout.  We will be planting in the greenhouse next week and soon we’ll be filling CSA shares. The field crop rotations are more diverse this year and we have our plans laid out for more efficiently utilizing space throughout the season, two or sometimes three crops out of a single bed.  And maybe just because we feel like the farm is starting to blossom, we’re putting in an additional seventy feet of flower beds.

Panoramdemonium 2013

Every three months, we lap around merrily with a camera and our good dog, taking photos of the farm. Having photos throughout the year gives us a chance to reflect on the seasons and our progress on various projects. Here are a couple of the panoramic images over the course of 2013. (Maybe you remember, we did this last year too).

This is a series of photos taken back by the bee hives and the hops. The photos are looking west to east. Behind the hives is the orchard where we planted 32 fruit trees this spring.March2013_bees

June2013_bees

Sept2013_bees

Dec2013_beesThe following series are photos taken by the north gate looking east to west, towards the sweet potato field and the main vegetable rows.

March2013_lookingsouth

June2013_looking south

Sept2013_lookingsouth

Dec2013_Lookingsouth

Special things to note in the photos are the appearance of an additional bee hive after we caught a wild swarm in June, all hand-prepped beds and application of thick straw mulch for weed suppression/soil moisture retention, and using re-may row covers to help manage soil temperature for the sweet potatoes and pest pressure on the mustard greens (as a bonus, the re-may also made for ever changing and lawless, wind-crafted farm art). You will also certainly observe one of the biggest drawbacks to our no-till management: weeds. In excess.

Here are another couple compilations of shots, all from the same vantage. This one looking east from the house (where the new herb garden is). These are photos, taken every three months, starting in March 2012 to December 2013. 12-13herbbedAnd a similar series, this one of the front field:12-13front fieldWhat is most remarkable to us is the how visibly different our first two growing seasons were as regards moisture.  Beyond the visible differences, we both felt that 2013 was a more difficult year.  We had new weather challenges of late spring snow that delayed planting, hail storms, and a heavy snow in early fall that flattened most crops still in the field as well as prematurely ending the farmer’s market season.  We did better at growing high quality and diverse crops, but flea beetles still were a persistent pest and our beloved arugula has yet to make it into our CSA shares.  As we are planning for year three, we both feel more in touch with the farm, but also more aware of how little we know.  It is humbling to to realize how dependent our success is on that which is totally beyond our control, but at the same time we feel fortunate to have the opportunity to work on the endlessly fascinating puzzle of building a diverse and resilient farmstead and the community that supports it.

Regarding annexation

As beginning farmers who have just recently found and purchased our land, affordable access to farmland is a topic of immediate concern to us.

At the public hearings regarding the annexation of Spearfish Valley, much of the public comment was regarding concern over development pressure and potential loss of the valley’s treasured open space. In response, members of City Council expressed their views that the development of the valley is up to the individual land owners, not something forced by the annexation. While at a most fundamental level this may be true, the actions of City Council are certainly incentivizing the development of open land in the valley (water mains, higher property values, smaller lot size, etc.). Furthermore, the cost burden of the annexation (connection fees, water, sewer, taxes, etc.) will make it more difficult to make a living growing produce. Additionally, this will inhibit the transfer of working agricultural lands to new farmers in the future.

The annexation plan, as it stands, is essentially a guide for development. The City’s annexation study discusses the infill development of the valley at least 8 times. It mentions options to protect the agricultural lands only once.  The City is indirectly facilitating the easy development of the valley land through their annexation report language. We need to incorporate more options for conservation. This may include a special zoning overlay district or conservation easement plans. It is essential that we keep farmland affordable and in operation. A dialogue needs to be started between the City and the landowners in order to develop a conservation plan for Spearfish and the valley area. We need to work together to find a way to incentivize the protection of our remaining agricultural lands

Protecting farmland in Spearfish Valley is important to everyone in Spearfish – not just the farmers working the land. We urge Spearfish to consider the preservation of agricultural lands as a civic duty. We recently read a quote from David Suzuki who wrote that “consumerism has taken the place of citizenship as the chief way we contribute to the health of our society.”  Indeed, the pro-growth, rampant development mindset is an attempt towards a “bigger, better” Spearfish.  But instead, we might consider more than the immediate dollar and look towards a greater future gain. Preservation of local farmland is an investment in a healthy environment, a strong local economy, and a vibrant, resilient community.  As citizens of Spearfish, City and Valley, we should take this opportunity to express allegiance to our ideals, to one another, and to the land.  Let’s stand up for our community and future and vote ‘no’ on the annexation. There is too much work yet to be done planning for conservation (and smart development) before we make that decision.

Here are a few resources for us, as a community, to check into:

Land Trust Alliance
The Trust for Public Land
American Farmland Trust and Farmland Information Center
Northern Prairies Land Trust
Agrarian Land Trust
Why Save Farmland?, a AFT fact sheet
The National Young Farmers Coalition’s Farmland Conservation 2.0

If you have additional resources, ideas, suggestions – please share with us. We are really excited about this and would love to hear from you.

Farm Hack

Farmers, ranchers, growers, eaters, designers, builders, engineers, tinkerers unite!

Last weekend, Cycle Farm had the pleasure of participating in South Dakota’s very first Farm Hack, as part of Dakota Rural Action‘s annual meeting. Farm Hack is an open source community for farmer-driven design collaboration; a virtual grange hall for developing and sharing ideas to promote a more resilient agricultural system; and a jolly good time.

hack the greenhouseThe afternoon featured a tour of the farm, a scrumptious potluck, and insightful presentations by local grower-builders. Jared Capp, of Pangea Designs Group, shared his water wheel / “Wirtz” pump. Spinny, smart, and described in more detail in this brief video. Andy Johnson, a physics professor at the university, shared with us his hydraulic ram-pump irrigation system – even bringing in the pump to demo. Jeremy gave a brief introduction on the potential and applicability of human- and pedal-powered tools for small scale agriculture.andy and ram pump

After touring the farm and feasting together, we all cozied up in the living room and, as a group, we discussed some of our biggest challenges and irksome pet peeves as growers in the Northern Black Hills and South Dakota. Collectively, we were backyard gardeners, aspiring and beginning farmers, 2-3rd generation farmers, Woofers, CSA vegetable growers, chicken ranchers, natural builders, physics enthusiasts, community organizers, museum curators – a strong, diverse brain-power power-house.

Our list of troubles included flea beetles and potato bugs. Protecting orchard trees from big snows. Hard water and irrigation tubing. Profitably harvesting green beans. One issue that rose to the top of the list was planting, transplanting, harvesting long rows and the associated discomfort of kneeling, crouching, scooting down the rows. Say, planting garlic. The solution: a garden gurney. So we set to designing a self-propelled (pedal powered, treadle powered) prone farm mobility vehicle (a bit like this, only self propelled). Enter big markers and wild ideas.

By the end of the afternoon, we had generated a list of necessary (and not entirely necessary, but wouldn’t it be nice to have..?) features, design sketches, and possible self-propelled mechanisms. Feeding off this enthusiasm and momentum, we set a date to reconnect at the Spearfish Bike Coop, to start putting pieces together. The next step will be to share what we develop on farmhack.net, for other small-scale growers to use, adapt, modify, critique, and improve. Stay tuned. Or better yet, if you’d like to get involved in designing, building, testing – contact us.

For more information regarding Farm Hack, please check out this eloquent and timely piece by Courtney White, founder of the Quivira Coalition, who just participated in a West Slope Colorado Farm Hack.

A CSA pepper guide

We’ve put together a guide to help our CSA members navigate the peppers in their share this week.August8_CSAnews

The share is extra-specially pepper heavy this week as we’re clearing out what we can save from frost, some were pulled before turning color. Most tender things are hooped and covered. There’s plenty out there that won’t really be bothered. And some things that will only get sweeter with the cooler temperatures.

Here’s a photo of the share this week…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

and here is a link to this week’s newsletter.

Attention home brewers and friends of home brewers: Cycle Farm hops are all packaged, we have 7 varieties available in 1 oz. vacuum sealed packages (Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Galena, Glacier, Hallertauer, Tettnanger).

Also, grapes are ready for jamming and juicing – we have Valients and Concords. Pickling cukes too! ’tis the season to put it up. Please contact us if you’re interested. Eat well, friends!