a melodious jumble

What we’ve been up to, in brief.

The field is greening up, slower than anticipated with stalls for snowstorms and wet weather. Snow peas, snap peas, and favas look awesome. On the other hand the sweet peas look …pretty peaked. As we rotate beds in the greenhouse, we have been looking at crops in the field, anxious about how we’re going to fill the farm stand for the next couple weeks. Grow, greens, grow.

Jeremy and his father, David, made good use of the snowy weather and put up a couple of doors on our pack shed. The are sliding barn-style doors, the rail and sliding roller thingies are salvaged closet door hardware from the old Mormon church-turned-house in town. So that has us feeling pretty fancy.

Spring bird migration highlights include: a male Blackpoll Warbler, Swainson’s Thrushes, about 25 Lark Sparrows (with their 80’s toy laser gun song), and the first Warbling Vireo we’ve seen on the farm.

We sprayed BD prep 500 and barrel compost earlier this spring and, later, harmonized the ponderosa tree. We’ve been spraying preparations on the farm for seven years now, but the tree harmonizing was new for us. This gave Jeremy an opportunity to try out dowsing rods and the plasticity of my masters degree.

The inordinate Fedco bulb order Jeremy placed last fall has been erupting all over everywhere. Not quite a visual cacophany, but nearly. Along with crocuses and hyacinths, and pert near every other thing, Jeremy insisted on ordering tulips. I protested: tulips are bougie symbols of economic hegemony. Well, he planted them anyway. And then they popped up as bright and elegant, candid blooms of pure joy. Apparently I love tulips. Plus, I just found out that tulips are the eleventh anniversary flower. Jeremy planted these last fall, eleven years after we first met. So sweet.

Last week we had the opportunity to organize a bicycle scavenger hunt for Spearfish Bike to Work Week. The ride theme, the Birds and the Bees, was a tribute to our local avian and invertebrate inspired sights.

Not only do we now finally have a bike rack, we’ve also installed a poetry dispenser at the farm stand! This is something we’ve been thinking about ever since first coming across a poetry dispenser at the public library in Bozeman several years ago. Language and land! Peas and poesy! All the very best things!

It has been a quiet spring this year without lambs blaaaaaahing for milkshakes and chicks in the brooder sunroom.  Radish, the hens, and worms are bearing the brunt of all our affections, but they seem to be handling it well.     

Also, farm share members(!), we’ve been celebrating the season’s greens by eating miso soup, with regularity, and gusto. Just broth and greens (any greens, all the greens: spinach, turnip greens, radish greens, arugula, kale, scallions, green garlic) are super simple and super amazing – or, if we’re feeling fancypants, we’ll add noodles, sauteed shiitakes, sliced spring turnips or radishes, an egg… Such a quick and easy feast and it accommodates seemingly everything and anything from the field/fridge. Check out this link for some great miso-soupy inspiration. If miso is new to you, it’s a fermented bean paste (gf) – we’ve had luck finding this in the fridge section at our awesome local natural food stores. We like the red miso, but whatever makes you happy. If you’re looking for good, sustainably harvested sea weed and want to support a rad seaweed steward, we’d recommend Ironbound Island.

Very merry spring tidings from the farm and your farmers, t&j

Advertisements

Migration celebration

In honor of our influx of feathered spring visitors* and in a most productive use of a cold, wet May day**, we’d like to share with you a special mix-tape love letter, a Migration Celebration. Ovation and tintinnabulations!

This is along the lines of our annual Agrarian Riddims compilations (for especially enjoyable listening, they are located here: vol.1vol.2side Cvol.4vol.5, and vol.6), so tune in and turn it up. The migration mix-tape is available as a YouTube playlist here, or you can select individual tracks below. This compilation goes out with big ups and special thanks to our friends Tom (reggae) and Greg and Mary Beth (birds).

Migration Celebration riddims mix-tape track list:

The Wisdom Band :: Migration Season

The Silvertones :: Bluebirds Flying Over

Prince Alla :: Jah Jah Bird

Israel Vibration :: Vultures

Sister Nancy :: Pegion Rock

Fat Freddy’s Drop :: Blackbird

Errol Dunkley :: Betcha By Golly Wow

Elijah Prophet :: Mother Nature

The Paragons :: Silver Bird

Derrick Harriott :: Fly Robin, Fly

Winston Groovy :: Yellow Bird

Little Roy :: Black Bird

The Blues Busters :: Wings of a Dove

Teddy Magnus :: Flying Machine

Sherwin Gardner :: Eye on the Sparrow

The Paragons and Rosalyn Sweat :: Blackbird Singing

U-Roy :: Birds of a Feather

Les Migrants :: Hymne aux migrants

and, albeit slightly out of place genre-ly, this one too, DakhaBrakha :: Vesna

 

With special love and admiration for all our migrant brethren,

Trish and Jeremy

 

P.S. A few more migration pathways to wander, if you are interested: A fascinating study and amazing photography (a SoDak photographer!) of animal migrations in Yellowstone National Park. Michael McCarthy’s beautiful book The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy. Bernd Heinrich’s Homing Instinct, Meaning and Mystery in Animal Migration. And, if you are able and inclined, consider supporting this salient humanitarian aid organization doing work in support of migrants in the Mexico-US borderlands. (ALSO! 6/13/2019 edited to add:: this article just published in the NYTimes, These Animal Migrations are Huge – and Invisible by Carl Zimmer)

*In the last two days new visitors include a House Wren, Swainson’s Thrushes, a Harris’s Sparrow, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Common Yellowthroats, an Empidonax Flycatcher, a Loggerhead Shrike, Yellow Warblers, a pair of Spotted Towhees, Brewer’s Sparrows, two Mourning Doves, and our first on-farm American Kestrel.

**In other words, we took a deviation from vegetation cultivation and had a vacation simulation which has improved our inclination for motivation.

A love letter in photos

We’ve been dialing in the crop plan for the season, our calendar and final seed orders. It’s as though each year, come spring, we pick up a whole series of juggling pins and then spend the next several months trying desperately, clumsily, joyfully and exuberantly to keep them all up in the air, juggling through the season. Sometimes we lose a pin or two. We might try and scoop them up, or we might just let them go and keep the others circulating. That’s the routine. Juggle. Toss up and keep catching.

This year, with our usual juggling pins we’ve also picked up a flaming torch. We’re planning a trip to Norway mid-summer to celebrate the wedding of two very special lovebirds, Jeremy’s brother Nicholas and his hjertenskjær, Veronika. As may be easy to imagine, the prospects of leaving the farm mid-growing season have us …in a state of nervous agitation. To be very clear: we’re looking forward to celebrating these two, to time together with family, a chance to work on our midnight sun tan, and we’re feeling mighty lucky to have an opportunity and the ability to make this jaunt around the world and the chance to explore Jeremy’s native grounds – it’s just a funny management puzzle that has us scratching our heads.

All this is to say, with the unsettled state of things here, it is an extraordinary comfort to be nested, as we are, in such a wonderful community. We’ve been drawing much needed, much appreciated inspiration from comrade, neighboring farmers, local businesses supporting local agriculture, and from our own fantastic farm family of supporters and eaters. And so this is a special love letter of thanks to you, with some of our most favorite photos from the farm stand… 

and from last year’s Fall Harvest Party…

We’re looking forward to sharing another season with you all!

With gratitude, flying, flaming torches, and so much love,

your farmers, Trish and Jeremy

worms, or tea for tea for tea

Back towards the beginning, before Cycle Farm, when we grew garlic and kale in raised beds behind a coyote fence in the driveway of an ittybitty apartment next to neighbors with the world’s most gorgeous marigolds in the French District of Santa Fe, we had a tub of red wigglers under the kitchen sink. Ever since then, these creatures have dazzled us with their quiet, deliberate, tireless work ethic. Gentle. Powerful. They were our meager introduction to low-stress livestock management and have been unfaltering teachers and inspiration.

Now these legless livestock, the great, great, super great granddaughters of our original herd, spend summers in the worm castle outside – a glorious, needlessly fancy vertical bin with mesh and a sifter crank on the bottom to drop out finished worm castings.  They busy themselves slowly, steadily working through kitchen scraps, egg shells and coffee grounds, gleanings and trimmings from the greenhouse and pack shed.  When the temperatures drop, they are hauled into their winter bungalows – more modest arrangements – totes on the floor of the basement. 

We use the worm castings and casting tea in our potting mix for starts in the spring, to help supplement soil in greenhouse beds, and in brewing batches of compost tea for our fields. 

Yesterday the SCOBY sprites from Scobi Kombucha, a new local kombucha company, dropped off a bag full of tea leaves from their most recent kombucha brew for our worms. We’ve enjoyed getting to know the SCOBI team, they are committed to partnering with local businesses, stoked about incorporating local ingredients, and we’ve supplied them with herbs for some of their special flavored kombucha brews. The worms will feast heartily (five hearts!) on these spent tea leaves, making beautiful black castings that we will return to the earth.

As we poke into the tubs in the basement, watching as the worms burrow down away from the surface, from the light, we are struck with appreciation for this leaf-exchange, mint leaves for tea leaves, black tea for worm tea, nutrient cycling, a beautiful loop, feeding both a healthy soil microbiome and healthy gut microbiomes.

Thank you, Scobi. Thank you, worms!

(the anatomy diagram photo above was snapped during a very special farm tour a few years ago)

Another year of birds on the farm

This time of year has us getting our ducks in a row and planning for the upcoming season. Part of this includes reflecting on last year, what worked well, what absolutely needs changed.  Some of these conversations and decisions are more difficult than others (financial decisions, winnowing Jeremy’s girthy seed order list). Others are entirely delightful. Which brings us to the bird list, a weekly record of bird species identified on the farm that we started as part of our on-farm monitoring. Last year’s bird log and a brief write-up is available here

The graph above shows this past year’s weekly species count along with the numbers from the previous year. The peaks during seasonal migration are clear and trending. A new record high for number of species per week was set in May with 53 species identified on the farm.  The dips to zero in the species count (in Jan and mid-November) correlate with farmer/observer absence from the farm.

A few of our special highlights for the year include getting a chance to see ospreys (possibly the same bird, but on multiple occasions) eating fish on our hop trellis (ha! some farmers pay for fish fertilizer).  In April, we gawked as a goshawk disemboweled and feasted heartily on a Eurasian-collared dove in the front yard. And while we’re on the subject of well fed birds, a summer tanager came by in May and made short order of a good number of our honeybees.  Additional fun visitors to the farm: common redpolls, peregrine falcons, an ovenbird, a blue-gray gnatcatcher and a hummingbird (sp.?) with a rad bright yellow pollen mohawk. One morning in June, we watched as wrens removed fecal sacks from their nest (in a new box we put up this year!) and stuck them to a branch in an adjacent boxelder – lining them up neatly like bright white farolitos. We did not, however, see as many warblers or hummingbirds as last year (2017).

A few additional notes as regards 2018 birds on the farm:

  • Early in the year, we built, painted a few, and hung up 10 new bird houses. For a variety of different species.
  • Nine species nested on the farm. With at least six robin nests. Also nesting were chickadees, house sparrows, starlings, Eurasian-collared doves, house wrens, house finches, blue jays, and blackbirds. Downy Woodpeckers nested, if not on the farm, very close by; baby downies are super cute.
  • We have set up and are populating a farm ebird account – HooRAH for citizen science!
  • With two steady hands and one additional finger to press the photo button, it is possible to get a reasonably good long distance photo using a binoculars and a smartphone camera.
  • This year’s bird log in full is available as a PDF here <- click to open pdf.

Wishing you a joyful and wonder-filled new year!

Positively drenched in enthusiasm,

your farmers,

Trish and Jeremy

 

magical creatures

Early last week Albrecht cracked his horn. And, related, for a brief while he was sporting a rather gruesome gash under his eye. The gash quickly healed. We suspect the circumstances surrounding the incident that led to this had something to do with getting his head caught in the fence while reaching for a nearby young apple tree. We can only suspect as Justus won’t tell, clearly sworn to secrecy, and we can’t understand a word Lady Eve says.

We’ve been keeping an eye on him. He’s maintained his usual sunny, hungry, and ever-affectionate disposition, so we haven’t worried too much about him. Yesterday, the horn slipped off, revealing – what we’ve always suspected: Albrecht is a unicornNot only do we have wood nymphs in the orchard, now there’s a unicorn out there too.

—————————————————————–

8/10 – Since posting the above note, this snippet of a film(?) has been called to our attention (thank you, Kaija). It seems to sufficiently summarize my feelings, so I’ve edited to add this. Unicorn sprinkle dinkles and love, t

sauerkraut

Last week a hail storm hit the valley, it was the hardest storm we’ve experienced yet and regrettably timed for most valley vegetable production.  We have received several thoughtful notes and phone calls and generous offers to help. We’ve shared supportive hugs and commiserative pints at Crow Peak. We put up over thirty pounds of sauerkraut. With this post, we want to express our gratitude and give an update on how things are recovering and what we’re working on.

We are clearing out beds of damaged-beyond-recovery crops and transplanting in successions of lettuce and fall brassicas and direct seeding in fall greens and roots. The lambs and chickens have enjoyed the recent diversity in diet ranging from peas and chicory hearts, to lettuce and cabbage. The compost pile is heaped in nitrogen-rich greens, ready to be layered with wood shavings from the brooder. There are several crops we are holding out hope for and haven’t yet ripped out, although, to date, they don’t seem too promising. We are learning a whole lot about timing and successions and the resilient nature of plants. We’re feeling vastly grateful for the health of our soil, the diversity of our crop plan, and the support of our community.

In the photos below: Tom (our excellent summer farm hand) and Trish trimmed out the battered and busted leaves on the Swiss chard, leaving the row looking like the line waiting outside a Sex Pistols concert. Now after just a few days, their technicolor mohawks have doubled (some tripled!) in size; Tom and Jerm planted out little lettuces including a new to us Egyptian variety called Balady Aswan; a planting of fall cabbage replacing lettuce; kohlrabi; yeh for soil blocks and mulch!; Vibrant Joy(!) bok choy replacing a row of battered snow peas.With the help of several rock star neighbors, friends, a farm hand, and farm mother, we were able to get all of our hardneck garlic out of the field on Saturday afternoon after the market. Harvesting garlic (which looks spectacular this year) and working along side friends has been a much needed moral booster. Especially while working between  (what remains of) the winter squash rows. With the help of Tom and Jami, we’ve got a good start on clearing up the garlic beds and seeding in a cover crop mix that will feed our soil for the rest of the summer (this mix is buckwheat, oats and clover). From the bottom of our hearts and with bouquets of stinking roses, thank you, friends. Coincidentally, this poem by Marge Piercy was included in the Cycle Farm Poetry Tour -selected for the spot along the drive near the Niedzwetzkyana crab apple, the monarda, and the gate to the front field where the garlic grew this year.On Tuesday morning we stirred up a bucket of Biodynamic preparation 501 and sprayed the farm with silica and good intentions.  Many thanks to Tom for being so patient and rad while we fumble about trying to explain how excited we are about this.The animals are doing great. The pastured chickens are being moved twice a day now, foraging on grass and bugs. Their pasture-based diet is supplemented with a blend of fresh-ground whole grains that we mix and grind on the farm. They move along behind the lamb tractor, after the lambs have mowed down the tall grass. The littlest birds have started putting on their feathers and spunk and are headed out to the second chicken tractor this weekend. We anticipate butchering at the end of August and end of September and will send out an email regarding pre-order as butcher date approaches. If you’d like to be added to our email contact list, just let us know.

In this photo below, from left to right: tall, not-yet-grazed pasture; in front (left) of the chicken tractor has been grazed by the lambs and is where the chickens will be moved next; on the far side of the chicken tractor is where the chickens have been most recently; and along the right is the lush re-growth of pasture 2 weeks after impact from the lambs and chickens.Pasture Management Committee lamb member profiles: Lady Eve – a vociferous contralto who enjoys sunflower leaves and a good fleece rub. Albrecht – horned and affectionate, somewhat clumsy, always endearing. Justus – invariably impeccably dressed though never takes the limelight; he’s gentle, reticent and smart, entirely unsuspected and therefore an ideal accomplice to any sort of fuzzy mischief.There are a number of delicious and unaffected crops coming from the greenhouse: basil, beets, kale, and shortly: cucumbers, peppers, ginger and turmeric. We have been able to salvage a number of good things from the field for market: fennel bulbs, beets w. tops trimmed, new growth on lettuce, krauting cabbage, peas. And we’ve been monitoring new growth on plants in the field: carrot tops are rebounding, aforementioned chard is growing fast, summer squash and cucumbers are flowering, scallions are sending up new greens. In short, this hail event is not the end of our season. We’re planning on having the farm stand open as scheduled through to the end of October, although deliveries to restaurants will be reduced for the next few weeks. The farm stand will be thin for a few weeks, but harvest continues! We have a commitment to our farm supporters, the season is long yet, we are working hard to grow good things and they are growing.Lastly, just a few noted perks as regards the hail: Sauerkraut. Downed and damaged leaves created a full, farm-wide organic nitrogen application, a veritable feast for our beloved, ever hungry soil biology. For the most part, the storm completely shredded the garlic leaves which aided immensely in the bindweed detangling process. Johnny Rotten Swiss chard. Our three year old elecampane was in the wind shadow of the big ponderosa and suffered only minimal leaf damage(!), began blooming the day after the storm(!!). The pelleting force of the hail was an effective shock to our shiitake logs, they are flushing like never before, and we’ll have buckets of shiitakes at market tomorrow morning. Thank you for all your support and we look forward to seeing you at the farm stand,

up, up, up!, Trish and Jeremy  

en plein air

HUZZAH for art and community and conversation! And huzzah for an afternoon off! We had heaps of fun visiting and sharing the farm this weekend during the plein air art on the farm event. It’s a treat and a privilege to see the farm through the eyes of our community. Thank you all for joining us for this especially relaxing, inspiring and spirit-nourishing afternoon. Here are some photos from Sunday’s event –

…and even a few haystacks – 

with awe and gratitude and bright eyes, t&j

agrarian riddims, vol. 6

Oh, friends! Another mixtape love letter for your listening pleasure!Every summer we assemble a compilation of agrarian beats, a special line-up of rhythms and vocals that reflect the farm, the season, and our sentiments.  We started this tradition in 2013 inspired by a mixtape love letter to the parks that birthed hiphop and have continued since with fervor and joy, and with inspiration from our friend, Thomas Payne, and the consummate Kid Hops. Heaps of thanks to all the fine musicians honoring and celebrating life, the land, honest work, and all delicious things. We hope you enjoy listening to this montage as much as we enjoyed mixing it up.

For more good riddims, check out our previous compilations: vol. 1, vol.2, side C, vol.4, and vol.5. Agrarian riddims mix-tape vol.6 is available to stream on a youtube playlist here or tune into individual tracks below.

Staunchly yours, with big beats and sweet beets, Jeremy and Trish

Agrarian riddims mix-tape vol.6 track list:

Max Romeo :: The Farmer’s Story

Fari Difuture :: Farmer Man

Telford Nelson :: Till the Soil

Webby Jay :: In the Rain

Clinton Fearon :: Backyard Meditation

Prince Jamo :: Sheep to the Shepherd

Prince Alla :: Jah Jah Bird

Paul Izak :: Back to the Roots

Mike Love :: Permanent Holiday

Sly and Robbie :: Swing Easy

Spanner Banner :: Till up the Soil

Anthony B :: Wonderful World

Israel Vibration :: Give Thanks and Praise

General Zooz :: The Mango Song  (with a special shout out to Mama and Papa Jenkins)

Supercat :: Vineyard Style

Dirtsman :: Hot this Year

R. Vincenzo :: Cabras no Elevando Quilombola

Balkan Beat Box :: Dancing with the Moon

 

carbon farming

These long, hot days have been full of weeding, transplanting, more weeding, breaking for ice water, and daydreaming of cross country skiing, reading books, and cooking feasts. During the winter months we take time to reflect on the previous year, plan for the upcoming season, and in general recoup.  These past two winters Jeremy has sat down and calculated our carbon budget for us and the farm. A carbon budget, like a financial budget, is an inventory of our expenses (carbon costs, emissions), compared to our income (carbon sequestered through land management practices).  We came to farming from a land health/environmental perspective and deep in our guts we feel like our practices are reaching towards our goals and values.  Pulling the numbers together and working out our carbon budget has been a way to quantify our carbon emissions, assess the impact we’re making, and identify areas for improvement in management.

It was important for us to consider not just the farm business in our calculation but also our own personal carbon costs.  Partly and feasibly, this done in response to the complexity of teasing the two apart. For instance, our electric meter doesn’t separate the air conditioner on the pack shed walk-in cooler, the heat lamps in the brooder, and the fans in the greenhouse from Jeremy’s loud reggae music on the record player. But further, and more importantly, we can’t ethically separate ourselves and our actions from our business.  In this budget we also took into consideration our secondary carbon footprint including the carbon costs of shipping in materials, seed, feed, lifestyle choices, etc.

Our immediate carbon expenses over the past couple of years include electricity (coal), natural gas, gasoline for our car and Jeremy’s father’s truck, our farm laborers’ gasoline to-from work, and airplane travel for work and family/friend visits. We don’t have a tractor, tiller or mower, we do most work by hand and run errands by bicycle.  Having grid-tied wind and solar power reduces our total emissions from electricity.  Our secondary carbon emissions include things like the shipping and transportation of supplies to the farm over the course of the year as well as emissions of the manufacturer of those supplies (i.e. greenhouse plastic, drip tape, chicken feed).  This also includes our personal secondary footprint (consumer habits, diet related emissions (damn Argentinian wines)).

These costs are added up to give us our total carbon emissions (expense) for the year.

Our carbon “income” is reliant on practices we employ on the farm that build long term stable soil organic matter. The driver of sequestering carbon in the soil is photosynthesis which takes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and converts it into simple sugars that enter the soil profile either through decay of plant material or directly as root exudates. A large portion of this carbon is active, feeding soil biology and returning to the atmosphere in a relatively short period of time.  But a portion of it becomes stable in the soil.Practices that we routinely use to build soil organic matter and sequester carbon include no-till/minimal disturbance, keeping the soil covered, having a living root in the soil as long as possible (YEAH – root exudates!), increasing diversity (different plants, different root types), including animals, applying compost, and planting perennials.  We are constantly trying to improve our implementation of these practices on the farm.Quantifying how much carbon is sequestered in the soil through the implementation of these practices is the part of the carbon budget that requires the most estimation, approximation, squinting and pointing off towards the horizon.  There are many studies that have looked at carbon sequestration across varied practices and we have taken conservative estimates from research on similarly managed land – organic, no-till, mixed annuals and perennials – in temperate zones.For the last two years (2016 and 2017), our carbon budget shows that we are sequestering more carbon in the soil over the course of a year than both our farm business and personal emissions combined.  This includes our secondary carbon footprint.  (AWYEAH!! …and more !!!!!)

We have a goal of increasing the amount of carbon we’re storing in the soil to the point where we are also sequestering carbon for one step forward from the farm, the emissions generated by our customers coming to pick up their produce at the farm stand.  This can be done by either further reducing our emissions or by improving our land stewardship practices.  We currently make deliveries to restaurants and natural food stores in town by bicycle and are enormously thrilled when customers are able to walk or bike to the farm to stock up on vegetables.  We are just starting to figure out how to fit diverse cover crops into our vegetable rotation and from a carbon point-of-view still have a lot to learn about soil biology, pasture management, and so many other aspects of farming.The idea that we sequester more carbon in the ground than we emit over the course of the year through our actions seems like a little thing in the face of our mind-boggling climate crisis – increasing wildfires, rising seas and collapsing glaciers, displaced communities, vanishing forests, vanishing species.  But it is something positive. Responding to climate change will take adaptation and mitigation, but over the long term will also require drawing down carbon from the atmosphere. Agriculture is guilty of being one of the largest emitters of CO2 over the past decades and it’s extremely empowering that well-managed lands are society’s best hope for sequestering enough carbon quickly enough to make a difference.

Here are some excellent resources we have found educational, helpful and inspiring:

Also, carbon comrades: If you are interested in specific numbers (well, specific ranges of numbers) and methodology, we’d be happy to send along our calculations.  Because the range on estimating secondary footprints and carbon sequestration is so broad, we select higher estimates for emissions and lower estimates for sequestration from multiple footprint calculators and soil carbon studies.