winter, farm visitors!

A productive, restful winter. Woolly socks, hot tea, the melodica, seed catalogs and Sibley’s bird guide. Beans and potatoes. And eggs. Building a gate for the chicken yard, scheming mobile coop designs, reviewing conference notes, reflecting on last year’s growing season, planning for this year’s. Baking bread and stirring resistance. A hammock in the greenhouse, cross country skis by the door, books by the couch… and on the table, and on the floor, and by the bed. And visitors!vicious-birdsWe’ve had a couple predatory birds visit the farm over the last month. A Northern Shrike briefly took up residence in our greenhouse, helping with pest management. And yesterday we happened to see a Eastern Screech owl peeking out of a basswood tree. Our chickens don’t seem to mind the company and are laying abundantly.

We’ve also had a couple friends visit the farm over the last month. Thomas came from Washington bearing whisky, reggae on vinyl, and a big stack of NYT crossword puzzles… *sigh*… winter. Radish enjoyed having a ski-mate and perfecting her newest trick, hoop-jumping. We enjoyed having help with our seed inventory and cleaning up the greenhouse after the shrike massacre (3 mice, 7 house sparrows, decapitated and impaled on popsicle sticks. eeew).And then our friend, Gordon, and his sweet basset travel companion, Dot, were snowbound here on their way back home. Several of our trees are from Gordon’s fruit tree nursery in northern New Mexico. We took the opportunity to walk through our young orchard with him, and learn more about orchard management, tree health, and practice grafting techniques.gordon-tooley-visitAnd now the house is empty, the futon is folded up. The seed orders are in. The days are growing noticeably longer. The greenhouse is seeded with every sort of spring green, turnips, radishes and beets. We’re looking forward to a few sunny days to help with soil temperature and germination. seeding-greenhouse-feb-5feb-2017-photo-montage2While we anticipate fresh greens, farm feastings have been mostly a whole lot of soups, and squash pie, and fermented things. When you have a chance, check out this exceptionally delicious, new favorite recipe for fermented hot sauce, also lovely kraut crocks.

Thanks, friends. Siempre adelante.

Summer into October

October?! Yowzahs! How did this happen?!

Here are some highlights from the last couple months. Scroll through quick and it should have that fun flip-book effect. High pitched, redshift, here is our summer, in review, in fast forward.

Our big project this summer has been building the pack shed. The original plan was to have it finished before CSA started in June, but we may have been over estimating ourselves – by a year. The pack shed is a covered 16’x25′ concrete slab with a storage loft. We will run all the water and electric from above, so we can make changes as we figure things out.  The construction crew has been primarily Jeremy and his father, David. We’ve had gracious and timely help from friends for heavy lifting and pouring concrete. And Trish gets to pound nails, sometimes.building-the-packshedWe had a few excellent friends come out to visit this summer. Beyond being much appreciated and additional willing, working hands, we so love all the smiles, good conversation, and inspiration. Thanks for coming by the farm, friends, it’s such a treat to have you here.

This has been our first full season with our farm stand. Overall, it’s been a good season, though it’s clear we need to address some marketing issues, namely, we need to do some marketing. A sign might help. We have a good core customer base and we’ve really enjoyed getting to know people as they return each week, hearing about recipes they’ve tried, sharing sourdough starter and swapping cook books. Our original intent was to set up an honor system till at the farm stand, but the weekly interaction we get with folks is something we’ve grown to really value and, so far, being open only Saturday mornings, we’ve been able to prioritize the time and have at least one of us be there. This Saturday will be our final farm stand for the season – come by and load up.farmstandWe’re enthusiastically learning more about biodynamic agriculture and ways we can incorporate this practice on our small farm. There are elements to biodynamics that resonate strongly with us (the farm as a whole living system, focus on soil health, importance of animals, community involvement, observation and meditation, we’ve found the planting calendar is super useful…), and then there are other parts we haven’t quite wrapped our heads around. A few weeks ago we buried biodynamic preparation 500 near our barrel compost.bd-500The first weekend of October, we took a quick trip down to visit our friends Beth and Nathan at their farm in Scottsbluff. They hosted a workshop on integrating seed production with small scale vegetable farms. This is something we have been interested in doing here and we’re especially grateful to have the opportunity to learn from these thoughtful, generous, experienced growers. It was good to learn some new seed cleaning techniques as well as improve our understanding of producing seed from biennial crops. (and a quick side note: as winter settles in and your fireside seed dreaming starts, check out Meadowlark Hearth. They grow good seed.)meadowlark-hearth-workshopIt was a good summer for bugs on the farm. So many good ones, including burying beetles.2016-summer-bugsThis past Sunday we butchered our laying hens. These ladies were 2-4 years old, the oldest of which were our very first chicks. Good, sweet birds; they taught us a lot. We are replacing them with the young flock that’s been scooting about in tractors in the orchard this summer. The new layers will likely start producing eggs in a month or so.chicekns

We’re hugely grateful for our evisceration crew. It’s so delightful having friends with bright attitudes, minimal squeamish tendencies, and an interest in avian anatomy. Thank you for helping make the morning go so smoothly, respectfully, efficiently. And thank you to our customers for helping to support local, humanely raised, good meat. We’ll be butchering the fryers (young roosters, 20 weeks) this upcoming weekend, if you are interested just let us know.butchering-chickensThese old laying hens make incredible stew. And schmaltz. Jeremy made a leek and onion broth soup with some of the unlaid eggs. He made pad thai with the rest. (Trish prefers the unlaid egg pad thai over the unlaid egg soup). Radish has had this expression on her face ever since we started dehydrating livers and gizzards.chicken-bits

Last week we celebrated our final CSA pick up of the season – with parsnips and leeks, and our best onions yet. This wraps up our fifth CSA season and has us feeling a bit nostalgic, extremely thankful, and completely humbled by how much we have yet to learn. From the very bottom of our hearts, thank you for joining us this season, CSA friends. We’ve enjoyed sharing the harvest with you each week. CSA isn’t for everyone, it’s a special commitment, it requires patience and trust, and a willingness to be flexible and creative – thank you.  We appreciate you for accompanying us on this adventure, for all your support and smiles. Thank you for getting as excited as we are about celery, for telling us about how your sweet little one’s very first non-milk food-food was a Shintokiwa cucumber, for making and puttin’ up pesto, more pesto that you know what to do with (we promise, you’ll be happy about this come February!), and for learning to love beets. We hope that you will join us again next year!

Throughout the CSA season we encouraged share members to either walk or bike to the farm to pick up their vegetables. Of course, it’s not always easy to do (or feasible) and we wholeheartedly understand busy schedules, but we do love the idea of taking the opportunity to stretch your legs after a long day, head over to pick up fresh vegetables at the farm, feel the sun on your face, hear the birds singing… all the while saving the planet from a short trip across town in the car.  Over the course of our 20 week CSA season, there were over 80 trips made by bike or foot! THIS IS HUGE! Thank you, thank you, thank you! We’ll be drawing names from the pie lottery next week, so expect a call from us soon.last-csa-day

That about covers it. Thanks, friends!

agrarian riddims, vol. 4

It’s that time of year again. It’s time for the release of this summer’s agrarian riddims compilation, a farm tradition originally inspired by Grist’s mix-tape love letter to parks. For your listening pleasure, check out previous years’ mix-tapes: Volume one, Volume two and Side C. Special thanks to all the reggae musicians celebrating food and farming, and to Tom Payne and Kid Hops for inspiration.

Big beets and big smiles, t&j

Winston McAnuff – What Man Sow  

Junior Delgado – Effort

Barry Biggs – Work All Day

Ras Muhamad feat. Naptali – Farmerman

Joseph Cotton –  Plant the Vegetables

Count Lasher’s Calypso Quintet – Water the Garden

Bascom X – Farmer Man

Gregory Isaacs – Words of the Farmer

Reya Sunshine – Sista Farmer

Erico Morris – Beautiful Garden

Loyal Flames – Working

Jah Mike – Jack a the Farmer

Yardman and Foundation Crew – Farmer Man

Lopez Walker – Jah Jah New Garden

Boris Gardiner – Elizabethan Reggae, a reggae rendition of Elizabethan Serenade, with agrarian fly-over.

Jeremy finds this one especially… suiting. Teddy Brown – Rose Garden

And, not entirely appropriate for our latitude, but Trish really likes this one… Jah 9 – Avocado

 

celebrating late-bolting lettuce

lettuce bolting and slogun, not bolting.Each year we try out a few new varieties of lettuce to see how they compare to our past favorites.  This year we are smitten with Slogun, a beautiful crisphead that has amazing bolt tolerance.  It has held in the field a good two weeks longer than the other 8 varieties we transplanted at the same time.  But not only is it still looking good, it also is one of our sweetest flavored. Slogun is definitely a variety we will plant next year, the tricky part is that we have a bed full of lettuce needing to be pulled out and replaced, except for lovely Slogun, still holding in the middle.  This will take a little finessing of our succession planting plan. (If you are in the market for good seed, we bought our Slogun seed from Adaptive Seeds, out of Oregon, who also provided us with our other new favorite, Vulcan)field hops cabbage tomatoe rowsA few quick-before-the-sun-sets photos: Renegade sunflowers in the middle of our trellised tomatoes. Freshly weeded tomatoes and basil.  Our most productive hop plant, a mystery variety that appeared at the corner of the house a few years ago.  Cabbages are heading up.summer veg August 4This week’s CSA shares include cucumbers, beets, eggplant, and fennel. The newsletter is online here with a recipe for a fennel, eggplant, garlicy pasta sauce. And for those of you who are still working on developing a love for beets, check out the super simple beet chip recipe online here. We have confidence, you’ll be kvassing soon.week 9 CSACheers! t&j

rain, rain, come and stay.

..at least for a while longer.csa week8We really enjoyed harvesting for this week’s CSA in the rain. Usually we are moving quickly, trying to keep greens cool and happy between harvest and washing before going into the walk-in cooler. The cool, wet morning allowed for coffee breaks and an opportunity to explore camera settings. And revel in golden beets.seding lettuce inside and rain on kaleAfter losing a couple rounds of lettuce successions in our toasty warm greenhouse, we’re now starting seed trays in the living room which is considerably less toasty warm.  july flowersMints, sunflowers, echinacea, and feverfew are blooming. Birds have picked over the last couple chokecherry bushes and are now eyeing up the grapes. We’ve got the front grape rows netted, but will hold off on netting the back grapes until they get closer to harvest. And LOOK! Our first slicer tomato of the season: a 2+ pound Gold Medal. We capresed our hearts out for lunch. And dinner.gold medal for the winWith help from our most competent and reliable (and hugely appreciated) farm sitters/ chicken tractor wranglers/ hen whisperers/ greenhouse tenders, we were able to take a couple days and scoot over to visit J’s grandparents in Montana. We camped out at the kitchen table and heard good stories about growing up on a small dairy farm in the mountains and working on the Milwaukee rail road. We also had a chance to catch up with some good friends in the big cities and visit Rathvinden Farm and get farm-geeky over all the beautiful and tasty things they’re growing. Good farmdog Radish enjoyed the holiday too.Big thanks happy summer feastings, t&j

 

weeding, watering, melting

greenhouse sunset lilyand lettuceIrrigating and weeding. Then irrigating some more. And weeding, always weeding. The vegetable beds are on drip irrigation, which is lovely. Everything else though, the orchard, flower beds and herbs, all require more direct attention and hose shuffling. Jeremy had a chance to attend a pasture management and grazing workshop earlier this week, you can read more about it in this week’s CSA newsletter as well as find a couple parsley-centric recipes: an eggy, cheesy chard and parsley frittata and a versatile fresh green salsa (pesto/ sauce/ dressing…) for those of you with capers and anchovies in your cupboard. onions worms seed and tomatoesOnions are bulbing and tomatoes are fruiting. The worms are making some luscious compost. The last of the grex seed is cleaned. These days it’s been early mornings, and water breaks, and what tasks can we tackle in the shade?

The race against the birds has begun for chokecherries. Tonight we loaded up off of our two earliest bushes, just over 20 lbs. Getting chokecherries into the CSA shares has been important to us ever since our first season on the farm.  And even more so after reading through Jo Robinson’s research on phytonutrients.  CSA friends, get ready – chokecherry syrup, chokecherry shrubs and gin and tonics, chokecherry sorbet.chokecherryWith the proposed re-zoning of one of Spearfish valley’s most iconic working agricultural fields, we’ve been reflecting a lot this week on the contradiction between an area-wide growing enthusiasm for a local food system and the community’s apparent lack of interest in the loss of productive, irrigated farmland. A curious disconnect, lots to think about while weeding onions and shuffling the hose between fruit trees.

-t&j

mid-July, in photos

A quick update from the farm this past week, mainly photos.

Peas are fruiting strong, fall cabbages and kohlrabi and lettuce mix are getting transplanted out, and summer fruits are looking promising.snowpeasfieldeggplantbabycabbageAfter (amid) much conversation, sketching out plans, standing around pointing, consulting the Wholesale Success book and Google (Chris Blanchard,  Atina Diffley, thoughful and experienced farmers who’ve posted tours of their vegetable wash set-ups on you-tube), we’re starting in earnest on our pack shed construction. We harvested garlic this week, a whole heaping mess load of disappointingly tiny heads. And there are pretty blooms on pert near everything.sunlightThere are a few native wildflowers getting established along the property line by the gate to the field. This week we found a couple of assassin bugs patiently lurking in the flowers, one even had her mouth full. Like crab/ flower spiders, the assassin bugs hang out on flowers and snatch prey as they come seeking nectar or pollen. In the photo below, the assassin bug on the blanket flower has its probiscus/ rostrum in a native bee.assassin bugThe little chickens are now out on pasture in our young orchard. We’ve been moving them along through the tall grass every day or two. They’ve transitioned from the brooder to the field well; they are completely jazzed for leaf hoppers.chicks on pastureSeed from our kale breeding project has been drying out on a tarp on the porch for a bit over a week. We’ve threshed and winnowed about half of this pile. A few especially helpful tools/methods employed in this process include tarps, a big trash can, KEXP’s Positive Vibrations streaming show archive, dancing, and a box fan. The seed looks beautiful. And now we know what 2.5 lbs of kale seed looks like.threshing kaleOur CSA newsletter for this past week, week 6, can be found here, as well as a recipe for herbed salmon (or mushroom, if you prefer) and chard. Additional recipes for chard are on the farm community cookbook site, here.  Happy feasting, friends!week 6 pickupBig smiles and thanks, t and j

beets, margaritas, and the KBP

Quite possibly the world’s most photogenic beets are in our CSA shares this week, mostly Chioggia, some Early Wonder Tall Top.  We have been having a hard time getting even germination with our direct seeded crops (beets, carrots, parsnips, peas).  In this beet bed we filled in gaps with a planting of lettuce. The lettuce made for excellent companion planting and a fun beet harvest/hunt, but it’s not the abundant yield of beets we were scheming for back in February. Look here for this week’s CSA newsletter, a list of what’s in the share, and a recipe for parsley chutney.beets july 7Having Trish’s mom around these past couple weeks has been great fun and lots of thoughtful conversation. We’re getting a lot of good work done – especially early morning weeding parties with hot coffee and Miss Marple (Agatha Christie books on tape). We’ve discovered that heart-racing whodunnits are fantastic for cruising through rows of parsnips and peas. Mom has not only helped us out with marathon weeding, but she’s also introduced us to a new farm tradition: margaritas while seeding fall successions. mom and margaritasThe farm stand signs have been getting dusted off and (some) repainted. Things like Gooseberries and Citron are getting painted over to read Garlic Scapes and Arugula. The original signs were painted by the Schuttlers in the 1950’s. Some of the other crops/products they grew/made/sold include sand cherries, horseradish, plums, apple cider, fat hens, rutabagas, beet greens, fresh eggs, sweet corn, pumpkins, strawberries, dill… Many thanks to our number one farm friend Kaija for helping trace letters and cut out stencils and to Mom for her steady hand and smart spelling. farmstand signsThis week we also harvested seed from our kale breeding project.  In 2012, we ordered a breeders mix from Adaptive Seeds. Since then we’ve been planting out, overwintering, and selecting seed from good looking survivors.  We’re excited to cultivate a kale that is not only especially adapted to the soils, climate, and winters of Spearfish Valley, but also tastes delicious and withstands a fair amount of weed pressure and neglect from busy farmers.kale breedingThings are all lined up, greening and blooming. Here is a view inside the field tunnel (left to right: shishitos, eggplant, beets, cucumbers, chard); trellising in the greenhouse looks like the inside of a piano; a photo of the two of us together!; and the eggplants are flowering.tunnel greenhouse j and t and eggplantAnd lastly, most importantly, some love to our parents – without your steadfast encouragement, support, and love we wouldn’t be able to do any of this. We are so very grateful for your wisdom and profound patience. And for your help. And for finding joy in our ridiculousness. We love you heaps. ann and randi beauties and the beets

a wilted salad and Sugar Anns

Eeep! We meant to get this posted on Thursday, but somehow it slipped. It(we) got lost in the weeds. Here we go. A post post, if you will.

This week’s CSA harvest is brought to you by big smiles and both moms! We’re exceptionally lucky to have you two. Here is a link to this week’s newsletter, a list of what’s in the share and some ideas on how to prepare them.csa 4 with momsA new bed is getting established behind the farm stand, we’re planting it with you-pick fresh herbs for CSA members and farm stand customers. The only thing better than cooking with fresh herbs is having the chance to prance around in the plants and cut them yourself. The line-up right now includes sage, oregano, thyme, chives, and lavender.new herb bedThe grape vines look like they will have a good crop this year. Jeremy was gifted some glass gem corn seed (a vogue heirloom flint corn) which is now knee high. And we have twelve different varieties of winter squash planted.grapescornsquash Here are some photos from the back field: Swiss chard and little leeks.cropsA friendly customer at the farm stand this past weekend picked up salad greens just for a wilted salad.  After a brief internal “are you kidding me? it’s 90 million degrees, it hasn’t rained for 3 weeks, do you realize how hard we’ve worked to not wilt these greens?! and you want to go home and wilt them?? I’m sorry, what?”,  we smiled and had to ask for details. Here’s her recommendation: cook up bacon in a skillet, pull out the cooked bacon and break this up into chunks. Add red wine vinegar and a little bit of sugar to the bacon drippings and simmer this just a bit, with chopped scallions too. Season with salt and pepper then drizzle this vinegary, bacon greasy, scallions and sugar on fresh salad greens. Decorate with bacon crumbles, toss and eat immediately. Of course! wilted salad. Sounds like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Probably wouldn’t hurt to toss some scapes in to simmer with the bacon grease too…

The young chickens are now 4 weeks old and they’re all deep into their extreme spiky punkster phase; sporting Robert Smith eyeliner and an underlying Patti Smith attitude.This week’s CSA shares included the first of our season’s snap peas. We grow two varieties of snap peas, Sugar Ann and Cascadia.  The majority of the what we plant is Cascadia, a beautiful and productive snap pea bred at Oregon State University for Northwest gardeners; we find it does great here. We also grow a couple rows of Sugar Ann peas each year because they mature about ten days earlier than Cascadia and they are also delicious. Snap peas are derived from a cross between a snow pea and a shelling pea. For seed growers, off-type peas can appear during subsequent years of saving seeds.  If these off-types are not removed from the seed stock they can, over time, present a problem for growers trying to have a uniform crop.20160629_085152This year we are finding that our planting of Sugar Ann has a lot of variation.  We are getting about 3/4 snap-pea type plants, about 1/4 shelling-pea plants and a few snow-pea types.  This makes harvest take longer in order to keep them separate and it reduces our expected yield of snap peas. We start everything from seed and we are very deliberate about where we source our seed. We preferentially source open-pollinated and regionally adapted varieties grown using organic practices. If we have an incredible crop or if we have a problem or questions, we know where our seed originated and can directly communicate with our seed producers. This is an advantage over buying seed from large companies where tracing the actual seed grower may be difficult.  In the case of our Sugar Anns, we can contact the source of our seed to let them know what is happening so that the seed can undergo a rogueing and selection process making future seed lots more uniform. We’d be really surprised if the seed company hasn’t already noticed the variability and begun this process, but we will give them a call anyway.

This open-communication is what we strive for with our own customers and community at the farm. Receiving honest feedback offers us the opportunity to learn and improve as farmers. Which is (despite appearances) what we’re constantly working on.

cow shit and strawberries

The CSA shares this week include some exceptionally beautiful lettuce greens, big leaves that we think might make for awful smart lettuce wraps. In light of this, the CSA newsletter includes a recipe for lettuce wraps that we think you’ll enjoy- of course, don’t let this limit you, be creative, have fun, and bon appetit! And while you’re crunching away, here’s a guide to the lettuce varieties in your shares:csa week 3This year we have nearly twenty different varieties of lettuce planted out in the field (Jeremy has a small problem at seed ordering time, Trish abets). The CSA shares this week also include pea shoots(!) and strawberries(!!).  It is our opinion that all lawn should be replaced by strawberry plants. And peas.z dimentionThe farm z-dimension has grown this week with trellising the tomatoes. And we’ve started a biodynamic barrel compost that will be ready to use next spring. barrelcompostOver the past few years we have been learning about biodynamic agriculture, we appreciate how this philosophy aligns well with our thoughts and management goals and we’re super excited to be incorporating this into our farm and practices. After the CSA season, when we make our annual migration south for the Quivira Coalition conference, we’re also looking forward to attending the Biodynamic Association biannual conference. Here is a shot of our farmer friend’s sweet milker who has so graciously shared her manure with us:ericas cowYesterday we disturbed a cloud (bunches!) of these lovelies lurking by the hops. Lacewings are excellent predators. These ones, in particular, looked well fed.And lastly, trish spirit mustache