june bugs and june happenings

We’ve been sending out weekly farm update emails to share members since our first harvest in mid-April and we figure we ought to scribble out an update for the website too, here we go. This is an expanded version of our most recent farm share member newsletter.

In no particular order, and certainly not exhaustive, but still exhausting, this is what we’ve been up to these last few weeks: prepping new beds and many, many wheelbarrow-loads of compost and straw bales out to beds, we built frames for two new greenhouse beds using recycled lumber from a hundred-year-old building in town that looks like it was also recycled to build that hundred-year-old building – in these beds, we’re trying out Almond Agaricus (Agaricus subrufescens) mushrooms under cucumbers. Greenhouse and tunnel beds are flipping over from spring greens to summer fruity crops. We are currently working to wrap up a big push of seeding and transplanting out to the field, we just started hauling out tomatoes, peppers and eggplant (ratatouille, get ready), and we’ve also been trying to keep up on new successions. The high temperatures these days have us doing some of our transplanting by headlamp after dark when the temperatures are more accommodating: the plants love it and the June bugs flying into the headlamps makes things especially exciting. The pea trellises are (mostly) up, the sparrows have been dining heartily on our pea plants, hopefully these new obstructions to their easy flight paths will slow down the grazing. These hot days also have us fussing with and fixing irrigation, tending to hot animals, and panicking over a broken greenhouse fan (we’ve replaced the fan, are trying to repair the old one (only two months old), and the panic has ceased).  We are profoundly grateful this season to have the help of both our farm friend and, now, Latin tutor, Tom, and farm apprentice/5*chef, Taylor – these additional hands and eyes and backs and heartbeats on the farm have made this spring way more fun – thanks, guys, big thanks. Our last frost was just May 27 and we’re now so quickly into the thick ‘n juicy of summer heat. Everything is a mess and everything is just so beautiful.

A hard part of work this spring has been how quiet the field is, the flowers are largely empty – there are so few pollinators. We’re seeing a good diversity (ie varieties of bumble bees, smaller native bees, and honey bees), but not the populations we’re used to.  We’ve talked to a number of other folks in town, people who pay attention to their garden bzzzzers, who have also reported a significant decrease in bee abundance. We’re swimming through a number of hypotheses to explain this, but no simple remedies. Each year we let flower and save seed from scallions and right now there are two big plantings in full bloom. Usually, the onion flower orbs are swarming, they are like buoys floating in a foaming sea of bzzzzing bodies, more bees than you can count. Today we can count them. Same with the catmint under the ponderosa. From our earliest carpet of empty crocuses, and, later, quietly blooming chokecherry bushes, to thick stretches of still, bright yellow dandelions and warblers sipping nectar from the plum trees, because there were no bees; this has been hard, ominous, and lonely.

The garlic beds look good. The new asparagus planting is sending up whispy, tender, slender purple paint brushes. The ginger plant leaves look like they are getting sunburnt, so we’ve constructed for them an additional shade canopy, a sheet of remay hanging from rafters in the greenhouse – either a-la-fancy-pants-duchess-bed-style or maybe tropical-honeymoon-mosquito-net-style.  These last couple weeks, in the evenings, we’ve been seeing bats. The grackles are seemingly taking great joy in depositing fecal sacs from their nests onto the roof of the greenhouse – not a problem, but a really strange thing, we have no explanations, but many speculations.  Meantime we should consider harvesting grackle guano, it looks like the rocky bluffs of the Chincha Islands up there.  Baby bunbuns are out and about en masse and everywhere. Flea beetles are too, the arugula is starting to get munched, field radish plantings never made it much past cotyledons. The arugula planting this spring was glowing, so we selected for and are growing out a crop for seed. It’s flowering beautifully, but with so few pollinators, we’re holding our breath to see what sort of seed yield we’ll have.

We are planning to raise two batches of Freedom Rangers out in the orchard this summer, the first batch of 50 birds is now just over two weeks old, and are getting their wing feathers in, mid-way between cutiepahtootie fluffball and dinosaur.

The Pekin ducks we wrote about in our April update have been butchered, this was an educational and somewhat time consuming process and we’re super grateful to have had skilled help (thank you, Taylor). As they we SO MUCH FUN to raise and gauging interest from our farm community, we’re thinking about raising meat ducks again in the future for market. A considerable hesitation we have is how to make the finances work without having insanely spendy meat. Though, perhaps that’s the way it ought to be.

We ended up keeping four ducks, two from each flock (the young birds- two female (we think) White Layers, and two of the re-homed, so-called ‘very good layers’). They are getting along swimmingly and currently making quite a splash back by the chicken run where Trish just hooked up a sprinkler (it seems a slippery slope into duck zeal. Crazyducklady?). The Khaki Campbell seems to be especially relieved with the new situation as she’s no longer being amorously, assertively, abundantly, alarmingly, aggressively, acrimoniously ‘courted’ by both the Runner AND the blue Swedish (aka Hagrid ‘Ingo’ Johansson).

With limitless gratitude for science and immunization, for patience and persistence, we’ve been enjoying spending time with friends and family. Enjoy is not quite right. More like relish: glee and grief and gratitude. Oh, it is sweet heaven to share meals together again. And weed garlic beds side by side. We are committed to still masking up while working at the farm stand. At this point less than 40% of Lawrence County has received their first dose. There are a variety of medical reasons why some folks may not be able to take the vaccine and/or are continuing to be cautious, and we’re happy to do this little bitty thing to help keep our community healthy.

Thanks, friends, we hope you all are enjoying a joyful and healthy start to summer.

With love, and smiles, and June bugs in our headlamps, your farmers, Trish and Jeremy