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

 

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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.

May, farm update

Things of note from these past couple weeks. Please excuse us if this reads scattered and disjointed. Consider this disarray an accurate testament to the state of the farm these days. Spectacular mayhem. –

  • We’re doing a better job at start care, timing successions, watering in the greenhouse, even our potting and soil block mix seems to be just a bit more dialed in than previous seasons. Our biggest challenge remains getting no-till beds ready for transplanting.
  • Germination in the field, however, has been less successful/uniform partly due to dry soil conditions (both lack of rain and late turn-on of our irrigation ditch). Carrots, beets, turnips, parsnips are all up, but not at the intended density. And the arugula is unintentionally serving as an excellent flea beetle trap crop, we’ve never grown such nice looking broccoli.
  • We sprayed Biodynamic preparation 501 a couple weeks ago – during the zenith of spring fruit tree blossoms on the farm.
  • Last weekend we had a chance to watch what looked like a magical fiery-feathered parrot perched on a bee hive and gorging on our honey bees. Our Sibley’s and Albrechtsens’ tell us he was a first year male Summer Tanager! WHOA! These birds like supping on bees and wasps especially, and they catch “these insects in flight and kill them by beating them against a branch. Before eating a bee, the tanager rubs it on the branch to remove the stinger. Summer Tanagers eat larvae, too: first they get rid of the adults, and then they tear open the nest to get the grubs” (that bit’s from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology). And, what’s more – they’re not common around here; we haven’t seen him since, we must have just caught him on a re-fueling stop mid spring migration. The binoculars have been firmly attached to Jeremy’s side nonetheless.
  • A few of the bird nesting boxes that we built this winter are occupied – there are a couple chickadees in the wild plums by the spruce trees, house wrens in the plums in front of the house, and the robin on the platform under the gutter has three exceedingly hungry nestlings.
  • We’ve been enjoying spring migration, especially now having a dance card of who’s on their way. Our busiest week so far has included at least 53 different species – 32 on one day alone. Some new species for the farm list are Olive-sided Flycatcher, Pine Siskin, Field Sparrow.
  • Speaking of visitors, this spring we’ve shared the farm through a number (13) of farm tours – a Poetry Tour, Farm Dreams tour and skillshare, the Crook County Conservation District Soil Health Workshop, sharing with other local small producers and beginning farmers, film crews, and farm share members. Our count to-date this year has been 90 different people touring the farm (ninety! holy crap!). This count does not include people who came only to snuggle baby lambs – this number exceeded 50 in the first 3 weeks and I stopped counting, because that’s silly. Celebrity lambs. Apparently word is out that this place is a circus. This is the first year we’ve kept track of farm tour numbers, we’re doing this partly to gauge the extent of our impact in the community and also to understand how much time we’re spending hosting tours and not on income generating work that needs to be done.
  • One of the best parts of these farm visits has been engaging in conversations around soil health, organic no-till mixed-vegetable farming, cover crops, mycorrhizae and little soil critters – all things we love and love learning about.
  • Dung beetles! Due to unusual circumstances and some procrastination, there was a pile of gross fish guts out in the orchard, on close inspection we saw it was teaming with dung beetles – including a new one we’ve never seen here before. HooRAY for inefficiency. (about dung beetles, if you haven’t already watched this, please do. It’s a good one. And the dung beetles make such darling noises.)
  • Our fuzzy flail mowers have graduated to the lamb tractor and are already hard at work. The tractor is a fenced area we can move through our young orchard.  This helps us manage grazing in the pasture/orchard, fertilization, and protects the little trees from browsing. This summer, we’ll move chicken tractors along right behind the lambs – lambs mowing the tall grass for the chickens, and the chickens get to enjoy what the lambs leave behind.
  • The lambs, Justus, Albrecht, and Lady Eve, have taught us a whole lot so far as regards common ailments for young livestock: small puncture wounds, strange gum-ball-turned-golf-ball-sized subcutaneous bumps, bloat, nasty infected wounds, and the remarkable effects of ginger root and grapeseed oil on ruminant digestive issues. Thanks, lambs, we’re glad you’re feeling better.
  • Mostly, these days we’re removing brome rhizomes and dandelions from beds. Transplanting out starts just as quick as those beds are ready. Watering starts, checking and double-checking on the greenhouse, and moving irrigation around. We’re adding things to the to-do list with fervor… and a bit (much) slower, checking items off the list.
  • The garlic looks good and has been delivering us, if just for moments at a time, from the mess and reminding us of our Keatsean negative capability. This season, so far, has been so radically different than our previous springs which makes some things challenging and frustrating.  On the up side, we are sure learning a lot.  March and April were too cold, wet and snowy to get much done in the field, and then May swooped in with her oven doors open. We generally plan for May 25th as our approximate last frost date, this spring’s last frost was May 2nd. And it’s been July since.
  • Operation RUSDSG has been field-deployed (attn. Regina). This special flower garden plot, inspired by our good friend and farm spirit animal is going in piece-meal as spring greens come out of the turbine beds. This is a high-traffic area that will get lots of attention from pollinators and us, alike. Sea star and Tower Chamois asters were launched first. Details on our Operation RUSDSG are on a need-to-know basis. If you need to know what this silly acronym stands for, ask, we’ll tell you.

Thanks, friends! Hope this finds you well.

With love from the farm, Trish and Jeremy

This week in photos, haphazard and greening

A collection of photos/photo dump from this past week. It’s been busy.

Our first market of the season was last weekend, we celebrated with heaps of greens. We’re getting transplants out into the field. Seeds are beginning to pop up through mulch. 

The greenhouse is brimming.

This is our seventh year working with biodynamic preparations. In the spring we spray 500.

Grafting apples. We lost several trees to girdling last year, so there are some we’re trying to recover, also scion wood from a few local varieties (an apple from Jeremy’s folks’ house, from Grandma Vopat’s apple tree, a mature Haralson(?) we removed from our own orchard due to disease(?)). Get a load of these pretty grafts:

 More ospreys with fish, quickly growing lambs, last year’s robin nests, and a crazy beautiful sweat bee (Augochlora) we found this afternoon.

AND the preying mantis egg case count for this spring is up to 18 (eighteen!). Google search results suggest that preying mantis can lay 100-200 per egg case. Holy buckets of baby beneficial insects.

(also this week, and most of this week, but not pictured: a butt tonne of smooth brome rhizome removal in preparing beds for planting.)

We’ll have the farm stand open Saturday mornings, 9AM-noon, now until the end of October. We’ll keep you posted about Thursday evenings. Thanks, all!

Cheers, t &j

 

capricious loveliness

The seemingly unseasonably cold spring has some things moving along at a pokey-molasses pace, others are all systems go. Our calendar and journal from last year tell us things are about a month behind 2017.  Here’s a quick update as to some of what has been happening on the farm these past few weeks.

We celebrated an exciting early greens harvest at the end of March. A few rows of cold-hardy greens we had started last fall and had hoped would overwinter and be ready for our earliest farm stand markets this spring started to bolt earlier than we had expected, became instead a special harvest for our early-to-sign-up farm share members.  In the greenhouse, the germination chamber is stuffed to the gills with trays of soil blocks. The thermometer consistently reads at 70(ish) degrees in the germination chamber, an insulated and many-shelved box, with heat mats – temporary parking for seed trays while seeds are getting ready for their debut into sunshine. Shelves are filling up with flats of seedlings. Radishes are swelling. Spinach is getting mowed down by mice. We’re setting mouse traps with peanut butter. Outside and greenhouse temperatures have been such that we are still playing the cover-uncover back and forth game with row covers in the greenhouse, trying to keep all the little ones comfortable during the cold nights.One of the pepper varieties we seeded last week is La Mesilla – from our own saved seed. This is a Northern New Mexico chile pepper grown by our farmer friends and mentors, David and Loretta, at Monte Vista Organics. These two offer endless inspiration for us, not only as regards growing delicious food, but also as thoughtful, hardworking, generous and truly lovely humans. This just might be the very beginning of a Spearfish Valley, regionally adapted La Mesilla strain. Over half of the tomato varieties we’re growing this year are from our own seed (that’s 18/34, if you’re keeping count).  Seeding in the spring is full of all sorts of hope and magic, wonder and possibility, all the things of poetry and prayer. These sentiments are amplified in planting seed that we’ve selected for and saved, seeing plants complete their life cycle, generation after generation, on the farm.

Also in the works/germination chamber is the very beginning of Operation RUSDSG- new for 2018. This is a special flower garden plan inspired by a friend. The name is slightly embarrassing and calls into question the legitimacy of our credibility as farmers, but it was an entirely necessary measure in reigning in Jeremy’s absurd, unending flower seed order, so please content yourself with the acronym, RUSDSG. Below is a sneak preview; some photos snitched from Uprising Organics and Wild Garden, two of our favorite seed growers and suppliers for our RUSDSG.Ginger and turmeric are presprouting. In early February, we cut seed, spread them out and covered them over. They’ve been set in the warmest nook of the house, Little Bali, a neighborhood favored by baby ginger and spiders with massive pedipalps. As soon as soil temperatures warm up in the greenhouse, out they’ll go (the ginger; the spiders, ? who knows). We’ve had good luck with growing ginger before and are looking forward to seeing how the turmeric fares.A couple weeks ago we welcomed three bum lambs to the farm. The north bay of the garage has been converted into a lamb barn/ parkour jungle gym. These little ones are spending their days snoozing and bouncing, slurping down milkshakes and gumming everything they can get a hold of: straw bales, baby spruce trees, and small, giggly visitors. The lambs will soon transition to daytime in grape vines and then they will head to the back field where they will mow and fertilize our pasture and orchard area. Lady Eve, Albrecht and Justus, we’re so grateful you are here.And, as we’re on the topic of darling, tiny, fuzzy things, in clearing out and replanting beds in the greenhouse, we found just a few mossy patches near the komatzuna – including a little clump with sporophytes!  So exciting, we had to pull out the loupe.  Moss on soil can be a problem, it’s often indicative of too much moisture and/or poor circulation. This bed was covered up for the winter and the protected, still air under greens seems to have suited their growth. With warmer temperatures and some quick successions of radishes, turnips and salad greens, these little bryophytes will disappear or go dormant.We planted fruit trees, raspberries and herbaceous perennials this week.  A South Dakota-bred pear (Gourmet) and two apples (Hudson’s Golden Gem and Chestnut Crab) were added to the orchard, now with over 65 fruit trees.  And elsewhere, throughout the farm – a honeysuckle that should be pretty popular with hummingbirds, more herbs/medicinal plants, lavender, lady’s mantle and arnica. (Also in photos: Radish is a great help with vole patrol in the orchard and when the handle on the water bucket breaks, it’s convenient to have sunflower stalks on hand.)

And just a few more photos of April, above: a juvenile goshawk enjoying a Eurasian collared dove for breakfast (that was this morning!); Halcyon in snow; the greenhouse disappearing under snow last week; lamb snuggles; spring eggs; soil blocking; spring greens; arugula+bacon+avocado+Jerm’s bread+fried egg = not our usual 13th century peasant slop(read: lentils) and thus a photo worthy feast; chickens enjoying culls from the greenhouse; baby kale (March harvest) and new harvest totes; Lady Eve Balfour; milk thistle seed; young ones in the gh; worm castings are all over the greenhouse beds; tomato seed.

Thank you, friends! A special thanks to all who made it out for the Poetry Tour last weekend, we really enjoyed the time with you all.

Bright green cotyledons, muddy boots and big smiles,  Trish and Jeremy

poetry tour

Greetings farm friends! Mark your calendar! We hope you’ll join us on Sunday, April 8, at 2:00 PM for the debut of our lovingly created, carefully crafted poetry tour of the farm.  In celebration of poetry and in concurrence with National Poetry Month we are introducing our Farm Poetry Tour, a walking tour of the farm accompanied by poems for selected locations.We have assembled this tour as a fun way to share the farm and our farming practices. The farm is a busy spot with lengthy to-do lists, having poetry scattered about encourages reflection and thought. We love to share the farm, to help build connections between people and their food, and to build connections between people.

Art and poetry provide a platform for shared experience, and with shared experiences we have something in common over which we can relate.  In the poetry tour guide, each poem is followed by a few of the many reasons why we are excited about it and have chosen to include it on the tour. We look forward to spending a full year with these poems on the farm and sharing them with you.

Over the holidays we had a chance to visit with good friends who recently opened a fantastic brewery in Northfield, MN. In catching up on news of their new venture, they relayed accounts of all sorts of creative community building activities they have been engaged with via their new local business. They host live music and taco carts(etc), help find foster homes for a local animal shelter’s featured “Brewery Dog of the Month”, they partner with local farms for fine, fresh ingredients (a blueberry wheat, honey basil ale and something amazing with rhubarb and raspberry), AND they have been hosting poetry nights at the brewery, and even present patrons with poems printed out and displayed on the back of the bathroom stalls. Poetry at a brewery!? Brilliant!

This caused us to think: we need poetry on the farm.

So, with a suggestion from Jeremy – a poetry tour of the farm – we immediately set about compiling a selection of poems from our most favorite poets and poets we didn’t recognize. Poems that spoke to us and our community, the farm and the work we do here. We unloaded our book shelves of all poetry books, and anything else that had poems tucked in corners, at the beginning of chapters, almanacs, calendars, and cookbooks too. For three days, the living room floor was covered in a glorious pile of literature. We sat together, quietly reading – interrupting each other suddenly and sporadically to read new-found favorites aloud.  Half-way through the third day of binge poetry reading, we decided we had better wrap up the list, compile the tour and be done with it – or it we’d still be sitting here reading come May.  Pulling these poems together was huge fun. Derek and Laura, thanks for your inspiration.

…and while you are cavorting about reading poetry and getting to know the farm – keep an eye out for the new birdhouses that have sprung up around the farm. Birds have been scouting them out, but we don’t know of any nesting just yet.

Metaphorically Yours, Trish and Jeremy

 

2018 Pi(e) Day in numbers

…and photos. 

Pie Day Index (à la Harper’s)

2013, first Pi(e) Day on the farm

54 degrees and sunny

4″, amount of snow still in the front yard

23 pie enthusiasts

Almost 10 months and 2 years & 2 days, age of youngest pie enthusiast and age of second youngest pie enthusiast, respectively

4 people biked to the farm – with pies in tow (3)!

12 participants in the 3.14 mile walk/run

2.8 miles, actual route distance as measured by Dave’s gps thingy (thanks, Dave, we’ll fix this for next year!)

7 savory pies

10 sweet pies

≥ 5, number of pies featuring local ingredients (eggs, arugula, squash, apples, rhubarb – I may be missing something else?)

1 brand new pie – Excitement Pie! What happens when you take a Chocolate Silk pie on an exceptionally fun two-wheeled journey to the farm? It becomes Excitement Pie – the most delicious thing in, and out of, a pie shell you’ve ever eaten.

364 days until next Pie Day (…I suppose now it’s 362)

Infinite, amount of joy and gratitude felt by these two farmers.

… and here we go with Pie Day in pie charts:

A note on the pie phylum chart: Jeremy thinks they are actually orders. I’m pretty sure these are phylum and I like the way it sounds. Either way, it’s a kingdom of pie and that’s pretty rad.

Here are the Top Three Pies survey results:*some voted for only one pie. ** some voted for four pies. ***some abstained from voting because they liked them all. (; 

And, in summary, a few words from Alice Waters, because she put it best – “This is the power of gathering: it inspires us, delightfully, to be more hopeful, more joyful, more thoughtful: in a word, more alive.”

So much thanks, your farmers, T and J

Experiments in small batch onion seed cleaning

We grow scallions, scads, succession planting for continuous harvest throughout the season. Fresh scallions are amazing, delicious, they are easy to use, in everything. So we grow a lot. Evergreen Hardy has become a favorite for both flavor and vigor, and we’ve been saving seed every other (ish) year. We haven’t yet invested in seed sieves and as a result we’re still working on a way to adequately and (time) efficiently clean our onion seed.

Yesterday morning we seeded over 5000 alliums (!) and feeling inspired, we pulled out the paper bag of Evergreen Hardy seed heads that we collected last fall and which have been lurking in the mudroom for the past 5 months. Seed saving references mention winnowing with water (eep!), so we gave it a try. Dunking your carefully tended, harvested and dried seed in a jar of water – even just for a few seconds – feels a bit like steeking a sweater. Not for the faint of heart. (deep breath)

Jerm couldn’t watch.

I broke the flowers off the stems and tossed everything around pretty vigorously in order to make sure the seed was good and out of the flowers. Then, handful at a time, I dropped the seed and chaff into a jar and topped it off with water. The chaffy nonsense floated to the the top along with junky seed and the good seed when right to the bottom. I used a chopstick to stir this around a bit. Decanting a few times left me with a bunch of beautiful seed at the bottom of the jar which I immediately spread out to dry. Quick. Everything expeditiously.Jeremy opted for dry winnowing. Using the two sieves we have (a pasta colander and a smaller, mesh strainer) he skimmed off the big chaff and removed the smaller dusty bits. We use a box fan for winnowing kale, beans and corn – but the onion seed requires a more gentle air current, and one can only do the “blowing birthday candles out” seed winnowing technique for so long before becoming too light headed to continue. So we made a cleaning tool that friends at Meadowlark Hearth introduced us to. A sheet of fabric wrapped around a frame. With this we were able to tap the onion seed away from the stems – real slick! This frame is a great way to clean round seed like brassicas and beets, and we are happy to report: it works well for onions too.

Here’s a short video of 1000 onion seeds bouncing on a bedsheet, accompanied by Kid Koala.Both methods seem to yield equally clean seed. Water-winnowing went faster. Dry winnowing was less stressful. We’ve kept seed from these two methods separate and we’ll try them out in side-by-side plantings to compare germination rates over time.

And a special note for all our fellow Spearfish Seed Enthusiasts: next Sunday (3/11)  is the Spearfish Seed Swap from 1:30-4:30 at the Spearfish Public Library. Come, bring your seeds and your friends, bring home your friends’ seeds!  We’re celebrating FIVE years! Even if you don’t have seeds to swap, come anyway, join with friends and neighbors for an afternoon of gardening camaraderie!

 

a year of birds on the farm

Hooray-hooRAY and happy, happy tidings!

One of the exciting things about flipping over into another January is starting a whole new series of calendars, and we have no shortage of these: farm journal, planting calendar, daily planner, and our bird list.We started the bird list last January 1st in an effort to better monitor our avian diversity and as a way to record the comings and -especially- goings of migrating species, of particular interest: the robins and vultures.

And now with a complete year of observations, we can’t wait to share this. It’s SO COOL: 2017 farm bird list. (< click to view)

The calendar is set up by week with a note (x) for observed presence on farm during that week. This doesn’t account for number of individuals. 300 Grackles get the same x as one Rufous Hummingbird. However, this does show number of species and trends over the course of the season.  The boundaries we use for inclusion are not rigid. Fly-overs are counted as “seen on the farm” (i.e. Sandhill Cranes, Mallards), however wild turkeys seen parading about in the neighbors’ horse pasture don’t. To an extent, these boundaries follow Jeremy’s whims and fancies and mostly depend on likelihood of direct interaction with the farm.

A few things of note:
With these records we can see the two peaks (mid-May and Sept-Oct) of spring and fall migrations. It looks like the spring migration peak is a shorter pulse as birds are cruising on to breeding grounds, and fall migration is more drawn out. Over the course of the year, Jeremy got a whole lot better at bird observation and identification. This certainly skewed the data a bit towards fall abundance.

Our original list included 82 species that we thought we had seen on the farm over the past 5 years. This year we were able to confidently identify a total of 103 different species including 35 new-to-our-list species. (HOLYCRAP!)Bird highlights: We identified three species of hummingbird including the smallest bird in North America, Calliope (photo above(!) courtesy of Greg Albrechtsen). A Golden-winged Warbler. American Redstarts nested here. Regular visits by a Great Horned Owl. Our first Orioles. AND we learned to identify several of the warblers (at least 11 different species and variants), who had until this year just been lumped as “the little flitty birds in the trees.” It’s fun to have these visitors to the farm, to be aware that they have come through, but the species who make the farm their home are most intriguing to us. We are having big fun getting to know the behavior and personalities of these birds; the Juncos, Robins, Starlings, Blue Jays and Flickers.

Our biggest bird week (9/10) included a Sunday in which our sweet, smart friends, Greg and Mary Beth, came over and spent the morning birding with us. These two have been generous and contagiously enthusiastic mentors for us as we cannonball (bellyflop?) into the deep-end of the pool of birding.9/4/2017, birding w. Greg and MBWe’re especially excited to continue this monitoring and watch how seasonal trends appear over several years. And this year we will be planting even more Hummingbird Sage and Sunset Hyssop. Big cluster plantings, everywhere.

Wishing you all a joyful, healthy, and wondrous new year, t&j

(and for our birding brethren – if you would like a copy of our template, it’s here to share: 2018 Birds, annual record – SHARE Easy to edit.)

and now for something completely different

An octopus.

It’s snowing and we’re tucked in. Piles of books by the end of the couch, tea kettle spitting, we’re thoroughly nested in woolly things. We are reflecting on this past year and beginning considerations for next season. This year brought a number of changes to the farm: a new CSA market model, a nearly completely functional packshed, fewer than planned prepared and planted rows, our first hired farm hand (yea, Madeleine!), and a new mural.

In preparing for the construction of our packshed area, last spring (2016) we moved our walk-in cooler over to the south side of the garlic shed (‘garlic shed’ – currently a catch-all glorified junk drawer for wood working tools, bags of clean sawdust for nesting box bedding, and where we hang garlic to cure in the summer). The walk-in is an 8’x8’ insulated box cooled with an air conditioner and Cool-bot; the outside walls are cedar sheeting. A perfect spot for art. Big art. Last season was spent pipe-dreaming mural ideas as we walked back and forth by the empty, exposed wall of the walk-in cooler.

Vegetables and bicycles. Heaping baskets of vegetables. Butterflies and bumble bees. A giant lacewing. A schematic of the carbon cycle. Sunflowers? Lots of sunflowers! We schemed mural ideas.

…but why duplicate something on the wall that already grows right here, something we see routinely?

In the end, we decided that we needed something far removed from the daily activities of the farm, but something we are still connected to. The decisions we make here and our land management practices effect habitat and ecosystems far removed from our immediate farm. We are super far away from the oceans and yet, in not terribly obvious, ittybitty ways and profound, undeniable ways, we’re connected.  We are trying to grow good food as a means of working towards greater goals, a stronger community and a healthier planet.  And so, we decided the farm needs an octopus.

On the surface, we are radically different creatures, us and octopus (underwater invertebrates, eight legs and a beak(!), chromatophores (!?). Completely bizarre in every way). However, octopuses embody characteristics that we are inspired by and strive for in our farm management. They are intelligent, cognizant, and interactive. They are problem solvers. Curious. Adaptable. Flexible. Resilient. Strong, yet vulnerable. Playful. Emotional. Observant. Deliberate. They are ecosystem engineers, able to shape their community and benefit other species beyond themselves.Despite limited experience with oceanic invertebrates, our friend Rebecca graciously agreed to paint an octopus for us. Over the course of a few weeks, she came out to the farm and set to work. The October bright blue weather had her melting against the south-facing wall some days. And, on other days, we helped rig up a tarp shelter and space heater in order to help keep the paints – and Rebecca – from getting too cold. Over these days we had the chance to watch the transformation from featureless cedar surface to near-animate being.  A sketched outline projected on the blank wall became chalk. Then a bright blue silhouette. Turned orange. And an eye! Then suckers. Rows of plain white circles became many-hued dimpled orbs of early sunrise, each its own magical oystershell of pink and purple, blue, but still white. It’s no longer an it. She is an octopus. She is intricate and vibrant. She welcomes conversation and reflection. I think her name is Halcyon; Jeremy’s not so sure. Her presence is a nod to our own beloved, hand working, and omnipresent farm invertebrates. She makes us feel like we had better do a good job.  She is a reminder of what we are working toward.

We feel honored to have this beautiful piece on the farm. The thoughtfulness, creativity, generosity, and love that went into her creation are an inspiration to us. Thank you for sharing this gift, your gift with us, Rebecca.

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P.S. A couple additional comments of note: Jeremy’s father, Dave, pointed out with great mirth, it’s an especially apropos totem for the farm.  And Papa Jenkins thinks this is clearly a sign of our good taste. We have since discovered that there is a history of octopus murals in Spearfish, or at least one other.