Our much appreciated, restful winter has quickly flowed into a dizzying, familiar state of spring ruckus. Spring racket. Spring merry mayhem. Daffodils have just begun to bloom and snow clouds are in the sky. Farm shares for the season sold quicker than we had expected which has us feeling all-the-more-so appreciative for the support and enthusiasm of our farm community and eager and excited for this new growing season. Here’s what we’ve been up to lately, mostly photos.
Greenhouse beds are greening up, up, UP, albeit slowly. The lettuce is having a tough go of things, with pressure from house sparrows. We plugged in bok choy to fill gaps in spinach beds where germination was uneven. Ittybitty carrot seedlings are coming up in the newest/western beds. The arugula looks amazing, fared the cold temperatures with a smile, and is almost harvestable – this is grown from seed we saved last summer.
The north wall of the greenhouse has also been getting some early spring attention this year – we’ve been cobbing! Cob is a mix of clay, sand, straw and water. A bit like adobe, but not formed in bricks. The greenhouse uses strawbales as insulation on the tall north wall and an interior cob wall (about 6-8″ thick) as thermal mass. The beautiful red-orange of the cob comes from the local clay/silt that outcrops around Spearfish, the Permio-Triassic Spearfish Formation. Deposited before the uplift of the Black Hills (late Cretaceous), back when this place looked more like the Heleh wetlands of Iran. Which is especially lovely to consider as the sky is about to dump a boatload of spring snow on us.
In the photos below, upperleft Jeremy’s seeding spring turnips in March, lowercenter Jeremy and Tom and soilblocking & seeding flowers last weekend. Lowerleft shows cobbing work on the northwall. Upperright is a view of the workbench mid-spring frenzy, potting up herbs with Miga guarding the door/snoozing.
In the photos below, a collection of little spring things: eggplant seedlings, crocuses, roots we’re still working through from last fall, planting peas, a mouse skull found while preparing beds, about a million lacewing eggs found blown down and dried on the outside of our living room window, and the springtime duck egg situation.
Regarding eggplant: we’re growing three varieties of eggplant this year, Tsakoniki, Diamond, and Long Purple. (Share members, these should be familiar to you, these are varieties we’ve grown in the past and do well for us here.) The photo above was taken just as Diamond started to germinate. Diamond, also known as Almaz (Алмаз). is an eggplant variety originally bred in Ukraine, developed at the Donetskaya Vegetable Experiment Station. It was brought to the US in 1993 by the co-founder of Seed Savers Exchange, Kent Whealy. The two taller rows of Long Purple adjacent to the Diamonds are from our own seed crop – they germinated about a week earlier, almost as though they remembered this place and were ready. Last year we tried to save Diamond for seed, but deer got in and made a hearty feast with the row of large yellowing fruit. We’ll try again this year.
We had a chance to host a surprise visitor and extremely wonderful human, a student turned traveler, Dorothy, for a few days as she was making her way across the country working on farms and learning all the things. Together we did some cobbing on the back wall in the greenhouse, seeding peppers & eggplants, cleaning up asparagus beds, an apple tree grafting lesson, block printing & a special puppy Polaroid photo session, cooking up the ugly things that are still left in the walk-in from last fall’s harvest, and a few very serious games of Bananagrams and group Wordle. Despite all that, I think the real sparkle-dazzle of farm life truly struck home when she saw our completely amazing (absurd?) martini bar. Thank you for all your help, and smiles, and thoughtful conversation, Dorothy – wishing you such joyful adventures.
Soil blocks with seeds and tiny germinating precious beings are filling shelves in the greenhouse. Of special note: 1. the majority of the seeds we’re planting are ones we’ve grown and saved, these are varieties we’re familiar with and they’re familiar with us, this place, the light and the soil. I very quickly lose all ability to communicate just how spectacular this is. If you will, please imagine a flock of flamingoes taking off from the mangroves of my heart. 2. additionally! we’re now growing seed from local seed grower/gardener friends as well! YEAH! Couer de Bouef and Woodle Orange. We’re excited about this because these are regionally adapted/ing varieties, grown by friends with good taste, and seeds from friends are the coolest thing. 3. The super dooper low temperatures last week (eeps! 10 degrees!?) had us scurrying to cover beds in the greenhouse and bring in the most tender things that wouldn’t make it through those low temps. (Cold weather temps in the greenhouse a generally 10-15 degrees warmer than outside). This means that the floor of our basement, our dining table with wings extended, and an additional giant foldy table set up in the living room are hosting a whole lot of little things that would really rather being getting more light. For a brief while, the kitchen floor became my new place for potting-up, making a good stand-in for our greenhouse work bench. The dogs were very deliberate with their puppy footing and rabble rousing – no seed tray disasters.
In March, we helped out with the annual Spearfish Seed Swap. The public library hosted a community seed exchange box, shared carrot stories with kiddos, and pulled together all their most excellent gardening resources for display and check-out, local seed stewards shared their seed stories online, and Spearfish’s finest ice cream shop made another incredibly delicious seed-themed ice cream flavor in celebration of, celebration with the Seed Swap – crispy crunchy dark chocolatey seed bombs tossed in a milk chocolate ice cream. Oh maaaan. And as part of the Seed Swap seed merriment, we got muddy making wild flower earth dumplings (aka seed bombs) with all sorts of folks excited about creating more pollinator habitat and forage in our community.
In the spirit of celebrating gardens and life, seeds and pollinators, community and community action, I put together a zine as an introduction to earth dumplings. If you’d like your very own copy of the Earth Dumpling zine, here you go. And here are some easy instructions for how to fold it up, with many thanks to artist Ashley Topacio.
And lastly: this photo with Marci taken while warming up in the greenhouse after moving wet, slimy occultation tarps and a whole lot of heavy sand bags in the field on a cold and blustery afternoon. Springtime in a nutshell. Or in a blurry photo.
Thank you, farm friends, amidst so much slimywet and so much heaviness, we are wishing you all a bright and buoyant spring season – T and J