alliums and etch-a-sketch

Flats of onions, leeks, and shallots are spread out on a big foldy table under the window in the living room. More flats are stacked Lincoln-log style on the floor in the middle of the kitchen. Snow this winter is cycling like tides: snowy for a few days, then warm enough to turn everything to slush and mud, then snowy a bit more. Tide was out today – warm in the sunshine, warmer still in the greenhouse making the first soil blocks of the season. Very muddy dog paws.

It occurs to us, as we’re dusting off the ol’ wordpress blog, it has been a while since we’ve updated the farm website. Yes. Hmmm. Well. If you are inclined here is a collection of our weekly CSA farm share newsletters from last season. Otherwise, read on, we’ll give you an abbreviated summary of the state of things here.

We are mid mid-winter reflection and planning. Last year’s growing season helped highlight a slew of ineffective methods and faulty farm systems. During our first few years on the farm, we put systems and methodologies in place – decisions constrained by finances, time, experience, naivety, stubbornness – things that we figured might “work for now, but we’ll change soon” and here we are ten years later.  Like things do, over time, many of these ways and hows have been taken for granted and calcified. Some of these things are still working for us. But many are not. Last season’s weather, failing infrastructure, pests, poor time management, etc. generously, gently highlighted a number of our weak links. Nothing failed, we still had beautiful produce and flowers at the market all season long, but we can tell that if we don’t rearrange some of our practices, we are on an unsustainable trajectory. We are feeling mighty grateful that we have the opportunity to make these changes with space and time, the advice of good farmer friends and mentors, and the patience and support of each other, rather than in a crisis. In light of all this, over these past few months as we’re reflecting on past seasons and planning toward the future, we’ve taken the big, busy and beautiful Etch-a-Sketch that is the farm, turned it upside down and given it a good shake.  Although we are still working through how some of the changes are going to manifest, we have committed to a new bed layout which is forcing a new irrigation set-up, replacing/repairing/rearranging fencing, resizing our low tunnels, we are also laying out new footpaths for more efficient flow around the farm and purchasing some different tools.   

With this farm etch-a-sketch shake down and redraw, we plan to implement a few practices/tools that have a larger carbon footprint (some) compared to the hand work we have relied on in the past (none), but hopefully, in the context of the farm, these changes will lead to a greater overall sequestration of carbon and a faster building of soil organic matter. All the while, again hopefully, allowing our bodies to continue to work on the land for many more years.

In order to get some of these changes made, we will not be growing for our spring market this year. Instead, we are looking forward to using this time to repair and replace farm infrastructure, to tend to the parts we’ve been neglecting, to doodle away on our newly blank etch-a-sketch canvas. We plan to begin harvest for market in June and run through to the end of October/beginning of November.

So here we are: shaking up the etch-a-sketch, the snow globe, the farm, figuring out how to make changes that serve us well into the future, yet are not ultimately rigid and constraining. We are also spending time (though perhaps not as much as either of us would like) working through stacks of winter reading books, tinkering in the wood shop, cooking meals together, and visiting friends and family. We had a chance to spend nearly a month with my (T’s) folks, fueling ourselves for the upcoming year with green chile and posole in New Mexico, then fresh everything – fruit, seafood, margaritas – in Baja. At home, we’ve been feasting merrily on several different fermented hot sauces we put up last summer. (Sugar Rush Peach siracha? My heart!) Jeremy is learning how to use a SP404 magic music machine.  And we’ve been excitedly preparing for selling seeds this spring. Radish is as fuzzy and dear and amazing as ever, and perhaps a bit more so, as she’s now walking around slightly askew after having developed vestibular disease (likely?).  She’s the most endearing wonky, head-tilted, woozy dog in the whole wide world. And Miga is an enchanting bolt of lightning who is far better trained than we can take credit for (thank you, Radish). Our young layer (hen) flock began laying right at the tail end of the year. The ducks are grand. We brought the ducks into the greenhouse for a couple months with the intention of reinvigorating the soil. We’ll relocate them back outside and follow them with a spring cover crop mix in the greenhouse beds (again, no early springs greens this year).  

Also! We are getting ready for a trip to DC.  Last spring, Jeremy was selected to be part of the Land Advocacy Fellowship put on by the National Young Farmers Coalition.  The Fellowship is a cohort of 100 farmers from around the country that are working together to lobby for changes in the 2023 Farm Bill to improve access to secure land tenure for new/aspiring farmers and ranchers.  He will be headed to DC to meet with our elected officials (or more realistically staff members from their offices) at the beginning of March.  More information about the fellowship can be found here.  And a link to an op-ed Jeremy wrote regarding land access published in the Black Hills Pioneer is right here.

And we just found out that Trish will be headed to DC at the same time to participate in the Rally for Resilience, a farmer fly-in focused on climate change and including programs to address this crisis in the Farm Bill as well. This fly-in is with a cohort of farmers and food and agriculture organizations from around the country hosted by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, she’s participating as a member of Dakota Rural Action. We will both be in the nation’s capital at the same time, but we probably won’t get to see each other. Much.

We’ll be sharing more about seed varieties we’ll have available SOON. So many farm favorites we’re looking forward to sharing with you – including Diamond Eggplant (seed photo above). Shake, shake, and cheers, t & j

P.S. Seed Swap season is upon us and you just might be organizing a seed exchange in your own neighborhood, so we’re going to share this again – a zine on Earth Dumplings, just for YOU. Here’s how to cut & fold it.