Hands-free hand washing

During these past two weeks, amid our spring rush to ready the field and get things transplanted, Jeremy and his father hooked up the plumbing in our pack shed. Along with our three basin sink and spray table, we now also have water running to our hand washing sink. We had been using a big blue water jug modified with an added water spigot for hand washing, but we’ve now taken hand washing all the way Uptown with a hands-free day-spa experience (click on this link for a video of this in action).

This is so super slick and simple, we wanted to share construction notes for any other farmer friends who might be looking for something fun to do with all their heaps of spare time. You can also find this and a myriad of other helpful resources, plans, ideas posted on Farm Hack.

Materials we used:

  • wood, scrap boards and 2×4″s
  • small sink basin (we found this one at the ReStore)
  • 1/4″ carriage bolt
  • coupling threaded onto 1/4″ All-Thread rod
  • 4-1/4″ nuts
  • valve – handle drilled with holes
  • 1/8″ eye bolt and nylon locking nuts
  • 1/2″ NPT fitting
  • a faucet (we’re using an old shower head that we picked up for $.25 at a yard sale on the side of the road near Dixon, NM)
  • 2 adjustable spring hinges

How to:

  • Build a frame for your sink. Ours has counter space next to the sink for ? (soap dispenser, towel dispenser, vase of fresh-cut flowers, Jeremy’s loofa, Caboodles, and curling iron, maybe one of those essential oil thingies with diffuser sticks, you know: all the day spa amenities). And being in proximity to food in our packshed, we put splash guard walls on two sides of it.  Currently, our sink drains into a five gallon bucket.
  • In building the frame for the sink, leave space open for the knee bar to swing through (i.e. no legs, deep sink basin, or plumbing/pipes in the way). The knee bar is attached with spring hinges; we have 2, but one would probably be strong enough.
  • The drain valve for winterizing the plumbing has a short bit of pipe at a 45 degree angle which we can also use to fill buckets.
  • We put the on/off valve horizontal (though not quite level so it drains) to match the direction of the push rod. If necessary for your plumbing situation, you could make a replacement handle for the valve facing 90° perpendicular.
  • Drill a series of holes in the valve handle for adjustment or fine tuning.
  • Attach a carriage bolt to the All-Thread using coupling and a couple of lock nuts. Find a path from the valve to the knee bar that by-passes the frame and plumbing. Drill a hole in the back of the knee bar for the head of the carriage bolt to sit in and hold the bolt in place, but free to pivot, with two crossed pieces of plumbers’ tape. Use nuts on the All-Thread to set the knee bar-to-lever distance where you want it and use locking pairs of nuts to hold this in place.
  • Test and adjust.
  • Wash up.

With sparkles and bubbles, t & j

**P.S.! 6/16, edited to add THIS article and THIS video about Stephen Wamukota, a nine-year-old boy from Kenya who, in response to the Corona virus outbreak, invented/designed/built a genius hands-free handwashing station – pedal powered – with hand sanitizer dispenser. <3

a May(hem) montage

So many warm and happy greetings from Cycle Farm! We’ve been sending out weekly farm updates via emails to our farm share members  for a month now and have realized that without our routine springtime farm community events, there are many in our broader community of farm friends that we haven’t had a chance to catch up with these days and we’re missing time with you all. This is a collection of snapshots (mostly annotated) from the farm these past couple of weeks, highlights from the most recent week’s share member newsletter, and a brief update as to where we are in the season. We are sending this out with love and hope it finds you doing well, keeping busy, and eating something seasonal and delicious, wherever you happen to be.Currently on the farm we have three lambs, a young soon-to-be laying flock, and a brooder full of Freedom Ranger meat birds. The lambs, Emily, Oliver, and Budbill, are just recently weaned and still exceedingly snuggly. The not-quite-yet layers treat the lambs like playground equipment. The lambs don’t seem to be thrilled about this. The brooder birds have quickly phased from cutie little peepers into their partial feathers, haggard and ragged look and whole-hearted dissident punk attitude. I think they’re staying up late listening to Rancid records, making art stencils, and compiling their angst and diy ethics into zines. They are at least pooping everywhere and scratching all the feed out of their feeders, no doubt because the feeder is an indisputable symbol of authoritarianism. Last week we put the lambs to in graze an area that we had seeded last fall with a rye and vetch cover crop. They took to the task without hesitation, the chickens followed suit. A lot of full crops and contented ruminations. The photos below show the rye/vetch field, in the lower photo: on the left is what they’ve grazed down in two days, on the right is where we’re just about to move them.The field rows are filling in. It seems as though most of our time is being spent hauling stuff: carts of straw mulch, wheel barrows of compost, buckets of weeds, buckets of grain for chickens, flats of young, tender green plants, and the live trap with BunBuns and then, later, Mrs. Bun-Buns. Some things look awesome, some – not so hot. We’ve had trouble with some direct seeded crops (mostly due to flea beetles), and accepting of this, we’ve transplanted out starts from the greenhouse in their stead – that is to say we’re bummed about the spring turnips that didn’t even really have a chance to set true leaves, but the rainbow Swiss chard transplants we plunked down in the bed instead look great. We have a couple self-inflicted weed issues that have been and will take time over the course of the summer – a trailer load of oat straw that we’re using to mulch beds is rich in oat seed, which means now all our vegetable beds have a lush oat cover crop coming up, and after making a few batches of soil block mix with vermicompost, we discovered that last year we hid a butt tonne of flowering stinging nettle in the worm bin. On the plus side, stinging nettle appears to be great at increasing circulation and easing soreness in tired, achy hands.The snap and snow peas are climbing up up UP. The onions look great. Jeremy’s hands have completed their annual transition to 80-grit sandpaper.Last week, Jeremy and his father, David, finished up a construction project in the pack shed.  We now have a big, empty, sparkly new wall. This puts us another step toward having the packshed all set up and functioning super smooth AND gives us an excellent location for art – we are accepting any and all mural ideas.  (fyi octopus is off the list, we already have the world’s most amazing octopus). Two observations regarding wearing masks during construction work, an advantage and a disadvantage: the mask blocks unpleasant dust/mold/junk associated with working on an old building however it’s mighty inconvenient for people who are used to holding nails/screws in their mouth as they work. Last week we also sprayed Biodynamic preparation 500, this is our ninth season with preps on the farm.  Spraying 500 always seems to happen when our to-do list is over the top and we are feeling behind despite being in go-go-go mode. And this requires us to sit and focus, to pull our attentions and intentions together; this practice fosters observation, humility, and patience. It was a good opportunity to reflect and meditate on the farm with a special focus on all these leafy green solar panels collecting energy from the sun, exuding sugars into the soil, and feeding our soil microbes and diversity of life around us, and to help us grow good, healthy food. In short, things around here are busy busy and beautiful, and we’re feeling especially grateful for all of it, even the 500 billion baby nettles in our soil blocks.

Oh yes! AND we’d like to share a collection of things we’ve found of interest and delight these past couple weeks…

  • Orion’s new series of letters from isolation, Together Apart, especially so this one.
  • Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach.
  • This poem by John O’Donnell and read aloud by Billy Collins in an interview on Sugar Calling.
  • Even though we know just enough about basketball to know they aren’t the Yukon Huskies, The Ramshackle Garden Of Affection, a collection of letters between Ross Gay and Noah Davis
  • for SoDak friends: the Sicangu Community Development Corporation and Dakota Rural Action are in cahoots to rally the masses in a distanced celebration of food – join the party, come to the table.
  • And a bit of fascinating science about bumble bees – they are AMAZING.

farm stand nuts and bolts

A special note to share members and farm stand customers:

Thank you all so much for being so flexible and patient as we figure out, tinker with, and fine tune our produce distribution. Saturday mornings have once again become such a bright and joyous part of our weeks. And thank you for sharing so many cheery emails and photos – we appreciate these so much!

As we are considering safe produce distribution, we’ve given much thought to masks at the farm stand. Lots of folks have been wearing masks when they swing by to pick up produce, and others have asked if they should/need to. Although our market area is open air and there is a considerable amount of space to distance ourselves, we would appreciate if you would please wear a mask when coming by the farm stand. It is important to us that the farm is a place where people feel welcome and safe and cared for, and, as such, we would like to encourage everyone to wear masks and practice physical distancing. For as much as we focus on the vigor and productivity of our soil biology and crops, and tend to the apparent comfort and well-being of our animals, we are also very much concerned with the health and happiness of our community. You all are mighty dear to our hearts, and we will continue to work hard to do all that we can to keep you healthy and safe. And we’ll ask for your help in this by keeping distance between yourself and others and wearing a mask while at the farm stand – small ways in which we can be extra-specially gentle with and supportive of each other right now.Having said this, please don’t fret if you forget your mask. We are all learning how to navigate these days, and we absolutely do not want to add any stress or anxiety to your plate. Only good, delicious vegetables. Our farm food safety practices will continue, and we will be wearing masks, regularly washing our hands and disinfecting farm stand counter tops. We are committed to helping provide a friendly, safe, and easy shopping experience for you all. And if you need a mask, Trish has made several washable, reusable cotton masks available for free. If you need multiple masks, or masks for your business, contact makeSPACE, a rad non-profit organization in Spearfish that has been coordinating volunteer mask making for and distribution to our hospital care workers, local businesses, and community members.One more thing: Bag options. We have plastic bags or we have cloth bags. The cloth bags are available to borrow and bring back; when you return bags, please set them on or next to the green bench on the porch of the farm stand. These will be washed and re-used. Let us know which, cloth/plastic, you prefer. If you bring your own bags, we’ll gather your order and just ask that you load your own bags.

As always, we welcome your thoughts at any point, please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions, concerns or suggestions. We are profoundly grateful for our farm-community relationship, for your care and support – thank you for your patience and positivity as we work to figure out the best ways to move forward.

Your farmers, Trish and Jeremy

2019, a year of birds on (and off) the farm

We’re a bit tardy in our bird end-of-year-recap. Yes. And we have every assortment of excuse, but we’ll spare you.  We invite you to muster your imagination, make yourself a cup of hot tea, pretend like it is mid-January and that we have our act together.

As regards bird friends, 2019 was quieter on the farm than the previous two years, perhaps due to (lack of) deliberation and intensity of monitoring.  In looking at the weekly species count, we can see how the cold snowy start to the year delayed spring migration and stretched it out a bit, but the overall trend matches well with earlier seasons. Last spring, we also had fewer birds making nests on the farm; nesting birds included house sparrows, starlings, house finches, Eurasian collared-doves, and chickadees. Of note: there were half as many successful robin clutches in 2019 as 2018 which suggests that the cold, snowy spring may have been especially hard for some of the common bird species.

We had several species that were surprising in their absence: spring wood ducks looking for nesting cavities, turkeys, only one hummingbird, no orioles, and the fall sparrows didn’t dally at all on their way south.

Even though the season was quiet, we did have nine new species observed on the farm in 2019. Prairie Falcon, American Kestrel, Common Merganser, Warbling Vireo, Tennessee and Black-and-White Warblers, Eastern Phoebe, LaConte’s Sparrow, and an absolutely stunning male Ring-Necked Pheasant showed up on our back porch the day before Thanksgiving.   We had ninety-four known species on the farm, plus a number of mystery birds that either didn’t make it on the list or were hesitantly added and labeled “sp.”

You’ll notice on the graph two considerable gaps in data collection. Mid-summer, we had a chance to celebrate Jeremy’s little brother’s wedding in Norway, and in December we took time to visit Trish’s parents in Baja California, Mexico.  So, although our birding experience at home on the farm was relatively unembellished, the variety of birds we had a chance to see throughout the year was probably the most diverse we will ever experience. Mid-summer Sea Eagles, Puffins, and Arctic Terns feeding their fluffy babies under the midnight sun (!), AND, in December, an estuary full of shorebirds, cardon cactus covered with sunning vultures at sunrise, and four kinds of hummingbirds assertively sharing the feeder at our casita.

Another possibility for the reduced sightings of birds over this year is that being off-farm for almost eight weeks meant that we were working more deliberately, more focused on getting tasks done, and Jeremy’s attentions were wandering off towards the branches and the sky a little less, but that seems unlikely.

Lastly, because it is already May and we are mid-Spring migration here is a link to the Migration Celebration reggae playlist we put together last year. And a poem by Billy Collins, one that speaks dearly to Trish’s relationship with bird watching.

We hope this note finds you all happy and healthy and enjoying joyous intimacies with your gregarious, feathered neighbors. Love, T and J

P.S. For those of you interested in specifics, here is a link to our 2019 weekly bird species monitoring list and check out ebird for a deep dive into the magic of citizen science.

P.P.S! If you are interested in Cycle Farm’s previous years’ bird summaries, here you go: 2017 and 2018.

COVID-19, Spring Planning and Thoughts…

…topsy turvy tidings and an update from the farm. 

Hello Farm Friends,

Wishing you warm greetings.  These days, we are all feeling our familiar patterns and routines turned upside down and inside out.  While social distancing and without our annual seed swap and Pi(e) Day festivities, it feels strange not to be gathering with our community to share the excitement of the change in seasons.  We’re missing our visits, joyous conversations, and anticipatory early season farm tours.  As the pace of springtime quickens, we are socially still in our depths of winter behavior: snug inside, warm meals, books and paperwork and phone calls with friends.  The farm, however, is moving into spring just as it should be.  There is now a lengthening list of springtime work to be done: soil blocks being mixed and made, seeds to start and little ones to pot up or plant out, beds to prepare and mulch.  Our first batch of chicks is scheduled to arrive in two weeks and hopefully three bum lambs soon too.  And, of course, the sudden re-awakening of all of the invertebrates and first hints at spring bird migration have us frequently looking to see who just flew (flitted, scrittered, or squirmed) by.  Life is humming along and all around us are things to delight and take comfort in: familiar bulbs popping up and ready to flower, tree buds swelling, grass growing greener, days growing longer, meaningful work to do.

At this point we are still planning to open up our farm stand this spring with fresh greens from the field and greenhouse, probably in late April.  We will make several modifications to our traditional market set-up in order to minimize risk and promote the safety of our share members, customers, and farm crew.  We’ll be discussing with our share members possible alternatives for improved/preferred methods for distributing produce.  We are paying close attention to how the situation is progressing and as new information comes out are looking to a number of different farm advocacy and food safety organizations for guidance.  We are working hard to be prepared and remain flexible in order to do what’s best for our community.

We will keep in touch with further updates as they become available, and, as always, please feel free to email/call with any questions or concerns. If you are experiencing food insecurity or need assistance in purchasing our produce, please contact us about our discount farm shares.

Over these past few weeks, we have been thinking of you all while we put our hands in the soil. As always, though with particularly acute significance now, it is such an honor to grow food for you and your families. Take care of each other and stay well and stay home. We’re looking forward to sharing the season with you.

With love and gratitude,

Trish and Jeremy

P.S. We’d like to share a list of things that have brought us joy these past few weeks. And things that may offer some helpful diversion while you are at home with your wifi.

The Peace of Wild Things, a poem by the venerable Wendell Berry

The No Regrets Soil Health Primer, a delightful wormhole of resources to explore and learn from.

Universe in Verse, a beautiful conglomeration of science and poetry, truth and beauty.

KEXP’s El Sonido and Wo’Pop, you can stream these any ol’ time you want here.

…and with a nod to the imminent and eagerly awaited spring migration, here’s our Migration Riddim agrarian mix.

*Re: social distancing, Although Jerm is entirely onboard with the functionality of social distancing in the present situation, he deeply dislikes the semantics of the term.

agrarian riddims, vol. 7

 

IMG_8085Every summer, or in this case fall, 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.

You’ll hear in this year’s selection a cool, slow start to the season, an atypical jaunt off-farm mid-growing frenzy, and heaps of gratitude for our incredible farm sitters (shout out to Marci, Regina and Tom K).

For more good riddims, check out our previous compilations: vol. 1vol.2side Cvol.4, and vol.5, and vol. 6. Agrarian riddims mix-tape vol.7 is available as a youtube playlist here or tune into individual tracks below. We also hear that there have been Spotify playlists made for past compilations, but you’ll have to find those on your own.

Chronixx :: I Can

Hortense Ellis :: Jah Created the World

The Heptones :: Garden of Life

Tarrus Riley :: Farmer’s Anthem

Mungo’s Hi-Fi featuring Black Champagne :: Working Harder

Clinton Fearon with Sherine Fearon :: Gimme Some

Juliette Ashby :: Grow Like a Seed

Peter Metro :: Vegetable Dish

Moken Nunga :: Your Sun is Rising

Rico Rodriguez :: Work Song

Burning Spear :: Travelling

Koffee :: Toast

Noah Powa :: Nah Nyam It

Marcia Griffiths :: Green Grasshopper

Tenna Star :: Flowers in my Garden

Sam Carty :: Life is a Flower

Tonton David :: Big Up Les Fermiers

Dub Dynasty :: Monsoon Come

Captain Cumbia :: Garden of Love

And it feels silly that it took us six years of making these playlists to come across Aurora Innovations and their mixes.  Check them out if you want even more farming inspired reggae.

Shared with love and big thanks,
Your farmers,
Jeremy and Trish

lavender, lacewings, and lucky lollygagging

Make yourself a cocktail and settle in, friends, we have a guest post by Regina Fitzsimmons!

We asked our friend, farm care taker, and favorite writer, Regina, if she would write a little ditty to share with our farm friends, something about her experience these past few weeks on the farm. Between cross-country road travels, family wedding celebrations, and preparing for the fall semester – she did. Regina is a proficient farm dog snuggler, apple and (newly!) lavender aficionado, master potato beetle squisher(even though it’s so gross), mighty delicious cocktail maker, care taker of all things, care maker for all things, ever haloed in tenderness, delight, and wonder, and, amidst so much more, she is certainly one of the world’s most talented and thoughtful word crafters. AND the included photos are ones she took and shared with us (so let’s just add Official And Amazing Farm Photographer to the list too). Regina, thank you, dear friend. Our hearts are full of flamingos. – T&J


Yesterday I packed up my car with a cooler full of kale, a precious carton of rainbow-pastel eggs, a heavenly jar of dried garlic scape powder, and a golden-yellow bottle of homemade limoncello. I just glanced down at my shirt, and noticed little tufts of Radish fur—from my goodbye squeeze yesterday morning. I can hardly believe I get to write these words: For the last month, Cycle Farm was home. 

When Trish and Jeremy told me they were whizzing across the Atlantic for a family wedding, during a hustle-bustle harvest month, I was reminded—as I always am with these two—of their unceasing generosity. It is no small thing to pack up a bag, say goodbye to the best dog in the world, and leave a home and livelihood in the hands of somebody else. But Trish and Jeremy did so with ever-present kindness, trust, lightness and humor, enthusiasm, not to mention a kind of superhuman bottomless patience for my litany of questions—including real winners like, “Wait, but how do you pick up a chicken again?” or “Which one of these is the vegetable and which one is the weed?” 

This might be stating the obvious, but hot tamale: The difference between working at a farm and running one is as staggering as the difference between a garden snake and a rattler. I’ve worked on a lot of farms over the years, but prior to this summer, my farm days have always looked relatively similar, regardless of locale: my mornings and afternoons were buttressed by some effortful work and a lot of zoning out. I’ve experienced negligible, if not non-existent, foresight or hindsight. I’ve always had a farm boss who’s told me exactly what to do, how to do it, and when to do that thing. I’ve rarely registered an entire landscape, I’ve instead zeroed in on one task: planting a row of onions, seeding a tray of lettuce, attempting to harvest a pile of potatoes without stabbing too many of them with my pitchfork. 

The farmers that I admire, though, are a direct inverse of my obliviousness. They are always attentive, eternally alert. I suspect there’s no greater land steward than a farmer. I am moved by their ethics, their Herculean strength, their flexibility, dependability, and ever-present observation. The farmers I admire are never not paying attention—they’re cognizant of the quality and moisture of the soil, of the number and variety of the pollinators, of the invasives, the water quality and rainfall, the aridity and humidity, the weather and projected weather and the weather trends from last season, and so on. They’re thinking about saving seed for next year, or the planting schedule in years to follow. They’re aware in a way I’m not sure I’ve ever been aware, of an entire ecosystem at their fingertips. Trish and Jeremy are farmers like that. 

While I gallantly attempted to emulate these two, I am still very much the bumbling farmer that I ever was. And I’m not being self-deprecating! Lemme paint y’all a picture: This past month I misidentified lavender *quite literally* more times than I correctly identified it. I excitedly emailed Trish some pictures of onion seed, only to be so gently informed that those were, in fact, not onions at all. I weeded a baby beet bed and probably yanked out upward of 10 mini beet stems in my haphazard process. When a chicken flew directly toward my face I literally barked, “COULD YOU NOT!?” And then I promptly burst out laughing, the noise of which thoroughly startled all the birds who zoomed away from me as fast as their little scaly legs would let them. Suffice it to say, it was a super solid, very brave move, to let me steer this farm ship in their stead.

Thankfully, I didn’t do this alone. For a few days, I was joined by Tom, who tirelessly weeded and planted potatoes that are now leafing out, promising delectable abundance in months to come. For a few solid weeks, I was also joined by Marci, who expertly irrigated all the fields, and trellised cucumbers and tomatoes with astounding attention to detail and care. During some of the hottest days, she and I took shelter indoors and swapped stories that were so funny, my face ached from the laugh-tears. There were also a few days when Radish and I flew solo—a thought that had initially made me nervous, to shoulder so much responsibility, but turned out to be downright peachy. Radish has a warm way of quelling any sort of worry. She and I dipped our toes and paws in Spearfish Creek on the daily, and she seemed to sense anytime I was feeling worried; she’d wriggle under my arms, squeeze tightly into my side, nuzzling in as close as she could so there wasn’t a trace of space between us. Looking back, I’m overcome by the total delight of all this companionship. These farm friends made my days feel so rich, vibrating with energy and color, zest and flavor, humor and comfort. 

It feels both moving and a little sorrowful, looking back at Cycle Farm in the rearview. This morning—my first daybreak away from the chickens and good dog—felt a bit strange, a little lifeless. It’s just after six in the morning as I type this, and looking ahead, my day seems blandly devoid of structure. During the weeks spent at Cycle Farm, my days began at first light, when I stumbled out the backdoor to feed the ensemble of symphonic chickens. I thought of Jeremy this morning, now resuming this routine. I glanced at my clock, wondering if he was walking toward the chicken house at that very moment, booting the roosting hens from their little cubbies, greeting them with gentle hellos and breakfast goodies. This past month my days closed at last light, tucking them in—a task now back in the skilled hands of T & J. I am comforted that the farm is back in their far more capable care, but I also miss, in a selfish way, the chance I had to learn with and from this landscape. For the past month, I’ve tried to study this ecosystem, to attempt to look and listen the way T & J look and listen. I wish I could’ve given as much as T & J give on the daily. And yet, I’m also buoyed by the notion that ultimately, I did the best I could. Everything I did, I did to nourish something else. And the farm, in turn, gave so much more—it never stopped gifting. There’s an everlasting indebtedness there, that I neither deserved nor earned. And yet, it was still gifted to me. What I’m feeling now is an undiluted delight in reciprocity. It feels so good to give; it feels so very precious to be taken care of.

There’s something I thought about so often this past month, that I thought I might also share here. I found myself reflecting on my very first visit to Cycle Farm. My friends Avery, Craig, and I zoomed over to Spearfish, to take a peek at T & J’s new home, before it had really revved into gear. Trish and Jeremy had just touched down in Spearfish and already two things were growing: garlic and bulbous radishes. I remember Trish uprooted one of the radishes for me to nibble—my first taste of the bounty to come. I kept rewinding that old memory these past few weeks. Cycle Farm seems unrecognizable, compared to that first glimpse. It’s always been beautiful to me, but it has also transformed into a truly astounding landscape. It is a carbon sequestering machine. It invites a host of birds and butterflies, friendly bugs and wiggling snakes—it is a regenerative biodiverse landscape in its very essence. Also. Guys. Can we just take a second to talk about the POETRY DISPENSER inside the farm stand!? WHAT MAGIC IS THIS!? There’s watercolor and block prints everywhere; the artistry is as skillful as it is gorgeous. Everything is handmade.   

Over the years, I have had the fortune to work with and learn from many farmers and land stewards. I also studied agriculture in school, which provided a different, albeit more bookish, agrarian education. All in all, there have been few who’ve taught and inspired me as much as these two. In such a short number of years, they’ve grown something that I struggle to articulate in words—there’s simply so much happening. The restoration, the regeneration, the animal husbandry, the seed saving, the continual pivot away from motorized equipment—everything you see is done by hand. The farm embodies intention, reflection, and thoughtfulness.  

Additionally, I’ve had the equally great fortune to work on a few farms that seemed to embody joy, where the work felt vital and important, but also fortified by levity, forgiveness, and good humor. I realized, while writing this post this morning, that I’ve had a smile plastered to my face while doing so. Cycle Farm’s got all the good vibes. As does the community in Spearfish who were so kind, so endlessly welcoming to me, offering help, laughter, and friendship everywhere I turned. It’s possible, I imagine, to feel alone and pretty freaked out, keeping a farm going in a farmers’ stead. But I always felt the inverse. I was continually looked after, supported both by the farm and by this kind and heart-filled community nestled in the Black Hills. 

Gosh, saying goodbye is like a sucker punch. I’ve never successfully driven down the whole length of Evans Lane without pulling over to dry my eyes. I also leave Cycle Farm kinder and gentler than when I arrived—my friends bring out the best in all living things. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. Cycle Farm has a quiet way of grounding us with humor, of refilling bellies and hearts, of tethering us to kindness, and of restoring hope during times when care and decency feels in short supply. Thinking about it all just makes me sit here and smile. I’m shaking my head, too, having just murmured aloud: How did we all get to be so lucky? 

a public outcry of affection, gratitude, and glee

Jeremy and I just returned from a mid-summer adventure to Norway to celebrate Jeremy’s little brother’s wedding …and gorge on wild blueberries.  A mid-summer jaunt off-farm has never occurred before and likely never will again. But this trip was spectacular and memories will more than satiate any future pangs for summer holiday.  Our friends Marci, Regina, and Tom took hold of the spinny pirate wheel of this drifting ship in our absence and navigated gracefully through July into August.

We were able to relax and enjoy our travels, knowing the farm was in good hands. And let me tell you (i.e. gush) just a bit about these hands.  Marci is a geologist and polar research scientist who has been spending her time alternating between seasons in Antarctica and the middle of Greenland. She is basically a badass; she even has experience with wizardry(!). This summer, she took a break in order to put her hands in the soil and soak up some >90 deg & 100% humidity in western South Dakota. Her attention to detail (check out this photo she took below – lacewing eggs spotted on a snow pea during harvest), keen memory, sweet sense of humor, and stories about polar gigantism consistently have us in a state of rapture.

Regina is a dearest friend who has been a part of Cycle Farm since before there was a Cycle Farm. She is a desert dweller, currently residing in the mountains of Montana, where she’s working on her MFA in telling stories that need to be told.  She has been here for us (or on the phone) through all of our ups and downs; she was even present for our very first harvest – a radish!  Regina has aided and abetted in all sorts of farm fun from fencing projects, a solar eclipse, afternoon gin and ginger ales, native pollinator nesting box building, spitter apple identification, and serious puppy dog snuggling. She is an ever present voice of reason and unreasonable enthusiasm on the phone. Radish adores her to the moon and back. And we do too.

Tom is a barefoot buddha finishing his senior year of high school. We got to know Tom last year when he expressed interest in small scale organic farming and offered to come help out on the farm. We don’t ever want him to go away. Not only is he a competent worker, he’s a bright, insightful, thoughtful, and kind human – and a great weeding conversation partner. He traverses our insanity with practiced patience and sparkly smiles, and sometimes even joins in on the madness.  He is the youth that makes you feel like the world is headed in an ok direction after all.

In short, these are three of the world’s most sensible, capable, compassionate, thoughtful and intelligent souls – all generously offering of their time and attention to keep this little piece of land, these old hens and sweet farm dog, the butterflies and bumblebees, potatoes and extremely imperfect irrigation set-up afloat.  It feels wholly humbling and we are so very grateful, from the bottom of our muddy, mucky hearts.

And, lastly, to Nick and Veronika, may you continue always to be sweet and lovely to, supportive of, and patient with each other. We are so deeply happy for you both and grateful to have been able to share your lovey-dovey day with you! Congratulations!

a melodious jumble

What we’ve been up to, in brief.

The field is greening up, slower than anticipated with stalls for snowstorms and wet weather. Snow peas, snap peas, and favas look awesome. On the other hand the sweet peas look …pretty peaked. As we rotate beds in the greenhouse, we have been looking at crops in the field, anxious about how we’re going to fill the farm stand for the next couple weeks. Grow, greens, grow.

Jeremy and his father, David, made good use of the snowy weather and put up a couple of doors on our pack shed. The are sliding barn-style doors, the rail and sliding roller thingies are salvaged closet door hardware from the old Mormon church-turned-house in town. So that has us feeling pretty fancy.

Spring bird migration highlights include: a male Blackpoll Warbler, Swainson’s Thrushes, about 25 Lark Sparrows (with their 80’s toy laser gun song), and the first Warbling Vireo we’ve seen on the farm.

We sprayed BD prep 500 and barrel compost earlier this spring and, later, harmonized the ponderosa tree. We’ve been spraying preparations on the farm for seven years now, but the tree harmonizing was new for us. This gave Jeremy an opportunity to try out dowsing rods and the plasticity of my masters degree.

The inordinate Fedco bulb order Jeremy placed last fall has been erupting all over everywhere. Not quite a visual cacophany, but nearly. Along with crocuses and hyacinths, and pert near every other thing, Jeremy insisted on ordering tulips. I protested: tulips are bougie symbols of economic hegemony. Well, he planted them anyway. And then they popped up as bright and elegant, candid blooms of pure joy. Apparently I love tulips. Plus, I just found out that tulips are the eleventh anniversary flower. Jeremy planted these last fall, eleven years after we first met. So sweet.

Last week we had the opportunity to organize a bicycle scavenger hunt for Spearfish Bike to Work Week. The ride theme, the Birds and the Bees, was a tribute to our local avian and invertebrate inspired sights.

Not only do we now finally have a bike rack, we’ve also installed a poetry dispenser at the farm stand! This is something we’ve been thinking about ever since first coming across a poetry dispenser at the public library in Bozeman several years ago. Language and land! Peas and poesy! All the very best things!

It has been a quiet spring this year without lambs blaaaaaahing for milkshakes and chicks in the brooder sunroom.  Radish, the hens, and worms are bearing the brunt of all our affections, but they seem to be handling it well.     

Also, farm share members(!), we’ve been celebrating the season’s greens by eating miso soup, with regularity, and gusto. Just broth and greens (any greens, all the greens: spinach, turnip greens, radish greens, arugula, kale, scallions, green garlic) are super simple and super amazing – or, if we’re feeling fancypants, we’ll add noodles, sauteed shiitakes, sliced spring turnips or radishes, an egg… Such a quick and easy feast and it accommodates seemingly everything and anything from the field/fridge. Check out this link for some great miso-soupy inspiration. If miso is new to you, it’s a fermented bean paste (gf) – we’ve had luck finding this in the fridge section at our awesome local natural food stores. We like the red miso, but whatever makes you happy. If you’re looking for good, sustainably harvested sea weed and want to support a rad seaweed steward, we’d recommend Ironbound Island.

Very merry spring tidings from the farm and your farmers, t&j

Migration celebration

In honor of our influx of feathered spring visitors* and in a most productive use of a cold, wet May day**, we’d like to share with you a special mix-tape love letter, a Migration Celebration. Ovation and tintinnabulations!

This is along the lines of our annual Agrarian Riddims compilations (for especially enjoyable listening, they are located here: vol.1vol.2side Cvol.4vol.5, and vol.6), so tune in and turn it up. The migration mix-tape is available as a YouTube playlist here, or you can select individual tracks below. This compilation goes out with big ups and special thanks to our friends Tom (reggae) and Greg and Mary Beth (birds).

Migration Celebration riddims mix-tape track list:

The Wisdom Band :: Migration Season

The Silvertones :: Bluebirds Flying Over

Prince Alla :: Jah Jah Bird

Israel Vibration :: Vultures

Sister Nancy :: Pegion Rock

Fat Freddy’s Drop :: Blackbird

Errol Dunkley :: Betcha By Golly Wow

Elijah Prophet :: Mother Nature

The Paragons :: Silver Bird

Derrick Harriott :: Fly Robin, Fly

Winston Groovy :: Yellow Bird

Little Roy :: Black Bird

The Blues Busters :: Wings of a Dove

Teddy Magnus :: Flying Machine

Sherwin Gardner :: Eye on the Sparrow

The Paragons and Rosalyn Sweat :: Blackbird Singing

U-Roy :: Birds of a Feather

Les Migrants :: Hymne aux migrants

and, albeit slightly out of place genre-ly, this one too, DakhaBrakha :: Vesna

 

With special love and admiration for all our migrant brethren,

Trish and Jeremy

 

P.S. A few more migration pathways to wander, if you are interested: A fascinating study and amazing photography (a SoDak photographer!) of animal migrations in Yellowstone National Park. Michael McCarthy’s beautiful book The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy. Bernd Heinrich’s Homing Instinct, Meaning and Mystery in Animal Migration. And, if you are able and inclined, consider supporting this salient humanitarian aid organization doing work in support of migrants in the Mexico-US borderlands. (ALSO! 6/13/2019 edited to add:: this article just published in the NYTimes, These Animal Migrations are Huge – and Invisible by Carl Zimmer)

*In the last two days new visitors include a House Wren, Swainson’s Thrushes, a Harris’s Sparrow, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Common Yellowthroats, an Empidonax Flycatcher, a Loggerhead Shrike, Yellow Warblers, a pair of Spotted Towhees, Brewer’s Sparrows, two Mourning Doves, and our first on-farm American Kestrel.

**In other words, we took a deviation from vegetation cultivation and had a vacation simulation which has improved our inclination for motivation.