lemon meringue and honeydew

We just got extremely excited about this and want to share.

While we are working in the field, we also spend a good amount of time inspecting little critters and watching birds, admiring nitrogen nodules and thanking earth worms. This evening, we noticed aphids on several of the dandelion roots we excavated, and always with the aphids were one or two brilliant golden ants. Rad. The sun was lowering in the sky, the plums along the north line were blooming sweetly, and every now and again there was a very distinct smell of lemons. Lemons? I pointed it out. Jeremy confirmed it. Weird. Keep working, it’s still light, lots of work to do. And then we pieced it together: the lemon smell was coming from the dandelion roots… with aphids… with ants. So we speculated back and forth, and then went in and Googled.

THIS IS SO COOL.

These little golden ants are lemon-scented ants (some sites call them “citronella ants”, I prefer “magical shimmery golden lemon meringue ants”). They collect and eat honeydew from aphids that feed off of dandelion roots. Honeydew is a lovely term for plant nutrients and sugars excreted by aphids. The ants’ lemon scent is an irritant to predators and a warning to their friend-ants that something is amok.So these magical golden lemon meringue ants are little dairy farmers, tending herds of aphids on the roots of dandelions (which are in and of themselves crazy fantastic magical, dynamic accumulating, tap-rooted, bee-feeding, photo-sensitive, wish granting plants). The ants drink honeydew, they glimmer like sunshine, and they smell as sweet as a lemon tree. This is the stuff of fairy tales. Only it’s real. And in our soil.This is a pretty crap image of one of these (elusive) magical shimmery golden lemon meringue ants. Can you see her? She was not interested in having her photo taken. She looks orange. I swear, she’s really golden. And shimmery. And she smells like lemons. Lemons! Jeremy’s hands are, in fact, that dirty.

¡Viva la hormiga! and magical shimmery love, t

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winter, farm visitors!

A productive, restful winter.
Woolly socks, hot tea, the melodica, seed catalogs and Sibley’s bird guide. Beans and potatoes. And eggs. Building a gate for the chicken yard, scheming mobile coop designs, reviewing conference notes, reflecting on last year’s growing season, planning for this year’s. Baking bread and stirring resistance. A hammock in the greenhouse, cross country skis by the door, books by the couch… and on the table, and on the floor, and by the bed. And visitors!vicious-birdsWe’ve had a couple predatory birds visit the farm over the last month. A Northern Shrike briefly took up residence in our greenhouse, helping with pest management. And yesterday we happened to see a Eastern Screech owl peeking out of a basswood tree. Our chickens don’t seem to mind the company and are laying abundantly.

We’ve also had a couple friends visit the farm over the last month. Thomas came from Washington bearing whisky, reggae on vinyl, and a big stack of NYT crossword puzzles… *sigh*… winter. Radish enjoyed having a ski-mate and perfecting her newest trick, hoop-jumping. We enjoyed having help with our seed inventory and cleaning up the greenhouse after the shrike massacre (3 mice, 7 house sparrows, decapitated and impaled on popsicle sticks. eeew).And then our friend, Gordon, and his sweet basset travel companion, Dot, were snowbound here on their way back home. Several of our trees are from Gordon’s fruit tree nursery in northern New Mexico. We took the opportunity to walk through our young orchard with him, and learn more about orchard management, tree health, and practice grafting techniques.gordon-tooley-visitAnd now the house is empty, the futon is folded up. The seed orders are in. The days are growing noticeably longer. The greenhouse is seeded with every sort of spring green, turnips, radishes and beets. We’re looking forward to a few sunny days to help with soil temperature and germination. seeding-greenhouse-feb-5feb-2017-photo-montage2While we anticipate fresh greens, farm feastings have been mostly a whole lot of soups, and squash pie, and fermented things. When you have a chance, check out this exceptionally delicious, new favorite recipe for fermented hot sauce, also lovely kraut crocks.

Thanks, friends. Siempre adelante.

spring, move out, go forth

Spring’s on, full speed ahead.  The grapevines are budding, the peas are winding out their tendrils, and the chokecherries are a buzz with a buzzillion pollinators. The apples have lost their pretty petals, the plums are fading, we’re feasting on the first asparagus. The mass exodus to the field from the greenhouse has begun; napas, bok choi, lettuces, mustard greens, kale. Here is a photo update of things in motion, in disarray.grapes lettuce garlicOne of the types of kale we’re growing (of six total) is a variety planted from seed saved from our very first gardening adventure together six years ago. We picked up the kale as starts at the farmers market in Santa Fe from a woman who sold duck eggs, herbs, and art work made out of turkey feathers. Having not kept track of the true variety name, we’ve been calling it Mu’s Blue, after our friend Mu who hosted our first garden plot. Mu’s Blue has been with us so long, these plants are almost like family. planting out kalesplanting out mustardsThe first batch of broilers have also transitioned from the brooder out to the small tractors. We’re keeping these guys close for a bit, so we can more easily shelter them from the cool evening temperatures (and ever-threatening snow) while they get their feathers on. They’ll head out to the larger tractor in the orchard in a few days.chicken tractorsSeveral of our hens have gone broody. There are no roosters in the flock, so this behavior is all for naught. Because they stop laying eggs when they get broody, we’ve been scooping them up and tossing them out of the coop every time we’re in there. Lately, three of them have decided that there is strength in numbers and they piled up together in one nesting box to thwart us. Ridiculous.hen and broody birdsNews from the greenhouse: Jerm found a really rad parasitoid wasp in the spinach bed last week (Ichneumonidae). These wasps don’t sting or bite, they are good guys. Good in that they consume pollen and nectar and lay eggs in other insects. When the eggs hatch, their young/larvae develop inside the host insect, eating the insect host from the inside as they grow. The incubator insects are aphids and caterpillars, beetles, scales, true bugs, and flies. Welcome to the farm, friend. Hoorah for biodiversity.wasp seeding spinachThis has been our first spring using soil blocks and we’re really happy with them. The starts look great and transplanting is easier – both on us and the plants. We pulled out the last of the greenhouse spinach bed this week to make way for radishes, carrots, and cucumbers. We harvested 50.75 lbs of spinach from this bed over six weeks! Also, and lastly, we found a spinach leaf the size of Jeremy’s face.

best of beards

Cycle Farm, bearded since 2012.

Dear friends,

It has occurred to me that our photos from the farm show a decisively striking trend (granted, a trend that’s generally decisive, but not at all striking, regarding perhaps most farms). Beards. Humbly, I have compiled a ‘best of’ collection, beards from the farm which I am so very, very pleased to share with you. These images are wildly uncanny, at times ridiculous, and admittedly enchanting. It is with enormous joy that I present to you the following assemblage of bearded charm from Cycle Farm over these past few years.

With warm regards, Trish

best beard club1ibest beard club1hbest beard club1jbest beard clubbest beard club best beard clubbest beard club1d

(also, mustachios)best beard club_mustachios

Big love and high-fives to all my bearded, mustachioed comrades. XO -t