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!

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



In celebration of National Moth Week (coming up: July 22-30th) and our fine nocturnal Lepidoptera friends, we hosted a Moth Party on the farm this past weekend.We strung up a white sheet on the laundry line and spread another out on the grass. Dusted off the chicken brooder lamps and lugged out our loupes and helpful (and less helpful) moth identification guides. And watched the happenings. It was captivating and incredible. And super fun.Here are photos of a few of the moth party attendees: (bigger! click on this image)So much more than moths joined the party. Special surprises include lady bugs, a bumble bee, dragon fly, and a mantid fly(!). Swarms of itty bitty leaf hoppers. Some spiders. Lacewings(!!) And a wicked smart wasp who spent the evening cruising up the illuminated sheet eating everything in its path, like Pacman.  A bzzzillion thanks to our friend Jane, a brilliant and enthusiastic young naturalist and coolest middle schooler we know, who came equipped with her own butterfly net and observation cage and helped us all with the evening’s invertebrate identification.This is a clover looper who has worn scales of her (his?) thorax, likely from wedging into flowers, under leaf litter, behind bark, or other tight spots. Crack climbing the farm. Farm nightlife is hoppin’. Thanks to everyone who came by and joined us in appreciation and admiration of all these little critters. We’re already looking forward to the next Moth Party.

P.S. We originally schemed projecting Mothra on a second screen (which attracts more moths: white light or Godzilla vs. Mothra?). Due to poor time management on the farmers’ part, we didn’t get the VHS/projector/screen set up as planned. Our apologies for this. Next time.

mid-July, in photos

A quick update from the farm this past week, mainly photos.

Peas are fruiting strong, fall cabbages and kohlrabi and lettuce mix are getting transplanted out, and summer fruits are looking promising.snowpeasfieldeggplantbabycabbageAfter (amid) much conversation, sketching out plans, standing around pointing, consulting the Wholesale Success book and Google (Chris Blanchard,  Atina Diffley, thoughful and experienced farmers who’ve posted tours of their vegetable wash set-ups on you-tube), we’re starting in earnest on our pack shed construction. We harvested garlic this week, a whole heaping mess load of disappointingly tiny heads. And there are pretty blooms on pert near everything.sunlightThere are a few native wildflowers getting established along the property line by the gate to the field. This week we found a couple of assassin bugs patiently lurking in the flowers, one even had her mouth full. Like crab/ flower spiders, the assassin bugs hang out on flowers and snatch prey as they come seeking nectar or pollen. In the photo below, the assassin bug on the blanket flower has its probiscus/ rostrum in a native bee.assassin bugThe little chickens are now out on pasture in our young orchard. We’ve been moving them along through the tall grass every day or two. They’ve transitioned from the brooder to the field well; they are completely jazzed for leaf hoppers.chicks on pastureSeed from our kale breeding project has been drying out on a tarp on the porch for a bit over a week. We’ve threshed and winnowed about half of this pile. A few especially helpful tools/methods employed in this process include tarps, a big trash can, KEXP’s Positive Vibrations streaming show archive, dancing, and a box fan. The seed looks beautiful. And now we know what 2.5 lbs of kale seed looks like.threshing kaleOur CSA newsletter for this past week, week 6, can be found here, as well as a recipe for herbed salmon (or mushroom, if you prefer) and chard. Additional recipes for chard are on the farm community cookbook site, here.  Happy feasting, friends!week 6 pickupBig smiles and thanks, t and j

in which we geek out on bugs. again.

2nd week csaGreetings farm friends! Scape season is upon us – hope you enjoy these wily, tender treats as much as we do. This week’s CSA newsletter is here, with a recipe for garlicky bok choy, a few other recipe ideas, and notes from the farm this week. We have just a couple additional quick notes, reminders for CSA members and farm stand patrons: when you bring home your vegetables, slip things into a plastic bag(s) before storing them in your fridge. This will help keep your green things, kale, scallions, etc. crispy-fresh-delicious longer, as refrigerators are notorious dehydrators. By re-using plastic bags, this also helps us in minimizing the amount of garbage we generate, which is important to us too. And secondly, lastly, we’ve started a Bike (and walk!) to Farmstand Lottery for a fresh baked pie at the end of the season. While biking or walking to the farm may not be reasonable for many (we understand!), for those of you who do have this option, this lottery is a little incentive to leave the car parked at home.

Some photos of June in the field and greenhouse:   june veg2CW from top left: scallion successions, freshly de-bindweeded; kale and parsley intercropping; super pretty Vulcan lettuce; young Early Jersey Wakefield cabbagejune veg CW from top left: kohlrabi starting to size up; chamomile in the chicken yard; sugar snap peas setting fruits; kale.greenhouse 6 17 2016 duskThe greenhouse basil looks so tidy and the tomatoes are ready to be trellised.

Much of our time these days is spent weeding, bindweed whispering. Before, during, and after with the onions:weeding scallions compilation…as well as seeding new flats of successions and fall crops…… and coocheecooing our new little chicks. These bitty fluffy poofballs, now two weeks old, are getting their feathers on. We have a straight run, fifty each of Ameraucanas and Black Australorps to replace our aging layers. We ordered chicks this year from a local young gentleman rancher – headed into his senior year of high school – who raises several different breeds of chickens and ducks. It feels especially good to be localizing our inputs and connecting with and supporting other local, young agrarians.

jeremy and parsnipsJeremy’s distraction du jour has been last year’s parsnip row, the remnants of which have since gone to flower. Parsnips are a world class insectary, as it turns out.  We’ve been finding wasps, bees, flies, spiders, beetles, butterflies, moths, ants, true bugs. Pollinators and predators. Of all sorts. All over everything. No kidding. parsnip insectaryEncouraging diversity is a big part of our pest management plan. We practice crop rotation, and on our scale this works well for soil nutrient management, but even a slug can cross our farm in an afternoon. Instead we rely on natural predators to keep our pest populations in balance.  Also, an advantage to our small size is that we can hand-pick pests, which we do primarily for potato and bean beetles. Other pest management techniques we use are companion planting, trap cropping, and adjusting our timing and planting practices to account for specific pest insects and their life cycles – we try to direct seed our arugula and radishes before flea beetles have emerged in the spring, and again mid-summer when the next generation is pupating. We also plan for some loss by over-planting what we think we’ll need for market. And lastly, taking a cue from our friend Eliza’s #eatuglyapples campaign, we celebrate the stress – within reason – that insects impose on our field; stress that helps in eliminating the weaker, vulnerable plants, and leaves us with strong, delicious, and likely more nutritious produce for our customers.

Happy summer, happy feasting, and big thanks from your farmers, Trish and Jeremy


CSA, covercrops, and other beneficials

Over the past few years, Jeremy has been seeding flowers (deep rooted plants, legumes, medicinal herbs, wild flowers) seemingly everywhere, this has successively become evident in the orchard and along the borders of the vegetable fields, all around the house and down the driveway. This spring we are finding columbine, dame’s rocket, bee’s friend, bachelor’s buttons, borage, coneflowers, sunflowers and salsify.  Clumps of chamomile are coming up in the chicken yard (dunno. must have come in with some batch of feed?). Phacelia under the crab apple.  Woolly verbena and white campion in the orchard. Dame’s rocket over the lamb skulls. Bees are stoked. Farmers too.We just celebrated our first CSA harvest of the season today. It was a sunrise sauna in the field this morning, our thermometer reaching 95 degrees by the early afternoon. For CSA members: the weekly newsletters will be posted online here, this week’s is here. And don’t forget to peruse our farm community cookbook for additional ideas and inspiration. Thanks for joining us this season – we’re looking forward to spending the summer with you all!

We’ve been learning heaps these past couple months about early greens production, rapidfire succession planting, and how to manage all this early harvest and marketing along with our already brimming spring planting schedule. There are still some wrinkles to work out with timing. farmstand late mayrye vetch covercropLast week we pulled out a rye and vetch cover crop that we had seeded last fall between the garlic beds. We laid the cover crop down in-place as mulch and immediately seeded winter squash into those beds. In about a month, we’ll harvest the garlic, right as the squash needs space to expand. If we get our act together, we’ll seed buckwheat in the open garlic beds hoping it will winter-kill before going to seed. As part of our no-till management, we use straw bales as mulch for most of our beds, but we’re excited about growing our mulch on-site. And in doing so, feeding our soil microbiology for more of the year and reducing an off-farm input by not having to purchase as many straw bales.We just learned about crab (flower) spiders. We’ve seen these around previously, but after witnessing lunchtime featuring a main course of one of our beloved pollinators, we had to look this up. This spider perches on flowers like she’s sunning herself on a beach towel, her front crabby legs wide open in some sort of ultra-still warrior pose. When an unsuspecting native bee/honey bee/butterfly comes by the flower to sip nectar, the spider, ninja-style, seizes the bee or fly and bites into it, paralyzes it and then eats it. *wince* YET. Healthy apex-predator populations are indicative of a healthy ecosystem. They play a vital role. Like bears and wolves and purple sea stars. So we love this little guy. Even though she’s eating our bees… and it feels a little like having an orca on our penguin farm.

Speaking of which… we were getting anxious, noticing aphids on a few of our fruit trees. But then looking down at the understory, below our plums, we found a glorious nursery of ruthless, voracious lady bug larvae. Anxieties quelled.