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

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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.

Another year of birds on the farm

This time of year has us getting our ducks in a row and planning for the upcoming season. Part of this includes reflecting on last year, what worked well, what absolutely needs changed.  Some of these conversations and decisions are more difficult than others (financial decisions, winnowing Jeremy’s girthy seed order list). Others are entirely delightful. Which brings us to the bird list, a weekly record of bird species identified on the farm that we started as part of our on-farm monitoring. Last year’s bird log and a brief write-up is available here

The graph above shows this past year’s weekly species count along with the numbers from the previous year. The peaks during seasonal migration are clear and trending. A new record high for number of species per week was set in May with 53 species identified on the farm.  The dips to zero in the species count (in Jan and mid-November) correlate with farmer/observer absence from the farm.

A few of our special highlights for the year include getting a chance to see ospreys (possibly the same bird, but on multiple occasions) eating fish on our hop trellis (ha! some farmers pay for fish fertilizer).  In April, we gawked as a goshawk disemboweled and feasted heartily on a Eurasian-collared dove in the front yard. And while we’re on the subject of well fed birds, a summer tanager came by in May and made short order of a good number of our honeybees.  Additional fun visitors to the farm: common redpolls, peregrine falcons, an ovenbird, a blue-gray gnatcatcher and a hummingbird (sp.?) with a rad bright yellow pollen mohawk. One morning in June, we watched as wrens removed fecal sacks from their nest (in a new box we put up this year!) and stuck them to a branch in an adjacent boxelder – lining them up neatly like bright white farolitos. We did not, however, see as many warblers or hummingbirds as last year (2017).

A few additional notes as regards 2018 birds on the farm:

  • Early in the year, we built, painted a few, and hung up 10 new bird houses. For a variety of different species.
  • Nine species nested on the farm. With at least six robin nests. Also nesting were chickadees, house sparrows, starlings, Eurasian-collared doves, house wrens, house finches, blue jays, and blackbirds. Downy Woodpeckers nested, if not on the farm, very close by; baby downies are super cute.
  • We have set up and are populating a farm ebird account – HooRAH for citizen science!
  • With two steady hands and one additional finger to press the photo button, it is possible to get a reasonably good long distance photo using a binoculars and a smartphone camera.
  • This year’s bird log in full is available as a PDF here <- click to open pdf.

Wishing you a joyful and wonder-filled new year!

Positively drenched in enthusiasm,

your farmers,

Trish and Jeremy

 

May, farm update

Things of note from these past couple weeks. Please excuse us if this reads scattered and disjointed. Consider this disarray an accurate testament to the state of the farm these days. Spectacular mayhem. –

  • We’re doing a better job at start care, timing successions, watering in the greenhouse, even our potting and soil block mix seems to be just a bit more dialed in than previous seasons. Our biggest challenge remains getting no-till beds ready for transplanting.
  • Germination in the field, however, has been less successful/uniform partly due to dry soil conditions (both lack of rain and late turn-on of our irrigation ditch). Carrots, beets, turnips, parsnips are all up, but not at the intended density. And the arugula is unintentionally serving as an excellent flea beetle trap crop, we’ve never grown such nice looking broccoli.
  • We sprayed Biodynamic preparation 501 a couple weeks ago – during the zenith of spring fruit tree blossoms on the farm.
  • Last weekend we had a chance to watch what looked like a magical fiery-feathered parrot perched on a bee hive and gorging on our honey bees. Our Sibley’s and Albrechtsens’ tell us he was a first year male Summer Tanager! WHOA! These birds like supping on bees and wasps especially, and they catch “these insects in flight and kill them by beating them against a branch. Before eating a bee, the tanager rubs it on the branch to remove the stinger. Summer Tanagers eat larvae, too: first they get rid of the adults, and then they tear open the nest to get the grubs” (that bit’s from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology). And, what’s more – they’re not common around here; we haven’t seen him since, we must have just caught him on a re-fueling stop mid spring migration. The binoculars have been firmly attached to Jeremy’s side nonetheless.
  • A few of the bird nesting boxes that we built this winter are occupied – there are a couple chickadees in the wild plums by the spruce trees, house wrens in the plums in front of the house, and the robin on the platform under the gutter has three exceedingly hungry nestlings.
  • We’ve been enjoying spring migration, especially now having a dance card of who’s on their way. Our busiest week so far has included at least 53 different species – 32 on one day alone. Some new species for the farm list are Olive-sided Flycatcher, Pine Siskin, Field Sparrow.
  • Speaking of visitors, this spring we’ve shared the farm through a number (13) of farm tours – a Poetry Tour, Farm Dreams tour and skillshare, the Crook County Conservation District Soil Health Workshop, sharing with other local small producers and beginning farmers, film crews, and farm share members. Our count to-date this year has been 90 different people touring the farm (ninety! holy crap!). This count does not include people who came only to snuggle baby lambs – this number exceeded 50 in the first 3 weeks and I stopped counting, because that’s silly. Celebrity lambs. Apparently word is out that this place is a circus. This is the first year we’ve kept track of farm tour numbers, we’re doing this partly to gauge the extent of our impact in the community and also to understand how much time we’re spending hosting tours and not on income generating work that needs to be done.
  • One of the best parts of these farm visits has been engaging in conversations around soil health, organic no-till mixed-vegetable farming, cover crops, mycorrhizae and little soil critters – all things we love and love learning about.
  • Dung beetles! Due to unusual circumstances and some procrastination, there was a pile of gross fish guts out in the orchard, on close inspection we saw it was teaming with dung beetles – including a new one we’ve never seen here before. HooRAY for inefficiency. (about dung beetles, if you haven’t already watched this, please do. It’s a good one. And the dung beetles make such darling noises.)
  • Our fuzzy flail mowers have graduated to the lamb tractor and are already hard at work. The tractor is a fenced area we can move through our young orchard.  This helps us manage grazing in the pasture/orchard, fertilization, and protects the little trees from browsing. This summer, we’ll move chicken tractors along right behind the lambs – lambs mowing the tall grass for the chickens, and the chickens get to enjoy what the lambs leave behind.
  • The lambs, Justus, Albrecht, and Lady Eve, have taught us a whole lot so far as regards common ailments for young livestock: small puncture wounds, strange gum-ball-turned-golf-ball-sized subcutaneous bumps, bloat, nasty infected wounds, and the remarkable effects of ginger root and grapeseed oil on ruminant digestive issues. Thanks, lambs, we’re glad you’re feeling better.
  • Mostly, these days we’re removing brome rhizomes and dandelions from beds. Transplanting out starts just as quick as those beds are ready. Watering starts, checking and double-checking on the greenhouse, and moving irrigation around. We’re adding things to the to-do list with fervor… and a bit (much) slower, checking items off the list.
  • The garlic looks good and has been delivering us, if just for moments at a time, from the mess and reminding us of our Keatsean negative capability. This season, so far, has been so radically different than our previous springs which makes some things challenging and frustrating.  On the up side, we are sure learning a lot.  March and April were too cold, wet and snowy to get much done in the field, and then May swooped in with her oven doors open. We generally plan for May 25th as our approximate last frost date, this spring’s last frost was May 2nd. And it’s been July since.
  • Operation RUSDSG has been field-deployed (attn. Regina). This special flower garden plot, inspired by our good friend and farm spirit animal is going in piece-meal as spring greens come out of the turbine beds. This is a high-traffic area that will get lots of attention from pollinators and us, alike. Sea star and Tower Chamois asters were launched first. Details on our Operation RUSDSG are on a need-to-know basis. If you need to know what this silly acronym stands for, ask, we’ll tell you.

Thanks, friends! Hope this finds you well.

With love from the farm, Trish and Jeremy

poetry tour

Greetings farm friends! Mark your calendar! We hope you’ll join us on Sunday, April 8, at 2:00 PM for the debut of our lovingly created, carefully crafted poetry tour of the farm.  In celebration of poetry and in concurrence with National Poetry Month we are introducing our Farm Poetry Tour, a walking tour of the farm accompanied by poems for selected locations.We have assembled this tour as a fun way to share the farm and our farming practices. The farm is a busy spot with lengthy to-do lists, having poetry scattered about encourages reflection and thought. We love to share the farm, to help build connections between people and their food, and to build connections between people.

Art and poetry provide a platform for shared experience, and with shared experiences we have something in common over which we can relate.  In the poetry tour guide, each poem is followed by a few of the many reasons why we are excited about it and have chosen to include it on the tour. We look forward to spending a full year with these poems on the farm and sharing them with you.

Over the holidays we had a chance to visit with good friends who recently opened a fantastic brewery in Northfield, MN. In catching up on news of their new venture, they relayed accounts of all sorts of creative community building activities they have been engaged with via their new local business. They host live music and taco carts(etc), help find foster homes for a local animal shelter’s featured “Brewery Dog of the Month”, they partner with local farms for fine, fresh ingredients (a blueberry wheat, honey basil ale and something amazing with rhubarb and raspberry), AND they have been hosting poetry nights at the brewery, and even present patrons with poems printed out and displayed on the back of the bathroom stalls. Poetry at a brewery!? Brilliant!

This caused us to think: we need poetry on the farm.

So, with a suggestion from Jeremy – a poetry tour of the farm – we immediately set about compiling a selection of poems from our most favorite poets and poets we didn’t recognize. Poems that spoke to us and our community, the farm and the work we do here. We unloaded our book shelves of all poetry books, and anything else that had poems tucked in corners, at the beginning of chapters, almanacs, calendars, and cookbooks too. For three days, the living room floor was covered in a glorious pile of literature. We sat together, quietly reading – interrupting each other suddenly and sporadically to read new-found favorites aloud.  Half-way through the third day of binge poetry reading, we decided we had better wrap up the list, compile the tour and be done with it – or it we’d still be sitting here reading come May.  Pulling these poems together was huge fun. Derek and Laura, thanks for your inspiration.

…and while you are cavorting about reading poetry and getting to know the farm – keep an eye out for the new birdhouses that have sprung up around the farm. Birds have been scouting them out, but we don’t know of any nesting just yet.

Metaphorically Yours, Trish and Jeremy

 

a year of birds on the farm

Hooray-hooRAY and happy, happy tidings!

One of the exciting things about flipping over into another January is starting a whole new series of calendars, and we have no shortage of these: farm journal, planting calendar, daily planner, and our bird list.We started the bird list last January 1st in an effort to better monitor our avian diversity and as a way to record the comings and -especially- goings of migrating species, of particular interest: the robins and vultures.

And now with a complete year of observations, we can’t wait to share this. It’s SO COOL: 2017 farm bird list. (< click to view)

The calendar is set up by week with a note (x) for observed presence on farm during that week. This doesn’t account for number of individuals. 300 Grackles get the same x as one Rufous Hummingbird. However, this does show number of species and trends over the course of the season.  The boundaries we use for inclusion are not rigid. Fly-overs are counted as “seen on the farm” (i.e. Sandhill Cranes, Mallards), however wild turkeys seen parading about in the neighbors’ horse pasture don’t. To an extent, these boundaries follow Jeremy’s whims and fancies and mostly depend on likelihood of direct interaction with the farm.

A few things of note:
With these records we can see the two peaks (mid-May and Sept-Oct) of spring and fall migrations. It looks like the spring migration peak is a shorter pulse as birds are cruising on to breeding grounds, and fall migration is more drawn out. Over the course of the year, Jeremy got a whole lot better at bird observation and identification. This certainly skewed the data a bit towards fall abundance.

Our original list included 82 species that we thought we had seen on the farm over the past 5 years. This year we were able to confidently identify a total of 103 different species including 35 new-to-our-list species. (HOLYCRAP!)Bird highlights: We identified three species of hummingbird including the smallest bird in North America, Calliope (photo above(!) courtesy of Greg Albrechtsen). A Golden-winged Warbler. American Redstarts nested here. Regular visits by a Great Horned Owl. Our first Orioles. AND we learned to identify several of the warblers (at least 11 different species and variants), who had until this year just been lumped as “the little flitty birds in the trees.” It’s fun to have these visitors to the farm, to be aware that they have come through, but the species who make the farm their home are most intriguing to us. We are having big fun getting to know the behavior and personalities of these birds; the Juncos, Robins, Starlings, Blue Jays and Flickers.

Our biggest bird week (9/10) included a Sunday in which our sweet, smart friends, Greg and Mary Beth, came over and spent the morning birding with us. These two have been generous and contagiously enthusiastic mentors for us as we cannonball (bellyflop?) into the deep-end of the pool of birding.9/4/2017, birding w. Greg and MBWe’re especially excited to continue this monitoring and watch how seasonal trends appear over several years. And this year we will be planting even more Hummingbird Sage and Sunset Hyssop. Big cluster plantings, everywhere.

Wishing you all a joyful, healthy, and wondrous new year, t&j

(and for our birding brethren – if you would like a copy of our template, it’s here to share: 2018 Birds, annual record – SHARE Easy to edit.)