Spring. Pie and guineas.

march_pieday_etc

Hooray for pie! and pi! Big thanks to everyone for helping us celebrate such an important day and for your generous support of the Spearfish Bicycle Cooperative. There were a couple quiches standing tall for the savories, but sweet pies dominated. Get a hold of this line up: a smoked salmon and a chipotle mushroom quiche. Pudding pie, peanut crisp apple pie, ginger rhubarb pie, mocha creme pie, peach pie, sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie, blueberry pie. Whipped cream. And gluten free brownies. Mercy. So much fun to meet new people, tour around the farm, and eat. Thank you, friends. Cultivating community proves again the most rewarding part of farming.

Pi/e Day also inspired a furious bout of spring cleaning at the farm. We’ve decided that celebrating Pi/e Day should occur annually, if only to encourage us to tidy up after a long winter hibernation. It’s remarkable how piles of remay and tools, seeding trays and buckets seem to grow in corners when you aren’t looking.potato pruning

Our most favorite big, fuzzy Amelia came by for a quick visit last weekend. She and her man, Barton, helped us get started on pruning the fruit trees and put in our very first plantings in the greenhouse (early potatoes, radishes, arugula and spinach).

We planted a small field of barley, in the area where we had garlic last year. This area is thick with Creeping Jenny (I wrote a song about it). This year, our plan to deal with this is to get a good thick stand of barley which will germinate at a lower temperature than Creeper Jennifer and out compete it. As soon as the barley is harvested (mid- late June), we’ll 1-2-punch the Creeping Jenny with another smother crop, this time in the ring: Creeper Jennifer vs. the hometown favorite Sweet Potatoes. TKO. Take that, Jenny. We’ve never grown sweet potatoes before. They thrive in warm soil – and sweet potatoes in SoDak can be done as our good farming friends at Bear Butte Gardens demonstrated last year). By planting later in the season, soil temperatures will be welcoming for them, and hopefully we’ll have left enough time to get a good yield of potatoes. And we’ll keep up the cover crop punches, weeding out that creeping Jenny.

Already now the greenhouse is growing things. Little radishes, bold and determined. And, radix, seemingly ever so appropriate a beginning for a new greenhouse.

sprouts in greenhouse
The chickens have two new coopmates. Our wonderful friend and neighbor Holly brought over two birds last week. Guinea hens are fierce insect predators, excellent grasshopper and tick eaters, organic pest control. They are still acclimatizing to their new home and family. They seem pretty comfortable in the coop, although they did spend one night perched, sleeping up on the apex of our neighbors garage. It turns out they are even harder to herd than the chickens, and they will not be picked up. They are completely wicked looking and gorgeous, and they sing so sweet. We’ve named them Opal Fly and Annette Hanshaw after our two most favorite skrawnky jazz singers (if you’re interested, check out Ms. Fly and Ms. Hanshaw). Thank you Holly. Thank you, thank you.

Other fun bird news: a mottled java caught a snake the other day. That kept the whole bunch of them busy for the entire afternoon. It was a wily, tireless game of keep-away. No teams, every hen for herself. Blood thirsty pile-ups, flapping and screeching. Flex offense and fast cuts. The unnerving part is that they found a snake out and active in March – but as I’m writing this, it’s back down to twenty degrees and we are getting a good dose of snow. It’s March Madness is all.

Happy happy spring!

light-stressed seedlingsOh yes! and Cycle Farm was in the newspaper this week. Local farmers lobby for aid in D.C. 

Hooplah, last CSA day, greenhouse, garlic, and snowfall. Ramping up to slow down.

We had a wonderful time at the farm Harvest Hooplah last Saturday. Thank you everyone for joining us, for sharing good food and excellent company. Here are some highlights from the afternoon.

A delicious feast of locally grown, lovingly prepared foods, including our own young roosters, a flight of 9 different varieties of winter squash, and fresh pressed apple cider.

THANK YOU ALL for your support and enthusiasm this first year. We’ve never worked so hard before, never learned so much so quickly, and never had so much fun.  We’re looking forward to seeing you all around the farm next season.

The squash mandala on the floor of the living room has shrunk significantly since our CSA pickup last week. The final week’s CSA newsletter is posted online here. And we have a popcorn update since the newsletter was written: the toss-a-whole-cob-in-a-paper-bag-and-into-the-microwave trick actually works. Incredible.

Our new friend Jason came to help harvest and clean carrots and fingerlings. He does magical things with film and video, and introduced us to the aperture settings on our camera. SO MUCH FUN. Thank you Jason.

Jeremy, Radish, and our A-1 good friend Thomas have been busy building the stone wall for the greenhouse. It’s stunning. The wall is dry stacked rock sourced from an especially rocky hillside property in Spearfish Canyon, the gravel pit in Beulah, and from right here on the farm (from the frost-free pipe trench we dug earlier this summer).  The chickens will be cooped in the western end of the greenhouse, their pop-doors built into the stone wall. Pretty elegant set up. If we time things well with the weather, we may get straw bales and cob up this next week.

We were able to get most of the garlic in before the snow this week. We’ve saved seed from the three varieties we grew this year; Persian Star, Korean Purple and Music. And we’ve added Chesnok Red and Spanish Roja. We’ll get the rest in the ground here shortly. We have to.

The birds have started laying. Under the spruce trees. They have free range during the day and until the walls are up on the greenhouse/coop, they are over-nighting in the tractors. There are nesting boxes in the tractor, but they clearly prefer to snuggle down under the trees and send us out for a daily egg hunt.

..and a photo of the Dakota Black Popcorn. Wow.

And now with the snow and short days, wintertime reading has begun. A little bit. Tom is sailing through any and all Ivan Doig available at the Spearfish Public Library. I’m in the middle of Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy – in which he references this article from Orion about Mayapedal. Smart farmers use bicycles. And Jeremy finally has time to catch up on a stack of mail that’s been accumulating all summer. Radish is working on crossword puzzles.

Spelled r-o-o-f, pronounced [ruhf]

New for the CSA shares this week are bulb onions, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Hot off the vines. It must really be summer now, things are getting juicy.

The last of the plywood is up on the greenhouse roof and over the chicken coop. This upper section of roofing will get a tin shed sheeting over it, while the lower section of the roof will be polycarbonate, greenhouse window material. Having the roof split this way should help regulate temperature in the greenhouse. In the summer, when the sun is high in the sky, the light coming through the lower, polycarbonate greenhouse roof section should hit the floor of the greenhouse, but the back wall will be shaded by the upper section of roof. In the winter time, when the sun is low in the sky, light will shine in through the south wall and the lower section of the roof and hit the back wall. The wall will be a thick mass of cob (think adobe), which will serve as a heat sink and hopefully help keep things warmer during those short days/long nights. The straw bales in the north wall will serve as insulation. That’s the plan at any rate. If Jeremy grows a greenhouse like he grows lettuce: it will all come together wonderfully, especially with his father’s Mr. Miyagi insight, council, and skill. 

Here is a photo of the CSA share this week. And the newsletter is posted online here. It’s a hit. Featuring Cycle Farm adventures and anecdotes, including the Sad Story of the Hubbard Squash, How We Grow, and DIY Cucumber Fresca. Original illustrations. Free.

The sun has set and nearly all is well on the farm. Jeremy and his father have just now climbed down off the new greenhouse roof, [ruhf]. The chickens are all tucked up on roosts in their tractors, bellies full of Crow Peak’s porter spent grain. Two good farm dogs are passed out. I finished the CSA newsletter, but broke the camera (or maybe just the memory card?). It seems completely done for. This is almost as disappointing as the deer getting that gorgeous Blue Hubbard squash …but certainly not so disappointing as losing all the just-ripe grapes to the birds this past week; or hearing the kid stocking cantaloupes at the grocery store yesterday tell me that the Locally Grown signs are “just a marketing thing”, the produce actually “probably comes from Arizona or Colorado or someplace”; or having to bid farewell to the best little predator a farm could ask for: sweet, rabbit-eating, black cat Hogan. Ah well, camera schmamera – not such a let down after all. Whew.

Oh HEY! Everybody get ready! We’re having BREAKFAST IN BED at the farm. A weeding party: breakfast in the vegetable beds. We have lots of weeds, we need your help, and IT’S A PARTY! We’re getting smarter these days, in order to beat the heat we’re going to tackle the weeds early. This Saturday, August 11th, 7-11AM. We’ll provide coffee, tea, juice and delicious breakfast treats. (You don’t want to miss Jeremy’s coffee cake. So good.) If you’d like to bring snacks to share, please do! Bring your family. Bring your friends. Bring a date. There’s no fun like weeding. Especially when sharing time with friends and being serenaded by the sweet songs of a tractor full of young roosters and Jeremy on a zucchini flute. When was the last time you had breakfast in bed?  Hope to see you Saturday, give us a call if you have questions.

First market, farm party.

This past Friday was our very first Farmer’s Market. Our first market as the farmers. Very exciting. And exhausting. It was great fun to meet folks, and talk about local agriculture and CSAs. There is so much enthusiasm in Spearfish. It’s awesome. Neither of us are very comfortable sales people. But the good vegetables do well enough selling themselves. Except maybe when they are completely unrecognizable to people. Apparently garlic scapes are a new one for Spearfish. Baby bok choi too. It’s ok. I’m comforting myself by collecting a list of comments – there are lots of comments, the creative ones are the complimentary ones: one especially sweet woman approached the scapes asking, “What are these darling things?”  Another, with a sparkle in her eye, immediately recognized them as garlic ‘chives’, and asked us about pea eggplants. Made my day.

So we learned a whole lot standing on the other side of the table. It’s hard to keep bok choi looking perky when it’s 90 degrees outside, even in the shade with a spray bottle. We should bring recipes with us, examples on how to prepare these treats. And we should bring dinner with us too, the smell of burgers and funnel cake is a powerful one. The table, cooler and crate, chalk board, etc. all fit quite nicely on the farm bike, but soon I’m going to need a trailer. There is a strong inverse correlation between a market’s beer consumption and interest in buying fresh vegetables, something like r-value of -0.9468, I’m sure of it. Of course, there is probably noise.

Here are some photos from our harvest for the market..

..and off to market. By bicycle. Food miles are more fun when they are by bike.

Fresh from the farm to you: Rhubarb, hop shoots, garlic scapes, and baby bok choi. Bon appétit.

AND we’ve had our first on-farm community event – the Weeding Party was a big hit. Thank you to all our CSA members, good neighbors, and new friends who came out to help us weed! Together, we got 9 beds cleaned out; the potatoes, beans, and beets are looking in top form now they’ve been cleaned out from the weeds. And it was SO MUCH FUN. Usually weeding for us is a lonely activity, accompanied by the soft sound of the wind and the heartbreaking hum of a nearby lawnmower. Not so during our Weeding Party Bonanza! It was a morning of rainbow colored sunhats dotting the field, old friends catching up, new friends being made, kiddos waxing philosophic on bugs and weeds.. Sharing ideas and interests over rows of beets and beans. We cruised through the weeds in the morning, fueled by a cooler full of cold water and lots of good conversation, and feasted together afterwards. Lots of delicious things – some right from the farm. Jeremy and I are deeply grateful for everyone’s time, hard work, ..and good cooking. THANK YOU EVERYONE!

We’re looking forward to more fun community events on the farm. If you are interested in coming out to share in these fun farm festivities, we’ve got an email list put together and would love to add you. Let us know. cyclefarmer[at]gmail [dot]com. And certainly, if you ever have an itch to weed.. we have weeds.

We are also looking forward to a fun season with the Market downtown. There doesn’t seem to be much for advertising happening, and a fair amount of confusion with folks still thinking there is still a Saturday morning market – so tell your friends. Bring your neighbors. There are other vendors, farm fresh eggs, jams and jellies, flowers, honey, come down and see. This past Friday Talli from Moonrise Mountain Ranch had a basket of leeks, so gorgeous. Friday evening, 5:00 PM. We’ll be there until 8.. we’ve got chores to do. See you downtown!

Have weeds. Need help.

We have been very busy on the farm getting things planted and built. But the weeds have got a little bit ahead of us. So we’re having a WEEDING PARTY – and you are all invited! This is a great opportunity to come out and visit the farm, see how things are growing, and get to know your neighbors and farmers. Please bring your family and friends, we have plenty of weeds. Bring work gloves, if you have them; we will have some available, if you don’t. And don’t forget a sun hat/rain jacket, depending on weather!

Weeding party at Cycle Farm – mark your calendars! Saturday, June 9th, 9AM to noon. Potluck lunch afterwards. We’ll provide green salad, dessert, and stoke up the grill. Bring a side dish and/or something to grill. If you can’t make it for the weeding – please come by for lunch! It’s going to be big fun!
It's loads more fun when you weed with friends.

It’s loads more fun when you weed with friends.

New friends, enthusiasm, and kale chips.

We’re in a bit of a dreamy daze around here since yesterday’s incredible turnout at the farm. Jeremy and I were looking forward to maybe a handful of people coming over. At the very last minute, Jeremy called his father to ask for some extra folding chairs – just in case. I figured, poor Jeremy, he’s a little stressed, maybe nervous, he’s plum lost his mind. There’s no way we’re going to need more chairs. So I set to making cookies, to buffer the disappointment if no one came; at least we’d have a whole lot of cookies to hang out with. Turns out we needed the chairs. And then some. We had over 20 people cuddled up into our cozy living room. Wow.

There were friendly, familiar faces and so many wonderful, new folks – and everyone excited about local agriculture and delicious, healthy foods. People so excited they are even eager to come out and volunteer! Willing weeders – right in our living room! Imagine.

CSA shares have started filling up. In efforts to try and keep things simple this year, we are limiting our shares.  Please contact us if you are interested. Here’s a link to a newsletter describing our CSA plan: Feb19_CSAnews.

Thank you all for joining us yesterday – for all your interest and enthusiasm. Up until yesterday, all our planning and ideas have been mostly limited to a Trish & Jeremy dialogue. Getting to meet everyone and share ideas was such a boost of momentum. We can do this. We’re all fired up.

Although, I might actually hear the brakes squealing a little this morning, as I am looking out the window at this new, thick, white blanket of snow. Slow down. Tomatoes in due time.

Thanks again – we are looking forward to growing vegetables and getting to know you all this season!