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

rain, rain, come and stay.

..at least for a while longer.csa week8We really enjoyed harvesting for this week’s CSA in the rain. Usually we are moving quickly, trying to keep greens cool and happy between harvest and washing before going into the walk-in cooler. The cool, wet morning allowed for coffee breaks and an opportunity to explore camera settings. And revel in golden beets.seding lettuce inside and rain on kaleAfter losing a couple rounds of lettuce successions in our toasty warm greenhouse, we’re now starting seed trays in the living room which is considerably less toasty warm.  july flowersMints, sunflowers, echinacea, and feverfew are blooming. Birds have picked over the last couple chokecherry bushes and are now eyeing up the grapes. We’ve got the front grape rows netted, but will hold off on netting the back grapes until they get closer to harvest. And LOOK! Our first slicer tomato of the season: a 2+ pound Gold Medal. We capresed our hearts out for lunch. And dinner.gold medal for the winWith help from our most competent and reliable (and hugely appreciated) farm sitters/ chicken tractor wranglers/ hen whisperers/ greenhouse tenders, we were able to take a couple days and scoot over to visit J’s grandparents in Montana. We camped out at the kitchen table and heard good stories about growing up on a small dairy farm in the mountains and working on the Milwaukee rail road. We also had a chance to catch up with some good friends in the big cities and visit Rathvinden Farm and get farm-geeky over all the beautiful and tasty things they’re growing. Good farmdog Radish enjoyed the holiday too.Big thanks happy summer feastings, t&j


snowy day farm bouquet

We’ve put together our very first Cycle Farm Seed Catalog! A special Cycle Farm bouquet, just in time to share on this soft, white, snowy morning. Here are some colors from our seed selection to brighten your day, a little something to stimulate your rods and cones. Here is a link to our bouquet catalogue, with descriptions and ordering information. Wishing you happy dreams of spring!


Farm sunflower cocktail


Torch Mexican Sunflower




Echinacea, purple coneflower


Calendula, Resina


Salmon Rose Zinnia


Bachelor’s Buttons

While you are planning out your vegetable beds and what types of tomatoes to grow this year, don’t forget to plant for the bees, butterflies, and birds. Plant flowers. Emerson said it: the earth laughs in flowers.BIRDS AND BUTTERFLIES

We’ve also been saving a variety of vegetable seed, but would like another season growing before sharing these. Look for a new, expanded catalog out next year, including eggplant, tomatillos, tomatoes, squash, melon, lettuce, and herbs.

Insectary, rafters, and chicken dinner.

The insectary is blooming. SO PRETTY. We’ve written about the insectary and how excited we are about it in this week’s CSA newsletter posted here.

And here’s a view of our CSA share this week..

And the greenhouse is growing. In fact, it’s just too glorious now to capture completely in one shot. So I’ve made a collage of several:

Polycarbonate sheets for the south wall and lower roof were delivered today, and next week we’ll put up the rafters. Jeremy’s dad has sourced rock for the wall foundation, we just have to collect it from a hillside on some generous fellow’s land.

And the birds really look like real birds these days. The awkward, punky feathers-growing-in stage is out. They are all sleek and sophisticated. A few of the males have started testing out their crow. There is one, one of the Orpingtons, who’s got it down. Cock-a-doodle-doo. With the head extended and the neck all fluffed out – just like in the cartoons. I mean really. The others are ranging somewhere between a sort of donkey bray, a big city bus braking, and a whoopie cushion. They try so earnestly. They are endearing. And soon we’re going to eat them. I think I might be having a little bit of a hard time. Can’t say for sure. Jeremy and I haven’t talked about it. So he might be having a hard time too. Every time I check in on them, to feed them or move the tractors, I can’t help but feel like the witch in Hansel and Gretel.. the one that feeds the kids sweets, just to fatten them up. So she can eat them. 

Looks like the straight run split is 24 hens, 24 roosters. Funny how that happened. This is one of our hens (below), a Salmon Faverolle. They are listed as a threatened poultry breed by Livestock Breeds Conservancy. This probably means we need to keep at least one of the roosters.. a Faverolle. We’ll still fatten him up though.

Two more things: One. The Soil Doctor, Doug Weatherbee, has a wicked cool new video/podcast posted online where he discusses soil microbial communities and even gets into the importance of no-till. This is certainly worth checking out – here. Thanks for hooking us up with this Austin. And Two. One of our CSA members is headed down to Durango for bicycle adventuring and has plans to visit a farm while down there.. turns out she’s headed to visit our friends at the James Ranch. The James’ family do magical things with holistic land management and are a wonderful inspiration for us, plus we owe the very beginnings of our metal workshop to their fine lathe. If you have an interest in sustainable agriculture, check out what these good folks are up to.

Native berries, native bees.

We’ve been fretting over the share this week. It seems we are stuck in a quiet space between harvests. Spinach and mustard greens, that we had planned on including in these early baskets, have long since gone either to seed or to flea beetles. And the juicy, fruity, summer fun things – green beans, tomatoes, summer squash – aren’t quite here yet. And why are the carrots taking so long?  In our winter seed ordering and calendar planning, we had glorious visions of each weekly basket being evenly stocked with an allium, a fresh root vegetable, a cooking root, fresh greens, and braising greens. Yes, well. We are working on it still and we’ve since learned some things.

One thing we’ve learned is how to make sunshine out of flea beetles in the mustard greens: collect chokecherries instead. Over the past couple days, we harvested 17 pounds of chokecherries from trees on the farm. Neither of us had ever done anything with chokecherries, so we did some quick internet searches and sat down with the native plants and foraging books. Turns out chokecherries are a mega antioxidant and they make for fantastic sorbet. The recipe we used is in this week’s CSA newsletter.

And Cycle Farm CSA has new, lovingly handcrafted, produce bags. Hooray!  One of our wonderful CSA members and my mother volunteered to make these for us – THANK YOU. These are fantastic. We’ve been working hard on minimizing our off-farm inputs. Being able to use and reuse these cloth bags instead of plastic bags will make a big difference.

On a side note. We’ve been seeing LOTS of these little metallic green bees (Agapostemon) around recently. They dig the chicory. Native pollinators. Totally rad.

Staple crop rotation

A large part of our planning this winter was on how to organize our vegetable crop rotations. For instance, corn is especially demanding for soil nutrients and not everything does well when planted in succession after corn. Similarly, we don’t want to plant potatoes in a bed tomatoes were in the previous year, as nightshades they tend to share diseases and pests.

So now the plan is set into action. Here we go. We’ve got a four year rotation set up for staple crops: beans, then corn, then potatoes, then squash. The rest of the vegetables are set up on an 8 year rotation, a bit more complicated, I’ll have to put together a flip-book to explain that one.

For the staple crops, this is how it should work. Beans are fantastic, they fix nitrogen in the soil, a good prep for planting corn the following year. Although corn taxes the soil, potatoes have shown to be unhindered in growth when planted immediately after corn. Potatoes will be hilled and therefore relatively weed free and ready to go for squash the next year. Potatoes and squash, being both big leafy plants, back-to-back, will serve as a good cleaning crops to reduce weed pressure, in preparations for beans the following year. And then we’re back to corn.

There are two blocks of 16 beds, one in the front field one in the back. Each block has alternating rows of two staple crops. This year, corn and squash are in the front. Potatoes and beans in the back. We have one type of corn (popcorn), five different varieties of beans, eight varieties of winter squash, and seven different types of potatoes. The beans are inter-cropped with marigolds, which help deter the bean beetle. The beans and potatoes alternate together especially well, because beans help deter the Colorado potato beetle and potatoes also help deter the bean beetle. Along the same lines, the squash are partnered with corn in the front beds, because the squash will help mulch the corn rows during the heat of summer. Nasturtiums are planted at the end of each squash row to fend off squash bugs. There are sunflowers inter-cropped with the corn and squash ..because they are pretty, and amaranth too because it’s beautiful and delicious. We’ve held out until just this past weekend to plant our popcorn, Dakota Black, in hopes that it will set tassel after our neighbors who are growing sweet corn, and we will be able to save seed.

Rotations are go. First year. Seems like a good start, we’ll see how it works. And here are a few more photos..

We’re finding new blooms around the farm.  Peas just popped open. Clover for the bees. Arugula for us. A field of blue flax.

And some sleepy farm animals.

The most beautiful bicycle in the whole wide world.


Our good friend Tom came to visit last week. He brought us happy tidings from Oregon, including Jeremy’s bicycle. The most beautiful bicycle in the whole wide world. It didn’t take long to get Radish on board. Farm dog turned parade princess. She totally digs it. The bicycle is a bakfiet-style cargo bike, designed to carry heavy loads efficiently. Jeremy built it.

We’ve been doing a lot of moving hops these days. As it turns out, the field behind the house is the largest hop field in South Dakota. Shouldn’t be a problem, except that we want to grow vegetables. So we’ve been shuffling hops around, out of their rows in the field and towards the edge – where we’ll set up a dual-purpose, hop trellis/deer fence. We’re so grateful to have had fantastic help in digging – thank you, friends.

Here are some miscellaneous feel-good images from around Cycle Farm. I’ll explain. First: we’ve been working on getting more work space and storage in the kitchen and just last week we finished a section of counter and shelving. The counter is a stunning 3″ slab of white pine. We pulled out the lindseed oil again for this, the smell immediately making us both desperately homesick for the Bain’s in Glorieta. Second: most everything is germinating safe and sound in trays inside, but there are a few little things going in the ground outside. Arugula, beets, spinach, peas, and fava beans. These are spending most of their time tucked under thick, insulative, white farm blankies. Third: there are several fruit trees on the property, pears, apples, an apricot. We’ve never pruned fruit trees before, but we studied up and climbed in. Overheard someone at the brewery suggest pruning trees such that you could throw a cat through the branches. (That’s the sort of instruction I can understand.) Borrowed an extendable tree pruner with a draw string; high tech gadgetry, very Spaceman Spiff. And in the weeks since we’ve got them all pruned up, they’ve opened up in blossoms. Fourth: Randi got these here muck boots for me, for my birthday. I love them, so smart. I like to wear them, muck around. And then talk about them, when I’m not wearing them, post photos on the interwebs.

And here are a few more photos from around the farm, pretty pretty.