A CSA pepper guide

We’ve put together a guide to help our CSA members navigate the peppers in their share this week.August8_CSAnews

The share is extra-specially pepper heavy this week as we’re clearing out what we can save from frost, some were pulled before turning color. Most tender things are hooped and covered. There’s plenty out there that won’t really be bothered. And some things that will only get sweeter with the cooler temperatures.

Here’s a photo of the share this week…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

and here is a link to this week’s newsletter.

Attention home brewers and friends of home brewers: Cycle Farm hops are all packaged, we have 7 varieties available in 1 oz. vacuum sealed packages (Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Galena, Glacier, Hallertauer, Tettnanger).

Also, grapes are ready for jamming and juicing – we have Valients and Concords. Pickling cukes too! ’tis the season to put it up. Please contact us if you’re interested. Eat well, friends!

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May farm update. The heat is on.

Here’s a brief update on good things growing, long days working, warm sun shining on the farm these days. We planted potatoes and started filling in the herb bed (planted so far are the echanachia, johnny jump-ups, calendula, borage, and mints, other culinary herbs are headed out soon). And long days of weeding and bed prep for CSA crop rows. Peas have sprouted, radishes and beets, turnips are just starting to poke their leaves up. We’ve begun transplanting into the back field: mustards, collard greens, cabbage. The flea beetles have already found our mustard greens, bok choy, and tat soi. These little guys decimated our mustards last year. We’re dosing our tender greens with diatomacious earth and a good pep talk, this seems to be working so far.

fleabeetles hops onions

Lolita’s hive is doing well, building comb and collecting pollen – right now the bees have mainly crazy orange dandelion pollen, but there are also bees about with a lighter yellow pollen (cottonwood?).  The pears are in full glorious bloom. We did not get fruit from these trees last year, so we can’t speak from experience, but hear-say is these pears are exquisite. Qi bombs. The plums and crab apples have also just started to flower. The hops are doing their fun sort of cobra dance, snaking around in the air looking for something to climb. And as also regards snakes, the garter snakes on the farm are all sorts of amorous these days. Everywhere you look, dexterous, tangled. Entirely uninhibited. It’s mesmerizing.

may pear tree

We are trying to keep the greenhouse cool. With outside temperatures in the 90s this is a challenge. We have lost a few lettuces, but in general the little green things are toughing it out alright.may 13 hot day

Our peppers and tomatoes are stoked.
may peppers and tomatoes

Here’s a quick no-till bed prep report.

-Hoeing and hand pulling the quackgrass rhizomes takes about 6 hrs/bed. We’re tried different variations along this theme, but that’s generally where we’re at with this. So far, we’ve done this to 12 beds.  After weeding, these beds are immediately covered with a thick layer of straw.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

-Perennial rows (insectary and asparagus) have been (and will be) weeded by hand. With these beds we can’t manage extracting weed roots without damaging our plants, so we are essentially mowing. By hand. Pulled grass is layed right back on the bed around the asparagus/flowers as a mulch. So far, this is time consuming but surprisingly effective.

-Scything and mulching with a long roll of 100% recycled craft paper and straw. This technique is embraced with smiles as it allows for standing and moving, and swinging the scythe, a brilliant tool.

-Storage crop rotation rows are all a go (we have a four year rotation on potatoes, winter squash, beans, corn – partially for soil nutrient cycling, partially for pest management). Eight rows (potatoes) were mulched with straw early in March. This has done an awesome job suppressing weed takeover, we have potatoes in and they should do alright out-competing the wheat kernals from the straw mulch that decide to pop up. Another eight rows (beans) were manually weeded, pretty thoroughly, then heavily mulched. Those will be planted in a few weeks. We intercepted an incredible lot of empty barley bags from the trash bin at the brewery, thick brown paper bags. Those were layed out over yet another 8 beds (corn) and weighted with straw mulch. (where we ran out of barley bags we spread out a thick layer of old newspapers. Hope is this will set back/knock out weed growth underneath. And we’ll either cut into the bags for planting into or remove the bags, strip the weeds, mulch and plant. And then, in the squash rows (8 rows for these too) – this is exciting – Jeremy planted a cover crop of winter rye last fall. It’s up, growing tall, totally out pacing the quackgrass. Just like it’s supposed to. So we should be able to fold this down and plant squash into this in a few weeks. (Yes! score one for the farmers!)

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Commonly small farms will use a sheet of plastic as an easy, efficient way to manage weeds. We are not using plastic for mulching, solarizing, or ‘burning’ the weeds, because it generates an awful lot of garbage. Our intent is to minimize our off-farm inputs, and make the farm as ‘sustainable’ (arrg, this poor word…) as possible. We’ll keep trying. Lots of experiments.

With all this in consideration, both the health of the soil and the labor involved, we are putting much thought into the merits of tilling (eeep!). Our neighbors have a field, over 8 acres, they are able to glide over with a tractor in approximately 3 hours. Meanwhile we are bent over a 30″x70′ bed for 6 hours pulling weeds. That’s just one row. This doesn’t make sense: fiscally this seems incredibly irresponsible, and while great for soil health, it’s ultra tough on the farmer (hands, back, morale). We are transplanting and filling beds as they are cleared, but we are still behind. At what point does the energy consumed by the tractor become more efficient than the energy we are consuming as two people working the land? Seems to me like we might be cutting it pretty close. So we’re decided to play out as many no-till ideas as we can this year. Give it absolutely the very best we’ve got.  If we are stuck in the same position next year, it may be time to consider renting a tiller. This soil is phenomenal. And resilient. If we can get a hold on our weeds, establish a cover crop immediately after a single go at tilling, bring the farm into a manageable state, quality of life for everyone (the soil, our crops, us) will be significantly improved. But for now, the jury is still out and we’re still no-till.

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And lastly, here are a few links we’ve been accumulating for a little while, things people have passed along to us and we would like to share.

Another strong argument for no-till. A BBC article discloses: Fungus plays role in plant communication: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22462855 Much like the tin can-string set up the farmers use here at Cycle Farm.

Undoubtedly, you’ve also been hearing/reading a lot about the alarming, distressing bee problems. Here’s a bit more, http://e360.yale.edu/feature/declining_bee_populations_pose_a_threat_to_global_agriculture/2645/

This is absolutely incredible. Data. Google Earth has stitched together nearly 40 years of satellite imagery, here: http://earthengine.google.org/#intro/.  How did they do this?! You can travel through time and space, while sipping tea at your desk – search for Spearfish and watch ag land be eaten up by houses. Zoom in on any part of the Brahmaputra River in Bangladesh – ! lose yourself in channel pattern evolution and sediment transport, so glorious. Alternatively, search Fort McMurray, AB Canada and zoom out a bit and pan north a bit. That one may give you a stomach ache.

And here’s an interesting article regarding ribbon farms (vs section, 1/4 section farms) and contemporary American transportation, community: http://www.wired.com/opinion/2012/11/how-a-quirk-of-medieval-farm-shapes-led-to-the-american-psychology-today/ Cycle Farm is a “ribbon farm”, 100′ x 1/4 mile – relic of Spearfish Valley’s agricultural heritage.

For those of you who know and use Latin names and appreciate work cited and in-text referencing, get a load of this. http://botanistinthekitchen.wordpress.com/ SO GOOD. Prepare to fall even more in love with asparagus.

With warm, happy smiles – Trish and Jeremy

CSA share basket number one, check.

Yesterday was our first CSA share pick-up! We spent the early morning harvesting, then tucked into the shade in the afternoon for washing and sorting and packing. This year we are doing only 11 shares, and in further efforts to keep things simple we are doing only full shares. Our CSA season will run for 18 weeks. We are trying our best to make each week’s share full and diverse, with enough vegetables for a family or a primarily vegetarian couple for a week. This week was certainly a light spring/early summer basket, with special spring delicacies, garlic scapes and peas. We’re really looking forward to seeing how each weekly basket changes over the season.

We are also putting together a weekly newsletter to go along with the CSA shares, and will post them online. The newsletter has a list of what’s in each basket and ideas on how to prepare them, just in case you’re stumped.

Here are a few photos of the CSA shares.. the exploded basket includes all the incredible tasty treats, minus the four heads of lettuce.. tisk. Possibly the most beautiful, blushing, sweet lettuce in the whole wide world, and I forgot to put them in the share photo. Ah well. I had taken a photo of them all lined up in the field before harvest – here there are. Grandpa Admires.

The shares are available for pick-up at the farm between 4-7 PM on Thursday. It was a lot of fun meeting and catching up with our CSA members yesterday. Some members even came to the farm to pick up their share by bicycle – little kiddo in tow!! YES! It was also good to have some downtime in the afternoon, away from weeding and irrigating.. we even pulled out the watercolors.

It’s pretty much the coolest feeling to be growing food for our community.  To now be providing delicious, healthy food to people who invested in this land and two farmers, way back on a snowy day in February, it’s awesome.  A CSA is a remarkable thing, and we feel so grateful and excited to be a part of it.  We hope that everyone is enjoying their Cycle Farm produce!

…and on an unrelated note, our hop vines have begun climbing. Thank you, Malcolm.

June happenings

The irrigation lateral busted out front last weekend. It just broke. I may or may not have had anything to do with it. So it broke and water came splooshing out 4 feet in the air, a geyser, flooding the spruce trees, and making a scene. With some help from our mayordomo and an Alabama match, Jeremy fixed it up, right proper. Wet socks the whole way through. We’re still fussing with the irrigation system, waiting on some parts and pieces we’ve ordered. Getting that all in and running will make a big difference.

We’re getting fencing up. This has been a prolonged process, involving augering post holes, cleaning out the holes, setting the posts (every other post is 16′ long – for hop trellising), carting and tamping gravel. Deer and rabbit are prevalent in these parts, but we’d like to minimize their activity and feasting in our vegetable field. So far, we’ve been successful in protecting crops by using row covers as a deterrent. But as nearly every bed is full of precious, tender, tasty treats now, row covers are less convenient and more time consumptive. We need a fence. And here it comes, by bicycle.

And we’ve started on setting trellis cord in the hop field. We’ve both gotten pretty slick with the sisal rope and hammer toss over the 13′ cable move. Commercial hop farms will trellis hops at 18-25′. We’ve got 13′ trellises (16′ posts with 3′ in the ground), which is what we had available and affordable. The hop plants are on a bit of a rough start as they were mowed all last year and we’ve only now just giving them something to climb. But these little sticky vines are burly. I have confidence in them, they are going somewhere now. Like the awkward, lanky girl in middle school who grows up to play NCAA Division 1 basketball. Climb little ones. Alley oop.

Lots of fun colors happening around here these days. Red cabbage, crazy pink snow pea flowers, beautiful speckeled lettuces. The eggplants were planted outside earlier this week. And the garlic is scaping, just in time for Spearfish’s first Farmer’s Market, this Friday.

The birds are growing into themselves; developing their wing feathers, and tail feathers, and punky personalities. The especially handsome chick here, with five toes and feathery legs, is a Salmon Faverolle. (Sand Hill Preservation Center describes them as “calm, elegant birds”; I think they look a lot like Jeremy). A lovely double rainbow over the farm a few days ago. And the bees are collecting black pollen from our neighbors’ pretty poppies.

..and a few more superfluous farm animal photos. It can’t be helped.

Please come by and visit us at the first Spearfish Farmer’s Market on Friday evening, during the Downtown Music in the Middle of the Street Festival. And – not to be missed – Cycle Farm’s Weeding Party Bonanza on Saturday morning, nine to noon.

Happy happy June!

It takes a party to build a trellis

Last week a crew of wonderful friends came to the farm to help us get our hop trellis started. The farm seemed alive with people (and dogs) milling about – working hard, enjoying the sunshine, the bird calls, and the green. The days are already getting long and together we filled them up with heavy lifting, moving 10′ and 16′ posts, pulling t-posts, piling brush, post hole digging, and plum tree pruning. Then there was bread baking, feasting, creative water coloring, and frequent trips down the street to Crow Peak Brewery to fill up growlers. No one complained about the appalling lack of a hammock, having to sleep on the floor, or the consistent 9:00PM dinner time. Many hands made for happy workers. We’re feeling so grateful to have had a chance to connect with dear friends, to share ideas and get excited about growing food and healthy lands. Thank you guys. So much.

The most beautiful bicycle in the whole wide world.

Faster!

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.