November mud, mask.

Happy happy November. We wrapped up our Farmers Market season last weekend with smiles on our faces, snow on the ground, Positive Vibrations on the radio, and Cycle Farm-grown produce all over the place. It feels good to pack up the market and start putting time towards other things. We learned a lot this summer, selling at the market both downtown and in the Park. Spearfish certainly has a unique market – and we are lucky to have it. Big thanks to everyone who came downtown on Friday nights, and later Saturday mornings, to visit with us and pick up vegetables. Thank you for your support. We look forward to seeing you next year. Here are some photos from our very last Farmers Market in Spearfish City Park. It was a slow day, but absolutely beautiful in the snow and sunshine.

Halloween fell smack in the middle of a long week of stacking strawbales and spreading mud slurry primer muck all over. It almost got lost entirely. We could have easily resigned to dress as weary farmers, with our ready-made costumes: mud-caked pants, sneezy, dust-crudy noses and prickly, straw-pokey socks. Somehow that didn’t seem like quite enough of a merry celebration. So with haste and determination I made a mask. An up-side-down face. It’s not much, but it has proven itself pretty useful. For instance, Jeremy pulled out a few leeks for potato-leek soup. This made him very happy. See. Happy Halloween!

And a quick greenhouse update.

Last week we got the strawbales up for the greenhouse walls. Jeremy made a bale needle for sewing custom bales to fit the odd spots. Our good friend Tom helped with the loading, unloading and stacking of the bales. They went up like heavy, slippery legos – shedding prickly straw bits into our socks and pretty much everywhere.

Once the bales were stacked, straightened and secured to the framed structure, we started packing muddy straw to fill holes and gaps. Then we sprayed on a very messy clay slip primer coat. This is a thin coat that went on before applying the thick plaster which will get us through the winter. Our plan, at this point, is to do a final coating on the outside walls in the spring. We’ll try and finish the inside cob work this winter as weather permits.

The clay came from the hill behind exit 14 here in Spearfish. It is of the Spearfish Formation, a red clayey mudstone/sandstone which is Permian-Triassic, 250 million years, give or take. This is very exciting. At this point North America, South America and Africa were cuddling together right at the equator. The Spearfish formation would have been deposited in a low-energy, flat coastal desert environment. Maybe like today’s Persian Gulf in the Middle East.  Iron present in the sediments would get wet then dry and wet and dry, oxidizing into this crazy brilliant beautiful red. Makes you want to sing. Makes Tom want to raise the barn.

Jeremy has started on the thick plaster work (see below). Not ever having done this before, we certainly see the merit in hands-on cob-building workshops and trainings. Our hope is to use the greenhouse to start seed trays in the spring and be growing produce in the ground by the summer.

There is no end to a good thing.

October photo update.

Here is October at Cycle Farm, in photos. In brief.

Crushing apples for cider.

The birds.

Harvesting cabbages..

…and kohlrabi for the shares.

CSA pick up at the farm.

This week’s farm share. Week 17 CSA newsletter is posted online here.

And Cycle Farm at the Farmer’s Market last Saturday morning.

Hope to see you all tomorrow at the farm for some happy season celebrations.

Harvesting amaranth and roosters // And the tomato: the smallest mask in the world.

Here are some photos from the CSA share pick-up last week. The watermelons were especially fun. The CSA newsletter is available for perusal here.

We have started in on the amaranth harvest. This is a bit more labor intensive than imagined. Each amaranth flower holds hundreds of tiny amaranth grains, each flower has to be shaken out into a paper bag/bucket, to collect the grains. Then the grains need to be winnowed from the shaff/flower bits and bugs. Good thing amaranth is a superfood.

On Wednesday we harvested the young roosters. It took four of us a full morning to process 29 birds. This was not something either of us had done before, but we had good friends come help us with the processing and it went quickly and efficiently. It gave us a lot to think about in terms of the true cost of food and small-scale, low-stress livestock processing.  We hope to get our thoughts in order and put together a post regarding this – both the experience and the economics – soon.

We’ve been heading to the Farmer’s Market in the Park on Saturday mornings with the bikes loaded up with farm fresh treats, hand harvested with love. It’s important to us to have this direct to consumer market – to be able to sell our produce directly to the people who are going to eat it. For us, this is a big perk of our CSA. Before this full-on farming gig, we both grew to love shopping at local farmer’s markets, having a face to go along with the food we’re buying and directly supporting the local economy. There are still several things we are trying to get used to about being on other side of the table – as producers. But maybe that just takes time. This summer, the market farmers and artisans have become a wonderfully supportive community for us. We’re really fortunate to be in an area with a market, albeit small, it’s pretty fantastic.

And lastly, and completely unrelated to much of anything else.. we discovered there’s a special sort of fun to be had at this time of year, as the tomatoes are in full bounty. At Cycle Farm, as in life, we employ Jacques Lecoq’s (the father of red nose theater) principle skills of le jeu, complicité, and disponsibilité – playfulness, togetherness, and openness. And we’re working towards the eccentric. (Thank you, Sarah-Jane Moody, thank you so so SO very much.)

100 degrees, still smiling.

Two weeks into our CSA season. The heat these past weeks has sent a few things to bolt. In order to beat the bolt, our baskets were extra full this week. We had planned to space the Asian greens over different shares. But here we are. A great opportunity to make kimchi.

This share is bridging the very last of the garlic scapes and the very first of the green onions.  And flea beetles are lacing our greens, but they are still stunning. And delicious. We’ve posted our weekly CSA newsletter here.

The bees are well, they are hot. We checked in on them last weekend, the walls and floor of the hives were blanketed in bees, all standing still, holding on tight with their feet, while madly flapping their wings – ventilating the hives. There are also more bees at the door of each hive, just clustered there, buzzing. But each queen is still laying well. And they’re building new comb. We may get honey this year yet.Also, as relates to the heat, we’ve figured out a way to keep our delicate greens fresh and happy at the Friday night Farmer’s Market downtown: decoys.

way too hotWe understand that, as a marketing technique, this is poor form. Buyers are attracted to mass. A heaping pile of turnips, a brimming basket of greens, an Aconcagua of fingerling potatoes will lead to better sales than a lonely, empty basket.. with a sign. Makes sense. How can you resist a glowing pyramid of rainbow radishes?

Tricky. It would be lovely to distribute our good food en masse. But we don’t want to be handing out wilted greens. We take great care to harvest things at their prime, the day of market, so they are perfectly fresh and ready to enjoy. It’s hard work, we’re working harder than we’ve ever worked before. And we’re proud of what we’re doing. So selling produce on Friday afternoons, in the middle of a hot, paved street on 100 degree day – it’s a challenge.

Sales or no, we’re determined to stick it out. With our goods safe from the heat, fresh in the coolers, and signs posted on the table. A Farmer’s Market is a treasure. It’s too important to us. And I’ll hope that the Spearfish community will soon recognize how fantastic it is to eat healthy foods, and support local, sustainable agriculture, and they will rally downtown to the Friday night Farmer’s Market. Vendors are set up by 5:00PM, so there is time to come by and visit your local farmers and artisans and beat the crowds, music, and difficult parking – if that’s a concern. Fresh, local, non-certified organic produce. Read the signs, we’ll have it in the cooler.

Lastly, here’s a quick shot of the birds tonight, all tucked in for sleeping.

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!