capricious loveliness

The seemingly unseasonably cold spring has some things moving along at a pokey-molasses pace, others are all systems go. Our calendar and journal from last year tell us things are about a month behind 2017.  Here’s a quick update as to some of what has been happening on the farm these past few weeks.

We celebrated an exciting early greens harvest at the end of March. A few rows of cold-hardy greens we had started last fall and had hoped would overwinter and be ready for our earliest farm stand markets this spring started to bolt earlier than we had expected, became instead a special harvest for our early-to-sign-up farm share members.  In the greenhouse, the germination chamber is stuffed to the gills with trays of soil blocks. The thermometer consistently reads at 70(ish) degrees in the germination chamber, an insulated and many-shelved box, with heat mats – temporary parking for seed trays while seeds are getting ready for their debut into sunshine. Shelves are filling up with flats of seedlings. Radishes are swelling. Spinach is getting mowed down by mice. We’re setting mouse traps with peanut butter. Outside and greenhouse temperatures have been such that we are still playing the cover-uncover back and forth game with row covers in the greenhouse, trying to keep all the little ones comfortable during the cold nights.One of the pepper varieties we seeded last week is La Mesilla – from our own saved seed. This is a Northern New Mexico chile pepper grown by our farmer friends and mentors, David and Loretta, at Monte Vista Organics. These two offer endless inspiration for us, not only as regards growing delicious food, but also as thoughtful, hardworking, generous and truly lovely humans. This just might be the very beginning of a Spearfish Valley, regionally adapted La Mesilla strain. Over half of the tomato varieties we’re growing this year are from our own seed (that’s 18/34, if you’re keeping count).  Seeding in the spring is full of all sorts of hope and magic, wonder and possibility, all the things of poetry and prayer. These sentiments are amplified in planting seed that we’ve selected for and saved, seeing plants complete their life cycle, generation after generation, on the farm.

Also in the works/germination chamber is the very beginning of Operation RUSDSG- new for 2018. This is a special flower garden plan inspired by a friend. The name is slightly embarrassing and calls into question the legitimacy of our credibility as farmers, but it was an entirely necessary measure in reigning in Jeremy’s absurd, unending flower seed order, so please content yourself with the acronym, RUSDSG. Below is a sneak preview; some photos snitched from Uprising Organics and Wild Garden, two of our favorite seed growers and suppliers for our RUSDSG.Ginger and turmeric are presprouting. In early February, we cut seed, spread them out and covered them over. They’ve been set in the warmest nook of the house, Little Bali, a neighborhood favored by baby ginger and spiders with massive pedipalps. As soon as soil temperatures warm up in the greenhouse, out they’ll go (the ginger; the spiders, ? who knows). We’ve had good luck with growing ginger before and are looking forward to seeing how the turmeric fares.A couple weeks ago we welcomed three bum lambs to the farm. The north bay of the garage has been converted into a lamb barn/ parkour jungle gym. These little ones are spending their days snoozing and bouncing, slurping down milkshakes and gumming everything they can get a hold of: straw bales, baby spruce trees, and small, giggly visitors. The lambs will soon transition to daytime in grape vines and then they will head to the back field where they will mow and fertilize our pasture and orchard area. Lady Eve, Albrecht and Justus, we’re so grateful you are here.And, as we’re on the topic of darling, tiny, fuzzy things, in clearing out and replanting beds in the greenhouse, we found just a few mossy patches near the komatzuna – including a little clump with sporophytes!  So exciting, we had to pull out the loupe.  Moss on soil can be a problem, it’s often indicative of too much moisture and/or poor circulation. This bed was covered up for the winter and the protected, still air under greens seems to have suited their growth. With warmer temperatures and some quick successions of radishes, turnips and salad greens, these little bryophytes will disappear or go dormant.We planted fruit trees, raspberries and herbaceous perennials this week.  A South Dakota-bred pear (Gourmet) and two apples (Hudson’s Golden Gem and Chestnut Crab) were added to the orchard, now with over 65 fruit trees.  And elsewhere, throughout the farm – a honeysuckle that should be pretty popular with hummingbirds, more herbs/medicinal plants, lavender, lady’s mantle and arnica. (Also in photos: Radish is a great help with vole patrol in the orchard and when the handle on the water bucket breaks, it’s convenient to have sunflower stalks on hand.)

And just a few more photos of April, above: a juvenile goshawk enjoying a Eurasian collared dove for breakfast (that was this morning!); Halcyon in snow; the greenhouse disappearing under snow last week; lamb snuggles; spring eggs; soil blocking; spring greens; arugula+bacon+avocado+Jerm’s bread+fried egg = not our usual 13th century peasant slop(read: lentils) and thus a photo worthy feast; chickens enjoying culls from the greenhouse; baby kale (March harvest) and new harvest totes; Lady Eve Balfour; milk thistle seed; young ones in the gh; worm castings are all over the greenhouse beds; tomato seed.

Thank you, friends! A special thanks to all who made it out for the Poetry Tour last weekend, we really enjoyed the time with you all.

Bright green cotyledons, muddy boots and big smiles,  Trish and Jeremy

up, up!

Springy things are happening in all directions around here, though primarily up. Pace is picking up. Seed trays are filling up. Garlic is shooting up.  Here’s a quick look at what we’ve been up to these last few weeks.An afternoon photo session in the field (above, up): an extremely optimistic, early blooming apricot in the orchard. We have several more trees to plant this spring, bringing our orchard total to 65 fruit trees. The garlic beds look great, I think they can tell we love them. Radish babes are popping in the tunnel, also spring turnips and beets. And we’ve been finding preying mantis egg cases all over the place. I mean it. Holy crap, they are everywhere. Or at least in areas where we have piles of wood stacked up and unmowed grass… which is essentially everywhere. So cool. Not pictured: all the messy beds we need to get cleaned up and ready to be planted for the season. The trouble is some of those messy beds are serving as beneficial insect habitat, so…We’ve been spending a lot of time in the greenhouse, filling seed trays. At this point we’re using soil blocks for most everything. Except herbs and alliums, which we are germinating in flats and either potting up (herbs) or transplanting into the field (alliums). The southern extension space on the greenhouse is getting loaded with seed trays. This is our first spring season with this additional space and we’re feeling grateful for it.And here are a few more photos from inside the greenhouse. Our greenhouse is a passive solar, pole barn structure with straw bale and cob walls. Over the past few years we’ve made modifications and the cob work is not yet finished, but inside, it’s warm and quiet, full of little living things and a great place to spend time – especially during variable springtime weather. (Sunshine this afternoon and it graupeled on us as we came in from the field this evening).

We’re looking forward to our first harvest for the farm stand this weekend. Greens!

Up, up, here we go – t&j

Blommefrugttræ and a banshee.

Despite the recent tepid temperatures, the seed catalogs have started rolling in. We are spending the days clearing and mulching vegetable beds, moving rocks, chopping wood, baking bread, broadcasting clover cover crop seed, winnowing amaranth and popcorn. seeds and sleep

Our friend, Gordon Tooley of Tooley’s Trees in Truchas, NM honored us with a beautiful South Dakota plum tree while we were down visiting for the Quivira Coalition conference a couple weeks ago. Gordon grows heirloom fruit trees, organically, on a north facing slope, at nearly 8,000′ elevation. His reverence and enthusiasm for fruit trees has inspired us to make orchard plans for the farm. Trees are important. There is something sacred about tending to something, a being, that will likely outlive you. Perennials deserve extra deliberation  We have been studying several orchard books and have consulted with the field itself. We are looking at existing, larger shade trees, wind direction, aspect, soil moisture. Pear trees generally grow taller, so plan on room for them towards the north side so they don’t block sun for anyone else. Wind comes from the west, so arrange the rows skewed from that as to divert air flow up and over the trees, not down the rows. Consider your root stock. And so we go.

The South Dakota plum, Prunus americana, is a variety originally bred in the early 1900’s by the head of the Horticulture Department at South Dakota State University, Niels Ebbesen Hansen. Only wish he’d have given it a good Danish name. Ours has been planted in an excellent spot, near a cluster of wild plums, towards the very south west corner of the field. Planted at grade, graft union to the north. It’s got a burly deer fence protecting it. And a fantastic view of Spearfish Peak. Thank you Gordon.

planting south dakota plum

A few of the highlights of our recent orchard studies include the following: fruit trees are described as precocious. It is advised that one makes thorough ski tracks and/or snowshoe trompings through one’s orchard after winter snowfalls, to ensure adequate collapse of vole/mole/critter tunnels which might otherwise be girdling your trees. Add that to the to-do list. Have to go skiing.

December has brought us a few challenges. The deer have discovered they can rip down the fencing and help themselves to the remaining goodies in the field. We had been looking forward to krauting a short row of cabbage – but it’s gone now. The frost-sweetened kale, collards and brussels have been mowed. The daily routine now includes a check and repair on the fencing. The warm temperatures mean that the hives have not completely tucked into winter hibernation. The more active they are, the more honey they consume. The danger is that they will exhaust their honey reserves before spring time. The huge winds of this past weekend blew the tarps covering the straw bales on the greenhouse all to hell. It’s exhausting and completely futile to try and weigh down a 14 x 30′ sheet of vinyl canvas that’s being lifted by the wind. We spent more time that we should have out there battling the banshees. It’s essential that we keep the strawbales dry, otherwise they will rot and mold beneath the plaster. Gales, heavy tarps, lots of yelling, murky clouds, hastily piling straw bales, rocks, wood beams. Helpless and absolutely miserable. In the end, a board holding an edge of one of the tarps was ripped off the roof beam. No structural damage. And not too much strawbale damage.

We also have new positive challenges. Our chickens are laying in abundance, which has increased the pressure to find a market. Legally, we can sell our eggs direct to consumer, which is great. However, being primarily occupied by on-farm chores and not having a weekly winter Farmer’s Market, our ability to network and market our eggs is a time-challenge.  We’re looking into the licensing required to distribute our eggs through a local grocer. This involves “candling” the eggs, a term which conjures a little bit of Archimedes, and a little voo-doo. We’ll see. In the meantime, please contact us if you’re in the need for some extra-delicious, farm fresh eggs.

bearded lady and coop shots