a May(hem) montage

So many warm and happy greetings from Cycle Farm! We’ve been sending out weekly farm updates via emails to our farm share members  for a month now and have realized that without our routine springtime farm community events, there are many in our broader community of farm friends that we haven’t had a chance to catch up with these days and we’re missing time with you all. This is a collection of snapshots (mostly annotated) from the farm these past couple of weeks, highlights from the most recent week’s share member newsletter, and a brief update as to where we are in the season. We are sending this out with love and hope it finds you doing well, keeping busy, and eating something seasonal and delicious, wherever you happen to be.Currently on the farm we have three lambs, a young soon-to-be laying flock, and a brooder full of Freedom Ranger meat birds. The lambs, Emily, Oliver, and Budbill, are just recently weaned and still exceedingly snuggly. The not-quite-yet layers treat the lambs like playground equipment. The lambs don’t seem to be thrilled about this. The brooder birds have quickly phased from cutie little peepers into their partial feathers, haggard and ragged look and whole-hearted dissident punk attitude. I think they’re staying up late listening to Rancid records, making art stencils, and compiling their angst and diy ethics into zines. They are at least pooping everywhere and scratching all the feed out of their feeders, no doubt because the feeder is an indisputable symbol of authoritarianism. Last week we put the lambs to in graze an area that we had seeded last fall with a rye and vetch cover crop. They took to the task without hesitation, the chickens followed suit. A lot of full crops and contented ruminations. The photos below show the rye/vetch field, in the lower photo: on the left is what they’ve grazed down in two days, on the right is where we’re just about to move them.The field rows are filling in. It seems as though most of our time is being spent hauling stuff: carts of straw mulch, wheel barrows of compost, buckets of weeds, buckets of grain for chickens, flats of young, tender green plants, and the live trap with BunBuns and then, later, Mrs. Bun-Buns. Some things look awesome, some – not so hot. We’ve had trouble with some direct seeded crops (mostly due to flea beetles), and accepting of this, we’ve transplanted out starts from the greenhouse in their stead – that is to say we’re bummed about the spring turnips that didn’t even really have a chance to set true leaves, but the rainbow Swiss chard transplants we plunked down in the bed instead look great. We have a couple self-inflicted weed issues that have been and will take time over the course of the summer – a trailer load of oat straw that we’re using to mulch beds is rich in oat seed, which means now all our vegetable beds have a lush oat cover crop coming up, and after making a few batches of soil block mix with vermicompost, we discovered that last year we hid a butt tonne of flowering stinging nettle in the worm bin. On the plus side, stinging nettle appears to be great at increasing circulation and easing soreness in tired, achy hands.The snap and snow peas are climbing up up UP. The onions look great. Jeremy’s hands have completed their annual transition to 80-grit sandpaper.Last week, Jeremy and his father, David, finished up a construction project in the pack shed.  We now have a big, empty, sparkly new wall. This puts us another step toward having the packshed all set up and functioning super smooth AND gives us an excellent location for art – we are accepting any and all mural ideas.  (fyi octopus is off the list, we already have the world’s most amazing octopus). Two observations regarding wearing masks during construction work, an advantage and a disadvantage: the mask blocks unpleasant dust/mold/junk associated with working on an old building however it’s mighty inconvenient for people who are used to holding nails/screws in their mouth as they work. Last week we also sprayed Biodynamic preparation 500, this is our ninth season with preps on the farm.  Spraying 500 always seems to happen when our to-do list is over the top and we are feeling behind despite being in go-go-go mode. And this requires us to sit and focus, to pull our attentions and intentions together; this practice fosters observation, humility, and patience. It was a good opportunity to reflect and meditate on the farm with a special focus on all these leafy green solar panels collecting energy from the sun, exuding sugars into the soil, and feeding our soil microbes and diversity of life around us, and to help us grow good, healthy food. In short, things around here are busy busy and beautiful, and we’re feeling especially grateful for all of it, even the 500 billion baby nettles in our soil blocks.

Oh yes! AND we’d like to share a collection of things we’ve found of interest and delight these past couple weeks…

  • Orion’s new series of letters from isolation, Together Apart, especially so this one.
  • Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach.
  • This poem by John O’Donnell and read aloud by Billy Collins in an interview on Sugar Calling.
  • Even though we know just enough about basketball to know they aren’t the Yukon Huskies, The Ramshackle Garden Of Affection, a collection of letters between Ross Gay and Noah Davis
  • for SoDak friends: the Sicangu Community Development Corporation and Dakota Rural Action are in cahoots to rally the masses in a distanced celebration of food – join the party, come to the table.
  • And a bit of fascinating science about bumble bees – they are AMAZING.

Summer into October

October?! Yowzahs! How did this happen?!

Here are some highlights from the last couple months. Scroll through quick and it should have that fun flip-book effect. High pitched, redshift, here is our summer, in review, in fast forward.

Our big project this summer has been building the pack shed. The original plan was to have it finished before CSA started in June, but we may have been over estimating ourselves – by a year. The pack shed is a covered 16’x25′ concrete slab with a storage loft. We will run all the water and electric from above, so we can make changes as we figure things out.  The construction crew has been primarily Jeremy and his father, David. We’ve had gracious and timely help from friends for heavy lifting and pouring concrete. And Trish gets to pound nails, sometimes.building-the-packshedWe had a few excellent friends come out to visit this summer. Beyond being much appreciated and additional willing, working hands, we so love all the smiles, good conversation, and inspiration. Thanks for coming by the farm, friends, it’s such a treat to have you here.

This has been our first full season with our farm stand. Overall, it’s been a good season, though it’s clear we need to address some marketing issues, namely, we need to do some marketing. A sign might help. We have a good core customer base and we’ve really enjoyed getting to know people as they return each week, hearing about recipes they’ve tried, sharing sourdough starter and swapping cook books. Our original intent was to set up an honor system till at the farm stand, but the weekly interaction we get with folks is something we’ve grown to really value and, so far, being open only Saturday mornings, we’ve been able to prioritize the time and have at least one of us be there. This Saturday will be our final farm stand for the season – come by and load up.farmstandWe’re enthusiastically learning more about biodynamic agriculture and ways we can incorporate this practice on our small farm. There are elements to biodynamics that resonate strongly with us (the farm as a whole living system, focus on soil health, importance of animals, community involvement, observation and meditation, we’ve found the planting calendar is super useful…), and then there are other parts we haven’t quite wrapped our heads around. A few weeks ago we buried biodynamic preparation 500 near our barrel compost.bd-500The first weekend of October, we took a quick trip down to visit our friends Beth and Nathan at their farm in Scottsbluff. They hosted a workshop on integrating seed production with small scale vegetable farms. This is something we have been interested in doing here and we’re especially grateful to have the opportunity to learn from these thoughtful, generous, experienced growers. It was good to learn some new seed cleaning techniques as well as improve our understanding of producing seed from biennial crops. (and a quick side note: as winter settles in and your fireside seed dreaming starts, check out Meadowlark Hearth. They grow good seed.)meadowlark-hearth-workshopIt was a good summer for bugs on the farm. So many good ones, including burying beetles.2016-summer-bugsThis past Sunday we butchered our laying hens. These ladies were 2-4 years old, the oldest of which were our very first chicks. Good, sweet birds; they taught us a lot. We are replacing them with the young flock that’s been scooting about in tractors in the orchard this summer. The new layers will likely start producing eggs in a month or so.chicekns

We’re hugely grateful for our evisceration crew. It’s so delightful having friends with bright attitudes, minimal squeamish tendencies, and an interest in avian anatomy. Thank you for helping make the morning go so smoothly, respectfully, efficiently. And thank you to our customers for helping to support local, humanely raised, good meat. We’ll be butchering the fryers (young roosters, 20 weeks) this upcoming weekend, if you are interested just let us know.butchering-chickensThese old laying hens make incredible stew. And schmaltz. Jeremy made a leek and onion broth soup with some of the unlaid eggs. He made pad thai with the rest. (Trish prefers the unlaid egg pad thai over the unlaid egg soup). Radish has had this expression on her face ever since we started dehydrating livers and gizzards.chicken-bits

Last week we celebrated our final CSA pick up of the season – with parsnips and leeks, and our best onions yet. This wraps up our fifth CSA season and has us feeling a bit nostalgic, extremely thankful, and completely humbled by how much we have yet to learn. From the very bottom of our hearts, thank you for joining us this season, CSA friends. We’ve enjoyed sharing the harvest with you each week. CSA isn’t for everyone, it’s a special commitment, it requires patience and trust, and a willingness to be flexible and creative – thank you.  We appreciate you for accompanying us on this adventure, for all your support and smiles. Thank you for getting as excited as we are about celery, for telling us about how your sweet little one’s very first non-milk food-food was a Shintokiwa cucumber, for making and puttin’ up pesto, more pesto that you know what to do with (we promise, you’ll be happy about this come February!), and for learning to love beets. We hope that you will join us again next year!

Throughout the CSA season we encouraged share members to either walk or bike to the farm to pick up their vegetables. Of course, it’s not always easy to do (or feasible) and we wholeheartedly understand busy schedules, but we do love the idea of taking the opportunity to stretch your legs after a long day, head over to pick up fresh vegetables at the farm, feel the sun on your face, hear the birds singing… all the while saving the planet from a short trip across town in the car.  Over the course of our 20 week CSA season, there were over 80 trips made by bike or foot! THIS IS HUGE! Thank you, thank you, thank you! We’ll be drawing names from the pie lottery next week, so expect a call from us soon.last-csa-day

That about covers it. Thanks, friends!