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

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Experiments in small batch onion seed cleaning

We grow scallions, scads, succession planting for continuous harvest throughout the season. Fresh scallions are amazing, delicious, they are easy to use, in everything. So we grow a lot. Evergreen Hardy has become a favorite for both flavor and vigor, and we’ve been saving seed every other (ish) year. We haven’t yet invested in seed sieves and as a result we’re still working on a way to adequately and (time) efficiently clean our onion seed.

Yesterday morning we seeded over 5000 alliums (!) and feeling inspired, we pulled out the paper bag of Evergreen Hardy seed heads that we collected last fall and which have been lurking in the mudroom for the past 5 months. Seed saving references mention winnowing with water (eep!), so we gave it a try. Dunking your carefully tended, harvested and dried seed in a jar of water – even just for a few seconds – feels a bit like steeking a sweater. Not for the faint of heart. (deep breath)

Jerm couldn’t watch.

I broke the flowers off the stems and tossed everything around pretty vigorously in order to make sure the seed was good and out of the flowers. Then, handful at a time, I dropped the seed and chaff into a jar and topped it off with water. The chaffy nonsense floated to the the top along with junky seed and the good seed when right to the bottom. I used a chopstick to stir this around a bit. Decanting a few times left me with a bunch of beautiful seed at the bottom of the jar which I immediately spread out to dry. Quick. Everything expeditiously.Jeremy opted for dry winnowing. Using the two sieves we have (a pasta colander and a smaller, mesh strainer) he skimmed off the big chaff and removed the smaller dusty bits. We use a box fan for winnowing kale, beans and corn – but the onion seed requires a more gentle air current, and one can only do the “blowing birthday candles out” seed winnowing technique for so long before becoming too light headed to continue. So we made a cleaning tool that friends at Meadowlark Hearth introduced us to. A sheet of fabric wrapped around a frame. With this we were able to tap the onion seed away from the stems – real slick! This frame is a great way to clean round seed like brassicas and beets, and we are happy to report: it works well for onions too.

Here’s a short video of 1000 onion seeds bouncing on a bedsheet, accompanied by Kid Koala.Both methods seem to yield equally clean seed. Water-winnowing went faster. Dry winnowing was less stressful. We’ve kept seed from these two methods separate and we’ll try them out in side-by-side plantings to compare germination rates over time.

And a special note for all our fellow Spearfish Seed Enthusiasts: next Sunday (3/11)  is the Spearfish Seed Swap from 1:30-4:30 at the Spearfish Public Library. Come, bring your seeds and your friends, bring home your friends’ seeds!  We’re celebrating FIVE years! Even if you don’t have seeds to swap, come anyway, join with friends and neighbors for an afternoon of gardening camaraderie!

 

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

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!

beets, margaritas, and the KBP

Quite possibly the world’s most photogenic beets.

are in our CSA shares this week, mostly Chioggia, some Early Wonder Tall Top.  We have been having a hard time getting even germination with our direct seeded crops (beets, carrots, parsnips, peas).  In this beet bed we filled in gaps with a planting of lettuce. The lettuce made for excellent companion planting and a fun beet harvest/hunt, but it’s not the abundant yield of beets we were scheming for back in February. Look here for this week’s CSA newsletter, a list of what’s in the share, and a recipe for parsley chutney.beets july 7Having Trish’s mom around these past couple weeks has been great fun and lots of thoughtful conversation. We’re getting a lot of good work done – especially early morning weeding parties with hot coffee and Miss Marple (Agatha Christie books on tape). We’ve discovered that heart-racing whodunnits are fantastic for cruising through rows of parsnips and peas. Mom has not only helped us out with marathon weeding, but she’s also introduced us to a new farm tradition: margaritas while seeding fall successions. mom and margaritasThe farm stand signs have been getting dusted off and (some) repainted. Things like Gooseberries and Citron are getting painted over to read Garlic Scapes and Arugula. The original signs were painted by the Schuttlers in the 1950’s. Some of the other crops/products they grew/made/sold include sand cherries, horseradish, plums, apple cider, fat hens, rutabagas, beet greens, fresh eggs, sweet corn, pumpkins, strawberries, dill… Many thanks to our number one farm friend Kaija for helping trace letters and cut out stencils and to Mom for her steady hand and smart spelling. farmstand signsThis week we also harvested seed from our kale breeding project.  In 2012, we ordered a breeders mix from Adaptive Seeds. Since then we’ve been planting out, overwintering, and selecting seed from good looking survivors.  We’re excited to cultivate a kale that is not only especially adapted to the soils, climate, and winters of Spearfish Valley, but also tastes delicious and withstands a fair amount of weed pressure and neglect from busy farmers.kale breedingThings are all lined up, greening and blooming. Here is a view inside the field tunnel (left to right: shishitos, eggplant, beets, cucumbers, chard); trellising in the greenhouse looks like the inside of a piano; a photo of the two of us together!; and the eggplants are flowering.tunnel greenhouse j and t and eggplantAnd lastly, most importantly, some love to our parents – without your steadfast encouragement, support, and love we wouldn’t be able to do any of this. We are so very grateful for your wisdom and profound patience. And for your help. And for finding joy in our ridiculousness. We love you heaps. ann and randi beauties and the beets

a spring update

Off we go and the pace is quickening. Here’s an update on spring farm happenings. Mostly photos, miscellany, and muddled chronology.

Seed trays are filling up. We just started an early round of tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. We’ll get some of these planted out in the tunnel, and we’re also planning a fancy pants/fancy plants Memorial Day Plant Sale (mark your calendar!) with lots of great vegetable, herb, and flower varieties. Stay tuned for more details on this.soilblocksWe’ve re-arranged our beds in the greenhouse, replacing the long rows with key-hole style beds. This has nearly doubled our growing space and will give us more flexibility with crop rotation.key holesAnd a few more shots from the greenhouse – clockwise from upper right: scallions, mixed lettuce, beets, spinach.green in greenhouse A few weeks ago we got a chance to visit with our neighbor/farmer friend, James, of Lookout Gardens and Gage’s Gardens; he showed us the germination chamber they use to get seed trays started. It’s elegant, efficient, and brilliant. With theirs in mind, we built one. Slightly less elegant, rather more clunky, but it should do the job alright.  It’s a 6’x6’x2′ frame box lined with blue foam (leftovers from building the walk-in cooler), and wood slat shelves. The door is plastic sheeting (leftovers from the tunnels). In the bottom, we’ll set a metal tub with water and a heating element to try and keep the chamber at 75-80 degrees with high humidity. We’re looking forward to being better able to take care of these little ones as they get started and hope to have more consistent germination rates (last year’s cold, wet spring was a challenge for us) – and we truly appreciate our clever, thoughtful, supportive farmer friends’ sage advice and inspiration.germination chamber As regards germinating, we’re experimenting with stratifying seeds. We are growing bunches and bunches of plants this year that we’ve never grown before, extra-specially for a good friend of ours who is studying for a certificate in traditional naturopathy. We just started 23 different varieties of flowers and herbs, all tenderly tucked away in bags with wet sand and set aside in the fridge, some for 30 days, some for 60 days.  Jeremy, in particular, is excited about this because it’s given him an excuse to order things that have been on his dream seed list for years.  So now we’ll get to have things like Compass plant (aka silphium, admired by Aldo Leopold in A Sand County Almanac) and Maximilian sunflower (a perennial sunflower!? yes please!), Angelica (a key ingredient in drambuie) and Joe Pye Weed (beneficial to pollinators and people, plus it’s got a great name) growing on the farm.cold stratifying seedsWe lost one of our field tunnels in a hearty wind storm, mid-February. The wind lifted the tunnel, pulling five of the twelve 30-inch earth anchors and sending the structure off like a dervish across the beds, nearly somersaulting over the adjacent tunnel. This second tunnel didn’t budge. We heard reports of 75 mph gusts, though haven’t verified this. On the positive side, we’ll be able to salvage and re-use about half of the frame and this was the tunnel we needed to move this spring anyway, to follow our crop rotation.  tunnel catastropheSo we’ll be building another tunnel. Along with a few other construction projects underway and pending: we are establishing a new raised bed up at the farmstand for you-pick herbs. In order to accommodate more starts, we’re adding on to the front of the greenhouse. A starter annex to replace our living room. We’re building up the vegetable wash station, creating a space that’s both efficient and pleasant to work in. And it looks like this year we’ll have to replace the fence and hop trellis posts.

We just finished pruning the grape vines, a process that has progressively become more streamlined since the Big Buzz Cut of 2012 and developing a pruning/trellising system that we like. There are a handful of chickens that routinely make like Houdini out of their run each morning. They join us as we’re working, at times helpful and at times ripping out entire beds of freshly planted strawberries. And Jeremy found this incredible skeleton this past weekend while cleaning up grape vine trimmings. Woah.spring chores and skeletonAnd lastly, the garlic is up! We expanded out garlic planting last fall and are trying a few soft-neck varieties as well as our favorite hard-necks.  The garlic are planted in alternating beds with a rye and vetch covercrop in between. The covercrop will be crimped and laid down in place as mulch and we’ll plant winter squash into these beds.  We should be able to harvest the garlic in time to give the squash plenty of room to spread out.

With wind tussled hair and big smiles,

Your farmers, Trish & Jeremy

late August update, photos

The summer’s growth has crested into harvest. We’ve been trying to keep up. Here’s a bit of what’s happening.flowers putting up garlicThis was a great year for garlic; our new flower beds are showy as all get out; spending late nights processing junky, split and buggy tomatoes; our kale grex is ready to get out into the field.

bees bees and birdWe have two hives now, Pipi Longstocking and Heidi, both wild swarms, they are doing great; the herb beds are all bBbzzZZzzzy with native pollinators; and we have a hummingbird!! (a female ruby throated hummingbird, we’ve seen her regularly for 3 weeks now).

lambs hops rainbowHops are ready for harvest; a welcome light rain and double rainbow during chores this morning; the pasture management committee is hard at work and ruminating.

birds and seed

The lambs are followed by a chicken tractor: fresh grass, sheepshit, and bugs make for happy birds; our young birds from Sand Hill are growing up, with rose combs and hairy legs; seed saving is on full swing, and we’re already totally stoked about Spearfish’s second annual Seed Swap (stay tuned, next February).

csa so far

The CSA is going well. We’ve had beets in the shares and strawberries! SO GOOD. Our CSA members are such an incredible group of local food enthusiasts, we’re immensely grateful. Thank you, CSA, for sharing the season with us, for your bright smiles each week during pick-up and your courageous kitchen wizardry as we experiment with things like celtuce, fava greens, and sprouts. (If you’re interested, our weekly CSA newsletters are posted online here.)

We have been learning heaps. On the syllabus this summer: livestock and pasture management, blight and orchard care, experiments with row crop farming and flood irrigation, marketing meat birds, increasing production for our CSA, tax incentives for, and the difficulties of, encouraging ag land preservation, farm insurance. And time management, we’re learning about time management.

abigail

One of the absolute highlights this summer has been getting to host Abigail, a BHSU student intern from their Sustainability Program.

radish hoopingAlso, lastly, Radish and Jeremy are working on a new trick now that mocha is down (J: how do you want your mocha this morning, Radish? R: with whipcream and a double shot.) Radish has, believe it nor not, harnessed even more lust for life now that we have a freezer full of dehydrated chicken hearts and gizzards.

 

 

kale grex

Last spring, we ordered a breeders’ kale grex from an excellent seed farm in the Pacific Northwest (originally from Peters Seed and Research, we got it from Adaptive Seeds). A seed grex is a wildly diverse genetic pool, from lots of different varieties which have been allowed to interbreed. Instead of planting a packet of what it bred/selected, hybridized or OP, as one true variety (i.e.  Red Russian, Lacinato, Rainbow Lacinato, Blue Curled Scotch, etc.), the grex is intentionally diverse and used by breeders to develop new varieties or grown by adventurous home gardeners. Here’s a view of our kale grex trial (circa August 2013): OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Even as seedlings, with their first true leaves, we observed an amazing diversity between plants. Leaf colors ranging from blue, blue-green, grass-green, dark green, and grey. The stem colors too: green, white, red, purple. Leaf shape and edge – each little plant wonderfully different. In the greenhouse amid trays of uniform(ish) starts, the grex trays were rouge, dissident, where everyday was Hawaiian Shirt Day.

Our kale grex project will allow us to select for preferred variety characteristics and ultimately develop a kale specifically adapted to thriving in this region. A unique kale that conveys the magnificent terroir of the Northern Hills, a Spearfish Valley kale.

In kale, we are especially interested in and will select for flavor, cold hardiness, strong healthy plants that show resistance towards pest and disease pressure, and tolerance for abuse and neglect due to distracted farmers. Kale, being biennial, seeds in its second year. We had a big selection event this winter: extreme cold without the insulation of a snow cover (remember the several consecutive days of -18F in November, and again in December.. and then again in February?). Out of 120 plants, we had 2 plants survive this winter.  The grex trial was planted in a row immediately adjacent to our White Russian Kale, a variety which is reputed to be the most super hardy winter survivalist. We lost all of the White Russian, even they couldn’t take the extreme cold temperatures. But these two plants rallied through. Hardier than the hardiest. Here are photos of the remaining grex (circa last week):kale grex survivors

We’ll collect and save seed from these two to grow out again – some this fall and another round next spring. Over the course of years we will select for the traits that we’re most excited about.

As regards breeding delicious vegetables, here are some words from Frank Morton, a plant breeder in the PNW. We fancy his lettuce.

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!

sunflowers

Farm sunflower cocktail

TORCH

Torch Mexican Sunflower

marigolds

Marigolds

echinacea

Echinacea, purple coneflower

calendula

Calendula, Resina

zinnias

Salmon Rose Zinnia

bachelorbuttons

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.

saving seed: tomatillos

All our seed orders are in and now packages brimming with seed packets are arriving pert near everyday. Our table has been buried for quite some time now in a thick mantle of books, notes, calendars, charts. It’s seed season, our minds are racing with numbers, and our hearts are full of hope.

We’ve got seeds on the brain these days and are extra specially looking forward to the very first annual Spearfish Seed Swap in a couple weeks. Mark your calendar: Saturday Feb 22nd, 2:30-5PM at the public library.

To celebrate the occasion and help muster enthusiasm for the joy of seed saving, I’ve put together a few words on saving tomatillo seed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

How to save tomatillo seed.

Pick out the very best looking tomatillos from your most healthy, strong, vigorous open-pollinated tomatillo plants. Open-pollinated varieties produce offspring that is true-to-type, versus hybrids where  the next generation may not exhibit the same characteristics as its parents.  We usually pick from 4-5 of the top tomatillo plants in order to help ensure some degree of genetic diversity. You’ll know the tomatillo is ripe, and the seeds are ready to collect, when the fruit has filled out the paper lantern wrapper and the paper begins to split/dry at the base.

Remove the wrappers. Cut up the fruit into wedges and pop them into a blender. And gently bbzZzzZzzzzz them up into a cheerful, bright green tomatillo slurry. The seeds are small and robust and won’t be damaged by the blade.saving tomtatillo seed_blender

Then pour this slurry into a tall container and add water. I would suggest using a clear glass or mason jar for this, so you can see what’s happening. Mix this up with a spoon or chop stick. The good, viable seed will sink down to the bottom of the container.saving tomtatillo seed_pouring

Pour off the floating green slurry and any floating seeds, adding water and pouring again until the water is clear and the seeds at the bottom are all that’s left. Then sieve out the seeds and lay them out evenly on a coffee filter or thin cloth.saving tomtatillo seed_drying

Let the seeds dry in a dark place, with good air circulation. Be sure to fuss around with them a bit while they are drying, mix them up so they don’t dry all stuck together. When they are all dry, seal them up in an air tight container and store them in a dark spot. You’ll know they are dry enough for storage when the seed breaks instead of bends under pressure. Just pick one out and bite it, if it’s bendy or soft, let them dry out more. Also, very important: label your seeds! Make sure you keep track of the seed variety and date grown.

Another very important: Share your seeds with neighbors and friends.

Easy! No stinky fermentation process, no winnowing. And just think of next summer’s gloriously refreshing salsa verde! (…and more salsa verde!)

veggiebeautyshot_tomatillo

Here are some seed saving resources we’ve found helpful and inspiring:
The Seed Ambassadors Project Seed Saving Guide
John Navazio, The Organic Seed Grower
Suzanne Ashworth, Seed to Seed
Carol Deppe, Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties
Organic Seed Production and Saving, the NOFA guidebook
Janisse Ray, The Seed Underground

See you at the Seed Swap!