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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Week One: The Adventure Begins!

I'm so excited today, our first day of CSA delivery! This is the culmination of two years of dreaming and planning. We were out early picking this morning and the greens still had dew on them...talk about freshness! The radishes were a bumper crop and we are happy to share the bounty. Ooohhh, this is just great! I'm tingly all over...

Here's a photo of the box. For those of you who are customers, start drooling now. For those of you who are just fans, this is what you are missing!



Starting in the upper left corner:
DILL - one of my favorite herbs, very useful in many dishes and so fragrant. My niece wanted to know if we could have a bouquet of it!
SPINACH - the spinach is gorgeous this year, dark green and packed full of vitamins!
GREEN ONIONS - a red and a white green onion are the perfect accompaniment to just about every dish (except maybe ice cream)
BEET GREENS - I was surprised last year at all the requests I had for beet greens at the farmers market, so I made sure to include them in the CSA boxes. Don't worry if you've never eaten them before, I've included a recipe or you can add them to a salad and eat them raw!
SIMPSON LETTUCE - a very tender and delicate lettuce, one of the first to ripen in the garden. Pair it with a light dressing or vinegarette for a wonderful salad.
RADISHES - these are Rosy Red and German Giant radishes, what a crop! Each box has a big bunch, I think we should do a contest to see who can use a radish most creatively! My sister is very jealous and she is a radish fanatic and doesn't get any of these!
FARM FRESH EGGS - These first few weeks the boxes are quite light, so I'm adding a little "extra" something. This week it is 18 beautiful farm fresh eggs from my friend and local food colleague, Kristi Wirrenga of County Line Critters. These eggs are the real deal (I saw the chickens yesterday as they wandered around the yard and they all seemed quite proud of their contribution!) I know you'll enjoy these eggs as much as we do! I wonder what the "extra" will be next week....hmmmm?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Why we do what we do!

Food, Inc. Now here's a movie that explains why we local food growers do what we do! It opened on June 12th nationwide, do your part to spread the word and get out to see it!



We grew up with livestock and we knew that even though we named some of them and some were our pets that they were food and we would eat them. My parents tell the story of when they had the pastor and his family out for a dinner. I was probably 3 or 4 years old at the time. That fall we had kept a heifer, named Hildegard, back for our own use. My mom made a delicious roast beef dinner with all the trimmings and I piped up, "Mom, what part of Hildegard are we eating now?" Now that's knowing EXACTLY where your food comes from!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

I love being a farmer, I hate being a farmer.

That almost has a Dickens "best of times, worst of times" feel to it. I'm both excited and frustrated today. I'm excited because the buckwheat, our major crop is coming up like gangbusters. Lots of little cotyledons popping out all over the no-till field. This is our cash crop so we want it to do well. We're very thankful that the drills worked correctly, we had good soil to seed contact and a beautiful rain right afterward. The perfect recipe for germination!

At church this morning, a lady asked me if I wanted some bedding plants because she had purchased them and now doesn't have time to put them in. I always have space for plants, especially free ones! So I told her I would take them thinking that even if they were a flat of marigolds (which I detest) I'd find a place for them. To me, the term bedding plant means flowers. Imagine my surprise when she brought me a flat of 7 tomatoes, 4 peppers, 8 cucumbers, onions and kohlrabi! Not only free plants, but vegetables I can certainly use!! I'll definitely be sharing some produce with her as the summer continues.

I'm frustrated today because I planted a LOT of sweet corn seed over three weeks ago and it hasn't come up. Three different varieties and there is nothing out there. So I was forced to replant and I'm not happy about it. The most frustrating thing is that I don't know what happened! Did it rot in the ground? (we can't find any seeds so this is a real possibility) Did the cutworms get it? (but then there should be some plants out there) Did the birds scavenge it all? (are they really that smart to get every one?) Grrrrr, it's frustrating, really frustrating. If it was just John and I, it wouldn't bother me as much...so we have later sweet corn. But my CSA customers are depending on me to provide them with sweet corn and I don't want to let them down. I seeded six 75 foot rows today and I'll seed more tomorrow...all in a two different spots, hoping that a change of location will help with whatever struck down my first planting.

Our lawn mower is a vital piece of summer machinery out on our farm. We have a lot of lawn to maintain, I mow just about every day for a bit. It's a good rest for the pregnant mama to ride for a while! Then today we replaced the belt on the lawn mower. It had worn down and was in need of replacement. So I took it out and worked the old girl pretty hard. After the rains this week and grass had taken off. I was mowing over a rock I'd mowed over many times before but this time it jumped up and bit one of the blades. And tore the blade in half!!!!!! The bolt is still in the deck and the blade is in two pieces! I'm not sure how I managed to do that, but it's done just the same. And of course, I saved the grass around the house until last so the farthest reaches of our yard look great. Around the house is a bit of a jungle. Grrrr, it's hard justifying a trip into town just for a lawn mower blade.

But, even though I'm frustrated today, I'm so thankful. Yes, my sweet corn is a no-show and the mower is broken, but my gardens look wonderful. The radishes are getting ready (we sampled one yesterday), the potatoes have grown 6 inches this week, all the squashes/gourds/pumpkins are up and getting ready to run, the cucumbers are up. Yup, life is good.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Fencing and De-Fencing

This week was busy as well on the farm. We are preparing to plant our "big" crop (i.e. most acres) of buckwheat. John and I feel a real calling and passion to grow food. Last year we grew food-grade yellow flax and this year we are growing buckwheat. I've never grown buckwheat before so I'm excited for this new venture! In order to seed our crop land as one piece, John and I had to tear down about a 1/4 mile of barb wire fence and the corresponding steel T posts. I really dislike barb wire fence, I classify it as a "scourge of the prairie", right up there with Chinese Elm trees. An evening and a morning were spent rolling up wire and lifting out posts. Of course, it looks great now! And the T posts came in handy when I had to put up some fencing. I've put up and repaired a lot of fence in my day, mostly electric and woven wire. My dad taught me the basics of fence assembly and maintenance at an early age. And as a dealer of electric fence, we had to be good at getting it working and holding in cows, sheep, pigs, goats, etc. But this week, I wasn't fencing in someone...I was fencing up something!

Traditionally, in our family garden back in the day, the peas were just allowed to flop over and crawl hither and yon. Which made for trying times for the pea pickers. Now that I have my own garden, there is no willy-nilly pea growth! Oh, no! If I'm recruiting my husband as chief pea picker, working conditions have to be top-notch. And that means peas growing vertically up the fence. Last year he asked if there could be a bit more space between the rows to maneuver his pea-picking-bin and I obliged this year. I aim to keep the chief pea picker (and pea eater) happy!

Now, my rancher friends would laugh at my fencing, it wasn't stretched, there are no corner posts or even corners! But it will get the job done!



If you look back a couple of posts, you'll see the peas just breaking the ground. Right now they're about 6-8 inches high and starting to "climb", which means they are growing tendrils that want to wrap around something above it. It was the perfect time to put up the fence. Leaving a gap at the bottom allows for pulling of weeds that manage to get in right next to the plants.



Right next door to the pea patch are the onions. WOW, do they look wonderful! I mulched them with grass clippings and that has really helped retain moisture and slow weed growth.



As far as other vegetables go, the heat we've had the past three days and the moisture predicted for this week will go a long way in growing those little plants. All of the cold crops are up! I'm still waiting on some of the warm crops like sweet corn, melons, squashes and cucumbers. These seeds like it hot and wet so they should be popping out of the ground any day now! The potatoes look wonderful, I'm about two thirds of the way through hoeing them. I planted them closer together this year so that they will shade out a lot of the weeds. In my big plan, I should only have to hoe them two, maybe three times.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

It's Raining, It's Pouring, the Gardener is Snoring!

Well, not quite, but the fast garden life has definitely been slowed the past two days with the wet weather. And we definitely appreciated that moisture!!! I had been watering to keep the seedlings growing. Their roots are still so shallow that they were starting to get dry in that top inch or two of soil. We have plenty of subsoil moisture when the roots get bigger. We got just over a half inch here at the farm:


Since the gardens look much the same as last week, I thought I'd share a fruit update! The past two years we have made a real effort to develop fruit production here on the farm. Here are the results of some of our efforts:

This is one of the 25 Juneberry shrubs we planted this spring. They have really taken off and some of them are blooming! WE might even get a little fruit from them this year. We're hoping for fruit next year, and definitely in 2011! My parents didn't like Juneberries, so we never used them. But many friends are Juneberry fanatics and there seems to be a big demand around here. I'm told they make excellent jam and pie!


Here is a Red Lake Currant bush that we planted in 2007. This year it flowered for the first time and you can see the tiny berries start to form. Like the Juneberries, we expect a good harvest in 2011. Currants are one of those ingredients that they use on the cooking shows that you can't find anywhere (like capers). Currant jelly is supposed to be excellent.


Here are my beloved strawberries! We had an average wintering over this past year and my little patch is growing. I think next spring I will buy 500 plants or so and really kick start the strawberry production. But for this year, we have a few plants that are blooming so there will be a handful of berries to sample.


These are chokecherry blossoms. Last year you couldn't find a chokecherry in ND! At least not from any of my sources. We have quite a stand of chokecherry trees here and two years ago I had plenty of berries to make jam and syrup from. Last summer we had none, my parents had none, my friends had none. This year the trees are covered in blooms and I have high hopes for a large harvest!


We also added 10 Nanking Cherry trees to the "orchard" this spring. All 10 have leafed out beautifully and are taking off! Again, we anticipate a good fruit set in 2011.


Lastly, I planted some rhubarb corms (roots) and they are just starting to get green. We won't be able to eat any of them this year, but next spring we can harvest them lightly. And in 2011, watch out! We may have to have a rhubarb festival! I made an upside-down rhubarb cake with some rhubarb my parents shared with us. I ate 3/4 of the cake, it was that good! I did freeze the remainder of the rhubarb so sometime this winter I can bake another cake and relive spring all over again!

That's the fruit update for this year. As you can see, 2011 is the big year for fruit! I hope to add raspberries next year, I just need to decide the optimal spot to put them! My goal is to offer a fruit share in addition to the vegetable share in our CSA. Speaking of the veggies, we'll catch up with them next week!