The trees are starting to turn colors. The quality of light has a different feel. Harvest equipment is an everyday sight on the roads or in the fields. My pantry and freezers are filling up with the bounty of the year. It must be fall! Even though the ‘first day of fall’ is officially the Autumn Equinox on September 22, all the signs of the season are upon us.
In my flower bed, I am taking note of blooms. I do the same in early spring as these are the times when color can seem lacking in perennial beds without some planning. Though I felt that there wasn’t much variety, this week I starting listing blooming plants in my garden journal and there is a surprising variety. My annuals are limited mostly to herbs: calendula, lavender and borage are going strong, as is my oregano which has been coming back for me the past 3 years at least. Zinnas are a focal point of the model pollinator garden and the Gazania, moss roses and snapdragons are still providing color. For perennials: Stiff Goldenrod has just begun to bloom (a non-aggressive species,) Royal Catchfly, Gaillardia, Rudbeckia, Wild Quinine and Butterflyweed are still showing off while Nepeta, Anise Hyssop, Chocolate Mint and most of my Echinacea have active blooms but are looking pretty tired. Autumn Joy Sedum and New England Asters are just getting started in my yard.
As is the case with many gardeners, I am always looking for more blooms throughout the year and in the fall garden it is of special importance for me as I make choices with pollinators in mind. The final yearly generation of Monarch butterflies is hatching this month and last. They are starting to make their way to Mexico where they will spend the winter. An abundance of blooms will ensure they have the fuel necessary to make the 2,000 mile trip. These same Monarchs will be laying eggs for the first generation of 2019 in the southern United States! Hummingbirds will also be migrating to Mexico and Central America, covering as many as 23 miles a day. They can use all the nectar they can get on this long trip. Most bees die in the winter leaving their brood as eggs or pupa to hatch or grow in the coming spring. Bumble bees are a bit different. They live in colonies, much like honeybees. Unlike honeybees, the entire colony dies as winter arrives with young queens the only survivors. Next years queens (already mated, ready to lay eggs early in spring) need to find a lot of nectar to bulk up before hibernating during our cold winters.
For pollinators and your own enjoyment consider planting a few more fall blooming perennials in the garden. The list above is a good start, but I know there are other lovely flowers to be found. For more information on Monarchs, Hummingbirds or our native bees see: Monarch Watch, Hummingbird Central and Xerces Society.
So, 2016 was a tough year for anyone growing anything, here in the Valley, but that’s not why we’re pausing.
Very early in the spring of last year Dave and I knew that our hearts were not ‘in it’ like usual. Things were feeling sort of tedious, boring. A big reason for that is how we are doing just about all we can handle on the farm. As many pigs as we can handle, as many chickens as we and the land can manage, a garden that we just can’t seem to keep under control even in a ‘good’ year. I’ve wanted to include cover crops in our garden rotation for a few years and just couldn’t get started. We have high hopes for pruning and trellising tomatoes EVERY year and fail every year. There are just so many things we would like to improve or spend more time on. Taking a year off was something we both had in mind very early in the 2016 growing season.
Dave is just plain tired of all the work and how hard it is to spend even a weekend away in the summer months. I keep citing our Mission, Vision and Values. These have been very valuable as we make this decision and many other decisions on the farm/in our lives.
One of the values that we listed as important to us was ‘quality’. Looking at the quality of our lives, we felt lacking. We were not able to go on many adventures with our daughter, we were tired and we felt that we had no opportunity to improve the quality of our products or processes because we were constantly ‘putting out the next fire.’
So there was the ‘honesty’ we listed in our values!
We still plan to be active growers, just on a smaller scale, to feed ourselves. I’ll still be active with the Grafton Farmer’s Market and with the Master Gardener program, hopefully working with youth as they garden for market as well as in the Model Pollinator Garden.
We will re-assess in 2018 and may be back in the local foods marketplace in the future, but right now we need to take a step back to reign in the farm and focus on family. Thank you so much for your support and interest in what we do! I will do my best to stay somewhat active on the blog with any activity that may be interesting to you.
Many more vegetables in the share this week! We have broccoli, cauliflower, a pound of peas, a lovely little bunch of green onions and 2 small zucchini.
So far as we can tell, peas are going strong, there will be more. We’ll have a break from broccoli and cauliflower till the next batch matures, though cabbage will probably be in shares next week. This is only the first thinning of green onions, and we all know how the zucchini grow! Expect green beans in the next week or two. We have had ONE ripening tomato, though it had blossom end rot and we won’t even enjoy it. I don’t think it will be long for tomatoes.
As is usual, things were a bit crazy this spring and during our first drop week. So, I wasn’t able to get a photo of last weeks share. Week 1 included a pint of dill pickles, a small bunch of kale, lettuce, broccoli and members choice on a few herb and vegetable plants that I started but simply won’t be able to fit into the garden.
Week 2 is here and so are peas! Each share receives one and a half pounds, also kale, lettuce, pineapple sage and a jar of roasted garlic marinara sauce, my favorite pasta sauce recipe yet.
This is only the second picking of peas, so we’ve just been eating them fresh, but they would be lovely in a light creamy pasta dish. Kale has been sauteed and mixed in with scrambled eggs and I would recommend this Pineapple Sage Iced Tea.
Have a safe and happy Independence Day weekend. Take some time to reflect on the meaning behind this holiday (hint: it’s not just about the fireworks!)
There is a wide variety of produce today! Tomatoes, beets, cucumbers, jalapeno peppers, banana peppers, yellow beans and onions were in each share. There was a choice of summer squash, pictured are a Benning’s Tint and a zucchini. There was also a choice of herbs: basil, garlic chives or thyme.
The peas are, sadly, done for the year. We thought we could coax a few more weeks out of them, but the powdery mildew has taken it’s toll. The green beans seem to have a second wind, though. We’ve been watering and I think we’ll have enough to send in shares next week. There are more carrots and corn in store this season and we hope that the brussels sprouts and cabbage keep on keepin’ on. The pumpkins and winter squash are starting to look really nice as well. Lots to look forward to!
Looking for ways to cook all this lovely produce? Check out our pinboards, on Pinterest, for ideas!
Today is a day that I am grateful for wind. With just over 2.5 inches of rain yesterday afternoon, it’s a bit soggy right now. Luckily there wasn’t too much I needed to get into the garden for, for this weeks share. In all the hustle and bustle, I forgot a photo, though the bread was photo-worthy! This is a sparse share, but we’ll make up for it later in the season as there is more to offer. The peas have some lovely flowers, so they will make an appearance soon.
This weeks share included a loaf of Herb Bread made with sage, thyme and oregano preserved from last season and fresh chives. We also had spinach, green onions and a bunch of rhubarb. One shareholder mentioned stewing the rhubarb into an ice cream topping, here’s a recipe that sounds delish with the strawberries or without!
More sweet corn! Dave and I have tested quite a few ears now and we just aren’t impressed with the taste…I think we’ll try another variety next year. This was the earliest variety that Dave could find when buying seed. It just goes to show you, when you start breeding for certain characteristics, taste sometimes suffers.
This is the debut of carrots! Our favorite way to enjoy them is cut lengthwise, steamed till tender and served with butter and dill. This is also the first week that cabbage has made an appearance. The way I like it best is with corned beef. One of our CSA customers boils it in beer and the pickling spice you get with the corned beef, it’s great. Boiled and served with salt and pepper is good too!
This photo shows a green pepper, but some members did receive a purple one. The purple is sweet pepper just a bit more fun to look at. You’ll notice yellow squash in the photo and something else. The little white disk shape is also a summer squash and can be used the same way as a yellow squash or zucchini. The variety is called Bennings Tint. I think it’s fun to cut it in half, into two bowls, scoop out the seeds and stuff it like a stuffed green pepper and bake in the oven.
Tucked in behind the carrots and corn is fresh basil. I love it in a caprese salad, so slice up the tomatoes in the share and some fresh mozzarella and your basil put it all on a plate and sprinkle with olive oil and, if you like, a bit of balsamic vinegar. Yum!
Our rain total from this system is currently at 2.10 inches. We can’t complain too much since we got about 99% of the garden in ahead of it and we didn’t see the 5+ inches that some parts of North Dakota did. Sadly, gone are the days when a rain day meant staying home from work and hanging out in PJs all day (Heather used to work on a landscaping crew and looked forward to days like this.) Now a rain day means a bit more work with extra checks on the animals to make sure they, and their feed are staying dry!
In addition to the extra work that a rain day brings, it was also a chick delivery day! Heather and Eva made an early trip to the post office to pick up 100 chicks so they could get situated into their indoor home. These puff balls will be indoors for 2-3 weeks depending on the weather. Then they will head outside into a portable shelter, allowing them to enjoy grass, sunshine and tasty bugs. Right now these chicks are adorable, but in about 8 weeks they will be delicious!
The main garden plot was finally free of snow and dry enough to till this past weekend! Heather’s dad is good enough to bring his tractor and tiller in the Spring to get us ready to plant. We are now just a couple of days shy of what is regarded as the ‘average last frost date’ in this area. If you ask the old timers, though, they will say that you aren’t really safe until Memorial Day. We never wait that long. We usually don’t wait as long as we did. If we could have dried that garden any faster, we certainly would have! One of the items on our to-do list for this fall is to move some dirt to get optimal drainage for next year.
Since we are expecting rain for the next 4 days, we decided to give-it-our-all this afternoon. Dave took the afternoon off of work and the two of us, or should I say the three of us, planted everything that still needed to get in the ground!
You’ll notice in the photos that we plant our peppers and tomatoes into black plastic. There are a few reasons for that. #1 The black plastic warms the soil and air around these heat loving plants. #2 It keeps the weeds at bay. #3 In the case of the tomatoes, it keeps soil from splashing up onto the plants reducing the chance of soil born diseases taking hold.
Finally, on the 5th of May, I did our first real planting of the year!
On Sunday, I made my first trip to Helen’s Country Greenhouse just outside of Minto to pick up some cole crops that I didn’t raise from seed: broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. Kale is another in the same family that we have started in our seed cabinet. It sure feels good to have some ground planted!
For those of you who don’t know, Dave and I like to push the seasons! We have tomato seedlings that could go into the ground right now, if only our garden space wasn’t still so wet. I had marked on the farm calendar to have peas, spinach, radish, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and carrots in the ground about 3 weeks ago. Our garden still had snow piles 3 weeks ago. Needless to say we’ve been chomping at the bit this year and these photos make me feel a bit better about the season!