Catch-up

It's going to have to be one of those blog posts: lots of pictures and very few words. Let's just say we've been busy lately.

First, events without photos:

Our friend Liz came for a visit. She helped weed the chard, kale, and cabbage. Much needed and much appreciated.

I expanded the turkey brooder to give them all more room to roam. They're getting big.

Planted the black chickpeas in the field.

Weeded, weeded, and weeded. Still more weeding to do.

Transplanted broccoli.

Seeded bush beans.

Got interviewed by the local paper. I hope we sound like we know what we're doing.

Feeling absolutely overwhelmed. Nothing new.

Now to the photos:


Volunteers transplanting lettuce - super-CSA members Phyllis, Dad, and Mom (not pictured).


Mowed rye and pea for living mulch.


Tomatoes transplanted into the mulch.


Cultivating between the rows of milk thistle and flint corn.


Row cropping.


The rows of flint corn.


Flint corn seedling.


Milk thistle seedling.

A Harrowing Experience

Yesterday evening, after dinner, I begged my lovely wife to allow me to head back out to the farm to harrow the emmer. The reason I have to beg and for her to allow, is that I am equal (well, maybe not quite) caretaker of our daughter and equal (well, maybe not quite) caretaker of our rental house in town. Usually evenings include a crazy whirlwind of sweeping the floor of dog hair and dirt clumps that will end up in our daughter's mouth, putting away toys, washing dishes, rocking said dog-hair-dirt-clump-eating daughter to sleep, and collapsing on the couch. It's a two person job. Or it's a one person job if the other person has had a day full of those activities and desperately needs a break.

Well, my lovely wife gave me the go-ahead so I went back out to the farm. Now, at this point I need to mention that my friend B was out earlier that day and we knocked out a bunch of work, so I was riding high on our accomplishments.

I should also mention that I was harrowing the emmer to pull up the tiny weeds growing amidst the crop. The harrow generally beats the hell out of the crop, but doesn't uproot it. The idea is to time it such that you harrow when the crop is well-rooted and the weeds are still quite small and pop out of the ground when the harrow's teeth drag over them. It scares me because it looks as though I've destroyed a perfectly good crop.


Un-harrowed emmer.


Harrowed emmer.

So, since I was riding high and feeling like no job was too large or too difficult, I got arrogant and I got lazy. I made one pass then took the corner too tight on the second pass and managed to run over one of the cables on the harrow causing it to ride up and over the wheel and to crumple up against the tractor.


I'm an idiot.

I immediately stopped and shut off the tractor, sure I'd hear the hissing of air escaping from the tire (just a $700 or $800 replacement). I was lucky. All the idiot move did was break the large pipe at the top of the harrow, which I was able to cobble back together with a chain.


The broken harrow.


Fixed with a chain.

I humbly finished the field and went home to a crying baby and an exhausted wife.

The Stress of Community Supported Agriculture

This week marks our first week of deliveries for our vegetable community supported agriculture (CSA) program and only fitting, we made all four drops in sopping, pouring, downright miserable rain.

We decided not to do Farmer's Market this year, which is both sad and totally liberating. We're sad to miss out on the festive feel of early Saturday mornings, the smell of kettle corn and grilling kebabs mingling with coffee and bedding plants. We'll certainly miss the camaraderie we felt with other vendors and the feeling of community standing there under a canopy watching the town walk up to our little stand for vegetables, gardening advice or just a little chit chat. For these reasons, before Saturday came -- which would have been the first market -- I was feeling a little glum about not being there.

But when we woke up that morning at 6:30 instead of 3:30, I knew we'd made the right decision.

The market is an hour's drive and it ends up being a 10-12 hour day for us. Also, we've expanded our CSA -- doubled membership actually -- and more and more, we think doing exclusively CSA sales is  maybe the way we'd like to run the farm. We still sell wholesale to markets, restaurants and grocers (You can get our produce at Mountain Front Market in Choteau and at Gary and Leo's IGA in Conrad), but CSA is where it's at for us for direct sales. (We offer CSAs for vegetables, grains, turkeys and bread now.)


The CSA model is just a great way of doing business. It gives us much-needed capital to get going in the spring, it connects customers with the source of their food, it keeps local economies strong and most of all, it creates an important bond between eater and farmer -- a bond that benefits the health and wellbeing of the food, the community, the farmer and the eater.

But, this time of year, it's also really stressful for the farmer. When shareholders sign up, they know they are getting into something bigger than just buying vegetables. They know -- and if they don't, we tell them -- that they are signing up for both the bounty and risk of farming.

But that doesn't make it any less nerve wracking for us when the chard just isn't flourishing and the lettuce isn't growing the way we'd like it to. Or, when the weather isn't quite cooperating or worse yet, when a river threatens its banks or a hail storm moves through.

Our shareholders put their trust in us and although they and we know we can't control the weather or, well, much of anything on the farm, we do work hard to mitigate whatever we can whenever we can to make our customers happy that they did put their trust in us.

So, it's all a dance -- like always -- of trying your best to manage the chaos that is farming.

And as we watch streams swell across the state and friends' fields flood, or hear about another hail storm ripping through, we feel simultaneously sick and relieved, knowing that in farming, no matter how much you study or experiment or plan or care, sometimes, it all comes down to luck.

This is also posted on Life, Cultivated.

Rain, Rain, Go Away


One soaked garden.

Farmers have to have something to complain about.

I want the rain to go away. Until we need it.
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