Thursday, September 22, 2016

Oh my goodness the rain. 

Last night we read this blog post by Jack Hedin of Featherstone Farm in Southeastern Minnesota. He says "...what has slowly become clear in my own mind over the past month or so: “This is the worst year, ever, at Featherstone Farm.” Of course that's awful to hear from any fellow farmer. It was also a relief to read that other farmers not in the first year on their land are experiencing a hard year. And once you say or hear something said out loud, it helps. Give it a name. 

It is an exceptionally hard year, weather-wise, to farm. So so much water is not good for cultivated flowers or veggies. Many of the veggie farmers we know have staggering cases of black rot in their fall crops, a very serious bacterial disease from too much water. They'll likely lose much of it. We think about "what if" we'd been at Gardens of Eagan farming all those fall brassicas this year. Yikes.

On our farm, we have flowers plants rotting from the ground up that we've never see happen before. 

The planting successions that were planted in August and early September have sat in the ground, growing very slowly because they need sun to make food.

The flowers are blown over very easily in the strong winds because their roots can't hold on in the over-saturated soil. 

Case in point - Wednesday morning vs. Thursday morning after more rain and high wind

 

It's a perfect storm.

So we've ended our season earlier than we'd hoped. Jennifer working off-farm has made our farm season and family life more difficult, but we're really grateful for that steady paycheck coming in.

And we'll plan and hope for next year.

I'm sharing this because I think sometimes it's hard to understand the seriousness of the situation. Climate change and the resulting erratic and extreme weather really affects "small" farmers. And industrial agriculture is a big contributor to climate change.

Food farmers don't get government subsidies or crop insurance (for the most part). Go figure. So we take the hit when we lose whole crops. The thing about diversification is that if one or two crops fail, inevitably, three or four don't. But in a year like this, three or four or many fail and pretty soon you're at 50% of your expected income. It's really hard to pay 50% of the mortgage. And it's hard to suck it up and try it again next year. Or possibly not possible to continue because you have a mortgage and a family and health insurance and you can't continue not making money.

It's more important than ever to choose buy and support local food and flowers as much as possible. This is when it really matters. Every bit helps keep your local farmers farming during times like this.


 

Perennial clover living mulch is the healthiest happiest plant on our farm. I keep joking that we're going to send mini-bouquets to the stores. Local fairy clover bouquets are the hottest new thing!

I try not to compare organic farming practice to conventional. We're all doing the best we can. But if you look at the bare soil running off in rivulets in between the GMO corn rows next door, and our thriving ground covered in beautiful sweet-smelling clover as the rain pounds down on both, it's hard to deny that organic farming practices help with soil erosion and ultimately, health.




Pretty skies around here.


We're getting a few water-laden, slightly corn beetle chomped dahlias. Nothing like the truckloads of the flower farmers we admire. But they're still pretty. We'll include some in our CSA bouquets in the next two weeks.


I ran to get my phone when I saw Sarma and Earl walking down to the field togther, but they were pretty far when I finally got the photo. They're so sweet, just talking away about stuff. Sarma is very patient with Earl and his constant endeavors on our farm, and he loves her. It's her last day today. She's going to start a tutoring job tomorrow in the Minneapolis school district. Lucky students. We sure will miss her. Not just working with us, but showing up in our kitchen each morning with a smile. She said she would come back next year and we're holding her to it.

Hugs from us to you and yours. 

J,M+E

Thursday, September 15, 2016


Full circle panoramic September sunrise view of HPF from the field edge. 

We're loving the light lines this time of year. So lovely. 

We're getting ready to end production for the season. The crazy rain last week kind of put the flowers, and us, over the edge. 

We've had a great first season on this farm, and feel good about the flowers and food that have left our farm for your homes and stores and restaurants and events. In this blog, this year especially, I ride this line of wanting to share the reality of farming, but not be too negative. Right now, you guys, we just need a break and some perspective. It's been a rough year. And wonderful in so many ways. But the consistent 15 hour days can get'chya down. The combination of intense weather, first year infrastructure-building, and just the sheer intensity of the farm-work lifestyle have left us very tired. 

 

Lindsey and Sarma have been wonderful employees and we're so grateful for their good work on our farm.

I was trying to capture my last Monday in the field before I resume my off-farm job regular M-F schedule. Hmm. Time for rest I think. No idea on the red aura. I'm not angry, really.

You can see many of those beds behind me are empty. We've taken them down for the winter and seeded them with cover crops. Soon we'll start building a bigger green house so we can grow more flowers, and some starter plants for sale in spring. We'll be investing in some spring bulbs and portable stable hooped tunnels for earlier flowers and spring wind and rain protection.

We've learned some things about this windy ridge. One of them is that we need some wind protection in spring. But we're not ready to build a big structure that requires a lot of capital and investment. We think these tunnels invented by Elliot Coleman are going to do the trick for next year. 

So, we have some work to do in the next few months. Not to mention order seeds, and make a production plan, and, and. Oh how I love farming on paper. :)


Clouds and flowers.



These sunnies have taken their sweet, sweet time. And the next planting too. With all the rain and clouds, they've really just been sitting in the field. And their leaves are turning purple with the chill in the air.


We left the farm last weekend for a few reasons, but also got to go bowling. It was so fun. As E grows and becomes more capable, it's really fun to do things as a family. And, preschool bowling shoes are so darn cute.

As you can see, Officer Earl did really well for his first bowling experience. "Tossed Salad" as Stretch was known on his college bowling league took the win. I held my own.



The moral of the story is: 

Living your dream can be really hard and simultaneously immeasurably rewarding and wonderful. 

We wouldn't have it any other way. 

And we're so grateful to our community for choosing local flowers and food so that we can continue to grow them.

Please come to our party on October 8th! We've definitely confirmed the jug band, and will borrow a cider press to make fresh cider by the Humble Pie Farm cup. That's right, your very first opportunity to get in on some HPF swag with our new adorable logo.

Saturday, October 8. 3-6pm. We'd love to see you.

Have a wonderful week, friends!

xo
J,M+E

Thursday, September 8, 2016

HPF friends, how's your week going? Ours is flying along as always. And just like that it's almost mid-September. Here are some glimpses of our week.

 

Flower still-life on garbage can with greenhouse and open car hatchback. I'm really working on staging. :) My loves working together to fertilize the fields with delicious and nutritious fish emulsion.

 

Lisianthus, and delphinium in the beautiful shortening evening light.

 

Rain! Rain rain rain rain! Holy moly we've had a lot of rain this week, and all season. We're still pulling flowers out of our fields y'all. But, whew, our season of crazy weather continues. We're getting creative with foraged greenery. So fun.



Soggy fields. 



Sarma cleaned the chicken coop. Happy chickens lay happy eggs.


And, the sun is shining today, yay! Just in time to harvest like crazy and bring you bouquets tomorrow.






We're planning for next year, friends! Let us know what we can grow for you. We'll make more personal calls later in the fall, but if you think of anything off the top of your head, shoot an email.

Thanks always for supporting our family farm. We appreciate you.

J,M+E

PS. Harvest Party Update...we think we've confirmed a local jug band for some awesome background music. Fun!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Photo by A.Eastvold

Guest blog post and photos by Sarma. E and I call her Sarmita. We do love her. She's been an awesome employee, and become a great friend of our family. 


Whew.  It was a relief to have a break from bouquet making on Monday.  Hopefully the day of rest helps the flowers catch up with us.  We still made about 35 mixed bouquets but it was no 250.  Don’t get me wrong.  I cherish the opportunity to make happy bouquets to go home with folks, but lately its been a scramble to get enough flowers to make the bouquets what I would like them to be, since all the stress from storms has forced everything to bloom at once and it seems that extra moisture has several flowers rotting from the roots up.  Just a couple weeks ago I was wondering how I could possibly harvest everything, and now, the break was a treat.  Even though bouquet making is my only reason to get out of bed at 5 in the morning.  Bouquet making and chickens.  And cats.  And the farm family. 













Snoozing kitties!  Caught them on my lunch break!






I guess I would go to work anyway.  (Maybe people are realizing that this isn’t Jennifer.  It’s Sarma, one of the employees at Humble Pie, guest blogging this week!)

This morning I was listening to a podcast and doing some field stuff, and I had one of those moments when I realized again why I’m doing what I’m doing.  And why it’s so great that you’re all doing what you’re doing.  I heard this quote from Dennis Banks, a Native American environmental activist. 

  “We are part mountain.  We are part ocean, we are part river.  We are part flower and grass and tree, all of this.  We are part of all of it.”

















This stuff is my favorite.  Wow.  Smells.






We are.  Everything around us is sacred and precious, the flowers we get to send around, the fresh, local, organic, non-GMO food that it’s some of your jobs to supply, the air we breathe, the very ground we walk on.  Water.  

To me, flowers are this dazzling reminder that Earth is giving us a gift (life) and that we must appreciate and respect our home not just for necessities but also for pleasure and joy.   So I appreciate everyone’s commitment to first choosing flowers that do so.  There are a lot of really nice flowers out there that seem to cost less than these, but they are produced using methods that do not consider their true costs.  

With Humble Pie you’re getting great stuff and I get the best job I’ve ever had!  Thanks for supporting my super bosses, and this planet we so love!
































Sarma out.

Friday, August 26, 2016





It’s been a week. We had back-to-back weddings, one on each weekend. (Which were both AWESOME!) And Jennifer was wearing her MOSES hat all week while hosting the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program Project Director Meeting in St. Paul. Farmer Mike single-parented and farmed. Earl worked on stuff. Thank goodness for coffee.

We had another good-sized storm with some crazy wind, not to mention the 7 or so inches of rain, that did a number on the lower part of our field. We did some more staking and salvaging, but will take a break from store deliveries on Tuesday to clean-up and assess where we’re at. We’ve been full-steam ahead this season along with the crazy weather and this weekend, we’re going to give each other lots of hugs and take a little break. We might camp in the yard. :) Maybe we’ll attend the “great Minnesota get-together”.

We’ll resume store deliveries on Friday, Sept. 2. CSAs and restaurants will be business as usual.

Happy weekend, be well!

Your ever-grateful farmers,
J,M+E

Thursday, August 18, 2016


Oh these sweet mornings in the field. You can feel the end of summer coming on, especially in the mornings. The air is cooler, it gets lighter later, everything is dewy, and the greens are more muted. Getting ready for crisper, cooler air. I can't get enough of this buckwheat cover crop in these beds. I'm all about beauty with function, and so is nature. These beds are getting some good biomass and health for next year. And they look so pretty.




This morning, Lindsey and Sarma are busy harvesting the last of the heirloom dianthus, and the lilies and kale flowers are coming up to the right. On the left is a spotty bed of sunnies that fed a few families of field mice a couple of weeks ago, and the champion marigolds that have survived wind and rain and wind and rain and tornadoes and rain. Still blooming their pretty heads off.


We're into the eucalyptus just this week and it's just as beautiful as I remember, and delicious smelling.


Busy, beautiful spider work. Eat those flies, eight-legged friend!


Our great-Grandpa Eckes, Mike's grandpa, peacefully and surrounded by family and songs and prayers, passed this week. He was 102. We give thanks for his long life and gifts to us, and bless him on. We grieve our loss, and feel grateful for the sweet, sweet, sorrowful continuance of life. The photo above is from three years ago when he and Earl met each other for the first time. A 99 year-old great-grandpa and three-month-old little boy. We love this photo.  

Great-Grandpa farmed with his dad and drove the produce to the Minneapolis Farmers Market via horse and buggy. He worked for greenhouses, and drove a dairy milk truck route for many years. He appreciated his grandson's work, and especially the sweet corn. Up until last year, he canned tomatoes with Mike's mom and sisters. We appreciate the family roots in the good work of growing food and flowers for community.  


We made our way to the Pierce County Fair with our fun cousins for a bit on Saturday. Of course we checked out the tractors, and some rides too.


And we made some bouquets this week. Sarma gets photo credit on this awesome one of farmer Mike's cheesy grin and armload of flower bouquets ready for buckets.


Please come to our farm for a harvest party on Saturday, October 8th from 2-5 pm. Music, cider, snacks, good company. We'd love to introduce you to this beautiful piece of ground.

Have a wonderful week!

J,M+E

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.”

-Wendell Berry

It's high summer, friends. The first leaves are showing a tinge of red, and the greens are fading. The blooms are bright and beautiful, and it's been so fun to put together these cheerful bouquets. 



I love so much the above quote by the formidable Wendell Berry. It's really all about the dirt. The health of the soil. When we first looked at our farm last spring, we walked out to the the fields with the realtor. I'll never forget the picture of my husband bending down outlined by the expanse of the view and the trees and the big gray sky. He picked up a handful of dirt from our fields to be and squeezed it together, brought it to his nose and inhaled deeply. I felt tied to this place from the first look. I'll always remember that first introduction to our soil. 

We've started bedding down some of our field (yes it's that time already!) and building soil for next year. We've planted cover crops of sorghum sudan grass and buckwheat in our fields to grow soil for next year. Cover crops are so awesome. In our opinion, they are one of the least expensive, easiest ways to build organic matter and improve the quality and resilience of soil. They protect against erosion too. Farming requires one to think long-term. It's just August, and we're already planning what will be planted where for next May and June. I love that about farming in the Midwest. By design we have to shut down for a few months, and regroup and plan for next year. You guys, I'm so excited about next year! Now that we have a little bit of understanding of this beautiful place, and don't have to build a cooler and set up our fields, we can go crazy growing all kinds of new varieties. Eeee!

This year has been such a huge learning experience, and investment putting infrastructure in place, and finding what works for our family and this ground. We farmed fields this season that were still covered this spring with remnants of old corn stalks from 2014, and soybean plants in 2015, and has been in that conventional crop rotation for at least ten years. We had our neighbor plow it last fall to break it up, then got in there as early as we could with our walk-behind BCS tractor to rotary plow and till like crazy, feeding the soil organic turkey manure fertilizer and fish emulsion for fertility. 

We just jumped right into it, without the luxury of soil-building, so we could produce and pay our mortgage with the flowers and food grown on this new land. We staked and created our beds, and seeded the walkways and harvest roads with perennial clover for next year and beyond, and ryegrass for this year, and planted our babies.

We've also had many lessons in the resiliency of nature this year. In late June we weathered an herbicide drift that washed our field in yellow death spots over the course of a few days. We fed fish emulsion every few days to beef up our plants immune systems, but still lost a few. In early July we had straight-line winds and tornadoes that took out some of the plants, and stressed them all out, especially the babies. The succession plantings that should have been going in at that time didn't because we were so busy cleaning up and salvaging the plants that we could. We've been amazed by how well the plants have recovered from all of it. 

Given the adversity of the weather and the new ground, we've been so grateful to grow some beautiful flowers and food out of these new fields, and are so grateful for what we've learned and what we've been able to do here on this new land. Due to those events, though, we have less flowers and food this late summer and fall than we'd originally planned. We'll keep you posted in the weekly availability as always.


Farming is a long-term project. Each year we'll build the soil with more organic matter, and plant more windbreak trees and perennials, and invest a lot more sweat equity in this piece of ground. In five years it will look very different here. We're looking forward to next year, and expanding our varieties, building a hoop house, and improving quality and efficiency.


Happy butterfly




Buckwheat cover crop

 





Cereal rye cover crop



Taking a break for s'mores with these guys. They're something good, these guys. The s'mores were too.

We're having a party! Saturday, Oct. 8, planning around 2 pm with a little music, and hot cider, and good company. You can meet our new little piece of earth where your flowers and food begin their lives. And we can see you and give you hugs and thank you for supporting our little family farm in person. Until then, keep up the great work.

Peace and high fives,
J,M+E