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!


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,

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

We went to UFO days last weekend, our little school district town a few miles east's summer celebration. Apparently there were a lot of sightings in the 60s and 70s. Seriously.

It turns out that our farm story is not just about living closer to the land and producing flowers and food that people can feel good about buying. 

It's about a little family choosing, because our little family has the privilege to choose, to move to a rural area, and a new culture. We're the newbies, and when you don't really know someone, difference is easier to feel. We're settling into the reality of our choice to be here. 

I don't know any farmer that doesn't question her or his place in the world a few times during August. The work is relentless, the weeds and disease and insects are in full force. Any crop failures are pretty certain to have happened, or about to happen. And it's bloomin' hot. 

Next year we'll have more of the necessary infrastructure like the cooler, and shelves, in place from the get-go. We'll have a framework of fields, and one year's experience of this ground to work from.

Next year we'll be UFO Days regulars.

This year we're flying through. The days roll by, and the flowers go into the field, and come out. We're just trying to keep up with it all. 

E is picking the very best cantaloupe for mama. 

Beauty in the buckets. Mixes this week.

And beauty in the field.

 Commitment lilies coming on, and belladonna delphinium.

Bupleurum, and blue scabiosa.

Next bells of Ireland coming.


Sweet-smelling sweetpeas, and phlox and tons of weeds next to the house. Totally brutalized by the big storm, but making a comeback.

Hope you and yours are enjoying the long, fleeting days of summer bounty, and taking time to look in your loves' faces and laugh with them. 

Thanks for buying high summer local flowers...looking forward just a teensy bit to fall, cool temps and fall blooms. Party over here on October 8!


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Hello, hello! It's week 30 and counting. The routine feels a bit more comfortable...

This was last Friday's misty early morning after the boys had left on deliveries and mama had a quiet moment to just stand there and look and breathe. And take a photo to share, of course. See the waning full buck moon?

This was them pulling out into the sunrise for the day's deliveries.

This is how we work in the fields as a family on weekends. E in his toolbelt, cowboy boots and hat, and with watermelon in abundance to help lengthen our attention span.

This is our trusty (sort of) harvest vehicle on loan from our friend Susan. Invaluable...when it starts.

These fields are amazing and overwhelming. It's that time when there's just not enough time in the day, and you just have the call it, turn off the headlamp and go to bed.

The celosia and the zinnias especially have been going crazy with the heat and rain. It's so fun.

I'm already planning for next year in my mind. Is that crazy? But it's what we do, learn from each year and try to apply it to the next. Now that we have a better idea of what we're dealing with over here on this new ground, I feel more able to plan appropriately, and we're expanding our exciting.

We're having a harvest party on October 8. Please come and see where we're at! I'm working on growing some fast pumpkins so you can take one with you, we'll see how it goes. 

Thanks for all you do so that we can grow flowers and food. We do love it.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

We started harvesting watermelon this week. Oh boy, E is pumped. He keeps trying to harvest the not quite ripe ones, much to Papa's chagrin. He actually wants to sell some of those, not just eat 'em all. These guys really love watermelon. They think I'm weird because I'm not a big fan. I don't hate it, I just don't love it. I do love what it symbolizes on our farm.

Watermelon is not just a fruit in our world. It's a big sign that the bounty, and the fullness, and sometimes craziness of the season is definitely in full swing. And it symbolizes so much about farming food. Its sumptuous, messy, super sweet deliciousness is what is so wonderful about eating seasonally, and with earth's patterns. It's the reward for all the work. And you eat so much when it's around you actually get sick of it, and then just as soon, it's done producing and we're on to fall crops. Then you start to look forward to it in March or so. There's something good about waiting for something, enjoying the smack out of it, then letting it go until next year.

We're feeling pretty good going into August with an herbicide drift and major storm under our belts. Okay, I'll stop talking about it. It was a traumatic time, and an amazing bit of perspective for us. We're grateful for the experience, and for all the help and support we got afterward. And we're learning A LOT about farming up on this beautiful ridge.

We had a some sweet friends come to visit and help us "paint" the barn, and play in the field a bit. Keep us on your travel list, everyone, we LOVE when folks come to visit over here. After living and learning on a community-run farm with folks coming and going everyday, this has been a new experience, and the reality is that we love having people around, enjoying all this wide-open space with us.

Check out this full cooler. So exciting. We meant to put in shelves, and that bit of unpainted floor is E's spot that just hasn't gotten painted...but this is how it goes. We do what we can, fall into bed and get up and do it again until October. 

And in the field, there's more coming. The long daylight, the heat, the water, the wind-stress, whatever the myriad of reasons...everything is beginning to bloom.

Sarma is our harvest queen. She's rocking it in all ways, and has proven to be a natural, making bouquets, and learning the flowers. We feel so grateful to have her with us this year.

And there's Lindsey on Thursdays. She and her sweet family are working on their own farm across the river valley, and bring exciting stories of ducks and chickens and the other animals in their care. 

We also have our farm manager, E. He recently told his caregiver that he has been promoted to farm manager from flower picker because he was stepping on the flowers. Hmm. Did we really say that? He really does run the farm. And as soon a we get a battery in his kids gator, he has some big ideas about changing up harvest. 

This here's the view of a normal harvest day. As with most of the big harvest Thursdays this year, we get some sort of rainstorm at about 5:30 am when we're supposed to start harvest at 6. So we wait a bit, then set up the fans, and let the sun and wind to dry it out. Then we harvest like crazy and make bouquets like crazy, and pack 'em all up to bring to you.

We're going to have a harvest party on October 8th. Please come and hang out with us. Next year we'll have an earlier party when more flowers are in bloom, but for this crazy year, we'll have a harvest party with a bonfire, and fall colors, and dare I say it today, cool weather. 

Be well, and stay cool,