Posts Tagged ‘farm blog’

Local Food Meeting in Vermillion Tonight!

From the press release:

Value Added Agriculture Development Center and Buy Fresh Buy Local are conducting a series of meetings to evaluate the potential for local food distribution. The goal is to establish systems to aggregate, process, package and distribute local foods in South Dakota.

All consumers, producers, famers, businesses, schools and institutions interested in expanding the availability of local foods are invited to attend.

Vermillion’s meeting is tonight, December 13, 2010, 8:00 pm at the Vermillion Public Library, 18 Church Street.

And since I serendipitously happen to be in town on other business, I hope to see you there!


Come on Over!

I’m still writing here every once in awhile, but my main posting is now over at Big Stone Bounty.

If you’re a South Dakotan, never fear–it’s just a tippy-toe over the border into Western Minnesota. In fact, I can see South Dakota from my kitchen table.

If you’re from Minnesota, or anywhere else in the States or the wide world, I welcome you to join me there, too!

Local Foods Holiday Open House in Vermillion

Upper Missouri Valley Local Foods Market and PrairieSun Organics

invite you for a wonderful evening enjoying

homemade pies and cider made with local ingredients, organic hot teas,

beef stew, and an artisenal cheese tasting ($5) from local and regional cheese makers.


We will also have our organic Berkshire Pork 40% off one night only.

PrairieSun Organic chicken and beef will be on sale 15% off.

Give the gift of local foods this holiday season and Support your local farmers.


Thursday, December 9th from 4 – 7 pm
108B East Main Street, Vermillion, South Dakota

Moving it back a bit

I went up again to NE South Dakota/SW Minnesota in the last couple of days to secure a place to live (at last!) and to meet with my employers.  We decided with so many key people on vacation (or about to take one) and the relative difficulty I’ve had in finding housing that we’d push back my start date to after the Labor Day weekend.

While I’m rarin’ to get up there and start work, there’s so much to do with getting the house down here packed and cleaned, finding a renter, having a market board meeting, and just getting my head (and the rest of me) into the new space (which can’t happen ’til the 1st of September anyway), that I’m breathing a little sigh of relief.

I got back yesterday a little before noon and then headed out to the gardens to harvest.  I was only gone two days, so it wasn’t too bad (some lunkers in the squash and cuke patches, as usual)–not too bad, that is, except for the tomatoes.

Late blight is in full progression in the tomato patch–many fruits are developing those black, sunken patches and the foliage dying off exposes the rest of the fruits to sunburn.  It ain’t pretty.

Last week I got a full 11-gallon tub of good fruit from the patch (had to have H help me load it in the truck); this week it was about half that.  I should at least have enough to make a decent final delivery of tomatoes to the CSA members in the coming week.

Maybe the plants know I’m leaving, but they’re pretty much all going to be dead and gone by the time I make my Vermillion exit.  We’ll have to build a big burn pile and dispose of the carnage that way.  Maybe I’ll pick a few decent-looking green ones first and see if they ripen without rotting.

Not knowing I was leaving, I laid landscape fabric on all those rows before planting, thinking it could be kept in place and used again next year for winter squash or melons–but I think it’s probably wiser to tear it all up and dispose of it rather than risk the blight fungus hanging out in the covered soil.

The cherry tomatoes are in a different spot and are doing well enough.  There’s leaf spot in that patch, but the plants are hanging on.  The peppers are fine.  The eggplant plants themselves look OK, but a lot of the fruits are developing brown patches, so besides flying tomatoes, there’s plenty of flying eggplant.

Winter and summer squash patches are great, though.  There’s a number of spaghetti squash starting to cure in the field and those summer “Papaya Pear” squash just keep pumping out those sunny yellow fruits.  Delicata also look decent.

Cukes have been found by the beetles, but they haven’t done irreparable damage as yet.  I’m still pulling quite a few slicers out of the patch (though nothing like the two dozen a day in the height of their vigor), and the little picklers keep pumping out a respectable number of cukes for the crock.

Of the crops that will be staying in the ground for now, I’ve got a lovely double row of parsnips that can be dug either in the late autumn after the frosts, in in the spring after the thaw (or both). The shell beans, which looked none-too-healthy when they first came up, are starting to form pods, but it’ll be a small harvest.

There’s melons in a couple of spots, and I don’t know that any of them will be ready by the time I go–perhaps there will be enough ready on one of my return visits to bring one or two to each CSA member.  The Peruvian Purple potato plants are still green and lively, so it’ll be later September, I think, before I get a chance to dig them.

Leeks are happily sizing up–two rows of them.  There’s still some badly-munched kale that, if it survives, will put on some much cleaner leaves after frosts kill the cabbage worms.  There’s a few chard plants, too, and a ton of sweet and lemon basil–some of which I’ll harvest for drying and for pureeing and freezing before I go.

Not sure exactly how I’ll be filling those last few cases of canning jars, but I’m hoping to at least get one more batch of tomato soup before the plants go south (and I head north).

After that, it’ll be a matter of whatever falls on my lap–certainly some of those Papaya Pears and green tomatoes can go in a pickle, but the sweet corn season is just about done, so what I’ve got of that is probably what I’ll have. It’d be nice to find some pears or apples…

While the rest of my books are already packed, Putting Food By and the other food preservation guides are still on the shelf, so  I’ll spend a little time between packing and cleaning sessions to peruse those books for jar-filling inspiration.

High Fashion on the Prairie (& Today’s Harvest)

It’s going to be a great delivery for CSA members today, though I’m not sure how it’s all going to fit in the bags.

I’ve got Russian Banana fingerling potatoes, eggplant, summer squash, spaghetti squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, and sweet peppers.  I was going to put shallots in, too, but I don’t think there’ll be room.

The weather was pretty pleasant for harvest today, but the new mosquito hatch made it necessary to “suit up” in the usual fashion.  It was only once the truck was loaded and we (Vega and I) were headed back into town that the sky opened up and granted our latest downpour.

So, everything got a nice rinse–including me.  At least my hair will be softer for it!

I think since they won’t really fit in the bags today (and I won’t be at farmers market this week), I’m going to pull out the dehydrator and fill it full of cherry tomatoes.

I’ve been looking forward to doing them in the 9-tray Excaliber I bought this year instead of two trays at a time in the old heat-coil dehydrators that took forever and half-dried some while burning others unless I rotated trays constantly.

The Sun Golds are particularly good dried–fruity and like pretty orange “candy.”  It’s tedious work to split and squeeze the seeds out of each one, but they are really nice to have on hand in the winter months.

Floods R Us

Well, last night’s projected heavy rain didn’t materialize in this immediate area.

Or if it did, it’s hard to tell because I seem to recall only one semi-dry moment this season–when I decided to dig the new potatoes and figured out that just because it looked kinda dry on the surface didn’t mean I wouldn’t be excavating mudballs that I’d have to squish to find out if they were potatoes or just glops of saturated soil.

Heading out to the farm this morning to harvest for CSA deliveries, I met a dense wall of fog in the valley that allowed just enough visibility to see that the Vermillion River is out of its banks again at the first bridge on North University Road.  I had never seen that happen before this year.  So far this season, I’ve seen it twice.

August 3--Vermillion River at the first bridge on North University Road, looking north

I read last night that at the crest of this latest round of flooding, 25,000 acres of farmland between Davis and Vermillion will be inundated.

The corn is pulling its leaves in and starting to yellow–not the “late-summer-ripe-corn yellow,” but the “please-give-my-roots-some-oxygen yellow.”  You can tell where the edge of the flooding is by the fact that the corn in those margins is still a deep green.

The gardens are starting to show extreme moisture stress–in that everything that isn’t actively growing is starting to mold.  Anything with a hole or insect damage of any kind is simply rotting.  I spent part of my harvest time this morning disposing of anything with a fuzzy white sheen.

I did still manage to get a good harvest for today’s deliveries: summer squash and peppers, tomatoes and onions, cucumbers, basil and sweet corn.

The corn is from our neighbor’s acre-sized patch–she came outside when I pulled in the yard to tell me (again) to take as much as I want–to thank me for picking it (waste not-want not) as I was thanking her for sharing it, then ran back in the house to escape the mosquitoes.

I was wearing my headnet, of course.  I have not been on the farm without it for three months now.

At this point, the pickings are gleanings and secondary ears–there’s still a fair amount of corn out there, but it won’t be worth eating in another week.  So, I picked enough for all my members to have a dozen ears, and somehow managed to end up with a dozen extra for us.

I might go out and get a couple dozen more to go with those and do another round of canning–H has been sick for a couple of days, so he’s not really in the mood to eat more of it.  And no, it wasn’t the corn that made him ill, but getting ill in the temporal vicinity of eating so much corn has killed his appetite for it.

At any rate, the neighbor has a better view of the valley at her place (if the view can at this point be described as “better”), so I snapped a couple images of the perspective from there.

The river is supposed to rise a couple more feet before it starts to subside.  I was disappointed earlier this year that I never managed to get my kayak out in the flooded fields, but it looks like I’ll have another chance.

On my way back into town, I stopped to take the image at the top of this post, and saw our other neighbor (whose family members are almost all “conventional” farmers in this area) drive by.  She gave a friendly wave, then indicated the river, threw her hands up, and shook her head sadly as she headed past and into town.

Seeds: Use ’em or Lose ’em

I went through all my old seed packs today–everything from before 2009, and all that seed is going in the compost.

As wet as it has been this year, and as damp as it’s been in my basement, I just don’t trust the germination on anything older than that.  I’ve already had a few problems with low germination this year, and I don’t want to continue that trend into next year.

I do keep seeds in sealed tin boxes with several silica gel packs in each, and I refresh (dry in the oven) the packs every six months or so, but this spring, I pulled out some seed packs, and they felt dampish.

That’s a bad sign.  Cool and dry is the best situation for seeds.  Damp–no matter what the temperature–is bad news.

Considering that I typically have a couple hundred dollars’ worth of seed at any given time (purchased and saved), and I also work on developing a few strains of my own, I can’t afford to have it stored in less-than-favorable conditions.

So, I spent about that much on a 50-pint dehumidifier for my basement, which has been running pretty much non-stop (except for when the bucket’s full) ever since.  It is noticeably drier in the basement, but it was obviously pretty darn damp before because the thing’s set on 50% humidity, and it hasn’t reached that shut-off point.

Ideally, it should be even drier than that–Suzanne Ashworth’s Seed to Seed recommends that the total of the combined relative humidity and temperature (in Fahrenheit) should not exceed 100, and I know it’s above 50 degrees in my basement.

If we continue to have damp conditions here, even in the “dry season” of summer (and as I type this, it has started raining again), I will likely start drying down the seeds in bulk silica gel beads and storing them in airtight glass in the big basement freezer, as recommended in Seed to Seed.

Otherwise, I’m going to make a better attempt to grow out what I’m saving and purchasing by the year after I’ve collected or received it, just to be safe.  Anything I can’t use in that second year can be donated to make sure it gets used.

In my paring down, I found a few seeds that were collected as long ago as 2003 (only a couple–some burr oak acorns and prickly poppy seed from Crazy Horse Canyon and the Sand Hills), and some saved seed from 2005 as well.

When I save tomato seed, I tend to save a fairly large quantity of each variety, so quite a few older packs of that got composted.  I had known that a number of varieties were going to need renewing/saving this year, but I will focus first on the ones that might be harder to find in seed catalogs and make use of the freezer for back-up supplies.

Well, I don’t hear the dehumidifier running, so I’d better go check the bucket again.