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post 55 – transition!

Happy December all! That is my hope, at least, though this has been and continues to be a tough year for so many people and for multiple reasons. We feel fortunate to be here still, writing blog posts and chopping carrots and parsnips by the fire.

I might as well go ahead and announce that there’s big news at Hexagon this fall and winter, and it doesn’t even involve the Great Conjunction! As some of you know, Hexagon Projects & Farm just finished its final season, and Nick and I (and Rose) are transitioning to a new home over the next month or so. Why?!

It’s complicated, but it is related in large part to that word, home. We have been so fortunate to settle in our wonderful house and 9 acres in the valley, and we value hugely our neighbors and friends nearby in Wisconsin. And despite this and having just completed a fulfilling and successful farm season, we acknowledge that home for us is still the hilly and forested landscape about the area of Western Massachusetts and New York’s Hudson Valley, including very special cities and towns where we lived and worked prior to starting Hexagon.

What will come of the farm?

We’ve also been incredibly fortunate to connect with a couple currently growing nearby, on a small scale, and we are working on a farm purchase and transition right now. We are extremely excited for them and are especially happy that they will be offering sustainably grown vegetables next year at our same great farmers markets, from the very same soil. We look forward to sharing their farm website and more information about them once the buying process advances a bit more.

Where are we headed?

Where do I, particularly, tend to end up after a big transition? POUGHKEEPSIE, of course! I very happily announce that, after deciding to return to the MA/NY area, I reconnected with Poughkeepsie Farm Project, where I will be serving as Farm Production Director, starting now. I have benefited from an expansive farming education at PFP in the past and I look forward to contributing in this new role while still making some mistakes and surely learning a tremendous amount more. Adding the challenges of operating and serving the community during the pandemic and the goal of enhancing PFP’s community impact, I expect to be working tirelessly and consistently engaging my creativity.

Nick and I will be living in the city of Poughkeepsie, a little over 2 miles from the farm and close enough to the Hudson River to walk to its banks. We have both contemplated other business ideas in the past, and Nick will be developing recipes and beginning a small cafe or bakery business, with baked goods and other items made from local/regional ingredients and inspired by seasonally available local vegetables and fruits. Our desire to build a business we love as much as Hexagon remains strong, ideally one that is welcoming and warm and that combines our passions for cooking, growing, learning, and social engagement.

I am finding far too much to write in this farewell post. What feels essential is formally thanking all of the people who love us and have helped us along.

Please accept our love and gratitude if you are: our amazing neighbors; our fellow farmers/friends in western WI; our kind and engaged customers who made market day our favorite day of the week; friends and relatives who have ornamented our house with the coolest stuff; everyone who joined or offered wishes for our surprise marriage party; friends who helped build our high tunnel; Scatterbrain folks, who offered an ideal part time job; our visiting and sometimes remote Troy-Bilt expert; the special friend who married us (and their family); and our parents, who are endlessly generous and who we will NEVER be able to adequately thank.

Love, Peace,




post 54 – produce for fall & winter

Now that we are practically halfway through October and the tomatoes and peppers have all been turned into sauce and salsa, it’s about time to figure out what else we’ll be eating in November and onward!

Fall weather brings with it a serious bounty, including crops that have been growing for many months (squash, parsnips, potatoes, garlic, onions) and shorter season veggies that we also see in spring (kale, radishes, spinach, pak choi, and more). Many of these can be processed now and consumed on snowy days later on, and some can simply be stored for winter eating.

greens to process for winter

planting garlic beside fall greens

Sweet fall greens, including kale, arugula, spinach, and chard, can be blanched and then frozen for use in winter soups, or even to saute later and serve with eggs, pasta, or whatever else is on the menu. These greens really are sweeter than in the spring. Colder weather and shortening daylight periods trigger an increase in sugar production that makes fall greens especially tasty.

We have a vacuum sealer for preserving frozen greens, but we also like to use up plastic bags for freezing. The greens are placed in a clean plastic bag and wrapped up tightly, and this bundle is placed in a freezer bag that zips closed. Multiple small bundles can be placed in one freezer bag.

fall crops to refrigerate

Not everyone is aware of the amazing storage potential of many vegetables, especially root crops. The following veggies will store for 2 months or more, loosely bagged in the fridge: carrots, parsnips, beets, potatoes, watermelon radishes, purple daikon radishes, black Spanish radishes, rutabaga, and celeriac.

‘Loosely bagged’ in this case means allowing for a very small amount of airflow through the opening of the bag, which I accomplish by loosely folding over the top of the bag, never tying it closed or wrapping tightly. Most of these vegetables store best in a cold, humid environment, and loosely wrapping them achieves this fairly well. Compostable or porous bags will not work, unfortunately, as a fridge is a drying environment and those materials will allow moisture to escape from your food. Any time the above veggies becomes soft, it is because of moisture loss. Even storing things like carrots and beets in the crisper drawer is only effective for about a week because they begin to dry out and soften.

For especially fresh storage vegetables, occasionally remove the veggies and shake out the bags, especially if excess moisture has built up: humidity is good, but lots of liquid water can bring on mold formation.

fall crops to NOT refrigerate

winter squash curing in the greenhouse

Certain vegetables store better at warmer temperatures (squash) and others are more difficult to keep in the fridge because of humidity requirements (onions). We have success storing winter squash in a cold room during winter, ideally 50 to 60 degrees. Humidity should be around 50%, so a humidifier could be handy, especially after December, when the air tends to dry out. Not all squash stores equally well! Pie pumpkins, spaghetti squash, and delicata, notably, are excellent in fall but don’t expect them to last into winter.

Storage onions and garlic are ones that have been properly cured and have dry skins that may peel off easily. For home storage, we find that storing onions, shallots, and garlic with winter squash works great. Ideal storage temperature, in a well-ventilated location, is 45 to 55 degrees. This can be difficult to achieve in a compact apartment, but the right mudroom or insulated porch/entrance area can work.

Refrigerating squash will reduce storage life from cold damage, and is not recommended. Onions and other alliums can be refrigerated for short periods, but the cold conditions can cause them to become soft faster, as starches in the onion are converted to sugars.

Here’s to warm winter soups and roasted veggies, and to enjoying the farmers market haul months after we close up for the season!

Thanks for reading.

post no. 53 – all the summer squash

Think all summer squash and zucchini is the same? Think again!

from left to right: Success PM Straightneck, Genovese Zucchini, Costata Romanesco Zucchini

In 2020 we are growing the 3 types of summer squash/zucchini shown above. Success PM Straightneck plants produce abundantly, and the squash a fairly uniform, attractive, pale yellow. Genovese Zucchini is a fine Italian zucchini with a delicate, smooth, pale green skin. Costata Romanesco is a distinctive Italian variety with pronounced ribbing.

They look different, great. What is the flavor and texture difference, though? Might as well see.

starting to cook up some Costata Romanesco

I prepared each type identically and simply, by sauteing in olive oil and adding some salt and pepper.

First observation: moisture content

Costata Romanesco, the first trial, released a lot of water. The amount wasn’t unpleasant in the end, but it was definitely more than the other two varieties were holding. Genovese Zucchini clearly had a fairly high moisture content as well, but Success PM Straightneck was noticeably drier than the zucchinis when sauteed.

On the moisture count, our favorite (for sauteing) is the Success PM yellow squash!

sauteing Success PM Straightneck yellow squash

Second observation: texture

Costata Romanesco zucchini is strongly ribbed and held up fairly well when sauteed. Sometimes zucchini can dissolve into a puddly mess in the pan, and we didn’t see that with Costata. Genovese zucchini resembled the puddly mess a little more, but we were still very pleased with the texture. While the squash broke down in the pan more than Costata did, we preferred the softer texture of the Genovese when we sampled the squash at the end. Both have a pleasant, fine texture, but Genovese was extremely soft without being mushy. Finally, Success PM Straightneck, with lower water content, unsurprisingly has a different texture than the other two. It broke down least in the pan, and has a pleasant, tender crunch as a result, while still maintaining a tender, fine feel.

On texture, we are pleased with all of the options, but it appears Success PM Straightneck comes away slightly on top again!

all 3, cooked. Clockwise from upper left, Sucess PM Straightneck, Costata Romanesco, and Genovese

Final observation: flavour

I am certain there are other metrics by which we could have judged this squash, but we mostly just like good food and aren’t going to obsess.

This time, let’s start with Genovese and Success PM, which, while differing in texture, have similarly mild flavour. There is a difference, which I would describe as more of a ‘vegetable’ flavor in the Success PM (the inadequacy of my tasting skill becomes obvious). Both varieties have extremely pleasant flavors that are richer/nuttier than an average dark green zucchini. Costata, on the other hand, known for its nuttiness, really stands out as distinctive in both appearance and flavour. The pleasant nutty flavor is a welcome change compared to many bland zucchini types.

We won’t choose a flavor favorite, because we honestly didn’t have one. We choose them all.


We highly recommend all of these squash varieties! In the end, the most honorable mention goes to Success PM Straightneck, which was extremely pleasing in all categories. Fortunately, we sell some containers with a mix of all 3 varieties, clearly the best option.

Whatever squash you eat, including squash not grown by us (what are you thinking?), avoid baseball bats! We simply to not understand why anyone picks/sells/buys fat squash that are a foot or more long: the seeds are tough and enlarged, and the flesh becomes tough or pithy. Choose squash and zucchini that is 5 to 8 inches long, for tenderness, fine flavor, and ease of cooking. Enjoy!

Thanks for reading.


post no. 52 – garlic scape season

Garlic scape season is SHORT, so I recommend everyone get some soon, and stock up! They’ll store in your fridge up to a month in a plastic bag.

Since it’s harvest day and we are quite busy, this will be quick and to the point. Two points to be exact:

  1. What’s a garlic scape? (maybe you already know)
  2. What are some amazing ways to cook with garlic scapes? (you may have some favorites – share them in a comment!)

What is it?

The scape is the flower stalk of a garlic plant that shoots skyward in June. It does this quickly, and for culinary use scapes should be harvested when they are large (a good foot long) but not yet overgrown and woody. We want the entire scape to be tender and choppable. Apparently there are multiple harvest methods, including using a knife, but I’ve always carefully pulled upward, the scape yielding and eventually breaking, or sometimes coming out of the stem completely (win!).

Nick harvesting garlic scapes earlier today

What to do with it

Use in place of traditional garlic. Scapes are super easy to chop, with no peeling. They should be rinsed lightly and the flower head on the one end should be removed. The entire remaining portion can be chopped up to your liking. I have no food photos because I don’t do that, and I just decided to write this. Try the following:

  1. Saute scapes, and when slightly browned, add some arugula to wilt it. Serve with scrambled eggs (preferably mixed with fresh dill and/or basil) for breakfast (or whenever).
  2. Chop scapes and chard stems and saute until chard stem bits are soft. Add roughly chopped chard leaves and continue to cook, adding some brown rice vinegar, tamari, and a little salt and pepper. Serve with any other delicious thing.
  3. Saute chopped scapes in butter and pour over some pasta, cooked grain, roasted potatoes, polenta, it doesn’t matter because it’ll be so good.

Make garlic scape pesto. A truly fantastic, garlicky pesto can be made with garlic scapes replacing some or all of the basil normally used. Whatever your favorite pesto recipe is (maybe you wing it every time), judiciously replace some basil with scapes. I LOVE garlic, so I go for a complete substitution.

Again, no photo. Actually, here’s another of Nick harvesting scapes today.

Put chopped scapes into burgers! Nick is good at making burgers (grassfeed beef or lamb, or veggie burgers with black beans or lentils). We do not eat them with buns because they’re too good, and usually too small actually (plus we don’t have buns). In any case, chop up some scapes and mix them with your burger material. Grill or fry them. A few thin slices of sharp cheddar on top definitely doesn’t hurt, nicely melted. You will love it. Meat eaters, you can get LAMB at both of our farmers markets. I am less certain about beef. Valley Pasture Farm (Menononie FM) raises beef cattle, but they are currently out of their grassfed ground beef because it’s just that good.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your scapes!!


post no. 51 – beets!

June is officially here, almost a third over in fact, and this means so many amazing summer vegetables will be ready soon, yes, even in the north. We are excited for heirloom tomatoes as always, zucchini, multiple cucumber varieties… But the present moment is a great focus too (right?), and presently we love beets.

We start our beets in the greenhouse and transplant into the field. Plus, the first succession has been growing in the high tunnel, experiencing an extended season and increased warmth. For these reasons, our large beets are coming relatively early and are a bridge crop between spring and summer.

carrots on Tuesday in the high tunnel, with lettuce and beets on the right and kale on the left

We grow several types of beets, but the current ones are “Sweet Dakota Bliss”, a beautiful and sweet beet. The seed is Certified Organic and is produced in North Dakota by Prairie Road Organic Seeds, a very small seed producer we ordered from for the first time this year.


Aside from being incredibly delicious, beets are one of the healthiest foods you can eat! They minimally impact blood sugar, despite tasting sweet, and they are a good source of fiber, folate, and potassium. Additionally, the antioxidant levels of beets are high: 9 times higher, in fact, than a typical tomato and 50 times higher than orange carrots. The leaves are extremely nutritious as well, and actually contain more antioxidants than the beet root. (source: Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson)

washing beets last summer


Fortunately it doesn’t take much to prepare some damn good beets. My favorite preparation method, which is simple and showcases the excellent taste of a good beet, is boiling beets whole with the skin still on. Once a fork is easily inserted in the beets they are done, and they should be transferred to a bowl of ice water. The rapid temperature change will loosen the skin, which can be rubbed off with your thumb! Nick and I recently cooked up some beets this way, and then chopped them coarsely and heated in some oil with chopped scallion. We then added crumbled Gorgonzola and were FINISHED with an exquisite, simple, creamy beet salad.

Another simple strategy, which I love, is to peel and chop beets and saute in oil or butter. I tend to do this for breakfast alongside some fried eggs. I will also brown some chopped garlic in a pan with butter, and toss in the chopped beet greens. There’s breakfast for 2 farmers made with 4 eggs and 2 beets!

Finally a reminder:

Black Lives Matter

A statement so painfully obvious that is also somehow contentious in 2020. Peace.


post no. 50 – farm updates for May 2020

This first month of our 2020 market season, while not over quite yet, has been exciting and busy. But before getting to market news and thanking folks who’ve supported our business especially during the pandemic, here’s some of what is going on at the farm.

farm visitors

We’ve welcomed a few people to the farm, for plant purchases mostly, both from the surrounding area and some who trekked out from Minneapolis. It is a wonderful opportunity, and we continue to offer open sales hours 2-7 each Friday!

spring crops/summer crops

following Monday’s rain: the most glorious garlic we’ve grown

In this part of the year, we are harvesting spring crops like kale, radishes, Napa cabbage, and beets, while also planting and tending summer crops, which include cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, herbs, tomatoes, and carrots (sort of a spring-summer hybrid).

tomatoes reaching upward from a sea of baby mustard greens

In the high tunnel, spring crops like mustard greens, radishes, and baby lettuces saw the addition of tomato plants almost a month ago, and the 2 crop types have been living mostly harmoniously ever since! Once these spring crops have been harvested, the beds will belong to tomatoes alone, with the simple addition of basil.

seasonal favorites

We are gearing up for the first harvest of Bear Necessities kale, the only crop we grow that several customers ask for using the variety name. It’s an amazing, super frilly kale for effortlessly creating a kale salad or incorporating into any other salad!

Bear Necessities kale interplanted with Red Barron onion

soil health

We have experienced 2 periods of heavy rain in the past 8 days, and we think it is essential to minimize the amount of bare soil that can be washed away by heavy rains.

2 future carrot beds planted with an oats & peas cover crop

Some of our growing areas will not be planted until late June to, in the case of garlic, mid-October, and rather than keeping them bare or allowing weeds to grow, we sow certain cover crop seeds. Cover crops add organic material – carbon – to soil, and some, including peas, are legumes that produce nitrogen with the assistance of certain bacteria. The oats & peas cover crop above will be mowed with a scythe in about a week and then solarized (using clear plastic) for a couple of sunny days to kill the cover crop. In a few weeks, without having to till the soil at any point, carrot seeds will be sown here for early fall harvest.

farmers markets

Back to the subject of markets: we have been busy, and we have so much gratitude. We were happy to offer pre-orders for plants right away, adding fresh produce as the month progressed. Our plant inventory is almost sold out (we will continue to offer what we still have at market), and especially during this time of extreme uncertainty, we appreciate every single person who chose to buy something from us during the month of May.

Midtown Farmers Market, 8 AM, on May 23

During parts of April, many farmers and other producers did not know if farmers markets would run at all, and both of our markets have taken serious care to keep customers and vendors safe. In an outdoor environment, with special precautions to maintain distance and suppress the spread of respiratory illness, we think the farmers market is THE best way to be getting food, plants, snacks, flowers, and more.

It will not be long until the produce offerings shift from spring specialties (kale, radishes, arugula) to summer delights (cucumber, zucchini, tomatoes, and salad mix throughout, we hope!), and we are grateful to be in it this season especially.

Thanks for reading and take care!!


post no. 49 – plant sale!

In what feels like a handful of days, this spring season went from cold and slow to appreciably warmer, and full of the great work that we expect! The high tunnel is protecting early beets, carrots, salad greens, kale, and more. We’ve planted potatoes and snap peas, and are preparing more garden beds daily, with outdoor onions, kale, scallions, beets, chard, and carrots soon to be in the soil.

At the same time, seedlings in the greenhouse are growing fast (especially the tomatoes!) and we are excited to get plants out to local gardeners starting next week!

Rose de Berne and Tiny Tim tomato plants in the greenhouse

Why do we love growing plants for home gardeners? Let me number the reasons.

1. Heirloom and other interesting varieties

What is possible most fun about all of this is sharing with gardeners some of our favorite vegetable varieties from some of our favorite seed producers! Some of the best conversations last season happened in May on the topic of plants and gardening.

Some of our favorite heirloom tomato varieties, which will be available to gardeners, are Rose de Berne (pink and juicy/meaty with rich flavor) and Jaune Flamme (red-orange, juicy French heirloom with a flavor that pops). For peppers, some notable options are Czech Black, which produces gorgeous, purple-black hot peppers similar to jalapenos, and Chimayo chile, which is known as a superb drying pepper, producing outstanding chile powder.

Czech Black hot pepper. The foliage also takes on a stunning purple tone!

We are also offering some herbs and perennial flowers. We grow an uncommon variety of lemon balm called Quedlinburger Niederliegende (try saying that 5 times fast; or even just once), noted for its elevated essential oil content compared to common lemon balm. Among the perennial flowers we offer, milkweed stands out as a plant folks are increasingly concerned about because of its critical importance in the life cycle of the monarch butterfly. Our milkweed plants are grown from seed produced by wild milkweed on our farm, collected this winter.

There are so many other great varieties: white cherry tomato, sweet Genovese basil, wild bergamot, Ellen Felton dark collard greens, and on and on! I have to stop somewhere. Please read about all of them on our pre-order page!

2. Certified Organic varieties from awesome producers

We have grown everything from seed, and all of the seed is Certified Organic or Certified Naturally Grown. Why is this important? From an ethical standpoint, conventional seed production is quite harmful; to produce seeds, plants must progress to the very end of their reproductive cycle, and this means there is even more chance for disease and damage, and thus the ‘need’ for more pesticide usage. This contaminates surface- and groundwater and poisons insect and animals.

Another great reason to grow from organic or naturally grown seed is that these plants are genetically predisposed to grow vigorously in organic conditions! So, unless you are coating your own garden in pesticides, choose plants grown from Certified Organic or Certified Naturally Grown Seed!)

Some of the lesser-known seed companies we purchase from include: Hudson Valley Seed Company, Adaptive Seeds, and Prairie Road Organic Seeds. I encourage anyone to check out their websites, even if not buying anything right now. Their work is life sustaining!

Watering seedlings on April 23


Black nursery plastic, while usually sporting the #6 recycling symbol, is not widely recyclable, though most likely millions of people send them to recycling centers anyway. There does not seem to be any great recommendations, aside from reuse, for these matierals. One site I visited encourages readers to visit a plastic recycling company to see if they can take these pots. REALLY!?

Every one of our plants comes in a 100% biodegradable and compostable peat-based pot. This comes at a greater expense to us and also has required a bit of special care, as fiber pots don’t retain water as well as plastic. However, the advantage of completely eliminating plastic waste is a wonderful one. Additionally, root growth is more fibrous and branching than in plastic, and transplanting in the home garden is extremely easy – I recommend placing the potted plant in the soil with its pot, and then watering generously to help soften the pot so that roots can easily spread outward.

peppers peppers peppers! (in biodegradable pots)

4. Delivery and Pickup in Menomonie and South Minneapolis

Plants will be available (along with the earliest spring produce!) at the Midtown Farmers Market starting May 2!

The farm will also be open for sales on Fridays from 2-8pm starting May 1.

Availability begins at the Menomonie Farmers Market on May 16.

Orders of $30 or more can be delivered to your home for free! This applies to folks in Menomonie or in the vicinity of the Midtown Farmers Market.

See you soon!

Thanks for reading.


Hey, we have a sign now!

post no. 48 -preparation!

The hustle and excitement of spring is here, but I doubt anyone questions why this spring feels different, even on the farm where our work is relatively solitary. My thoughts are often with friends and family elsewhere, almost all of whom reside in more densely populated places than I. I can’t help imagining how I’d feel living in a big city right now, or working in a crowded, large environment, or for that matter not working at all and worrying about getting by. I feel for those folks and feel fortunate to be here working hard. I also feel so much appreciation for people serving the community at this time, especially health care workers. I can’t imagine what it is like right now, but you are all amazing.

On the farm, life is bustling. Farmers markets in Minnesota and Wisconsin are deemed essential businesses and are running as scheduled, though understandably without craft, art, and prepared food vendors and without music and special events. This means we are gearing up for another season, and hoping that customers make it out to visit us in a safe way.

Why visit a farmers market and support local food producers in a time of crisis, like the current pandemic? The reasons are many and varied, and they are also the same for what we’d call ‘normal’ times. But considering the way folks think differently about community resources, plus the increased focus on health and wellness, the importance of supporting small farms and local food networks is amplified.

Transparency and Safety

Are you concerned about the safety of the food you buy? We know that any day of the year, contamination in shipped fresh produce (bagged spinach and other greens, for sure) is a possibility that could cause us to feel extremely ill and possibly send us to the hospital. We also know, though certain interests would tell us otherwise, that local greens available at the farmers market pose less of a contamination threat. At the market, concerns can (and should) be relayed to growers as direct questions, and we, for instance, are happy to describe how we’ve handled and washed any produce, to give each customer the facts they need to judge the safety of everything we sell.

Health and Wellness

What determines the likelihood that any of us will become ill, any time? Dietary choices and immune system health, while not the whole story, are critical. (NOTE: I am not a dietitian!) Local produce is considerably fresher than anything shipped from warmer climates, and for many vegetables the difference here is stark. Fresh broccoli is notorious for a rapid decline in nutrition after harvest. Just six days after harvest, broccoli has been shown to contain half the antioxidant activity and only 30% of the vitamin C and beta-carotene originally contained (source). Supermarket broccoli, as well as kale, lettuce, and other greens can easily be several days old and will not pack the nutritional punch that local greens will provide.

seeding radishes in the high tunnel this week

Growing practices are also vastly different between producers. We closely analyze soil tests and add organic amendments in order to balance soil minerals. This mineral balancing results in more nutritionally complete produce, a fact that can be demonstrated using plant tissue analysis!

The Local Economy

In a state of crisis or near-crisis, where do I direct my financial support? Our farm continues to purchase from local and trusted suppliers, like Cowsmo for compost and potting mix and multiple small seed companies that offer quality seeds, transparency, and guidance. We are also considering acquiring a second wheel hoe, a shockingly effective tool that conditions our soil and controls weeds and runs on human power alone. Personally, I purchase food from the local co-op, and let’s be honest, it’s April and there isn’t much more to go around. My point is that in light of the current situation, our choices of where to send our financial resources is critical. Anyone who purchases plants or produce from us this season should know those funds will be used thoughtfully (always) and close to home (whenever possible).

‘potting up’ pepper plants prior to transplanting, scheduled for early May

The new greenhouse is packed with garden seedlings for folks in the Menomonie area and in Minneapolis: tomatoes, peppers, greens, cukes, herbs, and amazing perennial flowers. The first green sprouts are expected in the high tunnel any time now. My stress level this spring has been significantly lower than in past years, and I certainly hope that is a result of personal growth and mindfulness. But I don’t doubt that a big part is due to the joy and gratitude that comes from doing good work amongst singing migratory birds, thick mulch, and healthy soil, feelings heightened by the knowledge of the hardships people around the world are facing right now. It is an amazing opportunity to produce goods that Nick and I have COMPLETE trust in.

We look forward to connecting from a safe distance with folks at markets, and we will be sharing more information soon about other ways customers can reach us.

Thanks for reading!


post no. 47 – season 3!

It’s 2020! The blog has been quiet for almost half a year, and I apologize. But here’s to a new growing season, with a new website, new greenhouse, new high tunnel, and the same (although feeling renewed) farmers!

In this post I’d like to share the results of lots of hard work back in the fall, how our practices will change with a high tunnel, and what we are excited about for the 2020 season.

My singular obsession in the fall (that’s how it felt, at least), and a reason for the absence of blog activity, was the construction of a high tunnel in our crop field, the first very visible alteration to the lower section of the farm. At 30′ wide and 96′ long, it covers about 2600 square feet of soil surface, enough to grow the earliest and latest vegetables of the season, plus a small selection of summer vegetables that will do great in a hot environment.

It was a major undertaking, and we are eternally grateful to the many people who assisted, starting with unloading the 4500-pound delivery and ending with the final pieces lifted into place in November. Our farming neighbors, non-farming neighbors, relatives of neighbors, and many of our own relatives all showed up at various moments, providing a massive amount of help to the 2 of us. We absolutely could not have done this without them and they all deserve mouthwatering, juicy heirloom tomatoes in 2020!

A high tunnel does not have a floor: it covers the same soil that is found outside of it, but the soil inside is kept warmer and is not exposed to precipitation. This combination of conditions requires special care of the soil and crops in a high tunnel. Commonly, for example, certain nutrients can accumulate due to the lack of soaking rain and snowfall, which ordinarily leaches nutrients from the top soil. We will provide regular irrigation, given the lack of rainfall in the tunnel, and we will likely devise a way to collect rainfall, so that we are not only watering with our well water, which is very hard and over time would alter the soil pH.

And the benefits of a high tunnel? Lots. We intend to significantly extend the season, both into spring and fall, for cold-hardy crops including kale, carrots, beets, radishes, lettuce, arugula, and turnips. The high tunnel will provide protection in cold weather, preventing crops from being damaged by frost (at least until a really deep freeze). Between those periods, heat-loving crops like tomatoes, basil, and peppers will grow healthily in the abundant heat. They also benefit from protection from rainfall, a major cause of the spreading of disease in this sensitive crops.

Work has begun in the tunnel! The surrounding field is frozen solid with a snow and ice blanket, but the soil within is soft, workable, and warm. The high tunnel should significantly change our season compared to last year, with higher production from less space.

The small greenhouse, in its inaugural year, is already contributing to a less stressful and more productive very early season, accommodating far more trays than the old structure could. Our production of garden seedlings, for sale at farmers markets and at the farm, is more than doubled compared to last year, in large part because we now have more space and a much more reliable greenhouse.

So, what are we excited for in 2020? A lot. We will return to the Midtown Farmers Market at Moon Palace Books in Minneapolis. We intend (pending application) to also be at the Menomonie Farmers Market for the first time, helping to develop a stronger relationship with neighbors and customers who live very close to the farm. Our market stalls will be full of garden seedlings in May, including heirloom tomatoes, a variety of herbs, and some of our favorite pollinator-friendly perennial herbs and flowers. Finally, we hope to be present each moment of this season, taking the ups and downs in stride and not overworking ourselves (the hardest task of the year?).

We are excited to see you and hear from you in 2020! Thanks for reading.


post no. 46: after a long break

Following the longest blog break yet, we are still here, still growing and harvesting, still weeding (yes, really), and still thinking about some exciting projects coming very soon. The lack of updates via the blog is due, quite simply, to the fact that we’ve been extremely busy, with off-farm work combined with a laborious on-farm experience: plant diseases, excessive weed growth, and the general challenges of the second year (as described but not even fully realized in the last post) have kept us busy and, unfortunately, have meant smaller-than-expected harvest for a number of crops.

To make up for 3 months’ worth of missed blog posts, I will share some significant events or observations from this summer, plus what’s going on right now and what is planned!

summer crops

Tomatoes were a very important crop in our first season, and much care went into tomato preparation for 2019, including beds and trellising, as well as selection of some new and some tried and favored varieties. Our main tomato area, on a sloped portion of our field, looks terraced (and is, slightly) and was pretty stunning, we thought, early on.

Crops like tomatoes and peppers are very susceptible to moisture-related diseases that can be fungal or bacterial in nature, and this summer, on our farm, was a challenging one for tomatoes specifically. Conditions including frequent rain and heavy dew forming on the plants EVERY night favored the spread of Septoria Leaf Spot, in our case, which is common but can spread and have devastating effects if left untreated and if high moisture conditions persist (which they very much did). We have been fortunate to have harvested many delicious and beautiful heirloom and cherry tomatoes this season (we continue to collect small amounts into September), but tomato management has taken much more energy than expected and much of the fruit has been unmarketable.

soil management

Our soil is wonderful and we are committed to keeping it in place and to improving it by increasing organic matter and maintaining a healthy nutrient and mineral balance. I have been using the scythe since last summer to produce mulch for vegetable beds (we also use leaves in the fall), but it is not reasonable to produce enough straw mulch to effectively cover the entire growing area. Other options include purchasing large quantities of straw, which we cannot afford, or purchasing large quantities of compost, which is also very expensive and heavy, which means lots of fuel used to transport it and much labor expended by us to move it from the roadside to each bed.

The promising alternative to those alternatives involves the use of craft paper underneath a relatively thin layer of straw. The acquisition of craft paper rolls is especially suited to our operation, as we can pick it up on our return trip from the Midtown Farmers Market. It is very thin and breaks down fully within a season, but it acts as a significant barrier, initially, to weed growth, and it allows us to use much less straw than would normally be required to mulch a garden area. Below is a bed with mulch freshly removed (raked off to each side), and on the left, Alabama Blue collard greens with a nicely mulched adjacent bed.

A massive benefit of paper (or cardboard, as long as it does not have color ink), in addition to weed suppressing action, is that worms love it, and the evidence of increased worm activity under these mulches is very clear. Not only do we see worms when beds are uncovered, but the soil underneath tends to be fluffy enough that I can push my whole hand in, with no tilling whatsoever, except that performed by earthworms.

Our mulching process goes as follows:

  1. We prepare the bed or beds by pulling any crops or large weeds out. For especially good care, we will lightly hoe the surface.

  2. Compost and organic fertilizer is spread on the bed surface.

  3. Craft paper is pulled over the area. We purchase rolls that are 3 feet wide by 1200 feet long (the roll isn’t actually very large though), and mount them onto a SUPER simple stand that I made from leftover 2×4 scraps and some screws.

  4. The paper is very thin and light and will blow around like crazy. So we do not apply it when windy, and we generally work together. Immediately after it is pulled the length of the bed, it is covered with a very thin sprinkling of wood chips for initial weight and a touch of extra fungal magic.

  5. More sheets are pulled, overlapping at least 3 inches with the previous one.

  6. We spread loads of grass/clover mulch or leaves over the paper and chips, just enough so the paper is mostly no longer visible.

That’s it! It isn’t EASY, because we are still doing everything by hand, but it is EFFECTIVE at preserving the soil when cover crop is unsuitable. Generally, we will mulch in this way in early summer to preserve a bed that will be planted or seeded later. We also will use this mulch at the end of the season, to provide some food and protection to the bed for the fall and winter. We are also in the process of growing cover crop in beds that are done for the season, and then cutting it and mulching for winter, which will happen in about a month.

We have ALSO transplanted directly into this mulch (so far with just kale and rutabaga), and the resulting beds have been fluffier and have had greatly reduced weeds compared to unmulched beds. Below is this fall’s garlic area (still quite small), prepared as described above. We will plant into it and then apply additional mulch for winter protection.

 this makes me very happy
this makes me very happy

upcoming projects!

If you’re still reading, way to go! And thanks!

There are TWO big projects we are excited about this fall.

  1. high tunnel

    We are going to build a high tunnel! A high tunnel is a protected growing area, like a greenhouse, that is built in the field. We have ordered and will be constructing, starting sometime this month, a steel high tunnel measuring 30 feet wide by 96 feet long by 14 feet high (at the peak).

    It is exciting! We are excited! And I will share more as it happens, including, I suppose, many, many photos.

  2. art studios/fundraising

    Yes! We’ve been talking about it for one-and-a-half years, and we will finally be drawing up plans, acquiring materials, and constructing individual studios and shared work spaces in our large barn.

    This process will involve patching the steel roof so that it is waterproof, framing and finishing studio walls, updating the electricity in the barn, acquiring a few useful tools for artists/makers, and constructing facilities like an outdoor shower supplied by rainwater runoff from the barn roof.

    Most of the labor will be completed by us, with help from amazing friends along the way, surely. But it will require funds that are not currently available to us, though nothing at all excessive. Please look out for more updates, coming soon, concerning fundraising for this plan that we are SO excited about.

A final bank of photos for this post. Fedco Seeds mis-packed some flower seeds we were very excited about. Instead of purple globe amaranth, which we thought we had seeded, we got these, which are amazing! “New Day Formula Mix” Gazania. Very tidy and compact, they’d be great for a garden border.

Thanks for reading!