Pesticide drift: the rest of the story

National Public Radio is airing a story about pesticide drift threatening organic farms, which includes a portion of our story from 2014. The nature of radio stories inevitably leaves out details and context, so here we re-link to the three-part series we wrote for our website, laying out our experience in more detail. It’s an important read for anyone interested in this topic:

Experiencing pesticide drift, part I

Experiencing pesticide drift, part II: Calling in the government

Experiencing pesticide drift, part III: how drift isn’t taken seriously

We also wrote an article for small-farm trade journal Growing For Market about the topic.

Are birds damaging our apples?

What’s doing this to our apples?

bird_apples_1

For weeks, we’ve been finding cavities dug out of our young apples, often with some kind of rot starting within the excavation. We don’t find any insects or caterpillars inside the  cavities, nor any frass. Generally the cavities have smaller wounds nearby. This damage devastated the fruit on our William’s Pride tree, damaging over half the fruit. As they were nearly ripe, we were able to carve around and eat some of the damaged fruits, but still lost a lot of apples. About the time the William’s Prides were gone, the same thing started happening on the two nearby Liberty trees, a worse loss because Liberty doesn’t ripen until September, so the fruits are way too underripe to eat. Not being able to identify any insect behavior linked to this has been maddening, until a belated two-part aha moment cleared things up. Continue reading

Natural events, June 2015

The month of June has been brought to us by the letters R, A, I, N, and the symbols @$#!. This has been an awfully wet period for much of our region, starting after the first week of May, in which round after round of rain keeps sweeping through. This has caused all sorts of agricultural headaches, including supercharged weed growth, plant disease, soil erosion, muddy farm roads, and soggy, un-hoe-able soil preventing us from planting, maintaining, and harvesting crops for sale or personal use. We’ve been keeping on-farm precipitation records since late 2009; here’s what the cumulative rainfall numbers look like for each year starting at the beginning of May:

june_natural_precip

While other years had higher totals at times, they also all had longer periods between rainfall events, providing a chance to dry out and get work done. This year, after the first week of May, only TWICE have we gone three days in a row without measurable rainfall, and the daily totals are often heavy. We’re not regretting our sabbatical from the CSA this year, as it’s been stressful enough managing the land under these conditions without the added pressure of biweekly harvest and deliveries.

Nevertheless, we experienced a lot of interesting natural phenomena in June, and took a lot of photos, so read on for an illustrated tour of the farm’s ecosystem during this time of year.

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Cooking with kid: Stir fry with tenderloin

Tenderloins are lovely pieces of meat, as tender as the name implies. They are located along the backbone, internal to the body cavity, so you can’t reach around and feel your own like you can loin/backstrap. Removing this cut from the carcass is a bit awkward, and sure enough when butchering the goat kid featured in this cooking series, I managed to put a big knife cut through of one of them. The tenderloins are long and skinny, and those from a kid are on the small side: Crystal’s were about a half pound (including two thin strips, not photographed, that may or may not “officially” be tenderloin). What would I do with smallish pieces of meat, tender and suitable for quick high-heat cooking, with a pretty bad gash though the middle of one? Stir fry seemed a sensible answer.

cook_kid_tenderloin

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Natural events, May 2015

A late April dry spell continued into the first week of May, overlapping almost perfectly the time we would otherwise have expected to find morels. Our farm-total morel count this year was one (technically in late April). Then it turned wet and has remained so; we recorded rain on 18 days of the month. Temperatures were remarkably pleasant, with the warmest days in the low 80s. Despite the overall cool weather, it did not frost in May. Our last spring frost was the morning of April 28, though we just escaped frost on May 20 thanks to persistence in cloud cover. May is always a good month for nature observation; photo highlights below.

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Strawberry season: berries for sale

Strawberry season is here! This year, we’ll be selling strawberries from the farm (~12 miles north of Columbia). Quantities are limited, so we’ll need to coordinate pick-up days for those who want berries to ensure that we can meet your needs. This is the season for fantastic fresh strawberry pies, like this one we baked yesterday:

strawberry_pie

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Cooking with kid: Loin #1, grilled in celebration of spring

loin

Loins  are the muscles on the sides of the spine. Yes, go ahead, reach around to your back, find your backbone, and feel the muscle on either side. That’s the piece. This is one of the high-end cuts from any mammal. For example, from a pig, it can become a pork chop (if sliced through the bone). In deer, it is often called backstrap. From a goat, we just call it the loin, and in our butchering style, we generally carefully cut it off of the spine, resulting in a nice boneless piece of meat. This a cut that is suitable for quick, high heat cooking. We like to make a point of doing something nice with the loins.

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Birding local farms in May: Recap of Columbia Audubon Society field trips

We organized and led two birding field trips this May to central Missouri sustainable farms whose land management integrates a wide variety of wildlife habitat into their food production. Unlike monoculture cropland, the right kind of farmland can actually increase bird habitat and biodiversity, and such private farms host interesting landscapes that might not be represented on public lands. We hoped to give Columbia Audubon Society members, and other birders, a chance to visit and interact with some new locations and landscapes they might otherwise not have access to. Read on for details of each trip. Continue reading

Natural events, April 2015

What a pleasant month April was this year, with May following its example. Reasonably stable weather and seasonal temperatures made it a joy to be outside. We keep asking why we couldn’t have had a spring like this when farming full-time?

The limited responses to last month’s Natural Events post makes it clear that we can’t justify putting too much time into these going forward (sorry, faraway friends!). However, we also can’t bring ourselves to break continuity with this multi-year journal of observations. So for now we’re going to try to carry on more efficiently. One change we’re making is to omit the bird listing from the monthly post. Not to worry, we’re still keeping bird records, and we look forward to finding another way to present bird data on the website in future.

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Cooking with kid: Sauerbraten with shoulder #2

Editor’s note: This was written in late winter, but delayed due to various circumstances. The next post in this series will be a new, current one and hopefully the series stays up to date from now on.

In honor of my German heritage, I decided that sauerbraten should be in my cooking repertoire, as I enjoy it when prepared by Eric. So, in spite of my plan to minimize “meat and potatoes” meals in this series, I decided to embrace and feature that combination…this time. Why? For a culturally complete meal, I wanted to serve the sauerbraten with potato pancakes, another German specialty that I make routinely. Our dwindling storage potato supply suggested that I either make this now or wait until July, the earliest more potatoes could be ready for harvest. Sauerbraten in July doesn’t sound as appealing, so I opted to prioritize this as a nice winter meal.

Although my parents have handwritten recipes for sauerbraten from my grandmother, I simply went for our cookbook shelf and took guidance from the recipe in Mimi Sheraton’s The German Cookbook, our favorite resource for traditional German cooking. I followed the recipe moderately closely, though of course it calls for beef rather than goat. What matters is the braising theme, and the basic components of this technique are quickly becoming familiar: brown the meat, saute some aromatics, add some liquid, put it all together, and slow cook. The twists here are that sauerbraten starts with a specific marinade, and final preparations include making gravy.

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