Why this spring’s weather will delay the next CSA shares

We’ve been writing about the difficult spring weather for months, but just to avoid any confusion, let’s be clear: there will be no CSA distributions for at least a week, and possibly two, due to the extraordinarily cold, wet, slow spring, in addition to the delays we’ve already suffered in trying to get going this year. These conditions represent the worst spring we’ve seen in seven years here, and are quite stressful and disruptive for us and other farmers we know. Here’s a specific look at just how the spring crops are doing so far, and why these conditions are problematic. Continue reading

Posted in CSA

Bird list & other natural events, April 2013

We could write a novel about how frustrating April’s weather was, especially following on the heels of March. Despite a few misleadingly hot, sunny days, the month overall was disproportionately cold, wet, and cloudy. Various markers of spring are well behind normal, as are pretty much all our crops. Soil temperatures have remained lower than desired, regular rain kept conditions problematically soggy, and with so little regular sun, transplants and newly seeded crops grew quite slowly if at all. We did compile a very nice bird list for the month, but overall this April, like March, is best left quickly behind us. Continue reading

Recent & upcoming farm tours

We recently hosted a farm tour for Earth Dance Farms, a sustainable farming educational organization based in St. Louis. We were one stop on their 2-day trip that allows their interns/apprentices to visit & learn from various mid-Missouri farms. The visit was quite enjoyable with lots of interest and enthusiasm on both sides. Their summary of the whole trip can be read here, serving as a really interesting take on just how diverse individual approaches to farming can be. We humbly note, however, that we hold only Master’s degrees, not PhDs. In addition to writing about the visits, they also sent us a nice thank-you including this pleasant summary:

I know that all of our apprentices were amazed by your farm. It is unique amid all of the other farms we visit, in the Columbia area and closer to us in STL. Seeing it and understanding your practices inspires people to expand their thinking about what a “farm” means.

For CSA members who would like to enjoy a similar visit to the farm, we’ll be holding a tour this Saturday from 2-4 pm. The weather looks reasonable, so this will be a great chance to enjoy a pretty walk through our pastures, fields, and forests as spring finally takes hold. We’ll also be able to answer any last-minute questions before deliveries begin next week, and hope many folks can attend in order to meet other CSA members and start building this year’s community. If you need directions, please email us.

 

CSA distribution #2 & newsletter

We had hoped to offer the first CSA distribution of spring on April 22nd/25th, but are having to rewrite this newsletter as another week of cold, overly wet weather looms with far less sun than than desired. We need some consistent warmth & sun to allow for winter spinach to green up properly and ensure a good harvest. We now anticipate distributing on Monday April 29 and Thursday May 2.  This will technically be share #2, following the January share that served as an early-signing bonus for members, though it kicks off the full 2013 season. We have now closed the membership, so share #2 will also function as a full trial run of this season’s delivery routes & customization system; we ask that all members review our 2013 member guidelines for details on how this season will work. Read on for details on this share, what’s happening on the farm, and information on an upcoming CSA member event. Continue reading

Posted in CSA

Early April farm happenings

Spring has finally arrived in our valley, and with vigor. In just the past week of warm weather, an intense flush of green growth has invigorated the grasses, weeds and wildflowers everywhere we look. Lots of spring birds are arriving, while a diverse chorus of frogs provides background ambiance.  The very slow start to spring pushed our outdoor work far behind as we waited for the soil to dry & warm. Finally, last week’s dry spell allowed us to undertake a marathon week of bed prep, seeding, transplanting, and more, exhausting ourselves thoroughly while enjoying finally moving forward with the growing season. This important work was cut off by the recent swath of strong storms which dumped over 2″ of rain, very heavy at times, and caused various problems with flooding and erosion (with minimal problems in the growing area, but roads especially aren’t pretty). And, of course, this once again slows down our planting & seeding plans while we wait for things to dry out.  We  could really use a nice, long stretch of pleasant weather, however unlikely that is in a typical Missouri April (the upcoming forecast has repeated rounds of rain again). Read on for some photos of early spring on the farm, and a glimpse of the first new crops of the year. Continue reading

Bird list & other natural events, March 2013

We could not imagine two months much different than March of 2012 and 2013. Last year we basically had May in March, getting the natural & growing season off to a worryingly early start. Now the opposite is true; it stayed so cold and snowbound most of the month that we’re as far behind now as we were ahead in 2012. Compare the two monthly temperature graphs below for March 2012 and 2013 in Columbia, from the National Weather Service. The average high for March 2013 (47.5 F) was lower than the average low for March 2012 (48.4 F); for reference the normal average is 55.3 (high) & 34 (low). The paired photos in this post also vividly demonstrate the difference.

march_temp_graphs Continue reading

Crop production strategies: resilience to cold spring weather

The current cold & wet spring situation means that CSA distributions are not going to get off to as early a start as last year. We hate that this sounds like an excuse, but the reality is that soil temperatures dictate our ability to successfully plant, and those have remained below critical thresholds. Adverse weather tends to make us think though strategies that can help us to better handle a repeat of such conditions. What follows is our current analysis of the options, along with what we’re already doing and what we plan to do differently for the future; these plans reflect our philosophy of low-budget economic & environmental sustainability. Continue reading

Contrasting spring weather & CSA implications

It’s hard to imagine a more striking contrast in weather conditions than the springs of 2012 and 2013 here. Last year, spring came absurdly, worryingly early and forced us into an unexpectedly quick start to the growing season, distributing CSA share #2 weeks before we expected. This year, three strong winter storms within a month have shut down our progress toward spring preparations and planting, and will delay the 2013 CSA season as much as last year accelerated it. To date, the average high for March 2013 (46ºF with a few days to go in the month) is lower than the average low for March 2012 (48.4ºF). To illustrate these wild swings in weather & growing conditions, here are two sequences of photographs from the two years, taken at the same locations within a day of each other. Continue reading

Life without milk: a year-long experiment

In the immediate aftermath of this spring’s goat troubles, we were disturbed and disappointed to face a year without abundant fresh milk. We’ve come to rely on this for so many aspects of our diet, using 2-4 gallons a week in season for cheese, yogurt, custards, cream sauces and more, while preserving it for off-season use through freezing it whole, and freezing or aging cheeses. Yet replacing this amount of milk & dairy products from off-farm sources doesn’t fit our budget or lifestyle. Discussing this, we also began to realize that an enforced change in diet could be a really interesting opportunity to broaden our cooking horizons, in a way we’d never choose on our own. Continue reading