Bird list & natural events, September 2012

September was a gorgeous month, seasonal and pleasant, with mostly enough rain though it began to dry out again toward the end. The southward fall migration of birds truly began, with many new species passing through. Lots of other life reappeared after the deeply welcome soaking rains of ex-Hurricane Isaac at the beginning of the month, and we were able to take many good photos of interesting and diverse natural life. All in all it was a really nice month to work outdoors and take pleasure in the biodiversity of this farm. Photos & bird list after the break. Continue reading

CSA distribution #27 & newsletter

Our next CSA distribution will be Monday October 1 and Thursday October 4. This week represented, in many ways, the ongoing transition to fall. We had two nights of frost last weekend while ongoing cool & cloudy weather has boosted the growth of greens while slowing the ripening of tomatoes & peppers. The first true fall items (various greens) will appear in the shares this week. Our thanks to members Fae, David, and Nick who were able to join us on a beautiful Saturday to help out with frost preparation and bed cleanup. Several others expressed interest but couldn’t attend, but we’re sure other opportunities will arise. Continue reading

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CSA distribution #26 & newsletter

Our next CSA distribution will be Monday September 24 and Thursday September 27. The continued glorious, cool weather is starting to mean threats of light frost in our valley, and so we’re beginning to plan for the end of summer crops and the transition to fall produce. Our first real chance of frost is this Saturday evening, and we’ll be holding an open work day for CSA members who wish to come help us get ahead (more below). Members will start to see the reduction or end of many items over the next few weeks, though many new fall crops are growing and will hopefully be ready soon. Continue reading

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Rambunctious Garden

In the six years we’ve lived and worked on this farm, our perspective on the world around us has changed significantly and somewhat unexpectedly. We arrived here as idealistic young people, with a cultural background that loved and valued nature, and an academic training that emphasized the beauty and inherent value of natural things over human. We didn’t initially intend to farm full-time. Six years into taking ownership of a piece of land and learning how to live both with and on it, we’ve changed somewhat. We still hold dear the idea of wilderness and escape, but have learned a new respect for the potential value in people working with landscapes and ecologies to produce a higher value for humans AND nature.

We were still grappling with this fundamental change in our worldview when we first read Rambunctious Garden, a new book by Columbia-based science writer Emma Marris. This concise and thought-provoking book lays out the very ideas we’d been grappling with and places them in the wider context of a developing change in ecological thinking. We’ve become friends with Emma and her family, having deeply enjoyable and challenging discussions about our similar and different perspectives on land use, nature, and human activities. Emma has agreed to host a book discussion at the farm in November, for any CSA members who read the book and wish to engage further in the issues presented there. Continue reading

CSA distribution # 25 & newsletter

Our next CSA distribution will be Monday September 17 and Thursday September 20. So far, September has been everything the rest of the summer was not: generally temperate, properly rained upon, and productive. We’ve been feeling very good the past few weeks, even though it’s still been a challenge getting some fall crops started properly. It would be pleasant indeed if fall continued this way, with comfortable working conditions and excellent diverse food rewarding the survival of a difficult summer.

This week’s newsletter will be brief as we’ve been extra busy hosting the CSA potluck and an enjoyable family visit along with the normal workload. A quick reminder that we’ll be celebrating the return of sane weather and restaurant sales with Happy Hour at Trey this evening; join us from roughly 4-6pm to find out what they’re doing with the 10 things we delivered this week. We’d love to see any members or readers and have good conversation about the world beyond the farm. Continue reading

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CSA distribution #24 & newsletter

Our next CSA distribution will be Monday September 10 and Thursday September 13. We’ve arrived at our theoretical target for the minimum number of distributions for the year, so everything after this is gravy. One thing this year has taught us is that we can comfortably expect to produce more distributions than 24, a useful conclusion as we start to plan for next year. Isaac produced much-needed rainfall, but did indeed cause lots of tomatoes and cherry tomatoes to split. The past week has had everything from wonderful cool rain to intensely muggy days (quite rare this year), and we’ve had the rare experience of trying to fit harvest & work in around multiple rounds of storms. This coming week will be especially busy for us, as we host a CSA potluck on Saturday, visit a similar gathering at a friend’s farm on Sunday, then host a family visit Monday-Wednesday. Continue reading

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Bird list & natural events, August 2012

August was even drier than July until ex-Hurricane Isaac showed up on the 31st. Overall it was a bit cooler, particularly early in the month, but several stretches of mid-high 90s and low humidity contributed significantly to drought stress in both plants and farmers here. We’re starting to see long-term signs of damage, such as lots of dead or dying trees in the woods. This winter may generate many years of firewood for us, and we’d all better hope no ice storms strike. Birds were surprisingly active and we felt that in many cases we saw lower insect populations than expected, with the exception of spotted cucumber beetles. While we’re glad to have this month behind us, our ability to observe and interact with so much that’s happening in the farm’s ecosystem is a major personal benefit to the way we live and farm. Continue reading

CSA distribution #23 & newsletter

Our next CSA distribution will be Monday September 3 and Thursday September 6. This past week has been defined by weather, from the rainfall-that-wasn’t last weekend (forecast 1″-2″, got 0.02″) to the intense, debilitating heat of midweek (multiple days in the high 90s with strong winds and low humidity) to the impending arrival of ex-hurricane Isaac. The latter is hard to judge properly. If it drops a few gentle inches it’s quite welcome; if it pummels us with abundant heavy rain it has the potential to cause flooding, soil erosion, and crop damage. And there’s still the worry that it might leave us in a dry patch, though that’s looking less and less likely. A really fine line to walk and it’s giving us emotional whiplash as we monitor the storm’s progress.  We’ve spent the last couple of months desperately hoping that a remnant hurricane would come our way; now that it is happening, we just hope it turns out well. In any case, the farm plugs along with good produce, even if Isaac plays heck with harvesting for Monday… Continue reading

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Drought & long-term animal management decisions

Our exceptional drought continues, with only .02″ of rain over a weekend widely forecast for 1″-2″. Rainfall for the year is now about 10″ behind average, and the reality is worse given the very high evapotranspiration rates due to high temperatures and low humidity. While some rain from Isaac would be welcome (too much at once will cause soil erosion, crop damage, and other problems), it won’t be enough to change the overall picture and the damage already done. In these conditions, we’re faced with making a number of significant decisions on how to manage our goats, chickens, and pigs for the rest of the year and through the following year(s). Our animals are an integral part of our farm management (and our personal lives), but as we’re not sure conditions can or will recover before sometime next year at the earliest, we need to make some short- and medium-term changes. Here are some things we’re facing and contemplating. Continue reading

How trees affect garden & farm crops in drought

When assessing all the ways that extreme drought affects crops, a subtle factor to consider is the impact of tree roots on the water supply available to nearby plants. While gardeners and farmers tend to think of trees primarily in terms of shade (as competitors for sun), under these extreme drought conditions trees can become serious competitors for water, too. We’re seeing signs of this on our farm, and suspect many farmers & home gardeners are too without even realizing it. Continue reading