Category Archives: Dirt on the Farm

The Super-Damp Dirt on the Farm

3 consistent weeks of heavy rainfall later and the farm is a mess with weeds,
puddles, mosquitoes, and more weeds. It’s humbling to see our early successes in
keeping weeds at bay so vigorously thwarted, and at a time of year where we
don’t have much extra in the labor budget to boot. The broadleaf weeds that didn’t
make much of an appearance early are now out competing the foxtail, which has
out competed the thistle in some places. It’s Weed War III out here. We’re making
progress, at a rather tortoise-like pace. Nothing has been fully overrun by weeds
yet, but it’s getting a bit shady in the parsley patch, if you know what I mean;/

Weeds are not the only adverse effects of too much rain on crop health though.
Black rot, a bacterial infection, has shown up for the first time on our farm. It
has spread itself through the first cauliflower planting and on to the purple
peacock broccoli too. I’m doubtful it will spread further, but we’ll have to see.
Half of the spring cauliflower is in another field and isn’t showing any symptoms
of infection. Late Blight hasn’t shown up yet in the tomatoes, but since I just
spoke of it, I’d better go check them………seriously that’s how that blasted scourge
of summer works.
What does this mean for you and your share, all this rain? Have you ever heard
the expression:  You can’t do just one thing?!?! As the rains ruin some early
cauliflower, they also solidify the last mile long planting of carrots for the year
with timely moisture. The time spent not planting in the fields can be spent in the
greenhouse, or on projects that have waited since spring to get any sort of
attention.  The box prospects as a whole have not been significantly altered by
the rain, but they’ve most definitely shifted a bit, for better or worse. The impact of the rain now  on some of our late summer and early fall crops, is still hard to tell, but time and weather will tell.

All in all, the rains have made for lots of growth both with weeds, and many of the crops already in the fields.  There have been a few losses due to too much moisture, but hopefully things will normalize and those will be kept to a minimum.  We work to make the best of the excessive wetness and get projects done that we would have neglected had it not been a sloppy mess out. So, ultimately where we would have been behind we are not, and where we are not behind we normally would have been. Your farmer and the crew remain optimistic and continue to work hard each week to bring a beautiful box of bounty from our fields to your table.

The Dirt on the Farm 6/23/15

Hi everybody. Farmer Tim here. I wanted to take a minute and thank you all for signing up for our CSA program this year. I thank you not just as the owner of LotFotL but as a concerned citizen, a person in the world who too easily sees problems and challenges in the state of the nation, but doesn’t always see solutions, or the will to change things come to fruition. I believe that CSA has a unique, irreplaceable role to play in shaping the future of food in our country, and I hope by the end of this article that you’ll pat yourself on the back, puff your chest up a bit, and take pride in this decision you’ve made and the relationship we’ve begun to charter. Ours may be a quiet role to play in shaping the future of food, no Pandora adds or billboards likely, but that makes this opportunity all the more special.

CSA’s are nothing without their member’s abiding support through the hardships that are the backbone of agricultural America. Agriculture in America is not a pursuit that many can take up and make a living at, not without help, luck, and an amazing amount of effort. The numbers oscillate annually based on many factors, but according to USDA statistics, between 80-95% of income for an American farm family comes from off farm sources. Think about that for a minute. Imagine your 50-60 hour a week job only contributing 5-15% of your total income for the year. Now add 20 hours a week to your workload. Agriculture is tough on many fronts.

CSA farming, because of member support, allows for opportunities where none should exist. LotFotL is a case in point of this possibility. Through the support of it’s membership since 2007, LotFotL has taken a 20 something generalist, long on dreams and short on skills, and turned his dreams into a productive, soil improving, stable farm business. Together, we have hired over 80 people(always at least $.50 above minimum wage) and paid out more than $500,000 in wages. We’ve given hundreds more the opportunity to earn their food while learning what it takes to grow it, and fed tens of thousands of folks in the greater Milwaukee area produce that isn’t anonymously produced in the dark crevices of the world.The farm provides for Tim and April’s needs in full. Neither has had $1 of off farm income in 3 years.

Together, we’re growing farmers, passing the baton, expanding our imprint.  CSA, as a means of feeding your family, contributes more than any other avenue directly toward growing farmers for the future. In our own case, 3 past and 4 current employees of LotFotL are actively engaged in the process of setting in motion their own food-based, organic farming operations. These current and future farmers are raising livestock in ecological contexts that are innovative, scale appropriate, and nurturing to the soil (http://www.moomawfarm.com/). They are expanding the role of permaculture and perennial potentials in agriculture in southeast Wisconsin, leading to restorative land management and hardy kiwis and hazelnuts all at once (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/feral-farm-growing-food-and-ecosystems#/story). They are developing models for productive, financially sustainable farms that double as places for folks with special needs, not only to get care and focused attention, but to also learn life skills, to gain confidence, and to discover the thrills of growing food. Your buck does much more here than just buy you some food.

Folks that study ecology have come up with a law, something that is invariably true in the world. The law is often called the law of multiple effects, summed up neatly with the statement that “you can’t just do one thing.” Their meaning is that actions we take ripple outwards past our intended outcome to other reaches. Your choice to be a member of our CSA this year benefits you and us, but it doesn’t stop there. Thank you for helping us build soil, grow farmers, and for helping us demonstrate that small scale farming doesn’t need to be a pipe dream in America, if you’re fortunate enough to have a community that has your back.

The Dirt on the Farm: Falling into Fall

 

According to the calendar, we have transitioned into an new season. Fall is upon us. The fields have shifted into their new wardrobe, shedding the summer crops like cucumbers and zucchini. The corn and tomatoes have been emptied of their fruit and grain and await winter tilling and field prepping. This year, the peppers and eggplant didn’t have much of a life, yielding poorly or not at all, but the brussel sprouts popped out early. If all goes well, we will have a new fall offering called flower sprouts; a combination of brussel sprouts and kale! The sweet potatoes are nearly ready to dig and begin their month long curing process, and the winter squash is all coming in now. Watch for bigger variety of fall greens to appear, like spinach, arugula, mustards, brccoli rabe, and sorrel, in addition to things like radish and colored cauliflower. So, although many things have already come to an end this year, we still have plenty of bounty to be grateful for.

Historically, Autumnal Equinox was celebrated as the 2nd of three harvest celebration each year. This was when the sun was recognized for all he gave for the season and remembering that his death was drawing near. It was a time to finish up any old business that still needed tending, as cold winter lingered nearby. Gathering, storing, and preparing for winter would be the main focus for the remainder of the season. Yet, awareness of balance between work and rest is demonstrated by Mother Earth as once again daylight hours match night time hours. But, most importantly, this is, and was always, the gratitude season. We remember what we have and what is important to us.

As we shift into a new season here at the farm we are doing many of the same things done by generations past. My kitchen is full of the seasons bounty, cut, cleaned, and canned or frozen for later use this winter. Our barn and greenhouse is full of onions, garlic, squash, etc that are curing and storing for late season offerings. The fields are covered with row covers to extend the life of our plants as longs as possible. At the same time the crew becomes almost nostalgic about recognizing the joys of this years experiences together. There are more and more excuses to get together and share meals and celebrate the abundance in our lives and on this farm. And, everyone starts bringing yummy, gooey, sweet, rich, food to share as we instinctively feel the need to fatten up for the long cold ahead.

As you prepare for winter in your life, be it closer to our ancestors agrarian lives or with a more citified flair, may you remember what you love, be grateful for what you have, and eat well no matter what. Happy Fall everyone.

The Dirt on the Farm: Summer Squash aka Zucchini Overload

This is the time of year where people start finding baskets and bags full of zucchinisummer squash 2013 mysteriously showing up at their front doors because their desperate green thumbed neighbor can’t keep up with all of those summer squash that are pouring in off the vines. If you are like me, over the years you have accumulated a pile of zucchini recipes to help you put up a good fight when it comes to reaping this harvest. We have already had some great recipes shared this year from our members and welcome you to post your ideas on our Facebook Page or email them to [email protected]

The first thing that I do with early zucchini and other summer squash like zepher, patty pan, and eight ball, is drizzle them with oil and my favorite poultry spice and grill them. Their light sweet flavor goes so well will the mouth watering smokiness added when cooking them over a fire; just don’t over cook them or you get mush. If you slice them the long way, they are less apt to fall through the grill grate. Here is a simple recipe to get you started.

Around this time of the year, the employee lunch table at LotFotL is frequently centered with some version of zucchini bread, muffins, or dessert crisp; and why not, this stuff makes a great dessert. The folks at Desserted Planet have some really fun ideas such as, Chocolate Zucchini Cake, Zucchini Cookie Sandwiches, or Zucchini Pineapple Cupcakes with Orange Sour Cream Frosting. Check it out. Ohh and by the way, these recipes can be made with any of the summer squash you are seeing in your shares, it doesn’t have to be the classic long green Zucchini.

Over the years, I have run into numerous summer squash salsa recipes that have been a really fun way to use this summertime staple. Now that tomatoes are starting to ripen here is a fun one that uses both, and you can “can” it. If you haven’t scarfed down the sweet corn with butter and salt, this is a fun, tasty, fresh corn zucchini salsa that is bursting with flavor. Or, if you like Salsa Verde, fill yours with some of your zuc bounty. Ahh, the ideas are endless!

Then you move into the world of Italian prepared Zucchini! Zucchini lasagna, zucchini pizza, zucchini pizza crust (not kidding…I have made one), and zucchini pasta (both in pasta and as pasta). Italian food could take over my life! The flavors, colors, and smells are heavenly. The space for creative freedom is beyond belief and I almost always get good results, because if you put enough cheese on it, anything is good.

Then we can get into salads, smoothies, juices, pancakes, and fitters. I almost forgot about stuffing them. Oh yeah, and we can’t leave out zucchini chips. With a big enough freezer we could eat this stuff all winter long and never have the same meal twice.

The Dirt on the Farm: Tim’s Update

Mid summer CSA crop report by Farmer Tim

Greetings eaters! I hope the spring and early summer crops have been to your delight. We’ve farmer of the year (2)had great successes and a few flat-on-the-face fall downs thus far in terms of crops, but all things considered, I can’t remember a more abundant, consistent spring and early summer in terms of crop health and success. The late summer and fall crops also have lots of promise.

The fall-like nights we’ve been having have put a damper on what otherwise looks to be a very nice tomato crop this year. We’re just now getting our very first sungolds mature. Looks to be a couple weeks yet before tomatoes make it to market or shares, but once they do, be ready. The cool nights have had exactly the opposite effect on brussel sprouts. Instead of going into a homeostatic holding pattern through the would-be heat, the sprouts are forming early, and strongly, with far fewer culls than usual. We’ve already sold a few to restaurants around town. I’m holding back on getting them into shares because I’m not sure you are ready for them yet, and they do improve with some frost. Still, this may go down in our 7 year CSA history as the 1st year we gave out brussel sprouts before tomatoes. So it goes.

Expect a second crop of beans to arrive in a couple of weeks. Our spring peas flopped, so we’re trying a fall crop. That should be ready mid month, fingers crossed. Beets, carrots, and celeriac all look great for fall. Expect carrots for the next couple months pretty consistently, and beets on and off. Onions, garlic, potatoes, winter squash, lettuce, and sweet corn will all begin hitting shares soon, and then much more consistently. We have 3 plantings of sweet corn for this year, and the earliest plantings are always the least buggy. We will be into the first and second planting for the next 4-6 weeks. Lastly, our watermelon and other melons will begin this week and should be around at least as long as the sweet corn. So, stock up on bibs, and get ready for sweetspot of the summer of 2014!

The Dirt on the Farm: Just Another Day, Right?

LotFotL was started in 2007 and the CSA was born in 2008. In that time the farm has grown every year. Currently, we have over 500 CSA members, we maintain an online farm store that sells items like local and sustainable meat, fruit, and honey, we are raising 26 heritage breed pigs and maintaining over a dozen honeybee hives. The farm employs more than a dozen people and welcomes over 30 worker share volunteers. In that time we have learned to take things in stride. Tractors break, people get sick or quit, animals fall ill, drought leaves things withered and dead, flood washes things out, and pests decimate a crop. Each year we seem to mentally get better and better at taking what comes and not letting it give us panic attacks. So last week, when Tim called the farm to let us know he needed to be rescued from his attempted cherry pick up because the right rear wheels of the cube van fell off while he was driving down the highway….well, we just made the adjustments and got Tim home safe and the cherries too.

This could have been a tragic or even fatal event. If things had not lined up just as they did, if he had been in a different place on the highway or not been able to pull over as quickly has he did, this may not have been just another day on the farm. We were all reminded that this is always the case in life and we only have this moment right now. We have chosen to see this as a good thing and move forward with gratitude that we are able to keep doing what we love to do. Tim is alive and well and our members got their delicious cherries. We remember to stay aware and keep ourselves in the moment. With the grace of strength and wisdom we can change and control some things, but we know there are many we cannot, and we are willing to accept that. We get up each day and take what comes with it.

So here’s to another day on the farm. May we have many days filled with abundance and joy, reaped from good old fashioned hard work. May we be smart and have luck on our side as we drive down the road or work with heavy machinery. Let us keep ourselves in the moment, aware and grateful so that we can continue to have many more “days on the farm”.

 

The Dirt on the Farm: Midsummer’s Dirt

We are nearing mid summer and already into week 7 of the CSA season. The year just seems to be flying by. Our staff has settled into a rhythm and the members are starting to get a feel for their pick up sights. Fruit season is upon us and our first delivery of cherries will be delivered this week. Here in the office we are starting to get the hang of the new technology that is being used to manage all of the member accounts. We are hard at work adapting and creating changes in our systems so that we can continue to offer the abundance and support that our members have come to expect. But, just as we start to get used to things, the seasons begin to shift and we have to open ourselves to something new.

Traditionally, this is the time of year when agrarian cultures celebrated the abundance coming from the fields. The first grains were starting to be harvested and bread and beer was crafted. At the same time, it was the beginning of the shorter days as the sun’s power began to fade. All too soon winter would be upon the people, so diligent preparation would be key for surviving that cold dead season.

Grain was the primary harvest back then and the most sacred of the seeds. Here on the farm, we start thinking about canning and preserving fruits and veggies. We also start to see the storage crops, like squash and potatoes, showing signs of readiness. Nuts will soon start falling from the trees. In this preparation, people remember and honor the continuation of life and death unfolded through each season every year. The grains that don’t make it into a basket or loaf of bread, and the crops or weeds that go to seed, will drop potential new life into the Earth. Those sacred seeds hold the secret to life for generations to come, for they birth the next generation.

This time of year, we might think about what needs to be sacrificed to make room for new life. On the farm, we harvest the corn and the plant dies, but we have seeds that will carry on and make new life. Seeds that sustain us and give us life. This is one of nature’s great lessons that has spoken loudly to me over the last few years. Letting go of things is important in life. If we are to make room for something new, if we wish to transition into a new cycle, we must first let something go. Becoming aware of this and consciously making these choices has helped me to transition more smoothly into new stages of life, such as new jobs, new relationships, and new projects.

For me, observing the seasons brought real truth to the words “to everything there is a season”. Every year, as summer begins to wane, I am reminded of the constant change in life. I am grateful for the role that each season has, as it encourages me to let go of what is no longer needed. What will I sacrifice this year? What seeds might I be going to drop? What preparations do I still need to make for the short and long term? These are the questions that start rolling through my mind as we enter mid summer. Enjoy this season and the food that comes with it.

The Dirt on Another Farm: Exploring Wyoming

Last Thursday, Tim and I left to squeeze in a power road trip to Wyoming and back. We left Thursday morning after the delivery trucks rolled out and returned home Monday afternoon in time to touch base with the staff and oversee this weeks activities. While we were away, we took a look at how some folks do it in Wyoming (or Wyobraska as they call their near border location) and learned more about food in our world, while we explored a little about family and ourselves.
Tim took great interest in the style of irrigation that was being used on my families ranch/farm located just outside of Torrington Wyoming. Being I had only met my father a handful of times, I could not tell him much about it myself. My biological father, who is now nearly 65, is still maintaining a beef herd of around 50 animals, and making sure that he has enough healthy pasture land, in addition to growing enough corn and alfalfa to keep them fed. Wyoming is in their 12th year of what is classified as drought, needless to say water out that way is rarely plentiful, especially for farming. Farmers are given water rights to run off that is collected from melted snow on the mountain range and is distributed around the state in canals. Steeling more water that you have “rights” to can get you in a heap of trouble out there. Fields are set up so that gated pipe can be set out and opened to let water collected from the canals flow down the rows in the fields.
We also toured another family operation that My Aunt DeeDee and Uncle Larry run along with my cousin Eric (all relatives that I did not grow up with or ever really know). Apparently, farming is thicker in my blood than I realized. These folks are not only growing and selling potatoes, but they also build and sell custom made potato harvest equipment. It was fascinating to see all of the work and skill that goes into building these machines. Personally, I liked seeing where I may have gotten some of my entrepreneur genes.
At the family reunion, which was the driving force in getting us to make this ridiculous power trip in the middle of July in the first place, I met a fellow beekeeper that had married into the family. He is running 80 hives out in Texas, of all places! It was fascinating to learn about the honey flow out that way and how they deal with the strong influence of Africanized bees. He wears a lot more protective gear than I have to with my hives. They also don’t have much of a honey flow out that way, so they have to take their hives elsewhere to be able to get any honey. One of the places he goes is Missouri to an organic cotton field. I was also excited to find the drive through South Dakoda revealing a good deal of commercial hives that were set out on the prairie. They were collecting from the overly abundant yellow clover this year. I would have loved more time to explore and learn about all of the beekeeping stuff, but we were on a tight time crunch in order to make it back in time for this week.
The dirt on someone elses farm was fun to see and learn from. The little bit of “family dirt” that I was allowed to see was also interesting, being I don’t know much about that part of my blood line. My eyes were opened to hereditary issues within my family, like thyroid and Parkinson’s disease, and I could see similar personality traits in myself and other relatives. We were grateful to learn about more than just soil when we went out to the wild west.
I was also reminded that we all come from some sort of agriculture, and as our culture evolves, that instinct grows week and quiet in far too many of us. As I journey down my own path I feel the farmer in me awaken and remember. My connection with the land, the Earth, our planet is much more present in my daily life. My relationship with the plants and animals feels more intimate and complete in everything that I do, especially EAT. May you awaken some of the farmer in you as you deepen your relationship with LotFotL and the food and community that is nurtured here on this little patch of ground.

The Dirt on the Farm: For the Love of Greens!

This time of year, even I am starting to feel like I could use a break from the greens, so I get really excited to use broccoli, sweet onions, squash, and beets. But the greens have become an active part of my life and an integral part of my “let food be your medicine” lifestyle.

Kale and swiss chard are still breakfast staples for us out here. Multiple days a week, these greens are sauteed and mixed with scrambled eggs or sausage and topped with some kind of ferment (kimchi, or sauerkraut, etc). It is a great way to start the day, bringing in lots of those super food nutrients, and a healthy helping of valuable fiber. But, speaking of ferments…Did you know that you can live ferment your kale? For those of you not as into the live fermenting thing, you can make great vinegar pickled kale too.

Greens can be mixed with just about anything, if you are willing to get creative. Have you ever considered baking with your kale? Check out this muffin recipe. As a matter of fact, here are 5 ways to sneak kale into your dessert. Italian foods lend themselves really well to using greens. Thin chop or even food process them and hide them in spaghetti sauce or make a swiss chard lasagna.

Ohh and don’t forget to freeze your greens on weeks when you won’t get to them. You will thank yourself this winter when you body starts to crave that chlorophyll packed goodness. Of course there is the ever popular smoothie, that can use up gobs of greens faster than a speeding bullet. Here are some ideas to get you ready for green smoothies in an instant.
Let’s not forget about the now famous “kale” chips, which can actually be made with most of the hardy greens, and are a winner at any table. But make a lot, cause they won’t last long. Once you get started with these, it can become an addiction and the flavor combinations that can be created are really endless. Think curry, or Mexican style cumin, or cheesy nutritional yeast, or red pepper veggie medley….Oh my gosh don’t get me started!
May your adventures in greens turn into the love affair that they have with me. Your body will thank you for it and you will have a fuller more enjoyable CSA experience. You might even want to get yourself a greens cookbook for inspiration. Heck, you can even get yourself a cookbook on Kale alone, cause kale has become the new carrot ya know. Happy cooking and let yourself love those greens.
Ohh and just for fun, check out this guy. He makes AWESOME kale apparel!

The Dirt on the Farm: Yes I love Technology!

 

kip3“Yes I love technology
But not as much as you, you see
But I still love technology
Always and forever”

These days I find myself singing the lyrics to Kip’s wedding song in the movie Napoleon Dynamite. Mostly to light-heartedly console myself as I go through the frustrating process of learning the ins and outs of our new CSA management system. The learning curve on this technology is kind of steep the first year as the farm and the provider get to know each other. The provider is better getting to know the specific needs of the farm and we are better getting to know what they can and can’t offer. Sometimes we run into obstacles that can take a bit of fine tuning, but over all, a management system like this allows the farm to offer its customers a lot more services, and, in time, makes it easier for us to manage them.
Currently, I am fine tuning the check off sheets that you get at each drop site. Our goal is to make them easy to read, while displaying all of the information that each of you needs to know. For now, you may see that I have to cross off the names of folks that don’t pick up that week. We are also coming up with the best way to allow customers to put their shares on hold and reschedule their makeup shares (including their chickens and eggs). The current system is a little clutsy and definitely not creating a very pretty check off sheet. But, we will keep working at it. In the mean time if you have questions about what you are supposed to get or how to put you share on hold or schedule your make up share etc., please let us know.
The farm store is also different this year. Currently only CSA members are able to order from the store, but in time, I hope to change that. For now, I am accepting that it is the heart of summer and we may have to take this one step at a time. With any luck though, I will have a plan in place in time for fruit orders, so that everyone that loves those blueberries and peaches can order fruit, member or no member.
While the farm adjusts to this new technology, you may notice an oops here or there. We thank you in advance for your patience with us. Just let us know if something doesn’t go quite right and we will make sure to take care of you. Thanks again for your support this season.