Wednesday, March 28, 2012

First Plantings

The first lamb of the season would arrive on the windiest of March nights! Like Mary Poppins, she blew in as the wind changed under an umbrella of surprise.
A day later and the morning was so filled with bird chatter it seemed as if all the feathered and flibberty gibberty gossips of the avian world had alighted, moving into every nook and cranny and branch our trees have to offer. No doubt, they were exchanging exciting tidbits about their journey up from the south, the neighbor's new hatchlings, and of course, the delectable prospects of the upcoming seeding season for sweet and feed corn. Thank heaven's for Englishman John Seymour's little anecdotal advice about burying your onion sets and not leaving the little slips of tops poking out...lest the birds tug them all up! We just finished plunking a good 8,000 sets in the ground on Monday, and would very much like them to stay (and grow) where they are!

To prepare the ground for them, and for the spring onion plants we've been coddling in the greenhouse we harnassed Maj and Marta and shallowly plowed and disced the "bed". 400 ft rows sends my mind into soft wimpering, but the horses seem to like it. Marta stepped into the furrow and plodded away as if she's been doing it all her life. Four 50 x 400 ft strips will serve as our garden section, alternating with cover crop strips of oats and red clover for yearly rotational fertility boosting, and making use of a summer fallow period (Nordell Style*) to make an attempt at fooling weeds. Wrestling with a walking plow on a hillside while set to shallow tillage makes one cause the hills to resound with not-so-Christian verbage. It's all part of our plan to continue to intrigue the neighbors. "No they can't be Amish...I heard one of them send up a symphony of cussing just the other day..." These first days of breaking ground and first transplants are wrestling days in which we refer to our beloved piece of earth as a "Troublesome Wench"...But how we love her! Perhaps the most cheeriest news of the season was the girls' discovery of plenty of earthworms who have been busy beneath the service, beating us to the punch with some excellent soil building...

Two weeks ago with the help of his 70 year old expert woodsman of a son, we felled a giant of a tree that Mauritz planted behind his house as a seedling back in 1928. We were making way for more light for the greenhouses. It is humbling how immediately 2 men can change a landscape. How the needs of little early cabbage and spring onion seedlings can require the bold action of the felling of an 80 yr old tree.

But new growth will be grafted onto the old stock of historic memory. An orchard is planned in its place, and in the greenhouse the invigorated plants are nearly ready for their first forays into the big field. So begins a new season.

* more on Anne and Eric Nordell's WEED THE SOIL, NOT THE CROP later. Suffice to say for the moment: A big hearty thank you to J. Straude for tipping our inspiration bank to brimming, and setting us in earnest action to emulate their sound practices!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Spring Chevre Shares Available now!

"Little Flower Farm chevre gives me the vim and vigour to get things done around the house, and sparkle at the same time!!"

Now delivering our "Dixieland Chevre" to Marine and Stillwater. Email to sign up for a share: $20/4 weeks of creamy goodness.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Welcome, Spring!

Perspective returns with the geese in Spring. The clean sweeping winds, the return of the sun, and the thaw of the ground all contribute to a newfound inability to be satisfied with gushing about the raptures of hearty soups and bulky sweaters. Something about being confronted with the bright light of March and the comparative darkness upon entering the once so cozy little house makes a home suddenly a cave…and we are certainly coming out of our cave. Hibernation is a thing of distant memory now.
We’ve fired up the greenhouse. Silver Maple Sap is boiling away on the stove, sending sugary scented steam throughout the house and out the open windows. The germination room is bursting with near 50 flats, and going strong. Dixie gave birth last Monday to 3 strong healthy little bucklings, and we are in full swing again with the milking and cheese-making.
Recently on NPR a guest and caller were commiserating about a growing American peril which they called “anti-intellectualism”. With startled zeal they pointed to “Creationism” and other such “religious fables” as threats to the remaining reminants of collective reason in this country. As I strained out the morning milk I mused on their chicken -little –sky- is- falling mentality toward religion, and the drawing of a false dichotomy between reason and faith. In Spring the blending of and building on of the two are apparent: it is the season when Nature flirtatiously winks at the mystery of both faith and reason in her subtle ways…Farmer Shane remarked yesterday that each new season seems like the first one you’ve ever experienced. Bent over the earth in the thousand ways a farmer finds himself- transplanting, weeding, harvesting, birthing, felling a tree, pounding a post, this close proximity lends itself to being “reborn” 4 times a year with the changing of the seasons.
I’ve always been transfixed by the Catholic liturgical ritual of Ash Wednesday. A cross of ashes is rubbed on the forehead of everyone present, man, woman, child, and teeny tiny baby…"Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return” a beautiful reminder of the universality of our close ties with the earth. Remember you are dust…all that we have and that we are comes first from the soil, and this liturgical rite which seeks to spark internal renewal corresponds with the slow awakening of a slumbering mother nature…who rubs eyes so to speak with the March wind, scrubs her face with the Spring rains, and lays herself out seductively ready to receive the seeds of a thousand overwintering plants, and the cultivation of farmers across her broad body…There are certainly a million practical realities as to why the sap runs, and this or that newborn kid thrives or dies, when to till the earth again, and how the migratory birds return. There are a million facts in Spring to feast on with the mind…but equally so, there are as many inborn inspirations and spiritual realities that we are reminded of when we stretch ourselves in the mid-day sun and listen for birdsong in the woods. A new vigor that meets the ground’s readiness with eager work. In Spring we scrub the windows; and the soul.
There is an old road that runs through the woods on the North side of the farm. It has been swallowed up by brush and by neglected seedlings that have sprung up into trees, and old giants that have toppled in its path. This road runs adjacent to an old path to the lake. Looking East, and to the South a bit, over the plain of our CSA veggie and hay fields you can trace with the mind’s eye, the path the Chippewa took from their summer camp down by the St. Croix, up past our farm to their winter quarters by the lake. I have been told they would stop at the farms to ask for salt. Now with the thaw of the river, I imagine them following the trail left in the contours of the land by the rivulets of melted snow-water…There is something about knowing a place’s history that makes it more hallowed. The mindfulness that it has not belonged long to just us…that it is the work of generations, and will continue to be so. It is this generational obligation of responsible stewardship that I am reminded of when the ashes are smudged on my own forehead. Remember you are dust. Remember, O Son of Adam, that all this is given into your hands to cultivate. And this rememberance propels me to become a diligent student of organic agriculture and work to implement new research and old wisdom in an agricultural marriage of faith and reason.
One of the simplest ways we achieve the best of old-world farming and new world research is to harness animal power on the farm. The different species compliment each other in many ways. It has been said that you can keep one cow on an acre of good grass. But you can keep one cow and five goats just as well on that acre, and even add sheep into the bargain on account of the different ways the animals graze. You will also confuse their respective parasites this way. One of my favorite accounts of harnessing the genius of natural design comes from Almanzo Wilder, yep, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s husband, and an article he wrote during the turn of the century entitled “My Apple Orchard” in the Missouri Ruralist, from his Rocky Ridge Farm inMansfield, MO.
“As I never allowed hunting on the farm, the quail were thick in the orchard and used to wallow and dust themselves like chickens in the fine dirt close to the trees. I wish this fact to be particularly noted in connection with the other fact that I had no borers in my trees for years.
A near neighbor set out 2,000 trees about the same time and lost seven eights of them because of borers. He used every possible means to rid his trees of them except the simple one of letting the quail and other birds live in his orchard. Instead he allowed his boys to kill every bird they saw.
My apples were sound and smooth, not wormy, which I also credit to the birds for catching insects of all kinds, as I never sprayed the trees.”
These days we spend a lot of time marveling at these inter-workings of nature. We see it every day on the grand scale as we watch the trees and skies, and every day in miniature in the barnyard and pastures. And we marvel. We marvel with the delight of a kindled mind and the inspiration of a stirred soul. Welcome, Spring.

Monday, March 12, 2012


Plenty of stories to follow-stay tuned folks!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Farm Shares Available Now!

Click on the CSA application on the sidebar!
For Meat Share and Fresh Chevre and Yogurt info click on the page to the right.

Thank you for keeping a small family farm on the map!

"A Table Shared by Friends"

Click here for the love of food and good company:
(photograph from KINFOLK online journal)

Farming Light

We tried. We unplugged the lamps in the coop, and with an impressive wave of the arm we informed the hens of their liberation. "You can stop laying" we proclaimed, "You deserve a rest! Molt to your hearts' content or find outside jobs. No need for you to be tied to the nesting boxes. No more barefoot and laying eggs in the coop for you. No more. And thank you ladies, thank you!"

But it was too late. The hens had already wed themselves to that bright orb that hangs in the big blue/grey sky.

The days were stretching themselves out into finely lit mornings, and the daylight hours were returning. So. Next day: eggs. Day after that: more eggs.

And how could we blame them? The contented clucking from the coop, in the sand pits, and around the spilled grain came from hens who prided themselves on being needed. Needed by families who downed 4 dozen a week. Their clock was ticking...and to a higher music than our own will.

These early Spring eggs truly are celestial. They are eggs born of a natural marrow of the bones love affair with light.

We ourselves were dizzy with a crush on the big ball-o-fire and its brilliant effects...last week we put the finishing touches on our greenhouse. We shamelessly throw ourselves at visitors to the farm "what do you think of it?" we ask as we beam at the little plastic-covered 9 x 16 tunnel. I remember what I used to think of these junky looking caterpillar hoop houses...but that was before I realized that to be inside of one on a daily basis meant keeping company with trapped light. Waylaid billowy reams of traveling light visiting our little baby plants as they made their slow ascent to the realization of our CSA garden dreams. Indeed the greenhouse is an ode to the magic and uplifting mystery of light...once in College I remember struggling with Light. I wrestled with its definition: "Is it a wave or a particle?" and spent lunch hours heedless of whatever I was forking into my mouth as I watched the progress of the noon sun filtering into the commons' full panel windows. "I can't take it anymore! Light is maddening!" I complained to a tutor...He smiled sedately and said simply: "Isn't it wonderful- God created something in the natural world as mysterious as himself!"

The greenhouses are little more than heated tunnels of plastic-stock panels pulled over and fixed to a wooden frame on the ground in our case. It seems impossible that such a vital and also magical structure can be accomplished so cheaply and simply. Within the next 2 months we will be building at least two more.
To celebrate the completion of this first one we baked loaves of wild rice and onion bread and brought down the Bodran and tin whistle for some jigs and airs by the fireside. The satisfaction of "The Curragh of Kildare" and hot buttered toast rivals the slow grin of a thawing earth beneath the prodigal sun of Spring.

Wild Rice and Onion Bread

from Peter Reinhart's fabulous book: " Artisan Breads Every Day"

6 C bread flour

3.5 tsp kosher salt

2 Tbsp instant yeast
1 C c
ooked wild rice
1/4 brown sugar
1.5 C lukewarm water

1/2 lukewarm buttermilk or any other milk

2 C diced fresh onion

Mix the above ingredients together into a coarse shaggy dough for one minute. Let rest for 5 min. Knead by hand for a couple minutes, adjusting the flour or water as needed. Place into a clean well oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 3-4 days.

On Baking day remove dough 2 hours before baking. Shape into two free loaves, oil with olive oil and let rise covered with plastic wrap till 1.5 times their original size. (1-2 hours. Don't push it. Let the bread do its thing!) 15 minutes before baking preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake loaves 10-15 minutes. Then rotate the pan. Total baking time is 45 to 55 minutes.

Cool 1 hour before slicing. HEAVEN!