Spring At Last

A sure sign of spring for us is seeing the first garlic sprouts, which happened on April 12th.  It was certainly the hardest winter this Southern boy has ever experienced, and Willard, the 91-year-old patriarch here, harkens back to the 1930′s when trying to one-up this one.  Image

But (hopefully) this, too, has passed, and we can safely “speak of the spring, and foison of the year”, as Mr. Shakespeare would have it.  Grass is timidly greening, though there are still patches of snow in protected areas;  chickens are suddenly laying lots of eggs, the rooster is busy, and we’re expecting our first highland calves soon.  Fences are being repaired and new ones erected, “frost seeding” is complete, and Titania the Border Collie is ecstatic – of course, she was ecstatic at 20 below as well.  Robins, redwing blackbirds, sandhill cranes are back, and it won’t be long until it’s mosquito season.

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Suddenly, It’s Winter

11:6:13 #3An early November snowfall covers us in white.  It’s lovely, and we didn’t need to go anywhere (except chores), so we enjoyed it for the most part.

We’re starting our breeding herd of beef cattle!  Our “Texas Highlanders”, Minnie and Socks, arrived two days ago and have been trying to settle in.  They’re duking it out with Ebb and Flow, the current resident freemartins, and every one but Flow has taken a romp outside the fence, which has made for a stressful couple of days.  But they appear to be working it out, and once the pecking order is established among them, things should settle down.

11:6:13 #1I call them “Texas Highlanders” because they are 1/4 Texas Longhorn and 3/4 Scottish Highland.  The herd they come from is thriving on grass only, and I’m hoping these two girls (they are yearling heifers, possibly already bred – we’ll know soon) will give us some pasture-loving calves.  We intend to keep breeding them to Highlanders, though it is a new experience having horns on this farm.

Titania, the border collie, is beside herself with glee in the snow, and is the family member most ready for winter.  If my garlic was mulched, I’d be ready, too; but neighbor Kevin assures me we’ll have a string of dry, warm days yet.

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Mother Nature didn’t think that our original plan for planting garlic was acceptable – 2.5″ of rain in the days before the appointed time, sleet, rain and snow on the days of – so we’re regrouping for:

Sat. Oct. 26, 9:00 a.m.
Sun. October 27, 1:00 p.m.

Same sumptuous lunch and resplendent tea time.  Join us!

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If it’s October, It Must Be Garlic Planting Time!

Before I wax poetic about garlic again, let me say this:

We’ll be planting garlic on October 19th and 20th!  Come join us!
Sat.,  9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., with a sumptuous farm lunch,
Sun., 1:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. with a resplendent tea time.

It’s been a difficult two years for garlic in the upper midwest: we had a never-before-seen infestation that whupped up on most, if not all, of the growers.  If you want the gory scientific details, go here.

But we’re past all that now, and, all things being equal, we will have more of the world’s best allium ophioscorodon next summer for your table and garden.

2013 Garlic Harvest

Some of the  Survivors: Me AND the Garlic!

We managed to save some of our original Armenian, Music and German Porcelain plants, and we will rebuild from that good-as-gold seed stock.  So glad we were able to rescue their genetics!

We hope to see you the 19th or 20th!

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Post Garlic

MN Garlic Festival was yesterday, and we finally have time to do a Summer  post.  We didn’t have any garlic to sell, but we have some great seed stock from the plants that survived last year’s Aster Yellows infestation, and we’ll be back in the game next year.

Golden Light Root CellarThe big hail storm barely missed us last week, but we had a terrific light show – just when I thought the root cellar couldn’t get any prettier. What a beautiful planet we live on!

We’re starting to harvest onions and, once they’re cured, we’ll be selling Emily Rose & Titaniathem.  Summer is in full swing, though cooler than last year.  The beef cattle are fattening up, and we still have some quarters available.  Squash is coming along, and then there will be potatoes.

Interns Robert and Sami have left, so autumn can’t be too far away.  Oddly, I love it when the days get shorter.

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Spring at Last

“And the flowers bloom like madness in the spring” – Ian Anderson

With our last snowfall (hopefully) on May Day, we’ve gradually warmed up, and it looks like this week will see us clear into glorious spring – the most deliciously stressful time of year around our farm.

Willard Interseeding on a Massey Ferguson tractor that's not quite as old as he is.

Willard Interseeding on a Massey Ferguson tractor that’s not quite as old as he is.

On April 29th (a full month behind last year), in between snows, we managed to interseed some hay ground, “drilling” three kinds of perennial grass, white clover and chicory into the existing alfalfa, in preparation for converting it to pasture next year.  Then we planted a couple of acres of “Forage Cocktail” – nine different annual plants from radish to buckwheat –  as a cover crop where the soil needed a rest.  The cattle will graze it a couple of times, plop down a little fertilizer, and then it will be plowed in for organic matter to help build the soil.

Fellow farmer Greg Reynolds has become an advocate for seed saving, and I’m “boarding” a bunch of his cabbage plants this season.  Cabbages are biennial, producing seed in the

Greg Reynolds' Seed Cabbages

Greg Reynolds’ Seed Cabbages

second year (if you don’t eat the cabbage head), but in order to maintain the integrity of the variety, they can’t be anywhere near other flowering brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, etc.); so Greg has asked other farmers to babysit the plants.  Right now the cabbages look like something you forgot to throw in the compost, but Greg assures me they will get 4 feet tall and look like Christmas trees.

Garlic4:16:13

Garlic Beds on April 16, 2013

The garlic has been very slow in coming on this year, and I’m holding my breath until we know for sure that it survived last year’s aster yellows phytoplasma infestation.  We hope to at least get back our seed stock, with some left for your tables and gardens.

We’re still taking orders for grass-finished beef quarters!

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Winter Light

I am so often astounded by the beauty of light – astounded and sustained and sometimes overwhelmed.  As the old hymn says, “I scarce can take it in”.  I feel like a connoisseur lucis, or perhaps a collector, though I lack the skills to keep a collection, such as photographs or film, and the desire; one of the things I love about it is its temporality.

Last night we were blessed with a new one:  unearthly, lambent moonglow through icefog.  Usually, moonlight through fog is bluish or gray, but this time the near field took on an amber tinge, while the middle distance leaned more to violet.  There was no background other than a gauzy pellucid scrim of gray so diffuse as to make you think there was nothing beyond it,  except for the invisible snowmobiles – we have a county trail we’ve allowed to run through our property 1/4 mile east of the house – whose grinding roar conjured an arctic dragon in my imagination, chewing the lake ice to fuel his frosty breath weapon.  Above the backdrop was a circle of sky, with slightly out-of-focus stars and moon – it must be like this to be in a snow globe, looking up as the flakes settle.February Hoarfrost 2

And this morning, an exquisite hoarfrost – one of the thickest I’ve seen – with more shades of white in the predawn than I thought possible, then brilliantly sparkling as the sun rose, almost blinding.  With the relative heat, a frostfall begins, snowing on me and the dogs when we walk below branches.

Such moments of grace are ample compensation for a Minnesota winter that, as Mr. Keillor says, makes a concerted effort every year to kill you.

Titania & Ob 1I’m afraid the dogs are going to miss snow.  Oberon, with his 3-foot high haunches, trots through it like the proudest of showhorses, while border collie puppy Titania leapfrogs until it gets too deep, and then burrows.  Then again, dogs have such a gift for living in the moment that they’ll likely just find new joys in mud, tall grass and fallen leaves as the seasons progress.

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