CSA Spring CSA Week4B Newsletter

Some days in Spring are especially busy for the farm and today was one of them. Crazy busy. 

There were melons to plant, tomatoes to trellis, slicing onions to dry. There were weeds to pull (nothing new about that.) And then, of course, the harvesting for this week’s share, which is a nice balance of the last of the winter crops and the first of the summer crops.

And then there were the kids. One hundred and two, to be exact. And I”m not talking baby goats. No, these were well-behaved, exuberant third graders from Elgin ISD who arrived at nine this morning for a field trip.

Erin is constantly hosting field trips at the city farm and most of them she can manage alone or with the help of Carolyn and one or two other farm educators. But today was different. Even before the dew had dried, three yellow buses pulled up to the barn and enough kids spilled out to encircle the entire barnyard several times.

Erin is our general and soon all seven of us foot soldiers for good food  are at our stations, ready to spend the next two hours giving these kids a real farm experience. For the farmer, who so often spends hours alone in the field, it is exciting and exhausting at the same time — all these questions thrown at you, ones you haven’t thought about in years. 

Some you can answer without thinking: what is organic, where does a potato come from, how old is Spot (our 800-pound boar)?  

And then come the one’s that give you pause. What is that pink thing on the back of Spot?  Why does the rabbit have red eyes. How do the goats make babies.? How do vegetables get their names? Do worms eat plastic?

 Humor goes a long way on days like this. And sometimes the kids run with our games. Our daughter Alex was in charge of the chicken and rabbit station. Pointing at the round rabbit droppings beneath the cage, she explain that we don’t call it poop. “

“We call it bunny berries,” she explained.

“Oh,” asks one astute third grader. “Can we eat them?”

“Yeah,” another chimes in. “It looks like Coco Puffs.”

Ah, life on the farm. Never a dull moment.

-Farmer Skip

CSA Spring CSA Week3A Newsletter

Visions of Green Fields

Warm days, cool evenings, and intermittent rains bring Spring to a brilliant crescendo of color — ten shades of green splashed with wine cup red, bonnet blue, and buttercup yellow. The farmer stands in awe at nature’s exuberance, once again caught off-guard by its silent rush to dress up and burst forth into the world. Everything in flux. Nothing staying put. A wild parade of growth that marches past him as he hastily pulls his babies out of its path.

Yes, it’s that time of year again, albeit a fortnight early by most planting calendars. This week’s harvest runs the gamut from fennel steaks that barely survived the late December freeze to romaine lettuce that baked under a summer-like sun. And now comes the moment he had waited for, dreamed about in mid winter when the farm finally appeared under control and promised to follow his best laid plans. Amid swarms of harlequin bugs and regiments of Johnson Grass, the farmer unveiled the white row cover and exposed his prized possession — the most tender, leafy, unmolested row of hakurei turnips he has ever grown.

As white and luminous as the full moon that rose later that evening, those sweet orbs were washed and packed and safely stored. A small victory worthy of a good meal, exalted, hopefully, by some brilliant menu that would honor the arduous journey.

The farmer has more to share — carrots and new potatoes ready in the next week or two; squash and cucumbers on their heels; and tomatoes already the size of easter eggs. And the farmer has more to tell, like how 30 Austin creatives celebrated the new moon at the city farm last night as part of the Moon Language Story Circle* gatherings. All it took was a fire and a dozen brave artists to hold back the storms with their poetry, music and timeless stories. A quintessential Austin moment was brought forth as gracefully and magically as those delicious turnips with the can’t-spell-me name. 

Alas, however, the farmer has run out of space and time. The Spring that sprung before its time has stolen the hours as well. 

-Farmer Skip

*Feel free to attend the next full moon meeting, which will be held at Urban Roots.

CSA Spring Week2B Newsletter

For years Erin has challenged me to try no-till farming, at least as an experiment on a couple of our fields. This year, after meeting an intense, passionate farmer from Arkansas named Patrice Gros, I decided to give it a try.

The Frenchman’s detailed sharing of his 10-year experiment provided the recipe, which requires four main ingredients, two of which were available on the farm this year — massive amounts of leaves and wood chips, and a five-species cover crop I planted in the fall.

The one ingredient that makes it unsustainable right now was having to purchase compost. Lots of compost. The initial bed-making requires literally tons of organic matter and the combination of leaves, compost and mulch are the secret to keeping weeds down while also building up the critical microbial habitat that can break down all that organic matter you heap onto these raised beds.

The fourth — and most critical — ingredient is lots of hands. As in hard labor. There is no way to skimp on this requirement — making the beds, weeding, and then pulling back all the decayed vegetative material to the shoulders when you get ready to plant the next season.  

Fortunately we have had lots of volunteer help this season. I won’t even try to estimate the number of wheel barrels that were filled and emptied for just one-quarter acre.

Another incentive for going no till this year was the fact that our old Shubaru tractor had stopped running; it, too, was tired of tilling up the ground each year.

Farming no-till organically on larger plots requires special equipment and ideal conditions. But for small plots on farms that have lots of volunteer hands, this style of no-till seems is about as sustainable as it comes. But it also requires a long-term commitment. Gros has been doing no-till for 10 years now and only recently has he felt like he has created the perfect system. His organic matter during that time has increased from 1 percent to more than 8%, which is about three time what we have in our fields right now.

Last week’s pac choy is the first crop to come from these no-till beds. The mediocre results were not unexpected. The leaves and cover crop underneath the thick layer of compost did not have enough time to break down and allow the roots to penetrate into the soil below.  The plants were fairly stunted and it didn’t help that our record warm spring forced the plants to bolt several weeks early. Next season will undoubtably be more fruitful.

Like a kitchen table after a hastily prepared meal, these fields are messy, with cover crop still growing in the crooked isles and uneven rows that were laid down without the benefit of string. And as with any undercooked meal, the farmer is still chewing on what he has wrought and whether this last-minute experiment is going to take off and become the apple of his eye.

Either way, the farmer feels good that he is pushing the envelope and wishes he had listened to his wife a long time ago.

-Farmer Skip

Click here for this week’s Newsletter in full.

CSA Spring Week1A Newsletter

Welcome to the first week of the Spring/Summer CSA season. And what a great start to your culinary commitment to local organic food and small family farms. Warm weather. Nice rains. And hard-working farmers. Those are key ingredients to a bountiful harvest
and this week is a taste of delicious things to come.

I was going to delete the “Spring” part but I’m still hoping that this summer-like weather is not here for good. Last night’s storm dumped more than two inches to our river farm; the front also dropped temperatures by 10 degrees, but we are expecting highs in the 80s for the rest of the week. 

Spring. Ephemeral Spring. Where art thou?

As you may already know, Austin recorded its warmest meteorological winter (December, January, February). March will surely follow suit.  Who would guess that one of the most severe freezes we’ve had in years also arrived this winter and cut our winter season short. (Thank you, winter share members for hanging with us and returning this season!)

The good news is that we have seen an explosion in growth for the past month. Our tomato plants in the hoop house are already fruiting and we planted them only a month ago!  Cucumbers are flowering! And summer squash is only a few weeks away!

The downside to this unseasonable warmth is that the lettuce in this week’s share is on the verge of going bitter while the pac choy has started bolting. These are problems a farmer would anticipate in late April and plan/plant accordingly. Today, with climate change upon us, “accordingly” is begging for a new and revised Farmers Almanac.

Next week you can anticipate some beautiful romaine lettuce, green garlic, purple mustard greens, radishes, chard, and more. I’ll also share the results of our new venture into no-till farming and why new farming techniques are critical for a more sustainable agriculture.

-Farmer Skip

Click here for this week’s Newsletter in full.

 

Rest in Peace Buddy

Party dog

His death seemed likely often yet I was stunned when it came.

There was the time he ate Avery’s pin cushion, a stuffed frog full of straight pins. We gave him a matter of hours before his gut was shredded. Instead, he nonchalantly threw up broken, half digested pins then returned to his sprawl on the floor, engaging in his favorite pastime: lunging at flies.

There was the first time he was hit by a car. His whimpering on the porch late one night was our only clue that he had been injured. Then there was the second time he was hit by a car…

Buddy was not promising from the beginning. One fine spring morning in 2008, an animal control officer called me from a rural vet’s office. Word was I wanted to adopt a Newfoundland. I had been on a secret quest for a lifeguard for our small children who swam in the Colorado at our River Farm. My plan was to surprise them with a fluffy puppy; however, what was on offer was a skeletal, abused black mop they estimated to be about two years old.

“We rescued him from an animal hoarder who stopped feeding him,” said the officer as he struggled to stand. Apart from his enormous head and floppy mouth, this mutt was not what I had in mind. But, he was the Keith Richards of dogs – mangy, beat up, and somehow irresistible. Needless to say, everyone was surprised when I brought him home.

What no one could anticipate was how after a few months of heaping bowls of giant dog food and love, he’d blossom into the largest lap dog you’d ever seen. As Skip says, he became our Clifford. True, he was a drooling, dirt encrusted, 145-pound black mutt that could incite terror by his mere presence, but if that’s all you saw, you missed the point entirely. He was all lover. He never wasted time with balls or jumping for Frisbees. He lived to smear slobber across your thighs in his persistent, clumsy attempts to nuzzle. His favorite place was in your arms, preferably in the middle of the massaging flow of the Colorado River.

Lucky for him, our community farm is full of visitors, campers and tubs of water. We created a “Grooming Basket” loaded with brushes and combs to not only assure children that he was gentle, but to coopt them into grooming, which required a battalion of helpers. We encouraged the kids to brush and release, brush and release. Over the years, several birds nests were found lined with his fluffy clumps.

Bud loved all farm guests. He took any quilt on the ground as an invitation to flop down in the middle, crush toys, knock over picnics, insist on love and drool on squealing vistors.

Though he was rarely the brightest bulb in the pack (why did he occasionally mark customers? Why did he repeatedly get sprayed in the face by skunks?), Bud taught me about discrimination and presumption as he unnerved canine and human alike.

“Does he bite?” the Hispanic teenagers would shout from across the street when I took him lumbering through our neighborhood.  When we passed by the RV park next to our home, a chorus of RV-sized mini canines rang out in a frenzy of barking as he made his rounds. Chihuahuas were the worst, teeth bared, straining to get him. Bud stared down at them dumbfounded and moved on. He was a lover, not a fighter.

During a recent post-vet appointment meander down South Congress, a woman across the street shrieked. Bud and I looked around wondering what was the emergency. But she was yelling at us – “Is that a bear? I thought that was a bear. WHAT IS THAT?”

Even his canine partner, Boonie, a white Italian sheepdog (our first rescue dog), felt compelled to assert his dominance daily by humping Buddy’s face. As Boonie focused on thrusting, Buddy lay sprawled on our dusty dirt driveway, head between two huge paws not even flinching. You could almost see Bud’s little brown eyes roll in his head as he said to himself, “OK, little man, get it over with it.” Though visitors were appalled, we came to find comfort in the ritual “Face Hump,” which was as predictable as roosters crowing and people staring.

What folks (and Boonie) failed to understand, is that Buddy was really a big baby, who could by turns be embarrassed and silly.

Like when we had him shaved to the skin to alleviate his hot spots. The groomer had transformed his lionlike mane into an effette poodle leaving only fluffy ears and a pouf at the end of his tail. He was mortified. He raced into the house and hid for several days.

Or the time Skip bagged a deer and was looking forward to presenting this hard-won roast to the family. The meat was perfect, glistening and cooling on the kitchen island. Skip stepped out, forgetting that Bud’s mouth was table level. When the meat went missing we looked everywhere. In the garden, in the driveway where he took his dirt bathes. But, no, he had shoved it under Ethan’s bed, certain it would never be found.

He loved Ethan’s bed. That’s where he hid his treasures – purloined dinners, rotting carcasses excavated from the compost pile, gnawed crayons…Thunderstorms and firecrackers sent him racing into Ethan’s bedroom as he tried to shove himself under the twin bed. When that didn’t work, he thought nothing of catapulting his dripping, filthy self onto the mattress and under the sheets.

I loved our Bud, dirt and all. How I wish he were here to trek in more. Instead, he took an evening amble this week that ended badly. We guess he must’ve gone down to the river to cool off and a snake got him in the check. He died in our arms gasping as venom swelled his head and shut his throat. He deserved a better end, but given his proclivity for mishap and unprovoked aggression, perhaps not surprising. Our sweet Bud is gone and he has left a giant size hole in our hearts.

Christmas on the farm

CSA Newsletter Week 18A

FIELD NOTES

Hey there folks, So we’ve made it to the last week. The fields are looking pretty tired at this point and I think so are most of us. As we see more triple digit days we’re already getting our first fall crops in the ground. I’m actually in the process of planting tomatoes in our new hoop house as I write this. We’ve also got more melons, peppers, and eggplants in the ground as of last week.

Thank you so much again for sticking with us through a real tough growing season. It’s your support that kept us going through the rains and now the sweltering heat. This week you’ll see the tail end of our summer crops. By Friday I’ll have picked every last fruit or vegetable from the fields.

I hope you enjoy your last week of fresh produce for the summer and please stick with is in the fall. Hopefully the weather will be on our side and we can have a lot more to show for it.

Jason

CSA INGREDIENT RECIPE SHARE

We are winding down our summer season at Green Gate Farms, so you are probably recognizing some of the same usual suspects in your CSA shares:  potatoes, green onions, okra, shallots, and peppers… just to name a few. Here we have this week’s newest recipes to help you mix it up a little!

CALL FOR BOOKKEEPING INTERN

Green Gate Farms is seeking an office intern with bookkeeping, and Quickbooks experience. In exchange for 4 hours a week of your skill and time we will provide $25 worth of vegetables, plus other benefits. Contact admin@greengatefarms.org or call 512-484-2746 for more information.

THE FALL CSA BEGINS SEPTEMBER 21ST

RESERVE YOUR FALL YUMMIES, JOIN THE FALL CSA TODAY At just $25 a week, and 14 pick-up spots (and more forming) all over town, our CSA is affordable and convenient.

Contact: members@greengatefarms.net

LAST WEEK: GREEN GATE FARM STAND

ON SALE THIS WEEK!

  • Okra
  • Potatoes ( Purple Viking, Yukon, Red
  • Cucumbers (Suyo Long. Market, Pickling)
  • Shallots
  • Squash
  • Plus more…You’ll find all of the veggies from our CSA share plus more, including eggs, meat, and honey.
SNAP/WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program — thank you for organizing this Sustainable Food Center — accepted as are all other forms of payment.

GREEN GATE FARM STAND

8310 Canoga Ave, near E. MLK and Decker Lane
Tuesdays, 3 – 6pm, Fridays/Saturdays, 10 – 2pm
Call 512-484-2746 to place advance orders

Donation Request:

Do you have extra freezer space at your home, or homestead? Green Gate Farms is in need of your help, as we will be receiving an influx of CSA meat, and though it will soon be going to a new home, we don’t have the storage space at the moment to accommodate it all. Please consider making a donation of space today.

Contact Green Gate Farms at 512-484-2746.

FLOWER CSA SHARES STILL BLOOMIN’

Learn more about your flower share from this week’s Flower Share Blog!

MEAT SPECIAL: WHOLE & HALF GUINEA HOG

The meat from our rare-breed Guinea Hogs has an unmatched flavor and is perfect for grilling. Lucky for you, we have a few whole meat shares available from smaller animals (about 60 pounds). Here’s more info….

LOOKING FOR A HEALTHIER FAT? TRY LARD
Our Guinea Hogs produce the most amazing lard. Our freezers are full so we can offer this healthy alternative — less saturated fat than butter — for just $2/LB. To learn more: Click Here.

 

FUN STUFF AROUND AUSTIN

JULY —

  • Farmshare Austin’s Second Annual Farm Raiser, Friday, July 31 Farmshare Austin will host its second annual Farm Raiser featuring square dancing, live music, BBQ from Tony Grasso, plus more. More information

AUGUST —

  • in.gredients 3rd Anniversary Party, Saturday, August 1, 6-9pm! Find out more information here!
  • Austin Pet Expo at Palmer Event Center, Saturday, August 1, 10-6pm. Find out more information about this free event here!
  • Several upcoming GREEN BY DESIGN workshops, for how to design your “green” home, by AUSTIN GREEN ENERGY BUILDING throughout the month of August. For more information about registration and sessions, click here!

UPCOMING —