Early December

Riverbend Farm Early Winter Newsletter                                       Dec. 3, 2014 

It’s been awhile since I sat down to write a newsletter and a lot has happened.

If you are living in Hawaii or Costa Rica, in the second week November it  suddenly turned to winter.  One day we got about 6-8 inches of snow. Daytime temps dropped to  the 20s. Night time temps are 0, +/- a degree or two.  A very dramatic change in the weather. The first week of the month there was no snow and it was not getting below freezing at night.

It seems like it has been winter forever now, but the two day reprieves the few couple weekends have sure been nice.  And we are less than a month away from the solstice. Before long, the days will be getting longer. Winter is almost over…

Back in the middle of October Mary and I took our ’67 Volvo station wagon up to the North Shore for a few days. We were only gone for three nights but it was great. The first day was sunny and warm so we hiked to several waterfalls in State Parks up the shore from Grand Marais. The next day was rainy and cool. Perfect for bumming around Grand Marais and sitting by the fire at the cabin.  It was a great little get away. Since then it has been pretty busy.

Noelle minded the farm while we were gone. Andrew was over in South Dakota planting 20,000 (or some such number) bulbs of garlic. And then they were off to the North Shore and helping Bud at the meat market  for deer season.

With the sudden snow cleaning up and putting away all my toys made for a few hectic days. Batteries got charged, oil got changed, equipment was shuffled around to fit  in the shed. Besides the snow, the bottom was falling out of the thermometer so the well and waterlines needed to be blown out, hoses drained, potatoes, carrots, and other root crops moved into the root cellar.

Not everything got done. It was close, but I did not get any collards harvested for us and did not get any of the kale or collards dug up for seed production next year. The collard seed may be an issue. It is a several years old and the germination is starting to drop off. Other than the Lacinato, the kale produces seed like some giant weed so there is plenty of that.

Deliveries for the season just wrapped up with the last few pumpkins going to our restaurant and co-op accounts.  Now I can get started on my winter to-do list.

Everyone wants to know what I do all winter, well, here is my project list:

Tidy up the Satoh: 1)Check low compression on #1 cylinder 2)Fix hydraulic leaks 3)   Change transmission oil, hydraulic oil 4)Fix sticky shift linkage 5)Keep front wheel from falling off 6)Replace belts and hoses

Replace Dodge window motor. Part of getting a pretty clean ’83 Ramcharger ready to sell

Wire the root cellar. I have pulled the wires through 35 feet of conduit already and installed a temperature and humidity sensor. It is really interesting to see what happens to the humidity when we get below zero temperatures. The temperature changes very slowly. I need to finish the wiring for lights, a fan, and possibly a heater.

Reassemble the Norton. This bike (1970 Norton Commando) was take apart a couple years ago to straighten a bent frame. The frame was straightened last winter and now I need to reassemble the parts.

Build bean roller. This is a machine that consists of two inclined cloth covered rollers that clean broken beans, twigs, unthreshed beans, etc. out of dry beans. The rough edges on the bean trash get caught on the fabric and are thrown over the side. The smooth beans travel down the incline and off the end of the rollers.

Build barrel washer. I have a small barrel washer that needs to be replaced. A barrel washer is a rotating inclined barrel that is make of closely spaced wooden slats. Root vegetables are dumped in the high end of the washer, sprayed with water, and tumbled to clean them. They gradually work their way down the incline on drop out the low end.

Spread compost (not going to happen…). The wet spring prevented me from getting the second phase of my green manure program planted. Not to mention that the winter squash went into part of that field also on account of the wet conditions. I bought 200 cubic yards of compost to replace the nutrients and organic matter that would have been produced by the green manure.  Unless we get a big warm up the compost will not get spread until next spring.

Thresh beans and sunflowers. Part of getting ready for snow was to pull up the beans that will be saved for seed or used for dry beans and store them in the greenhouse. They are still in there, leaves, vines and all. For small quantities like this I usually spread them on a tarp and drive over them.  With the snow on the ground it is a little harder to thresh them and keep them dry.  The sunflowers are a link in the process of experimenting with growing pole beans on a large scale.

Package saved vegetable seeds. All the tomato, pepper, eggplant, and squash seeds that were collected in the fall need to cleaned and packaged for storage.

’67 Volvo wagon. This car needs all new rubber gaskets around the doors.  The cargo area window gaskets are leaking but the word is that the ones currently being made don’t fit. I’m also going to pull the cylinder head off and see why one cylinder has higher than normal compression. There are a lot of minor things that need doing as well.

’92 Volvo wagon. My ’87 wagon is rusting away at an alarming rate. This ’92 is fairly clean, but was given to our daughter as a parts car for her sedan. She needs a parts car like we need another winter like last year. Needless to say it will require more than a little attention before it is a reliable daily driver.

Radiant heat. Our kitchen floor is always cold and using the wood stove fools the thermostat for the furnace into thinking the house is warm. That saves a lot (25% or more) of energy but leads to a cold kitchen. Radiant heat is also energy efficient and keeps your feet warm. The floor joists below the kitchen and downstairs bathroom are exposed so it will be relatively easy to install.

Of course there is wood to split, snow to plow, customer meetings, conferences and all those regular things that take place in winter too.

Stay warm


Early October

Riverbend Farm Newsletter                                     October 5, 2014

It has been chilly the past few days, but weren’t the last two weeks just spectacular ? Weather like that is why people live here. Friday was rainy and raw, but since the wind has died down it has not been too bad, a lot like October.

The forecast is for temperatures to be a little below average for the next few days, a reminder that winter is coming and it is time to get busy cutting wood.  It has been nice to have a fire in the woodstove for the past few days.  The growing season is obviously coming to an end.

Last weekend about 15 people showed up for the final crop mob of the season and harvested a couple  wagon loads of winter squash and pumpkins. We unloaded the wagons in the greenhouse before lunch.  It was very warm which made working outside pretty enjoyable.

After lunch (provided by the Birchwood, thanks Tracy) everybody was beat and went home. Ginger and Mark made it as far as the gas station, turned around and came back.  They thought there was just too much squash lying on the ground and offered to help pick it up. We filled another wagon with pumpkins and then called it a day.

We harvested the rest of the winter squash on Wednesday. With a little careful stacking it all fit in the greenhouse. It was good to get it out of the field. The forecast had dire predictions for lows in the high 20s to very low 30s for this weekend. If the temperature drop below 28º squash in the field would be  damaged.  As it turned out it has not been as cold as predicted, but it was not worth taking the chance.

On Friday the forecast was still calling for a freeze so the crew ( Zach was back for a few days between jobs) harvested peppers and eggplant  to keep them from being ruined by the expected freeze.  I hear it was a miserable morning, rainy, windy, and cold. We have only had frost the past few nights (lows up by the house around 32º) but it would have been enough to ruin the peppers that were exposed to the sky.

In the afternoon we pulled up all the tomato stakes.  It was much easier pulling them out than putting them in. Yesterday afternoon I mowed all the tomato vines and weeds in the winter squash.

I had an odd mechanical failure while mowing. The tractor quit, just like it had been shut off. That usually indicated an electrical problem. It turns out that the spring for the ignition points snapped.  The spring is the electrical connection between the coil and ground. No ground = no collapsing magnetic field = no spark.  Replacing the moving half of the points fixed the problem and the tractor fired right up.

Today I disked the winter squash and the heirlooms. Andrew had broadcast rye and vetch over the tomatoes and squash a couple weeks ago. Only the rye in the mulched tomatoes has come up yet.  In the unmulched tomatoes and squash the seed is mostly just lying there.  Disking those areas will get the overseeded rye into the soil and get it to sprout.

The neighbor has been hauling in loads of composted cow manure from the SMSC Compost facility. It looks and smells like black dirt. The compost will be spread in the field that should have been in the second green manure phase this year. It doesn’t completely replace the green manure, but it certainly helps.  We will start spreading it this week and keep seeding cover crops.

The days are getting short and winter is coming.

Don’t forget about our fall potluck on this Saturday October 11th. We will gather around 2 and plan on eating about 4:30-5:00.  We are planning to do pumpkin carving and a hay ride.  We’ll have cider available, but if you want something else to drink  feel free to bring it.




First Frost

Riverbend Farm Newsletter                                                 Sept. 13, 2014

We had our first frost of the season this morning. It was 32º at the house and colder out in the field.  Up here everything was pretty frosty. Down in the field things were kind of frozen. The mustard and arugula leaves were very solid.

Most of the tomatoes were ruined. They are the very sensitive to low temperatures. Even a light frost will burst the cell walls under the skin and form a ‘bruise’.  I don’t know what causes it but once they have been frosted the flavor changes and it is not the same as freezing tomatoes to preserve them.  Well, the tomatoes got frosted pretty hard this morning, The greenest ones  fared a little better, but almost all the leaves are shot.  It will take a few days for the plants to decide if they are dead or not. If they survive the green tomatoes will ripen if the weather holds up. This tomato will not make it. The dark area on top was frozen.

The peppers and eggplant held up pretty well. There is a much better leaf canopy on the plants, compared to the tomatoes. The fruit is also much more solid so it takes longer to freeze. I’m sure there will be some losses, but we never get 100% of them anyway.

The squash hate any frosty weather.  It does look like we will have a good crop of winter squash. Most of the squash appear to have matured before the low temps killed the plants. I think a little frost improves the flavor of the squash, making it a little sweeter.

The beans up in the seed garden did alright. The top leaves are just lightly toasted. The ones in the field are worse.  It did not get cold enough to kill the corn crop, but unless a miracle happens it won’t mature. The largest ears are in the dough stage, but not showing any color.

The radish leaves look like they were scorched by the low temps.  The roots are probably the best they have been all season,  but the bad leaves make them a tough sell in the co-ops. Turnips are unaffected by the cold weather. The afore mentioned arugula and mustards looked fine this afternoon. Sometimes it takes a day or two for the damage to show up.

Yesterday afternoon we pulled up all the shallots and put them in piles. We covered the piles with two layers of tarps to keep the shallots warm. Freezing temperatures and onions do not go together very well.  This morning it looked like they had all survived the night in fine form.

The cabbage and kale get better in this weather. They think that they are going to survive until next spring and go to seed. The low temperatures cause the starches to start turning into sugars, creating a natural antifreeze.  Little do they know that we have other plans for them.

By the smell of the winter squash in the oven, it is getting to be time to eat.




Mid July Road Trip

Riverbend Farm Newsletter                                                             July 19, 2014

Well, I’m back. If you didn’t notice, I was away for the past couple weeks. If you didn’t notice, you will know that our crew did a great job while I was away.  Things looked great around here when I got back.

I have a collection of motorcycles and they do me no good in the winter. I like a summer vacation. This was a year for a bike trip. My default trip is out west and usually I take my ’70 Norton Commando. This winter I had straightened the frame on the Commando and ran out of time to put it back together.

My ’82 Honda Silverwing (GL500, not to be confused with the new scooter with the same name) got the call. This is the only bike that I have ever bought new.  The Goldwing is Honda’s top of the line touring bike. Now they are 1800cc, 900 pound two wheeled Honda Accords (it has a bigger motor than my Civic).  They are great bikes. For $24,000 they should be, but not my cup of tea.

Back in the day, I figured that the Golding was Honda’s take on a BMW and the Silverwing was their idea of what a Moto Guzzi should be, but still a bit of a rolling physics experiment. The GL500 has a 500cc engine in what used to be a full sized motorcycle frame. The bike weighs about 500 pounds and is pretty manageable even if it does not have a reverse gear.

This year has had its share of farming challenges. Last year did too. Lately it seems like I have been trying to manage chaos, working from crisis to crisis. Exciting, but really not that much fun, and very hard to plan for.  It was a good time to get away and see a bit of how the other half lives.

My friend Steve had proposed a trip down into Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, etc. back in January. I said ‘it is hard to know how the season will play out, but pencil me in.’ A couple weeks before we left, he says he is bailing on the trip. My response was ‘if  you aren’t going, I’m going to Washington and Oregon and visit some farms that are growing veggies and veggie seeds.’  He says ‘I’m in, but I want to see this land I inherited ( 1/18th share with some possibility of an oil lease) in Utah.’

As we worked our way towards Brookings, there were a lot of fields that were not planted this spring. As it turned out, over half a million acres in Minnesota were too wet plant. They were either weeds or cultivated fallow. As we got farther west more fields were planted, but they still had big areas that had been drowned out. Into South Dakota the corn looked better, but the soybeans were still pretty tough looking.

As we crossed the Missouri the landscape turned to desert. There is a lot of desert out there. And it was hot.  Steve’s bike ( ’89 Honda Transalp) started to misfire and eventually would quit running all together. We checked the power and grounds ( somewhat loose) and eventually replaced one of the CDI ignition units. It did not help. I think he has a bad coil pack.

After a beautiful run down from Green River Wyo. Into Vernal Utah his bike ran okay. Once it got hot going into Duchene, it started to misfire again. He was going to look at the land the next morning and I was looking at the map. Fiddling with his bike had eaten up a couple hours each day and at this point had cost us most of a day. Sequim Washington is about 1100 miles from Duchene Utah and I was planning on being there in a couple days.

Steve was thinking about visiting his son and son in law near Leavenworth Washington on the way back. And he would not be back from visiting the land until at least 1 on the afternoon.  It was looking like either a pair of 500 and 600 mile days or 400 and 700 mile days. Neither were very likely nor sounded like much fun starting in the afternoon.  I proposed meeting him in Leavenworth on Sunday. By morning, he decided his trip was over and was going to head home.

It was a long interstate run to Olympia WA. 101 North was a beautiful trip. It should have been the height of tourist season, but the roads were deserted. It put a smile on my face and a little more tension on the throttle cable. My destination was Nash’s Produce in Sequim Washington. Nash grows a lot of vegetables, small grain and organic vegetable seed.

The northern shore of the Olympic peninsula is the perfect place for growing brassicas, carrot, beet, kale, lettuce seed.  It rains in the spring and then stops. The winter temperatures are typically close to freezing.  Until recently any way.  Now it has started raining in September, just when they are trying to harvest their vegetable seed and small grain.  Not to mention that last winter was exceptionally cold and damaged many of the over wintered crops.  It was a very interesting visit. I spent almost an entire day there.

John Navazio is an organic seed breeder with the Organic Seed Alliance. He spent a couple hours showing me his test plots of spinach, onions and carrots. He is most interested in a purple sprouting broccoli. It is hardy enough to survive their winters and produce in April. I don’t think it would work the same way here, but it was fascinating hearing about how he selects for disease resistance, plant stature, winter hardiness, taste, and storage.  All at the same time. It takes years of selection to produce a new variety.

On my way south I stopped at Midori Farm.  They have been farming for several years and had just bought a new place on some of the best soils on the peninsula.  I helped out harvesting and cleaning crates while Marko and I talked shop. They were in the middle of a heat wave and crops were coming in much earlier than usual.  There were no tomatoes grown outside, they were all in hoophouses.

The last farm visit I had planned fell through. The guy was going to the Oregon Country Fair. I had been hearing about it since Idaho. I had to see it for myself. It cost $42 to get in and park. This was clearly a big deal.  Except there was nothing country about it, lots of crafts, tie dyed clothes, and ceramics with several music stages. The site was huge. It clearly was not the west coast version of the Common Ground Fair. It struck me as the Renaissance Festival for Hippies, but without the turkey legs. I’m obviously missing something because 40,000 people go through the gates in three days, but I don’t get the Renaissance Festival either.

There are some great roads between Oregon and here, but I’m not going to tell you about them.

While I was away I did not keep up on the daily news. As it turns out, I did not miss much. There is an article that turned up a while ago about avoiding the news.  I think they have it mostly right.  http://dobelli.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Avoid_News_Part1_TEXT.pdf

Once I was back the crew graciously let me take a few more days off to catch up on things that I should have been doing  instead of wondering around the country visiting farms.

In the days or horse drawn agriculture there was piece of equipment that picked up loose hay and piled it on a wagon. Loose hay works great for mulch. I can just throw it off the wagon and skip the step of breaking up hay bales. A few years ago I found a hay loader that was in fair shape but needed the wooden parts replaced. It took a coupe days to get it back into working order.

Now when it is too wet for my neighbor Norman to make hay I can cut and pick it up for mulch. Even if the hay isn’t dry it can be picked up and spread as mulch.  This year the weeds in the tomatoes got ahead of us because we had the tomato stakes in before it was dry enough for Norman to make any hay (for mulch).

Here is a picture of the business end of the hay loader. The teeth on the very back rake the hay ahead until there is enough that it caught on the tines that are attached to the light colored wooden bars. The big crankshaft with the bars turn ‘backwards’ and the tines push the hay up the inclined bed.  It is a very cool machine.




Early summer (out of order)

Riverbend Farm Early Summer Newsletter  May 25, 2014

Suddenly it is summer.  I think every tree we have is flowering right now.  It is great.  People are thinking about gardening and we have been selling vegetable plants like crazy. On Saturday Tracy let me sell veggie starts in front of the newly reopened Birchwood. Andrew was selling them in Delano. We had a great day. Mette will be at the Birchwood this morning selling tomato, pepper, and eggplant transplants again. Thanks Mette (and Tracy).

Andrew, Charlotte, Hannah, and Noelle have repotted all the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant into 1½ X 1½  inch pots for the final grow out before they go into the field.  It took a solid week of greenhouse work.  The greenhouses are starting to clear out. At least there aren’t any trays on the floor any more.

All the potatoes are planted. This year we are trialing a new variety from the UofM, MonDak Gold. Since all the potatoes in America are eaten as french fries or potato chips, that is what Christian Thill gets paid to work on.  These spuds  are good fried ( cut into wedges, tossed in oil and baked in the oven), on pizza, or baked.

About half of the cabbage, kale, broccoli have been transplanted. We used the two row transplanter. It is everyone’s favorite machine once they get good at operating it. About half of the lettuce is in. All the onions have been set out. There are many fewer onions than last year. I have never had great success with onions so I’m having Jerry Ford grow onions for me.  On Thursday the first zucchini went out. They had to go in three different places to find enough space.

The deer will eat all the lettuce unless we keep it covered.

Direct seeding is kind of keeping up.  The wet weather has limited the places that I can go with the tractor  and consequently is causing some back ups in stale bedding (early cultivation to let some weeds come up before a crop is planted) and planting. At this point, the forecast is backing away from rain in the short term.

Actually, we need rain. We don’t need a thunderstorm and diownpour. The trouble is that  the big rain we had during the last week of April. It saturated the soil and there is no place for the new rain to go. The rain we have had since then has been 1 – 1½” per week, just the right amount. As the temperature has warmed up there has been more evaporation and the rye cover crop is really growing again, both are helping get rid of the some of the excess water. The river is still much higher than it was when the ice went out.

Our neighbor’s hay fields look great but no one has planted any corn yet. Norman was just able to get into the driest parts of his fields on Friday.  Usually corn planting is done by early May (treated seed doesn’t rot in cold soil) and soybeans are planted mid to late May.  It is getting late to plant corn. They will see a yield reduction for every day planting is delayed after May 1st. Planting at the end of May cuts their production by about 20%.

The big farms that benefit from subsidies and federally paid crop insurance programs will probably decide not to plant any corn if they can not get in today.  It is a silly system. Typical corn yields in Wright County are about 180 bushels per acre. 80% of that is still 144 b/A.  It would seem worthwhile to me but with they will make more money taking the crop insurance.

As much as the Corn Growers talk about ‘Feeding the World’, it is really the money that matters. This is a point to remember the next time you hear someone talking about how much GMO seed and technology is needed in production agriculture.

As an aside about GMOs: I see in today’s Strib that I should be able to cross tomatoes and fish, or bacteria and corn. I am so deeply disappointed. I’m such a slacker when it comes to selecting and saving seeds. Where do they come up with this crap ?  And of course, why do they print it ?

Our neighbors have dairy cows so they will still plant corn. They are not just growing yellow stuff to put on trucks and send off the farm. Besides picking ear corn they chop a lot of green corn  for silage ( kind of sauerkraut for cows ) and use that stalks for bedding.

It is interesting to compare a real family farm that grows crops and milks cows to the industrial scale farms that produce the vast majority of milk in this country.  Norman, his sons, and grandsons do all the work on their farm.  They grow their own feed, make hay, milk the cows, clean the barn, spread the manure back on the fields, rotate their crops.  I’m very sure the owners of Metro Dairy would be able to identify a cow. Everyone thinks their milk comes from farms like Norman’s.

Okay, I gotta go. I’m going to seed a few rows of radishes and arugula and work up some ground for tomatoes. The first crop mob on Saturday will be planting them.


Late June

Riverbend Farm Newsletter                                                 June 28, 2014

It has been a busy couple of weeks.

You probably have seen that the Crow has been flooding.  There is a lot of water out there. Last Friday Gina from Three Crows sent out a note that the crest was forecast to be 21 feet and they needed help to keep the river out. The city had mostly given up on protecting them.  The cafe is on the wrong side of the dike…

On Friday Brad and I draped a sheet of plastic around the back of the building to try to slow down the water coming into the building.  A crew of local characters was busy moving everything out of the back of the shop to keep it from being ruined by the water. As we were finishing up the water was lapping over the edge of the sidewalk.  A truck load of  refrigerators and perishable items went to Brad and Gina’s garage. Mary and I got home about 11 pm.

On Saturday we sandbagged between the existing flood wall and the building to keep the river from running in the back door. We also sandbagged the patio to slow the water running into the basement and along the side of the building to keep the water out of the main room.

The fundamental problem is that the whole river bank is made up of chunks of granite from the Granite Works. There is about 3’ of soil on top of the fill, but the fill is very porous. When the river gets high it finds the gaps in the fill and works its way toward the street.

Saturday night Brad kept an eye on the pumps as the water came up to  18.5 feet. On Sunday the water came up about another foot. The river was up to the bridge deck. One of the pumps crapped out and Brad and Gina’s daughter Liza went and got a couple more.  At the peak we had seven pumps running. The sand bag dikes started leaking and they needed to be higher and wider to keep out the projected crest of 21 feet.

Sunday night we took shifts running pumps and keeping an eye on the sandbags.  The water was high, it was starting to flow around the east end of the bridge and up along the south side of the building. When we shut down a pump to refuel the water would come up 2-3 inches. We were holding our own, but just barely.

Monday the water kept coming up. In the afternoon Brad and Gina decided that they could not fight it any longer. The high water was forecast to last  until Thursday and they were afraid that the water eddying next to the building would wash out the foundation or the big trees on the bank. Either would be catastrophe. If the foundation failed,  the back part of the building would fall into the river. If the trees went, they would take the sandbags and the patio with them. It was too much risk to ask their friends to take.

With the clay dike in front of the building all we could do was set stuff up on blocks and hope for the best.  We started shutting down pumps and pulling them out of the way. At 3pm the river flowed into the cafe, closing that chapter of Three Crows.

Gina is planning to reopen. See the Three Crows website: www.thethreecrows.com .


Around here things are shifting from planting to harvest, such as it is. We had been getting out butts kicked all spring with the stormy, cool wet weather.  This week I disked under five plantings of arugula, radishes, and other greens  that were never going to amount to much, to make room for fall brassicas and the last round of zukes and cukes.  Weed control continues.

Here is a little photo tour of the farm (you will notice that it is raining…)

This is the seed bed where I am selecting seeds from F2  and F3 generations of some good hybrid eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes to make stable open pollinated varieties.

A killdeer nest next to an F2 eggplant. It is amazing that any of them ever survive.

Sorghum sudan grass cover crop.

This should look like the previous image, but it has been too wet to get in and plant. It is not a complete disaster. The plants with the yellow flowers are sweet blossom clover. The purple ones are hairy vetch. Both are good soil building plants.

Winter squash that is planted in part of teh field that should be sorghum sudan grass. It looks good.

The next arugula and radishes.

Crop mob was here and installed a couple thousand tomato stakes before it started to rain. Thanks everyone.

Nice looking cabbages and kale. The broccoli looks good, but the crummy weather has made it all decide to bolt to seed rather than produce a large head.

A spot that is simply too wet.

A zucchini that was produced from seed that was hand pollinated. Cocozelle is supposed to have the light stripes.

The onions are doing well this year. The tops are a little beat up from the wind.

Arugula seed (on the right) and french breakfast radish seed.

Cippolini onions going to seed. We stored the onions in the basement over the winter and planted them first thing this spring.

Kale seed that is almost ripe. These plants were stored n the root cellar before planting them out this spring.


Mid June Newsletter

Riverbend Farm mid June Newsletter                                            June 12, 2014

We have been planting non stop for the past two weeks or more.  At the end of May we set out thousands of lettuce and kale plants. The Birchwood Crop Mob stopped by on the last Saturday of May and kicked off the tomato planting. We got rained out a little early. It seems like the first crop mob always brings rain. It was great to see some old friends and meet some new ones.

Our crew has been planting everything that will fit. We finished up the tomatoes and moved on to the eggplant and peppers. Right after that we started on winter squash and pumpkins. The pumpkins continue today. The last round of lettuce is also set to go in this week.

I have been staying a little ahead of them, working up ground and marking out rows. The weather has not been terribly cooperative with getting things done.  The problem continues to be periodic, very heavy rain.  At the end of April we had a month’s worth of rain (5.5+ inches) in a week.  May 31st and June 1st brought  4+ inches. We have been getting an inch or so every week, which is about perfect, but the big storms saturate the ground and there is no place for the regular rain to go.

The southern quarter of this year’s vegetable field has been too wet to drive on, much less work.  The road over to the land I have rented from our neighbor Cathy has been under water for about six weeks. At this point it is above water, but about half of it is washed out.  The ground over there is heavier and it dries out slower than our land.  It might be possible to plant late cabbages over there, but at this point I am not counting on it.

All this has put us in a bind for tillable acres. I figure that we are short about 1/3 of the land I was planning on planting. The only ground that is accessible is part of the field that was in oats and peas last year. It was supposed to get a second soil building crop of sorghum sudan grass this year, but I have decided to plow some of it and start planting there. It feels a little like eating our seed corn,  but there are not any other good options, especially if we get 2-3 inches of rain in the next week.

With spending all of our time on planting we had gotten behind on weeding. A crew of about 20 people from Common Roots came by on Tuesday and helped us get caught up on cultivation.  They hoed all the onions, most of the peas, and about half of the potatoes.  It was great. And we got a break from planting.

Monday June 16

We picked up another 2½ inches of rain over the weekend. We did not need that much, but it seems to have come down slow enough or with enough breaks that we did not get any severe erosion. Once it dries up a little I’ll be able to see if the soil got packed from the heavy rain.

We did get all the pumpkins, zucchini, and cucumbers planted. Noelle was excited to see that the little fruit behind the female flowers on the green and yellow zucchini that she had hand pollinated last year were indeed green and yellow. In theory, we (she) can grow seed for all the vine crops.  Cucumbers are next.

Dave Rieder stopped over Friday afternoon to fix a broken shingle on the barn and helped Andrew, Noelle, and Zach set out all the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant that we will be selecting  seed from this fall.

Our CSA will start up this week. We will be dropping off the first CSA shares on Wednesday. I have sent out a separate mailing to our members to verify their choice of pick up location. If you are one of them and have not seen that message, please let me know.

A Wet Week update

We have had ( as of 6 am) 4.2″ of rain since Saturday night and a little over 5″ in the past week. It is wet. We did get about 900 kale and cabbage plants set out while the weather was nice last week. I seeded a few rows or radishes and arugula too.

Seeds are still showing up
This is $276 worth of squash, broccoli, and cabbage seed.  There are a total of 4000 seeds in those packets.

Knowing that the rain was coming I tried to get the oat and pea green manure crop seeded on Friday and Saturday. Disking and most of the planting of the oats went well, but
progress came to a rather sudden halt when I drove through a dead furrow while turning around and snapped the the spindle off on the right front wheel.
Here is another view where you can see the dead furrow and the grain drill behind the tractor.
I had broken the spindle on the other side about 15 years ago trying to pull out a dead apple tree. At that time our neighbor Marty welded it up and I put it back on.  After that I had bought a spare spindle just in case the weld didn’t hold. The welded spindle is fine to this day.
The spare does not look a well made as the original, but the tractor was fixed and moving again in about an hour. I did not get the peas finished, but did get them planted in what would be the wettest part of the field. Now if it dries up even a little I can plant the rest of the peas and not get stuck or make a mess. Hopefully the weather will dry out at the end of the week and we get back to planting.

GMO bill hearing

GMO Labeling Law Hearing

There is a hearing tomorrow morning in the House Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee on House File 3140, the GMO labeling law. It is an informational hearing that sets the stage for trying to pass the bill next year.

Please contact the committee and thank them for holding this hearing. If one of your representatives is on the committee, all the better.  It won’t hurt to add a brief statement why you think Genetically Modified ‘food’ should be labeled.  Be polite and to the point, we want them to help us.

I was surprised by the warm reception I got from our Republican state Senator when I talked to him about the bill when it was being introduced.  Accurate labels are important if we are going make good decisions about what we are eating. A link to the Commerce Committee is below.


Since this is an informational hearing, it is not critical that you contact them today, but sooner is better than never…




GMO Labeling rant

Labeling GMOs Rant

GMOs are wrong on so many levels it is hard to know where to start.  Not labeling GMOs in our food has got to be the dumbest thing that humans have ever done.

Hey, I have a great idea. Lets introduce a novel protein in our food, something that no food has ever had. Now, lets feed that ‘food’ to everyone and see what happens.  Genius. What could go wrong ?

If you are over 50, you probably remember pizza mix in a box. Do you remember anyone who was allergic to milk, soy, wheat, etc. when you were a kid ? My brother had hay fever (asthma) and maybe one kid in grade school couldn’t eat shellfish, but me being a clueless kid, he might have been Jewish.

Food allergies in children have increased 50% since 1997.  GMO crops were introduced in 1996.  England kept GMOs out until 1999.  Food allergies increased by 50% in one year after their introduction. It’s not like there was a breakthrough in detection methods that year.  What changed in their diet ?

But the big chemical companies that control our food supply say that GMO crops are safe.  And profitable.  I don’t understand why I have never seen one long term study that investigated the result of feeding GMOs and said they were safe to eat.  If they exist, wouldn’t they be plastered all over the internet ? Lets not review the  Monsanto people nor the revolving door process that lead to the approval of GMO crops. You know, it is looks like corn or soybeans, it is perfectly safe to eat.  Michael Taylor says it is so.

It is more than interesting that every bag of GMO seed has a contract on it that says you can not use this seed for any research without permission. Clearly no permission has been granted since no food safety research has been done with these seeds.  Why is that ? Is there something they don’t want us to know ?

Those sneaky Europeans have repeated Monsanto’s GMO feeding study (no doubt without permission) with the same number and type of rats. Except that the European study ran for two years instead of just 90 days  The rats developed all manner of horrible tumors and basically died like flies.  For some pretty flimsy reasons, the journal that published the paper retracted it after publication. They didn’t say  the results were incorrect or the method was bad. I’m sure the board member from Monsanto had nothing to do with it.  Just a  coincidence to be sure.

GMO crops don’t come with little rain jackets to protect them from RoundUp, they absorb it just like the weeds. Once they take it in, they  metabolize some of it into aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMTA), but they really can’t do anything with glyphosate or AMTA. At harvest the plants contain both RoundUp / glyphosate and AMTA. Both are toxic.

Remember the story in the news for a day last week about Argentina where cancers in  agricultural workers increased by 90% and their children are 4 times more likely to be born with birth defects in the last 15 years since industrial agriculture and GMO crops have moved into the area ? Or was it about the chronic kidney disease that is killing droves of farm workers in El Salvador, Sri Lanka, India, all places with widespread glyphosate (RoundUp) and 2,4-d use ? Toxic.

The chemical companies say that these chemicals are absolutely profitable safe.  And who would doubt that the have our best interests at heart ?

On another level, GMO crops are such an abject failure that the chemical companies are having to reconfigure their genetically engineered crops to be resistant to even more toxic chemicals. Weeds have become resistant to RoundUp (glyphostae)  and  those oh so clean soybean fields were the reason that farmers adopted GMO crops so quickly.  The neighbors will talk if you have weeds in your beans.

Being the brilliant, far sighted thinkers that they are, folks at the big chemical corporations that control our food supply didn’t realize that weeds would become resistant to years of repeated application of the same herbicide.  Weeds have been developing resistance to chemicals since the introduction of herbicides.  The claim that GMO crops would reduce the use of chemicals has been proven to be so much corporate BS.  But hey, they say it is safe.

Now they want to add 2,4-d and Dicamba  resistance to GMO crops to deal with the weeds that are resistant to RoundUp.  Another master stroke. THAT will solve the problem once and for all. Except maybe for the weeds that are already resistant to 2,4-d and Dicamba.  And since the crops will look just like corn and soybeans, the FDA and USDA will decide that they are perfectly safe to eat and will not require any long term safety studies.  This is profitable safe too.

Remember the little rain coats that the plants don’t get to protect them from RoundUp  and how they absorb the chemicals ? 2,4-d and Dicamba are much more toxic than glyphosate.  We will be eating those too.

I get invited to talk about organic farming fairly often. With college level classes I like to ask a few questions to see what the audience is interested in and kind of where we are at.  At some point, my questions for the audience go like this:

“Who eats a mostly organic diet ?” Usually one girl raises her hand.

“Who eats Genetically Modified foods ?” Only the same girl ever raises her hand.

Looking around the room I have to ask “What do the rest of you eat ?”

That is usually met with blank looks. I explain that 80+% of all the ‘conventional’  corn and soybeans in the American diet are the product of genetic engineering.  This appears to be new information for these people.

We are unwittingly taking part in an uncontrolled pesticide feeding experiment. There are no controls. And when something goes horribly wrong, there is no accountability.  There is no option to opt out, people don’t even know they are participating.

You should know what endocrine disrupters are. If you don’t, fire up the google and search for ‘warren porter endocrine disrupter’. Should pregnant women be eating foods containing endocrine disrupters, i.e glyphosate ?  Who doesn’t want some bizarre chemical affecting hormone levels for a developing baby ?  What could go wrong ?

Why not let people know what they are eating and let the marketplace decide if these are good things ? Isn’t that the way the free market works ? The answer is, obviously, that corporate profits would suffer. Corporations are people now and money is not property, it is speech, So big chemical companies have a much louder voice than the 90% of flesh and blood Americans who think that GMOs should be labeled.

Don’t worry about the farmers, They will happily buy cheaper seeds and grow what ever the market demands. GMO crops feed the world’s cattle. The world’s poor feed themselves. Really.

Ask to see the data when confronted with what sounds like corporate BS.  It usually is. Remember, ‘Figures don’t lie, but liars can figure’.

I have enough risky things to deal with. Eating novel proteins along with endocrine disrupting and toxic chemicals is one risk that I and everyone else would surely choose to avoid if they knew about it. If GMOs were as wonderful as the chemical companies make them sound, cereal packages would have “NOW WITH MORE GMOs” plastered all over the front, but they don’t.

We have a Right to Know what we are eating. Just Label It.

Greg Reynolds

Riverbend Farm

Delano, MN

Certified Organic since 1994