May 19 Newsletter

Riverbend Farm Newsletter                                                 May 19, 2013


It has been a busy couple weeks.

 The regularly scheduled crop mob for the last Saturday in April was postponed due to snow and generally wet conditions that had kept us out of the field. The following week it rained Friday night and was cold Saturday morning.  We canceled that one. 

 Our crew was looking at planting 50,000 onions by themselves. Luckily Sam was back in town, and Jacob and Jordan were starting.  They began planting on Tuesday and got their system worked out. On Wednesday morning Jonathon, Mark, Mary and Max, Nate (yes, that Nate (he even biked out from Mpls for old times sake)), and Susan came by to help with planting. We planted something like 32,000 onions that day. Clearly a case of kicking ass and taking names. Carmen came by after work and gave everyone a boost when it looked (accurately) like there was no end in sight.

On Thursday Andrew, Jacob, Jordan, Noelle, and Sam planted about another 24,000 or so onions. They were moving. On Thursday I had committed to picking up a couple Allis Chalmers All Crop Combines and did not do any planting. On Friday Mary and Max came back, Georgina and Mette came and helped us finish up.  Mary and Max are long time CSA members and have been to more crop mobs than I have. Tracy is the only person who has come to more crop mobs than Mary and Max, but she couldn’t make it on Friday. She did send salads and bread for lunch, but we went to Dave’s to celebrate the end of onion planting. Thanks Everyone!

 Over all we have planted something like 75,000 onions this year.  I was planning on about 50,000, but honestly, did not count the seeds when starting them in the flats. Usually onions germinate at about 70-75%. This year every seed must have come up.  Noelle  thought that the planting had gone so well since she had been planting onions for 72 hours straight. She dreamt about planting onions for two nights.  Sam also was dreaming of planting onions.  As you know, Mary is a psychotherapist, so I think they will be okay. Eventually.

 Last Sunday morning it was cold. We had about 28º at the house. It must have been colder in the field because a lot of the kale turned yellow. The lettuce that was planted down slope (in a theoretically colder spot) looked fine. Lots of people had frost damage on their brassicas that night. It was a little unusual since kale is very hardy. I think that most of it will recover.  On Monday morning we had frost again and on Tuesday both of our thermometers that were in the shade showed 100º.  This is a strange spring. 

We haven’t had any real rain since the last heavy wet snow. From Friday into Sunday morning, we have had about 3 1/8 inches of rain. That much at one time will slow things down a little next week, especially if we get more rain in the next few days.  Sandy soil can have its problems, but it drains very well. We will be in better shape than the farms on heavier soil..

 This week was a big one for transplanting lettuce and brassicas into the field and  repotting tomatoes, eggplant and peppers in the greenhouse.  I’m kind of dragging my feet on setting out the warm season crops. It has been a record cold  (not to mention generally weird) spring and I’m not convinced that the weather will settle down next week. The traditional Memorial Day will be soon enough.

 Not to mention that if we get more rain in the early part of the coming week we will be out of the field until it dries out a little.  I like to wait as long as possible to do our spring tillage to give the winter cover crops time to grow and produce as much organic matter as they can.  It is nice to get the cover crops turned under a week to ten days ahead of planting so that the first flush of weeds will come up and we can kill them without having to worry about our vegetable plants being in the way.  This year the rye is only about 6-8 inches tall. In the past it has been 4-5 feet tall by this time of year. The dry weather last fall slowed it down.

 Everyone has been getting introduced to cultivating, plowing, and disking. Jordan grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin so he has an advantage when it comes to operating the tractors and an implement. Sam does pretty well also. He has driven tractors, but has no experience with field work. The controls are where they are and do what they do, so no problem. Andrew and Jacob have quite a bit of experience with newer tractors and equipment and have a conflict where a lot of what they know is wrong when it comes to my old equipment, but they adapt pretty quickly. Noelle has no experience driving tractors, but is willing to try and does okay. More experience driving tractors would make it easier..

  Yesterday was the first day for the Downtown Delano Farmers Market. Mary got that market started last year and suggested that I do vegetable transplants for the first few markets. So we loaded plants in the pouring rain, set up in a downpour and actually had a pretty good day, considering the conditions.  Farmers markets are a lot of fun. 

 We will have plants there for the next couple weeks. I was planning on two weeks, but with the cold wet start this year, three weeks might be better. If you are interested in garden plants we will have the following. If some of them are unfamiliar and you want more information on what they are like, send me an email and I’ll send you a list with descriptions.:

 Cherry Tomatoes: Sunsugar,  Peacevine,  Juliet, Montesino, and Fargo 

Standard Reds: Chianti Rose, Martian Giant, Jet Star, Paragon, Dakota Sport

Yellow/Orange: Orange you Glad, Amber

Roma type: Orange Banana, San Marzano, Amish PAste, Granadero, Viva Italia

Heirloom: Paul Robeson, Cherokee Purple, Brandywine, Persimmon, Evergreen, Uncle Everett, Pineapple, Black Krim, Prudens Purple

Sweet (mostly bell) peppers: Olympus, King of the North,  Revolution, Carmen, Flavorburst, Sweet Sunrise

Spice peppers: Boldog, Aji Dulce

Hot peppers: Habanero, Jalapride, Jalapeno, Super Chili, Hungarian Hot Wax, Hinkelhatz, Hot Cherry, Ancho

 Eggplant: Classic, Beatrice, Orient charm, Orient Express, Nadia, Clara, Nubia

 Brassicas: Nash’s Red Kale, Lacinato, Rainbow Lacinato,  Lech Kohlrabi, Early Jersey Cabbage,  Red Jewel

 We will also have a  selection of flowers, herbs, onions, and lettuce

 The market is on River St in Downtown Delano on Saturdays from 9 until 1.


ps Next crop mob is Saturday June 1st. We will be planting tomatoes.




May 4th

Riverbend Farm Newsletter                                                 May 4, 2013


We are going to need some help this week planting onions – see below.

 It has been an interesting couple of weeks.

 You might have heard about the snow they just got south and east of us. Yuk.  When the weather was warm, the frogs were singing and there were even a few swallows around. The maples and popples are starting to flower. The river is going down a little. It never got out of its banks this year, but it was right to the top.

 We have mostly missed out on the last two snows.  We got enough to make the grass white from the first one. The second one missed us completely.  Nice. In addition to being wet, the snow cools the ground down to 32º and brings all the microbial activity to a halt. Soil takes longer to warm up and dry out after a snow than when it rains. Of course the soil has to dry out before it can be worked.

 The day after I sent out the last newsletter we woke up to no water. We had electricity, but the water was not running.  There  was power at the Start and Run  terminals on the motor controller, so it seemed like the pump was dead. A call to our local well company had a guy ( Jim) here in a few hours.  He checked a few things,  pulled out the old pump and replaced it with a new one. $1200. Turning  on the power did not result in any water.

 There was water coming up alongside the well casing, which was a bad sign. It was getting late so we just ran a  garden hose from the down pipe to an outside faucet and still didn’t have any water. The  inlet line from the well to the house had to be disconnected to make everything work. The water was coming in and going right back out.

 The thought was that the hubless connector had failed so we had to dig down to find it. Andrew, Noelle, and I took turns digging and eventually found the connection without cutting off the electric line to the pump. The digging resulted in a hole that was seven feet deep and about five feet across. Throwing the dirt out of a hole like that is harder than you would think.  A couple days later Jim was back and discovered that the plastic line to the house had become brittle and snapped off.

 Every valve in the house was put off by the change in the system. I don’t know if it was the increased pressure or that sand had got in due to the broken pipe, but the toilet fill valves, the water heater temperature/pressure valve, the shower, the water softener, etc. were all dysfunctional.  And every old fitting leaked.  But it is sure nice to turn on a faucet and have water come out.

 About the same time, my computer went on strike. It was so slow. The Norton Anti Virus was coming up with errors and it turns out that there was some virus  slowing the system down. Needless to say, Norton AV is not running on my computer at this time. The new computer shop in Delano found and fixed the problem for $60. Seemed like a good deal to me. The owner (Ken) and his wife are opening a wine bar in Delano. Brave souls.

 We did actually do some farming when we had those few nice days last week. Most of the snow had melted and I was able to get in with a disk and work up a little ground for lettuce and kale transplants and  some direct seeded arugula and radishes.  By about Monday the arugula had come up.

 On the downside, the deer have already found the lettuce and started eating it.  Usually they won’t touch it until it is almost ready to harvest. And once they find a source of food, they return to it. I may have to move the lettuce patch and cover it until I get the netting for the ten foot fence.

 I also managed to get some oats and peas planted. Part of them will be harvested for seed and part will be a green manure crop. The overwintered kale, beets, turnips, and radishes that are being grown for seeds were planted on Monday and by Friday some of them were sending up seed stalks. A few of the buds are turning yellow, getting ready to open. Jean Peterson is growing the brussel sprouts for seed. Jerry Ford has the cabbage, and Amelia is growing the Lacinato kale and red beets.

 It will be very interesting to see how this works out.  Usually the plants that are overwintered are started in late summer. I think that would be a good idea since most of the old leaves rot in storage and the smell of rotting cabbage is not good. The younger plants are also supposed to overwinter better.


I’m in a bit of a jam with planting onions. We were going to have a crop mob last Saturday, but Friday was the first time I could get in the field here, not to mention that I had been planning on putting them in at Cathy’s. Her fields are even wetter than ours and the road over to her place washed out. That’s is another story.

 The April crop mob was postponed to this Saturday, but the rain Friday night and this morning made it too wet to plant. The temperature has gotten up to 36º by noon and it is a little breezy. Not prime conditions for crawling around on cold wet ground planting onions. The crop mob for today has been canceled.

  With the crop mob there are 20 or so people who plant and we get a lot done in a hurry. That is not happening with onions this year. We will start setting them out next week with just our crew. And then there are the 10,000 tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant that need to be repotted since they will be going out at the end of the month…

  If you are not busy on Wednesday the 8th,  we could use some help planting onions.  If you are interested, send me an email.



  ps  Carl Blanz at Three Crows is looking for an apprentice cook to work with him and  learn the restaurant business. Carl and Gina are taking Three Crows to the next level are venturing farther into sourcing local food.  If you know someone who might be a good candidate or might be interested, have them give Carl a call 763-972-3399.