Garlic Festival

Riverbend Farm Newsletter                                                             August 14, 2013

 The Garlic Festival is all over but the accounting.  Everyone survived. Garlic Festival is one of those things that is a lot more fun when it is over.  It was a huge success, and from what I have heard, an all round good time.  

 The garlic festival is our Sustainable Farming chapter’s big fund raiser.  About nine years ago we were sitting around kvetching about not having enough money to do any of the fun things that we thought that would support sustainable farming. The discussion was moving toward writing grants. My suggestion was that we put on an event that was interesting, fun, and have people give us their money. Jerry came up with the idea of a Garlic Festival, so it is all his fault. 

 The first year we had about 20 vendors. No food vendor was interested in coming to a new one day garlic themed festival. Since I was familiar with several restaurants, my job was to line up some food. I asked Mike Phillips if he would help out and foolishly (bless his heart), he said yes. Thus the Great ‘Scape Cafe was born. And has become the only part of the festival that I know anything about. 

 This year chefs from Alma, Birchwood, Common Roots,  Corner Table, Lucias, Red Table (Mike Phillips), Three Crows, Tilia, and Phillip Becht (currently unencumbered by a restaurant) put together Minnesota’s most successful one day cafe. We had help from a multitude of dedicated  volunteers  who made it work. 

 It rocked. The first 15 minutes of the cafe are always pandemonium. I love it. At 10  to 11 people start lining up. At 11 we are open. Not ready, but open. It is chaos. Then, as if by magic, something shifts and it is like these people have been working together their whole lives. It is the relaminarization of turbulent flow in a kitchen. Beautiful.

 Roughly, 3000 people came through the gates of the festival. I think that we fed about a third of them in 3 hours. Some of them more than once, so hard numbers are hard to come by. Not to mention that we don’t keep any sort of count of how many people come through of what sells the best. All the food was as good as you would expect from a crew like this.  

 At the end of the day, we took in just over $10,300 to support the promotion of sustainable farming ( and I’m not talking about Monsanto’s brand of sustainable agriculture).  In Minnesota.  I know that we cannot repay the favor, but Thanks Everybody.  You are the best.

 The Garlic Festival was last Saturday and I’m still trying to catch up. It does not help that Mary took the grandkids Up North this week. I have to get myself up, get dressed, feed myself, etc. It’s tough, these days are just a few hours too short.

 Mary says that the weather has been cloudy, but nice. The girls have tried out kayaks and are getting comfortable with them. Today they went up to Thunder Bay.  When the kids were little the loved to be told stories. Mary would make up tales about the places along the North Shore. Some of the best were centered around Castle Danger.

 The weather here has been nice, a little cool in the morning, and dry. We need to water. And the cucumbers are having a hard time pollinating. The zucchini have adapted to the cool mornings better than the cucumbers.

 Noelle has been out hand pollinating a few of the open pollinated zucchini so the seeds will come true to type next year. To hand pollinate them, the flowers have to be tied or taped shut to keep the bees and cucumber beetles out.  Female flowers are tied and males are taped the afternoon before they open. The next morning when the dew has dried and things have warmed up, the petals are stripped from the male flowers and stamens are used to pollinate the pistils in the female flowers. The female flowers are then tied shut again to exclude other pollinators. After a few days when we can tell which pollination took, the fruit are marked with a pink ribbon and a fence post to keep them from being harvested.

 Arugula has been one of our signature crops. The past couple years have been tough due to new disease infecting the arugula. This year covering the crop with spun bound row cover has helped immensely.  Bacterial spot is a seed borne disease that is spread by rain splash when temperatures are between 70 and 80 degrees. The stormy summers have been rough. 

 It is a little early to harvest this planting, but the scheduled planting was wiped out by bacterial spot. The seed from Johnny’s seems to be heavily infected and we didn’t cover that planting because it was so hot and dry. The row cover makes it even hotter and  cooks the crops. A lose lose situation. The latest plantings were covered because we were in line for a storm, the hail storm that just missed us. It worked.

 The weather is supposed to warm up in the next ten days. Like everyone else we have a ton of tomatoes that are green as the grass. I think (hope anyway) the warm weather with ripen a bunch of tomatoes. We might get summer yet.





Are we toast ?

Riverbend Farm Newsletter                                     August 4th, 2013       

 How’s that for a change in the weather ? This is my kind of weather, but warm season vegetables are not liking it. To make a living at this I  need stinking hot weather in the end of July in and into early August. We had several mornings with temps in the mid 40s. Chilly. Temperatures like these are typical for September.  I suppose that it is too late to get off the weather roller coaster.

 As you probably guessed it has been a busy couple of weeks.  Our crew has been hard at it cultivating, mowing, hoeing, and hand weeding, making a big push to keep weeds from going to seed.  Even if the weeds are not going to impact this years crop, we don’t need to add to the weed seed bank.

 The weather has been absolutely beautiful, so we have been busy watering.  Tiny seedlings  and any plant that is setting fruit  needs water. If we water all day long every day, we can keep up with the veggies when it does not rain. Everyone here is hoping it rains tonight.

 Last weekend we had a crop mob. They weeded and  trellised tomatoes and pole beans. We had several CSA members show up, a lot of crop mob regulars, and several new people. Tracy provided lunch as she usually does. I have no idea how to thank these people for the work they do and the support that they provide. I am very grateful that they do it.

 Next Saturday ( August 10th) is the Minnesota Garlic Festival. It is a celebration of local food, crafts, and farms.  The festival is a fund raiser for our Sustainable Farming chapter. The money lets us promote (real) sustainable agriculture ,  F2S,  and to try new ways to get everyone involved in understanding why good food is important.

 Come to the festival.  Support our vendors. Eat in the Great ‘Scape Cafe. Sample local wine and beer. Build a kite. Buy some garlic. Play a game of bocce. Volunteer and get in for free. Subtle, right ? Actually, the woman who was doing our volunteer recruiting had a death in her family and has had to step back. If you can volunteer for a couple hours let me know.  Be forewarned: If you volunteer for the Cafe, we will work you mercilessly and no one only works a two hour shift. You do get free admission and your choice of meals at the Cafe.  Other shifts are not so intense and you still get in for free and a meal in the cafe.

 We had been hand pollinating the zucchini. A lot of the small zukes were dropping their flower and shriveling up. Usually that is caused by lack of pollination. Hand pollinating helps, but the bees are better at it than we are. Next time I’m going to try using pollen from two or three male flowers and see if the results are better.

 It turns out that the chilly mornings are also causing the zucchini to abort. When the temperature is below 55º at night the pollen tubes quit growing and the tiny zukes are not pollinated.

 I didn’t think much about the bees and colony collapse disorder until we had to hand pollinate the zucchini. Last year we would find a bee or two in every squash flower. This year we may find three in a whole row.  Loss of pollinators takes on a lot more significance when 1/3 of our food is pollinated by bees and there aren’t enough bees to pollinate our zucchini and cucumbers.

 There aren’t many squash bugs, cabbage moths, or cucumber beetles this year either.  A dearth of pests is not something that I would usually complain about, but a die-off of insects could be a real problem. Bugs are pretty tough. If they are not making it, what does that mean for us ?

 Stalled weather patterns  have been bringing us some of the extremes that  have been so troublesome this year.  The never ending winter, the rain every other day  in June,  sudden intense heat and humidity,  record breaking 40º lows in the end of July….  Did you hear about the lake that formed at the North Pole ?

 Last year the apple and garlic crops were ruined by bizarre weather.  We all know about this year.

 I used to be concerned about that our grandchildren would have a hard time coping with the glocal  climate changes that are happening. I’m starting to think that we may have a hard time dealing with the new weather patterns, such as they are.   

 Hopefully we will be able to adapt quickly enough to survive these changes.  Of course that means that you and I have to change the way that we do things. Really.