Late Late Spring Newsletter 2018

Riverbend Farm Late Late Spring Newsletter June 19, 2018

The Summer Solstice is coming up on the 21st, the astronomical start to summer.

It was very draining to work in the recent hot weather. Now that it has cooled off 70° seems a little chilly. I’m writing this in a long sleeve shirt. The hot wet weather ( over 2.8” of rain since last Monday ) has been great for transplanting. Usually hot weather is really hard on transplants due to their limited root system. But when it rains every day there is water available to the plants that I can’t match with irrigation. The transplants recover and start to look better in just a day or two.

The weeds love this weather too. The down side of it raining so much is that cultivation is not very effective if you can do it at all without damaging the soil structure. Weeds make vegetable transplants look like real softies. A lot of weeds only need a tiny fragment of their roots covered with soil to survive and go on to thrive.

Direct seeded crops are loving it too. The warm wet soil is perfect for germinating crop seeds as well as weed seeds. I just started a nursery bed for fall kale, broccoli and cabbage transplants. Some of the seed emerged in two days and all of them were up in four days, which is not bad even in the germination chamber. In early July these seedlings will go out to the field and be harvested in September and October. Our first frost date has moved back from mid September to mid October which adds another month to our growing season. .

Last week was a big week for us. Besides getting a lot of planting done we got a new water line installed between the well and the house. This well also feeds the greenhouses and the packing shed. The yard is still a mess but having the water system back in action is simply great. You really don’t miss the water until the well goes dry. Water pressure is much better at the greenhouse and the packing shed. The water temperature in the shower is much more predictable and stable. It is great to be back to normal.

Working in between the rain showers Mary and I have been making good progress in the seed garden. We plant a lot of flowers to attract pollinators and other beneficial insects. We need pollinators to produce seeds.

There are several pepper varieties that I have been trying to dehybridize and last year’s tomato seed production was mostly wiped out by late blight. The cool August last year was a great selection pressure for cold tolerant okra. Germination was poor but the 25 or so plants that made it should be a viable breeding population. Prairie Road Organics claims to have a heat tolerant shell pea. We will see about that. They also have Hidatsa Shield, simply the best tasting dry bean. I’m just increasing the seed lots this year.

It has been raining a lot. We have sandy soil and everything will have to thoroughly washed before eating. Just sayin’. The easiest way to do this is to cut the bunches just above the rubber band and drop into a deep sink full of tepid water. Gently agitate the greens several times over a few minutes, giving the sand a chance to settle to the bottom. Move the greens to a second bath of clean water and repeat. If you taste a leaf and it is not gritty, they are ready to use. If they are still gritty, repeat the washing process.

This weeks CSA Share contains:
Arugula – salad green with holes.
Lettuce – the big one is Cracoviensis Listed as a distinct type, Asparagus Lettuce, in The Vegetable Garden by Vilmorin-Andrieux (1885). Highly prized in China where they peel and eat the thick fleshy stems like asparagus, a practice that chefs have adopted here. Lifted from The FEDCO catalog. It takes its name from Krakow Poland. It is unique as it does not get bitter even when going to seed. Mary peeled the stalk and added it to our salad like carrot sticks. It does have a slight asparagus flavor. The little heads are Salanova types, a salad mix style of lettuce. It looks great in a salad and tastes good too.
Kale – Nash’s red. Strip the stem and use the raw leaves in salad or saute them in a little water until just cooked. Eat with butter ( the vitamins in greens are fat soluble and are more available when eaten with butter or olive oil), salt and pepper, maybe a dash of vinegar.
Turnips – Chris Blanchard at Rock Spring Farm called them Spinruts. These are not fall turnips, they are mild and tender. Use in salad or quarter ( or dice) and fry in butter. Eat warm with a little salt. The greens are edible too. Saute them with the kale. The new Sioux Chef cookbook has a recipe for greens and corn cakes. We made polenta, but it was a great way to have greens.
Radishes – your choice of red or French Breakfast. Wash, trim, eat with salt, good bread and Hope butter. I read that a glass of good red wine is the traditional accompaniment.
Corn meal – Whole grain freshly ground corn meal. The deer ate all of our flour corn last fall so this is an organic yellow dent variety grown by Doug Lundeen over in Cokato. The oil in the germ will go rancid if stored at room temperature. It was so wet / humid today that I would store the corn meal in the freezer to keep any moisture that it may have picked up from causing it to spoil.
Rhubarb – You know, its rhubarb. I did hear today that someone eats it over breakfast cereal. That seems pretty hard core to me but I’m thinking I might try it, thinly sliced over granola with a little sugar. Or not. Yogurt is sour.
Garlic scapes – the flower stalk from garlic bulbs. All your saved garlic is dried out or moldy so this will do until fresh garlic is available again. Use it in place of garlic but It is fibrous so slice it thin. Or make it into pesto. Or pickle it.
Dill – herb for flavoring garlic scape pickles.
Sorrel – strongly lemon flavored herb. Use a little in salad or in soup.
Herb pot – the herbs can be separated and planted out or they can be left on the pot. If left in the pot, they look terrible by the end of the season, but still work just fine. If planted in less than average soil the oregano, chives and usually thyme are hardy perennials. The dill is flowering. The flowers attract lots of beneficial insects. Then you can use the seeds or let them drop and reseed themselves. Other herbs in the pot are basil, marjoram, and summer savory ( skinny stems with spiky leaves).

Soap box –
I’m not sure where I saw it but there was an article about inexpensively removing CO2 from the atmosphere. There was not a lot of detail but David Keith, a Harvard professor has proposed a method for converting atmospheric CO2 into ‘gasoline’. The article seemed to be promoting this as was way to combat climate change.

I see three problems with this:
1) the average cost of removing CO2 was said to be ~$160 per ton. On an annual basis about 35 gigatons of CO2 are emitted worldwide. $160 X 35,000,000,000 = $5.6 trillion. On a per person basis that comes out to $740 (in round numbers), not too bad. Except that only moves us back to 2017 ( or whenever this technology comes on line, if ever) CO2 levels which are still a problem.
2) The 70% of the world’s population that lives on less than $10 a day are going to have a hard time finding that much in their budget. Heck, I’ll bet that the 43 million Americans living in poverty ( approx. $25,000 for a family of 4) would have a hard time coming up with an extra $60 a month for CO2 removal.
3) Turning removed carbon into gasoline doesn’t actually remove any CO2 from the atmosphere.

It’s late. I was at a Kitchen Circle meeting with the Crow River Food Council. More on that later.