Early Summer Newsletter

June 9, 2020

Riverbend Farm Early Summer Newsletter

As I noted last time, the season turned weird early and now it seems to be going from strength to strength.  First it was the C19 virus, restaurants being closed, panic buying,  the economic fallout , and now demonstrations against police brutality and racism.

It is incredibly wrong that a black man can be killed by the Minneapolis police for an alleged  $20 crime. How is that even possible in a civil society ?  Just try to imagine the attitude that underlies that act. This really happened in America. Have we been fooling ourselves about what kind of country we live in ? This whole thing has made for lots of questions.

It is going to take a lot more than reformatting the MPD to solve the underlying problems. I’m not sure what I would say to my brother that would change his mind. And there seem to be lots of people like him, prejudiced, fearful, easily buffaloed by crazy conspiracy theories, and absolutely convinced that they are right. This for example – https://www.theguardian.com/media/2020/jun/10/fox-news-sesame-street-elmo-tucker-carlson   How do we make a difference ?

Back at the farm, things are mostly the same for us. The closest I came to anything was when I dropped off plants at the Wedge last Friday morning and saw that everything was boarded up.  Friends who live in Minneapolis were worried about their business, had helicopters flying overhead all night, witnessed the protests and destruction of neighborhood stores. The old normal seems to have been upended if not swept away. . That the weather has been generally cool and dry pales by comparison.

When I started writing this on June 2, it was raining a little. A little cool front came through and squeezed a few thundershowers out of the hot humid air. Saturday night we had maybe a third of an inch. Monday and Tuesday’s rain has only amounted to 0.02”  This spring has been generally dry for us but it looks like Featherstone might have gotten dumped on last night.

The temperatures have been all over the map. May 29th it was 40° in the morning. By June 2nd  it was in the mid 90s. The swings in temperature fool a lot of the annuals into thinking it is fall. Mary was experimenting with transplanting beets and spinach for early crops but the spinach mostly went directly to seed.  Monday and Tuesday were windy and hot. This morning it was in the 50’s again, about average for this time of year but a sweatshirt felt pretty good. .

So far the season has been a blur. It started in mid March and has not let up since. Mary and I were going as fast as we could trying to keep up with the demand for garden starter plants since the middle of March.  It was completely crazy. We have sold three times as many plants as we did last year. That is really an accomplishment for us considering that most of the starter plants are scheduled to be seeded in the greenhouse by early March. We did a lot of the work ourselves since we had no way of telling what the future would bring and didn’t want to spend money we weren’t going to have. Our neighbors Carmen and Will ( different neighbors) and friends Mette, Ian and Greg helped with getting things repotted.

We have had a lot of help from friends and family. Our daughter Jeri, her friend Lori, Mark, Mette, Greg,  Ian, Mike and Jack, neighbors Will and Carmen, Logan  have all pitched in to do anything that needed doing. . Seward, Wedge, Birchwood, Common Roots, and Nature’s Nest have all helped  to get plants sold.   We wouldn’t have been able to get this far without all their help.

The warm weather in late March melted all the snow and I was able to plant peas on April 2nd.  Those peas have since been snowed on and frozen hard enough to turn the leaves yellow. After all that they are starting to flower.  Carrots planted on the 15th came up pretty well, have been hand weeded once (thanks Mary and Jeri) and are looking good.

Potatoes are coming up and we have been squashing potatoes bugs.  The numbers of potato bugs  in the eggplant (both nightshades) are down but in the potatoes they are laying eggs. Killing off  the over wintered bugs makes a huge difference in the number of bugs in the 2nd generation. Potato bugs lay 4-500 hundred eggs and they go from eggs to adults in about 3 weeks. Talk about a pest. The only thing that I have seen eat them are assassin bugs.

Lettuce is almost ready. The first planting of arugula is going to seed. The second and third look good, still very flea beetle eaten but the holes don’t taste like anything. Radishes are spicy. Mustard greens are coming along nicely. The transplanted zukes and cukes looked kind of sad but they have bounced back.  Direct seeded zukes and cukes are up and doing well. They need water after the past few windy hot days. The RBF curly green kale is starting to grow. It looks like it doubled in size in the past few days. I’m guessing that Kale Cesar Salad is in out near future.

The big plant sales have made for a great start to our season. Getting all them potted. Labeled and delivered has taken a bit a toll of our field work and planting. Right now I’m juggling plowing, planting direct seeded crops, transplanting peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes, and keeping up on everything else that needs to be done.  Like rebuilding the carb on the H ( leaky float needle ), getting the transplanter ready ( grease, oil, adjust, clean out the water system), cultivating, and watering. Plow, disk, plant, Repeat. We are making progress on field planting.  We will get it done.

With so many restaurants being closed or operating at reduced capacity we are still hoping to sell to them but have not had time to get back and talk to them about what they expect the summer to look like.

We are also planning to expand our Custom CSA but have not had a moment to think about what it will be like.  The model we had last year was to put out a list of produce that is available and take orders for ’delivery’ in two days. Everything was picked up at the farm. It wasn’t perfect. Orders were harvested with the wholesale orders and packed at the end of the night. A problem is that when there are a lot of regular orders the CSA gets packed around midnight.

We are also trying to work through some of safety issues. With the Custom CSA, each box is different and at a remote site  someone else may handle your box to get theirs. The information about spread of C19 from surfaces is contradictory right now and food has not been found to be a source of contamination. But I would hate for anyone to pick up C19 from the boxes. Reusing the boxes may be another issue but we could quarantine them for a week or something.

One of the questions we have is what will the demand be for staples for storage this fall. We have done various grains, dry beans, corn meal, potatoes, big boxes of tomatoes for home canning, cooking, freezing, etc. Will that increase with all the uncertainty this year ? They could be a welcome addition to this winter’s dinner table.  Asking how much an increase to expect seems beyond the pale.

Trouble is that we are so busy and pooped by the end of the day we are not making a lot of progress resolving these issues.  If you have any ideas, please send them my way.

Summer is comin’.