Moon Dog Farms

A Certified Naturally Grown fruit orchard and vegetable farm.

MoonDog Farms is dedicated to stewardship of the land, reinforcing a healthy community and producing great food.  

Where does the time go?

Although it seems unlikely that the blogosphere or other more tangible spheres noticed my little dip into absentia these past few weeks, I was a bit shocked to see that I had in fact not attended to the blog since early November.

Egads, what will our 4 readers do with themselves? :)

McFarmer pulls up one of the oilseed radishes that make up our covercrop in the old summer field.  The are indeed frighteningly (and awesomely) huge.

The truth is, although this space is ostensibly for sharing our farm's triumphs and travails with others, what it's really become is a few quiet moments in which I have to reflect for myself.

I'm required to think on where the farm is, what we've done and where we'll be, how we feel. A collection of observations, memories and images---ladybug tucked into a pear blossom, sunset over the hayfields--become a semi-readable journal entry, a cataloged recollection of our farm's growth. 

It's pretty great. For me at least.

I know things must have been out-of-whack when I look back and see that either 1) I was too busy/manic to sit down at the computer and bang out that contemplative goodness I mentioned, or b) we were off-farm so much that writing the farm blog would be strange in its non-farminess.  In this case, it happens to be both. 

The days leading up to Thanksgiving were filled with cleaning in the orchard; trimming and weedeating to McFarmer's heart's content. We weeded new carrot beds that will sleep until January and February, began to clear the older summer fields of the detritus of a spent-season. T-posts were yanked out, trellis rolled and stored, drip-tapes removed and stored. 

As for these past two weeks, McFarmer and I were barely at the farm. Travel for Thanksgiving and then a lovely mini-trip to Colorado for more family, skiing and delicious, delicious relaxation meant crossing our fingers and being extra thankful for the currently-empty greenhouse. 

A little taste of the South while enjoying the winter wonderland.

But now we're back, it's wonderfully chilly and gray, and as of yesterday that empty greenhouse has almost 2,000 seeds tucked in, starting their journey towards Spring.

Things are very good--family is near, lettuce is bountiful, and ideas for the new year are already beginning to dance above our heads like sugarplums.

We wish you a lovely holiday season, filled with equal parts delicious relaxation and joyful, bustling work. 

Welcoming the Wild Geese.

I don't know what it is about the cold. It might be the way cold's stillness takes hold of everything...the atmosphere, your breath, your expectations. Focus becomes so sharply held when icy breath passes over your lips and you begin to see the truest signs that a change of season is here, all around.

The older summer butterflies have begun to die, we're seeing the baby leaves of carrots emerge from soil that is finally chilled to their liking and the goldenrods are no longer golden but spent and brown. I found a group of dead fritillaries, queen butterflies and painted moths just last week, piled together in a soft and beautiful grave under the tall red and pink canopy of zinnias, their favorite spot on the farm.

Thinning and weeding the baby carrots...

The way that coldness seems to suddenly appear around these parts--so little transition from warm months to cold ever happens--it's cause for surprise and a sudden scrambling for a Texan's winter wardrobe. I myself am always overdressed for winter. Flannel onesies, long johns, scarves, gloves, thick fuzzy hats and multiple coats. I consider it my winter fur, a putting-on of down and extra weight to carry me through--- for while I love the cold, I hate to be cold.

A spider feasts on a caterpillar, hiding expertly in the sage.

Of course, I'm not the only one in the animal kingdom who grandly prepares for winter. Since early October we've spotted the first groups of migrating Canada geese, but in recent days their far-away squawkings have settled in to become the cold-weather soundtrack of the morning, re-playing itself everyday. Only yesterday, a small group of them, 20 or so, circled round and round, finally settling for a brief spell in our neighboring hay field, directly in front of a cluster of beehives. I didn't get much work done in the 25 minutes before they took off again.

This year, I keep coming back to Mary Oliver's poem "Wild Geese," which I only learned earlier this year from my best friend. I'd not been familiar with Mary Oliver's work before, but I've happily welcomed this poem into my closet of favorites. 

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

May you be safe, bundled and content as the wind continues to chill and winter works its way closer and closer.

 

No tricks, all treats. And some radishes, too.

We walk, we amble, we hustle, we rush. We move through our days and seasons with our eyes trained to the horizon. We rarely stand still, and when we do, there's often a last-minute bolt to the thing we almost forgot but we simply can't.  

With the easy fluidity of the modern human, we transition from deep appreciation of simple moments to finger-tingling anticipation of "what's next?"

So much of what we've learned since moving to Moon Dog Farms has to do with prioritizing tasks and arranging our day in a way that is sane, manageable and allows for minimal walks back and forth from the barns. Strangely enough, there's not as much running as one might think, even with all our scrambling. This probably has something to do with my flailing, injured gait resembling something like the run of a trussed-up chicken escaping the chopping block. It's a kindness, really, that Alex encourages me to avoid running.

Luckily, Fall is here in Texas-- in beautiful, sunny, 85 degree glory. My computer work is done on the porch, without fear of mosquito bombardment. The days of retreating into the cool swallow of air conditioning from noon to two are done; we now enjoy our lunch break at the farm, and gain a few more precious hours of work in a far more pleasant environment. And truly, the surest sign of Fall is how often I will talk about Fall (evident from the last couple newsletters) We will rejoice in naming all Fall pleasures until January, when we will dub a handful of cold weeks and the odd frost here and there as Winter, which will then quickly thaw into Spring by late February.

So you see, we don't have long to hold Fall between our fingers, so it's got to be sweet appreciation for every dang moment it's here. Every single one. 

Hauling off some of the rotten wood beams from the old roof near the washstand. 

If ever you want to volunteer with us, we'll make sure you get ample color in return!

As I mentioned briefly last week, some of the McFarmer family stopped by in the last week to help us with some of the larger projects on the "Fall To-Do" list. In exchange for hauling mulch, hoisting heavy lumber, weeding perennials and transplanting lettuces, we tried to provide color. Edible color to fill coolers and refrigerators, and sunset colors strewn across the sky. I wish we could say we treated everyone to the beer and dinner that accompanied said sunset, but just as we could never take credit for that awesome pink sky, McFarmer's family never fails to provide us with unending generosity and it is us who are treated, everytime. 

The idea of 'treats' accurately sums up the current atmosphere of the farm. Chilly breezes sweep through our coastal prairie on warm middays, enough to cool the sweat on our brows. We harvested our first batch of radishes for the season, hot-pink and clean white. Plucking those French Breakfasts makes me deliriously happy, everytime. The magic trick of pulling food from the ground---now you see it, then you didn't--simply doesn't get old. And while we'll need additional help in washing the hordes of radishes, carrots and beets soon enough, our first harvest was low-key and thrilling, increasingly one of my favorite combinations.

To that end, the relaxed glimpses of our farm insects amid the fall plants have shed the frenetic and in-your-face quality of the bugs of summer. While there is still the occasional tete a tete with pony-sized grasshoppers in the okra beds, our insect friends have largely begun to move slower, using their energy for end-of-season needs like nectar-gathering or the tending of maturing eggs and larvae.  Bees, wasps and any number of winged little beasties whose names I don't know buffet on the goldenrods and native ageratum. Ladybugs sleep in the tiny little spaces between folds of leaves or the petrified gills of old wood.  The torpedo storms of dragon and damselflies have already begun to wane, their numbers beginning to slow.

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And only 2 days ago, on the day we pulled those first radish bunches of Fall, we spotted a large tortoise outside the farm gate, headed our way.

A treat indeed, and right in-line with our favorite autumn flavor--low-key and thrilling.

The trencher, the lost dog, the teenagers and happy, happy farmers.

It finally happened.

The nail-biting, hair-pulling, brow-rubbing and thumb-twitching days of wondering when 

 we'd finally get a break in the rain, 

 to finally let the soil dry out,

and finally be able to run the tractor through,

and finally walk the tiller and hill the beds,

to finally move the young brassicas, lettuces and fennels out of the greenhouses,

that would finally find homes in their new field....

well, those days are over. For this year, anyway.

Not only did the clouds part and allow for this no-small glory and an end to McFarmer's bad case of tractorfinger, a slew of other  exciting events have happened as well.

We rented a trencher and created a trench for over 1,000 ft of irrigation and got all said irrigation laid out and working. Now the field with the young Fall crops have accessible water. And we didn't have to dig a foot of it with a shovel.

Sometimes we try out that "work smarter, not harder" thing.

A sweet young pup showed up at the farm, and while her appearance is by no means an extraordinary occurrence for our property, she did show up within a few days of the anniversary of our most recent pet's death.

Last year on the first Sunday of October, our original moon dog Saxton passed away, after we'd enjoyed his presence as travel companion and farm co-conspirator for many years. And while we're not sure we're quite ready to take on another being in our household just yet, this little tail wag from the beyond came at a time when I sure was missing our buddy.  (Don't worry, we're in the process of finding this little gal the perfect home!)

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Not one but two high school groups came out to volunteer their time and energy at the farm over the past week. One was a group of all girls ages 14-17, and when Alex saw them pile out of their cars early Tuesday morning, he promptly turned to me and said,

"I'll be at the back of the orchard. Way back."

McFarmer doesn't speak teenage giggle very well. 

But let it not be said that the giggling in any way impeded their ability to weed the hell out of some overgrown strawberry patches. These girls did us a huge favor and transformed work that would last me several hours into a 60 minute fiesta. Big thanks to Teresa Fernan, Debbie and Pasadena Memorial High School for their marvelous attitudes and support. (Plus all their bulging biceps!)

A few days later, a troupe of high-school culinary students stopped by for a full-day visit in which around 15 teenagers got mud all over their shoes, learned how to use gentle hands on tiny seedlings, identified a king snake (and did not freak out) and helped us turn an empty field into one filled with future food. I think my personal favorite moment came in finding myself describing the wrong method of transplanting a young cauliflower as using "doodoo hands." It's truly a good thing there were some adult chaperones around. 

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This was one of our first larger volunteer groups, and I'd call it a grand success. Alex and I still have a lot to learn when it comes to delegating tasks and figuring the right work for the right personalities, but I am deeply grateful not only for their hands and efforts, but the fact that these schools--these teachers-- are interested in dipping toes into local agriculture. Enormous thanks to Felicia Juarez and Sam Rayburn High School for sharing time, labor (and their lunch!) with us .

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We are eager to share what we know, what we wonder, what we work for, and that only works when there are eager eyes, ears and brains on the other end. Having these groups out to our farm validates what we work hard for everyday--we are grateful for every ounce of interest and support.

There's so much more that seems to have squeezed itself into the past few weeks, and as the weather continues to cool and our propensity for taking on more laborious tasks increases, I know each week will bring even more. You should see the 'Fall Projects' list McFarmer and I made only this morning. Insert ghoulish, mad-scientist laughter here.

For starters, I'll just say that number one and number two out at the farm will soon be as easy as 1,2,3.  

We couldn't be happier. Life couldn't be sweeter. The days are a little bit shorter, forcing us to go home a bit earlier, get a bit more sleep.

The weeds have begun to grow a little slower, allowing us a bit more sanity. We treated ourselves to a fancy new seeder that seeds 400 ft of carrot seeds in a mere fraction of the time it used to take us, with barely a stooped back to be seen. We've harvested the last pears from the orchard with a bittersweet adieu,  but their farewell  heralds the coming of autumn's tender greens and the crunch of hearty cabbages and carrots.

I'll say it again,  life is sweet. Our farm is growing, the seasons are changing, and the air is clear. It might not be crisp quite yet, but it's clear. 

And that's quite all right with us. 

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The Case of the Melted McFarmer.

I arrived at our driveway, after driving through a torrential downpour, to find nothing left of him.

Nothing but his muddy farm clothes.

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The minute he'd left the farm, only 2 hours earlier, I'd felt it. Something was amiss.

He didn't like being sent home without me, but that was too bad--when you have a foot healing from minor surgery and the sky begins to open up cats and dogs, you gotta deal with your lady sending you home and out of the wet. He was lucky I'd even let him come out that morning, but we've been under the gun and dancing with the weather trying to put our Summer One field to bed in time to till it under, add amendments and get it ready for the Fall plantings.

We're so relieved this will be the last time we have such a rushed turn-around. By the end of this Fall, we'll have prepared enough acreage we can do proper seasonal crop rotations. Good thing, too. The weather always steps on your feet when you waltz, especially when she's armed.  

And so, off McFarmer went. I don't have a healing foot, so I wasn't too concerned about the rain. I stayed to roll up the last three 100-ft plastic fabrics we'd used as mulch for our tomatoes. I also stayed so I could fall in the mud half a dozen times. No one was there to hear me curse the squelchy ground, my puny muscles or  the unpredictability of nature. I squashed each black widow I spotted as they scrambled out from their rudely removed home of the last several months. I began to roll the final fabric.

And then lightning. Crash of thunder. More downpour. Way more cats and dogs.


After taking cover for about 20 minutes at our wash station, I finally decided I was eeked out enough by the constant claps and blazes of lightning to head on home myself. It was a hairy 25 minute drive or so, lengthened by a resistance to drive anything but 15 under the speed limit. I'm not a huge fan of driving in a classic Texas gullywasher. 

But then I was home. Safe. Close to an opportunity of dryness.

But then I saw my melted partner. Nothing but sleeves. He just hadn't been able to make it. A whole life of emptiness swam through my head, void of any beard hair whatsoever.

I trudged inside, pealing off sopping clothes. I stepped gingerly through the kitchen on my way to the shower, to ponder my loneliness, and who did I see, lounging on the couch? 

 My McFarmer! It was him!

He looked up at me, smiled sweetly and said,

"Hey!  If you're wondering why my clothes are in the driveway, I left them on the ground there so the rain would wash off all the mud. I thought that was probably the best way to get them clean." 

McFarmer. It was definitely him. 

That funny month of September...

A funny month, September.

Farms across the country all find themselves with one foot in Autumn, one foot in Summer, pulling in harvests that straddle the seasons. Farmers in the North are often scrambling to protect their summer bounty from the first freezes, while at the same time we down here on the Gulf have only dreams of Fall to keep us sated for the next 2 months until temperatures finally begin to drop.  

There's a frantic run to tend to your kales and cabbages, dry the garlics, and savor what is both exhausting and exciting about summer. I'm sure I don't speak for myself in saying that September calls for a big, big sigh. It's just for us, that sigh is a long exhale stretching 'till to Halloween. Maybe Thanksgiving. Sometimes Christmas.

Although that isn't to say that we've had nothing but sweltering heat since May. 

Prepping an uncontrollably weedy lettuce bed, perfectly adorned in mosquito net and multiple layers as storms roll in.

This summer, while just as humid as ever, was far more mild than the Texas standard. We've had many days in the 80's and 90's, and we were even blessed with a cool front last weekend. Our harvest Saturday was a cause for joy, and reminded us how fun harvest can be (when you're just hoping to avoid brain meltdown and dodging the mosquito throngs). The farmers' market was downright electric with folks energized by a refreshing Fall-like day.

And then it was back to normal. :) 

Here are some snapshots of the farm pace from the last few weeks--from thunderstorms to spider-watching, it's been as summer as summer can be.  

McFarmer manning the booth at last week's market. Ain't he cute?

It's been so good to have lettuce back again-- we're starting to think we might begin to have lettuce all year with a little luck!

Our favorite customer of the day a few weeks ago, who just couldn't wait to don her Halloween costume, and loved our flower bouquets!

Weeding in the summer always introduces me to a new variety of native plant I'm unfamiliar with. 

Weeding in the summer always introduces me to a new variety of native plant I'm unfamiliar with. 

The hornets' nests seem to fall from the sky this time of year.

The hornets' nests seem to fall from the sky this time of year.

This green spider has eluded identification for me, but I love watching her lounge in the zinnias.

That same green spider with a yellowjacket, snatched from midair.

Cucumber moth caterpillars. They're back. Ugh.

Arigope spiders that have grown to the size of cats in some corners of the farm. Watching them spin their silks is transfixing. Unless you ask McFarmer.

A dark and cloudy afternoon.

This little girl was amazed at the size of one of our Magness pears at Galveston's Own Famers' Market.

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Ice in the camelbacks keep us cool and prevent brain-meltage.

McFarmer indulges an evening photo as he brings in some of the last buckets of okra harvest.

Good night, farm. 

Bugging off to Boston.

McFarmer and I have stars in our eyes. Actually, to be more accurate, these stars are edible, tender, green and very... lettuce-y.

The summer lettuce seems to be working. It looks like...gulp... we might turn into a farm that can grow lettuce in August. And that has our heads swimming with excitement. And lettuce-shaped stars.

You've heard me comment (perhaps rant) about the differences in summer growing for the seed catalog-worthy climes of Maine, California and Vermont versus the savagely hot, humid, hurricaney and buggy land of coastal Southeast Texas. There's no need to tread down that rutted path any further.

We knew of farms in the hotter zones of our continent who have regular success with growing more delicate and desirable crops like lettuce in the summer. (Here's looking at you, Jenny Jack Sun Farm and Gundermann Acres!)  

However, looking at our poor soils and the terrible time managing pests we had last summer, we were dubious.  We went ahead and made plans at the start of this year to try heat-tolerant varieties and make a go of it. And so far, so good.  

We've had to spray one round of Bt (bacillus thuringiensis--a naturally occuring bacterium often used in organic farming to combat caterpillars), but our canopy-laden darlings look as if this weekend might be the first harvest of what we previously thought would be impossible. 

Of course, it's only reasonable that this weekend will be our first Sunday off from the farmer's market and only vacation of the year. We'll be out of town, right in time to miss our first harvest of that golden-haloed summer lettuce.

We tried to plan this trip to McFarmer's sister in Boston at a time when we'd hit the perfect slope of time when we could slip away without too much hubbub, and return in time to catch up with prepping for the next season. 

There's something about best laid plans in there somewhere. It's too hot to remember what.

The lettuce will be fine, the farm will be fine. We have to remember that leaving the farm will ALWAYS feel inconvenient and impossible. We have plenty of loving help and support that will steward the crops while we're gone. 

This orb-weaver spider will be there to watch over all things tractor and crops. Thanks, you eight-legged nanny.

When your job is watching things grow, you get a little twitchy when you think about not being there to watch things grow.

(But we are excited to get a taste of summer that isn't completely sweat-laden. Here we come, Boston!)

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I'm reminded of my past vow to never claim to have one-up on Mother Nature, and never to tout our ability to have it all figured out. I guess that calls for a footnote, then. 

Ahem.

Official Footnote:

*While on vacation, lots of bummerific things could occur on the farm. Those damn cucumber moths from last summer could return and wipe out every single one of our prodigal lettuce sons. Furious tropical weather could sweep through, drowning every single plant in the field.  

Summer is a season filled to bursting with life and death. Everywhere you look, there's a creature or organism just born, just died, breeding, preying or encroaching on or with one another. The fields truly buzz with winged creatures. Every second of sunlight give a little more strength and a few more inches to roots, vines and blades living only to, literally, spread their seed.

Yes, we definitely take a risk leaving the farm. But, we're always taking a risk. It's a farm, and our fate is constantly (and physiologically) cast to the wind.  But we wanna see family, and so we do what we must.

So we'll drink our Sam Adams with McFarmer's sister, toasting the farm with fingers crossed.



Growing, growing, growing...

We've hit the stride of summer where the okra forests are nearly 10 feet tall.

It seems there are more spiders emerging and spinning than could be biologically possible. Luckily, there's still just as many stinkbugs and grasshoppers keeping the spider hordes busy.

Weedeating and mowing still feel like they deserve their own line item of daily duties, right next to teethbrushing. Maybe above.

McFarmer mowing down the old covercrop via weedeater. It's as laborious as it looks, but pretty fun, too.

We've been doubling our field production over the past week, transplanting and direct-seeding our newest summer crops while still tending to the older ones.  We're attempting some summer lettuce, experimenting with heat-tolerant varieties with the trial-by-fire approach.

If they can survive August, they'll survive anything.

Some crop production will be reinvigorated by these plantings. Hello new tomatoes, new eggplants. Others will (hopefully) get the good start they never had. The heavy rains we had for our first summer plantings back in April meant some beds of plants were cripples from the get-go. Hello tomatillos, cucumbers.

The baby lettuces in our most recent summer trials. Oh, may their shade cloth tent give them relief.

It's not only our acreage and bugs that are growing.

As those of you who follow our newsletter will know, I (Casey) took on the job of market manager at our beloved Galveston's Own Farmers Market. This assumption of more responsibility came after many talks between McFarmer and I and between me and the rest of our market board.

It came at a time when we'd decided I would cut back on fieldwork 15 hours or so a week. There's a few concerns that led us to this conclusion, most obviously our planned expansion for next year. I realize that probably sounds counterintuitive, yet as we grow in acreage and profit, there's even more officework to tend.

 

 

If you never pictured your farmer juggling an iphone and stack of spreadsheets, I'm here to tell you that they're as integral as the hoe and hammer.  

Think 'American Gothic 2.0.'

Customers at the GOFM booth, where I had the chance to teach them the names of the flowers in their Moon Dog Farms' bouquet!

As it so happens, I was part of the search team on GOFM's board hunting for a new manager. In the interim I took on some of the managerial duties and lo—I loved them. 

Turns out talking about farming and food, organizing, maintaining relationships and writing emails are skills I've already been stuffing under my farmer hat.

It's always easy to work for a boss you love, and in this case my boss, employees and co-workers are the farmers, makers and friends I look forward to seeing every Sunday.

The kiddos at Kids' Corner, our monthly GOFM event that lets kids run wild with food, paint and plants!

Seeing the same families week after week is a highlight of our week like none other. We're so thankful for their dedication!

This shift occurs at a moment when our market is growing. Nearly every week there's' a new vendor, and we're becoming more and more integral to a community of people. It feels good, this entrenching of fellowship that is one and the same with the sharing of food and knowledge. I'm happy to be a part of it, proud to claim this market as integral to my livelihood.

Only problem is, now Alex thinks he can call himself the farm boss.

I'll have to send him an email.

Sailing the wide, sunnhemp sea...

To feel present, it helps to breathe. If you can simply stop, for one moment, and take in all the sensations within you and the vibrations around you, then you've stepped into the elusive, oft-mentioned art of “being present.”

You have to listen. You have to open up to the world around you. You have to let your guard down.

And it helps if you're standing in a field of tall grass higher than your head, whooshing all around you and sounding like the ocean. It really helps.

Sure, maybe you don't have one of these fields nearby, and so my advice is moot and you'll have to go back to finding calm in a corner of your bedroom or in your kitchen or bathtub. Those are still great options, in my opinion. And I'll need them as well, for as of yesterday, my field of calm, my wide sunnhemp sea---well, it was plowed under.

 

Our experimentation with sunnhemp grass as a cover crop was wildly successful. This tall, graceful plant performed beautifully in our gumbo-clay soils and brain-melting humidity and heat. And it was a sight to behold. Some of the stalks grew nearly 7 feet tall, stretching their soft, silvery blue leaves upward and outward, until our Summer 2 field looked marvelously impenetrable—a jungle fortress of soil-improving foliage that absolutely pleaded you to come and hide in the middle.

And that I did.

Standing in the midst of those tree-like plants and listening to them sway and bend in the wind was like tapping a pause button on the rest of the world. It's good to sail away on an ocean in the middle of your farm, if only for a few moments.

The sunnhemp covercrop in bloom. Looks a bit like orchids.

Yet, like I said, the Crotolaria juncea couldn't stick around. A few of the stalks had burst into blossom, a sure sign that it was time to turn them under into the soil. At the point before bloom, the plant has its maximum amount of nutrients and energy stored up, and those will either end up expressing themselves in the flowers or—if we time it right---by decomposing into our soil once they're cut down. The flowers are gorgeous, but we'd much prefer that they give us a hand in building up our dirt.

McFarmer strapped on his handy backpack weedeater and went to town, laying down each stalk. Normally this would be done with a mower implement on the tractor, but ours is out of commission at the moment. Sigh, farming means so many broken tools.

And so the hours-long weedeating of the sunnhemp wall commenced.


Apart from standing in a tall field of grass, this week also brought us some other joys...

After many days of recovering from pounding rains and a heavy pruning, our cherry tomatoes are back! I can't tell you how exciting it is to arrive at the farm in the morning and spot tasty little red dots adorning your trellises.

The hosui pears are still putting on heavily, and we had the good fortune of an extra hand to help us with harvest. Alex's sister Beth, always a mensch, donned her mosquito gear and sweat alongside us the entire harvest day, without so much as a peep of dissent or frustration. And she let us pay her in okra.

While harvesting that okra, I stumbled upon some little pals conducting their business in the expired sunflower beds. An arigope spider had strung her web across the aisle, which I proceeded to barrel into like a clumsy goal-keeper. Amazingly, it held fast. Once I had disentangled myself from the hand-sized madam, I saw that she had not one but two meaty grasshoppers wriggling in her net. Apart from how beautiful this spider is, we appreciate her for playing for our team.

This little guy better watch out for the spiders!

And perhaps the most exciting bit of news comes from a completely empty field. We've decided to expand in 2015, and this week we mowed and plotted out two new fields which will soon go into covercrop . After that, they'll go into production for Spring. It's very ambitious, as these fields will triple the amount of acreage we maintain. We've intentionally grown very slowly up to this point, careful not to overextend ourselves. But we think this is a good choice, and we will still continue to move cautiously. The time is ripe, and we want to grow more food. Wish us luck.  

And wish luck to the sunnhemp seeds we'll be seeding here, and to the future wooshing sea in the middle of the farm.

Thank you, Sea Camp!

Our final gaggle of teenagers of the summer have come and gone, leaving in their wake two very sweaty farmers and an external hard drive laden with brilliant photos.

When local photographer Robert Mihovil asked us last year if we'd be interested in allowing his Texas A& M Sea Camp groups to use the farm and its many critters and plants as subjects, we had no idea what a phenomenally good end of the stick we'd end up with. 

Let me tell ya, it's the really good end.

(c) Seth Clark, 2014

(c) Kayla Davis, 2014

(c) Alysse Balmer

In only an hour's visit, we scatter kids with cameras amongst the basil, sunflowers and pear trees, give them just enough time in the heat and humidity (and enough whiffs of eau de farmer) to question our chosen line of work, and then we scoot them back out in their large passenger van, on to new photogenic heights.  

In the days and minutes before their arrival, McFarmer and I always lament the unfortunate timing of summer camp occurring in the summer. If their passenger van rolled up come November or April, there'd be no end to weed-free, photo-worthy tableaus adorned with slender carrots and robust heads of broccoli. Not to mention, there's be far less shiny foreheads and soaked shirts.

But, summer camp is just that---camp that happens during the summer, and we've no cause for lamentation once we see the lovely pictures these campers turn out.

Here's photos from our campers of 2 weeks ago (be sure to read each of their names-- you'll want to remember these talented folks):

(c) Joei Bailey, 2014

(c) Katherine Eisen, 2014

(c) Trevor Roach, 2014

(c) Joei Bailey, 2014

(c) Anna Downing, 2014

(c) Anna Downing, 2014

(c) Anna Downing, 2014

(c) Anna Downing, 2014

(c) Isabel Grudowski, 2014

(c) Katherine Eisen, 2014

And here's photos from this week's talented group:

(c) Ashley Walsh, 2014

(c) Nylala Jenkins, 2014

(c) Mary Cate Love, 2014

(c) Pablo Pinilla, 2014

(c) Caitlin Middleton, 2014

(c) Caitlin Middleton, 2014

Aren't these amazing? I'm flabbergasted by both adolescent talent and whiz-bang cameras...

(c) Abbie Martin, 2014

(c) Dante Muniz, 2014

(c) Kirsten Covington, 2014

(c) Kelsey Covington, 2014

And so it is...we'll have to wait until next year for a round of photographic excellence quite like what we've shared here. And trust me, there were many more beautiful compositions. 

A final thank you to Robert Mihovil, Texas A&M at Galveston's Sea Camp and all of the gracious campers (and their parents) who put up with pesky liability waivers, hungry mosquitoes and myriad bad puns told by this couple of stinky jokers.

We appreciate working with you, we're grateful for your generosity and we wish you all the best!

(C) Abbie Martin, 2014

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