Moon Dog Farms

Certified Naturally Grown family farm growing fruits, vegetables & flowers in the Texas Gulf Coast

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

Filtering by Category: Fall

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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Everything but the kitchen sink (which is full of dirty radishes).

To recount the bustle of the last few weeks would be an exhausting and confusing tale, requiring far too many words.

“Did we find a home for Skeletor and Ruby before or after we made that pile of rotting cauliflower stems? And when did I show those kids that grubs won't bite you, but they will poop in your hand?”

 

The “to-do's” undone and “done-that's” crossed off the list have been, in one way or another: frenetic, disappointing, mirthful,  grateful and  forehead-slapping, hand-clapping, hand-wringing and brain-squeezing.

So, in order to avoid using any more adjectives than a normal person should employ in polite company, I choose to stick to the good ol' adage of a picture being worth a thousand words.

 

With that in mind, here's about 3 million of 'em.

My adventures in the school garden at Early Childhood University on Galveston Island got grungier and even more fun when I took them transplants of veggies and flowers. Every kid got a chance to steward their "own" plant, and we talked about food, using "gentle" hands and how much fun it is to get dirty.

Oh, and a grub did poop in my hand. 

The grandmaster behind all this garden magic is Jessica Antonelli, resident art teacher and fun guru. These kids are sooo lucky.

The grandmaster behind all this garden magic is Jessica Antonelli, resident art teacher and fun guru. These kids are sooo lucky.

We were amping ourselves up for BOTANY!!!!

We were amping ourselves up for BOTANY!!!!

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And then there were the rains.

So, so much rain. It postponed and cancelled nearly all of our planting plans for a week. But nature does what nature wants, and we're just her fanclub.

www.moondogfarms.com
www.moondogfarms.com

The snapdragons at last began to bud and finally--FINALLY--the nigella began to bloom. 

This might not sound like a whoop-de-doo, but DAMN! we've been waiting for these beauties to flower for what felt like an eternity. 

The green beans continue to pop and stretch their limbs. Hooray!

This sweet fella was affectionately dubbed Skeletor, and his lovely girlfriend was Ruby. McFarmer begs me not to name them, but I continue to happily ignore him. We were so glad they found a happy home. 

We had our very own brush with matchmaking.

Tragic as it was to drive up to the farm one morning and find two lost and dreadfully malnourished pups, it was tremendous to find them homes by sunset of the same day.  All thanks to the curious, wonderful world of facebook

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Large machine work ensued.

McFarmer dug another trench for irrigation (this time to the herb garden) and took pains to properly care for his equipment (he was ever-so-thankful to forgo the manual digging this go-round).

www.moondogfarms.com
www.moondogfarms.com

We began our final harvests of the Fall field, saying "ciao" to broccolis, brussels sprouts, cabbages and more. 

A rainy farmer's market last Sunday was the official farewell to our colder-weather crops until next Fall. 

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More and more restaurant deliveries kept us busy and thankful. Hooray for Brennan's and Gaidos!

We marveled at the crazy beauty that is life. And lettuce.

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Flower arrangements were made for our good friends (and farmer's market manager), Cate and Brian.

 

We contemplated going very earthy for the bride's bouquet...

 

 

....but ended up a bit more traditional.

Of course, how can you go wrong with a few Texas wildflowers thrown in?

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Family came for a visit, and they were put right to work. ( Turns out, fathers have a penchant for expertly washing market produce. Who knew?) 

 

Oh, and we marveled some more at some more beauty of life. 

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And yes, more family came, and we put them to even MORE work. 

My sister Julia and brother-in-law Jerry never cease to impress us with their willingness and effectiveness when it comes to tackling any job we throw at them. 

This time, it was removing the stumps of the older brassicas from the field before tilling.

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Here's the thrilling action shot of spent vegetables finding their place in a large compost pile. Can you read the determination on their faces?

Here's the thrilling action shot of spent vegetables finding their place in a large compost pile. Can you read the determination on their faces?

Of course, some family members took a more laid-back approach to the farmwork. Luckily, they make up for a lack of thumbs with an excess of sweetness.

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The strawberry study has begun to yield small green fruits! Here's hoping we get to their little gems before others do when the time comes...

And then, the big daddy of all tasks this week: transplanting.

Family helped transform the Fall field into our Summer One field, requiring the installation of tomato/cucumber trellises, black fabric as an experiment in combating weeds, and loads and loads of T-posts. Sore shoulders were felt all around.  

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Three varieties of tomatoes were moved from our greenhouse to the ground this week: Sakura, Goldies and Black Cherries. All are cherry tomatoes, for they're our favorite and no one can tell us not to.

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Mass transplantings always give us ample time to bemoan the state of our gumbo clay soil here in the Gulf.  I mean, look at that stuff.  All we need is a kiln and a different business model.

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We scheduled another dirt delivery this week as part of our "Fix the Bowl In The Middle Of the Field" mission. Where once the lettuce of Fall was growing, we will now spread the topsoil and set it in cover crop until this year's Fall. 

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Can you smell that basil?

Setting those little babes in the ground is a truly reaffirming act.  They're so delicate and tender at this age, but you know that in only a matter of days they grow strong, grateful for the chance to root deep. They give and give, stretching our harvest for months and becoming a staple in both our diet and our incomes until late summer.

And of course, we do a little more marveling.

After all, we're lucky to stare natural beauty in the face everyday--it's the least we can do to go on and on about it. :)

Happy Impressigiving!

I love being impressed.  A mix of surprise and admiration, relish and appreciation...it's a juicy affirmation of how intrepid, how special humans (or wrens or badgers--I never said I only like being impressed by people) can be. I love being impressed by someone I already know and love even more. 

And boy, am I impressed.

My co-farmer Alex has nearly single-handedly completed our orchard addition for 2013.  We made a pledge at the beginning of the year--when the weather was very similar to today, cold and rainy--that before the year was out we would add new plantings to our sleepy orchard.  

McFarmer has to get the vibe of the tree before the pruning begins...

We've got a plan for revitalizing this beautiful swatch of trees and brambles; introducing something new and fast-producing with tasty rewards was one of the first goals to be met.  Not only has Alex been systematically cleaning out the orchard (i.e. removing by chainsaw hundreds of tallow trees and other brush that have fortified themselves mightily over the past 10 years) but as of today, he's finished all the gruntwork required to call our 2013 muscadine and blackberry planting "DONE."  

(I wanted to include photos of these newly-planted delights, but they were transplanted in cold gray rain, it's been cold gray rain since, and anyhow---they're a bunch of little sticks at this point. When the weather clears up I'll send out a first-class shot of our growing orchard addition.)

Let me clarify gruntwork, and let me convey to anyone out there reading this how....well, impressive the work is that Alex undertook all by himself.

I truly did next to nothing here.

 

One stretch of orchard that is to be future spot of new addition. Every tree you see needed to be cut out. The first, second and third stages of mowing/weedeating had already been done at this point.

Lots to be done before planting could commence...

And POOF! It's ready to go.

And POOF! It's ready to go.

You can't see it, but SO much chainsawing, measuring, mowing and sweating went into getting to just this line of mulch.

You can't see it, but SO much chainsawing, measuring, mowing and sweating went into getting to just this line of mulch.

Post hole dug, filled with rocks and metal trellis post ready to be secured with cement!

Beautiful, huh? Just imagine it with heaps of blackberries and grapevines next summer!

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Poor McFarmer. He was allowed sufficient time to mourn the digging out of 2 brand-new trellis posts that we didn't realize till AFTER their installation wouldn't cut the mustard. You live, you learn, right?

1. Post-hole digging...it's something that is truly beyond my physical capabilities. I look like a stork mixing a milkshake with its feet. Plus, they're clubfeet. Alex on the other hand, churns these holes out like it's his day job. Never mind that it's his day job.

He dug SO MANY HOLES.

2.Rock-hauling...if you followed the saga of digging rocks out of the dirt for our underground irrigation project, you know where we've been mining rocks for this job. Many buckets of these were toted out to the orchard to help secure the trellis posts.

3. Stringing the wire...it's exactly how it sounds, except more difficult than you thought it would be. There was cursing.

4. Mulching....this one I did help with, but let's just go ahead and declare Al the winner of the game, "Who-Can-Pitchfork-Mulch-Into-The-Bed-Of-The-Truck-The-Fastest-And-Then-Unload-It-Again-Twice-As-Fast-And-Then-Do-It-Again." His pitchfork skills far exceed mine. I specialized more in insisting that the fabric mulch layer be centered exactly on the row beds, scrutinizing with my keen artistic eye. At least, that's what I told Alex.

5. Everything Else... like I said, this McFarmer was out in the orchard as often as possible cleaning, clearing, cementing and perfecting this newest project of ours. He made it so I could worry myself over everything else (which I was gonna do anyway) and I didn't have to worry one snit about this. I am thankful for that. 

And impressed. Since it's Thanksgiving, I suppose I should put more emphasis on the thankful end, but truly--I'm really, really impressed. Initiative, fearlessness and drive-- those are 3 characteristics I greatly admire in a human, and thankfully, the person I run a farm with has got 'em in spades. 

 

We'll have you out next year to taste the grapes and berries.

I bet they'll taste impressive.

 

Chill out. Wear a sweater.

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Each harvest day, I deep-clean the sinks at our washstand.  I soap and soak 'em up real nice so the fresh-cut lettuce and other goodies get rinsed in a basin free of dirt and other assorted farm crumbs.

It was during this very chore last weekend that I was called upon to perform an emergency rescue mission.

The drainage bucket under the sinks was brimming with soapy runoff, forging a iridescent mountain of bubbles.  Some poor something was frantic underneath, its skinny dark figure wriggling and flailing in attempt to breach the dome of suds.  I could only vaguely make out its slender shape in the foam, and I hoped I wasn't about to find myself with a very clean young cottonmouth. 

Brushing aside some fluff, I found this little fella, looking weary and incredibly nervous...

 

Mr. Anole squeaky clean ( and undoubtedly a bit frazzled).

Mr. Anole squeaky clean ( and undoubtedly a bit frazzled).

I placed him on the sink's edge and there he stayed, drying out and catching his breath.  He hung out for nearly 2 hours while I washed lettuce. He was good company.   

Now, that's an Autumn Moon Dog night.

Now, that's an Autumn Moon Dog night.

And I must say, although we didn't experience a miraculous rescue from suffocation in a giant tub of suds, Alex and I are enjoying a similar feeling of catching our breath lately.  

Before summer was here, we had thought (naively) it would be a slow time for us, due simply to the facts that heat would prevent us from working too hard in the middle of the day and we'd have less crops thriving in the high sun.  

We were half-right, but we forgot about how long a summer day is.  And how all the creatures under that sun are working twice as hard to survive.  

More often than not we worked past 9pm trying to catch up with tasks impossible to accomplish during the day for fear of brain-boiling.  I've recounted our dramas with summer pests on this blog several times, and those experiences were indeed part and parcel of a hectic season that was anything but low-key.

 

Thus, Autumn makes a very welcome entrance.  She walks through the door the coolest kid at the party, slinking in at the perfect hour, to the most perfect song, with the best outfit and she's gonna teach us all how to play Spin the Bottle. Plus, she brought locally-sourced booze--but she also brought all-natural soda, because she's not into pressuring anybody. 

Kale and radishes make such great pals.

Kale and radishes make such great pals.

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The weather is cooler, the weeds grow slower, the days are shorter.  Of course, there are still bugs to contend with and more-than-plenty to do at all hours, but we've got salad.  A tangible shift has swept through the farm that whispers,


"Chill out. Have dinner at a reasonable hour. Wear a sweater."

 

So we're giving that a try.

But this is Texas, and by noon it's too hot for that sweater, even in Autumn--which is all the more reason to appreciate those brief, sweet moments of calm when we can. 

 

The buckwheat makes fast work as a fall covercrop on our old summer fields.

The buckwheat makes fast work as a fall covercrop on our old summer fields.

mmmm...salad and sunflower shoots.

mmmm...salad and sunflower shoots.

And he does it ' cause he loves salads so much. (Michael, our unofficial mascot for the Galveston's Own Farmer's Market)

And he does it 'cause he loves salads so much. (Michael, our unofficial mascot for the Galveston's Own Farmer's Market)

Ah, entering a season with slow-growing weeds...

Ah, entering a season with slow-growing weeds...