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.  

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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. 

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.

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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).

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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. :)

Berry good and tired.

Today I arrive at the computer sore and chilly, so we're all in for a treat as I aim for today's post to remain simple. And luckily, it'll also be sweet—or at the very least, it holds a promise of sweet.

For today, we talk strawberries.  

Specifically, we talk planting of bare-root strawberries. We also talk potatoes. We talk...lots of squatting. And biceps put to work. Some arms were lashed to a hoe for so long that certain McFarmers had no choice but to take a nap. Egads.

Aunt Susan plants out our Eclair varietal of strawberries. We're pretty sure they're cream-filled.

(The cold, wet weather lent us a great excuse for retreating once all our lettuce and cauliflower had been covered and potatoes put to sleep. You could see the bedlust in Alex's eyes long before the rain came—he really had worked hard building 400 ft of potato trenches--and once the drops fell, it took unusually little convincing to get that hard-working farmer back home. )

Strawberries are a beautiful thing. If you've never had them out of your own garden, pot or neighbor's yard, I say stop whatever you're doing and run. Run into the forest and search out the taste of a wild, fresh berry.

They are soft, vibrant rubies that make you believe in everything juicy and romantic.

But do this running-to-the-forest thing in, like, May or June. Don't go now, or you'll be sad and lonely for a long-time, and you'll probably run into some trespassing charges if you do it around these parts.

All I truly know is that when a friend of ours who is an ag-extension agent asked back in October if we'd like to be part of a strawberry-growing study, we said sure without hesitation. We put in our order for 200 free and lovely and free plants, and sat back for a delivery in December.

December came. December went.

We had limited communication with our buddy, and we knew that the university where he works kept him busy, so we thought,

“Eh, no big deal. Maybe next time. But we're so excited about these berries now, why don't we just order some ourselves?”

So we did. 200 strawberries to be planted into two 100 foot beds.

And then our friend came to the farm. Our friend came to the farm with 600 strawberry plants.

You can see the yellow flags demarcating the different varieties of strawberries. Six in all, we're excited to see what happens!

You can see the yellow flags demarcating the different varieties of strawberries. Six in all, we're excited to see what happens!

Hooray for aunts and uncles! Hooray for garden scooters!

Hooray for aunts and uncles! Hooray for garden scooters!

Thus began a massive berry-planting bonanza, hastened massively with help from Alex's aunt and uncle, Susan and Gaddis. (They often thanklessly save the day around these parts—they're like mystery superheroes that just want to be paid in cabbage.)

And so it was that in barely over a day we all four planted 800 berry plants on plots designed for 200. Our agent pal said it wouldn't hurt 'em to be squeezed in, so squeeze we did.

We've never grown strawberries commercially before, so it should be an adventure, chock-full of trial and error. Probably lots of error.

But if we succeed, I wonder if there'll be anyone, anywhere, willing to help us harvest those sweet, soft rubies?

Just don't take my earlier advice too seriously and camp out like a wildling in our woods, twitching to get at those ripe berries. The chance at your first fresh strawberry might lose luster when partnered with bunking night after night with all those coyotes.

The Red La Sodas wait patiently for their blankies...

The Red La Sodas wait patiently for their blankies...

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That would be a good place to end, I know. But I really have to return to something; my dear one, my muscle, my machine-like McFarmer.  

It just wouldn't do our customers, friends and family justice if they didn't know--photographically, at least--of the manic, awe-inspiring work Alex did to make our potato trenches.

Around here, folks call our soil "gumbo clay." This isn't the catalog-quality, chocolate-cakey soil you see smirking back from tractor commercials or seed magazines. It is hard. It is sticky. 

It is very difficult to dig a trench in. 

But he did it, and we got our potatoes in on-time (well, nearly on time) for our Spring planting. They were also finished just in-time for us to only spend half an hour in freezing rain before high-tailing it home.

 

And boy, they were some good-looking trenches.

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So when we bring bushels of creamy new potatoes to market in a few months, I want everyone to know now: a very sweaty and noodle-armed McFarmer is a part of every one of those spuds. 

You're allowed to forget that when it's time to eat. :)


Our Lady of the Flowers.

When I was growing up,  my mother planted flowers.

 There were hills of sweet alyssum, larkspur of all colors, 

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towering sunflowers,sticky nicotianas, lantana bouquets,

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and my favorite, the gomphrenas.

I insisted on calling those little globe amaranths "strawberries," and I'm positive that I never helped my mom plant or care for a single one of any of those dear plants.  My memories are of us spending a lot of time outdoors, Mom sweaty with trowel in hand and me dancing gaily around her.

 I was too busy poking things with sticks and singing in my pajamas.

www.moondogfarms.com
www.moondogfarms.com

But oh, how I enjoyed those flowers.  She knew I did. We all did. They, along with the myriad other plants that filled our backyard gave a magical quality to my play, my understanding of the world--my entire childhood. Watching my mother catalog the timing of her okra and keep that somehow endlessly perennial mountain of parsley lush made an indelible impression on me. 

It's not been lost on me that I found my way to farming only after a growing-up that included chickens, corn and canned goods in the closet, all in the suburbs.

Yet, I have to make my way back to those flowers. Mom, you really spoiled me there. I took for granted that playing fairy was easy with so many available daisy crowns, and that anywhere you looked you could find some beautiful living thing staring back at you, often with another beautiful living thing sharing it with you. Butterflies filled my world.

And so it is, with Mother's Day upon us and oh-so-many flowers bought and sold and chilled and shipped and doorstepped that I think of my mother as we reap our first harvest of flowers here at the farm.

 We didn't time it this way---although it is brilliant that we'll have our first bunched ladies available on this most floral of days. The sunflowers, marigolds, celosia and zinnias just decided this was the time to pop.  Nearly anytime I see groups of flowers I think of my mother, and this morning was certainly no exception.  

I happen to think arugula flowers are pretty. Usually I'm alone on that one.

I happen to think arugula flowers are pretty. Usually I'm alone on that one.

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Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers, no matter if they give two hoots about flowers. You're our mothers---you're part of us.

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And to my mom, know that the flowers will always be ours.

Yes, mom, I do have on sunscreen.

Yes, mom, I do have on sunscreen.