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: Farmer's Market

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.

From the Plastic Purses of Babes: A Diehard Locavore Story

There was a lovely story recently shared on facebook by one of our regular farmer's market customers.  She's the mother of an adorable young girl—a little lady who never arrives at market without the proper shoulderbag and matching sunglasses— and she always makes a point to give her daughter some money at the start of their shopping, allowing her to pick their purchases and handle all transactions.

Not only is the cute quotient completely overwhelming, I'm always struck by what seems to me a fine way of teaching money management, confidence and an underlying appreciation for local food.

 "...Friends, just wanted to let you know how special this little market has become to us!  When we arrived home, several neighbors saw my daughter. They said, “ Oh, you must have just got home from  the grocery! She then replied, "No silly, vegetables come from the farmers, not the grocery store. They grow them." Then my sweet 2.5yr old said, "Bye, bye friends" and walked away to take her market purchases inside. I was beaming with pride! Thanks Galveston's Own Farmers Market! Score!"

I'm always tickled when our little customer with the plastic pink purse shows up. After that story, it'll be a struggle to resist hugging her tearfully and offering to go halfsies on her college education everytime she prances into market asking for kale.

When a preschooler skips over to your table and points at the pyramid of bok choy asking for one of the 'big, white things' and proudly hands over a fist of money, you can't help but marvel at the encouraging darlingness of it all. Little girls lugging asian vegetables exactly their same size like some alternate crunchy version of "My Size Barbie" is enough to make anyone beam with pride.

 I'm sure Mattel's got the focus groups lined up already.

 

Growing food as a lifestyle is hard work. Growing food as a means to support oneself is far from the easiest way to go about it. We run into hardships and obstacles, foreseen and unforeseen, every single day.

The wonder of watching life emerge and transform in real time is one big fat reason why we're trying our darndest to make this adventure work.

Another is freedom—the kind that comes from knowing what went into the growing of our fruits and vegetables, and freedom from guilt because we do our best to do no harm to our environment and its future.

Those two year olds with 3 foot bok choys are another reason.

Truly horrible fashion. Hat cut into visor, the strawberry rhubarb color palette and those terminator sunglasses...

Truly horrible fashion. Hat cut into visor, the strawberry rhubarb color palette and those terminator sunglasses...

Or rather, the sharing of food which helps in making others healthy and happy. We can do very little to improve other people's lives. It's presumptuous to think we would even be suitable for that job—I mean, I've seen how bad our farmfashion is—but we can provide a memory of what good, honest food is. And hopefully reinforce the value of putting community, quality and accountability before fast, cheap and anonymous.

 

All we have to do now is keep it up until our produce toddles away in the arms of two year olds of all backgrounds and all classes. Thanks, Plastic Purse.

Now, if we can just convince her to bring a bok choy to show and tell...

 

Confessions of a Cold Texan (Don't Bother If You're Not)

I'll admit it. I was cold.

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Hands were throbbing, my feet felt misplaced (or lost, perhaps missing), and the whining (in both inner monologue and external moaning forms) was in full force.

No, we hadn't shoveled incessantly-falling snow like our fellow Michiganders, Mainers, North Dakotans or Iowans. We didn't need to eschew such lethal activities like, say, getting the mail.  

However, submerging arms to elbows in cold water, in freezing temperatures, isn't a fun activity.

We've watched our unlucky Northern brethren shoulder outrageous wintry burdens while we cancel school at 30 degrees. When we lived in New York, even a most brutal snowstorm--which at the time was one of the worst the city had seen in years-- felt like a glowy adventure. I doubt this weather has felt like an adventure to anybody north of (or even near) the Mason-Dixon for weeks now.

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I don't intend to make light of the curious weather this winter, although we are so laughably unconditioned to handle the idea of multiple nights of freezing air. Nobody knows what to do with icicles here. Never having experienced sub-zero climates, let alone the fearful temperatures of -50 degrees, each news report leaves me more and more bewildered.

Bewildered, and abashed by the enormity of my weenie-ness.

It was with this dim, slightly-guilty self-awareness that we set out to harvest last Saturday morning.

We arrived at 7 am.

After waiting 3 hours for the lettuce to thaw, we began cutting.  

Then I began to wash the vegetables. More specifically, I began to dunk my hands in basins of well-water, over and over again, and it was there, around the 3-second mark after that first dunk, that I began my sad, pathetic song of woe.

I'll admit it. I was cold.

Each of these 3 sinks were filled to bursting with cut salad lettuce, three times over. Imagine many dunkings.

I had no business complaining, and I still don't. We have beautiful salad mix, just aching to be harvested and sold to cheerful, rose-cheeked customers. (The rose tinge  we see here remains appealing and reminiscent of Rockwell greeting cards, not as a first sign of impending frostbite.)

And customers do show up for our lettuce. This is very good.

See how well the lettuce plays with the other market goodies?

And the cold is good for controlling pests. This is also good.

A scrappy cucumber beetle managed to evade a wintry death, only to show up in our sink of lettuce. That's a great thing about our sink-washing system; the bugs always float to the top, offering themselves up for easy removal.

And the serial dunking reminds me of how important and unappreciated proper circulation is, as well as how greatly I love my hands, especially when I can feel them. Good.

And we have heating in our home, where we are fortunate to have, and to which we gleefully retreat after all dunking is said and done. This is, you can deduce, incredibly good.

Tumbleweeds and curly kale locked in frozen embrace.

 

While reviewing photos from last Saturday, I realized that with each click to a new image my shoulders hunched, my toes curled and I'd somehow subconsciously draped myself with yet another blanket.

In other words, it was cold, and I wasn't over it yet.

So, instead of my intended story outlining how our salad mix gets from our ground to our customers, it felt only right to join the scads of Texans completely wigging out about the cold.

But you get the gist, yeah?

Lettuce grows from seed, we cut the lettuce, they get dunked in our stainless steel sinks, dry on a wire table, we bag it and bring it to market. And Casey curses a lot, about being cold.

Carolina geranium is one of our most prolific weeds at the farm. When we bag the lettuce, I scout out any errant pieces hiding midst the salad. 

It will feel a distant memory from the boxing ring that is July, but this weather right now feels very, very real. It's presence means many things, both grand and small: climate change and better-tasting brussels sprouts, city-wide propane shortages and cider by the fireplace.

But for me, for now, it means I've got some serious psyching-up to do before this Saturday's dunkfest.


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.

To Galvestonia!

This past weekend reaffirmed my faith. My faith in the market.

And no, I'm not talking about Jesus or the dudes in dorky jackets shouting on Wall Street--although who am I to deny them thanks for  the fantastic weekend we had? 

What I'm really talking about is GALVESTON.

Glorious, shrimp and sand-filled Galveston. Leathery with suntan, crawling with lost-looking cruiseshippers, and peppered with the neon pinks and yellows of Islander art Galveston.

I'd say these are bright enough to qualify as Island Art.

This past Sunday was our first appearance at the Galveston's Own Farmer's Market, and it was an unmitigated success. Truly, it was better than we could have hoped for, as everything we brought was snatched up by happy customers.

McFarmer, proud of our colorful display. He teased me about the party cups o' kumquats. 

McFarmer, proud of our colorful display. He teased me about the party cups o' kumquats. 

We showed up to market confident that we would have beautiful produce but unsure whether enough people would show, and whether or not they would buy.  The farmer's market, just as with the larger Capital "M" Market, is a fickle creature.  Weather, queuing at the nearby coffeeshop and sneezing are huge factors in the viability of a market. 

Oh, and the quantity and quality of vendors, the visibility and advertising, and a receptive, enthusiastic audience are all pretty clutch as well.

Lucky for us, Galveston's Own Farmer's Market is a champion in all these categories. And believe me, finding champions such as that is harder than you might think.  

Locally-minded shopping, let alone "organic" shopping, has become more and more prevalent in recent years. Yet, for various reasons like the ones I've already listed and other, more cloudy political variables, it can be hard for growers nationwide to find their place where they can make a iiving through their plants, animals and so forth.

Enter the local heroes like those found at GOFM,

and can we please just raise the roof for them,

if only in the rafters of our brains?

And I want to emphasize this celebration if you happen to be one of these glorious superheroes--Raise Your Roof.

Vince of 3rd Coast Kombucha, keeping the market's immune system JAMMIN!

Vince of 3rd Coast Kombucha, keeping the market's immune system JAMMIN!

Alex and I couldn't believe our good fortune when, after an hour, we were gazing fondly at a few shiny bunches of radishes that were the only little amigos left at our table.  This is stupendous. For us, absolutely---but for a bigger vision that includes people eating well and giving a shit (giving LOTS of shits!) about their neighbors, their communities and how our little towns and cities eventually add up to the whole wide world.

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Thank you to everyone who might've purchased our produce this past Sunday. Thank you to all the considerate humans who were nice to us on Sunday. Thank you to all the growers growing, and ranchers ranching, and entrepeunerers entrepreunering. And thanks to anyone who made it through this gushy loveletter of a post.

We're happy to be here, and we're happy to be a part of something so very good with you..  

And we're so happy it allows us to play in the mud.*

* And speaking of mud, I want to extend Moon Dog Farm's good thoughts to all our neighbors, growers and non-growers alike, who incurred damage from the tremendous hailstorm this week. Please let us know how we might help if you need it. Gotta put that "it's all about community" money where our mouth is....

Jiggety Jog.

Well, the damn glove had been thrown.  One of the biggest short-term goals for our fledgling farm was to get to a farmer's market.  It can be a daunting task for a wee farm in its infancy, and Texas is a bit of a different world from the market-rich environs we've been maneuvering through these past few years.  

We wouldn't have much to take,  we wouldn't take home zillions, but it would be a start.  A good start.  

And this weekend, we did it! We were one of a handful of lovely vendors at Urban Harvest's Highland Village Market in Houston!

McFarmer, proud of our citrus spread.

The modern gauntlet for today's farmer is manifest in the farmer's market--the place, the mindset, the fashion pool, the "happening."   It takes more than great-looking produce and smiling "Hey y'alls!" to make you a millionaire* at the farmer's market.  That pairing goes a long way, but the farmer's market has and is evolving into a living, tweeting entity where lycra-clad yogabutts and Williams Sonoma-enthused dads shuffle around, squeezing, smelling and (ideally) shelling out money for fresh goods.  

*You will never become a millionaire at the farmer's market. Unless you sell boob pillows, whiskey toothpaste or some other good idea like that.

 

The history behind farmer's markets weaves through human civilization as far back as ol' Antiochus hawking honey and olive oil outside the Forum, but the market as we know it today began to take its shape more in the 20th century, with the advent of the motorcar.  Trucks were friends to farmers and lent themselves for not only transporting goods to one central, consumer-filled place in town, but had a bed which was the perfect place to display shiny peppers and carrots.  

 

 

Of course, the style of eating and producing food changed dramatically in that same century (not a total coincidence that our beloved truck has something in common with Cheez Whiz) and so farmer's markets didn't claim the spot in our collective national heart in quite the same way as, oh, Taco Bell.  

But trends are swerving (and have been for years now), people care more and more about what happened to the wad they just put in their mouth, and it's increasingly obvious (again, has been for a long time) that big things have to occur to reverse some chaos in our world.  Little things that add up to big things are usually a good recipe for change. And guess what? There's almost nothing cuter and meaningful than the little trip to a farmer's market.  

Farmer's Markets support my cowboy hat-buying habit!

And let me tell you, it means a LOT to us.

We want our farm to be a part of something bigger.

The vision is to be part of people's tummies and cocktail conversations but also be the reason that folks from different homes, different ethos and different colors meet up and learn about how mint is really good for their digestion.

 Or how it feels to be bone tired after working in dirt and feel happy. Or how kale chips just make a lot of sense, they really do.   

Lordy lou, we're naive. But we're young, and I happen to think that we can make this happen. 

All it takes is a visit to our table at the Highland Village Market off Westheimer, behind the Starbucks.

Buy 5 white grapefruits this Sunday and I swear, by breakfast Monday we'll have saved the world.

Oro Blancos are juicy, seedy and eye-popping!

Thank you, lycra and non-lycra clad heinies everywhere.

Zach says "yes" to grapefruit-laced cocktails and ice cream.

But what kind of future millionaire farmer would I be if I didn't thank all the folks who helped us reach the highest heights?

 We have some good, good eggs in our lives, and I cannot say enough how much it meant to have friends and family visit us at our first market, talk about it on the internet, and send their good vibes our way. 

Alex's beautiful Granny!

Momma Suzanne is the best thing going. If you can find one of your own, I highly recommend. Ahh-mazing.

Dessert as sweet as Emily.