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: Community Love

Kids, meet the chickens. Weeds, meets the kids.

It's July. It's sweltering. It's  weedy. It's time for vanloads of teenagers to visit the farm and do their best to make our sweaty hardscrabble patch of coastal prairie look dreamy and abundant.  And boy, they just keep doing it every time. 

(C) Alex Thompson 2015

This is now the 3rd summer to have a visit from Robert Mihovil and his photography campers from Texas A &M SeaCamp, and as with the past two summers I'm grateful for our unique relationship. We have a ritual that we perform right before they come; Alex and I scan the farm, taking in the scant shade, the weedy eggplants, the disarray of the washstand (which results in a more naggy kind of knowing glance from me to the McFarmer, poor fella) and the numerous tasks which are yet to be done and think,

"Jeez. What were we thinking?"  


This year, that feeling was compounded from the aftermath of the 8 Month Rains. There's so many things that we're so far behind on that they've gone from "To do" to "Never mind."

But then the kids come, and they take beautiful photos, and we have the chance to talk about why we love farming, our farm and this hard, crazy path.  It all makes sense again, for a lovely half hour.

Plus this year, we got to see kids go gaga over chickens. 

I hope you enjoy these photos as much as Alex and I do, and if you were one of the talented individuals who visited our farm over the last 2 weeks, we thank you. I want you to know Alex and I are grateful to you for putting up with our dad jokes, being troopers about the blazing heat, and for leaving us with lasting gifts that show the singular beauty of nature and hard work. 

(C) Madison Peerenboom 2015

(c) Destiny Cosman 2015

(C) Macey Tannos 2015

Photo credits above, left to right:  Kirsten Covington, Brenna Hale, Sarah Paige Stanfield, Kirsten Covington,  Sarah Paige Stanfield, Brenna Hale

(c) Madeline Ryan 2015

(c) Joei Bailey 2015

(C) Mayra Yundt- Pacheco 2015

(c) Ben Sanderson 2015

Photo Credits above, left to right: James Ray, Anna Murphy, Mason Henicke,  Kaitlyn O'Leary, Sarah Rogers, Chuck Bowlin

Huge thanks to Robert Mihovil, Texas A&M SeaCamp and all the campers who trekked out to our farm over the past 2 weeks. It was our pleasure to have you, we thank you for these images, and we wish you the best in your adventures to come, wherever they take you! 

 

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...

 

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

www.moondogfarms.com

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. 

www.moondogfarms.com

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.

www.moondogfarms.com

 

 

 

 

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?

www.moondogfarms.com
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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. 

www.moondogfarms.com

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.

www.moondogfarms.com
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.

www.moondogfarms.com

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.

www.moondogfarms.com

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. 

www.moondogfarms.com

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. :)

Texting With The Coastal Classic

Walls of white fog are certainly full of ambiance. And yet, while quite reminiscent of Wuthering Heights and other wind-torn romances, they can put a real cramp in your farming style.

While crouched over the steering wheel like a myopic old granny, we drove from the farm to the farmer's market last Sunday in what amounted to the pea-soupiest of foggy mornings. We had hoped then that the moisture would abate by the start of the week. It didn't.


I never liked Wuthering Heights anyway.


So it is that I find myself in front of the computer, juggling emails, taxes and website revisions with close to zero news to report about the actual farm. You know, that plot of dirt with plants stuck in it.

Truth is, we haven't been able to get out and play in the dirt and plants most of this week...rain and more rain has left a sticky, goopy mess, forcing us to find tasks more suited to the weather. What blather was I left to share?

Then, from the ether, came our one saving grace. In the form of a text message.

(You knew that 21st Century miracles come with a electronic chime and can be scrolled with the thumb, right?)

The new chef for the Pelican Club at Gaido's restaurant in Galveston, Ross Warhol, sent me a little thank-you note for the produce we'd sold him a few days prior. Baby carrots, kale, meyer lemons and flowered bok choy had all been transformed into various epicurean wonders.

Baby carrots harvested early in the morning to be served for dinner as a Pelican Club special preview later that night.

Baby carrots harvested early in the morning to be served for dinner as a Pelican Club special preview later that night.

Ross is new to the island, brought down from the hinterlands of New York to jazz up the historic Pelican Club with his sizable skills and devotion to farm-fresh ingredients. He contacted us several weeks ago, looking to start a working friendship between He Who Cooks and They Who Grow.  

Obviously, we were delighted.

Gaido's is a revered institution on the island, run by folks who clearly support their community— not to mention they serve a mean redfish. (And a fresh one at that.)

As small organic farmers in the very same community, we seek to work alongside any who share our reverence for good food, served well and served responsibly. Their added shot of class is just a bonus for us. :)

And the sentiment that sent me over the edge? In describing a beet salad he made using our bok choy and carrots, Chef Warhol declared,

“ ...I love that I was able to keep the tap roots on while cleaning/ cooking them, it's like they are waving at you and saying, 'Hello, look at me!' "

www.moondogfarms.com

 

Could you expect me NOT to fall in love with the guy who makes that spectacular food and then talks about its spectacularity like that?”

I'm in favor of anyone who loves to play with good food as much as we do. So “Huzzah!” to Chef Ross Warhol, “Hear Hear!” to the entire team at Gaido's, and “Yay!” to all the individuals (that means you, dear reader) who support the whole endeavor, whether you hanker for bok choy flowers or not.

So go on and hustle over to Gaido's for the Pelican Club weekend specials. The Club re-opens officially April 16th, but I hear the food is already pretty tasty. Must be that chef who talks to his carrots.  

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.

www.moondogfarms.com

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....