2016

December

Happy December from Four Root Farm. First, a few orders of business: we have finally joined the 21st century and figured out how to sell our 2017 calendars, notecards, and postcards on our website in time for holiday gift buying! Stay tuned for tote bags, t-shirts, hot pepper posters, and more.

We will be at the Edgewood market on Sunday mornings through December, so come visit if you want to take home pea shoots, carrots, radishes, leeks, raddichio, kale, garlic, hot peppers, or Elise's beautiful wreaths.

With half of our collective FRF heart we are hunkering down for winter, but with the other half we are already looking ahead towards the bright and sunny warmth of spring 2017. So let us know if you want to be on the email list for information about our 2017 market share program and our updated market schedule for next season.

Because we have thought of little else in the past few months, it wouldn't be an honest update on farm activities if we didn't address the recent election. If we spent all summer distracted and agitated by the news, and if we've spent the last few weeks fully despondent in the face of the political horror show unfolding before us, we're now collectively working on finding a vigilant and active holding pattern - one that is sustainable for the foreseeable future. It's amazing how complicated it is to learn how to use terrible anger and outrage without twisting your tender human heart into knots that can't be undone. We are studying history to learn how.

We are thankful for our daily work of growing food, and thankful for whatever power we can find as small business owners to effect change. We're working on balancing our anger and dread with our belief in something better. We're learning how to fight our government in new and urgent and creative ways. We are willfully not retreating into our quiet solitary farmer life. We're finding productive mechanisms of supporting people and organizations. We're showing up and doing the work of being in a community in which a lot of people don't agree with us. We're learning how to grow our own grassroots.

And with that, an itemized accounting of the entire season that has passed since our last blog post:

  • Ongoing construction of the farm's second house was slow and steady;
  • Being outside after 5:15 pm was possible;
  • We got the pick of beautiful storage crops in the basement, before the January realization that only the annoyingly small onions are left to be chopped and diced for cooking;
  • A midday temperature above 55 was common and welcome;
  • Bugs lived outdoors;
  • Beautiful skeletons of plants stood straight and shed crispy dead leaves in the cold wind;
  • Ellis scooted around on his little butt, determined to do a sideways pirate scoot forever in lieu of learning to crawl on all fours;
  • The 2017 seed catalogues started to arrive daily, eliciting a moan and getting stuck, unopened, in a pile in the office; and 
  • The reasonable feeling of being too warm in a sweater but too tired to take it off was common.

In our descending winter season we now have: 

  • Rachel and Elise settling into Rachel's recently completed house;
  • Going inside at 4:50 pm, when the sun quickly and unceremoniously sets behind bare trees;
  • Kale and collards and leeks picked in the cold mornings are roasted with garlic by evening;
  • The funky storage crops getting funkier by the day;
  • Colder and colder nights;
  • The last of the bugs, realizing our house is cozier than the frosty bushes outside, migrating indoors for winter; 
  • Digging dahlia tubers and planting bulbs and heaping the compost pile mountain-high with dead plants;
  • Ellis tottling and walking around in the wet composting leaves looking for something edible or something dangerous;
  • Taking a quick peek inside just one catalogue to see what new seed stock they have to offer for next year, and suddenly 25 minutes go by without knowing; and
  • The fire crackles day and night. We know we wont take our sweaters off until spring.

July Rolls Into August

Here's the honest truth, straight from my desk overlooking the overgrown gardens on July 26th: I've been avoiding this blog. There is a rhythm to our yearly farming life that is comforting and seasonal and heavenly, but also makes me feel discouraged, like I've said it all before. Yes, it's July, yes the tomatoes are starting to turn tantalizing shades of pale red and orange, yes the eggplants are sizing up, yes ten billion more zinnias open their cheerful faces to the sky everyday. We feel deep gratitude for every new crop, every new taste, and every new harvest. Ellis ate his first tomato yesterday and gave us the biggest smile of wonder and joy - the acidic juice dripping down his chin was exactly as delicious as I told him it would be, way back in the snowy winter of his infancy. We've discovered that an ear of corn is the worlds best teething toy, and that he loves a cool dip in the pond as much as any of us do on a hot day.

But, again more honest truth, we're also feeling pretty worn down and distracted by the news these days, and that's a big part of why I've been avoiding more regular updates about our seasonal bounty. It would be easy for us - safely nestled on our little isolated patch of land, in our little rural town, in our liberal little northern state - to lose touch with the terrifying, painful, unthinkable things happening in our country's political system and justice system right now. But we can't and won't and don't want to, so instead we find ourselves sitting around the dinner table reading the news late every evening, after long dusty sweaty days of harvest and field work, and asking each other - How can this be happening? Can he really do that? What happens next? What can we do? 

If the answers were to be found in the deep heart of a beautiful head of lettuce, or if the bees could tell us where to go and how to help, we'd be in good shape. But without fortune telling vegetables, all of this is just to say: I'm sorry the blog has been neglected this summer. I place one third of the blame on healthy summer chaos on the farm, one third on the adorable nine month old farmer that distracts us all with his happy singing, and one third on our attention being held hostage by the news. 

Here's some reporting from this month on the farm:

  • A parched and rainless June has silently slid into a parched and rainless July. August is, ahem, coming up, and the forecasts look unrelentingly sunny and dry and hot. Our irrigation system is getting a run for its money.
  • We've had regular visits from a drone that photographs our fields as part of a study about the use of different aerial imagery analytics for small farmers. Drones!
  • Rachel's house is almost done! The small team of builders has been up there every day all summer, and now that drywall is up, flooring is down, and tiles are ordered, the end is in sight.

As for what we're eating, most meals consist of a few handfuls of whatever was picked that day, maybe sauted with garlic and olive oil and miso, maybe drizzled with my go-to curry vinaigrette, maybe thrown on the grill, maybe eaten straight out of the bowl. But, for those who are more recipe-inclined, I've also added a few new favorites to the veggie pages, including Heidi Swanson's gribiche (hint: it's fancy potato salad!).  

May Showers

Master grafters, hard at work.

Spring has sprung in fits and starts here on the farm and, as during every change of season, it feels both like it snuck up on us and like it's been a long time coming. After some decidedly summery temperatures, the weather circled back on itself last week and we had a few cold nights and windy, rainy, chilly days. But the greens are getting greener by the day, and as the trees fill in, the ferns grow inches an hour, and the pond gets shadier and murkier, I think it's time to confidently declare the arrival of spring.  

Each year, early May brings on our annual vaguely hysterical mix of excitement and panic that marks the first long days planting seedlings in the fields, as we see the next six months stretching out before us in organized 100' rows. The first markets in Madison and Edgewood Park have come and gone, and it has been great to catch up with all of our regular customers - we hope that they are as happy to see us as we are to see them after a long dark winter. 

This spring has been different, however, because our glorious new greenhouse has finally come to life! Each spring in recent memory has been defined by rented greenhouse space that is much too small and much too far and much too hard to calibrate. But this year, thank god, that annual hussle is over for us. Over the winter we built a greenhouse on the farm, nestled between the pond and the fields - it's big enough, warm enough, has running water, and is powered in part by a geothermal system that stores warm air for cool nights. We do a grateful little dance every time we hear the heater automatically come on to keep our seedlings happy through another chilly evening.

Thanks to the warmth and coziness of our new greenhouse, we've been able to grow many, many more seedlings than we have in years past. So not only are we bringing lots of delicious varieties of plants to our markets, we're also hosting two on-farm plant sales to welcome our neighbors and friends to the farm and to stock their gardens with organic seedlings. The first plant sale was last weekend and it was a wonderful success - the second is this coming Sunday, May 15th, from 12 pm - 6 pm. Don't miss it!

And, finally, this wouldn't be a FRF blog post without a shout out to our favorite little six-month-old baby root. He has quite the appetite (ahem, understatement) and has been voraciously and enthusiastically enjoying our first harvests right alongside us. Among the many foods he has tried and loved, kale, pea shoots, potatoes, spinach, and over-wintered carrots rank high on his list of favorites. Disclaimer, though, in defense of all food on earth that we didn't grow here on the farm: he eats everything. Literally. 

The greenhouse, filling up and very organized.

Last weekend's plant sale. Join us this Sunday for another round of delicious pizza and plenty of seedlings for your garden!

The cutest and most wiggly sandbag on earth.