Week #4 Tuesday, July 28 – Friday, July 31, 2020

In Your Bag
Cabbage, Carrots, Garlic, Fresh White & Red Onions, Wax Beans, Cucumbers
Zucchini – green and/or yellow, Eggplant,  Lettuce (Red & Green), Cilantro, Basil
Tomatoes – Reds along with salad tomatoes: Sungolds, Bronze Torch and Green Tiger

Coming soon!
Red potatoes again next week.  We’ll have tomatoes too and maybe some Swiss Chard.  Our peppers lost blossoms and early fruit set in the heavy rains but we’re hoping for some soon!

Farm News  from Anna Kleven
Hi everyone! My name is Anna Kleven. I’m working at the farm two days a week this season. I’m going to share a couple of my memories of going to the farm as a kid, and some reflections on what it’s like to have grown up on the farm, and, as a young adult, return to work here.

As I arrive at the farm on Monday morning,  I recall how my brother Sam and I used to hop out of the car and make a beeline for Sunny (the farm dog’s) hut down the hill. Before we did anything else we would pick the ticks off his ears, wondering how he would survive without our biannual grooming. Now as I get out of my car I’m greeted by Wally, the Chow-Lab mix that has taken Sunny’s place. Wally is a different sort of dog. What he lacks in farm dog instincts he makes up for in prince-like charm. He is most likely to be found waiting to be let inside the house. I should say that last week he impressed us all by chasing a deer out of the field. (Though it was a bit performative. He was looking over his shoulder to make sure we were watching.)

As we head out to the fields, I remember negotiating with my parents for more play time. When they finally released us from fieldwork we would round up the other kids and climb to “The Pines,” a secret spot on the top of the hill behind that flanks the community building. There, we would dig holes in the cold sand and cover them with a thin layer of sticks and pine needles to trap and wound any adult that might follow us and try to return us to work. The path to the pines is overgrown now that the last Wright-Racette kid has left, and I am no longer evading farm work.

Once we finish harvesting, we load the bins of vegetables onto the back of a trailer, pulled by a four-wheeler. I climb onto the trailer with them. Erin waits for my signal that I’m ready to roll before pulling away. She tells me that ATV safety is a required class in the local high school. Facts like this remind me of how much I don’t know about rural life. In some of my communities it is common to be judgmental, insead of curious, about rural lives and livelihoods, and give credence to damaging myths about rural people. Conversations with the farmers are fascinating because they have lived on both sides of the urban/rural divide, and their stories topple my flimsy stereotypes about people out here. Mike is kind enough to recommend articles and podcasts by his favorite rural commentators. I’m learning a lot.

We break at noon. It’s lunchtime when the absence of members is most acutely felt. When members are here, potluck lunch is a precious moment of reciprocity. The farmers have been feeding us; at lunch we return the favor. The instinct to reciprocate is deep in all of us – I remember reading in Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book, Braiding Sweetgrass, that it’s common for babies to hold food to their parent’s mouths. Industrial food systems obscure, but do not weaken our reciprocal relationships with the people and the land that feed us. Being members at Spring Hill gives us the chance to be conscious and active in these relationships.

As I prepare to leave the following afternoon, I am struck again by how many seasons they’ve seen through on the farm. Every season, for 30 years, they have renewed their commitment to this project. In a time when our lives have been forcibly slowed, our options narrowed, and the division between work and home blurred or dissolved completely, I can’t help but think that we can all take a lesson from our farmers. I’ve gotten a tiny glimpse of the adaptability, patience, imagination, and long term thinking that it takes to sustain their commitment to this one place and this one community, through all kinds of adversity.

As I leave the farm and drive down 6th street, I remember begging my mom to speed up so I could get the fluttery feeling in my stomach on the downhill. A MN kid thrilled by some minor topography.

I feel so lucky for this chance to learn from the farmers and see Spring Hill in new ways.

Week #3 Tuesday, July 21 – Friday, July 24, 2020

In Your Bag
New Potatoes, Carrots
Garlic, Fresh White & Red Onions
Green Beans, Cucumbers
Zucchini – green and/or yellow
Lettuce (Red & Green), Arugula,
Dill, Parsley/Thyme/Basil bunch
Most produce has been rinsed at the farm, you’ll want to wash it at home. 

Coming soon!
We’re hoping for a cabbage next week along with carrots and more fresh onions – coleslaw time! Our second planting of beans is a wax bean.  They’re not too far away and it looks like more broccoli is on its way.

Farm News
The garlic crop is in, safely tucked into the greenhouse where it is drying down. We pushed hard on Friday to get it done before more rain came that night and then again Saturday night. It’s been a little tricky trying to get field work done.  Every time the ground starts to dry out, more rain comes. It looks like more of the same this week. We’re trying to play catch up as we can, taking advantage of the small windows to plant and cultivate. It can be frustrating seeing all the plants on the trailer waiting to be planted and watching weeds grow while we’re unable to get in and cultivate. All in good time. All in good time. 

As I made the first round of deliveries with Tyler… pick-up site hosts – Susan and Jim in the Seward neighborhood – kindly gave us a print with a barn and silo, rain clouds hovering overhead, and the title of Wisconsin author, Jerry App’s book, “Never Curse the Rain, A Farm Boy’s Reflections on Water.” I try to remember to not curse the rain. That hasn’t been so easy these past few weeks and I find myself wondering if the rains of Jerry App’s days on the farm looked different than the rains we’re experiencing now.  

Cucumbers! I can’t say that we fully solved the mystery, but we are getting cucumbers! A couple of conversations with nearby neighbors revealed that they had similar issues with their cux leading us to believe that it was weather related as opposed to an issue particular to our farm and fields. It helps to know that.  

We’ve been scheming about how to make some adjustments to our field and planting schedules given the impact of the rain. We took part of one garden out of production and put it into cover crop right after the 7” inch rain. The open beds were to be planted over time with directed seeded greens and it just wasn’t going to work to have those beds open so we’re looking at alternatives.  Perhaps some bok choy for the fall, maybe some late kohlrabi and more kale, all crops that can be transplanted into bio-mulch and potentially mulched rather than direct seeded into open ground. It’s a new puzzle we’re working with and we’re trying to figure out how these new pieces fit together.  

In the wildlife world, Patty’s had a couple of bear sightings this year, a young one sauntering through the onion patch and one older fellow back near the cabin in the woodsWe have a new swallow hanging out at the farm this year, a cliff swallow – cliff swallows actually. They’ve built a really cool mud nest with a circular entrance right at the peak of the Community Building. The barn swallows, manage to build a nest or two in the shed every year, just had “fledgling day” last week. As the babes learned to fly, we found them hanging out with us on the ledges of the hoop house as we picked beans nearby.  Monarchs are happily (it seems so anyway) fluttering their way around the place and we are enjoying watching them. We must have a couple of cranes nesting nearby because they’re flying overhead a couple of times every day with that distinctive honk of theirs. It all keeps us pretty entertained as we go about our work.

Week #2 Tuesday, July 14 – Friday, July 17, 2020

In Your Bag
Fennel, Beets
Fresh garlic, Spring Onions
Zucchini – green and/or yellow
Broccoli, Lettuce – green & red
Beet Greens OR Swiss Chard
Cilantro, Basil

Most produce has been rinsed at the farm, and you’ll want to wash it at home. 

Spring Hill Bags
It’s important to us that you wash your bag (using unscented soap please) and return it each week. There’s a box at each pick-up site for returned bags. Tyler will be picking them up each week and we’ll be counting on getting them back to pack next week’s bag. Thanks again to those who sewed a flap into each bag.  We think it’s working to keep the veggies fresh!

Farm News
We’re adjusting to the new rhythms and systems on the farm.  It’s required lots of planning and thinking about how to creatively get our work done while following protocols we’ve set forth to do what we can to protect our co-workers, Spring Hill members and ourselves.  There’s the delivery system which most of you can imagine looks entirely different.  Rather than a group gathered around a wash tub sharing stories while cleaning and bunching green onions, we have two tubs separated by a good ten feet, one person at each one cleaning, washing, bunching.  Rather than a line full of people of all ages, each one stationed at a tub of vegetables, three of us, socially distanced, walk the line of vegetables each filling the bag start to finish. We set it down for Tyler, who tucks the flap in and carefully and efficiently packs the van. We’re getting it figured out, but it sure is different! In the fields too, we’re adjusting so that we can tend to tasks while physically distancing ourselves from each other. We find we do more tasks individually. Sometimes we have to remind each other of the need to distance. Sometimes Mike and I find ourselves distancing from each other! I think it’s fair to say we’re all doing our best to work with it. We fully understand that we are quite fortunate to live and work where we do and to have your support as we muddle through.

We continue to see the impact of the 7” rain of a few weeks back. Over the first couple of days, we could see which gardens were hit especially hard. We figured we had lost a newly seeded carrot bed. A couple of more days out and we came to understand that a couple of newly transplanted crops had to go.  They essentially drowned in too much water. Now we’re noticing a lack of nutrition in some of the older crops. That much rain can drive nutrients deep into the soil making them unavailable to the growing plant. Further exacerbating this issue, plant roots sitting in water can die off, again weakening the plant as it’s unable to access the nutrition it needs. Finally we’re concerned about disease. That much moisture, followed by heat and humidity is a set-up for plant disease. We’re seeing a little in the broccoli but hoping that cooler weather and less humidity will settle things down.

On the bright side, we started the garlic harvest yesterday and hope to finish later this week. It looks to be a lovely crop and we are always extra thankful for a good garlic harvest!!

On the mysterious side, our cucumbers are not producing at the moment.  They are beautiful, healthy plants with no mature fruits. We have several theories and will keep you posted.

Some adjustments to make, some good stuff, some hard stuff, a mystery to solve. That about sums it up!

Hoping you’re well!  Stay in touch.

Week #1 Tuesday, July 7 – Friday, July 10, 2020

In Your Bag
Napa cabbage
Spring Turnips
Garlic Scapes
Fresh garlic
Spring Onions
Zucchini – green and/or yellow
Red Russian kale
Cilantro, Basil
Note: Most produce has been rinsed at the farm, you’ll want to wash it at home. 

Welcome to Tyler, Anna and Welcome Back To Erin!
First, we offer a big, huge, honkin’ welcome back to Erin Link!  Erin is back for her fourth year at Spring Hill and we are so, so grateful to have her here.  

Things are going to be different at the farm this season. There’s plenty to be sad about in that regard. We can’t even begin to tell you how much we will miss the opportunity to work with you on the farm. BUT, we are excited to welcome two new people on board. Actually, they’re not new TO the farm at all, but new in their roles WITH the farm. Tyler Mahony will be Spring Hill’s delivery driver. Tyler (son of Wendy Fassett & Kevin Mahony) has grown up on Spring Hill vegetables and will now be driving a van full of them to Minneapolis and St. Paul each Tuesday and Friday. We’re looking forward to working with him! Anna Kleven (daughter of Kari & Tom Kleven) will be joining us for a full day of work on Monday and Tuesday morning in July and August to help with vegetable harvest and packing. Anna’s been coming to the farm with her family since she was young and we’re thrilled that she’ll be joining us in the fields this summer.   

Thank you!
Thank you to Spring Hill’s Core Group! We relied heavily on this group as we tried to imagine what this season might look like. It was extremely helpful to have this thoughtful group gather several times (virtually) to consider all kinds of options from every which angle. Wendy Fassett, Joe Knaeble and Marilyn Johnson really dug in with us on figuring out the details of vegetable packing and delivery. Thanks so much! Spring Hill’s pick-up site hosts all offered thoughts and suggestions and we’re grateful to each of them for continuing to share their space with the farm membership. Thank you also to all the women who sewed flaps into our Spring Hill bags. The flaps provide a new way of keeping the vegetables fresh as they travel. Well done all and thank you!! Special thanks to Joelle who served as the transport service. We’re grateful to those of you who contributed to Spring Hill’s delivery fund. There’s been extra expense involved with Covid-19 and your contributions help a lot. Finally, many of you have volunteered to do all kinds of things;  help on the farm if needed, be a back-up driver, deliver vegetables to those who may need home delivery, host a Spring Hill Pop-up Market and on and on. As we all find new and different ways to feel the strength of human connection, this generosity of spirit has been truly overwhelming. Thank you all. 

Farm News
Well, there’s good news and there’s bad news. I’ll give you the good news first just in case you’ve had enough of bad news in which case you can read the first paragraph and forgo the second one. The good news is things have come together and, amidst all the challenges, we have a really nice first bag of vegetables for you! Actually, knock on wood, it looks like the first few bags will have a nice mix of veggies.

And now the bad news. About a week ago, we had 7+ inches of rain at the farm in just a few hours. That was A LOT of rain. Too much rain. A drive around the block the following morning saw our neighbors canoeing across their field, just the top inch or two of their fence line exposed. Even though we carefully mulch sections we feel are particularly vulnerable to erosion, farm on the contours and regularly cover crop, we were discouraged by what we saw in our fields. We take soil conservation seriously and it was heartbreaking to see the movement of soil in some of our garden sections. It’s hard to see the soil pounded like that.  We lost a carrot planting and some newly transplanted beets and cauliflower. We’re working to understand and address the issues, knowing that while 7” rains have been extremely rare, extreme events are becoming more common.