Farm Blog

Thank you again for braving the blizzard to celebrate, connect with great food, and 'planting an orchard'! Just imagine all those future cherry trees (don't forget to squat:-).
I am so uplifted from all the good vibes, intentions, laughter and seeds shared and planted.

We were able to raise $850.00 in funds! This will go a long way, thank you! Additionally, with all the seeds donated today and from what I've gleaned from others, The women growers in the Sine-Saloum region will be able to plant out a couple hundred row feet/farm. In the past we've planted shared 'demonstration beds' ie since many of the farmers share space/land to grow on we've constructed seeds beds to trial different varieties, plant insectory herbs and flowers and share techniques. From there seeds are harvested and shared forward amongst the individual farmers. So in essence your generosity helped plant teaching/learning/eating/

sharing beds of veggie, herb, and flower goodness!
 

I will honor my commitment and extend the immense gratitude, generosity that was shared during the workshop with the women farmers in the following ways:

Work with NCBA CLUSA Farmer to Farmer Program to transfer funds and mail seeds.
I'll also email and share highlights, photos forward later this week in celebration of our workshop success.

I am tentatively set to travel there Nov/Dec. or January in 2016.

I also finally remembered the name of third grower group, JUBO (means widespread). If you're interested in learning more about how they got started, here's a link to an interview I did as part of my last Farmer to Farmer adventure in Senegal.

I Will keep you in the loop as the project evolves and thanks again for sharing your generous spirit!

For the chocolate lovers:
Becky Otte, who made the amazing truffles, has more of her chocolate goodness to share and is selling some of her creations just in time for Valentines. if you're interested send her an email: raonine@gmail.com

Also Here is a link to Roots Chocolate website.

For the Fruit Lovers:

I've enclosed a handout of some of the different fruits we grow at our farm as well as a flyer highlighting this season's events at the farm! We'd love to have you venture out and tour the orchard, come visit us (though not nearly as cool as the orchard poses we did during the workshop).

Thank you again for helping me transition from being a butterfly weed seed (ie wind pollinated, not knowing where or how my intentions, projects might stick) to more of an oak or cashew seeds - wherein I can deepen my awareness, provide support in the same place(s) in Senegal for the growers and in my backyard in Wisconsin:-). Here's to planting the seeds of the as yet to be imagined on and off the yoga mat! Wishing you all much abundance.

Happy Mid-winter!

Yours in hardy kiwi,
Erin


PS If you are into exploring the planting side as well as enjoying more local fruit creations, we'll be hosting a Local Fruit Tasting May 16, details on our website.

 

Flowers by the Numbers, 2018 Flower CSA Bouquet Breakdown

I picked my last bouquet today. It was a modest mix of mums, and a few lingering calendula, veronica, tansy, and '3rd generation delphiniums' that survived the frosts, a freeze and even snowshowers the other morning.

I am continually amazed at the intensity of color and optimism present in blooms. I continue to find hope imprinted in a ray of beauty. Late fall on the farm is a time to not just tuck in the flower beds with a bit of mulch and manure, dig up the dahlias, divide, transplant and seed spring blooming perennials, but also a time to reflect, on the seasons past. I would love to learn how the season fared for you?

Please take a moment to reflect and share the following:

What worked?

What didn't?

Would you do it again? Why or why not?

And for some context, the following are reflections on the season, where your flower share investment went, and what's in store for next season. You may want to settle in with a warm cup of coffee/tea, as by now you likely know that brevity is not a strongpoint:-).

Why a Flower CSA?

Read More

Fibonacci Numbers, Sunflower sequence, and Mid-summer's angles of reposeFibonacci numbers, mid-summer's angle of repose

Happy August! Wow it's really August and we are already at the mid-point of the Flower CSA season. There is a point in the growing season that reminds of my days in Washington's North Cascades pondering alpine glacial geology while collecting native plant seed for restoration education projects with the National Park Service. We would be along the trails seed collecting Elymus glaucous (blue wild rye) and a slough of floral friends. Now and then I would stretch my back and shift my gaze from soil to skyline. The glaciers would 'sit poised' when viewed from a distance, like a well fed cat, cool and contented on its perch. That such a mass of ice, could just 'hang out' along a 60 plus degree slope without an ensuing avalanche is a marvel. In geologic speak, this point is known as the angle of repose – the steepest angle at which a sloping surface, (in the case of glaciers ice) formed of a particular loose material is stable. It's a marvel that an icy mass of material withstands gravity at such an angle--that such stillness from a distance—can mask all the movement taking shape, giving form to the Earth upon closer viewing.

In the botanical sphere of your flower farm, there is a similar angle of repose,

Read More

This Growing Act of Beauty is For You

Those who contemplate the beauty of the Earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” Rachel Carson

I am trying to endure. April has been rough and exhilarating for your farmer. Rob has always been much more Zen about life's disturbances and I continue to learn from his fluid, grounding love. For me, I've been at the mercy of April's moods. On the one hand I am welcoming the snow and quiet and the chance to linger over coffee with friends, catch a film, read the backlog of BrainPicking's Newsletters, or dust off the canoe. On the other hand, snow and cold unsettles my circadian farmer rhythm. We should be hardening off our young larkspur and allium transplants and seeding spinach alongside sweet peas. Instead the seeds and seedlings stock-pile in our greenhouse overflow zone (aka our kitchen and dining room).

Cold and wet is great for fruit tree planting, grafting, and dividing perennial herbs. Yet this too has been hard to do since the frost refuses to leave let alone heave under the weight of the shovel. 2014 memories come to mind—a year without kiwi due to a lingering cold come May—the kiwi refused to fruit save for 11 brave berries. There is reason to hope amidst the fickle jet stream.

Read More

Madame Butterfly a Floral Opera

I have been contemplating flowers and operas. Specifically the story of Madame Butterfly. I know, I spend way too much time thinking about flowers and am ready for the ground to thaw and start planting!

Ever wonder how flower varieties are named? This question nudged me as I paged through the seed catalogs and became mesmerized by the floral photo candy of Antirrhinum majus – Madame Butterfly var. My curiosity soon meandered to Giacomo Puccini's famous Opera, Madame Butterfly wherein the human Butterfly first took to the stage in Milan, Italy in 1904.

The unique double-petal flowers of Madame Butterfly snapdragons are no less dramatic than the opera's themes of cultural and sexual imperialism, and allow me to mingle the operatic and horticultural. Here is my attempt at the Snapdragon Opera of Madame Butterfly.

Madame Butterfly the Opera – summarized from the Metropolitan Opera website

Read More

A Floral Feast Reflection...2017 Flower CSA Breakdown

I have always grown flowers – in my mother's garden, as part of my own garden landscapes, apartment balconies, and kitchen windowsills. When I started farming with Rob in 2009 (Rob has been a CSA farmer since 1993) flowers were always part of the field mix, work/life balance and experimentation, and soul nourishment. The last 4 years, however, I have been consciously shifting from vegetable production to fruit and flowers and this is my second season with a 'formal' flower csa program. I enjoy how it balances and compliments other areas and market channels for our farm including wedding flowers and fruit and vegetable share program.

Read More

Eclipse, Eclat, and Eclogue, Just another Season at the Farm

Admittedly, I joined the frenzied eclipse goers who jockeyed for the viewing rights along the path of totality in the heartland to soak in, for two minutes, a celestial phenomenon by way of 370th Rd., just northwest of Ravenna, NE.

While Rob poured over weather maps for points of cloudless skies along the way, I poured over our 1909 copy of Webster's New International Dictionary, wherein I mused over different iterations of the word eclipse and how the word itself relates to the growing season. Luminous discoveries and intentions prevailed.

Read More

Solstice Floral Inspirations

At 7:24 pm Tuesday, June 20, Rob and I exhaled into the horizon, celebrated the fullness of life and the potential it holds.

Abundance abounds around the Solstice.

At 7:24 am on Wednesday, making the orchard rounds, calling it 'insect monitoring', I gave myself permission to lay my head down under the eldberry umbels and stare at the sky as petals rained on my face. Overwhelmed by all this being and doing. I took comfort in the refuge of nature's fecundity, if only for a moment.

Read More

Keeping Mechanics at Bay

Like my back, our pickup truck creaks a lot more than it used to, but still functions. I take this as an augury that another season of vegetable growing is possible; indeed, with an April share already behind us, it seems to have leapt underway.

Both back and truck are indispensable to the enterprise of farming, though I got along without the second for a number of years simply by using my Geo Metro as a truck instead. I hauled uncountable tons of compost to my farm in it, which eventually led to blowing two of the three cylinders, as you would expect from a vehicle rated at 550 lbs live load. (Incidentally, the car operated fine, if wimpily, on one cylinder). After having the valves replaced I was able to keep hauling compost for several additional years. The setup was fuel efficient and cheap, minus the valve-job.

The '97 Nissan pickup is also often overloaded since this is the most efficient way to move things, though perhaps not cheapest in the long run. Road gravel is the usual cargo which I find myself schlepping a dozen times or more each year from the local materials yard to throw, by shovelfuls, into the ruts which climate change + gravity conspire to carve down the slopes of our driveway.

Farming involves an awful lot of moving things against gravity, so I'm glad my back has lasted. Like the truck, it has slowed down but still moves, so I am thankful.

Read More

CSA - For the Love of Fruit, Flowers, the Land and Community

While I am welcoming the snow's return, don't let the illusion of winter cloud the weather's reality these days. If you're thinking, "...it's too early for red-wing blackbirds to arrive at the ponds and too warm for February," yes, you are correct. The 68 degree F high temp this past Wednesday set a new record for the entire month at the Madison reporting station, besting the old mark of 64 degree F set on the 25th back in 2000. (Incidentally, the previous record for the day was 60 degree F, set in 1984). So that's five high temp records in a row, from Saturday February 18 on through Wednesday February 22. It appears from the instrumentation at both the Boscobel and Janesville National Weather Service Sites ---which hit 72 degrees F on Wednesday, that we've set an all-time record for the entire state for the month of February.

Read More

2016 By the Numbers

2016 was a good growing year in many respects.

At 178 days, the frost-free period was exceptionally long, even after a relatively late last-freeze on May 15th. We harvested sweet peppers well into the month of November, after what was already a banner-year for the crop. Potatos also performed spectacularly despite over-planting and tight spacing, cranking out almost 300 calories per square foot. Many warm-season crops were 10 to 14 days earlier than normal. After a couple of beautiful broccoli harvests in late June and early July, we thought we might be headed for another 15-week season like we saw the previous year.

And then the rains came.

Read More

Alphabet Soup of Farming Gratitude

I was out walking 'Up and Down the Hill' with my mother and a friend as part of the La Valle celebration this past summer and we were talking of relationships with our mothers and all the gratitude, headaches, tensions, and celebrations that come with it. My friend shared that in coming to terms with her mother's aging, she and her sister were putting together the ABC's of appreciation –a reflection of what they have learned and learned to appreciate about their mother over the years.

As I tuck in the farm for the winter months, exhaling from the frost-nipped fields, I thought I'd share in the ABC's of all the things that I have learned and appreciated from Mother Earth at the farm community this season beginning with:

Autonomy - and interdependence. Our food forests continue to subtley and not so subtely teach us about how to best design perennial polycultures of multi-purpose plants so we might share resources, create networks of mutual support in growing our own food, fodder, fertility, fuel, 'farm-a-cueticals' and fun. And like our orchard guilds, personally, I farm in part because I enjoy the autonomy in decision making, running a small business, and finding my niche. At the same time I reminded of how much as farmers, we rely on others to grow food in partnership with the land and our community.

Read More

Simplicity, Gladiolus and the Magic of 3's

As August shifts to September with all the overabundance of fruit, flowers, and veg ripening in the fields, I thought I'd begin the month to celebrate simplicity in this week's bouquets and focus on the 'magic of 3's.

Farmer florists have a few patterns to draw from setting the structure for a bouquet. Like a recipe for a summer salsa (1 part hot pepper 3 parts sweet 5 parts tomato), flowers follow a similar recipe. Texture, focal, filler. 1:3:5. From here the variations are endless and sometimes chaotic colors emerge. So I've been playing with simplifying, finding beauty in the most basic of texture, focal, and filler. This week's bouquets will feature 3 flowers representing texture, focal, and filler and a play on 3 color types.

Read More

Flower CSA Bouquets Abuzz with Gratitude

Such fullness and momentum abounds in the flower fields as we head into the peak harvest season at the farm. A lot is abuzz at your flower farm and I thought this week is prime time for pollinator appreciation from field to vase at Hilltop.

While National Pollinator Week has come and gone in late June (week of the 23rd this past year), I find that mid-July is when the pollinator flower power really kicks in on our farm. So this week we are featuring flower favorites of the bees, butterflies and all of our pollinator friends seen and unseen. I’m hovering over a currant shrub as I write this, making notes with one hand with the other, meticulously plucking the black pearls of the fruit world into buckets wishing I had a third hand to simultaneously pull the weeds that pop through the mulch.

Read More

A brief journey to the center of the Earth and the Universe - Larkspur's spurious season at the farm

Admittedly, I'm still working on finding the sweet spot on our farm where larkspurs thrive and are fully supported. They're a bit fickle from seed to bloom. Larkspurs and delphiniums benefit from a cold period before seeding. This year, I had mixed results with germination, and the flowers that remained are gracing the fields. There's a balance in supporting these flowers post transplant. The spikey blooms, carried loosely in it's racemes, tend to want to flop and surrender into the atmosphere, perhaps in sync with its star-like shape. The flowers are worth the struggle in growing them in the fields. Their purple flowers attract butterflies and bumblebees, who hover over the blooms laden with pollen cargo. It's beauty in a bouquet packs an equal load of celestial wonder and marks the turning point from spring to summer in our flower gardens.

Read More

Riding out the bumps and over the hump - CSA Underway

The start of year 23 at Hilltop has had its bumps, but been auspicious in some ways too.

The bumps include the first week of April which managed, with its Siberian cold, to kill our bees after an otherwise successful ride through the Wisconsin winter. In March, the workers thronged the entrance to the hive, enjoying the warm sun and searching for the first apricot blossoms and dandelions to appear. The following week, their exoskeletons poured from the frames of comb in piles as I lifted each from the box that had been their home.

Read More

You're Invited: Yoga, Chocolate & Fruit Tasting Benefit Supporting Seeds for Senegal Project

Sunday, January 24, from 2:00 - 4:00 pm, Main St. Yoga Studio, 1882 East Main St. Madison, WI

Come breathe, move, open your heart, and celebrate mid-winter with an all - levels yoga class taught by Hatha Yoga Instructor Barbara Flesch.

Then we’ll dine in community, savoring the sensory experience of nourishment with a mindfulness tasting of chocolate, and sweet and savory fruits grown with love and care with Erin Schneider, Co-owner of Hilltop Community Farm, LLC. Cost of class includes yoga instruction and homemade and homegrown organic food, fruit and refreshments from Hilltop Community Farm.

Read More

Post humus reflections - Celebrating the Soil

Well after 7 months, 37 soil fabric pieces and resulting soil profiles, 204 square knots (with homespun yarn by laura/orange cat community farm), roughly 15 x 23' of fabric, 3 group stitching sessions including support from a hedgehog, 7 yards of wonder under, 4 poems, 18 stories, 49 photos, millions of microbes, a few choice words during the sewing process:-), and countless intentions infused with love later...the Soil Quilt has been unearthed!

Thank you for helping provide a platform for which the soil to have it's say and for your humble and heartfelt collaborations with the humusphere during the International Year of Soil!

Read More

You're Invited: Unearthing a Soil Quilt

Sunday, October 11 from 10 - 11:30 am at the Rock Springs Public Library

Celebrate the 2015 International Year of Soils by honoring and learning about the soil community locally. Unearth and share stories with local farmers, soil experts about our connection to our foodshed. Celebrate the making of the Soil Quilt and resulting artwork, stories. Light refreshments served. Co-hosted by Sauk/Columbia County Farmers Union. Take the Farm Art D'tour and see the Soil Quilt and other Art and Agriculture/Food highlights following the event.

Read More

For the Bees

Mid-afternoon, I find myself lingering in the zinnias and wanting to just lay down under the silphium and sunflowers in the orchard, soak in the warmth, the colors, and just listen to summer. It is revved up by cicadas, orchestrated by crickets, tuned by tree frogs and abuzz with bees. The bees right now are drunk on nectar, and loaded down with pollen. I am amazed that they can fly, so laden with cargo!

Where would be be without the birds and the bees?

Read More