Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rainy days

It's raining today, as it has done many days out of the last few weeks. I personally am slightly ambivalent on the rain. Truly the farm looks better than it ever has. Everything is flourishing and looking beautiful, and I have to be grateful for that. Yet the rain truly reveals the uncertain life of a farmer- a day one mentally prepared to spend doing some good hard work in the sun could end up being spent sequestered indoors, unshowered and half dressed, watching movies (and writing blog entries) while the rain pours outside. Today started as one of these days, with good hard work in the sweltering sauna-like heat and sun. Yet by 1:30, the hysteria of the television weathermen finally proved to be true and the ominous clouds on the horizon blew in seemingly instantly with the temperature dropping in a matter of minutes and the wind picking up. The foretold hail and tornadoes did not materialize, at least not near St. Peter, but a steady wall of rain took hold and is expected to contiune sporadically throughout the day. Personally I have a deadly fear of hail and what it might do to our farm. Cross your fingers.

The potatoes, formerly resigned to "dead" status by our premature doomsday predictions, are some of the biggest and prettiest plants around. The humidity has been good to the corn as well, and we are well on track to be "knee high" by the fourth of July. 175 marigolds have been added around the perimeter of the fence to repel rascally rabbits and attract helpful insects. Our pest problem seems to be curbed by our noxious cayenne pepper concoction.

Another mark against the rain- it helps our plants but also helps the weeds. Being in the middle of a wide field, and not using pesticides, we have the problem of all sorts of pesky plants blowing through. The past week has seen a huge influx of tiny weeds all over and parts of the garden look like a front lawn. A lesson that we should have mulched sooner, perhaps? Weeding it seems like the most futile task, it feels like weeding the grass from a golf course. But as long as its not raining, we've got nothing but time, so I guess we will hit the Big Hill links hard in the next days.

Eliza sent me this link a while back and it illustrated the importance of what we are doing out in the back of the arb. Professor Martin Lange and a student, Ethan Marxhausen, came to the farm yesterday as part of filming for a documentary on sustainable agriculture. They asked me if I feel like I am part of a "movement" in working on the farm. My fumbling response (hard to come up with answers on the spot) made me think about the global situation and placed the farm in a universal context. I said that I didn't feel part of a "movement" exactly but that small, local, organic farming should be part of a natural planning for the future for humans who want to survive. This story illustrates the unsustainable nature of the way things operate now. People in the (near?) future simply won't be able to eat the way they do now. We can't rely on crops to be flown around the globe for much longer with the deterioration of fossil fuels. On long days out at the farm when there isn't much to say I am struck at how even though our small farm seems locally isolated, it really raises questions and offers a few answers on many issues, from social justice to ecology. Even so far this summer I have learned how our farm literally gets to the "root" (har har) of so many issues. Check out the link for yourself, it's a common story: http://www.truthout.org/052109M?n

And also here are a few pictures of the farm from last week, expect more soon.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Holy Potatoes!

The first week of official summer on the farm has been full of progress and beautiful new growth. Everything is planted (including eggplant) and almost everything has begun to poke out of the soil surface. 

The tomato transplants look like heaven, especially since we added drip-line. Now it only takes an hour to water the farm (wink). The pepper transplants had a run-in with some pesky cutworms... however, the worms don't seem to like the stanky onion-garlic-cayenne pepper-dish soap potion we sprayed on the plants, so we have averted disaster, thanks to book Barbara.

Tomato plant and drip line (left) and radishes (right)

The fence is up, the shed is fixed, the mural is painted, the compost is spread, and the farm CD mixes are complete. All we need now is a 15 pound bag of trail mix and we're good to go.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Inauguration and Beyond!

Hello Farm Friends!
A huge thank-you is in order to everyone who came out for the Big Hill Farm Inauguration.  None of us are math majors, but we'd estimate over 100 people - students, staff, family, friends, alumns and community members - were able to attend.  We hope everyone enjoyed the live music, Cedar Summit ice cream, the farm and the company!  We think this event was a HUGE success and cannot wait until the Harvest Festival this fall.  There was also a short rain shower in the middle followed by a rainbow - a blessing perhaps?
Above: We're working hard to improve the quality of the soil so we can grow healthy plants.  Thus far we have tilled it up (with the help of our new friends at Grandma's Little Acre) and added compost and manure.   More on this later...
Above: Oh hey Jordan!  The rain during the Inauguration altered our creative process for the Big Hill sign-painting (on the shed) - but no hard feelings.
Above: Candles and marigolds at the Inauguration
Above:  We've been busy these last couple weeks!  Thus far we have worked on the fence and planted strawberries, radishes, onions, potatoes, raspberries, blueberries and corn.
Above:  Here's me! (Eliza) working on the onion beds.  Finally some beautiful weather after a freezing weekend and a 97 degree 500 mph windy spell of days. 

Friday, May 8, 2009

Big Hill Farm Inauguration this Saturday!

Hello!  YOU are invited to Big Hill Farm's Inauguration, Sat., May 9th, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.  Come for FREE cedar summit ice cream, music, art, and an abundance of overalls!
Hope to see you there!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

It's all happenin.

Here's the scoop:

The seeds are germinating!! The tray of roma's has almost completely germinated and they look strong and healthy. The peppers are close behind as they just started germinating a couple days ago and look wonderful! We have been watering them religiously and keepin' a close eye.

We officially have farm interns: Lucas Neher, Jordan Walker, Steve Palmer, Sarah Jabar. Yayyy.

We took a trip to Menards yesterday and had our first tool buying adventure. We bought shovels, rakes, pitchforks, hand trowels, fencing material, etc. and we assembled a wheelbarrow!
And thennnn we used the newly purchased tools to move the compost and put chicken wire around it. We layered it with straw and when the rain falls, wonderful decomposition will happen. The bottom layer of the food scrap pile was already decomposing and leaching wonderful nutrients into the soil! We are very excited about the compost progress. & we want to Thank the dining services for all the food scraps they have been giving to us!!!

Also, there is now a beautiful layer of compost and giant shed on the plot!! Thanks to the Gustavus Physical Plant!

Well, that's all for now... There's no tillin' what's going to happen next :)


Friday, April 3, 2009

let there be tomatoes...

Greetings from San Pedro! Team Big Hill started a potentially ridiculous number of tomatoes and peppers in the Nobel Hall Greenhouse ~two weeks ago (thanks Bob!) to a soundtrack of MGMT, Neutral Milk Hotel, Fleet Foxes, Yonder Mountain and more... we want our produce to have good taste! (haha! ha... hmmm.)

We officially know who our farmers are this summer! But I'm not going to tell you yet. ;) Soon. Very soon we will be tillin' up da dirt, which will include a ground breaking ceremony!


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Organic gardening goes vogue

Breaking news from the White House lawn: Michelle Obama will be planting an organic garden this summer, with the help of some local elementary school kids.  Heck-yes!!!  This will be the first vegetable garden since Eleanor Roosevelt's victory garden.  Michelle is starting the garden in hopes it will connect kids with healthy, locally grown food.  

Back on the home front, Big Hill is now in the possession of seeeds, many of which we will be starting  the week after spring break.  Must of us will not look nearly as classy as Mrs. Obama while we do it, however...

Gosh, I hope J. Crew makes overalls.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

spring fever

During the last few weeks we have begun to experience fleeting sneak previews of the promising spring and summer to come.  Suddenly people are getting excited about things like digging, planting, sun-bathing, and other wonderful growing-season activities.  
The new farm crew took a first stroll to the land today, where we thought nice thoughts about the possibilities of what that land could look like in another couple months.
(Above is a picture of some the the farm team, rockin'.)

Monday, March 2, 2009

welcome to big hill student farm!

Hello!  Welcome to Adventures at Big Hill, a blog following the development of Big Hill Student Farm.  Big Hill is a new student-initiated project at Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, MN.  As of this moment, our farm-to-be land is under a beautiful layer of snow, but we are busy working on planning, coalition-building and grant-seeking.  

Our mission is create interest in sustainable agriculture, food security and ethical eating here on campus.  We will do this by farming a diverse assortment of fruits and vegetables on about 1-acre of land behind the school Arboretum.  We are interested in making this operation as bio-intensive and holistic as we can, so we plan to have chickens and composting, among other things.  

That's all for now.  Coming soon: meet-the-farmer profiles and farm project updates!

May the sun shine kindly upon you (and your crop!),