Hellbenders

Have you ever seen a hellbender? It is a two-foot long salamander that lives in the creeks that flow up to the Barren River. I’ve seen them twice, about 25 years ago, in the Long Hungry Creek.  The state biologist and the curator of the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere is looking for signs of hellbenders. We spent Wednesday afternoon wading our creek and the Long Fork Creek, lifting up big rocks and observing aquatic life.

Like plants, animals are classified by genus and species, and then the broader category of a family. Hellbenders are unique, with only 2 other species in their family; a giant Chinese one that gets six feet long, and another one from Japan.  This family of amphibians dates back to the dinosaur age, which very few animals existing now do. They sure look prehistoric, with a big nose and little feet. The Hellbender Society, a group of scientists interested in them, is quite concerned about the dramatic decrease in their populations recently.

The magazine “Tennessee Conservationist” had an article about the decline of hellbenders and questioned weather Glyphosphate was responsible. This is the active ingredient in Round Up, a widely used herbicide. Hellbenders eat crayfish, and poisons concentrate upward in the food chain.  The scientists in the creek with m e confirmed these fears. Monsanto falsified research to put Round Up approved, and it is deadly to the salamanders and frogs in our creeks. They’ve watched amphibians suffer as herbicide usage increases.

A Bottlebrush Crayfish zoomed out from under a rock they lifted. It has hairy antenna and beautiful scarlet markings down the back. They are only found in Tennessee and Kentucky in the Barren River watershed, and this was the first one ever documented in the Long Hungry.  I learned a lot with these guys. They want to come back and canoe the creeks and look for hellbenders again. We would love to hear if anyone has spotted any recently.

Herbicides are very, very dangerous, causing cancer and many other health issues. The widespread use of them is having drastic effects on our environment. Please be extremely cautious with them, and consider alternatives like mowing. Decision to spray all distribution lines without asking landowners permission has grave consequences for public health and is an environmental disaster.

I have a sign at the shop that says “Do Not Spray, Organic Farm.” The state road department sprayed herbicide on either side of the sign.  Hellbenders are the “canary in the coalmine,” or the first sign that things are getting dangerous and we need to change what we’re doing. Don’t believe Monsanto when they claim Round Up or 24D are safe. Herbicides kill plants, animals and you.

- 18th Annual Biodynamic Conference and Harvest Festival (our premiere educational event), 9/27-9/29 (link 3)

The Coolest August in Years

I don’t have to tell anyone that this has been an unusual summer.  The unusually cool weather has extended green bean season, while parsley has suffered.  This kind of give and take is expected when the weather does strange things.  I count us lucky that tomatoes have been coming in well, since they really like it hot and sunny, two things we have not had much of this season.  On the foraging front, I’ve never seen so many mushrooms in such abundance.

Belonging to a CSA is great while the season is in full swing, but the season ends, the CSA ends, and each of us is relegated to either eating what we’ve preserved, or what we can purchase in grocery stores or the few farmers markets that operate through the winter.  Each year, the Environmental Working Group tests conventional produce for chemical residues and publishes the results to help consumers who are concerned with such things, make smart purchasing choices.  (link 1)

Of course, what can get sprayed on our food while it’s growing is not the only source for chemicals in food.  Processed food often has industrial chemicals used to color, preserve, or enhance flavors.  Most of those chemicals have never been tested for safety, and the FDA isn’t even aware of many of the chemicals used by food companies.  (link 2)  This is precisely the kind of thing that gets me all riled up.  I simply don’t understand how those who decide to use these chemicals can look in the mirror every day and feel proud of what they do for a living, which is to risk the health of those who eat their foods and essentially experiment on the American public.  It certainly doesn’t help that people loyal to industrial food are now holding important positions in the regulatory structures that are supposed to prioritize our health and well being.  Their loyalty insures them good jobs later on, and protect corporate profits instead of consumers.

I know that to read my rants, or to hear me talk about it, it might seem that I consider industrial food all bad.  While I find a host of serious problems intrinsic to industrial food, I don’t believe the industry is populated by evil people, nor do I think the companies who produce industrial food have to be bad.  Mark Bittman chimed in this week, noting that industrial food is not all evil.  (link 3)  The problems I see are often about misplaced priorities, but at the same time, these systems have produced economies of scale that are impressive from a purely business perspective.

Nashville Grown, the food hub I started almost a year ago now, has taught me many things about efficiency and running a food distribution network.  I have been forced to pay attention to and borrow ideas from certain aspects of industrial food.  The primary difference, again, is priorities.  That is how I keep myself from going down a path that makes my business part of the problem rather than the solution.  Part of the solution is to preserve food whenever I can, and to teach and encourage others to do the same.  This is a great week to put up corn and make some pickles.  Check the recipes. If you want in, corn is here!

Here are a few links that may interest you:

EWG list- http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php

Chemicals in Food- http://www.livescience.com/38962-industrial-chemicals-in-food-not-safety-tested.html

Muddy Fields

The potatoes want to be harvested soon, too. The green tops are browning, and after they are dead for two weeks the skins will be tough enough to handle without peeling off. Then we’ll plow them up and get them in the cellar.

Summer squash and cucumbers are finally appearing in all their glory, thoroughly enjoying all the moisture. But it can be so muddy that we sink up to our ankles getting them. A mulch would help, but I can’t imagine how to get it spread.

Weeds have engulfed the lettuce, which is about gone anyway. We are pulling weeds in the winter squash and watermelons, and have some Johnson grass to dig out, too. The sweet potato field has six rows hoed, but eight rows are filled with very happy weeds, who are loving the rain which is keeping us out.

Every Monday we harvest celery, swiss chard, parsley, beets and other vegetables, whether it rains or not. The procession of produce marches on through all kinds weather. We don’t complain about rain or the mud between our toes, but remain thankful for the water on the crops.

It is raining on my parade of vegetable harvesting. We got the garlic in quickly this year, and it is curing out well. By turning the stalks over and drying them out, they will soon be tied and hung up, and will store through mid-winter.

On the other hand, the onions have me a bit concerned. They like it to be dry and hot during their last month of growth, which made last year perfect onion weather. They are all out of the ground, or I could say “mud,” but have a soft spot where they were underground.

We have them laid out in the barn, on top of hay. In years past I have lost a lot to rot, so we are keeping an eye on them. A truck farmer would simply sell them all now; as they are big and beautiful. But a CSA farmer needs onions to send every week, so we try to store them. Our customers can help, by taking all the onions they can and storing them in their own garage or shed.

Lay them on something like a screen or hang them up by tying a few together with twine, feel the bottoms, and if they are soft, use those first. Onions can be blanched and frozen, or dehydrated.

Summer

A slow wet spring delayed garden work for a few weeks, but June found us busy as bees. The weeds are growing like weeds, and the vegetables are right behind them. It’s been a great growing season as long as you ignore the calendar.

Monday deliveries of fresh produce have been lettuce, radish, onion, beet, swiss chard and celery, plus a few herbs like thyme, oregano and garlic. Soon we’ll send potatoes, squash, beans and cucumbers. Tomatoes, peppers and eggplants will follow, along with sweet corn and melons. We are still planting sweet potatoes and pumpkins. Every week is different.

You can get in on the action. The shop in RBS, across from the Head Start, is open on Monday afternoons. Local folks gather there to get fresh vegetables and learn how to eat healthier.

In Nashville we deliver to three locations. One is in Berry Hill, one in East Nashville at Porter Road Butcher, and one at Headquarters Coffee in West Nashville. This all happens on Monday afternoons, too.

Diligent hoeing takes up a lot of our time. The young plants need assurance that no weeds will bother them. But more importantly, we hoe to conserve soil moisture. By keeping the soil surface loose, the moisture underneath does not leave. If the soil is tight, capillary action evaporates and dries out the soil, wicking away the previous water the same way a candle wick draws up wax.

Irrigation is not necessary here. We get plenty of rain. By building a live soil humus, winter and spring rains soak in and supply water to the crops during summer. Compost, cover crops and tillage are more efficient than an irrigation system.

I can’t find any potato beetles. The plants must have a high sugar content, because if they didn’t there would be little red Colorado beetle larvae devouring the leaves. Bugs do not have a pancreas, so they cannot digest sugar.

If you want bugs, use commercial fertilizer. The nitrate nitrogen will use up the sugar in the plants so that bugs can eat them. Then you use the poisons on the plants. These are the recommendations from the fertilizer/pesticide industry which funds the land grand colleges and the USDA extension service.

Old time farmers don’t have extra money from subsidy and crop insurance, so they rely on composted manures. It’s the cheaper way to go.

The summer solstice has come and gone. Our annual celebration went well, preceded by weeks of planting and hoeing. As we enter summer, the soil is loose, the crops look good, and the hoes will continue to stir. We are late on making hay, but the sun is shining.

 

The Gardens in December

by Jeff Poppen

Beautiful and extremely productive gardens have graced that land around my cabin for the past 16 years. They have been well documented on the Volunteer Gardener program, so many people who hadn’t been able to visit still got to enjoy them. These gardens, open to the public, are where my students learn, and where old gardeners come to learn new ideas.

Since this is the last garden I’ll get to grow here, and since it is December, let’s look at what is still growing out there. A market garden, or truck patch as it used to be called, gets replanted in late summer with fall vegetables and cover crops. We don’t want to leave the land bare, but whenever possible to always have food available.

Horseradish, spearmint and nettle are in the first perennial beds, opposite the lettuce filling up the cold frames. The barn still hosts baskets of pumpkins, which have been picked through to now just be special treats for the hogs. The hanging garlic and onions need to go inside for winter storage.

Bok Choy is the white-ribbed, dark green leafed, oriental cabbage in the first beds behind the barn. Along with the Chinese Cabbage, also called Napa, these vegetables can weigh up to five pounds each. Soups, slaws, stirfries and sauerkraut are but a few ways our customers enjoy these cabbages, which resist the worms way better than their European counterparts.

The two kinds of parsley are curly and Italian Flat-Leaf. I like the curly best, but most people like the Italian. Parsley is very good for you.

Swiss Chard is a member of the beet family. The dark skinny leaves offer a good alteration to the other greens, which are mostly in the brassica, or cabbage family. Chard has a finer texture, and doesn’t have that hint of sulfur that cabbages have.

Many of our visitors seem surprised to see celery growing here. What a wonderful plant, it’s sweet, crisp stalks bursting with flavor. We set out a thousand in the spring. After a few harvests of the outer stalks, we leave them alone during summer, only to really get production in the fall as the weather cools down.

Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach was sown August 29th, a little later than the time most fall greens are sown. The thin cotyledon leaves are hard to spot, but not so the dark green, savoyed leaves we love in our salads or slightly cooked. I planted another spinach row in late October for a March and April harvest.

A bed of sprouting broccoli is now giving us delicious heads. Nearby, two rows of parsnips are ready to dig.

A little dill still fills our weekly baskets. Arugula, Mizuna, tat soi and mei qing are unusual vegetables that continue to produce. Collards and mustard are more common, and we grow plenty of them.

By far our biggest plantings in the fall are kale, turnips and daikons. We’ve been saving seed from the flat leaf kale for 25 years or so. We also grow curly kale and Red Russian kale.

Turnips come in many colors. Scarlet Ohno, White Egg, Gold Ball and Purple Top supply red, white, yellow, and purple turnips. Radishes too, are colorful. We have red China Rose, White Daikons, Long Black Spanish, and my favorite, a green one with a bright red, sunburst color flesh. It is called Watermelon Radish, Misota red, or Red Meat, depending on where you buy the seed. Rutabagas are a yellow-fleshed root similar to turnips.

The rest is in cover crops of wheat and vetch, along with a field of barley. I guess I’ll sow these gardens back into hay crops after the winter kills back the greens. The soil is great, and will stay great in grass. Maybe I’ll get to garden here again, someday.

The Future of Long Hungry Creek Farm


If you are on Facebook, or if you received an email containing a message from Jeff, you may have seen the picture of Jeff’s house and the smaller tract of land that makes up Long Hungry Creek Farm, next to and dwarfed by the Cobb chicken houses just a few hundred feet up the hill from his back door.  The chicken houses now have 37,500 birds between them.  We know they spray insecticides and herbicides around the buildings, it is explicitly stated in the contract Jeff’s neighbor signed to become a farmer for the Tyson subsidiary.

Jeff has decided to abandon this side of the farm, both for his sake, and for our customers who expect clean food from the farm.  The announcement that accompanied the photo has led many people to believe that Jeff is shutting down the farm completely and quitting farming altogether.  It is this impression I am trying to counteract.  The larger tract of the farm, where most of our food is already grown, has not been threatened by a poultry CAFO as yet, and is slated to become Jeff’s new home.

Anyone with any sense of fairness recognizes that to build so close to Jeff when you own over 70 acres to place such an operation, is just not right, and almost comes across as vindictive.  Cobb has successfully changed the nuisance laws in Macon County to remove any simple recourse to prevent the encroachment and subsequent threat an operation like theirs poses to a chemical-free, biodynamic, decades-old established farm and business like Jeff’s.  While the company continues to insist there is no threat of runoff or contamination from their chicken houses, that doesn’t make sense given the proximity and volume of chickens just up the hill from Long Hungry Creek Farm.

We fought this and managed to hold off the operation for over a year, before the company found a loophole that exempted them from the permit that was previously preventing the chickens from being allowed on site.  They often repeat in correspondence that they have been cooperative, and in fact did reorient the houses so that the vents blew away from the farm.  I hold that reorienting the houses shows that something foul (no pun intended) comes out of these houses, even if just the smell, but potentially airborne chicken feces that contain antibiotic residues, ammonia, and if the practice is still in use, arsenic, which used to be standard in industrial chicken feed.

So we will have a CSA next year, let’s put that rumor to rest now.  Long Hungry Creek will survive, but has taken a big hit.  If you’ve ever been to Jeff’s house, you know what I mean.

- Alan Powell, CSA Manager, Long Hungry Creek Farm

CSA Beginnings at Long Hungry Creek Farm

by Jeff Poppen

The produce grown along the Long Hungry creek has become priceless-we don’t sell it anymore. The invaluable, farm fresh food is now free, and the folks who eat it cover the farm’s budget. You can’t buy vegetables from us these days, you have to join the club and support the farm in some way.

Like the morning fog rising up the hollow, the farm breathes a big sigh of relief. I’m retired as a salesman, and can focus full time on farming. Our members are trained to appreciate row-run vegetables with the dirt still on them, so post harvest handling, like marketing, has become a thing of the past.

I was hooked on CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) from the first, when John Root, Jr. told me about his in May of 1987. A group of people took over the financial burden of a farm in exchange for the produce. The group had meetings with pledges of money until they got enough to cover the farm’s budget. The farmer was guaranteed the same income whether the crops were bumpers or failures; members gave according to their ability and took according to their needs.

Economics were tough on a small farm during the 80′s, and here was a way out. In ’88 and ’89 we tried CSA, with limited crops and limited success. A core group of committed consumers never materialized, which is essential, and I was reluctant to let go of the marketing system I already had in place. Organic vegetables became in high demand, and our farm, as the only organic supplier in the area, was getting California prices.

So we kept on selling to health food stores and anywhere else we could find, riding the organic wave of the 90′s. The certified biodynamic produce was sorted, washed and packed before being shipped all over Tennessee, exposing thousands to the word, and taste of, biodynamics. Produce managers needed esoteric training to be able to explain it to their customers. Business was booming.

Then a national corporation bought one of the stores, which had been a major outlet for us, and it made corporate sense to ship California potatoes to Nashville in late July. They still wanted our spuds, they assured me, but when the truck left Los Angeles it needed to be full. It took the wind out of my sails to feel that our potatoes were no longer irreplaceable, and our markets were on shaky ground.

A box of garlic was turned down not because of quality or price, but because there was no room on their computer for another garlic item. Next, I received a letter requesting a 2 million dollar insurance policy (in case someone got ill eating garlic?), and was instructed to ship the produce to their Cincinnati warehouse, to then be trucked back to Nashville. My ideal of local agriculture was fading fast.

When a few folks from the city offered to help organize a CSA, we jumped on it. Now, as we wind up our fourth year, a community of 60 families around Nashville cares about the farm. I’m not concerned about how to market produce, crop failures or budget blues, and I make my decisions based on what is best for the farm as a whole. This doesn’t keep me from making wrong decisions-those sweet potatoes ought to have been dug by now. But my farm tells me how much to grow, where and when to plant and what to do. She’s a much wiser boss than the marketplace is.

I’d always felt that farmers, who tend their land organically with just the energy of cover crops, compost and animals, deserve to be well paid. Our CSA has made this admittedly biased opinion of mine possible. Our members are using their vegetable dollars to support a farm, which is ever bent on improving soil structure and fertility for long-term productivity. CSA’s offer hope for rural America, not only in a practical, financial way, but on a deeper level, too.

Most folks don’t want to be a farmer. CSA members enjoy many of the pleasures of a farm without having to own one. They can bring their family out for a picnic, see animals and gardens, and eat fresh organic food all week. They are reestablishing a connection to the land, reuniting a lost tie between the city and the country, developing a mutual trust and friendship with a farmer, and helping wealth to be created locally.

In May and June our members receive lettuce, green onions, peas, parsley, carrots, Swiss chard, beets, garlic, summer squash and new potatoes. By July we also send green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, sweet corn and fresh herbs, like sweet basil, dill, chives and oregano. August finds a variety of melons, peppers and winter squashes in the baskets with some of the earlier crops dwindling. The wealth these crops produce is both made and spent locally.

The cool weather of autumn brings on the greens, like mustard, lettuce, kale and oriental cabbages. Many of these last through December, as does our big stash of Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternuts and garlic. Pumpkins, apples, pears and many other items make their way into the basket, along with a weekly bouquet of zinnias or sunflowers. Our members pay to keep the farm afloat, free and abundant, and are spending less money than if they bought their produce elsewhere.

We no longer sell produce to our neighbors, but instead give it away. In return we get rhubarb pies, harvesting help and other neighborly exchanges. Our members eat like we eat, the very best, in-season produce. 12 to 16 different goodies are delivered every Monday to a patio in Nashville, where the members pick up their 25-pound baskets. We try to have something new each week, and also include a newsletter.

Everyone gains from CSA’s. It’s a model for reinvigorating the countryside with productive and profitable, small organic farms. Members learn where their food comes from, and eat what is in season. They bear crop losses and bumpers crops along with the farmer, and become part of the farm. Rekindling this feeling of caring for the land may be more nourishing than the fresh organic vegetables they get each week.

When you support us, our farm is your farm. We encourage you to participate in farm activities: hikes, picnics, swimming, camping and planting potatoes. It’s a beautiful place with un-logged forests and a clear creek winding past bluffs and a cave. About 113 of the 300 acres are rolling meadows and hay fields which, with our herd of cattle, sustain the fertility of the farm. Biodynamic Agriculture is simply the best organic fanning method we’ve found, creating humus-rich soils for quality vegetables unsurpassed in flavor, nutrition and storage life.

From Memorial Day to Mid December you can have a beautiful box of organic produce. Twelve to sixteen varieties are harvested that day and delivered to a convenient drop-off point in Nashville TN. Our newsletter fills you in on the latest news from the farm and gives recipes for putting your food to good use.

How the Biodynamic Celebration First Got Started

by Jeff Poppen

The Southeast Biodynamic Association was formed after our first annual conference in 1987. Realizing the value of shared experiences and observations, we agreed to gather together regularly, we think we are celebrating our silver anniversary, but our accounting may be off.

Harvey Lisle called us the rebels, and insisted we hold our own conference. He had been involved with biodynamics since 1950, and was referring to the independent nature of Hugh Lovel, Hugh Courtney and me, who all lived in the south. Harvey’s own open-mindedness, mirth and spirituality certainly guided our group, and he never missed a conference and the opportunity to spring forth new ideas.

Hugh Lovel hosted the first nine conferences in Blairsville, Georgia. Each year Hugh Courtney would focus on one of the nine preparations and we learned hands on how to make them. There were other lectures and workshops, and we did not shy away from controversial subjects. Waldorf teachers, Anthroposophical doctors and many other students of Rudolf Steiner kept a lively flow of conversations going.

From the very start we agreed on one thing, we had to be on a farm eating our own food. We understand that the bridge between thinking and activity required proper nutrition. It would do no good to offer education without biodynamic farm and food to feel the difference and inspire commitment. Every August I loaded up the pickup truck with melons tomatoes and whatever else Hugh didn’t grow, and made the trip to Georgia. Everything from the breads and beans to the meat and diary was grown on our farms, and the meals were stellar.

A festival atmosphere was created, mimicking the words used in the agriculture course regarding their conference. Children playing added to the merriment, and the music and bonfires and eventually a talent show all became as important as the lectures, and the food kept getting better as our soils improved.

Forming our association on the last day of our first conference, we agreed on a few principals. The Southeast Biodynamic Association was open to all and required no dues. The conference fee of $100 (which is still the same 25 years later) would be waived if need be. You become a member by attending the party.

We organized it using ideas gained from the three-fold social order. On the one hand, free reign was given to spiritual ideas with no strings attached. To do this we use no money, no staff, no newsletter and no rules. On the other hand we promote biodynamics through economics, by creating profitable, model farms.

For example, by our farm being Demeter certified for 12 years, the word biodynamic appeared on grocery store shelves all over Tennessee. The many interns from our farms also spread the word, and several now have their own farms and gardens and apprenticeship programs.

By 1995 we are hosting the conferences here in Red Boiling Springs. Our association accepts no grants or money, with one exception. The National Biodynamic Association helps us to bring in a lecturer most years. In 2005 we hosted the National Conference, and many folks commented that it was special to be on a farm rather than at a hotel.

So here were are 25 years later, celebrating our 25th Southeast Biodynamic Conference. But I think it’d actually our 26th. Were lucky we don’t have accounting to deal with. The word conference has been changed to celebration, and the 150 attending members will no doubt do their best to add to the festivities. The feeling we have as we go into our 25th (or is it 26th?) year is more of a family reunion.

Master Gardeners

by Jeff Poppen

I love the people involved in the Master Gardeners Program.  Their curiosity has led them to take courses in horticulture from State University professors, and to help out in community gardening projects. I’ve lectured to master gardeners in many of Middle Tennessee.

The extension agent opened up the meeting. They were planning a field trip to Lexington to visit the labs where diseases are identified. The information in the Master Gardeners educational material stems from research on chemicals in agriculture, funded by chemical companies.

Apparently the “Volunteer Gardener” TV show gets aired in Kentucky because they all knew me. I started out by asking for questions, and was still trying to answer them three hours later. These folks came to learn.

I explain botany, microbiology and chemistry in simple examples from the garden. How a plant grows and its interaction with microbes and nutrients is a fascinating subject. Illuminating the causes for phenomenon experienced in their own gardens was deeply satisfying for all of us.

Many took notes. One lady claimed afterward to have five pages of them. These folks were craving information on how to garden organically. There seems to be much confusion about chemicals, and concern over their safety. They said a field trip to my farm would e much more to their liking.

Soil structure differs widely, depending on how we treat our ground. I can feel soil and  tell how it will grow plants. When it’s soft and silky, colloidal and crumbly, and not stuck together in clods and clumps, plants will thrive.

We stepped outside to look at the four by four gardens enclosed in boards and mulched in between by wood chips. The soil was weary from chemical use, packed and crusty, dry and lifeless. I had to look elsewhere to show them what I was talking about.

Underneath a nearby fence I dug out a clump of grass. Here we would see the beginnings of soil remediation. It was latticed with roots and had bugs and worms, but I could tell chemicals had been used.

It’s a shame, but understandable, that chemical companies fund agriculture education.  They make incredible amounts of money in return for their investment. It’s an honor to be able to teach a more natural approach to gardening, and a hopeful sign that people are so eager to learn and pursue it. The extension agent agreed with much of my talk, gave me a hat and made me an honorary extension agent for the University of Kentcky. But don’t tell Monsanto.

Fall Crops

by Jeff Poppen

By mid-August I have changed my box of seeds. The last of the summer crops are planted, and it’s time for the fall ones. Although a  few rows and beds of cabbage and lettuce are in to make transplants, I patiently wait until August 15 before I go crazy.

The onion field brings fond memories. 50 bushels of large yellow bulbs grew here, many of which are hanging in the barn. Onions must like hot dry weather to cure, because we had very little rotten ones.

After bush hogging the weeds, a bucket of buckwheat gets two double handfuls of crimson clover mixed in it. Then I look in my box of brassica seed, and I choose Rutabega. I pace the length of the field and back, tossing the mixture of three very different species high into the air.

A restful is slowly released as my arm arches through the air. The seeds scatter beneath the sky and fall a few inches apart in a 20 foot wide swath. Four gallons of seed take me down  the field and back, an area of about ¼ acre.

Buckwheat is a fast growing, summer cover crop. In a month it will be two foot tall and full of white flowers. Bees love it, and buckwheat brings in lots of other insects, too. Lime in the soil is made more accessible for the next crop after buckwheat has been grown.

Crimson Clover is a winter cover crop. It is very slow to grow at first and can get taken over by weeds if sown alone. Buckwheat acts as a nurse crop for crimson clover, shading out the weeds and allowing it to get established. As a legume, it adds nitrogen to the soil.

The handful of Rutabega seed is just one of the many kinds of Brassuca family members who love the fall. Frost kills the buckwheat, and the Brassicas take over the field until winter. All along the clover hides underneath the leaf canopy. Awaiting March and April to grow and bloom in its bright red glory.

Long Black Spanish radish is the Brassica that goes into the lower half of the old onion field. I then pull the chisel plow with the spike-tooth harrows behind to cover up the seed. I wanted to follow with a cultipacker, but didn’t get to.

The next fields were where the potatoes grew, and they get the same treatment. Bok Choy, Michihili Cabbage and Calabras sprouting broccoli are in one spot, and collards are in the lower side. Another field has mustard on one side and kale on the other.

An old corn patch is slated for turnips and diakons, but we got interrupted by cattle escapees. Running them out of a field of winter squash was saddening, but planting Red Russian and Siberean Kale cheered me back up. A gentle rain fell last night to tuck the newly planted seeds in their new homes. Good things will happen in these beds under the covers of beneficial, soil improving cover crops.