June 2016

 IMG_0471The farm has a number of these beetles buzzing about, and I do mean buzzing, they sound like a helicopter. While transplanting tomatoes last Friday I had was digging a hole when I noticed one of these green beetles was deep in the ground, mostly motionless and looking drowsy. I wondered how it had gotten there and decided to look into their life cycle. It turns out they’re called the Green Fig Beetle (Figeater Beetle/ Green Fruit Beetle) scientific name, Cotinis mutabilis. People often mistake these beetles for Green June Beetles (Cotinis nitida) or Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica). The Figeater beetle doesn’t do as much damage as these other beetles.

They are most common late July through September, so it seems they’re here to stay for the bulk of my internship. They’re also one of the largest native beetles in our area. They are slow fliers and often collide with large objects, even walls and humans.

This beetle does not bite, and is great for close inspection and for teaching children about beetles. The Fig Beetle is a scarab beetle and plays an important role in recycling organic matter. They’re drawn to flowers and fruit. “They cannot bite through the tough skins of many fruits; they usually eat fruits that have been damaged by birds/insects/squirrels – or are over-ripe. Figeaters are attracted by the gases emitted by ripening and fermenting fruits, which serve as an airborne signal. Among their favorite fruits are apricots, pears, peaches, apples, figs, melons, grapes, nectarines, tomatoes and of course, cactus fruits. ” (Vadheim, 2013)

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Seen on the right are over-ripe peaches in our compost pile, likely giving off that airborne signal. “They can swarm on soft or damaged fruit and have been known to eat an entire garden grape or fig crop. The best prevention is regular harvesting of ripe fruit. ” (2013) Luckily we harvest our fruit trees and field every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

So how did that beetle I found in the soil on Friday come to be there?  “Adults Figeater Beetles lay their eggs in the decomposing material in the fall. The beetle larvae then feed on the decomposing matter through winter and spring,” speeding up the decomposition rate and aerating soils and compost. The Figeater larvae’s favorite decomposing matter is compost, composting manure and organic mulch. (2013)

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“The larvae are important ecosystem ‘recyclers’, along with soil bacteria & fungi.” (2013) The picture on the left shows what the figeater larvae look like. I have found them in my home garden before and mistook them for hornworm larvae. I crushed them with a shovel and a bright green liquid came out.

“Green Fig Beetles have a single generation per year in local gardens, although they may remain in the soil for two years if food and water are scarce. Larvae typically emerge from the eggs in fall. They live deep in the soil/compost during winter and early spring, eating and growing…In spring, the larvae migrate upward to begin their second larval stage. They can often be found feeding near the surface and you’ll sometimes see small mounds of soil near the entrance to their tunnels. This period may have consequences for the home garden. Larval tunnels can cause the soil to dry out around plant roots.” (2013)IMG_0481

“In late April or May, Figeater larva create an underground pupal chamber with walls composed of sand particles and frass (solid excreta). The larvae pupate (metamorphose from larval to adult form) in the pupal chamber, emerging as winged adults in summer.” (2013) Seen on the right hand side of the picture to the right. At this time they can be attacked and eaten by our predator chickens as shown in the picture below.

IMG_0476  If the figeater beetle survives our chickens, the circle of life continues. Either way the flow of energy continues as the chicken manure could fertilize future figeater larvae.

 

Source: Vadheim, C., (2013, August 24). Green Fig Beetle. Retrieved from http://mother-natures-backyard.blogspot.com/2013/08/green-fig-beetle-figeater-beetle-green.html

Chickens. I’ve heard that chickens have different personalities just like dogs, and so far from what I’ve seen taking care of the chickens its true. Some chickens are more aggressive than others, pushing them out of the way or chasing them away from a good bug so that they can have it for themselves.

IMG_0354The picture shows a curious chicken who likes to jump on top of her coop to see what I am doing. Theres another adventurous dark brown chicken who enjoys getting a run at the chicken fence and hopping over with a victory squawk. She’s escaped three times this week during her outside coop time. Wrangling the chickens into their coops at the end of the day is an adventure in itself. Some would rather not be scooped up so they wander into the coop themselves. They see me and freeze in their tracks knowing its time to go back in. I calmly ask if they would like to jump in themselves, and they walk past me and give the tiniest little hop into the coop. They then turn around and look back at me, as if to say say look at me mom, no human hands! Others, usually dirt baithing look up at me in surprise as they get scooped up and put into the pen. They like to shake the dirt off and it flies everywhere. Some really give you a run for your money, running in circles around the coop as you duck under branches and crawl toward the base of a tree to pick them up, and they dart away in a different direction. This is why it’s best to have two people put the chickens away, so one can make a human barrier while the other sneaks in from behind. This particular week a white and grey spotted chicken, as beautiful as it was cocky, was quite hard to capture. Round and round the tree we went, round and round the coop. It was getting tiring, then she started laughing at me. I didn’t know chickens could make such a noise that resembles human laughter. So I’m in hot pursuit, while she’s chuckling at me leading me into trees then escaping. As she passes the coop, her hen friends cheer her on and join in, laughing at me. I defensively gasp, don’t you laugh at me, and close in on the spotted bird. I scoop her up and give an exaggerated evil laugh, Mwa haha got you now! But remember how I mentioned she was cocky? She flapped her wings, punching me in the face, fluttering to the ground with perfect precision and jutting off into the open. I can’t recall what happened after that, not because I was concussed or anything, bird hits like she has hollow bones. She may have wandered into the coop herself, or I may have called for reinforcements. The important part is no living being was harmed in the cooping of the chickens that day.

Nature is so beautiful, the bright colors, flowers, shapes. The red plums, (purple color) are my favorite so far. They’re so juicy and refreshing after a hot day in the field.

 

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Others have mentioned how peaceful the farm is, how it is their happy place. It is definitely therapeutic, and gives me a feeling of a job well done.

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Farm Update

Hello Growing Club Members & CSA members!

This week has been a busy one for me, since I have been taking care of a few big projects that have taken my attention away from the farm. These projects have made my life a little too hectic over the past few weeks, but there was a wonderful silver lining to be found. With my attention away from the farm and my mom out of the country, Katie and Lynn have had to take over much of the farm’s management and they have been doing a beautiful job of it. When we started this farm just under 2 years ago, we had a dream to create a space where people could come together and care for the soil, for our community, and for our earth family. Katie and Lynn have become embodiment’s of this goal, and it is deeply warming to see how they have grown into their roles on the farm. I’m so glad they found us and our farm and have integrated so well into our community as leaders and friends. I hope that this farm can be a space for growth and learning for many more in the years to come, as it has been for all of us that have worked it’s soil.

Until next week,

Farmer Rishi
Founder/Director, The Growing Club

Photos of the Week

This week I’m highlighting some photos taken by Farmer Trainees! Read their blog posts to get the full scoop.

The beautiful purple beans come from beautiful purple flowers.

The beautiful purple beans come from beautiful purple flowers.

Happy Tyler holding the first tomatoes of the season.

Happy Tyler holding the first tomatoes of the season.

Kelsey unloads the last of the fruit harvested from our orchard.

Kelsey unloads the last of the fruit harvested from our orchard.

Farmer Trainee Journal Entries

Want to see the farm through the eyes of our Farmer Trainees? Read their weekly blog posts below.

This week’s Farmer’s Journal highlight comes to us from Farmer Trainee Cami:

It’s very rewarding to see the web of interconnection between everything on the farm. This is what drew me to the farm in the first place. Regenerative practices, only a handful of people ever use this term. When I mention to anyone that I have a masters degree in regenerative studies they are really impressed, mostly because they think it means I’m a doctor who regrows limbs, which is not the case at all. Regenerative practices let things come full circle and close the loop verses other linear systems.

This week’s CSA Box

(Please click each item below for a larger photo, description, and preparation instructions.)

NOTE: We are trying to get around to update vegetables descriptions. In the mean time, for items without a provided description, feel free to Google uses and recipes.

Vegetables:
– 1 zuchinno rampicante
– 2-3 summer squashes, mixed varieties*
– 1 box green and purple beans
– 1 head kohlrabi *
– 1 bunch spring onion*
– 2 cucumbers, mixed varieties
– 1 box cherry tomatoes
– 3-4 cucumbers, mixed varieties

Green Vegetables:
– 1 bunch water spinach
– 1 bunch mixed kale

Herbs:
– 1 bunch italian basil
– 1 bunch parsley*

Fruit:
– 1 bag nectarines
– 1 bag peaches*

*LARGE VEGGIE BOX ONLY
**SMALL VEGGIE BOX ONLY

Storage Instructions

Leafy Vegetables
In case your greens are wilted by the time you pickup your box, please follow these instructions:

– Fill a small bowl or tub with 1 inch of water
– Cut a 1/2 inch of the bottoms of the stems of your leafy greens
– Place greens, with stems down, into the bowl of water
– Leave the greens in the bowl overnight and by morning they should be rehydrated

Wrap your rehydrated greens in a towel and store the in the fridge. Summer greens like water spinach, moringa, and yam leaves don’t last long either way, so eat those as soon as you can.

Herbs
The best way to store your herbs so that they keep longer is to cut the stems a little and place them in a glass filled with about an inch of water. Cover the leaves loosely with a bag and keep them in the refrigerator. Replace the water inside when it gets cloudy. This works great with basil, mint, cilantro, parsley, and many other herbs.

Please feel free to share your recipes with us and also any storing tips you may have. 🙂

I had little soil or plant interaction this week. My “chore” for the week included filling the water ponds and taking out the garbage. I did get a chance to trellis the rampicante, tomatoes, and cucumber, but the rampicante and tomatoes are to the top and I’m a short girl, so it could be challenging at times.

I had the opportunity to weigh the farmer’s market again, this time it was about 500 pounds. Monday was the day that it was scorching hot. The high temperature that day was 109° F and the Duarte and Azusa fires broke out. To keep out of the sun, we worked from the kitchen and storage area, organizing boxes, painting them and labeling them.

The experience that stands out to me the most from this week is personal and menstrual-related. I remember when I did my trial week,  I asked Manju what we would need to do when we need to take care of our needs to go to the restroom. I was specific when asking for advice about handling my period needs specifically.  Manju simply said that is not something she needs to consider for herself and said if anything I could go to the 7 eleven. Well, my concerns manifested on Wednesday when my menstrual cup leaked and I stained myself during our weekly lecture. I felt shame, embarrassment, and irritated. As everyone stood up to leave, I stayed in my seat thinking of ways that I could discretely ask for help from someone (to grab my purse where I had an extra pad) or of ways to hide myself in the corner (sink area away from everyone else, especially the men). Eventually I forced myself to ask for support. I reached out to Laura and asked if she could help cover me with burlap while I took off my shorts and rinsed them, completely removing the stain and changed my pad. I felt so uncomfortable and I expressed to Laura that I was mostly upset because I felt shame when I think that I shouldn’t since it is a most natural human process. Laura reaponded by sharing that she would think that amongst farmers people would understand this natural cycle. I’ve been reflecting on this since and am trying to have compassion towards myself by forgiving myself for feeling shame and embarrassment. Laura, if you’re reading this, thanks again for the moral support as well!!

It was an exciting week at the farm. After having done a walk through with Rishi the previous Friday and noting what was getting ready for harvest, seeing the growth and fruit after just 3 days, on Monday, was amazing. It sounds like something small, but considering the diversity of the plants in Sarvodaya Farm and all of their abundance, it truly isn’t. This week, I had a wonderful time with Laura and Kelsey harvesting rampicante squash, zucchini, lemon cucumbers, silver slicer cucumbers, tomatoes, Santa Rosa plums, beauty plums, apricots, and nectarines. I learned that the rampicante is ripe when it is a lighter color, not green, and is girthy (able to wrap with thumb and pinky). There were only a few lemon cucumbers ready this week, but basically they are a bright yellow and lemon-sized (the color is more important than the size). To harvest silver slicer cucumbers what we looked for was a white streak. The zucchini bed required most work because not only did we look for zucchini that were ripe, but we cut anywhere we saw dead flowers or misshapen zucchini (for the purpose of redistributing energy in the plant). I kept an eye on the green beans in bed D-5, and they began to sprout but still not ready for harvest. Also, the peppers in C-4 and C-5 were fruiting but weren’t turning red or orange or purple yet. Just a few of the cherry tomatoes (red and golden) were ready this week, most were still green.

On Wednesday, it was my first time weighing in food waste from the farmer’s market. Aja and I  weighed about 640 pounds of food waste. It was about 200 pounds more than the  prior week! I hope that doesn’t mean the farmer lost a lot. It was also my first day of delivering CSA boxes to Fullerton, now being involved throughout the process of planting, growing, harvesting, packing and delivering.

This week we had our first class. The introduction seems simplistic and obvious, but at the same time complicated and nuanced. We explored the question of what keeps us (humans) healthy. Love, relationships, clean water, clean air, good food, support,  sleep, connection, healthy immune system, and shelter were listed. From there we applied these needs to plants and examined more deeply. What are the beneficial relationships of plants? What is good plant food? What’s plant exercise? What relaxation or sleep do they need? What water do plants need? Shelter or space? What do plants need from air?  It was a very good introductory class, I’m looking forward to more.

This was a strange week for me, in general, and also at the farm. It’s the first time I didn’t lose myself in the work. Usually, I lose track of time on the farm. I missed that peace this week.

It’s also the first time I had gopher trap duty as a chore, and the first time I worked in the compost area. Having grown up working on a farm, I realize there are just days that nothing seems fun, but I also realize there are those jobs we might never get used to or never enjoy.

As I was wondering which of those two situations I’d experienced, I remembered a quote from a Leo Buscaglia book. “Let’s rise and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we may have learned a little. And if we didn’t learn even a little, at least we didn’t get sick. And if we did get sick, at least we didn’t die. So let us all be thankful.”

I’m not dead or sick, so I looked back on what I learned from my time on the farm this week. Here’s what I recalled.

Ceviche is a South American seafood dish. Caliche is NOT. Caliche is a type of sedimentary soil. It’s a hardened natural cement, and from my experience, cement’s not an overstatement. (There’s actually a “forest” of it on San Miguel Island, right off our own coast.) So, the first thing I learned is that my Spanish sucks worse than I thought. The second thing is that while there are Rockfish, there’s no such thing as Fish Rock.

fishrock
(Or is there?)

The next thing I learned is that Jujyfruit and jujube candies both get their name from the Chinese jujube tree. Until this week I had never heard of this tree, but now I can’t wait to try it’s fruit, also known as a Chinese Date. I’m pretty sure we sell this stuff, so I’m bringing cash on Wednesday.

When I was 15, my family moved to Wisconsin, land of cheese & melk. Yep, I spelled that incorrectly on purpose because the way they talk always bugged me. Melk. Seems if your main industry was milk, you’d make sure you could pronounce it correctly. Either way, before that I lived in Indiana, which at the time was definitely a southern state. You see, in Indiana, they might drink milk, but if they spilled any of it on their clothes, they’d have to waRsh them. Oh my god. Well, another thing about the south is those people will eat anything. I mean, anything that walks. I mean, anything that walks or used to walk. If it’s dead on the side of the road, it probably qualifies. So yeah, I’ve eaten all sorts of weird things, mostly from my childhood years down yonder, including squirrel. So, the next thing I learned this week is that I’m not the only one on the farm who can say that. Watch out varmint, thar’s two of us a-lookin’ fer ya!

The last thing I learned this week isn’t the funniest, but to me it’s the most interesting. For over four decades, John Jeavons has been researching how to maximize output from farmland, while also minimizing the amount of land used. From the little I’ve read, it seems he’s pushing the envelope from both the inside and the outside. In an SFGate.com article he says, “We have an opportunity to grow very high yields using a fraction of the resources. One of the ways we do this is by growing all the organic matter we need in the garden, or on the farm, that’s producing the food.” He continues, “It takes about 15,000 to 30,000 square feet of land to feed one person the average American diet. I’ve figured out how to get it down to 4,000 square feet. How? I focus on growing soil, not crops.”

I love that last line. It reminds me of something Rishi said early on about healthy soil. I could go on and on about this. Rishi and I were talking about some interesting but disturbing things this Friday, dealing with historic massive population reductions based on corresponding drops in food production, so this topic seems a necessary conversation to me. But it’s also interesting from a business standpoint. As long as the brink of destruction isn’t a present problem, my ideas about having this type of farm as a business opportunity seem to become at least a little more realistic with each measurable reduction in the land needed. So once I’m done with The One Straw Solution and The Market Gardener, I think I’ll pick up How To Grow More Veges, by Jeavons. Now, if I could somehow finish these blog posts before God went to sleep I could probably find more time to read.

At 106 degrees by noon, last Monday was a scorcher on the farm. Wisely, we prioritized harvesting early in the day so that the afternoon could be devoted to tasks done in the shade. But now that some of that June gloom has burned off and we’re heading into summer in earnest, we enjoyed super-sized yields of cucumber and zucchini just as new fruits and veggies are coming into season.

This was my favorite newcomer from that extra toasty day.

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The Royal Burgundy still had some growing to do, but a good number of the Provider Bush Bean pods were plump, crisp, and ready to go. With a light sweetness and a satisfying crunch, these are bound to be a great addition to summer salads and stir fries.

They’re not the easiest to spot, camouflaging along the plant’s stem, but if you’re thorough and check low down, close to the base, that’s where the ripest and juiciest pods are presently hiding.

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Hard to tell from this angle, but deliciousness lurks beneath.

What I’m looking forward to harvesting next: peppers!

Sunflower home

The past couple of weeks have been extremely hot (just in case you didn’t notice) and the farm is holding up surprising well. Two Mondays ago when it was approximately 112 degrees in the Pomona area, I left the farm around 12:00, it hadn’t reached 112 yet, but it was still very hot. I live in Ontario – only 8 miles away from the farm, so basically experiencing the same heat. But what a difference! My sunflowers, cucumbers, artichokes and watermelons were drooping miserably. Even my newly planted orange tree was showing signs of stress and required a deep watering fast!

So I’m thinking when I get back to the farm on Wednesday, some of the plants will be goners or at least damaged – burnt leaves – something. But the farm looked great. The plants didn’t show any sign of stress from the heat. Even the newly planted plugs held up quite well. No sunburn or wilting leaves – just happy plants. The planting beds only get watered on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays. They are on a drip system and I think the drips are on for about 40 minutes on those days (I will have to double check with Rishi). This again is a testament to the health of the soil and its ability to retain water (unlike my soil at home, which has only been slighting amended). I also think about all the nutrients the plants at the farm must be soaking up that allows them to stand unwilted in 112 degrees – I mean really! They mock us! All of us interns are wilting – sweat running down our faces and backs – my hair sticking to my head – yuk!Even the interns that previously didn’t wear hats have them on now. However Rishi doesn’t wear a hat – I think he is worried about hat hair 🙂

The one area that did need some tender loving care is our nursery. The new seedlings and plugs did not fare well in their new location and cannot go more than a day without watering in this heat – so we lost some plants in the nursery. But Rishi installed a new misting system that will mist the plants on the days we are not there. Also, JD and a few of the other interns replaced the burlap shade cloth with a much more breathable and UV protecting cloth – so the little ones should do much better from here on out.

I hope you all survive the heat!

 

Its week three on the Sarvodaya Farm. I love that I always experience something new. I’m learning a lot and  grateful for the opportunity to get my hands in the dirt, literally and figuratively. In my short time here, I have grown to love some of the may farm tasks assigned. These are a few of my favorite things:

1)      Chicken Duty– I absolutely love to let the chickens out

The Regina George of Sarvodaya

The Regina George of Sarvodaya

in the morning. I can feel their anticipation as I open the doors. They’re a joy to watch and care for, as they prance around. And then some days, it’s like watching the poultry version of the movie “Mean Girls”, complete with cliques, bullying, and a seemingly complex pecking order. Never a dull moment in the chicken pen.

2)      Bringing Home the Bounty– There is nothing like being able to sample the fruits of your labor. This week I took home some rampicante squash, which I had never tasted before. I added it to a shrimp alfredo dish, and it was a big hit with my family, so good!

3)      CSA– There is something so satisfying about being a part of the bustling activity surrounding the CSA. Everyone is in the field harvesting, cleaning produce, weighing, bunching, and packaging. The work can be hard, especially when it’s hot, buts it’s so relaxing.

4)      Planting- This, is when I’m able to really put my hands in the dirt. The soil on the farm is so rich, soft, and dare I say, bouncy. When planting, I’m amazed that there is no need for tools. You can just put your fingers in the dirt, and seconds later a fountain of pill bugs and earwigs spring up. It’s the most amazing thing.

These are a few of my favorite things on the farm…