October 2016

Sad news…A recent study states that 58% of the world wildlife has been declining in the last 40 years (http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-37775622).  Some of the main causes for this decline are habitat loss and fragmentation. Urban development, especially in a place like Los Angeles that is so spread out, contributes to both. Major freeways in LA for instance create an almost insurmountable obstacle for some species like mountain lions and bobcats to cross. By not being able to cross these species suffer from inbreeding and loss of genetic diversity, and loss of territory.

This is why a project like the wildlife bridge over the 101 and other projects to accommodate wildlife are much needed (http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-caltrans-proposes-wildlife-overpass-on-101-freeway-20150902-story.html) Even climbing a wall can be quite an obstacle for wildlife, as in this video of raccoons helping each other climb a wall: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_CY3AjHhuQ

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Wildlife on the farm: a colorful Argiope spider

Some animals however are better able to adapt to urban environments than others. Coyotes for instance are doing quite well in the city, as this study shows: http://www.scpr.org/news/2016/07/18/62651/first-year-of-la-s-urban-coyote-study-is-full-of-s/ It is quite amazing how they are able to live and apparently thrive in the most urban parts of the city, while remaining quite invisible to us busy humans.

As this article shows, urban environments can also be attractive to some species (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/04/160418-animals-urban-cities-wildlife-science-coyotes/#close). Cities bring with them abundance of food and protection from hunting.  Many species have been observed to adapt their behavior to urban environment and human behavior and being quite clever and enterprising. Some individuals living in cities are better problem-solvers than their rural counter-parts.  As biologist Suzanne MacDonald say “We forget that we are the biggest cause of evolution on the planet right now.”

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A dove at the end of her life that Rishi found on the farm

Other species shyer or not able to adapt to the changing conditions of urban development are driven to extinction by habitat loss, or competition with non-native species. Domestic cats for instance are known to have lead many bird species to extinction. “Stray cats and pet cats allowed outdoors kill 3.6 million birds every day on average in the United States, for a total of at least 1.3 billion birds per year” (http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2015/12/accessories-for-your-murderous-pet/419601/). Another example: a scientist from the National History Museum told me once during a wildlife monitoring event (http://www.nhm.org/nature/citizen-science/help-our-scientists) that native black widows are being outcompeted by introduced brown widows in Los Angeles.

On the opposite side, according to one of my UCLA professor, flock of parrots are becoming more and more common in Los Angeles, coming from escaped or abandoned pet birds. They get together and seem to be doing quite well in LA, while in their native forests they are going extinct, from being captured for pet trade.

I think that urban green spaces and farms in particular can play an important role in finding solutions to co-habitation with wildlife and protection of some of their territory. This is actually one of the reasons why I got interested in urban farming. Agriculture and urban development are two of the main causes of habitat destruction. If we could feed ourselves while maintaining and providing habitat for wildlife that would be ideal. Small farms in the city can not only offer habitat and corridor/passageways for wildlife to live and migrate/move through; they can also diminish the amount of land being used outside the city for agriculture, as well as reduce transportation, therefore limiting the amount of disturbance in the countryside.

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Domesticated creatures turning wild when it’s time to put them back in their coop!

Providing connected patches of green in the city is especially important for migrating species like birds or the monarch butterfly –  as well as pesticide free farming/gardening and growth of native species. Native species can be sources of food to be rediscovered as well as provide habitat for wildlife. I found out about this series that looks really interesting (haven’t watched it yet) about traditional ecological knowledge of indigenous Californians, that can help us tend wildlife: https://www.kcet.org/shows/tending-the-wild

Cities are nature too. We humans are not the only creatures living there. How so nice it is to share diversity of human cultures and non-human species , if only we could do it with respect and consideration.

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A pupa soon to become butterfly

Farm Update

Hello Growing Club Members & CSA members!

Raindrops fall as blessings from the sky, and we stand in awe as fields of fertile soil become bounteous with the blessings of our mother Earth. This week our prayers of longing were answered and answered sternly. I watched from my bed as the rain hammered down on the rich ground of our home, and as the sky finished each sentence with a flash of light and a roar of thunder. Our mother is so beautiful in her most angry and terrifying moments. I counted the lightning bolts as the clock ticked from 3am to 4, from 4am to 5, thankful that the dry season’s reign was ending for the year. All hail the glorious broccoli, she rises up from her hot slumber, ready to fill bellies and delight tastebuds.

Due to the strong rain, we closed the farm on Monday. We like to give the earth some time after strong rains like what we had to adjust to the dramatic change before we dig into her with our manipulations and goals. This morning I came to the farm, hoping to see a resurgence of growth from the beautifully oxygenated, alchemical power of rainwater and I was not disappointed. All the residents of the farm were standing up tall, singing the praises of the sky and the clouds and the wind as much as us.  Our trainees got straight to it, now that they’ve become somewhat accustomed to the motions and rhythms of the farm. Babies in the nursery were watered and fed, chickens let out to scavenge the earth for grubs and worms, and the weekly harvest began in earnest. This season is the one we wait for each year. No sweat dripping from our brows, no over-eager plants to trellis, just easy picking close to the soil. Eat your fill friends. Let your desires be fulfilled by the daikon radish, be mesmerized by the chioggia beet, and pickle every carrot you see.

Until next week,

Farmer Rishi
Founder/Director, The Growing Club

Photos of the Week

The chickens are enjoying their fresh wheat grass, which they are now getting daily.

The chickens are enjoying their fresh wheat grass, which they are now getting daily.

Our daikon radishes are sizing up! Lynn harvests baby daikon for the CSA.

Our daikon radishes are sizing up! Lynn harvests baby daikon for the CSA.

Cecile harvests the swiss chard that is growing so majestically.

Cecile harvests the swiss chard that is growing so majestically.

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.

Large Box

Vegetables:
– Zucchinno Rampicante or Zucchinni
– 1 bag eggplant and cucumber
– 1 bunch amaranth
– 1 bunch yard long beans
– 1 bunch swiss chard
– 1 box Sarvodaya salad mix (arugula, lettuce, swiss chard, radish)
butternut squash & corn
– baby daikon radish (the whole thing is edible, roots and leaves – big daikon coming next week)
moringa pod

Herbs:
– 1 bunch basil
– 1 bunch garlic chives*

Fruit:
– 1 box VERY RIPE white sapote
(If you’ve never had sapote before you are in for a treat. Just eat all the flesh and skin, don’t eat the seed. It is a little messy.)
– 1 box jamun and mixed guava

Small Box

Vegetables:
– Zucchinno Rampicante or Zucchinni
– 1 bunch amaranth
– 1 bunch yard long beans
– 1 box Sarvodaya salad mix (arugula, lettuce, swiss chard, radish)
butternut squash & corn
moringa pod
– 1 box Sarvodaya stir fry mix

Herbs:
– 1 bunch basil

Fruit:
– 1 box VERY RIPE white sapote
(If you’ve never had sapote before you are in for a treat. Just eat all the flesh and skin, don’t eat the seed. It is a little messy.)
– 1 box jamun and mixed guava

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. 🙂

Farm Update

Hello Growing Club Members & CSA members!

The sun is getting lazy as we move into the winter season. Each day we wake up to find the darkness has come earlier, but we still get dressed, pack our pruners and breakfast, and head to the farm. There is an unspeakable beauty to our abundant farm in the fog of the fall. Not just in the lush plants, and the swaying trees, and the haze that makes each leaf glisten, but in the morning shivers we share as we move to find feeling in our hands and in the soft clouds of our frozen breaths. To stand in awe in all of the beauty that surrounds us, and think back to just two years ago when none of it all existed, when it was just a dream we hadn’t fully thought out, makes me so grateful for the world’s willingness to change. The soil doesn’t fight back when you spread compost on it, refusing to accept the blessing. The earth sings when we spread our mulch, dancing at the sight of a insulating blanket. The butterflies don’t refuse to migrate in when you plant flowers for their pleasure, they call in their friends. The creation of a garden in our saddened urban lands is truly a blessing for everyone. Thank you all for being a part of this adventure which challenges the basic tenets of our increasingly structured, organized, chaotic world. Wishing you all a beautiful fall and happy tummy.

Until next week,

Farmer Rishi
Founder/Director, The Growing Club

Photos of the Week

This week I’m happy to share some beautiful photos from one of our new Farmer Trainees, Krysta. Krysta has a blog where she writes about food, farming, cooking, and more. Check it out here! And enjoy her photos below.

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Cindy and Cammi happily picking through the eggplant bed.

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The team sets up a sprinkler line to germinate a bed of carrots.

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Farmer Katie picks through a bed of bush beans.

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:
– 2 pieces mixed summer squash (zucchino rampicante or zucchinni or young butternut)
– 1 large or 2 small ears sweet corn
– 1 bunch amaranth
– 1 bunch yard long beans*
– 1 bag mixed salad greens with radish
– 1 bunch young swiss chard**
– 1 bunch water spinach*
– 1 bunch moringa leaf & 1 bunch moringa seed pod*
– 1 basket jalapenos

Herbs:
– 1 bunch lemongrass*
– 1 bunch basil*
– 1 bunch garlic chives**

Fruit:
– 1 bag guavas
– 1 basket jamun*
– 1 lb pomegranate*

*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. 🙂

Food waste or organic waste today is a big problem in the US. Although some places do compost, or some people compost at home, the majority doesn’t. From my personal experience of going to restaurants, or anywhere to eat, one small mistake on the dish means trash, or a half-eaten plate goes to trash. Even one bad cherry tomato in a bag gets thrown out at a Grocery store. It’s unfortunate how disconnected we have become from food, as people don’t realize that the bag of tomatoes took tons of resources. For example, those resources include hundreds of gallons of water, energy, and a farmer’s hard work.  So all those resources and nutrients from just that one bag of tomatoes, are just going out to the trash. Including the nutrients that don’t even get a chance to go back into the soil because they get end up in a landfill.

With some online research I was able to find some numbers. According to several articles, in the US alone, 40 percent of food ends up in the landfill. According to CalRecycle, in California we throw away about 6 million tons of food waste or scraps each year. This waste impacts our ecosystem in a couple of different ways, one is the methane that is produced from the landfills, which is more potent then Co2 as a greenhouse gas, leaking into our atmosphere. The other one I mentioned already was that nutrients don’t return to the soil, and as one of the articles from the Sierra Club states, this means loss in fertility for the soil, which equals to farmers having to use pesticides and fertilizers to fill the gap.  But from what I have learned those pesticides and fertilizers then pollute the environment, which are also going into our and animal’s bodies. We need to move towards not wasting so much organic waste and doing compost everywhere!

Some beautiful purple and green bush beans we know  didn't go to waste but to our CSA boxes!

Some beautiful purple and green bush beans we know didn’t go to waste but to our CSA boxes!

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF THE FARM.
Sometimes, the best way to experience the farm, is through images.

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Cat’s scamper to the back, waiting for their morning meal.

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A chicken contemplates the next pond leaf it will nibble on.

 

Cecile (an intern) works to fill the water in the chicken coop.

Cecile (an intern) works to fill the water in the chicken coop.

 

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Chickens look for grubs in the ground.

 

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Bees collect pollen from corn tassels and store them in sacks on their legs.

 

A new bed is planted, and covered with burlap for protection.

A new bed is planted, and covered with burlap for protection.

 

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Katie harvests bush beans.

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Field sign painted by intern Faye.

Field sign painted by intern Faye.

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An intern shows off a colorful insect she found in the field.

 

Radish sprouts

Radish seedlings. 

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Farmer Rishi instructs Cecile (an intern) on planting practices.

Farmer Rishi instructs Cecile (an intern) on planting practices.

 

Freshly harvested pomegranates.

Freshly harvested pomegranates.

 

Kelsey (an intern) fixes a drip line.

Kelsey (an intern) fixes a drip line.

 

Moringa leaves and flowers.

Moringa leaves and flowers.

 

Farmer Manju works hard packaging produce.

Farmer Manju works hard packaging amaranth.

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The hat wall.

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Cindy spreads diatomaceous earth, the fossilized remains of marine phytoplankton, to keep invasive insects at bay.

Cindy spreads diatomaceous earth, the fossilized remains of marine phytoplankton, to keep invasive insects at bay.

 

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Farm Update

Hello Growing Club Members & CSA members!

Today the weather decided to be winter. It seems like more and more seasons are not patterns of weather that last for several months, but instead are daily or weekly occurrences. Today and tomorrow are winter, but three days from now might be summer or spring. As a farmer, I find this new pattern very worrying, because it makes planning on the farm very difficult. Last week, we transplanted a 150 or so red russian kale plants on a cool day, expecting cooler weather to follow. Instead, the weather shifted to 90+ degrees and we lost about a 1/3 of those plants. Thankfully, we still have enough to fill all our CSA members boxes, but I am a bit worried for the future.

On the brighter side, today saw the debut of the farm’s first root vegetables of the fall, with baby daikon radish coming out of the ground and into all of our small boxes. The baby daikon whole plants can be eaten in their entirety and they have a pleasant, mildly spicy flavor that will go great in warming soups and stir fries. You can also pickle the daikon leaves by massaging them with salt and putting them in jars like sauerkraut. Large boxes got the first of the sweet corn harvest (only a few ears were ready this week), which is coming along beautifully.

Our new class of Farmer Trainees seems to be settling in comfortably into the farm’s rhythms. We have developed a number of new systems for them to make learning on the farm easier and clearer, and we are working through our grant from Tri-City Mental Health to further develop our curriculum for them. I know they are enjoying growing, caring for and harvesting the food we all eat, and I am thankful to have such a great group with us.

Until next week,

Farmer Rishi
Founder/Director, The Growing Club

Photos of the Week

Lynn's beautiful compost makes the farm go round. This pile was just finishing up.

Lynn’s beautiful compost makes the farm go round. This pile was just finishing up.

Brooke harvests the beautiful wall of yard long beans.

Brooke harvests the beautiful wall of yard long beans.

Cecile with a box full of baby swiss chard.

Cecile with a box full of baby swiss chard.

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 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 Zucchino Rampicante
– 1 bunch amaranth
– 1 bunch yard long beans
– 1 bag baby sautee mix (napa cabbage, beet greens, swiss chard)
– 1 bag mixed salad greens*
– 1 bunch water spinach*
– 1 box nopales
– 1 bunch baby daikon (eat the root and leaves!)

Herbs:
– 1 bunch lemongrass
– 1 bunch basil*

Fruit:
– 1 box jamun
– many guavas*
– 1 lb pomegranate**

*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. 🙂

Farm Update

Hello Growing Club Members & CSA members!

Okay, so we got to it a bit late, but we did IT! We successfully grew sweet corn this year and harvested our first ear! They will be going into CSA boxes next week, and hopefully the week after also. Organic sweet corn is very hard to find because many times little caterpillars end up in the ears eating the kernels. Conventional farmers spray pesticides to kill off this caterpillar, but of course we did no such thing. So yes, your ear of corn may come with a worm or two. Just pick it off and enjoy the corn. The corn we grew is an open-pollinated variety called “Who Gets Kissed?” that was developed specifically for small-scale organic growers like us. It has done great in our fields, and we are so happy that we can actually SAVE THE SEED and grow it again next year. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Today, our new Farmer Trainee class met for their first sit-down class session and we discussed the main ideas behind our farm, specifically viewing the farm as a whole, functioning ecosystem where each element is intimately connected to and affecting every other element. During the class I realized how different our training is from the type of schooling I grew up with. Trying to understand a whole system, and all the connections between the elements of a system is contrary to anything anyone learns in school (unless maybe they attend a Montessori or Waldorf type school). When your mind has been trained to reduce, zoom-in and concentrate for years and years, it really is difficult to backup and see the whole picture (which is a scary picture to see today). Although we call our program a “farmer training,” my secret goal is actually to trick people into seeing the world as an ocean of connection. Only then can we see and understand structural problems and come up with effective solutions, whether it is in the fields of our farms, the classrooms of our schools, or the halls of government.

Until next week,

Farmer Rishi
Founder/Director, The Growing Club

Photos of the Week

Our first ear of sweet corn. Coming in the CSA next week!

Our first ear of sweet corn. Coming in the CSA next week!

Ingrid and Brooke working on the harvest this morning.

Ingrid and Brooke working on the harvest this morning.

Happy cabbage seedlings growing in the nursery.

Happy cabbage seedlings growing in the nursery.

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 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 Zucchino Rampicante or Zucchini or butternut squash
– 1 bag eggplant
– 1 bunch amaranth
– 1 bunch yard long beans**
– 1 bunch bush beans*
– 1 box baby swiss chard
– 1 box mixed salad greens*
– 1 bunch water spinach*
– 1 bunch moringa pods + moringa leaves

Herbs:
– 1 bunch parsley*
– 1 bunch basil

Fruit:
– 1 box jamun
– a couple guavas
– 1 lb pomegranate*

*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. 🙂

Lots of beautiful colors and insects on the last week of my farm internship, there’s nothing really quite like it.

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funny shapes

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Long bean flowers

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Something was hungry

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Ant traffic on the water pipeline at 8:30am, I wonder if they stress about life like humans…

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If you say its amaranth……

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Cute colorful bug, reminds me of old indian pottery

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Crazy big bug, his feet look like dead leaves.

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More diatomaceous earth as a natural pest control.

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My spider friend in the lemongrass in field A (I think)

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Whenever you see giant webs like this with a distinct center, if you sneak up you can see the spider hanging out in the center waiting. If you walk by or accidentally get water near the spider it’ll run into the hole and hide. (Thank goodness I would freak out if it charged instead of retreating.)

Figeater beetle stuffed all the way into a rimpacante flower, they usually don’t buzz around until 9:30am, they sleep later than farmers. Haven’t seen too many of them lately.

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Funky new insects, look like a cross between dainty spiders and giant aphidsimg_1752 img_1753

Gorgeous eggplants

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Green worms on the green beans,

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purple worms on the purple beans,

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Look how crazy that color is!

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So long for now farm and friends, I’ll see you every other Friday for a while :).

img_1529 The farm has the biggest basil plants I have ever seen, almost taller than us! Sadly mine at home don’t grow past sprout stage. Usually just 1/2 an inch.

img_1563 Pretty moth/butterfly.

White bee looking thing: img_1567 img_1568

So much life and health on the farm I hope to aspire to this level in my own yard one day. <3

 

 

I was absent this week, attending my essential oil convention in Salt Lake City Utah. There were numerous speakers, introducing 23 new products. Two of the products are new oils sourced from Nepal. Grown by small scale farmers who had little to nothing until Doterra comes in and teaches them the trade. Teachers them how to harvest a superior product with no chemicals, no herbicides, no pesticides. (Like the farm) Builds them stills, pays them year round so that they don’t rush the harvest which would result in a lower grade product. This also gives them a steady reliable income that they can count on. We saw video clips of the farmers explaining their lives before and after Doterra, and their towns before and after. Now they can afford to send their children to school, some of the schools that Doterra actually built. Their wives can give birth at a 24hour free medical center that Doterra has built. I love my company because they support humanitarianism, sustainability and a chemical free way of life.

I also had to get used to flies and bugs crawling on me when I returned to the farm, just one week away had made me jumpy again.