Good-Bye 2017!!!

Hello everyone and Happy New Year! Its been quite some time since I’ve updated this blog and for that I apologize. 2017 was not an easy year and we are glad to be done with it and on to 2018! We had a lot of challenges in 2017 including record heat early in the summer (way too many days of 115+) and more record heat bleeding into our fall. Not to mention a plague of grasshoppers that persisted through the late summer into fall obliterating anything green except okra. It hasn’t really rained much since September and most of our fall plantings were eaten by the jumping demons. At least the birds were fat and happy! Watching the Flycatchers dip and dive for grasshoppers brought me a little too much glee.

One thing that we can always count on is oyster mushrooms! They are the work-horse of our operation and have been chugging along since mid-Sept. In addition to our weekly Sunday Farmers Market (Heirloom at the Rillito, 9-1) we also have been delivering to Time Market so if you get a mid-week hankering for shroom you can pick them up in the produce section there. Everyone is always asking about Shiitakes. They have a mind of their own but from the last two years growing them it seems they always want to poke their heads out in the Spring. Even if we start them early they just hang out in the colonization room until April then explode into production until June. We promise to have them in the Spring!

So you may of been noticing that we have lots of citrus at our stand. A few months ago we got an email out of nowhere from a fellow Aravaipa Canyon property owner. They wanted to know if we would take over management of their fruit orchard! We jumped at the opportunity to rehab this orchard in exchange for loads of beautiful fruit. In addition to the citrus we will also have persimmons, pomegranates, quince, apples, pears, apricots, peaches and figs. WOW. Its deep in Aravaipa Canyon with the creek running full-time through the property. They also have a few fields for us to grow other crops in so we will be taking full advantage of that. We have some exciting projects coming up this summer that we will share with you all soon. Below are all pictures shot at the Orchard.

Onto what we have growing in our fields. Greens, greens and more greens. In about a month we will have spinach, baby salad mix, stir-fry mix & arugula. Roots, roots and more roots! Beets, radishes and turnips are on the way. We look forward to offer these cool weather yummies again.

Thats all for now, thanks for checking in!

-Nicole, Andrew & Willy

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Waiting for Fall….

This summer flew by. I feel like we blinked and it was gone! As September arrived we have already started to feel that cool crisp morning air roll into our little valley. Unfortunately though the days still heat up to the 100s and we are just biding time and waiting to start out Fall planting. This summer had it ups and downs. The monsoon started out strong but had disappeared for now. We are crossing our fingers to get one more blast before the season is officially over. 


With record heat in June many of our summer plantings became stunted. Things started growing in the beginning of July and we are finally starting to reap the benefits of those crops. We are hanging in there with late summer bugs like grasshoppers, cucumber beetles and carrot beetles (our most hated). Carrot beetles have been annihilating our late summer sunflower crops two years in a row now. So sad to watch 8 ft tall sunflowers crumble after a few days of carrot beetle damage. The burrowing underground and chew the roots of sunflowers. 


(Before, a lush plantings of sunflowers)


(After the carrot beetles killed them)

Ok enough about heat and bugs, onto what’s growing….

Watermelons are almost ready for market! We are our first ripe melon from the field and it was incredible. Hardly any rind, the sweetness was balanced and the texture was perfect. 


Summer squash is hanging in there and we are still harvesting patty pans for market. I love the taste of these squash. They are sweet with hardly any seeds. Great for grilling or roasting with a little balsamic. Yum!


The Okra is having an incredible year. Okra just loves our hot climate and these plants have been heavily producing for us. The flower of the Okra is beautiful. It blooms only once and then the seed pod (which is what we harvest) grows from the flower. 


The zinnias are back in action and so are the butterflies. They took a little longer this year with the June heat but they made a comeback. One of my favorite past times is sitting in the rows and just watching the different butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, praying mantises and sphinx moths. 



We had an epic sphinx moth catipillar migration for the past few weeks. Thousands of big fat catipillars were passing through. They hang out on the amaranth and purslane gorging themselves and then burrow underground to pupate into a white lined sphinx moth! Thank god they like native foods because we would of been demolished if they ate our crops.

 

Last but not least the basil is chugging along. The rows are being attacked but grasshoppers but we are still able harvest a good amount for market. 


We had some time between mainting summer crops and fall planting to resume work on the barn. We painted it a beautiful red color and we are working on finishing up the odds and ends. Then onto the walk-in cooler! We are definetely going to need the space with all we are planting for fall. 


Of course we haven’t forgotten about Mushrooms! We prepped the shroom area and are starting the first logs of the season this week. By the end of September we should have some oyster mushrooms at the market. 

The next few weeks brings lots of fall planting. We are preparing beds now for arugula, beets, turnips, radishes, chard, collards and carrots. We are coming into the bulk of our busy season, the summer siesta days will be over soon! 

Thanks for checking in, see y’all at the market!

-Nicole, Andrew & Willy (can I have his job?)

Stayin Alive 

Another June is upon us. As the 100 degree weather descends we try our best to get everything done before 11am, waking around 4am before the suffocating heat sets in. Mornings in June are quite pleasant. The dry cool air feels refreshing and it makes me grateful we don’t have much humidity here in the desert southwest. We retreat into the house  (and I’m SO HAPPY it’s a house this year, not an RV) for the heat of the day and take a siesta. It’s during these hot months we catch up on movies, reading and sleep. 

(June sunsets)
(Monsoon clouds)

In June it’s a real challenge keeping everything watered so we invested into some extensive drip irrigation for most of our crops. So far it’s been a real time save for watering. As always each June we are looking up to the sky and squinting for those monsoon clouds…. sniffing the air for the scent of Creosote (the quintessential desert plant that produces our rain smell). This week is 110+ for days on end, so the rains are near! 

(Basil on drip, yay!)

Our days have mostly been trying to keep up with the weeds and succession plant so we have a steady  supply of produce through the monsoon season. Right now we have lots of basil, squash and okra coming in. Also we have zinnias coming along as well. In a few weeks we will be planting beans and watermelons as well as more summer squash and cucumbers. Soon we will see you all at the market with a beautiful abundant table. 

(Okra seedlings)

(Lots of squash!)

(Baby zinnias!)

Thanks for checking in! And get outside and do a rain dance for us! 
-Nicole, Andrew & Willy 

Whoa where did Winter go??

Hi everyone! Sorry I haven’t updated the blog in awhile, we have been swamped this winter….and all of a sudden its Spring in the Sonoran Desert. Along with the usual distractions of running a farm we started the process of getting a house up here. We have been living full time in an RV for the past 7 months and have worked very hard to manifest our first house together. This is BIG news and we are so stoked to have finally accomplished it! Now we will have the space to host volunteers or employees in our RV comfortably and get some much needed help. 

BEFORE: Old Moldy in all his Glory


DURING: RIP Old Moldy 


AFTER: 😁😁😁😁


We also started renovation on an old building on the property, The Crap Shack as we lovingly refer to it as. My brother Paulie is turning it into a packing shed complete with a walk-in cooler, tool storage and washing station. We are so excited to be working on such an important peice of infrastructure on the farm. Also a big thanks to Clinton & Pete for lending a hand!

We have been churning out tons of greens, turnips, radishes and mushrooms for the past few months. With the warmer weather creeping in we are gearing up for Spring planting. Before we know if we will be wrapping up bouquets of flowers again! We have been letting our arugula flower so the hungry bees have something to eat. I’ve even spotted the first butterfly of the season on the wildflowers in our field. 

Our wonderful Farmers Market managers visited last May and made an  promotional video featuring us for the “Know Your Farmer” series. We love our market managers and all the hard work they put forth into promoting the vendors. Thanks Nick, Pedro, Zoe & Roxanne, you guys rock! Check out the link below for the video:

Know Your Farmer Video
Onto what’s growing. Of course we will continue to have lots of arugula and salad mix. Spinach and Bok Choi is on the way and more turnips & radishes as well. Shiitake mushrooms of course are taking they’re sweet time. I know you all are waiting patiently and we appreciate it! They are trickier than the oyster mushrooms and we are still learning as we go. Don’t worry, it’ll be worth the wait!!


That’s all for now, thanks for checking in 🙂

-Nicole, Andrew & Willy with special guests Paulie & Lauren!


Could it be….winter?

The other night we got our first sweet taste of winter. The temperature dropped down and our flowers finally said farewell. They had an incredible season and brightened many people’s homes in the six months we harvested them for. Next year we hope to offer more varieties of cut flowers in addition to zinnias and sunflowers. Now it’s time to pull out this year 6ft tall zinnias which resemble small trees! 


We are transitioning now onto greens and roots! We have a beautiful crop of purple top turnips coming in and boy are they yummy. The greens when cooked just melt in your mouth. 


Our arugula is taking off beautifully. It has the perfect blend of spice with the cooler weather. 


Radishes are coming along and we will have lots of Easter Egg radishes at the market beginning next week. 



Also we have collards coming in nicely, keep an eye out for them in the next few weeks.


The oyster mushrooms have been flourishing in the cooler weather. They are taking on a darker color and are much thicker and meatier with the cool nights. Our shrooms get lots of fresh air and filtered sunlight which is what makes them super packed with vitamins and minerals. We keep them as close as we can to they’re natural growing environment which keeps our shrooms happy and healthy.


Shiitakes had a set-back with the crazy hot temperatures in October. It was so hot that we started have sunflower and tomatoes seedlings sprouting in the field! Now that it cooled off we will be attempting another shiitake grow so it’s looking around January we may have them. 

Soon we will be offering our tender baby salad mix as well as our heartier stir fry mix (kale, mustard, tat soi). Also we will be planting sugar snap peas, spinach, yukina (and awesome Asian green similar to tat-soi), and beets. 

That’s all for now, thanks for reading! 

-Nicole & Andrew 


Cool fall nights…

Finally we can all take a collective deep breath in….summer is behind us. Soon the cottonwood leaves will be changing to a golden yellow, the grass will be going dormant (thank god, less weeding!) and we can start making those hearty root vegetable stews.


Mushrooms have returned with the cooler temperatures! We have had oyster mushrooms at the markets for the past few weeks and our customers couldn’t be happier. We cultivate our mushrooms with minimal climate control and mimic closely how they grow in nature, with other beneficial bugs and plants in the greenhouse. This we believe is why we have the biggest, hardiest shrooms I’ve ever seen not in the wild! The shiitakes need a cooler environment then the oysters so keep an eye out for them in the late fall/early winter.


These last few weeks Nicole’s parents came for a visit from Long Island. They have been an incredible help on the farm and tackled a huge wood stacking project that has been haunting us since May. We had all of our cottonwood trees trimmed and had the wood sitting around all summer as we got inundated with weeding and harvesting crops. It took about 6 full days of stacking a burning to clean it all up! Having that project behind us feels awesome! Check out the before and after pictures below…

(Before)



(After!!!😁😁😁😁😁)


Now onto what’s growing. We have an epic amount of arugula coming in. Arugula is so fast growing that we barely had to weed it as it grew taller then the late summer weeds in a matter of weeks. Look for it this Sunday (10/16) at the Market. Also coming up soon is our beautiful Easter Egg and French Breakfast radishes. These are a hit with everyone including children, who delight in the bright multicolor bunches. Turnips are soon the follow along with collards, beets, salad greens and our hardy greens mix (baby kale, tat-soi and mustards).

(Arugula, turnips and collards)



And wow, let me take a moment to talk about our sugarbaby watermelons. I’ve pretty much been averaging eating  a watermelon a day for the past couple of weeks. This awesome variety has seeds like an old-fashioned watermelon and a very sweet flesh that goes all the way down to the rine. You know they’re good when even a baby will gobble a few slices down (that is our adorable niece Jenny below).


Of course basil and zinnias are still chugging away. I will never tire of taking zinnia pictures and standing in the rows with the butterflies and bees. And yes, that is the basil hedge next to the zinnias which are taller then me at this point.


This summer squash and purple hulled peas are still making appearance at our table but not for long. This summer crops are coming to an end so enjoy them while you can.

These next few weeks will include lots of planting and hopefully less weeding with the cooler temps. We will see you all at the markets, thanks for checking in on us!

-Nicole, Andrew, Willy and special guests Mom and Dad

Dog days of summer….

Greetings from the Amaranth Capital of America! Summer is coming to a close and we are dreaming of the day the grass and amaranth go dormant. This summer brought close to 13 inches of rain to us in the lower San Pedro  Valley. While the green is absolutely beautiful it’s sure does make weeding hard but we sure do cherish those balmy green summer days. The garden is a wild feral thing and we love it! 


Along with the rain came some epic flooding. Our road washed out numerous times and water started flowing through the farm in ways we’ve never seen! Awesomely though a lot of it flowed right into our raised beds. Not very cool was when it flooded the mushroom shed! Silver lining  was that we were able to come up with some plans for some swales, a permaculture approach to diverting water where it’s most needed. Another winter project to add to the list.


In other news Andrew and I were able to take a vacation together! We spent some time visiting family and friends on Long Island and it was wonderful. Lots of swimming, relaxing and of course visiting farms. It’s been years since Andrew took a vacation so this was a well deserved trip. Before he left he planted watermelon, okra, butternut squash, black eyed peas summer squash. Everything was put on timers and fingers were crossed. We got back and everything was doing amazing!! We had to dig it all out from under crab grass and amaranth but the seedlings survived to our relief. Our awesome friend Jeau came by every few days to check on things and cut flowers. Thank you Jeau, we couldn’t of done it without you!! 

Speaking of flowers we have a TON of them. The zinnias planted in Spring are taller than me and producing in epic proportions. The Persian carpet zinnias finally caught up and we are selling bouquets of them at the markets. Also we will have another round of sunflowers coming up this fall so keep your eyes open for them. 


Oh! Mushrooms are on the way! They are currently colonizing and should be popping out in a few weeks. Look for oysters in mid-September and shiitakes to follow later in the fall. We are so happy to start up mushroom season!

Coming up in the next few weeks are: Black Eyed Peas, sugar baby watermelons, more patty pan and grey squash, Crenshaw melons, okra, sunflowers, shrooms, more basil and zinnias. 


I’ll leave you with this adorable box turtle that has visited us two years in a row. Cute lil fella 🙂


Thanks for reading and we will see you all at the market!!

-Nicole, Andrew & Willy

Monsoon Boom!!

Wow! Monsoon has arrived earlier than usual dumping 4 plus inches of rain on us in 3 days!! Both Aravaipa Creek and the lower San Pedro were raging as we breathed a sigh of relief. No irrigating for a few days! (Aravaipa Creek) (San Pedro near Mammoth)All that rain brought the summer grasses out of hibrination and our land started greening up over night. It’s quite beautiful but pulling the grass out of our rows takes massive amounts of time. I pretty much have a weed whacker attached to my hip from July-September!  As the ground softened up Andrew was able to fire up our BCS walking tractor and make some new permanent raised beds for monsoon planting. Along with our trusty Earthway Seeder he was able to plant rows of watermelons and butternut squash in record time. Next up to plant is black eyed peas which were a hit last summer. We pick them while they are green and they are delicious and earthy. Look for these late August.  We are exploding with zinnias. We love bringing our colorful bouquets to market and seeing people’s faces light up when they see them. I cannot stop taking pictures of these beautiful blooms!This month Acres USA ran a story on us. Lee Allen, a local Tucson writer visited us over the winter and wrote an awesome article about mushroom growing. Thank you Lee for getting us into a national magazine!! Click on the link below to read the full article….

Acres USA Article

Over the next few weeks we will continue harvesting squash and basil  which are doing exceptionally good this season. Our tomato plants are getting heavy with green tomatoes so now we watch and wait (and trellis and weed!). That’s all for now, hope to see you all at the markets!  -Nicole, Andrew & Willy 

Blooming June 

Well folks it’s officially flower season at the farm. Sunflowers and zinnias did so well at market last year that we decided to quadruple our plantings this year. Although something ate a few rows of sunflower sprouts (they do taste exceptionally good) we were still able to grow a bunch and sold some beautiful specimens at the markets. 

Zinnias are my favorite. The colorful blooms remind me of fireworks exploding in the sky. The colors are so rich and varied. The bees and butterflies go crazy for them. We even saw our first Monarch butterfly of the season yesterday! This year in addition to our usual zinnias we planted a special variety of zinnia called Persian Carpet. They grow close to the ground and produce beautiful warm colored blooms. Think of a monsoon sunset, hues of orange and red. 


 Speaking of monsoons we are eagerly awaiting them! The temps have soared into the 110s for the last few days creating the perfect conditions for our beautiful summer storms….aaaany day now!  These hot temps have made our mushroom greenhouse into an oven. Last week was the last market for mushrooms until the fall. We had a wonderful season and produced over 1000lbs of fungi for Tucson! We are putting the spent shiitake logs under a mesquite bosque so you may see a surprise summer shiitake flush at the markets at some point.

Looking forward to the next few weeks we will have a TON of basil, summer squash and tomatoes. I am so excited for our heirloom tomatoes to really start producing. The crazy hot weather has them going a little slow but as soon as that sky opens up they will jump into action. The Nichols heirloom are my favorite. They have a thin pink skin and sweet incredible taste. We have lots coming in and we can’t wait to share them with you all!

That is all for now, thanks so much for reading!

-Nicole, Andrew, Willy & special visitor Molly 

Things are heating up….

Hi everyone! Summer is almost upon us and we have been working hard to get our summer crops in the ground while also tending to the last of the spring harvests. We have pretty much been planting and weeding constantly for the past month. Things have been lean as far as what is ready for market but soon our table will be brimming with Summer’s bounty. 



Charlie and Jeau of Aravaipa Heirlooms grew us a bunch of heirloom tomato starts and we transplanted them a few weeks ago. They are also supplying us with sweet pepper starts as well. Last years tomato seedlings from them produced in epic proportions and we are excited to grow them again! We plant our seasonal veggies outside so they receive the full benefit of the natural sun and nutrients found in the soil. This also stewards the land we farm on creating wonderful healthy soil that will be around for years to come. 



This year we planted a variety of flowers for bouquets. First up at the market will be calendula. They are teeny tiny now but will grow into beautiful yellow daisy like blooms. Following will be lots of sunflowers and of course zinnias.


Coming up in the next few weeks will be squash and green beans and further in early summer will be basil and watermelons. We are in that seasonal transition period where we are cultivating to give the summer crops a fighting chance against weeds. 


And of course we will still have mushrooms until sometime in June. The shiitakes have been producing wonderfully and we anticipate having them for a few more weeks. 
That is all for now, thanks for checking in !

-Nicole & Andrew