News and blog
This past Thursday we held our first ever Farm Tour. Despite the heavy rains all day long, we had a break in the weather and enjoyed a beautiful evening with a fine farm supper served by Stuart Dallmann, our Chef and food service specialist. The wagon rides around our Montrose Farm proved to be very comfortable and kept everyone out of the puddles. The participants all enjoyed fresh strawberries to taste, viewed the crops we have planted and learned a bit of crop culture, taught by myself and Paul Nelson.
Our next Farm Tour is scheduled for sometime this July.
View some photos below:
And, Wow! Can you believe it? In the last ten days we have had over 11 inches of rain - with more in the forecast! From drought to very, very wet in a little over a month. Most we can do is figure out how to succeed inspite of whatever kind of weather is delivered. In the high tunnels, our crops are as early as they have ever been. Our zucchini and strawberry harvest is already in full swing! You can find these items now for sale at the Minneapolis Farmers Market.
Out of the tunnels, the field corn, soybeans, and wheat are all in the ground. On the vegetable side, we still have a long ways to go with the watermelons, muskmelons, pumpkins and squash. We will get these done as the soil begins to dry. On the wild side of things, the Trumpeter Swans have hatched out their young and are seen proudly swimming with their parents on local wetlands. The Crow River is flooding now with the heavy rainfall of late causing some concern for rising water levels in wetlands that harbor the nests of some ground nesting birds such as pheasants. We have seen our first White Tailed Deer fawns this week. So small and beautifully covered with those white polkadots that allow them to become virtually invisible as they lay hidden on the ground in and around our woodlots.
For the coming week, we are hoping to re-start our planting programs which have been placed on hold due to the rain. It's time to begin planting the State Fair sweetcorn and put the wraps on the pumpkin planting season. If all else fails, there will be plenty of new grown grass to mow on our lawns and yours...
Until Next Week,
We are making terrific strides in the areas of planting and crop care due to the wonderful weather we have been experiencing. All of the field corn planting has been completed and with good luck and no equipment malfunctions, the soybeans will be done also. Our peppers and tomatillos are in and have been watered and seem to be holding their own with the strong surface winds we have had in the field lately. The high tunnels are nearly full, and the growth rates are phenomenal due to the daylight hours present at this point of the growing season. Some of the newly planted tomatoes are growing so rapidly that they have begun to flower over two weeks early, which means we had to move up our bumble bee delivery dates.
This coming week we plan to begin planting our watermelon and muskmelon transplants. This time frame is nearly 7-10 days earlier than normal. We wonder if our harvest dates will be earlier also which would allow us to add a couple of weeks to our harvest season. A very interesting question.
The Minneapolis Farmers Market has really come alive with the spectacular weather and beautiful flowers offered by the plethora of talented and skilled growers selling there. Try to get down there, stop in and say hi, enjoy the sights and smells of spring at the market.
On the wildlife side, the hummingbirds continue to migrate through our area, replenishing their needed nutrients with nectors from our flowers in the greenhouses. They especially enjoy the Lantana and the Fuschias. Paul said on Tuesday he saw more than 100 of these little energy balls feeding on our flower blossoms in our Montrose greenhouses. The Baltimore Orioles are also especially abundant this season with my wife Susan feeding over a bottle a day of grape jelly to our hungry friends. It is not uncommon to have 12-15 orioles on our deck at one time.
As always, we welcome your inputs and question. Please enjoy the season and we look forwards to your visits at the market.
Wildlife watching is at its peak right now. The birds continue to return from their winter sojourns with hummingbirds, orioles, rose breasted grosbeaks returning over the last few days. Last Friday I had the personal pleasure of spending the morning with Rachele Cermak, our very capable photo documentation specialist. We had a little time to move around our farmlands observing our many croplands and the wildlife that inhabit them. Rachele shot some amazing photos of one of the several Bald Eagle nests in our area like the one below:
We also observed several newly hatched broods of Canadian Geese goslings, wild turkeys, Trumpeter swans on their nests, and so much more. Also observed were some of the first returning Monarch butterflies along with several other species of butterflies. This is such an incredible time of the season to be out and about-keep your eyes and ears open and take it all in!
On the growing side of our production, spring planting has been moving along rapidly. Our sweet corn is emerging with vigor, the asparagus continues to yield high quality spears daily, and our high tunnel zuchinni is beginning to blossom - with fruits not far behind. The spring showers have left us with nearly 6 inches of precipitation over the last 5 days which is truly a blessing considering how dry it was just a few short weeks ago. The soils have actually cooled a bit over the last two weeks, but the sunshine hours are continuing to add heat to the ground little by little. The corn and beans are actually germinating in a timely manner with very little damping off - a problem which often occurs in our gardens with damp and cool soils.
The apple orchard seems to be quite a surprise after suffering through two 20 degree low nights a few weeks ago. We actually thought we had lost all of our blossoms, but to our surprise, we are actually seeing these trees bloom with late blossoms we rarely see. Worried about sufficient pollination, we have moved the bee colonies around the orchard to actually occupy spaces directly below the blooming varieties. We also have flown in apple pollen from Washington state and are blowing this pollen onto our flowers in an attempt to produce a few extra apples this season. This technique is very expensive but seems to be working as we are observing some small fruit on very hard to pollinate varieties.
We truly are interested in your observations, and certainly are looking to learn from your experiences. E-mail us with the latest and we will share these on future blogs. I always say "Two heads are better than one - even if they are cabbage heads".
Good luck and good growing for now....
Our CSA (Community supported Agriculture) program is growing by leaps and bounds. We are nearing our capacity much sooner than anticipated this season - so if you are considering participating, please signup now.
In connection with this program, we are hosting an Untiedt's Farm Tour on May 24, 2012.
Attend this Wagon Ride Farm Tour if you've ever had questions about our farming techniques, are interested in the CSA but need more information, or would like to learn about high tunnel farming.
There will be a homegrown supper provided from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., and the wagon ride times are at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Space is Limited! RSVP by contacting Jenna Untiedt directly via jenna@UntiedtsWeGrowForYou.com.
If you want to print off the flyer to share with friends, please download the PDF here.
Wow! Beautiful one and one half inch rain last night with a little more on tap for this evening perhaps. This precipitation really helps the newly planted fields and with the warm sunshine allows the newly planted seeds to really jump out of the ground. Right now, asparagus cutting is almost a daily ritual and the quality is getting better day by day. If it really warms, we actually can have a couple of days where we will cut the asparagus twice in one day.
The high tunnel growth is phenomenal right now with nearly all of the tunnels full. Yesterday, we had to vent several of the tunnels as the temperature actually exceeded 100 deg. F.. We love the heat and believe we will have several of our crops earlier than normal should our warmth continue.
Early this morning as I was checking the rain guage a Trompeter Swan flew directly overhead and nearly scared me to death with his thunderous call - perhaps he was celebrating a beautiful morning as well. The environment is full of sound these days. The frogs are singing, the crickets chirping, and the synphony of song bird orchestra is awe inspiring. We ware keeping our eyes open for the first hummingbird and oriole arrivals. The nector feeders are full and suspended above our deck and the grape jelly for the first orioles is also placed. Won't be long now!
The farmers market is beginning to roll along and our selection of flowers has never been prettier. Food at the deli is wonderful and the early sweetcorn is delicious. Come on down and have brunch with us - we'd love to chat and visit.
Take care and do enjoy these beautiful spring days.
This week has been a great one for late April. All of these April showers are yielding May flowers and a lot more. The sweet corn is coming up after three or more weeks of shivering in the cool soils, the high tunnels are rapidly increasing our crops growth rates, the asparagus is trying to recover from several hard freezes, and our apple trees are showing us a few secondary blossoms that escaped the cold.
We are toiling day and night right now to seed as much as possible to take advantage of the natural growing season we are experiencing. The earlier planted, the more time the crops have to mature and in theory the more yield the farm will be presented with. Of course, the risk factor of late killing frosts must be factored in.
We are continually watching for new bird arrivals and know the Orioles and Hummingbirds can't be far away. We are hoping with the advanced spring their arrivals will be advanced also. We have several Trumpeter Swans nesting in the areas around the farm and their juvenile offspring are usually resting in fields nearby. The ducks and geese are also incubating their clutches of eggs. Wild Turkey Gobblers are really displaying for their harems of hens, and these hens will also soon begin to set.
I've enclosed a couple of reading suggestions for those rainy spring days. These are not our production philosophies totally, but it's always interesting to see what's out there.
The first is Animal, Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolvers
Sustainability is Elusive in Food Chain by James E. McWilliams
We welcome your thoughts in the comments below regarding the above reading materials. Happy Spring!
Many thanks to all of you wonderful blog followers for your prayers, thoughts and kind notes. The rains have arrived and thoroughly wetted our thirsty fields. Over the weekend we received between 1 and 1.5 inches of slow beautiful rain followed by another half inch with lightening (yielding natural nitrogen) Tuesday evening. Already the grass and newly emerging wheat and oats are greener. The storms that passed through our area Sunday evening were scary, to say the least, but they basically left us unscathed for damage. The heavy freezes of last week appear to have taken a heavy toll on our asparagus and apple crops for this season, but we are continuing to monitor the situation and will do all within our power to manage it the best we can.
We are continuing a very aggressive program of high tunnel planting with loads of new dayneutral strawberries being planted as well as asparagus and even a few vine crops. Our vigilance continues everyday to protect these sensitive crops from freezing through the use of frost covers (a labor intensive but necessary management program). We continue to prepare our other outside production areas with heavy loads of rock picking (where do they all come from?), measuring for future tree and wind shelter belts, and getting ready to install more irrigation on fields lacking heavy water retaining soils to bring a crop to fruition should it get too dry.
The birds continue to return on a schedule somewhat earlier than the last few seasons. Monday, the white pelicans returned. The loons are again greeting us with their calls each morning and the tree swallows are also back on the farm. Rooster pheasants continue to defend their territories and the local wild turkey gobblers are displaying their beautiful fanned tails and bright heads for their harems. There truly are new sounds, sights and smells to enjoy everyday! Our agricultural lifestyle is wonderful!
Megan says we still have a few CSA shares available, should you be interested. I truly believe this program offers one of the best and most satisfying CSAs in the Twin City area!
That's about it for this week's update. Should you be interested, I will be doing another radio interview with Susan Berkson this Saturday on AM 950 at 8:00am, talking about farm progress. If any of you have any questions or observations to share or present, please communicate with us! We love to hear from you!
Until next week, I wish you all great gardening and farming!
Normally, the idiom "trick or treat" is a fall phrase occuring near the end of October. However, my feeling is that for 2012 it fits appropriately into our weather phenomena that we are currently experiencing. We received the treat in March and early April with 30 some days without freezing temperatures. Recently the trick has arrived with cruel and damaging temperatures arriving, featuring temperatures as low as 20 degrees the morning of April 10. This weather has sent us scrambling to protect all that we could protect from frost and watching other crops succumb to the cold. I will elaborate:
In our tunnels, we have taken some risk with early tomatoes, onions, peas and other crops. Using copious amounts of labor and thousands of square feet of frost protecting cloth (sometimes two layers) we have so far been able to save most of what we have planted. However, our outside plantings have not faired as well. Among the crops taking a beating is our asparagus which seems to be growing a few inches everyday, but freezing off at night. The problem here is that an asparagus crown, which is located deep below the soil surface, has many buds, each capable of generating an asparagus spear for us to harvest and enjoy. The sad part being that we are using up these buds with our heavy freezes thus diminishing the potential yield significantly on a per season basis. Sad, but true, we have lost a relatively significant percentage of our crop to these freezes. Thankfully we do have quite a few acres so our CSA customers and stands should have an adequate supply.
Also of concern are our apple blossoms which have been subjected to some very cold night time temperatures. We really don't know the amount of damage yet, but damage there is.
Our early sweet corn has also been frozen off a couple of times, but thankfully the growing point remains comfortably below ground level. The only problem is that the stress contributes to lower vigor and a less than stellar crop.
Since this spring is so a-typical, we really won't know the full effects for a couple of months. Oh, how much we have to learn!
The flowers in the greenhouses seem to enjoy the cool nights, protected by propane furnaces, and are really flourishing with the bright sunny days, protected in their homes from the cold winds.
In the fields we continue our regime of soil preparations for seeding, being very cautious not to overwork the already dry soils. We will be ready to begin corn planting by the 20th of April and hopefully will have had some rain by them. We continue to seed grasses and alfalfa in erosion prone areas hoping to avoid any "gully creating" deluges of rain. A few April showers would be just fine.
On behalf of Megan and the crew here on the farm we want to urge you all to consider signing up for our CSA program and wish to extend our sincere thank you to those of you that have again joined the program!
Until Next Week,
Just as the Minnesota Twins prepare for their Home Opener next week we continue to take advantage of this beautiful weather, and hope that Spring is here to stay! With multiple strings of consecutive days above normal temperatures, we are taking a huge risk and starting to work in the fields. Although the risk is relatively large, we fear we may miss the boat by not taking advantage of this above average weather.
Intensive soil preparation has begun, along with planting. Each field we prepare, there is a common theme of low soil moisture, due to the lack of rain last fall and the lack of snowfall this past winter. We are bordering on drought conditions, which means as we prepare the fields for planting, we must not overwork the soil, which carries the risk of losing valuable soil moisture.
Days are long and getting longer, allowing for more work hours to get everything accomplished, but there is nothing we would rather be doing! Among other signs of an early spring are the rapid growth of annual weeds, the flowering of dandelions, and the advanced growth in our orchard. What signs of spring are you seeing around your community?
Paul was able to cut a small amount of asparagus on Monday, not enough to bring to market yet, but within a few weeks we should be ready to cut on a regular basis! This cutting is four to five weeks earlier than most seasons. Let's continue to hope for mild evenings, as a hard frost could be extremely damaging to the crop for the season. Submit your favorite asparagus recipe to Jenna at email@example.com and we will post on our Facebook page as well as compile a blog of scrumptious asparagus recipes!
Transplanting and grafting tomatoes continues to be ahead of schedule due to the bountiful sunlight we have received. Fresh fruits and vegetables will be here before you know it! Have you signed up for your CSA share yet?
Do you have questions about how the farm goes about certain processes in the spring? Send us an email or ask us on Facebook, as we would be more than happy to educate on growing tactics and our environmental stewardship.
Check out our Facebook page to see what is going on in pictures, and follow Farmer Jerry on Twitter to stay connected to daily happenings. This weather is truly a gift. Get outside, take a walk and take in the sights and smells of our early spring!
Until next time,
We are all working away on the farm as they say "in the heat of things" and as you know, we actually are in the heat of things. Sooo unusual for this time in March when we normally have 2-3 feet of frost and blowing snow. Oh well, we will take it as it comes and many thanks to you all for your thoughts and prayers which have delivered bountiful rainfall these past few days. If this is an indicator of your power, please keep it coming because in the growing business we just never know what tomorrow will bring.
Among the many focuses on the farm this past week are:
A.) TOMATO GRAFTING- Grafting of tomatoes continues this week. It is a tedious, time consuming process, but worth the effort.
B.) HIGH TUNNEL TOMATO PLANTING- We continue to plant tomatoes in our high tunnels daily. A bit ahead of schedule, but why not? The weather is cooperating and who doesn't want to enjoy the sweet taste of a homegrown tomato earlier than normal?
C.) GREENHOUSE WORK CONTINUES- We are still hard at work in the greenhouses with our flower production. We continue to plant daily and trim and prune the plants as well. Boy, does it feel good working in the greenhouses. The sweet smell of spring is definately there.
D.) MAINTENANCE WORK- Ken and his crew work hard daily on making sure all equipment is up and running how it should be. They have definately been busy with the early spring this year.
E.) CSA SIGN UP CONTINUES- Megan and Terri continue to work hard on our CSA program. They are signing up new and returning shareholders daily! We would love it if you would consider us to be your CSA provider this season, but don't wait too long, spots are filling up fast! Exciting news for our CSAs- You can now register online on our website!
Spring continues unabated and this is actually causing a few hiccups in the maple syrup process. Otherwise, our propane useage is down which is aiding our budgets!
On the nature front, Canadian Geese and Eastern Bluebirds along with the Sparrow Hawks all are busy nesting. Our apple trees are all pushing their new leaves. The North Fork of our Crow River is moving along nicely, but nowhere near the flood stages of the past few years. Have you all had the opportunity to get out and walk during or shortly after the gorgeous rains to observe the nightcrawler congregations on the grass and roads? It's been awhile since I have seen so many. I truly believe this is a testimony to healthy soils and you can count on us to continue to strive for healthier and more robust soils.
By the way, if I can address questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us! We'd love to hear from you!
Please check out our photos we put up on our FACEBOOK page. They show what we have been up to on the farm.