News and blog

Current happenings on and around the farm!
Posted 5/2/2012 2:42pm by Jenna Untiedt.

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.
 
Jerry

Posted 4/26/2012 2:43pm by Jenna Untiedt.

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.

Trumpeter Swans, A species that has been reduced to near extinction has found a protected place near Monticello - our fields!

Trumpeter Swans

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!

Posted 4/18/2012 2:45pm by Jenna Untiedt.

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!

Farmer Jerry

Tags: Weather
Posted 4/11/2012 2:47pm by Jenna Untiedt.

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.

Frost Bitten Asparagus, This is what asparagus spears look like after the frost hits them. We remove all of these buds because if left to grow, would tasty woody and unpleasant.

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,

Farmer Jerry

Tags: Weather
Posted 4/4/2012 2:48pm by Jenna Untiedt.

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 jenna@untiedtswegrowforyou.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,

Farmer Jerry

Posted 3/23/2012 2:50pm by Jenna Untiedt.

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. 

Happy Spring,

Farmer Jerry

Posted 3/16/2012 2:52pm by Jenna Untiedt.

Well.... Is it an early spring in Minnesota or a cruel enticement from the "weather god" encouraging a painful and expensive early planting error?  If you have an idea, please let us know!!

We aren't quite sure which way to move, but we really are moving on the Untiedt Farm. 

Transplanting continues daily as we prepare for our greenhouse plant selling season.  We have been busy planting petunias, pansies, mixed baskets, pots and more.  Everything is looking great!  Color is sure coming!

We have been busy pruning and training the plants to grow how we want them to grow.  We love giving the plants "haircuts".  This makes them so much fuller during the summer time. 

Tomato grafting continues as does the actual planting of tomatoes in our high tunnels.  Our first crop of tomatoes went into the ground yesterday!  This warm weather will really give the tomatoes a jump start this season.

We have been out and about checking fields for moisture conditions, being tempted to start planting soon, but who knows if the weather will hold.

Our days are getting longer and longer with the increased workloads but it feels sooo good to be growing again.  I do need to mention that we are in the midst of a serious drought and we should all be thinking about using our water resources wisely and prudently.

On the nature walks, we are seeing so many bird friends return.  Among them are Eastern Bluebirds, Killdeer, Meadowlarks, Red Wing Blackbirds, Sandhill Cranes and many many types of waterfowl.  Oh how great it is to have the air filled with new sounds, sights, and smells.  It truly is a great life- LIVE IT!

Posted 2/28/2012 2:53pm by Jenna Untiedt.

Spring is coming, no matter what the weathermen tell us!  After such a mild and dry winter we are in need of some moisture, whether it be in the form of rain or snow.  We are a bit nervous with this storm that is approaching due to the fact it could be in the form of ice.  This leads us to worry about power issues.  If the ice does come we will be up all night setting up generators to keep power going for the heaters in the greenhouses.  Please keep your fingers crossed that the ice doesn't come and that we just get rain or snow.

With the mild winter we had we were able to get lots of outdoor projects done.  We constructed a new grafting house for our tomatoes and made repairs on existing greenhouses including recovering many.  We completed a new block of high tunnels which will allow us to grow more crops earlier for you.  Our crew has also been working intensely on our composting project to help improve our soil quality.  All these things were able to get done a bit earlier than planned since the weather was so unseasonably warm.  Our time this past winter was also spent learning.  We believe education is key to a successful operation and we try to attend as many conferences as possible in the off season to learn all we can.  This past winter we were able to attend some high tunnel conferences in Minnesota and Pennsylvania, the Michigan Fruit and Vegetable Grower's Conference and more.  Each conference is unique and we get something new out of every seminar we attend.  It is always interesting to see how other people grow.

As spring is approaching we have begun work inside the greenhouses.  We began planting on February 15, planting hanging baskets, flats, pots and more.  It sure feels and smells like spring!  It is so nice and green inside the houses and color will soon be coming.  Our first batch of tomatoes have been grafted and are growing as planned.  These tomatoes will be planted in our high tunnels as soon as the weather turns the corner, hopefully the beginning of April! 

That's a brief update on what's happening at the farm right now, never a dull moment here!  We are looking forward to the 2012 season and "growing for you"! 

Farmer Jerry