ARTfarm Saturday – We’ve Got a Licker

Almost as if by sleight-of-hand: Sweet salad mix, a few dragonfruit, garlic chives, mint, lemongrass. From our partners: Nam Doc Mai mangoes from Alex at Tropical Exotics, and vegan ice cream from I-Sha in summer flavors: passionfruit, mango, jojo and banana, papaya-ginger. Open on the South Shore Road, 10am – 12 noon.

The severe drought continues. Many of the trees we have planted on the farm are dying off. Grazed pastures are not renewing themselves. After being blessed with rain for the last few years it is hard for many farmers on St. Croix to see our long term efforts of stewardship being stressed to the breaking point by this unusually harsh weather. Even as we see visible signs of the drought, there are many more organisms suffering than meet the naked eye.

Water, water, anywhere? A tiny anole lizard licks moisture off of a dragonfruit bud in the dry pasture.

Water, water, anywhere? Look closely to see what Farmer Luca saw: A tiny anole lizard licking moisture off of an irrigated dragonfruit bud in the dry pasture.

Despite the lack of green grass, bugs and other forage, our two surviving heritage-breed turkeys managed to breed this summer. We took a set of ten eggs for the incubator when Mrs. Brownie started to lay, and she took it upon herself to lay another set after that and brooded it. Turkeys are said to have a low hatch rate. The incubator hatched four poults, but the mother turkey hatched nine out of ten! Man cannot improve on nature’s efficiencies, it seems.

A brown turkey hen looks on as nine fluffy baby poults clamber around her in a wire mesh cage.

Mrs. Brownie, who survived the dog attack this past fall, has produced nine poults this summer after 28 patient days on the nestbox. She and her babies are well protected at this bite-sized stage in a coop built to keep rats and mongoose out. Predator pressure is particularly intense during drought times as wildlife and feral animals are more desperate for food and water.

A large grey tom turkey displays his feathers walking along the edges of his pen. The farm and hills beyond are dry and brown.

Proud papa turkey, the only survivor of the stray dog attack last fall, keeps careful watch over his new family. You can see recent brushfire damage on the hills behind him.

A Green Patch of Determination

It's July 2015 and there has been no substantial rain for months. This panorama of the center of the farm shows the contrast between irrigated and non-irrigated areas.

It’s July 2015 and there has been no substantial rain for months. This panorama of the center of the farm shows the contrast between irrigated and non-irrigated areas.

The ARTfarm is brown and crunchy at the moment, (and not in the delicious granola type way) but there is a little patch of green that Farmer Luca is diligently watering and protecting from hungry, thirsty deer. In other news from the Department of Symbols Of Hope, three turkey eggs hatched in our incubator yesterday morning! And our mama turkey Ms. Brownie is brooding on a nest of eleven more hope capsules…due next week.

A morning meeting of three freshly hatched turkey poults in the incubator at ARTfarm.

A morning meeting of three freshly hatched turkey poults in the incubator at ARTfarm.

For this morning’s Saturday farmstand, from 10 AM to 12 noon, we have: Lots of sweet salad mix, passionfruit, plenty of mint, lemongrass, garlic chives, tarragon, Cuban oregano, recao, Ethiopian kale, and papayas!
From our partner growers and chefs: we have dragonfruit from Solitude Farms, Viequen Butterball mangoes from Tita, Haitian Kidney mangoes from Denis Nash, and vegan local fruit ice cream from I-Sha.

Don’t forget about the 19th annual Mango Melee on Sunday at the Botanical Garden! You won’t find the Viequen Butterball at Mango Melee, but there are a lot of other fun and delicious things on offer over there (call 340-692-2874 or www.sgvbg.org for more information). Be sure to support our long-time neighbor and loyal customer Lisa Spery as she competes in the Mango Dis, Mango Dat contest with a recipe incorporating fresh ARTfarm mint! Good luck, Lisa!

Madame Francis and Butterball Mangoes!

ARTfarm Saturday: 10am – 12 noon. Mangoes like crazy today! Summer solstice arrives on Sunday, hopefully dragging some rain clouds with it for Father’s Day! Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there. From the farm this morning: Small amounts of sweet mix and microgreens, a few pineapples and papayas, lots of passionfruit, fresh mint, Italian basil, garlic chives and lemongrass. Don’t forget the lemongrass – steep in hot water to make a very cooling and slightly sweet, refreshing brew to keep in the fridge!

From our partners: vegan ice cream from I-Sha in a rainbow of flavors, honey from Errol, and lots of beautiful mangoes, including Viequan Butterballs from Tita and Nam Doc Mai and Madame Francis from Dennis Nash. Farmer Luca, a mango connoisseur, claims that the VBs have even less fiber than the buttery  NDMs. Their velvety texture is a triumph of mango husbandry! Enjoy mangoes now, as the drought may possibly make this a historically short mango season.IMG_9559IMG_9561IMG_9560

Still pretty dry out here… We’ve heard some farmers remark that we are in a fifteen-year drought (meaning that it has not been this dry since after Hurricane Hugo – not that it will last fifteen years). Two years ago at this time of year we were able to grow a lot more summer crops. We know it has been an extended campaign, but please keep rain dancing! Your efforts have brought a few decent showers to the farm, but not enough to yet quench the thirst of the rock-hard topsoil. So keep on getting your groove on if you love local food!

ARTfarm Q&A Wednesday! 3-6pm

Today at ARTfarm down the south shore we’ll offer a fairly small selection of items: Pineapples, a few tomatoes, sweet salad mix, microgreens, basil, chives, and a few cucumbers.

The lignum vitae is an important food source for honey bees in drought times.

The lignum vitae is an important food source for honey bees in drought times.

Q: What do you farmers do when it is so dry? What can grow in this extreme drought condition?

A: Not too much! We do our best to conserve water when conditions are this severe.

One plant that remains green and healthy with no watering in this dry weather is the highly drought tolerant lignum vitae tree. Slow and steady is how lignum vitae grows, rain or no rain. This tree species will probably outlast all the other trees that we have planted over the years. Most of the 30+ lignum vitae trees established at ARTfarm came from Kai and Irene Lawaetz at Little Lagrange. Kai was always a champion of the lignum vitae for its beauty and ability to withstand drought times and there are many prime individuals of the species on the Lawaetz Museum grounds.

Even in drought times when most vegetation is brown, the lignum vitae tree's evergreen leaves remain deep green and provide dense shade.

Even in drought times when most vegetation is brown, the lignum vitae tree’s evergreen leaves remain deep green and provide dense shade.

While it does not produce any edible products, the lignum vitae is a beautiful dense shade and ornamental tree and a food source for honeybees, particularly when nothing else is flowering. The wood of lignum vitae trees is so dense that it has traditionally been used to make ship pulleys.

The light purplish blue blooms and showy red and orange fruit are unique mainly because of their color. There are not too many blue colored flowers in the tropics. The tree sheds very little leaf litter and its leathery paired leaves remain a beautiful deep green year round.

ARTfarm Wednesday! Pineapple Plethora! Steam the Beets!

Hope all you wonderful moms and nurturers out there had a great Mother’s Day on Sunday. We got over a quarter inch of rain on the farm, the perfect gift!

Thanks to all who came out and supported Luca’s art exhibition this past month.

Farmer Luca especially wants you to know that, when preparing our relatively small late-season beets, you may find it much easier to peel the rough skin off after steaming instead of roasting. Post-steaming, the jackets release with just a pinch of the fingers, while roasting will largely entail the use of a paring knife. So for those of you looking for efficiency in your culinary preparations, consider the steam method. Be sure to save the beautiful pink steam bath water for use in a vegetable broth. You can add a little miso to it and it is ready as a light consommé.

ARTfarm Wednesday, 3–6 p.m.: Calling Faye, come in Faye: loads of pineapples! Also fresh sweet salad mix, “macro” (large micro) greens, bunched arugula, radishes, beets, Italian basil, a few tomatoes, a few cucumbers, and local raw honey from beesteward Errol Chichester.

Continuing the rain dance…

 

Pineapples ripening at ARTfarm, just in time to ease the sorrow of tomato season coming to a close.

Pineapples ripening at ARTfarm, just in time to ease the sorrow of tomato season coming to a close.

ARTfarm Saturday: 10am Treats!

Luca’s and Mike’s art exhibition is closing today (Saturday), with the last viewing from 11 AM – 2 PM. So after you pick up your fresh veggies, head over to Peters Rest if you haven’t had a chance to see this inventive collection of new watercolors and abstract sculptures from these two men of industry. Admission is free.

Organically grown just for you, with stored rainwater that is a mere memory of beautiful darkened skies that passed over us at least three or four months ago: Sweet salad mix, bunched arugula, radishes, beets, a few tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, a few cucumbers, Italian basil, green coriander, fresh onions, scallions, pineapples, and raw honey from Errol.

It will rain.

Rain From The North, watercolor (c)2015 Luca Gasperi

Rain From The North, watercolor (c)2015 Luca Gasperi

Rain! ARTfarm Saturday, 10 AM – 12 noon

If you want to make a farmer happy, send a beautiful inch of rain! IMG_8949.JPG
Sweet salad mix, spicy salad mix, arugula, beets, radishes, onions, beautiful carrots, Italian basil, Thai basil, cilantro, parsley, sage, freshly dug ginger root, a handful of beans, a few tomatoes, a few chili peppers, and zinnia flowers.

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