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Muddy Blog

Posted 7/11/2011 12:50pm by Brett Werner.

Across South Dakota, our friends and neighbors are dealing with the flooding of the Missouri River basin and its tributaries. Because of unusual weather in Montana and North Dakota this spring, combined with decisions made in dam and reservoir management, the Missouri River reached a new record this summer, inundating the White River delta, parts of Chamberlain and Oacoma, and the road down to our farm. Our local farmers market is under 8 feet of water. Thus far we have been fortunate to have escaped the worst of the potential flood impacts, like the loss of rural water, but the floods have been a hassle, to put it lightly. 

Here's a picture of the Missouri River hydrograph (courtesy of the USGS streamflow site). You could call this the 40 days of flooding. The previous record, 72.2 feet, was set May 6, 1997, and we passed that record this year between June 24 and 25, and haven't dropped below it since. Last summer, the reservoir level reached just over 68 feet, and we've been above that since June 22.

 

Missouri River Hydrograph

June 22 is also significant in that people flew over the farm and took some pictures that day, and Mark labeled Muddy Pumpkin Farms on one of them, along with the White River Delta. You can already see trees and the delta under water, and since then, the river has been 7 feet higher than it was that day.

As a side note, the Hoop House has its shade cloth on and has successfully lived through two strong wind storms, including one where our "very unofficial" estimate is that winds were in the 70-80 mph range based on the size of gravel dust hitting us in the face.

June 22 Flyover the Farm, White, and Missouri

 

The flood has meant we have new fishing opportunities close by as you can see the kids fishing out front of Tracy and Bill's house, right in the front yard.

 

Kids fishing on the driveway

 

The frustration is that the gravel road in front of where they're fishing is the main access to get from the farm to town and to farmers markets. So we've been driving around the long way, an extra 20 miles or so each way. Our road looks like this.

road to muddy pumpkin farms, under water

 

We've been in flood stage for a month now, and have been above record levels for over two weeks. According to Corps of Engineers projections, we've hit the peak, and the waters should start receding now, but it may also be another ten days before the water drops below 1997's record levels, and who knows how much longer until it drops below the 65 feet flood stage. In the mean time, we'll be making do with floods, putting a few extra miles on our vehicles to bring you local food, and trying to keep our plants happy and healthy as we move into the summer's heat. 

As the flood waters rise, we know that the desire for local food rises alongside it.  Both forces are set against the backdrop of high modernist approaches to nature that the anthropologist James Scott has noted, typify government policies of the last half century in their attempt to tightly control nature. Whether high modernism seeks to dam the mighty Missouri or rides in the cab of a mega-tractor through monocrops of corn, this belief in the mastery of nature is slowing fading. We cannot tame the river nor irradicate the weeds. 

Perhaps we can start adjusting to this new era by developing a more nuanced understanding of phrases like "natural disaster" and "control of nature."  Until then, we'll keep growing your veggies!

 

Posted 7/8/2011 1:55pm by Brett Werner.

 

Plants continue to grow and mature here at the farm. We've been dealing with flooding, not so much on the farm as our roads to get to and from the farm, which makes doing certain everyday tasks a little more difficult. We've been fortunate enough to have some help from Chris, who found us through World Wide Opportunities in Organic Farming (WWOOF), and our first CSA drop points have gone well in both Chamberlain and Sioux Falls. If you're interested in a CSA still, contact Mark as soon as possible.

Often life gets busy on the farm, with far more things to do than hours in the day to do them. It helps to have variety, but we almost always feel like there are more things we could be doing. Last Saturday, I (Brett) took a lazy morning and wandered the farm. Here are a few pictures and a video of the farm's beauty. The first are the blooming prairie coneflowers near the north garden plot.

prairie coneflower near the garden

 

The purple coneflower, echinacea, was looking stunning, too.

 

echinacea blooming

Here's a picture of the dewy spiderwebs that covered the countryside.

coneflower and spiderweb

 

And here's a video version of a short walk through the field there. Enjoy, and we'll write more soon!

 

Posted 6/4/2011 11:16am by Brett Werner.

The days are getting longer, both in terms of daylight and work. Here at Muddy Pumpkin Farms, we're busy getting the last seeds and transplants in the ground. Besides planting, the last few weeks have found us pondering how the Missouri River can be flooding while the farm is so dry that we're worried about our plants making it. I guess you could call such a situation ironic, and we're hoping our drip tape irrigation can avert the tragic, but it's been touch-and-go at times: far less rain than we need and a mix of hotter and cooler days with a whole lot of wind. Even the storms that have come through have been more wind than rain.

In this post, I'll try to compress everything into "a day in the life at the farm." We don't really do all these things in one day, but it'll be a little photo essay of sorts.

Sunrise June 2011

It's a beautiful morning, and as the sun rises over a misty valley, we remind ourselves how lucky we are to spend time here at Muddy Pumpkin Farms.

 

The spiders made webs in the garlic overnight...

Spiderwebs in the Garlic

 

and the dew melts off the broccoli.

morning dew

Brett, Wyatt, and Elizabeth join the rest of the family on the farm, excited to work on a variety of projects and help with planting.

 

The morning's projects include bed preparation and planting.We brought loads of compost down to the farm, and spread it on the beds. Matt fills the compost spreader with the forklift.

compost spreading

 

Then we lay mulch for weed suppression and drip tape for irrigation on the beds. Hal drives the John Deere, laying mulch.

bed making

 

After cutting some holes in the mulch, we plant seeds or transplant starts. LeAnn plants around the drip tube.

LeAnn transplanting

 

And the result is a morning's foggy vista.

transplants in the mist

 

We take a break in the afternoon to go for a hike or paddle on the White River bottoms and enjoy the sights like these beaver chewed trees.

beaver tree

 

After the hike in the bottoms, Travis sticks around to help with putting up our high tunnel hoophouse.

Travis working on high tunnel

 

The high tunnel takes some effort, but thanks to Matt and Hal, we get it standing and structurally sound.

High tunnel work

 

We get a nice view of the rising river from the forklift while we're putting up the hoophouse.

Mark and the Big Muddy

 

We fit in a trip to the Chamberlain Farmers Market with our salad mixes and hanging pots.

Chamberlain Market early June 2011

 

We find a little time to play with the new kittens (this one is named Burt after Burt Reynolds because of his mustache).

Burt Reynolds the kitten

 

And we watch the sunset on another beautiful day at the farm, ready to sleep soundly and begin again.

Sunset at Muddy Pumpkin Farms

Posted 5/17/2011 9:17pm by Brett Werner.

The weather here at the farm has been decent the last week or so, a little windy for our liking, but overall not that bad. It rained some last Wednesday and Thursday, which we needed, and the forecast is for both more rain and highs in the upper 60s to lower 70s the next week or so.

One of the things I like to track is weather/climate variability since no year is ever really average, which makes gardening and farming exciting and, at times, frustrating. But as we sat here today with temperatures in the upper 60s (it felt cooler than that because of our good friend the wind), I took a look back at the historical weather data for the month of May around Oacoma (I'm not sure exactly where they're getting this historical data, but I won't worry about that for now). Check the record high temperatures for May 16-20 and May 27-31, and you'll quickly see why we're glad it's not 1934. You'll also get an idea of how hard it must have been to live happily, let alone grow any produce in the 1930s (specifically 1934) in central South Dakota. As Hal would say, "that's rugged," and it's only mid-May.

So tomorrow, we'll be trying hard to get the next starts in the ground, take care of everything we've already planted, and be thankful we aren't in the midst of a week with highs in the 100s because honestly, the Missouri River isn't warm enough yet to make an afternoon swim a very enjoyable break.

Posted 5/14/2011 12:35pm by Mark Werner.

Like us. Friend us. Facebook us. Here at Muddy Pumpkin Farms. we believe in Farming 2.0 -- farming with complete openness with eaters and in constant conversation with other farmers.

Social media has its roots in the urban landscape of hip and hype, blackberries and asphalt. Our farm's roots sink into a sandy loam more than a six hour drive from  any major metropolis -- whether Omaha to the South, Denver to the West, Minneapolis to the East, or some Canadian city to the North I would assume. (They have cities in Canada right?)

Yet, rural isolation no longer means disconnection from the human world. Check out this article on farming in the age of Social Media:

AgChat

Facebook is a great medium for connecting to our farm. There will be more daily updates, more opportunities to comment and share your experiences. This month, we are uploading a photo a day from the farm accompanied by a quotation from Wendell Berry, the poet and sage of the small farm.

May Farming

How can Facebook become more useful in making connections between farmers and eaters? Connections between farmers and other farmers? People and the ecosystems that sustain them?

What about a Placebook?

James Farrell, a professor of Environmental Studies at St. Olaf College, offers ruminations on a new sort of Facebook, ideas  from a chapter in his book the Nature of College that Farrell co-wrote with Mark Werner, farmer at Muddy Pumpkin Farms. Check out more details on the book on the Milkweed Press website.

Nature of College

And let us know. What information should we tell you about our daily farming life? What type of social media would put a Face on our Food? Can we tweet the Farm to your Table?

I don't think the answer is FarmVille.

But maybe the answer will look something like MyFarm:

MyFarm

Posted 5/11/2011 6:24pm by Brett Werner.

Brett published this on his blog today, too. Check it out.

Things are a little bit solemn around the farm today. Uncle Jerry died last night, from complications due to amyloidosis, a rare disease where abnormal proteins build up in a person's internal organs. Please keep our aunt, our cousins and their families, and our family in your thoughts and prayers...

 

It seems to me that wind is one force of nature, and one element of climate, that deserves quite a bit more consideration. Trying to understand the place of South Dakota means reckoning with wind as a constant, gusty, and unpredictable force, filled with renewable energy potential if we can overcome the regulatory and business hurdles like transmission line development.

Wind Power. I keep reminding my family that we are never going to be really comfortable and happy about our windy home until the wind starts doing some good for us, which is one of the biggest reasons I want to get wind turbines out on the farm. Luckily, we have a lot of wind potential, according to both global studies (see the green dot over south central SD) and more locally specific estimates. Note that according to this study, our peninsula is slightly less windy than surrounding areas, which is hard to imagine, but still has great wind potential.

wind speed ratings

Our land just east of the Missouri River and north of Chamberlain and I-90 has two large wind turbines on the adjoining quarter section, and we would love to put a couple up on our property if we can find the right wind developer. Here's a picture of the two of them from our land there.

Given that these two turbines are operating a short walk from our land, my guess is that we would have the infrastructure to support two more. Any takers?

Recent Extreme Wind Events. A microburst hit Oacoma this last Sunday (May 8). It flipped over RVs and suspended a woman in mid-air. As crazy as that sounds, that microburst may not have been the strangest wind event of the last two weeks at Oacoma. As this picture shows, there was an extended wind event the last couple days of April and first couple of May.

From all accounts I heard, the prediction above underestimated both the baseline wind and the gusts. But what makes this event so strange is that the wind blew for such an extended period of time. We might get these kinds of winds right during a storm or as a front moves through (or something slightly toned back other times of the year), but this seemed like a highly unusual wind event, perhaps as unusual as the microbursts from Sunday.

And yet, the most extreme wind event we have had in the last year was the cyclonic, maybe tornado-like, event last July 23. I was in Minneapolis at the time when I got a call that the rest of my family had just had made it through another crazy storm, with wind blowing from nearly every direction, taking down many of the cottonwood trees along the Missouri River, severely damaging our produce crops (particularly the sweet corn), and rearranging the outside landscape in other ways, too. One of the small but frustrating casualties for me was the lost symmetry of one of my two sunset trees, the elm trees that show up in so many of our family's photographs of the last few years given their alignment with the summer sunsets in view from our lodge at the farm.

One of the most visible impacts was the uprooting of the biggest, oldest cottonwood tree on the peninsula, the tree that our bald eagle neighbors had been nesting in since I was young. When I later went down to investigate the wind damage of these trees, I was astounded at the size of the tree and the force of the windstorm that could uproot such a massive organism. Luckily, I think the eagles are back again this year, and will hopefully choose a new roost tree in the same stand and build another nest. But we'll have to wait and see. In the mean time, here are a couple pictures (stitched panoramas) of the fallen giant.

Of course, none of these are the first wind storms that Muddy Pumpkin Farms or the Big Muddy have seen, but they are the kind of thing that makes growing food in central South Dakota exciting. Along with the wind comes some very beautiful mornings, days, evenings, and nights: rainbows, sunsets, and lightning storms in the distance. That's all for now... We're hoping we get the inch of rain they're forecasting for tonight and tomorrow since we need the rain. Take care.

Posted 5/5/2011 10:30am by Mark Werner.

We are all about variety at Muddy Pumpkin Farms. 

Wondering about which vegetables you will find in your CSA shares and at our market stands? We have a handy chart of our expected seasonable harvest that should help you out.

The chart is only half the story -- since we are growing more than one type of orange carrot, a single variety of watermelon, and the most uniform tomato we can find. In fact, we are doing the opposite.

We are planting purple, yellow, white, red-cored and, even, Turkish black carrots -- the last variety being a selection we are trialing for the USDA seed bank.

We're also planting the seeds of more than 120 varieties of melons. And more than 50 heirloom tomatoes.

Tomato planting

Yellow Brandywine, Green Zebra,  Kellogg's Breakfast, Marvel Stripe, San Marzano, Cherokee Chocolate and Orange Strawberry Oxheart. The names sound like poetry -- or ice cream flavors.

Heirloom tomatoes

We are especially drawn to tomatores with a historical appleal like the Paul Robeson and the Abraham Lincoln -- or the one's named after the master gardeners that grew them first like Mary Robinson's Bicolor or Aunt Ruby's German Green or the Fritz Ackerman. We are also growing South Dakota heritage varieties like Rushmore and Sioux -- as well as a variety from Norway that matches our family's own roots.

Here's a selection of the cherry tomatoes we planted: Matt's Wild Cherry (smallest and sweetest tomato you'll ever eat) , Chadwick's Cherry (from Horizon Herbs), Peacevine Cherry (bred by Alan Kapuler) and Coyote Cherry (from Glenn Drowns at the Sandhill Preservation Center).


Cherries

We'll have more details on our melon varieties in another post. Until then, check out some of the other varieties we will grow this summer (although the write-ups are done by other vegetable farmers).

Reminder: the CSA shares are going fast. Sign-up soon to guarentee a spot.

Posted 5/2/2011 1:37pm by Mark Werner.

Our friends from Hillside Prairie Gardens visited the farm this last weekend. Jacob, Kirsten and Andrew made the trip from Brookings to check out the farm. They recently found their way to the front page of the Brookings Register. Read all about their farm and their CSA here. The story of their farm is a great read. Also be sure to check out their website: www.prairiegrown.com . If you're in Brookings, you would be missing out if you didn't sign up for their incredible CSA. 

Here are some photographs from our foraging along the rivers. 

Hikers

 We stumbled upon an extensive nettle patch in the valley bottoms near the Missouri:

Nettle patch

Kirsten is overjoyed at the stinging nettle harvest. 

Foraging

Jacob contemplates his jump over the mud-flat creek that cuts through the White River delta:

Jacob

Andrew surveys the scene in style:


Andrew

A warm orange glow spreads across the western skies, the sun setting on another week at Muddy Pumpkin Farms. 

Sunset

 

Posted 4/25/2011 3:13pm by Mark Werner.

Sign up soon for your CSA farm share and enjoy fresh vegetables from the garden all summer long. There are a limited number of couple-sized shares available this year so sign up early. The Earlybird discount is still available.

Click here to read more about the our CSA for Chamberlain, Sioux Falls and Rapid City.

Here for more information on Community Supported Agriculture

And if you're ready to become a CSA member, sign up here. You can either check out with paypal or submit an invoice to and post a check to us at:

Muddy Pumpkin Farms

PO Box 22

Oacoma, SD 57365


The chives have already returned to the herb garden to join the lemon balm and garlic:

Chives

Posted 4/24/2011 10:41pm by Mark Werner.

Our logo has recently jumped from the sketchbook and into digital reality.

logo

The talented artist wielding the virtual pen is Julie Boehmer. Here's another one of her design drafts that features vines:

logo3

 

BONUS: She's blogging about the whole design process: check it out here. You can see everything that goes into the artistic process -- and what looks to be the most versatile design.

Also be sure to check out Julie's amazing food art in the latest article from the Heavy Table food magazine.

 

The sun sets on Muddy Pumpkin Farms for the week. Lots of planting planned for the upcoming week!

sunset

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