Pure Land Organic

We're gonna need a bigger boat

You guys... it will not. stop. raining


We've passed the point where follow that with a breezy sigh and a "but we can't complain!"… yeah, we can complain. Not us in particular too much; our rows are situated well out of the floodplain and the raised beds have kept everyone's li'l feeties dry enough to avoid damage by excess water (it appears, anyway). We've been very lucky, aside from the first planting of squash and melon seeds rotting and having to replant them (they're up better this time, but still not 100%), our plants actually look pretty great. Hopefully it'll dry up enough when the onions and garlic come out in a few weeks so they can cure properly for storage… we'll see. Can't say the same for many of our farmer friends though, and our hearts go out to them. You can't just keep sticking new seeds in the ground, appropriate conditions for planting and harvesting are pretty small windows; if you miss them, better luck next year. Oh, did you have a mortgage to pay this year? That sucks.


Even the Big Farmers are having problems. Many couldn't get their crops in (you can't plant into a soaking wet field) and now have empty plots; they couldn't plant what they had planned even if they wanted to now because to start growing at this point in the season, they would burn up before maturing.

So, we are feeling fairly fortunate… we've dodged any hail and damaging winds, and the plants really are still looking well *knock all the wood*. The downtime has also provided ample opportunity for me and the little ladybug to hang out, for which I'm very grateful while she is so wee. But enough is enough. We have farming to do! Bugger off, rain. 

So let's talk about something more pleasant: blackberries. I would guess first real pick is in just 2 or 3 weeks. 


The sheer number of berries on these suckers is staggering. Zoom in on the pic below. 

This is from our pilot crop of 100 canes, planted in February, 2013. We added about 1500 more canes this February. Yeeee! So June, 2017… lookout.


Here's a shot of one of the new guys. The cane on the right is what we actually stuck in the ground, a "floricane", named thusly because it flowers. It will only bear fruit once, so at the end of the season you prune it back to the ground. Meanwhile, that green shoot on the left in my hand just came up from the ground, and is a "primocane". It will flower next year. So every season, each blackberry plant sends up a freshie primocane that grows alongside last year's primocanes which are NOW floricanes that bear the fruit. Next year, last year's primocanes will become floricanes and bear fruit. So the guy on the right will make a few berries this year (because it's so young) while the guy on the left just grows big and strong. At the end of the summer, we'll prune righty down to the ground and trellis lefty lightly for support. It'll lose it's leaves and just be a stick over the winter, but in the spring, lefty will flower and then bear a good amount of fruit while a new lefty 2.0 sprouts, and it is THAT lefty 2.0 that will bear a motherlode of berries the following summer, as well as each new lefty every year after that. It takes a couple seasons for them to get well established. Cool huh?

Spring Things

After a quiet winter on the farm, spring seems to have tiptoed in with little drama. I'm not used to this; there has to be at least *one* late frost or freeze for us to lose sleep over… but the 10-day forecast is mild and lovely. Can it be?… 

We usually clamor to get the transplants in at the first sign that winter is probably over, but this year, Mother Nature had other ideas. It's been snowing or raining continuously for over a month, meaning we haven't been able to chop in cover crop, amend, and get fresh beds pulled. The soil just isn't workable when wet, and it has been very, very, very wet. I thought we were finally starting to dry out, but a 0% chance of rain flipped rather rudely to 100% yesterday afternoon when yet another thunderstorm blew through. Add another day or two of waiting! Weathermen. In what other job do you get to be so wrong, over and over, and keep getting paid for it?? Not that he or she could have done anything to change it, I suppose.


And so we wait. The transplants look marvelous and are being very patient. We have lettuces, greens, tomatoes, and peppers aplenty! Other crops we'll sow directly in the ground, the carrots, beets, squash, melons, and so on. We've focused our offerings a bit this year, knowing confidently now what grows well for us and what doesn't, taking us down to three great varieties of tomatoes from the two dozen we've tried, four types of squash from fourteen, etc. This will mean more food from a smaller space, which is good, because we're giving up an entire terrace for Le Big Project (stay tuned). We also converted the whole middle terrace and slopes to a twelve-row blackberry patch, increasing our successful pilot planting of 100 thornless Natchez blackberry canes to 1,600. They won't produce to their full capacity for a couple years, but the original 100 should this very June, so we're extremely excited to see how they bear. They don't look like much now, but just wait.


It's also the first year our 37 peach trees have flowered out, at the tender age of four. Barring cruel acts of nature, we should have peaches for about two months over the summer; unlike the blackberries, we chose several peach varieties that will ripen in succession. Fingers crossed our inaugural crop is a good one. 


With fewer annuals to attend, we'll be able to focus on better amending a smaller plot of soil and cultivating the biodiversity therein, which will keep the pest and disease pressure down. Time to order some nematodes and trichogramma wasps! I already know one fat little ladybug who is particularly excited for her first spring.


Changes, changes, everywhere

So! Summer happened. That was fast. 

With a very quick house sale, move out, house purchase, move in, veggies to plant/pick/keep alive/take to market/deliver around town, a death in the family, and the not-so-wee anymore Babyfarmer now just 3 months from making her debut, it's been a distressingly busy summer. Unseasonably cool until this week, yes, and that was probably critical to our survival. Cute Husband, Farmer Pop, City Mama, and the Golden Girls wore many hats and worked long weeks without breaks but at last, things are starting to slow down. 

Yes, our little family are McKinney's newest residents. And we're loving it! It's only been about a month, but it's obvious we're going to be very happy here, and just 10 minutes away from the farm to boot. Movin' to the country, people! Greeeeeeen acres is the place for me… Although with a 4,000 house development rapidly taking shape a stone's throw from the farm, it isn't going to be "country" for much longer.

Speaking of the farm, due to my ongoing embiggenment (and impending complete preoccupation, as I hear these "baby" people can be somewhat time-consuming), we're going to have a quiet fall and winter season. At this point, the plants put in at last frost are tired and picked out, the bugs are forming homeowners associations, and it's probably time for me to stop hoisting 30lb tubs of melons around town. There will still be food for a couple more weeks, though, so as always, just keep an eye on the Facebook page to see what's going on.

We'll hardly be resting, though - we have Big Construction Plans for the winter (including a building with walk-in cooler storage and a kitchen for jamming and pickling), and of course, I'll keep you up to speed on the action. We're ready to start inviting people to come enjoy our lovely little slice of green with us, whether to attend a cooking demo, wine tasting, yoga class, maybe a wedding?… We've more ideas than we know what to do with, but suggestions are always encouraged. What would you like to come over to the farm and do?

Big shout outs to our buddies at Patina Green Home and Market for winning Best Sandwich Shop and Green Grocer for Best Gourmet Shop in D Magazine's annual Best of Big D issue. Our thoughts are, "Duh". I also need to give a big thanks to the brave folks who signed up for our pilot share program, we plan to expand it significantly next year and your feedback has been invaluable. And of course, thank you to all our regulars and the fantastic staff at Coppell Farmers Market and White Rock Local Market. It's been a great season, and we couldn't have done it without you. Bring on the fall! 

Summer Pre-teens

Alright! We have ripped right through the spring and are barreling headfirst into summer. We went through a busy period of rushing to get everything planted, but now we enter the Calm Before the Storm. Gotta keep everything alive and healthy, but it'll still be several weeks until we can eat off 'em (except for the squash, which are threatening/imminent. Let's see how the kids are doing, shall we?

Remember those tomatoes that froze? Mother Nature threw us a bone - they came back.  The vast majority, anyway... a dozen or so are gone for good, but the rest (a good hundred plants) just bushed right back out from the base of the stem. That guy above was frozen to about an inch off the ground, so we're assuming there was just enough residual daytime heat trapped by the plastic mulch to keep the roots alive. Amazing! The plants are finally blowing up, they love this hot, wet weather. And they're just starting to set the first few tomatoes. Yippee!

Elsewhere in the Nightshade family, the peppers are coming along quite nicely. I've heard some people top their peppers, which makes them bushier and more productive. Has anyone tried this? Think I'll try it with a few to experiment. 

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And the bush beans look the best we've ever grown so far! Green beans are one of my very favorite garden treats, I just think the difference in quality between a garden green bean and a grocery store one could fill the Grand Canyon. Very excited to see how these do. So far so good! 

Across the way, the cucumbers also look the best we've ever grown. There might just be something to this improving soil quality and biology thing, huh? Strong, shiny, dark green leaves… well, until the cucumber beetles roll in. Mama's ready for 'em, though. I got a sweet li'l ATV with a 30 gallon spray rig to throw in the back. It's on.

We've kept the summer squash under row cover to keep the squash bugs at bay as long as possible, but as soon as these flowers start opening, we'll throw it back to let the bees in. I'd say we'll be eating the first of them within the week. I have missed squash. Yes, I actually just said that out loud, after topping out at consuming a couple pounds of squash per person per week last summer. I refused to buy one all winter. Bring it, squash. I ain't afraid of you.

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And down in Melontown, the first set of cantaloupes have begun to sprawl. Squee!

Finally, although we did end up losing a lot of blackberries to frost, there are still soooo many on the vines. I am beside myself. Dey gonna be so good.

We'll be harvesting the earliest variety of garlic in a couple days! Onions won't be far behind...

What happens when it's very, very, very windy

As all our local friends know, we had one of those rough Texas spring storms a few nights ago. In places nearby there was up to 4-inch hail, but we were fortunate, ours topped out about dime-sized. The hail itself didn't do much damage, but boy that howling wind whipped our pretty tender li'l greens about pretty hard. Not so much that they won't come back, for which you must feign gratitude, but enough that now you've gotta wait a bit for it. Bah.

The Romaine fared the best of the lettuces. As you can see, it's not fully grown, so I'm not nearly as bothered by the damage as I would have been if it happened in 2 weeks. Look at me, tempting fate. Tempty tempt tempt. 

The more tender butters were not so happy. They look particularly wimpy here because this was taken the morning after the storm, so the leaves had been desiccated by the wind all night. They don't look as bad now.

The bok choy and Chinese cabbage are really shredded. Wind is such a jerk.

And here are the beets greens leaning heavily downwind, bent but not broken. (Message!)

As aggravating as it is to miss a market, we were ultimately fortunate. Local sustainable ranchers Rehoboth Ranch were not so lucky, they were devastated by a tornado that formed out of the storm. They lost all of their barns and suffered significant damage to their homestead. They're wonderful people committed to raising animals "the right way", you've never had a Thanksgiving turkey so flavorful and juicy. You can see the damage here and make a donation towards their rebuilding.

Well, the farm's pretty soggy today, and we're happy to watch the pond fill up. Farmer Pop, Cute Husband and I popped the first hundred tomatoes into the ground on Saturday, and boy that felt good. We seeded the first set of melons (yes!!!), summer squash, and watermelons. Soon as it dries out a bit, peppers get transplanted! And then bean seeds, sweet potatoes, winter squash, yee-haw! 

Checking in on Garlic

Let's take a peek and see what the garlic has been up to. The warmer weather has them putting on leaves like crazy. Remember, you learned all about how we grow our garlic in this post

Here were the California Early White softnecks at the end of January.

And here they are a few days ago, about six weeks later. Much much taller, and bushier!

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The California Late Whites, then:

And now, leafsplosion!

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And finally, all the heirloom hardnecks went from these goofy little squirrely things...

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To these proud, less goofy things. 

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Things are certainly a-changin' with this beautiful weather! Woohoo!

Happenings of Late: March 13

Well, there's not a lot to see at the moment down on ye ole vegetable farm, which is why I haven't posted much. We're still recovering from that terrible freeze, although a lot more did survive than I initially expected. The 10-day forecast is looking awfully nice, but Mother Nature is a cruel mistress… don't trust her. She builds you up to break you down (cow). It'll probably freeze at least one more time before it's over for the year.

Here's the haps:

  • Farmer Pop has been plowing the winter cover crop up on the second terrace in preparation for summer crops. Yay! We had a giant pile of decaying wood chips and compost he spread everywhere that we'll pull into the beds. The babies will like that. 
  • We lost a bunch of our first set of tomatoes to some weird fungus in our potting mix. It had been sitting around a while. We chucked the rest of it and we'll just buy some transplants from a local nursery to make up the difference. Easy come, easy go. The second set of tomatoes and all the other babies look great. As I said to Pops, that's a mistake we'll only make once… unfortunately there are a couple hundred distinct possible mistakes at any given time, so even if you don't make the same one twice, there's always a new one nearby to rip your heart out. Now it's time to start working on tomato cages!
  • We planted another 700 heads of lettuce on Tuesday in an hour. Damn speedy! 
  • The early peach trees are budding out. As the blooms open we'll start losing sleep over the forecast… a frost will kill the blossoms, meaning no peachies for the entire year. It's the one thing you just can't fight, short of getting a helicopter to fly above them blowing the cool air away (seriously, people do this). I may lose just a little sleep in advance anyway.
  • White Rock Local Market comes back this Saturday!! We won't be selling, but we'll surely be shopping. It's starting out at the Lakeside location, 9150 Garland Road.
  • Our produce will be all over the menu at our pal Chef Robert's fancy pants dinner Saturday night at Patina Green Home and Market. They're one of our greatest supporters. As the weather gets nice this spring, take a Saturday to stroll the square in McKinney and get an amazing sandwich from them.
  • This baby goat and I are BFFs. It's pretty awesome and you should be jealous. 

Roast Salmon and Broccoli with Chile-Caper Vinaigrette

I love when recipes turn out exactly how they sound, as though you can taste them right through the page. I gravitated towards this recipe immediately because the quick-pickled jalapeño reminded me of one of my sushi restaurant favorites, yellowtail with jalapeño, and everybody knows everything's better with capers. (Except fruit pies, just ask Bobby Hill.)


We're continuing to enjoy the spoils of our first successful broccoli crop. The leaves in particular have been a revelation; when cooked over high heat, the thin leafy bits brown to crunchy deliciousness at the same time that the stems become just tender-crisp. I may even bring some to Coppell Farmers Market this weekend to share with all of you. Maaaybe. If everything didn't freeze last night, that is. The roads were too icy today to head up and check, so we'll see tomorrow. Fingers and toes, y'all. 


I generally find Rachel Ray pretty heinous, but she has good ideas from time to time. One of those is to immediately wash, prep, and put away all your produce when you get it home from the market. That way it's all ready to go whenever you need it, and it's just quicker to handle it all at once than a few minutes every day. I hate you just a little more for making me thank you for something, Rachel Ray. 


1 jalapeño, thinly sliced into rings (I used about half of a big one to get a couple dozen thin slices)

2 tbsp capers, salt cured are best (Jimmy's has them), rinsed

2 tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar

1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (if you say EVOO, Imma slap you)

2 salmon filets (we're exclusively eating sustainable-as-it-gets Verlasso salmon now, and it is so good)

2-3 cups broccoli florets and leaves, cut into bite-sized pieces

1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. I know it seems goofy to preheat the oven when you're actually going to use the broiler, but I think everything cooks a lot more evenly if you do. 

Next, combine the jalapeño, capers, rice vinegar, and a little kosher salt in a small bowl. Make sure the jalapeño slices are submerged. Top with the extra virgin olive oil. Leave it on the counter for a good half hour before you eat so it can pickle. 

Cook the quinoa according to the package directions and set aside. Anecdotally, I find it always takes more liquid than they claim it should. 

The rest of this will go pretty quick. Turn on the broiler to low (or high, if your broiler isn't very hot). Toss the broccoli with a little olive oil, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Spread into a single layer on a tray. Coat the salmon with a little more olive oil, season, and arrange on another tray (or use one huge tray if you have it, my broccoli leaves took up so much room I actually did need two trays). Pop the trays under the broiler for about 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of your salmon filets. Don't cook the crap out of nice salmon, it should be served about medium. Also, if you're using broccoli leaves, make sure to monitor them for burning, giving them a shuffle on the tray half-way through cooking. 

Whisk your vinaigrette a bit before serving. Plate the salmon and broccoli atop a mound of quinoa and top everything with the chile-caper vinaigrette. 

Serves 2.