Perhaps spring is really on its way! After the last few weeks of gray skies, snow, and cold temperatures I was starting to feel disheartened, particularly after the single-digit temperatures that blackened the early allium. And then yesterday was perfect! A cool strong breeze in the morning blew the clouds away, leaving strong sun to warm us as we got back into the garden — plus the bees were flying. A huge relief given the long winter; only a few more weeks and there should be nectar flowing.

Given our concern about widespread use of persistent herbicides to target unwanted broadleaf plants in hay and straw fields, we have been scrambling to find a source of fertility that we can trust — horse manure, commercial straw & hay, and urban-generated lawn waste are all out. We hope to find a source of leaves next fall, but this spring we’re experimenting with composting hay from our fields — we held a few large bales back — and built a simple wire cage to start the process.

round one

round one

The stack was inoculated with a bucket of worms + casings from our home compost along with wood ash from the stove, and soaked with water. We’ll turn it and re-soak weekly and, once it’s begun to break down, top dress the beds.

red wrigglers, castings, and some cocoons

red wrigglers, castings, and some cocoons

A fair amount of the narcissus have emerged, as have a small number of giant allium. We dedicated one 100’ bed to the former, and we’re hoping they naturalize aggressively.

Last picture — the bees. I didn’t want to stress them by opening the hive for a full inspection, so I just raised the lid to get a peak. Numbers are low but they were flying yesterday and seemed in good spirits.


Spring? Soon?

The first allium came through the leaf mulch last week and then we had a night of ~8 degree frost which knocked them back. It was warm (but gray) today, but maybe spring is coming? It’s time. Here’s what’s been happening.


We are working to test perennials at the farm and we love the idea of having hundreds of delphinium, so we have been experimenting with starting them under lights. The first batch were moved into larger soil blocks last week and we’re optimistic they’ll be ready to transplant when it’s warm.

It's Winter

The 21” of snow has melted and frozen into thick layers of ice or ice-topped snow, and the farm is deep in hibernation. I’m not sure when the ground froze this year (it was 65 the first week of January) but it’s well-frozen now and, with a polar vortex arriving this week, likely won’t fully thaw until late March or early April.

The amount of frozen water is impressive, I have high hopes for a full irrigation pond to take us through early summer.


  • https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/10/the-amish-farmer-replacing-pesticides-with-nutrition/380825/

  • https://mofb.org/food-manufacturing-could-bring-additional-25-billion-to-missouri/

  • http://mofarmerscare.com/scherder-farms-receives-missouri-leopold-conservation-award/

  • https://blog.mcqueens.co.uk/2019/01/03/whats-in-season-winter/

  • https://academic.oup.com/beheco/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/beheco/ary198/5288453

  • https://www.fwi.co.uk/arable/crop-management/weed-management/france-bans-monsanto-weedkiller-roundup-over-safety-fears

  • http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/monsanto-merger-migraine-roundup-is-toxic-for-bayer-a-1247225.html

Worms & Links

We manage our compost mid-week and as I turned the pile to aerate this week in the 10” of snow I was excited to see large numbers of red wriggler worms and even more excited to find worm cocoons! I circled two in the picture below. Each cocoon holds 3 or 4 teeny tiny baby worms and takes a few weeks to hatch.


A few links:

  • https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2019/jan/05/honey-seller-faults-dicamba-in-closing-/

  • http://www.rtb.cgiar.org/blog/2018/11/29/disease-resistant-potato-and-banana-give-hope-to-farmers/

  • https://savvygardening.com/the-onslaught-of-introduced-insects-and-why-it-will-change-everything/#.XD08kjDdSDQ.twitter

  • https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-era-of-easy-recycling-may-be-coming-to-an-end/

Little seedlings

Winter appears to have shown up last night. After several days of strong steady cold winds from the west that kept the sky clear and blue, last night clouds arrived with temperatures in the low 20s for the second night. Snow, apparently, is expected this afternoon — 7 inches. Good to have some moisture on the ground and some insulation as well.

Inside the snaps continue to grow and now have real leaves.

The compost pile is cooking along nice as well, maintaining a steady 105 degrees, and the red wriggler worms I moved into the pile to inoculate with positive organisms are expanding.

More Sprouts, Flail Mower Maintenance

The past season was the first with the wide-deck flail mower for the BCS so I used it extensively for heavy brush-clearing in addition to cover crop cutting & maintaining our pathways. This weekend I found out just how heavily when I started annual maintenance and saw the gouges on the blades, so I took most of them off, filed the larger burrs down, and put them back on in new pairings to even the wear. Hopefully I faced the sharper edges toward the cutting direction as well.

Meanwhile, we had more snaps germinate. One tray on the mat farther from the light shot up into weak floppy stems overnight, another looked stronger. All are now in the racks a few inches from the light — hopefully they’ll like their new, less-humid home. Target test planting date is 14 January under agribon.

Recent News Roundup

Although it’s mostly sunny and not always cold, it’s not time for much to grow so I’ve been catching up on nature & science writing. Here are a few articles that caught my attention — I’m not endorsing the contents nor do I agree with them wholeheartedly — and I thought I’d share.

Send me a note (matt@blhfarm.com) with your thoughts:

  • https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/06/science/researcher-finds-way-to-fight-cheatgrass-a-western-scourge.html

  • http://testbiotech.org/en/press-release/eu-commission-approves-maize-monster-import

  • https://blog.mcqueens.co.uk/2018/02/15/tricks-of-the-trade-our-top-flower-hacks/

  • https://fieldquestions.com/2015/07/29/gm-foods-a-moment-of-honesty/

  • https://www.gmwatch.org/en/news/latest-news/18363-glyphosate-based-herbicide-impairs-female-fertility-new-study

  • https://www.gmwatch.org/en/news/latest-news/18475

  • https://photos.riverfronttimes.com/things-everyone-whos-moved-away-from-st-louis-has-said-at-least-once/?slide=1&01-3