Farm Fauna, Revisited

Thursday, August 8th of 2013, a lone AmeriCorps member trellises cherry tomatoes at Prairie Pines Community Farm.  Cool breeze passing through the hoop house, a flutter of dark wings catches her eye amongst the sea of green, brilliantly spotted with yellow. Not a species she is familiar with, she swiftly pulls out her phone and snaps a few quick photos!

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If any of you peruse our Facebook regularly, you’ve probably seen this picture already, and can identify this gorgeous lady as a female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.  Identified through a trusted and knowledgeable Facebook follower, and an office field guide,  the scientific name is Papilio glaucus (family Papilionidae, order Lepidoptera).

Enter a few fun facts about the tiger swallowtail, whose range spans all of the eastern United States into North Dakota, Wyoming and east parts of Texas…

Let’s start from the beginning. As caterpillars, they are humpbacked and green, with  yellow, black ringed eye spots towards the front of the hump.  The caterpillars feed on cottonwoods, birches, cherries, ashes, tulip-poplars, and willows. Adults butterflies, in comparison, love to snack on the nectar of wild cherry, lilac, and milkweed.  In general, these lepidoptera prefer river bank and woodland habitats.  So, combined, one could safely hypothesize that this partially explains why they’re making appearances at our farm – it’s full of milkweed and surrounded by wooded areas that act as windbreaks!

Blame it on that crazy thing called genetics, Eastern Tiger Swallowtails come in several different morphologies.  These include light male (yellow with 4 dark tiger stripes, edges of wing dark), light female (same morph as light male, but add a row of blue circular markings, sometimes rimmed with faded orange on the hindwing), and dark female (pictured in this post!).  They grow 2.5″ – 4.5″ inches in wingspan.  Here’s a little human-butterfly size comparison:

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All said, this butterfly gave my Thursday an excellent start, and made me learn a few new things in the process. It’s great to see such a variety of pollinators flitting about the farm, and such a striking one is always welcome! Fly on tiger swallowtail, fly on.

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Tuesday, August 13th, of 2013.  Sun beating down, a lone AmeriCorps member strolls across the fields of the farm.  Out of the corner of her eye, she notices the quick beat of wings.  Could it be?  Another visit from the swallowtail? Pausing, she turns to see the tigress’s male counterpart land upon an aster, only just visible against the yellow petals of the flower. Fumbling for her phone, the butterfly is much too quick…perhaps she’ll be quicker at the draw next time!

For now here is one last photo, and thanks to Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America by Arthur V. Evans and http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species/Papilio-glaucus for help with this post!

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Ciao ciao,

Amy G.

 

Winter CSA

While we are sweating it out, debating whether to turn on the A/C unit or open the windows, the last wave of sprouts for the winter CSA are beginning to put on their first true leaves.

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We have Broccoli Raab, Beets, Spinach, Raddichi0 and so much more in the ground and more beds of green left to plant. We will be protecting these mildly tolerant crops with light weight row fabric that covers our rows and keep the plants nice and toasty on chilly fall nights. Then, when the cold really hits we will let the roots of beets, carrots and turnips hang in the ground until we need to harvest them for the CSA.

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Along with another flush of spring crops we have sweet potatoes, winter squash and onions that we will be storing deep into the winter to provide for that fantastic butternut soup or sweet potato pie during Thanksgiving!

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Other goodies to expect this winter will be honey, micro greens, eggs (with a optional item for vegans), fresh basil (in November), brussel sprouts, and so much more! For more information about the CROPS Winter CSA check out our website. http://www.communitycrops.org/csa/winter

Happy Growing,

Tyler

Meet the Crew!

If you are a CSA member you may be use to seeing us every Thursday. As we get to know each of our members a little better every week, we also wanted to share about ourselves!

Kirstin

Kirstin

Kirstin came to CROPS from Fox Run Farms in Brainard NE.   She lives on the farm that her family started 114 years ago! Currently there are 4 generations living and working on the farm.  She loves family gatherings, enjoying the outdoors with her son, cooking, crafting, getting together with friends, and reading. Learning about vegetable growing in the late 1800′s on is one of her favorite things to do.  She admires women pioneers who were growing on uncharted territory! She is excited for fresh tomatoes with mozzarella and basil! However her all time favorite vegetable is kale. Kirstin is also a big fan of green smoothies and fresh juices.

Tyler

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Before CROPS Tyler worked on the Big Muddy Farm in Omaha.  Big Muddy is a collective of young urban farmers with fields all over Omaha.  Tyler enjoys playing chess, reading, working on cars, playing with his son, and visiting with other farmers and friends.  Tyler is currently enjoying planning a winter vacation to Guatemala.  His favorite vegetable is the sweet potato.  He likes the greens and the roots!

Amy

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Amy is the Farm Program’s AmeriCorps worker.   Amy has spent the past year helping the program become more successful.  She is a Lincolnite who loves to travel.  Amy loves all veggies but has a special place in her heart for peas, kale, and garlic.  She loves her horse Memphis and Memphis loves mulberries.  Amy likes to read, drink coffee with friends, take naps, run, dabble in the arts, and getting things done!    Amy also runs the cooking classes and has enjoyed interacting with our CSA members at these events.  We are so glad she renewed her term and that we get to work with her another year!

The farm team as a whole loves what we do and wouldn’t have it any other way.  We enjoy having our weekly meetings at coffee houses or bakeries… sometimes we even find ourselves at Honest Abe’s eating the farm staff’s favorite food… hamburgers!  We will never turn down a favorite recipe or some iced tea!

Turn up the “beet” in the kitchen!

 

Ever wonder what happens to CSA shares that don’t get picked up?  While we do donate the majority to FoodNet, sometimes we just can’t help but take a few items home with us.  Inspired to do some roasting by the week 6 selection of beets, carrots, and onions, that’s exactly what happened!

I rarely cook with recipes, so I don’t have a name for it, but the finished product is here:

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You may notice the 3 plates…sharing the veggie love is one of my favorite parts of cooking, especially when it’s with fresh food loving friends!

To detail this particular kitchen adventure, I started by chopping 1 bunch of carrots into 1″ sections, quartering 2 bunches of beets, and de-greening them.  Making the executive decision at this point to save the greens for the meal, I set them aside.  Unfortunately lost in a sea of beet green centered thoughts, I completely, and also quite tragically, forgot about the onions.  Seriously, not my fault, total blame to them beet greens! ;) At this point, I sliced and added some red potatoes I had sitting around, and 5-6 cloves of garlic.  Tossing everything in olive oil with fresh rosemary, thyme, and finally adding a couple dashes of salt and pepper, I covered and roasted the mix for roughly 35 minutes, at 425F.  While waiting for the root vegetables to soften to perfection, I ribboned the beet greens. I decided to roast them for about 10 minutes at the end of the process, just so they were a bit wilted – making sure they were fully coated in the oil first by mixing them thoroughly with the rest of the vegetables, so they didn’t burn.

Despite the lack of onions, the result was amazing, nutritious, and filling!  No doubt, due to great quality carrots and beets from our amazing farmers – shout out to Carla Stormberg and Fox Run Farms! The beets paired great with chevre from Shadowbrook, and I brought a little summer and substance into the meal with some great Sourdough Cottage Dill from Open Harvest.  What did I learn? Fresh, local, and seasonal = tasteful!

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Let us know what you’ve done with your CSA share at http://cropscsa.tumblr.com/.  We’d love to hear about your cooking adventures too!

Ciao until next time,

Amy G.

Friday’s Farm Fauna – Orbweaver Spider

Welcome to our weekly series: Friday’s Farm Fauna.  Life abounds at our training farm, and it’s not just the fresh veggies, fruit, and flowers our farmers grow.  From wild turkeys to snapping turtles to bumblebees, every Friday, we share a glimpse of the hidden life on our farm.OrbweaverOne of my fascinations with beekeeping is the amount of creatures who make their home in or near beehives.  I regularly discover hijackers, scavengers, and even predators as I go about tending to the bees at our farm.  One day, I removed the top cover of the hive and found this orbweaver spider snuggled up underneath.  She’s a close relative of the garden spider that you may have run across on your farm or in your garden.  Thanks to UNL’s Entomology Department, there are several photos of Nebraska’s orbweavers to help identify this spider.  Unfortunately, none of the photos look like this one, so I’ll have to content myself to simply call it an orbweaver.

Though I found her hiding in a beehive, this spider (and those like her) make their living by spinning webs to catch flying insects.  My guess is that she was either feasting on unsuspecting bees or on flies attracted to the scent of honey.  Her beauty makes her a welcome addition to our farm, and she and her children help manage the pest pressure in our vegetable fields, even if they nab one or two of our pollinators in the process.

To read earlier posts in this series, click on the link below:
Neohelvialis Moth
Year in Review (includes link to 2012 posts)

Growing Farmers

A sunny day in Lincoln means that green thumbs are itching all over the city.  Seed catalogs cover kitchen tables, and gardeners salivate over the newest varieties that promise outstanding flavor and increased disease resistance.  Aroused from their winter slumber, spading forks turn compost piles and lift up the edges of mulched beds, giving their owners an excuse to get their hands dirty before spring’s real work begins.

Yes, the growing season is almost here, and for some gardeners in Lincoln, it is time to take the next step.  Rather than just growing for their own families (and somehow, inevitably, the entire neighborhood), some families will decide to make some money from their hobby.  Maybe they will form a small CSA, set up a booth at the farmer’s market down the street, or just sell to neighbors and friends.

In the same way that a bountiful garden requires planning and hard work, a farm business needs to be well-thought out in order to succeed.  Fortunately, farmers in Lincoln (and southeast Nebraska) have resources to help them work through this process.  Several farm conferences, apprenticeships, and classes are geared toward beginning farmers in our area.  The Growing Farmers Training Program at Community CROPS is one such program.

2012 Winter Workshop Participants Tour Robinette Farms

2012 Winter Workshop Participants Tour Robinette Farms

Our winter workshop series begins this Saturday, January 19.  During the series, beginning growers will learn about how to plan for a successful business.  We’ll cover everything from money to liability insurance to how to start seeds.  We’ll also tour five small farms to that beginning farmers can see firsthand how to set up their operations.

We still have some open seats in this year’s series – register today!

Friday’s Farm Fauna – Neohelvialis Moth

Welcome to our weekly series: Friday’s Farm Fauna.  Life abounds at our training farm, and it’s not just the fresh veggies, fruit, and flowers our farmers grow.  From wild turkeys to snapping turtles to bumblebees, every Friday, we share a glimpse of the hidden life on our farm.

MothIn a culture obsessed with information, it’s amazing how little we know about the world around us.  I took this picture in July 2012, but no matter how hard I tried, I could not find a positive identification for this insect.  Fortunately, I stumbled onto butterfliesandmoths.org, a website dedicated to collecting and sharing information about the Lepidoptera order.  I quickly signed up for a free account and submitted this photo.  A few months later, I received notification that my photo had been identified.

This moth (Neohelvibotys neohelvialis), was given its name in 1967 by an entomologist named Hahn W. Capps.  Mr. Capps worked as an entomologist specializing in Lepidoptera for the Bureau of Entomology, and this is one of several species of moths that he named.  (As a side note, I always thought that moths had hair on their antennae and butterflies didn’t, but this insect is still considered a moth.)

Unfortunately, I know nothing about this moth’s role on our farm.  Here, it is pollinating a basil flower, so I assume that its role of pollination is beneficial to our farm.  Members of its taxonomic family are pests of grasses, so I suspect that our corn-growing neighbors aren’t too fond of it.  Friend or foe, I am glad it found a sanctuary on our farm.

To read earlier posts in this series, click on the link below:
Year in Review (2012)

Friday’s Farm Fauna – Year in Review (2012)

Fauna Collage

When we started the Friday’s Farm Fauna series in summer 2012, we didn’t realize how many creatures inhabit our farm, nor did we realize how critical their lives are to the success (and failure) of our crops.  Biodiversity is under-appreciated in conventional farming; just read this article on NPR to see the severity of the problem.  Since we use sustainable growing methods like adding compost, growing cover crops, and using few pesticides (only those approved for organic production) our farm is a haven for dozens (if not hundreds) of species that simply can’t survive in fields of corn and soybeans.

We learned a lot this year, and we hope you did, too.  The 2013 series begins next Friday!

To read posts from the 2012 series, click on the links below:
Small Hive Beetle
Daddy Longlegs
Praying Mantis
Pillbugs
Wolf Spider
Painted Turtle
Meadowhawk Dragonfly
Pink Spotted Lady Bug
Squash Bugs
Meadow Vole
Woodhouse’s Toad
Soldier Beetle
Spotted Cucumber Beetle
Tomato Fruitworm
Western Gray Tree Frog
Grasshopper
Robber Fly
Bumblebee
Pavement Ant
Plains Leopard Frog and Western Ribbon Snake
Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar

Friday’s Farm Fauna – Small Hive Beetle

Welcome to our weekly series: Friday’s Farm Fauna.  Life abounds at our training farm, and it’s not just the fresh veggies, fruit, and flowers our farmers grow.  From wild turkeys to snapping turtles to bumblebees, every Friday, we share a glimpse of the hidden life on our farm.

Small Hive BeetleThis little guy (or gal, as the case may be) is a small hive beetle (Aethina tumida).  They are native to South Africa, but have been in North America for at least sixteen years.  They make their home in beehives, where their larvae tunnel through the comb, eating the honey and pollen.  Really, who can blame them – honey is pretty good stuff, and I wouldn’t mind a life of stuffing myself silly with honey!

Unfortunately, the larvae of the small hive beetle are not hygienic.  Not only do they eat the honey, but they also poop everywhere, and if the bees don’t find them and kick them out soon enough, they can destroy all the honey stores in the hive.  In South Africa, bees are aggressive at dealing with hive pests, and the small hive beetle doesn’t cause too many problems.  However, the European species of bees that we keep in America often don’t catch the beetles in time, which creates a mess in the hive and can cause a colony to fail.

When we harvested honey at Sunset this past fall, we found a few mature hive beetles like this one, but no larvae.  Our bees are bred to be more picky than other bees, so we’re hoping that they keep the beetles under control this winter.

To read earlier posts in this series, click on the links below:
Daddy Longlegs
Praying Mantis
Pillbugs
Wolf Spider
Painted Turtle
Meadowhawk Dragonfly
Pink Spotted Lady Bug
Squash Bugs
Meadow Vole
Woodhouse’s Toad
Soldier Beetle
Spotted Cucumber Beetle
Tomato Fruitworm
Western Gray Tree Frog
Grasshopper
Robber Fly
Bumblebee
Pavement Ant
Plains Leopard Frog and Western Ribbon Snake
Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar

Friday’s Farm Fauna – Daddy Longlegs

Welcome to our weekly series: Friday’s Farm Fauna.  Life abounds at our training farm, and it’s not just the fresh veggies, fruit, and flowers our farmers grow.  From wild turkeys to snapping turtles to bumblebees, every Friday, we share a glimpse of the hidden life on our farm.Daddylonglegs

I grew up believing that these spiders had the most deadly venom of any spider, but that their fangs were too small to puncture human skin.  Fortunately, I’m wrong!  Daddy longlegs aren’t venomous, nor do they have fangs.  In fact, they aren’t even spiders!

Daddy longlegs, more properly known as harvestmen, make up the order Opiliones, which is distantly related to spiders and is part of the arachnid class.  Harvestmen are the only arachnids that swallow chunks of their prey; all other arachnids liquefy their food before they eat it.  They eat a wide variety of animals, insects, and decaying matter, which makes them a farmer’s friend.

The most conspicuous feature of the daddy longlegs is, of course, their legs.  In fact, daddy longlegs have the largest leg length to body length ratio of any animal on earth!  Not only to they use their legs to walk and catch prey, but they also use them to breathe and smell.  Over 200 species of daddy longlegs live in North America.  I have not been able to identify this one, but I’m certainly glad it chose to make its home on our farm!

To read earlier posts in this series, click on the links below:
Praying Mantis
Pillbugs
Wolf Spider
Painted Turtle
Meadowhawk Dragonfly
Pink Spotted Lady Bug
Squash Bugs
Meadow Vole
Woodhouse’s Toad
Soldier Beetle
Spotted Cucumber Beetle
Tomato Fruitworm
Western Gray Tree Frog
Grasshopper
Robber Fly
Bumblebee
Pavement Ant
Plains Leopard Frog and Western Ribbon Snake
Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar