Nitty Gritty Dirt Week 14

From the farmers….
The frost is on the pumpkin – and the squash, and the basil …. We had our first fairly hard frost on Monday night with a second frost on Tuesday night. We heard that the temps fell to 29 degrees in Pine City just north of us and we’re guessing that because we are tucked into the St. Croix River valley, we dipped to nearly that. The first night of frost only the tops of the tender plants were touched, but by the second go around, nearly all the tender plants are pretty blackened. I first noticed that it has frosted when I smelled basil. The sun on the frozen plants was causing them to give off their distinctive aroma. We are hoping that now that since we’ve had the first hit, we’ll have a reprieve of a couple of weeks – at least enough to allow the beans to make a good harvest and the tomatoes and peppers to ripen off the fruit they’ve set. If we hear on our weather band radio that a true killing frost is coming – we’ll pull an all-nighter like we did last year and scramble as long as it takes to get all the squashes and peppers and pumpkins out of the fields and into the protection of the barns. Of course anything underground like the potatoes, carrots and beets are just fine as are any cold season crops like the kale and chard.

I’m not sure how it slipped my mind as I was writing this column a couple of weeks ago, but Nitty Gritty Dirt Farm is going to be just a little bit famous. We will be on Channel 5 TV’s “On the Road” sometime in October. Thursday morning two weeks ago as we were harvesting and packing your share, Gigi and I wore microphones all morning. It was a bit disconcerting knowing that everything said was being recorded as well as having a camera zoom lens suddenly appear between stalks of corn or into the box being packed. The camera even came along when I drove a truck of feed out to the very friendly pigs. All in all it was fun and the crew seemed to want to present a fair all around picture of a small CSA farm. We are hoping that what finally makes the editing cut is who we really are – not sound and picture bytes that don’t tell or show the real story. We don’t know yet exactly when it will air, but we are told ‘sometime in October.’ So watch for your farm on the air.

All of the livestock is doing well. The pigs are growing and eating like crazy – nearly 500 pounds of feed a week in addition to several wheelbarrow loads of melons and tomatoes and other veggie scraps and the Acadia restaurant waste (which they absolutely love.) They are also very friendly and a few especially like to have their backs scratched.

Last Saturday evening after a day at the Mn. State Fair we arrived home just as it was getting dark. Doing chores by headlamp and car headlights Gigi was surprised to find almost all of the white turkeys out of their pen. They hadn’t gone anywhere but were just laying quietly alongside the bronze turkey pen. It seems that the tarp covering their pen had come loose and they just flapped their way out and then couldn’t figure out how to get back in so just settled down to wait. Though these white turkeys during the day are fairly aggressive, pecking any human body part close enough to get at making it quite hard to get feed into the feeders, by night they were as calm as could be. We just opened up the side of their pen and taking them gently by the wings walked them back home. And now, some of the bronze turkeys have decided to roost at night on top of their pen, flapping their way up at dusk and then in the morning getting turned around and hopping down outside the pen instead of inside. The bronzes are very calm and not at all aggressive and so it is easy to just walk behind them and herd them back into their pen with their friends.

We have separated the ram from the ewes and have begun flushing the ewes prior to breeding. Flushing means feeding grain or hay in order to have the ewes gaining weight as they come into breeding time. This increases the likelihood of them dropping multiple ova thus ensuring twin or even triplet lambs next spring. We are planning to put Jedediah the ram back in with the ewes about October 5 which means we will begin having baby lambs about March 5 (with shearing about the end of February). We are also planning to breed the goats at about the same time. Goats are also seasonal breeders and have a 5 month gestation. We want to have at least one goat producing milk as we begin lambing in case we have a sheep mom who doesn’t have enough milk for her kids – and then we can supplement with goat milk. We are planning by next spring to have three goats milking.

This is the year for adding farm equipment. We added two (old) full size pickup trucks to the farm this year as well as buying a small stock trailer (also quite old) and a small trailer which we use to deliver shares behind Bossy – the red truck. We also just purchased a larger tractor. Not big, but with substantially more power than our little Ford 8N, the 1970 reconditioned Ford 3000 has live PTO which will make lots of jobs easier. In really simple terms, it means that the power take off works even when the clutch is pushed in so using a back scraper blade or brush hog or plow is a lot easier. The new Ford will make field preparation much easier and we can also move the big round bales we use for field mulch with this tractor. We are pretty excited, but divided in opinion as to whether of not we should still keep the 8N. No decision yet and we are finding it quite handy for pulling the small trailer to pick up melons and buckets of tomatoes during harvest. We’ll keep you posted.

Until next week….

Questions some of you have asked us –

Why is there dirt on my onions and potatoes – and melons etc?
Early in the season we wash nearly every vegetable expecting that you will use it within the week it is received. As we get later in the year, we often do not wash some of the veggies, but instead use a terry cloth to buff the dirt off. Why? Because every veggie or fruit has a natural coating on its outside that protects it against bacteria. When it is washed that natural protection is removed. Later in the harvest we think that you will want to keep some of your produce longer like potatoes and onions and they will keep much better if they have not been washed. Some like the cantaloupes should never be washed as it speeds the rate of becoming overly mature. When you are ready to use each veggie, we suggest that you wash just before using.

Can you tell us what will be in our box sooner than Wednesday each week?.
Robin walks the fields daily so she can determine what will be ready to harvest each week – however – due to a sudden temperature spike or drop – no rain or too much rain – intern sicknesses – we are never exactly sure what will actually be in the box until it is packed. And sometimes, there are a few surprises in the box that we didn’t think we would have in adequate quantity for 100 shares – but did. Again, we suggest you plan your food around your share rather than the other way around – begin with what is in your box and then decide what else you want/need to go with it.

First of all – you are getting an assortment of summer squash in your share – only one variety is actually zucchini – the long green elite. That said, some varieties such as zephyr (the yellow and green bowling pin) and lita (the grey egg) are meant to be used a bit larger than some folks like their zucchini. There are tons of things you can do with a BIG squash: we like to treat most of them like an acorn squash – just cut it in half and scoop out seeds or in the case of a big pattypan simply cut and scoop out the seed cavity – then fill the cavity with any kind or rice or grain mixture like a pilaf. Before you fill, cut a little off the bottom of the squash so it won’t rock – then put on cookie sheets and bake until the squash is soft to a fork. Delicious. Or you can shred them in your food processor and use in soups or stews or breads. If the skin seems really tough you can peel it first.

Canning Workshop – Tomatoes

This Saturday, 9:00 till 7:00 pm. This is a workshop – each attendee will learn how to can at home and will go home with several jars of tomatoes. Sadly, you will not be able to go home with your winter supply of tomatoes, but based on how many tomatoes we have, you will each take home 4 – 6 quarts of tomatoes.
If you are interested in attending, please let us know ASAP. We are hoping to have another canning opportunity the last weekend in September, but with the frost, we aren’t sure how long the still ripening tomatoes will last. Let us know if you are interested.

The Bread Box
Your bread this week is a Country White yeast bread. Perfect base for overlapping slices of tomato, bacon, peppers and onions. A giant multicolored sandwich to celebrate the beautiful fall weather.

What’s in your Share
Spaghetti Squash – Small Wonder (deep gold hard round squash)
Onions – Superstar white
Eggplant – Galine (large purple) Dancer (med pink) Orient Express (small thin purple) Orient Charm (small thin pink), Thai green
Peppers – Sweet – Carmen (6” x 2” long green or red – very sweet), Islander (purple bell), Bianca (cream bell) Snapper (green bell)
Peppers – Hot – Serrano del Sol (green 3” x ½ “ – very hot), Conchos (Jalapeno type 1” x ¾”)
Watermelons: Blacktail Mountain (small round dark green –red flesh) Sweet Beauty (small oval striped – red) Sunshine (round striped – yellow) Sweet Siberian (small oval striped – orange) New Queen (round striped – orange), Starlight (round striped red flesh)
Honeydews: Diplomat or Passport (round lightly netted green to yellow with green flesh)
Asian Melon – Sun Jewel (oval striped yellow and cream with sweet tropical tasting white flesh)
Cantaloupe – Pulsar, Superstar, Burpee Hybrid – all heavy netting with deep sutures
Kale – Red Russian; Eclipse – large round netted without deep sutures.
Cabbage - Tendersweet
Tomatoes – Paragon, Polbig (large red); Orange Blossom, Moonglow (large orange); Taxi (med yellow); Purple Russian (oblong purplish with green shoulders); Green Zebra (small green striped)
Carrots – Chantenay (short cone shaped), Bolero (blunt tipped med long)
Green Beans – Derby
Sweet Corn – Ambrosia


Use the addresses to google or mapquest or look up the drop site from your particular location. Keep in mind that the folks at the drop sites are volunteers, allowing us to use their space (and in some cases, their homes) as drop sites. Be nice to them. We couldn't do this without them. If you have any questions about your share etc., you should ask us, not them. They have enough to do....as do we all. All deliveries occur on Thursday afternoons. Approximate drop site times are listed below each location. The end times vary but you should pick up your share as early as possible. Look for the NITTY GRITTY DIRT FARM DROP SITE signs at your delivery locations along with lists to check your name off when you pick up, and a description of exactly what you should take.

Nitty Gritty Dirt Farm
10386 Sunrise Road (Cty Rd 9)
Harris MN 55032

35 north past North Branch to the Harris Exit. Turn Right.
Go into Harris, cross RR tracks to stop sign. Turn Left
Go 2 blocks to County Rd 9, also called Sunrise Road. (at Heartbreakers Bar) Turn Right. Farm is 4 1/2 miles out on left side of road. Look for Nitty Gritty Dirt Farm sign.
Shares available from 3:00 to 6:00

United Theological Seminary 3000 5th Street NW, New Brighton MN 55112
694 to Silver Lake Road exit. Go south to 5th and turn west (right). Go three blocks to UTS. Follow driveway (left) to the maintenance garage at the far north end of the parking lot. Shares available after 3:30 PM to 6:00 PM.

Pilgrims United Church of Christ
8801 Rice Lake Road, Maple Grove MN 55369
Just off of Weaver Lake Road across from Rice Lake Elementary School. Use main church door. Shares available from 3:30 to 6:00.

Acadia Cafe
329 Cedar Avenue South, Minneapolis
NW corner of Cedar and Riverside. Park on Riverside or
in lot behind the cafe.
Shares available after 3:15 PM until 6:00 PM

Vincent Avenue
3646 Vincent Avenue North, Mpls MN 55412
1/2 block north of 36th Ave N, and 2 blocks south of Dowling. Park on the street. Shares available after 3:30 until 6:00 PM

Additional drop sites may be added as shares are sold. Drop Sites are subject to change but plenty of notice will be given and alternate sites will be within close proximity to the original drop site.


Robin Raudabaugh & Gigi Nauer

Nitty Gritty Dirt Farm

10386 Sunrise Road

PO Box 235

Harris MN 55032

(651) 226-1186


Also Nitty Gritty Goods Wool CSA
Robin Raudabaugh

We are a 15 acre Community Supported Agriculture farm providing a wide variety of fresh, organically and sustainably grown vegetables, fruit, lamb, pork, turkey and chicken. Located one hour north of the Twin Cities, we deliver to several metro locations. We are intentional about our organic and sustainable farming practices which include (but are not limited to): maintaining soil health through green and animal manures, compost, mulch, cover crops and crop rotations; Organic Pest Management to naturally monitor, prevent and control insects and other pests; maintaining animal health and well-being through the use of portable and loose housing and pasture rotations. Owner/operators Robin Raudabaugh and Gigi Nauer provide over 30 years experience in fruit, vegetable and livestock production, education and customer service. Our primary goal is to build community, relationships and personal health and well-being around good food and the intentional living that creates it. We’d love to have you join us.

Not every day is like this but we try.

Not every day is like this but we try.

Not every day is like this either.

Not every day is like this either.