August Farmer Updates from the Field

August 4, 2021

 

I’m not quite sure how it’s already August here at the ranch. The season moves quickly, days into weeks, weeks into months. That’s a good thing. Not that time has passed and we’re closer to the end of a season, but that the work keeps my consciousness occupied; present. Whether it’s harvesting zucchini or taking down and setting up cattle paddocks, being here at Rock Bottom has allowed me to work on being present in a world surrounded by distractions. I invite you, as you prepare and enjoy the fresh produce in this week’s CSA, to pause and be “here,” to slow down even if only for a few moments and relish in the now. 


On the contrary, I was recently asked by a family friend, “So you're farming, but have you thought about your future?” I held back the scoffing and eye roll, having been asked that question more times than I’d like to. The sole, standout motivation to enter the realm of agriculture was my future, our future–the future of food. If the past year has taught me anything, it’s that we operate on a tightrope, and that the comforts and securities we’ve grown accustomed to aren’t as strong as we may have thought. The myriad gaps and holes in need of patching can become inundating, yet my crew, myself, and your support of our ranch is a needed and noteworthy effort in the right direction. So, in addition to inviting a moment of presence, myself and the crew extend our gratitude to you all for prioritizing nutritious, sustainable, and locally grown food in our home–the magnificent Roaring Fork Valley.


-Ray Mooney, Livestock Apprentice 
 

Ray Mooney on the tractor outside of our Hoop Coop

Ray Mooney, Livestock and Land Apprentice, drives the tractor our hoop coop with White-breasted Turkeys.

 

Working in the Outdoor Production Garden at RBR

Working in the Outdoor Production Garden at Rock Bottom Ranch
 

August 11, 2021

 

These past few weeks it feels like every day is following a pattern. The blue sky mornings and sunny summer days transition to powerful thunderstorms in the late afternoon and the sky opens up on us. Even our most recent Farm to Table dinners were enjoyed in the midst of the rain.


This may be a common summer pattern for Colorado locals, but the frequency and regularity of these summer storms has caused me surprise and wet socks. But I promise I’m not complaining about the rain. I regularly sing ‘Rain Is a Good Thang’ when harvesting vegetables (and I mean it!)


The frequent rains water in our seeded crops, cool down the greenhouses, and allow us all to catch a reprieve from the summer heat. The pastures are lush and green. The vegetables are sending out new leaves and fruit.


In addition to the vegetables, the weeds enjoy the consistent rain. Our ideal weed management strategy in vegetable production is consistent cultivation. This means that every week we try to put our tools or hands on every vegetable bed, disrupting the soil and any young weeds on the surface. This regular practice is a bit of a ritual. Touching the soil of each bed helps keep me connected to each crop and nearly every inch of vegetable production. I hope in this busy summer season y’all have a chance to slow down, cool down, and connect with the soil under our feet.


-Hannah Pike, Vegetable Apprentice
 

Sungold Cherry tomatoes on the plant

A view inside our CORE House, where we have trestled vegetables we are growing this summer

 

Shannon Hourigan, Livestock and Land Apprentice, in the Hoop Coop with our Broad-breasted White Turkeys and Freedom Ranger meat chickens.
 

August 18, 2021

 

As harvest season is reaching its peak, some crops are coming to their end. A bed of cucumbers and basil are pulled out to make room in the CORE house for winter carrots, kale is mowed as it gives way to the pressures of pests. Garlic is hanging to cure in the pole barn.  We are harvesting pretty much everything else pretty much every day, all while working to fill the empty beds with newly seeded fall and winter beets,carrots, radishes, and arugula. The seed start house is starting to fill up with food for next spring: overwintered leeks, spinach, kale.


We are halfway through our poultry slaughters of the season, and have a brooder full of baby laying hen chicks that will start laying 2022. The final prep for sheep mating season is starting, as the cows are beginning a second rotation through our pastures, munching the flowers off of thistle plants as we cut thistle ourselves. 


Amongst all the busyness and bounty, August is a month of beginning and ends. The hard work that started in February, March, even last October is now coming to fruition. And the first glimmers of new life, be it seedlings or baby chicks, are already welcoming in springtime. Farming forces you to be attune to the seasonal flows of nature, work, and harvest. But August feels special because the threads connecting the seasons are so clear.


- Mariah Foley, Agriculture Manager


Mariah Foley, Agriculture Manager, in the Outdoor Production Garden
Mariah Foley, Agriculture Manager, harvesting radishes from the Outdoor Production Garden.

 

Mariah Foley, Agriculture Manager, giving a Farm Tour at one of our Farm to Table Dinners
Mariah giving a Farm Tour at one of our Farm to Table Dinners, under the umbrella of ACES CEO, Chris Lane.
 

August 18, 2021

 

While agriculture is harvesting this season’s bounty and gradually planting for the next, life in the education world is full of new beginnings. Summer days of extended outdoor exploration for our kids at RBR have transitioned into the classroom. We welcomed six new year-long educators for the 2021 school year, and the ACES Ed team worked hard setting up their environmental education classrooms in public schools in Aspen, Basalt, Carbondale, and New Castle. Educational programs at the Ranch have started to reflect subtle changes too. Community members who attend our Vegetable Tasting Experience have been able to sample tomatoes because the vines are heavy with the fruit, unlike in June. In contrast, those who join for Egg Collection Fridays collect less eggs compared to early summer because day length is slowly decreasing. And the last Inside the Beehive Experience was at the beginning of this month, in order to respect the hive as they transition to fall. 


Transitions small and large, like switching a bed from cucumbers to winter carrots, or switching from summer camp to school are happening. And yet, our CSA boxes remain heavy with an array of produce. Livestock is still busy rotating cattle and sheep across the land and caring for our growing Broad-breasted White Turkeys out in “turkey town.” At any given moment, you can hear Red-tailed Hawks cry out as they soar above us in the bright sky while at night, Great-horned Owls screech in the cottonwood trees. 


Consistency and change are both beautiful things, and I hope your weekly ritual of picking up your CSA keeps you rooted to place while providing you the energy needed to face any changes in your own life. 


- Kitty Winograd, Rock Bottom Ranch Community Programs Coordinator

 

Kitty Winograd with her students in the Children's Garden at Rock Bottom Ranch

Kitty Winograd in the Children's Garden with her students as they learn about regenerative agriculture.

 

Our Broad-breasted White Turkeys in "Turkey Town" at the ranch.

Our Broad-breasted White Turkeys in "turkey town" at the ranch.

 

View upcoming programs & events at RBR


Photo Credit: Chris Cohen