Men Of Industry: Luca and Mike @ Walsh Metal Works Gallery!

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Luca and Mike are both local artists and Men Of Industry on St. Croix. Please come to their exhibition of new works on Friday, April 10th, 2015!

Luca and Mike are both local artists and ‘Men Of Industry’ on St. Croix. Please celebrate their inspiration and perspiration – come to their exhibition of new works on Friday, April 10th, 2015!

Finally! Luca is painting again! An exhibition of new works from Farmer Luca Gasperi and Metalworker Mike Walsh, titled “Men Of Industry”, is opening on Friday April 10th 2015 at 5pm, so save the date!

The boys had a good time capturing the stoic image Christina had envisioned for the exhibition poster. Official ARTfarm Photographer Heather Maynard asked for “Blue Steel” and got some great shots. Let us know if you think we should extend this into a full twelve-month calendar! Here are a couple of outtakes.

Between takes.

Between takes.

We tried a few different locations.

If they decide to start an 80s cover band, this will make a great album cover.

If they decide to start an 80s cover band, this will make a great album cover.

Mike has a James Bond thing going; Luca is doing his Wolverine face.

Mike has a James Bond thing going; Luca is doing his Wolverine face.

Come out to the show and bring your checkbook in case some piece of art moves you! Mike is about to go big, driving his prices up, and who knows when Luca will have time to paint again in this decade!!?

ARTfarm Wednesday 3-6: Fire Report

We are open 3–6 p.m.! Today we have sweet salad mix, spicy salad mix, a few cucumbers, Bodhi beans, onions, beets, Italian basil, Thai basil, lemon basil, cilantro, cherry tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, and a few more fresh figs.

Beautiful ARTfarm salad greens for the sweet mix!

Beautiful ARTfarm salad greens for the sweet mix!

Farming is certainly a round-the-clock exercise. Last night around 9 PM we smelled smoke and saw flames shooting up into the sky on the east end of the farm. Luckily we had fair warning as Luca was out watering late and noticed it quickly, shortly after hearing the sound of voices along the east roadside. Neighbors in the area also alerted us to the brushfire and offered help via text, calls and Facebook. We quickly moved our child to grandma’s, suited up in protective clothing, grabbed our fire flappers and other firefighting equipment and went to move sheep and equipment out of harm’s way and help the neighbors wherever possible.

A view of the brush fire last night from the top of Spring Gut Road via a neighbor. The large yellow lights along the center of the photo below the fire are streetlights on South Shore Road. The red light on the right side is a VIFD truck. The small squarish light near the center right of the photo is us in our truck in roughly the center of ARTfarm. From our angle in the pasture it appeared that the fire was advancing rapidly toward us.

A view of the brush fire last night from the top of Spring Gut Road looking south, via a neighbor. The fire moved across the pasture from east to west. The large yellow lights along the center of the photo below the fire are streetlights on South Shore Road. The red light on the right side is a VIFS truck. The small squarish light near the center right of the photo is us in our truck in roughly the center of ARTfarm. From our angle in the pasture it appeared that the fire was advancing rapidly toward us and a small group of young cattle.

Luckily there was not a strong wind last night, and conditions coupled with a rigorous effort by the VI Fire Service on all sides contained the fire and prevented it from destroying hundreds of acres of pasture in use, as well as cattle and sheep, wildlife, farm infrastructure and the homes of farmers including us!

Another shot of the fire as it continued to spread and head south. Our truck is the tiny pinpoint of light close to the west end (right) of the fire line. Above us and closer to the fire is a VIFD truck.

Another shot of the fire as it continued to spread and head south. Our truck is the tiny pinpoint of light close to the west end (right) of the fire line. Above us and closer to the fire is a VIFS truck.

As I stated to a friend, “this is what amounts to a ‘romantic date night’ for a farmer and his wife. A fireside chat and home by midnight.”

We spoke with Captain Charles Gilbert, Fire Service officer out of Richmond/Christiansted’s C shift, who was in charge of the operation last night. They had a total of six VIFS trucks on the scene, but it felt like a lot more to us, as they continued to contain the fire from 9pm to 1am. These included trucks from the East End, Richmond, and Grove stations. The only casualty of the evening was a young calf that got onto the road (due to gates left open to allow emergency access) and was struck by a passing vehicle. Some fencing was damaged and will need to be replaced.

Fence damage. This wood post will have to be replaced. The steel t-posts, woven wire and barbed wire materials have a much shorter life and rust much faster  after being burned in a brush fire as it tends to remove their protective coatings of paint or zinc.

Fence damage. This wood post will have to be replaced. The steel t-posts, woven wire and barbed wire materials have a much shorter life and rust much faster after being burned in a brush fire as it tends to remove their protective coatings of paint or zinc and weaken the metal.

VI Fire Service Chief Larry Johnson noted that the burning of trash, the use of campfires and the disposal of lit cigarettes out of car windows should be curtailed during these dry conditions. “Most brush fires that start after dark are lit deliberately,” he said during our conversation. “It is a felony.”

We are extremely grateful for the prompt and thorough response from the VI Fire Service last night. We plan to drop off some tomatoes to Captain Gilbert and his C company team, and we’d love it if you’d thank them on our behalf, too!

Looking south along the fence near the east end of the farm. Evening brush fires are most likely deliberately set, according to officials at the VIFS.

Looking south along the fence near the east end of the farm. Evening brush fires are most likely deliberately set, according to officials at the VIFS.

The fire started near the roadside, then jumped across a ten-foot swath of grass and headed west southwest through the pastures.

The fire started near the roadside, then jumped across a ten-foot swath of grass and headed west southwest through the pastures. Left unchecked, this could have been disastrous for us!

Looking south near the east end of the farm. The VI Fire Service was able to contain and control this brushfire, in part because winds were not strong.

Looking south near the east end of the farm. The VI Fire Service was able to contain and control this brushfire, in part because winds were not strong.

ARTfarm Monday Q&A: Never the Same Salad Twice

It’s dry out here! Today’s pungent harvest: Sweet salad mix, baby arugula, baby and regular spicy salad mixes, arugula, onions, scallions, cilantro, Italian basil, lots of tomatoes, slicers and heirlooms, cherry tomatoes, and the last of the figs for a while.

Q: Why aren’t your salad greens as sweet this week as they were last week? Why are the stems larger/smaller? Why isn’t  the spicy as spicy as it was last time? etc. etc….?

A: While one could chalk this up to simple nostalgia, it’s more likely that variations are due to two main reasons:

(1) Mother nature’s treatment of our crops is the primary source of this shift in taste from week to week. Even as our recipes remain unchanged, small changes in the weather can affect the taste of our salad mix.

When temperatures are hotter during a portion of the growth cycle of the lettuce heads in our fields, they respond as many living beings do under stress: they attempt to defend themselves from being eaten as they try to propagate. Lettuce will tend to take on a more bitter flavor in hot weather as it accelerates toward the bolting and seeding cycle of its life (as it would during hot late summer months in the cooler parts of the world). If we encounter cooler and rainier weather, the lettuce will be sweeter. Even a brief few days of intense heat can alter the taste of plants. And variations in weather now can affect the salad flavor two or three weeks from now, as the plants are in their growth cycle.

Spicy greens become more peppery when the weather is very hot and dry, and will taste milder when we’ve had a lot of wet weather. Our formulas for the types of greens and their quantities in the various mixes stays consistent from harvest to harvest, but the weather can change the flavors in the bag of salad you take home.

Occasionally we do have to change the formulation of a salad mix because seed is not available for some of the tasty baby greens that add so much flavor to our mixes. We find a substitution that is similar, but this can also change the taste of our salad mixes over the course of the season.

(2) The other factor that comes into play in the consistency of ARTfarm salad greens from bag to bag is what we like to call the Jackson Pollock effect.

When we make the salad mix we use a very large sanitized stainless surface and mix in many different baby mesclun greens with multiple large chopped lettuce varieties.

When creating his splatter paint pop art creations of the 1960s, Jackson Pollock employed a similar technique. He would toss different colors in random patterns throughout his large canvases.

What we do next at ARTfarm is essentially like taking that large amazing Jackson Pollock painting and cutting it up into many small pieces. Each portion of the canvas represents a bag of ARTfarm salad mix. Some bags will have more large pieces of stem from the base of the lettuce head; other bags will contain a little bit more of the baby mesclun greens; others will be a perfect blend of all the different ingredients that we put into the salad mix. Every bag is a little different because they’re all prepared by hand, and the weather, the secret intentions of mother nature, and the randomness of our process ensure that your experience will always be fresh!

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We know that our customers seek us out because they want real produce that tastes like the place it was grown. We know you can handle a little variety. But, if you ever purchase a bag of salad greens from ARTfarm that you find inedible, please bring it back to us. We’d always like to hear from our customers, good or bad, how you feel about our products, and if we’ve goofed and a product is not up to our normal level of quality, we would be happy to replace it with something you find tastier.

We grow this stuff for you, after all!

ARTfarm Saturday, 10 AM – 12 noon! It’s Spring!

Pray for rain, folks! The South Shore is extremely dry and we could seriously use some of those rain showers the forecaster spoke about on Friday afternoon.

Madre de Cacao trees are blooming and the honeybees are enjoying the pungent flavors of the dry season.

Madre de Cacao trees are blooming and the honeybees are enjoying the pungent flavors of the dry season.

Join us starting at 10am for sweet salad mix, microgreens, baby arugula, teen and regular spicy, a few cucumbers, onions, beets, radishes, carrots, kale, dandelion greens, cherry tomatoes, heirloom and slicing tomatoes, fresh harvested ginger root, thyme, lemon balm, sage, celery, Italian basil, Thai basil, lemon basil, holy (Tulsi) basil, dill, parsley, cilantro, garlic chives, zinnia flowers, and a few Mediterranean figs and passionfruits.

From our fellow growers and crafters: farm fresh eggs by the dozen from the Gotts family, Wanda will be on hand with her honey meads, we’ll have Nonna’s fresh-baked focaccia and panini breads and we have a few coconut-based vegan ice creams from I-Sha. Looking forward to seeing you all!

ARTfarm Wednesday: 3–6 p.m. So Many Salads To Choose From!

We grew it here, tender, crispy and moist, on the dry and arid south shore of the island, just for you! All organic growing methods and just sweet stored rain water for irrigation. You can taste it in the food! Sweet, baby, regular spicy, and baby spicy salad mixes; baby arugula, arugula, a few cucumbers, onions, beets, radishes, purple yard long beans, cilantro, dill, parsley, garlic chives, Italian basil, cherry tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, sweet tree-ripened Mediterranean figs, and from our partner I-Sha we have all-homemade coconut-based vegan local fruit ice cream in a handful of fantastic flavors. We have spoons, or you can bring your own.

A single ivory-colored egg rests in a patch of dry grass in a pasture.

A mysterious lone guinea hen egg rests in dry grass in a pasture at ARTfarm. Guinea hens lay social nests with 40 or more eggs, so this is either the start of a nest, or a discarded mongoose snack!

Monday Farmstand Lineup: 3–6 p.m., Rain or Shine

IMG_8550.JPGWe still have tomatoes! Also today, from 3–6 p.m. rain or shine: Sweet salad mix, microgreens, spicy salad mix, arugula, cucumbers, heirloom and cherry tomatoes, radishes, a bunch of beets, cooking greens, Italian basil, cilantro, garlic chives, onions with gorgeous big green edible tops, and loads of sweet Mediterranean figs!

Yes, that does say “a bunch of beets”. When asked for clarification, Farmer Luca explained it like this: “Yes. It’s only one bunch. But it’s a really beautiful bunch. And they were just calling out to me. I had to harvest them.”

Raw local honey from Errol Chichester, and beautiful coconut-based vegan ice cream from I-Sha!IMG_8559.JPG

Top O’ The Morning To Ya! ARTfarm 10 AM – 12 noon

Despite the temptations of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Christiansted today, the little leprechauns of ARTfarm are hard at work this morning on the south side of the island, harvesting greens to decorate your table. Please come as early as possible for this morning’s stand (10am-12 noon) and buy all your greens, tomatoes, fresh herbs and other treats, so that we can release the cute little fellows to run over the hills and join in the festivities in town.

A heart-shaped green heirloom tomato for St. Patty's Day! Enjoy the parade!

A heart-shaped green heirloom tomato for St. Patty’s Day! Enjoy the parade!

If you’re too busy staking out your parade spot or painting yourself and the kids green to make it this morning, we’ll be open Monday 3-6pm! Today’s haul: sweet salad mix, teen arugula, spicy salad mix, a few cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, heirlooms, loads of beets, escarole, collard greens, sweet potato greens, carrots, Italian basil, lemon basil, mint, Thai basil, parsley, cilantro, dill, garlic chives, onions, scallions, French breakfast radishes, lots of Mediterranean figs, and passionfruit. From our co-agrarians, we’ve got beautiful raw local honey from Errol Chichester.

Farmer Matthew this morning reminded us that today is a perfect day to bake a pie: today’s date, for those of you who didn’t get the joke (like yours truly) is 3.14… pi (the symbol used by mathematicians to represent the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, the lowercase Greek letter π).

Enjoy!

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