Midweek Cucumber Joy 3-4:30pm Wednesday

Wednesday farmstand: “Things come in fits and avalanches here at ARTfarm. As it turns out, we will have a lot of stuff on Wednesday,” says Farmer Luca.

Ridiculous amounts of two kinds of organically grown cucumbers, a few more cherry tomatoes, our first slicing tomatoes, sweet salad mix, spicy salad mix and arugula, figs, lots of watermelon, lots of cooking greens, Italian basil, dill, cilantro, zinnias, radishes, our tiny hot hot chili peppers and the bigger cayenne style peppers, a few new type of seasoning/pickling “cheese” peppers, lots of butternut large and small, little Japanese specialty sweet melons, a few Haitian kidney mangoes. For the farmer in you, we have a few discounted tomato plants looking for a home!

We will have more fresh goat cheese from Fiddlewood Farms and hopefully soon, honey and other holiday treats from Wanda!

Wednesdays have still been on slow side. Will close at 4:30pm.

We humbly thank you for your support!

Saturday ARTfarmstand 10am Grrrrrreens!

10am – 12 noon down the South Shore: Lots of fresh sweet salad mix, teen arugula, and teen spicy salad mix, young tender cooking greens, baby boc choi, lots of cucumbers (long thin skinned Japanese type and American slicer cukes). Other treats: Our first pint of cherry tomatoes, Mediterranean figs, watermelon, lots of Italian basil, Thai basil, holy basil, lemon basil, lots of small hot Thai chili peppers, lots of butternut squash, local goat cheese from Fiddlewood Farm, and zinnia flowers.

Love, ARTfarm

Wednesday Greens 3 – 4:30pm

Things have been exceptionally slow after 4 PM at the Wednesday farmstands, so until things start to get a little busier we will be closing at 4:30pm Wednesdays. Speaking of slow starts, the harvest amounts are getting up to speed a little more slowly than usual for this time of year, perhaps due to the heavy rains at the beginning of the month that washed away topsoil and stressed out the plants. So we are being patient.

Early morning harvest for the farmstand Wednesday afternoon: we’ll have lots of cucumbers (two types), baby spicy greens, baby arugula, teen spicy greens, teen arugula, sweet salad mix, some watermelon, some figs, some cooking greens, Italian basil, lemon basil, radishes, Thai basil, garlic chives, green onion tops with small onion bulbs, butternut squash, and chili peppers.

Luca’s amazing hot sauce: first he cooks down the ingredients and then throws it in the blender: Butternut, green onion, chilis and turmeric. All from ARTfarm!

Saturday 10am – 12 noon, Cukes & Watermelon

Sorry for the late notice! We just got in from transplanting more lettuce and some scallions for you folks by flashlight!!

Yes we will be open tomorrow (Saturday) December 1st for our regular Saturday hours, 10am – 12 noon.

You want the good news first or the bad news?

Good news: we have in the morning for ya: good quantities of three kinds of watermelon (including a yellow one!), TONS of delicious cucumbers (two kinds), butternut squash, a few bags of baby arugula and baby spicy salad mix, spicy radishes (become completely mild when cooked), turnip greens, Italian basil, lemon basil, Thai basil, garlic chives, dill, small amounts of cilantro, rosemary, lemongrass, holy basil, cheerful cut zinnia flowers, pineapple plants, and native trees

Bad news: lots of our lettuce is still too small after all the caterpillar carnage and rain damage, so no sweet mix until next week, probably Wednesday.

We appreciate your support and look forward to seeing you in the morning!

Lettuce Catch Up on Wednesday! 3pm

We are finally starting to see the lettuce that survived the great caterpillar attacks and flooding start to reach a harvestable size. This year’s season seems to be starting in fits and starts, but it will eventually work itself out into a regular weekly schedule.

We will be harvesting salad greens Wednesday morning and will have them ready for sale for another special extra Wednesday 3 o’clock farmstand. After that we’ll be open every Saturday at 10am – 12pm. Hope you can join us, here’s the list:

Sweet salad mix, baby spicy greens, cucumber, watermelon (whole and cut), butternut squash, a few last dragonfruit of the season. A little bit of lemon, Thai & Italian basils, cheerful zinnias and marigolds.

If you’ve ever wished you could get Farmer Luca to visit your home and provide a consult on building or improving a small organic garden or orchard, here’s your chance – bid on this great auction item from the St. Croix Environmental Association’s fundraiser!

https://www.32auctions.com/SEA2018

Gratitude Season – OPEN Wednesday Nov 21st, 3pm

The epic rains of early November 2018 brought epic rainbows. In this case, leading to the arresting sculpture of Niarus Walker.

Halloween flew by like a tropical bat, Diwali brought us its hopeful message of good defeating evil, and the elongated election season is nearly over; it is time to turn our thoughts back to family, gratitude, the simple things.

We are thankful for the many dedicated customers who are eager for ARTfarm to reopen! And for eleven inches of rain that fell over the first two weeks of November, decisively ending our water shortage – but also destroying the first lettuce crop of the season and creating some other setbacks. (We’re seeing major damage to melon vines and papaya trees and possible crop failures on ginger and some of our tomatoes.) But staying grateful that some of our gardens are recovering from all of the drenching!

We will be open for a special holiday farmstand on Wednesday, November 21st, 3pm – 5:30pm with a bumper crop of beautiful cucumbers and smaller quantities of a few other things including a limited supply of salad greens. Here’s the full list:

  • Lemongrass, garlic chives, Italian basil, rosemary, spicy radishes, two types of cucumbers, some teen spicy greens, baby arugula, a few bags of sweet mix, green papaya, wild cucumbers, some small bulb onions with large green tops (use like scallions), a few marigold and zinnia flowers. And ARTfarm turkey and chicken eggs! Super fresh!
  • Need a thoughtful gift for the holiday? This is a great time of year to get plants in the ground. We’ve got pineapple slips, fig trees, and native drought resistant shade tree saplings available for sale!
  • Tomatoes will come in around December 15th.
  • Grandma’s Fabulous Cucumber Salad that Luca loves (as told to Christina)

    There is no recipe for this.

    First of all don’t measure anything.

    Mandolin a cucumber into thin slices and thinner than anything you’ve ever experienced in your life. Paper thin. Then cover them in water and add an unspecified amount of too much salt. Then go away and do other stuff. Come back in a couple of hours.

    Rinse the heck out of them when you come back from your other activities and make sure they’re not too salty.

    Rinse them again and again and squeeze them to get the salty water out.

    Let them drain in a colander for even longer. Do other things.

    Chop up a couple of scallions.

    Add a big spoonful of mayo per cuke. Dress with vinegar and basil. Toss.

    So just make sure you have:

    • Maybe about half a cucumber per person
    • A bunch of scallions (green onion tops or garlic chives work too)
    • A generous handful of salt
    • A few spoonfuls of mayo
    • A little basil (could be dried if you don’t have fresh)
    • A little vinegar
    • Fun people to share it with!

    We finally got one of our chicken tractors rebuilt after the hurricane. The hens are thrilled with their more comfortable quarters.

    Bok. Bok.

    ARTfarm NEWS: Summer Recap, Saving Water, Open Soon!

    Dragonfruits harvested at ARTfarm in October 2018

    It’s time for an ARTfarm update! Lots of people have been asking when we’ll reopen, and we’ve been busy as bees since we last posted on June 1st.

    Long story short: We are aiming to open early November 2018 and hope to see you at our farmstand. Thanks for your patience.

    The farm is currently under an unprecedented siege of army worm caterpillars, who are eating many of our vegetable and fruit vine seedlings to below the soil level, which may delay our opening unpredictably. Yikes! So more updates, and a firm farm opening date, soon come!

    Short story long, for the ARTfarm news junkies: Read on below for the summer/fall “recap” all in one newsy post. With photos!


    We were all depleted after Hurricane Maria.

    By the end of the 2017-2018 farming season, which started relentlessly after Hurricane Maria and continued unabatedly active for nine months, we were VI Strong but also exhausted and stressed, like many islanders in the post-storm recovery process. We were demoralized by the lack of disaster resources and by the growing evidence in the scientific community confirming what we’ve been feeling on the backs of our necks: the looming spectre of climate change accelerating.

    With our fruitless applications for disaster relief denied, a powerful drought killing off the post-storm vegetation boom, and the loss of most of the fruit trees in ours and our friends’ orchards that would have provided the usual mangoes and avocados for us to sell over the summer, we decided to close early for the season in late spring of 2018, and work on storm recovery and our health.


    Luca reflecting on one of his older paintings on display at CMCA in May 2018 – the Senepol show. Christina also had works in this show.

    In May, art lifted us a bit. Luca and Christina both participated in group art shows, primarily using previous works from our own and private collections.

    We began work on our printmaking project to help raise funds for rebuilding our destroyed farm structures.

    One of our new layer chicks being socialized by our poultry wrangler.

    And we picked up seven baby chicks at the Ag Fair to replenish our layer hen population on the farm.

    Visiting friend Duvan lifted our spirits and got us to the beach!

    We also had a farm volunteer (our old friend Duvan from art school days) come and stay with us for over a month in May and June. He completely rebuilt our rickety blue farm cart that was on the brink of oblivion, painted things that needed painting, cleaned up and organized post-storm disaster areas of the farm (like piles of mashed-up stuff around tool sheds), repaired a gaping hole in the farmstand, constructed a new rat-proof chicken coop for the new baby chicks, and many other useful helpful things. He reminded us to do yoga and breathe and hit the beach and celebrate life and eat good things and make a little art every day. Thank you, Duvan, for helping us start to get our joy back!


    Farmer Luca with lots and lots of ginger! Big end-of-season harvest for seed stock and making drinks!

    We had a bit of good news in June, when despite the dry conditions, some of our dragonfruit vines began to recover from storm damage and produce a few fruits. We weren’t sure they would produce again after being knocked down and righted, but they did!

    Also in June, Farmer Luca harvested over a hundred pounds of organically grown ginger, which he mostly sold to restaurants, in particular Chef Isumyah at Vegetarian Creation in Barron Spot Mall (she and her family make a ginger-tumeric elixir tonic that is incredible!). We participated in more group art shows.

    Opheeeeeeeeee-liaaa! The curious peahen.

    And a very friendly peahen we christened “Ophelia” showed up one day, and adopted us and our new baby chicks as her own.

    Brushfire on the West side of Great Pond Bay near the Boy Scout Camp. VIFS suspected this was set by an individual. It quickly hopped the road and burned rapidly to the west.

    Hot ash, lit cinders and smoke filled the air over the farm for two days as the fire continued to advance toward us.

    But, the drought continued. We had some major brushfires on the South Shore in early June, started by humans at Great Pond Bay.

    Big props to Faye Williams, our NRCS rep from USDA, who came out and inspected our newly erected EQIP fencing, and “Cheech” Thomas who brought heavy machinery and helped cut emergency firebreaks, in the early evening of June 8th as the flames, live cinders, ashes and thick smoke upwind of us threatened the farm and clouded the air. VI Fire Service came through for us again, helped by miraculous last minute rain showers.


    July was spent completing the restoration of fences that were destroyed by utility poles that fell in Hurricane Maria, and finishing more pasture division fencing for NRCS. Huge thanks to superARTfarmer Bob Boyan who did an incredible amount of work on that project. It’s beautiful.

    Dividing pastures supports soil conservation, and prevents soil erosion, by aiding the farmer to keep livestock OFF of most of the grass, most of the time, so the sward can recover quickly from grazing, instead of getting eaten down to the bare soil. This rotational grazing also helps foil livestock-killing predators, gives the livestock a more varied diet, and greatly aids in keeping them free from parasites, so much less veterinary treatment is needed to keep them healthy. (Brush fires can destroy this expensive and labor intensive fencing.)

    Our layer hens were all killed by unusually aggressive mongoose attacks over the summer. RIP girls.

    Throughout June, July and August, despite our prevention efforts, we lost all of our layer chickens who survived the direct hit of Hurricane Maria – one by one – to mongoose predation. Farmer Luca said, “I’m pretty sure there was something different about this summer for that to happen, because we’ve been raising chickens the same way for 15 years, and this is the first time we’ve had such intense attacks from mongoose on adult birds.” We believe the mongoose were extra desperate this summer for any kind of food during the drought conditions that started in March. It is possible that the omnivorous introduced predator’s population exploded post-Maria, with all the available food that grew from the lush post-storm vegetation growth, later putting intense pressure on our poultry when the drought began killing off the boom in the mongoose’s natural food sources.

    Our young “Viequen Butterball” mango that survived Maria fruited for the second time, and gave us about five fruits. A few pineapples came ripe, but not enough to open the farmstand with. We made salad mix a few more times for the tail end of the last lettuce still growing, just for the family.

    Famer Luca and Farmer Dennis Nash discuss the construction of water-conserving Hugel beds at ARTfarm.

    ARTfarmers prepping drip irrigation on a heavily mulched Hugel bed for watermelon and coconut. Fall 2018.

    Farmer Luca made six large new half-buried Hugelkultur beds in July with downed tree debris, which he is getting more and more excited about. He successfully grew watermelons all summer long in an older Hugel bed, and the same watermelon plants survived more than three times as long as they normally do. (Vines that were planted in March – at the beginning of the drought period – have continuously produced melons since May – through October and beyond! This is unheard of!) These permaculture beds require less watering than regular garden beds, as the rotting wood at their center holds water like a sponge, creates positive rhizomal activity, and sinks carbon by naturally composting large masses of storm brush piles.


    An interesting side-effect of composting for Farmer Luca is painting from the visuals of the colorful contents of the bins. An appreciation for the contribution of these lifeforms.

    We have spent the summer, particularly in August, composting wood chips (from hurricane debris) and brewer’s grain waste product from Leatherback Brewing Co., along with composting lots of fish and lobster carcasses from local restaurants, and fish scales and fish guts from the La Reine fish and farmers’ market.

    Just through the bacterial activity (aided by the farmer’s tinkering to get the perfect air and moisture conditions), we’ve been able to get our compost pile temperatures up to a blazing 160°F! The more of this composting we do, the more we can eliminate the purchase and shipping of ANY organic soil amendments or fertilizers. This means LESS carbon footprint. Our goal on the farm is always to eliminate fossil fuel intensive shipping, and close the nutrient loop.

    PBS film crew with host LaVaughn Belle in the ARTbarn, interviewing Farmer/Artist Luca about his inspiration.

    Luca had one last hurrah in the storm-halved ARTbarn gallery, when local artist LaVaughn Belle came out to interview him with a film crew for a new program she is hosting for our local PBS station about local St. Croix artists and their inspirations. We’re looking forward to the announcement of the title and air date of the show, and will post it to our website!

    August is also that time of year when we normally prepare soil and start lots of vegetable seedlings for the season. It has been another extreme and unusual drought this spring and summer of 2018. Rainfall at ARTfarm has been way below average, we’ve lost a few more trees, and the radiant heat coming out of the hard-baked soil has been intense, making the brushfire risk high. So we hesitated to start the season at the usual start date.

    In late August it was finally often raining heavily. But… Unfortunately the rain was consistently falling about two miles northwest of the farm, while missing us entirely. So, we contracted the VI Department of Agriculture to bring some of that rain back east to us in a pair of ‘portable rainclouds’: shiny tanker trucks. The 9,000 gallons they delivered will last us about nine days in season when we are irrigating row crops twice daily, possibly less if weather conditions of extreme heat and dryness cause more evaporation and transpiration. So we are working on even more ways to conserve our water use than the highly efficient drip irrigation we’ve been using for years.

    Three equipment operators with a new tanker truck.

    Farm irrigation water delivery to ARTfarm with a new tanker truck, some familiar faces and some new employees.

    Thanks to the operators at VIDAg, who also expertly managed this second gigantic tanker truck on our busy road.

    Thank you to the awesome VI Department of Agriculture, for sending trucks out quickly! Their administrative buildings are still completely without a roof. Please ask your favorite candidates in the upcoming election how they plan to support agriculture in the Virgin Islands.

    …and then it was gone. ARTbarn preventatively demolished during the height of the storm season.

    September graced the Caribbean with more much needed rain, but plenty of PTSD: multiple massive hurricanes looming on the satellites. Sadly, it was time to fully demolish the unstable ARTbarn gallery building that was mostly destroyed in Hurricane Maria. (We are continuing to raise funds to rebuild our ARTbarn gallery as well as our destroyed seedling house to better shelter, steward and serve our customers and our seedlings!)

    In the end, the 2018 hurricane season brought us no direct damaging hits, but a number of good soaking rains totaling close to 3 inches. But still not enough major rain events to fill our pond reservoirs. So we are behind on rainfall collection for this coming season.

    A mostly empty water catchment pond with a flush of water hyacinth blooming.

    Our pond storage system can hold an estimated half a million gallons and is normally replenished by spring and fall rains to at least 80% capacity at the start of the dry winter season. As of the end of September we had an estimated 175,000 gallons, or roughly 35% of capacity.
    We also nurtured our ginger and turmeric plants and our badly storm-injured papaya grove, also spent time caring for our mango fruit trees and of course our dragonfruit. We also successfully grew onions all year long which was one of Luca’s goals.

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    ARTfarmers collecting sargassum seaweed on the south shore for various farm uses.

    Ruminants need salt added to their diet to thrive. Sargassum seaweed is rich in salt and minerals and our sheep take to it quickly.

    The end of summer into fall saw tons of sargassum seaweed washing up on the shores of St. Croix. It is a great soil amendment. We like to harvest it fresh out of the sea with baskets to avoid excess sand. Then we pick through it and remove all plastics. Finally, the seaweed can be fed directly to our sheep for mineral supplementation, or composted, or placed in Hugel beds, or used as mulch in the bottom of pots for young saplings.

    Farmer Luca is also a surfcasting fisherman. A young permit he caught and released.

    And of course, going to the beach brings Luca all kinds of inspiration.


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    Farmer Christina really doesn’t care for heights. But it is kind of peaceful up there on the greenhouse roof, sweating away in the blazing sun.

    Lots of odd rainbows this fall with blessed rain showers passing with greater frequency. Luca and friends reassembling the roof of the greenhouse.

    In early October with the bulk of the storm season behind us, we decided to replace the plastic sheeting on the greenhouse roof to enable more rain catchment.

    We’ve been seeding and planting like crazy, but stymied by the intense pressure from caterpillars. We’re noticing a lack of the typical predator insects on the farm like Jack Spaniard wasps to control the army worms and other crop-destroying insects. There is a loss of equilibrium, and we are patiently waiting for it to return to balance.


    Farmer Luca concludes: “We’ve been selling to a few restaurants and a few chefs over the summer, but for the most part we have been growing for ourselves while we organize and prepare for the future. We struggled with the drought this summer and that made us quite nervous about growing this coming season, but we are now at 30% rainwater storage capacity (normally we’d be at around 80% at this time of year). Which is not good but at least we can start the season with the water we have. And hopefully we’ll get more rain. Do a rain dance for us! See everybody soon!”

    Love, ARTfarm

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